Download text version
Chapter 1 - Angel's Day
He wakes up pissy, but he’s been doing it for nearly a hundred years and doesn’t bother to try and shake the feeling. Pissy will turn to anger as the day progresses, might as well enjoy just pissy for now.
He turns and stretches in the bed.
The inevitable happens: swift, surgical almost. No real pleasure except the release of the ache. Refuses to remember hands or faces or the smell of blood.
Nothing destroys the soul so utterly as this shameful sin. Will it be damned ye’ll be?
Maybe he will, but not for this. The devil reserved for self-abusers will have to get in line; others more important have a claim on his immortal soul.
Musing on hell as he wipes his palm on his chest, he remembers: Lindsey. Today he’s going to fetch Lindsey from whatever hell dimension he deserves to be in. They all deserve to be in hell dimensions. He deserves to be in one. Pissy turns to anger early, and with a grunt of annoyance, he climbs out of bed and heads for the shower.
Annoyance makes him think of the idiot he’s taking into the hell dimension with him. Useful idiot. Expendable idiot.
He showers carefully, thinking. He doesn’t try to keep his thoughts ordered but roams, free thinking. It’s better like that: things occur to him, connections are made that are useful, decisions formed.
When he’s ready, he rides down in the elevator to the office. The idiot is already there, smoking his damn cigarettes and making the place stink.
‘Put it out.’
‘Yeah, like, not.’
He grimaces. He doesn’t want to. The idiot doesn’t deserve that much attention.
‘Waiting for us.’
Angel nods. ‘Let’s go.’
He’s actually glad Spike is with him when the bullets start flying. He can give credit when credit is due. He’s a good fighter—always was.
The dungeon is too familiar, distracting, but anger carries him through.
He does the unthinkable and leaves someone behind. You don’t do that in war. Yeah. In the wars he fights it’s thinkable and doable, and he does it without compunction.
Later, compunction kicks in. It’s too late then. The decision is made. Hands are on him—only Lorne’s, and only medicinal, but they’re hands, and he wants to concentrate on that for a while. He’s not thinking of Gunn. He did what he had to do.
The other one is harder to read. The other one has been very quiet since they brought Lindsey back, since he had hands laid on him, too—flesh of his flesh.
He wonders if the two events are related: Spike being quiet for once, Lindsey back. He can’t see a connection, but wonders about the nature of their relationship. What was the apartment really payment for?
He shrugs off Spike’s mood as easily as he shrugs off his shirt to Lorne’s ministrations. The idiot goes home. He wants to lie down and sleep. Hard decisions were made, and he made them. Someone had to. Gunn will find his redemption his own way. He’s lucky.
The next day should be about Illyria, or Lindsey, or the reason for the whole fucking mess, but it’s not; it’s about a pissant demon that’s been cutting people up in the tunnels under L.A. It’s what they do, though; so, he gathers the team, and they head out. It almost feels good: Wesley, Lorne, and the idiot… who is still very quiet.
It’s one of their better conversations, and Angel loses interest almost as soon as the predicable reply comes his way.
Wesley pairs off with Lorne; Angel takes the idiot with him – he needs to suffer – and they climb down into the lower levels.
It’s very dark, only his preternatural eyesight showing him a dry section alongside the slimy trickle he doesn’t want to think about. He’s spent his whole fucking life not thinking about slimy trickles and trying to look at home in these damn tunnels.
He’s not worried about the demon they’re hunting. He has good backup. Spike might be an idiot – he is an idiot – but he’s great backup.
The desperate fight in the dungeons comes back to him, and he muses on it pleasantly as he strides along. Every time Spike went down, he was there; every time he went down, Spike was there. He likes the symmetry in his mind, the visual balance between dark and light.
Suddenly, something slams into his face and blood spurts. He attacks on instinct; something goes down. There’s something else, and he shouts for Spike to cover his back, turning it on the second something, knowing that Spike will be there for him.
Sharp pain turns to agony as something emerges from his breastbone— splits it, crunching on marrow. He falls to his knees and looks helplessly around, for one second thinking that Spike must have gone down, too. That causes a new pain, but not a physical one, and anger surfs in quickly, covering it. But Spike isn’t down; he’s leaning on a wall, lighting a cigarette.
He holds out a hand for Spike’s help – he’s great backup, after all – but as a third something takes him down, Spike is watching his thin stream of smoke, his eyes narrowed and thoughtful; then, shrugging, he ignores the outstretched hand and wanders back off into the dark tunnels on his own.
Sometimes, survival is more painful than dying. When it happens too often, you get used to it: the endless survival that hurts so much. It’s what he does this time: survives.
He limps back to Wolfram and Hart, very real anger driving him on through the pain.
They’re all there… Wesley, Harmony, Lorne… and Spike.
Everyone looks sad, except Spike, who looks interested, staring curiously at each in turn. Spike stares more when he steps out of the elevator and begins to limp toward the office.
‘Angel! Spike told us he lost you somewhere in the tunnels!’ Wesley is flustered, genuinely rattled.
Lorne seems to pick up on Angel’s wrath, rising nervously.
Spike pushes off the wall, and to Angel’s furious eyes he looks mutinous. He’s too tired to care what Spike is. He goes up to him. ‘Get out.’
Spike stares. Angel wonders if Spike knows this is the end between them. He can’t be trusted now, can’t be good backup. What else is there?
In the general consternation, Spike just shrugs and leaves, giving the whole place a finger.
His departure seems to cause more consternation, and Angel wonders if they actually like the idiot— the idiot he’d begun to trust enough to turn his back. He wonders if Lindsey is somehow behind this, runs his mind lightly over their relationship once more, but it’s all too raw now, everything hurts too much.
Later that night, when he’s patched up and lying in bed, the anger in his heart fades for the first time in many years. Something more painful takes its place. He can’t name it yet, for it feels like sorrow, and he can’t work out why he should feel that now…. They’ve known each other a long time…. He thought they’d come to some kind of neutral, level ground where they could tolerate each other’s existence. Perhaps he’s been wrong. Perhaps Spike has never stopped hating him and has just been waiting his chance.
That doesn’t feel right. He’s had better chances, and not taken them. He’s been there, at his side, fighting. Backup. He’s been his backup. Now he’s alone. It must be sorrow. Angel’s surprised. He doesn’t think Spike could ever make him feel that.
He sits up and runs fingers through his hair. Why can’t he shake the thought that this has something to do with Lindsey, or Eve? (Whom he almost hates more, if that’s possible.) Again, the nagging thought that maybe Spike knows more about Lindsey than he’s letting on crosses his mind. Lindsey targeted Spike before. Has it all been a conspiracy…? Sending the lawyer to hell…. Rescuing him again…. Spike there for both occurrences…. Is he being played again?
The questions won’t let Angel sleep.
It doesn’t look like a reward for the great betrayal of having him killed: this dank apartment.
He knocks and waits.
When there’s no reply, he kicks open the door and proves it’s still a public building.
Spike’s sitting on a small, dingy bed, his head lowered, and to Angel’s eyes he seems… deflated.
Not fooled, Angel goes over and hauls him to his feet. ‘Now we talk.’
‘I’m sorry, Angel. I’m sorry. I made a mistake.’
‘Huh?’ Angel is floored, and that doesn’t happen very often these days. He isn’t expecting this, and an evil worm of thought wriggles into his mind that this is a newly souled demon still struggling with that profound transformation. But he can’t afford to think of Spike struggling, alone, without the help he could have given him. It’s like not knowing someone’s name whom you’ve known for years: too late to ask. It’s too late to think of all the things he’s not done for Spike over the centuries.
He lets Spike go and dusts him down. ‘You’re damn right it was a mistake.’
‘Are you okay?’
Angel half-cuffs him, but that would be too affectionate, so it’s more of a genuine head punch. ‘I don’t have time for this shit, Spike. Did Lindsey put you up to this?’
‘No, Spike, the other Lindsey we rescued from hell today.’
He sees Spike’s face flicker with some emotion and assumes it’s guilt, but Spike shakes his head in what seems to be genuine denial. ‘I just got confused, Angel. For a moment, I was confused.’
Spike is standing too close, and Angel backs off. It occurs to him that the look Spike gave him in the tunnels was anything but confused; it was pure malice. But he doesn’t tell Spike this.
Instead, he says, ‘I think it’s time you left L….’
‘No! I mean… I want to help. I do, Angel. Please.’
Angel frowns. He’s confused now, and he doesn’t like that feeling with the idiot. Simple emotions are best for Spike: annoyance almost all the time, flaring anger sometimes, vaguely amused tolerance the rest. This is unnerving, this confusion, so he turns it into anger and feels happier.
He pokes Spike in the chest to emphasise his point. ‘One more fuck up and you’re out. I’m fighting a battle for the world here, Spike; I can’t carry you!’
Spike shakes his head, and for a bizarre moment, Angel thinks of a cartoon cat who made denial of guilt an art form, but it’s ridiculous: he’s wasted too much time on Spike as it is.
He steps away and for the first time takes a real look around. It’s worse than Gunn had told him. Thinking of Gunn makes him take a short, sharp breath, and he says, more to himself than to the idiot, ‘I’m not abandoning anything of mine to hell. We’re going back to get him. I’m not leaving him there, contrary to what everyone thinks.’
He’s bumped hard as Spike pushes past him, going to the fridge. ‘Can I count on you to back me up, Spike?’
There’s no reply; a small nod has to suffice.
‘Why do you stay here? It’s grim….’
Spike turns. ‘Where else can I go?’
He roams back up toward his apartment through the empty offices of his new empire, feeling anything but regal. Not empty. There are lights in the lab, and he pushes in to find Wesley staring dreamlike to the floor below. He has the tang of whisky on his skin, and it makes Angel want one, want him for a brief flash of demonic need that he pushes to the back of his mind. That was another life. He has this one now, and it’s just so damn peachy.
They turn back to watch the demon— beautiful, mysterious and wearing the body of someone they both loved. Love. Angel is careful to make that correction. He will get her back. He’s her handsome man, and he will save her again.
‘What’s wrong with Spike?’
‘Huh?’ Angel doesn’t like being questioned about Spike. He doesn’t like talking about him, for even that implies something that doesn’t exist: interest.
‘He seemed very distressed.’
Angel turns and studies Wesley’s profile. ‘He tried to kill me.’
‘He’s always trying to kill you.’
‘No. For real this time. He watched and walked away.’
Wesley turns too, and Angel can see that he’s processing this in his quiet, thoughtful way. ‘In that case, I think it was very unwise to let him go out of your sight—your control.’
Angel doesn’t point out that Spike has never been under his control but says cautiously, ‘I can’t trust him anymore.’
‘You never did trust him, Angel. Now you need to find out why he suddenly turned on you.’ He turns back to watch his obsession. ‘To understand your enemies, you have to keep them close.’
‘Machiavelli, Wes? Whisky makes you vicious.’
‘Actually, Sun Tzu, but I expect the Italian plagiarised the idea.’
The demon is watching them both curiously from the floor, her hypnotic eyes lulling them, dulling the edges of their anger for a moment. ‘Bring your demon here, Angel, and watch him.’
Angel feels something more from Illyria, something undefined, but it stirs his blood, nevertheless.
‘He won’t come.’
‘Perhaps you should make him. He tried to kill you, after all.’
Angel murmurs, ‘Should I punish all my enemies?’
Wesley gives a bitter smile. ‘When you’ve worked out who they are, perhaps you should.’
The doorjamb is still splintered, the lock still broken, so he just pushes and goes in.
Spike is pacing, talking to himself, but he shuts up quickly. Angel expects anger; he’s ready for anger. Eager, quick hope flashing in Spike’s eyes he does not expect, and it throws him.
Spike is silent, seemingly waiting for some cue. Angel narrows his eyes. ‘I’m not leaving you here, Spike. I want you where I can keep an eye on you.’
Still silence and Angel’s ire rises. It’s so much easier to go immediately nuclear with Spike. This edging around the promise of violence is too confusing. ‘I want you to come back and stay in the spare apartment—while we question Lindsey.’
Angel thinks he sees a smile, but Spike dips his head, so he can’t be sure. It makes his anger rise even more: a sense that Spike has won some contest he didn’t know they were playing.
Once more, Angel feels wrong-footed. He expected a long drawn-out argument, which he would eventually win. ‘Okay…? You’re agreeing?’
Spike shrugs and appears ready to leave.
‘That’s it? You’re just going to come with me…. You try to kill me; now you’re agreeing to live with me?’
An expression flickers over Spike’s face, but all he says is, ‘I said I was sorry ‘bout that. We’ve tried to kill each other before, Angel. It’s nothing new.’
Angel can’t deny this. To deny it, to say that things are different between them now, would imply that they were: different. Between them. Which they’re not. He says instead, ‘I’m fighting something bigger than either of us now, Spike. I can’t afford to let our petty history distract me from that.’
He turns and leaves the apartment, not entirely happy about turning his back on Spike again, but making a show of doing so anyway.
They walk silently through the tunnels, Angel sensing that the dawn is soaking the streets above them.
He knows Spike is watching him covertly, turns to challenge this but finds that he’s not, that he’s walking along staring at his feet, deep in thought.
Spike jerks his head up. ‘What?’
Angel sighs. ‘Tell me what’s between you and Lindsey.’
‘Me and Lindsey?’
‘There’s… nothing. What’s Lindsey got to do with this? Is there something between you and Lindsey?’
‘Huh?’ Angel feels like he was having one conversation but has now been switched to this one. He’s so lost the thread that he repeats uncertainly, ‘Huh?’
‘You. And him.’
‘He’s a pissant lawyer that’s fucked me around for the last seven years. What can I say?’ As if answering his own question, he adds, ‘I tried to save his soul once.’
Spike stops, and Angel glances back at him, but whatever Spike’s expression had held, it’s gone by the time he looks at the familiar face. ‘You tried to save him?’
Angel shrugs and carries on walking. ‘He seemed to want to change. I tried to give him that chance.’
‘Do you think people can change?’
Angel lies because he can and because he’s pissed off and because this is Spike, and he enjoys the familiarity of lying to Spike. ‘No.’ People change all the time; they’re born beautiful and yours, and then they try to kill you. New lives. He wishes he could give himself one.
He turns, hearing something strange in Spike’s tone, and Spike looks back at his feet. ‘What’s it all for if people can’t change?’
‘Lindsey is an evil bastard, and I only rescued him from hell because I need him.’
‘What if he wants to repent? Angel, what if he wants to repent, to make it up to you, to be your… help you? Would you save him?’
‘Why are you so concerned about Lindsey, Spike? I still think there’s something you’re not telling me.’
Spike is quiet for a while then he says hesitantly, ‘It just seems kinda… harsh. Hell. No?’
Angel snorts softly. ‘Piece of cake to where I was. And when I’m finished with him, he goes right back.’
‘No!’ Spike twitches as Angel turns back to him. ‘I mean….’ He pouts and is silent.
Angel joins him in the silence, glad of his own thoughts, which are mean and enjoyable. He’s convinced of Spike’s interest in the man, knows there are things he’s not being told, things he’s missing. He plays the last few months back in his mind, looking for clues, evidence. He feels he knows the lawyer, but he had never sensed any of those… proclivities… in the man. In Spike? He frowns. He should know Spike better than the lawyer—a century of familiarity—but he doesn’t. He can’t begin to imagine what goes on in Spike’s head. If Spike is attracted to the man, what he might he do with that attraction? Where might it take him?
He does the unthinkable and lets his mind roam over the past, freethinking once more. He can’t make any connections. He has no idea what Spike thought about anything other than a shared passion for the beauty of blood and the excitement of the hunt. He obviously has no memories of Spike that do not include him, and he suspects that with him there Spike had no other focus.
‘I don’t think you should judge him on the past, Angel, but on what he’s like now.’
‘What?’ This uncannily echoes what he’s thinking and it unnerves him. ‘I don’t remember this much charity when you tried to fucking kill me yesterday!’
‘I didn’t. I left you to die. There’s a difference.’
Angel shoves him but doesn’t feel like wasting any more energy on him, and strides on.
There’s a moment of pure awkwardness when Angel pushes open the door to the spare apartment. ‘Okay. This is yours.’ For the first time, he notices that Spike hasn’t brought anything. ‘I’ll send someone for your things.’
‘What things?’ Spike ducks his head slightly and enters, keeping his coat on, wrapping his arms around his body. ‘What now?’
‘Now? Now, you keep out of my way until I need you.’
Blue eyes flick over, and Angel catches the full force of a Spike look he hasn’t been given for a while. He senses he’s stepped across some line that he was unaware of. He debates leaving but says more softly than he’s spoken since his anger the day before, ‘I need all the people I can have on my side in the coming fight.’
‘I’ll do anything I can.’
Angel is strangely touched by this, feeling that Spike is genuine for once. He pouts, wanting to say something more about need, but the memory of holding out his hand and not finding Spike taking it is too raw. Instead, he turns away. ‘If you need anything, you know where I am.’ It’s a huge concession, given the sorrow that he suddenly feels again.
He finds it distracting, knowing that Spike is across the hallway. Anyone else there would affect him the same, however—a presence in his emptiness. He can’t settle to anything, feels he ought to go and torture Lindsey (wants to go and torture Lindsey) but is confused by his motives, so suppresses the need for blood until he can focus it on the fight. He thinks about reading; he debates sketching, but settles for listening to some music and drinking.
‘That’s nice. That used to be one of your favourites.’
Angel opens his eyes, admitting what he’s known for a few minutes: that Spike is watching him from the doorway. ‘It still is.’
‘Drink would be kinda nice….’
Angel waves at the bar.
He watches Spike pour and take a first drink, wondering what he’s supposed to say or do. Sit down; stay and talk to me for a while. Tell me why you tried to kill me.
‘I want you to help me question Lindsey tomorrow.’ That would tell him just where they stand together: see if Spike can torture his lover.
Spike shrugs. ‘Only if I get to hurt him a bit. He pisses me off.’
It’s not the answer he was expecting, but it seems genuine enough. Before he can refuse, Spike sits down on the couch—not next to him, but close enough to appear next to him to a casual observer.
‘So… what’s the real reason for me being here?’
‘What I said: I want to know what you’re up to.’
‘I’m sitting here, having a drink and a nice chat with you, Angel.’
Angel stretches out his long legs and closes his eyes, listening to the music. Just so they are very sure where they stand, he murmurs, ‘I won’t let my guard down around you again, Spike. Just so as you know. I don’t make the same mistakes twice.’
‘You made me.’
Angel snaps his eyes open and gives him a cold look.
Spike purses his lips, staring at his drink. ‘You turned one lunatic, then you went and kinda did it again. Think you’d have learnt the first time—bad seed.’
‘You call yourself mad?’
Spike chuckles. ‘I think you do.’
‘I call you an idiot.’
Spike nods. ‘That’s fair.’
Angel knows as soon as he says it that it’s not, that Spike is anything but stupid, but he doesn’t say this. ‘Why are you still here in L.A., Spike? You come back from death a second time and then stick around here! There’s a whole big world out there.’
Spike smiles, but Angel sees the amusement is a private one. ‘I don’t think a big world suits me. I think I’m too small for that.’
The track changes, a soaring aria that makes Angel’s heart ache for something he will never know, and he wants to rise and turn it off, but Spike has closed his eyes and seems to be enjoying it, too; so, he leaves it, watching the striking profile.
He can’t remember the last time Spike was so restful. He’s not smoking or digging at his nails or chewing his lips or hugging his body as if it would split apart and disgorge all his secrets. He’s just sitting there, head resting on the back of the couch, listening. Angel refreshes the drinks and does not disturb him.
He drinks more than he usually does, that subtle awareness that drinking alone is a bad habit to adopt now muted by Spike’s company.
He finds it hard to believe that he once chose this creature to be his… company. A deliberate choice to take and make his.
He wonders why he shuts him out now. Perhaps his habitual reserve makes him wary. He trusted a man once with his intimacy: his son. It’s hard to recover from a betrayal that profound. But he didn’t trust Spike in the past, either. But then Spike did not have a soul… before. Angel can’t work out why he won’t share with Spike now. Then it puzzles him that this worries him, particularly now, when Spike’s here under such a cloud. Now, the last thing he should want is to share with Spike about Connor—tell him how he has betrayed everything and everyone in one catastrophic, passionate decision—now, having seen the true face of his enemy. But however hard he tries, he cannot really see the familiar profile next to him as his enemy, despite the number of times he has said it out loud. Speaking something does not make it true, and more than twenty years of… company… undermines the thought that this man can ever be his enemy.
He stares at Spike with as much confusion as Wesley does Illyria.
‘I should go.’
Angel starts, wondering if Spike sensed the scrutiny through closed lids. ‘Yeah.’
Spike opens his eyes, resting them on the ceiling for a while before placing his glass on the floor. ‘Thanks.’
Angel thinks briefly that Spike doesn’t have a lot to thank him for, but he doesn’t say this, watching the slim form depart.
He feels them like thoughts that slip away, nagging, like a sneeze that won’t quite form, like an orgasm not reached: things he should have said.
With a sigh, knowing he’s had too much to drink, he strips off his shirt and turns the shower on to warm the water. The wound is still ugly on his chest, blood seeping through Lorne’s bandaging. Other hands flicker into his memory, and he groans softly, eyes closed, summoning the images forcibly, swelling, an ache forming in his balls.
Ignominy is on thy features: the pallor and joyless posture of the sinner.
Angel idly wonders if the whisperings of the priests add to his enjoyment of the act—what pleasure there is, standing alone in a shower, beating off. Although, this time, there is more pleasure. Released, the suppressed memory of hands is as pleasurable as the fingers that once brushed his skin. It’s been so long since he felt touch that was loving, touch that wanted his body because it felt good and not because it was strong and could take beating after beating and still take more.
He leans one hand on the wall, working urgently with the other, head tipped back to the hot stream, waiting for another that will come from him. Memories tumble in his mind, clamouring for dominance: blood, penetration, sucking, flesh parting, screams…. They blend harmoniously for a rush like no other, and he groans, spasms coursing through him, leaving him wrung out and shivering.
There’s too much steam; he doesn’t see Spike until he’s walked right into the bedroom. Naked.
He curses (more embarrassed than angry) and can’t remember where he’s left his towel. The steam’s welcome now, and he retreats to its privacy for a moment before emerging, wrapped.
‘What the hell do you want?’
‘There’s no hot water my side.’
‘I heard you, Spike! You can’t use my freaking shower! What do you think this is?’
Spike shrugs. ‘Okay. I’ll smell then. Done that before, I reckon.’ He turns to go.
Angel swears. Loudly. ‘Don’t touch my things!’ He seems to think this slightly ambiguous and adds wanly, ‘Soap….’
Spike nods, and Angel sees that damn blue cat again, lying nimbly through the affirmation. He narrows his eyes and murmurs, ‘Don’t touch the water either.’
Spike’s mouth opens slightly as if about to reply to this, but he snaps it shut and goes toward the bathroom. He turns and grins sheepishly. ‘Towel?’
Angel growls softly, and Spike makes a show of shifting—swiftly—to the bathroom.
Angel catches himself smiling.
He’s in a dilemma now: not able to get into bed before Spike leaves but not wanting to hang around in a towel. He opts to dress in a pair of loose, black, cotton pants, ones he used to train in. When he trained. When he had Cordelia to train with.
Thoughts of Cordelia keep him neatly distracted for the first few minutes of Spike’s shower. By the time the sounds from the bathroom push these out, he’s caught in a confusing emotion between thwarted desire for her and desperate loneliness at her loss. It’s not a good place to be in to overhear someone shower. He listens to droplets fall on warmed skin, pictures them running like rivulets of pleasure down flesh of his flesh. The steam oozes with evocative scent (mine?), which he is sure Spike can smell, and then a subtler one—shared history. He closes his eyes and eases his neck gently around, as if under the water, too. Semi-naked, he feels his nipples tweak and harden. Other things harden, too, one recent spill seemingly having no effect on his arousal.
He puts his hand down to thin cotton, stroking gently.
Is it the sinning ye be at, Boy?
Yes, Father, it is. I sin.
There’s no time, though. Reluctantly, Angel fetches a shirt and leaves it loose and long over his erection.
He feels a profound sense of depression, his ordered, tightly controlled life wriggling like sin around him. He doesn’t know why he touched himself thinking of Spike under a shower. It revolts him, makes anger return, and that feels good. That familiar emotion provides the order and control he needs.
By the time Spike emerges, all wriggling has ceased; all unwanted thoughts are in their box.
Until he sees the naked flesh, that is.
Then they spring out like a scary child’s toy, laughing manically at him.
He steps back, insides of knees colliding with the bed, sitting. ‘Jesus! Spike! Cover up!’
Spike appears unconcerned, but Angel notices one tiny flush of red on perfect cheekbones that belies this apparent nonchalance. That he’s rigidly staring at Spike’s face and nowhere else suddenly occurs to him, and trying to be more natural, he lowers his eyes.
‘Lend me a towel, Pet?’
Angel doesn’t refuse him a second time, throwing his discarded one from the bed. For some reason the flush deepens, but then Spike nods his thanks and wraps it slightly more times than he could. ‘Ta, Mate.’
‘I’m not your mate.’ Mate: n. one of a pair; colloq. partner
‘Sorry. It’s just a thing people say. You turning in then?’
‘So, we gonna tackle this Lindsey bloke tomorrow?’
Angel nods, distracted by what he has just seen and increasing discomfort under his shirt.
‘Bags I get first dibs.’
‘Huh? Are you speaking English here, Spike?’
Spike pauses. It’s good pause; Angel gives him credit for that. ‘Actually, Mate, I think I’m the only one who really can.’
Angel watches him depart and, once more, discovers he’s smiling. He’s supposed to be profoundly depressed and finds this sudden amusement very inappropriate.
Spike wakes him up, and for an instant, Angel remembers being woken by another child demanding his attention.
Pissy doesn’t even have time to bud before anger blossoms.
He growls menacingly at the slightly bouncy figure standing at the end of the bed.
‘Come on! We get to go torture the little fat git today!’
‘You think Lindsey is fat?’ This is so not what he means to say (needs to say); so, he adds in a less puzzled tone, ‘Get out.’
Spike claps his hands, grinning. ‘I’ll make some brekkies. Come ON!’ He spins around and begins to rummage in the kitchen.
Angel peers under the sheet and grimaces, calculating the distance to the bathroom.
‘So, what? We play good cop, bad cop? Cus, like, I’m being the bad cop, yeah? You can butter ‘im up, and I’ll shaft ‘im.’ He pauses, straightening. ‘Figuratively, course.’
Once more, Angel is maddened by the need to smile. He groans at some inevitability of Spike, this childe of his, then wraps the sheet around his waist and goes into the bathroom. He perches on the edge of the sink, thinking puppet. It always works. Things quickly subside.
When he comes out, Spike is drinking from a bloodbag, staring out of the vast floor-length windows. ‘It’s too high up here.’
‘One day it will all come crashing down; so, I wouldn’t worry.’ He stands before his closet, choosing carefully. What do you wear to torture someone? He strokes his hand over well-loved leather pants then slips them on.
Bare-chested, he walks back to the nightstand to fetch a slim, gold chain. He likes the feel of metal on naked skin. The bandaging now distasteful, he peels it off, revealing an ugly wound. He feels Spike’s eyes on him and turns quickly. For a moment, he thinks that Spike was quicker, turning back to the view, but he realises that, once more, he wasn’t being watched at all. Why this annoys him is a mystery, but he uses the irritation to stoke his habitual frustration with Spike. ‘Are those the same clothes you had on yesterday?’
The pout almost undoes him. Cursing his endless susceptibility to this ploy, he rummages in the drawer.
‘When we’ve finished with Lindsey, go get something new. Something clean.’ He tosses Spike an envelope.
Spike inspects the contents and blows softly through pursed lips. ‘’K. Means I can get more blood on me now then.’ He twitches up his eyebrow and licks his lips.
‘You seem very keen to lay your hands on him.’
‘Angel, do you have a problem with something? Every bloody time we talk about him, you accuse me of fucking him.’ Spike suddenly flushes deeply and turns back to the stare out at the view.
‘What? You are such an… idiot!’ It’s such a weak rejoinder that Angel suddenly chuckles. He shakes his head and pulls on a dark shirt. ‘I don’t like him. It pisses me off to think….’
Intense blue eyes return to him. ‘What? What don’t you like thinking about, Angel?’
‘You. Now, let’s go.’ He makes no attempt to untangle the confusion that wraps itself around his simple admission and strides to the elevator.
Spike lights a cigarette when they’re in and says casually, ‘You seem very laissez faire about this torture gig, Mate.’
‘Don’t call me that. I’m only one thing, Spike, and that’s determined to do what I have to, to save the world.’
‘Oh, yeah. Well, if you want tips on that, let me know.’
‘Are you trying to piss me off?’
‘No. I don’t really need to try all that hard, do I?’
Angel glances over. He bows his head. ‘You try my patience.’ Fond tolerance is not what he was going for, but he hears it nevertheless.
Stunned, he finds Spike’s hand on his arm. Even stranger, he doesn’t immediately snatch away. ‘Let me do the torture thing, Pet. You do the talky talk thing and then leave, yeah?’
Spike’s face appears troubled to Angel. Genuine. He moves his arm away, but it’s a gentle movement.
‘I don’t want you to do it.’
‘What the hell are you talking about, Spike? I’m, what? Too out-of-control to torture the likes of that fucking loser?
Spike pouts, studying his cigarette. ‘Precious. You’re too precious.’
Angel can’t think of a reply to this, and Spike adds softly, ‘To the mission, that is.’ When Angel hears that qualification, he doesn’t particularly want to reply.
They’ve put Lindsey and Eve in separate cells—where they can see each other, but not communicate in any other way. It’s supposed to be a hardship for Lindsey, something to soften him up. Angel thinks it would have been more effective, in that case, to make him share with her, but he keeps this thought to himself… until he doesn’t. Until, uncharacteristically, he shares it with Spike in a low murmur as they stand contemplating the day ahead. He’s pleased by Spike’s reaction: a small, intimate snort and a crinkling around his eyes as he regards Eve through the haze of his cigarette smoke.
Angel feels a shift occur in the room—subtle but very real. It’s no longer Lindsey and Eve confronting him; it’s him and Spike confronting them. It’s not backup; it’s much more than that.
The questioning lasts all day. They take it in turns, and although it’s not hunting, it’s as close as they’ve come to sharing that intimacy for a very long time. The suspicions that Angel’s harbouring about Spike and this pissant man don’t seem real here.
Spike seems utterly dispassionate. Angel senses no arousal, except perhaps in Lindsey, but he already knows the lawyer is fucked up, so tries to ignore the fact he likes the interrogation.
He’s impressed with Spike’s professional manner, the way he’s concentrating on his task. Only once does he notice Spike turn away, hiding his face. This disturbs him on some level, although he can’t exactly say why.
He wants Eve left alone with her lover then—seeing him and not being able to comfort. He feels this might encourage them both to talk—end things quicker—so he touches Spike on the back, a small, light tap, and leaves.
Once more, he’s pleased Spike immediately follows. He suspects Spike is thinking about more rigorous questioning, relishing another chance for some authorised torture, so says pointedly, ‘I don’t want him tortured—not yet, anyway.’
He’s flattered by Spike’s careful attention to this, his thoughtful nod—silent acceptance of his wishes.
Angel walks slowly back up to his office. There’s something he wants to say, now he feels that Spike is actually listening, but he finds it hard to form exactly the right words. He opts for simple ones. ‘I shouldn’t have let you torture the doctor.’
For some reason, Spike continues to walk slightly behind him, and although he slows down, Spike does too. It’s annoying trying to have a conversation about redemption whilst trying not to walk into things.
He glances over his shoulder again. ‘You are the last person I should have asked.’
He sees from Spike’s expression that he’s evaluating this, remembering a similar conversation.
He quirks up one lip, amused by the repetition, and adds, ‘You’re too precious.’
He’s very tempted to add to the mission but doesn’t, and this deliberate omission puzzles him.
They’ve reached something of an impasse now: no information, nothing else to go on. He sits heavily on a couch in his office and leans back, tired. ‘He won’t talk.’
Spike sits down next to him, staring fixedly, which is unsettling. ‘Maybe you shouldn’t treat him as the enemy, but as someone who’s trying to do something good—in his own way.’
‘Good? He’s a weird way of showing it.’
‘Maybe he doesn’t know how. Maybe he never learnt, and now he’s stumbling around in the dark.’
Angel turns his head and regards the lowered profile for a while. ‘Spike…?’
Suddenly, Spike looks away and stretches his fingers, staring at his nails.
‘Are we talking about the lawyer?’
Spike rises and begins to pace.
‘Why did you leave me there?’
Spike spins toward the door. ‘I have something I need to do, Angel.’
He strides out of the office, a look of determination fixed on his face, and Angel has the disturbing thought that Spike is heading toward something that, ultimately, will defeat him.
His plan seems to have worked somewhat when he stands outside the lawyer’s cell that night. The man seems dejected, not meeting his gaze. Angel doesn’t speak. He just stands there, staring, injecting the man with a sense of his malevolence… until Spike’s words come back to him. Although he’s still sure that Spike wasn’t talking about Lindsey at all, he says softly, ‘Nothing is so bad, Lindsey, that you can’t repent of it.’
The man’s eyes flash up to his for a moment, and Angel knows that Spike was right. He leaves the unspoken promise of his blessing and approval behind him as he strides back to the elevator. He knows the man will not sleep easy this night.
As he emerges into his hallway, raucous music assaults his ears. Wincing, he peers into Spike’s room. Spike, clutching the neck of a bottle, is weaving a strange, drunken dance around the furniture, and singing in a falsetto voice to the appalling sound. Bare chest and feet… still wearing over-familiar jeans…. Angel looks over to the clearly new CD player and suspects there was no change.
Spike doesn’t stop dancing until Angel cuts the music off; then he takes a long swig from the bottle, eyes narrowed. Suddenly, he waves his hand dismissively. ‘Buying clothes is so boring.’ He pouts, and at that tiny shape of Spike’s lips, all Angel’s anger dissipates. Without it, he feels strangely bereft, no other familiar emotions rushing in to fill the gap. Feeling more naked than Spike, he says defensively, ‘At least wash the ones you do own?’
‘Oh, so fucking prissy aren’t you? These days.’
Angel’s taken aback; he hears malice in the tone, and without his anger—his armour—it hurts. ‘What’s wrong, Spike?’
Spike begins to reply, but Angel cuts him off. ‘I’m not talking about clothes or what you did with the money. I’m talking about you, and I’m not leaving this room until you tell me the truth about what happened in the tunnels. It’s why I freaking brought you here, and I’m not leaving until you tell me what’s wrong.’
Spike lifts his eyebrows a fraction. ‘Phew. It’s gonna be a weird eternity then.’
‘Well, you and me… in this room… forever. Course, I could suggest some things we could do to amuse ourselves….’ He pauses, one of his best, one of the ones that Angel is really coming to appreciate. ‘Seems I remember passing the time quite pleasantly—in the old days.’
Jack-in-the-box memory squeaks from his lock-up, but Angel mentally stamps on him, grinding him silent. Instead of rising to the provocation, he answers calmly, ‘I can’t help you if you won’t tell me what’s wrong.’ His calmness deserts him somewhat when Spike is suddenly in his face, poking his chest.
‘Why do you assume there’s something wrong with me? I’m not the one who was left in the tunnels!’
There’s possibly some logic to this—in Spike’s mind at least—but Angel can’t see it. He captures Spike’s accusatory finger, holding it just tight enough and just close enough to a backward bend that Spike gets the message. ‘Tell me!’
‘Torture me, Angel! Why not? We’ve been so soddin’ close to it all day. Do you think I don’t smell your need? We’re animals. Let’s behave like them. Let’s runt and fuck and play in shit!’ The final word ends up as spit on Angel’s face, and he releases the finger to wipe at it absentmindedly. For a bewildering moment, he looks around, reassuring himself that this is real—this edifice of civilisation. Spike’s words have taken him back to another place, a place where things were very, very simple indeed.
Suddenly, the figure so tense and angry in front of him collapses: shoulders sagging, head dropping. ‘I’m sorry.’ Spike shakes his head. ‘I don’t want this.’
‘What do you want?’
Maniacal laughter isn’t the reply he expected, and Angel takes a step back. Suddenly sober again, Spike carefully lays his bottle down on the coffee table and turns away. ‘I’m kinda tired, Angel; I’m going to bed.’
Angel feels slightly foolish now, his threat not to leave clearly impractical. He pouts for a while, watching the slim figure as he sorts through the CDs thoughtlessly. ‘If you want to tell me, Spike, you know where I am.’ As an afterthought, and because he can, he adds, ‘I’m not going anywhere.’
There’s a twitch from the tense shoulders, and Angel feels an odd relief flooding through him when he realises that they’ve relaxed fractionally. Taking an opportunity that he senses won’t come very often, he goes up close and says in a low voice, ‘Go use the shower first—if you want. I’m gonna read for a while….’
Spike turns his head so fast there’s an audible click. Angel would give up a considerable slice of his immortality to be able to read the expression on that beautiful face. Trying to say the right thing, but having little experience of that, he enunciates carefully, ‘I won’t runt and play in shit with you, Spike. Not now. We’re more than that now. Both of us. Equal and the same—souled and….’ He smiles ruefully. ‘Precious.’
Spike pushes past him and heads across the hallway, but Angel isn’t disappointed at the reception of his words. He saw a faint glistening in Spike’s eyes and feels that the push was more to keep dignity intact than it was dismissal. He’s far more disappointed with himself for leaving out something fairly critical in his repetition of Spike’s words.
Once more, he has to listen to Spike showering, but this time, his thoughts are not distracted at all. They’re all focused on the steam drifting into the room. He goes close and holds his hand to it, watching it condense on his cool skin. It seems to be the only connection he can make with his troubled childe: this second-hand water. He brings his fingers to his lips, to see if he can taste Spike in the dampness. He can’t read him to see what is wrong; he can’t hear the truth behind his clever deflections; he would never touch him; so, this tasting seems to be the only thing left, the only way to reach him.
The water is nothing more than water, and he learns nothing from it. He discovers more from suddenly realising that he’s standing in his room, licking water that Spike’s bathed in. But this discovery is only about himself, not Spike, and leads to no useful conclusions except that he’s so lonely he’s willing to find comfort in used steam.
This time, Spike calls out for a towel from the shower, and Angel tosses one over the top for him, hearing a muffled curse. When Spike emerges, he holds out a bloodbag. ‘Hungry?’
Spike blinks. His hair is flattened to his scalp, water drips down his neck to naked shoulders, small rivulets on flawless skin. Wordlessly, he takes the offered food and tears at the plastic with sharp, expert teeth. Angel remembers those teeth tearing at him—demanding damnation. He feels light-headed and feeds deeply, draining the bloodbag without stopping, blood oozing through his body like memories of long summer afternoons spent behind closed curtains in another country where the sun was fleeting and precious.
A strange, peaceful mood settles over him, and he senses that Spike feels it, too—that it might emanate from Spike. He can’t understand the contradictory emotions of this pale form. Hearing unexpected wistfulness in his voice, he murmurs, ‘You used to talk to me.’
Spike blinks again. ‘You used to listen.’
Angel looks down at his feet. ‘Are the souls barriers?’
‘I don’t know. Yes, maybe. You’ve not heard me since you had yours.’
‘But you have one too, now. Shouldn’t that make us equal again? Make us….’ He trails off, utterly unable to compare what they had been then, the ways they communicated then, to what they must limit themselves to now.
‘I hear you well enough, Angel.’
Angel’s angrier now. It’s such a relief to have that emotion safely back. ‘You think you know me so well, Spike. You know nothing.’
‘Can I borrow a sweater?’
It’s like a stab. ‘What?’
Spike shrugs. ‘I’m cold.’
Distractedly, Angel goes to the closet. Before he can hand Spike one of his old, no longer wanted sweaters, he hears soft words. ‘I know you’re angry all the time and that you don’t want to be here, doing this. I know that something binds you to this place, something that the others don’t understand. I know you want to unburden yourself, Angel, like a penitent in a long-remembered confessional, but you can’t find absolution—all you get is sore knees, and there are so many better ways to get those. I know you’re even lonelier than I am.’
Angel feels the anger leave him once more, but this time, it’s thumped out by a huge punch of self-pity. It’s the worst feeling of all; he can’t afford to be this vulnerable: words creeping in under his defences. In this mood, he’ll make decisions that could damn them all. He’s been here, done this. ‘Don’t.’
The voice is so much closer now, so close he thinks he can smell the soap scenting Spike’s skin, so close that the shower-warm body warms him. ‘I know that you’re scared. I know that you’re not as tough as everyone thinks—as everyone needs to believe. I know you doubt yourself, and in that uncertainty, you doubt everyone else, too. I know you don’t like me. I know you used to like me… once. Have I left anything out, Angel? Is there anything more of you that I’ve not thought about and pondered and tried to understand?’
Angel tries to release his grip on the sweater, to hand this over as if it’s what they’re talking about. If he can do that, he can stop this conversation. It has to stop. That’s not in doubt. But his hands won’t obey him. The soft wool has become a lifeline, and he clutches it desperately.
‘Why do you shut me out, Angel?’
At that, Angel finds the strength to act. He turns and spits, ‘You left me to die, Spike! That’s why! I can never trust you! Every time I’ve trusted you, you’ve turned on me!’
‘Trust! Trust! This isn’t trust! You treat me like a fucking guard dog! You keep me on a leash and let me off to bite people when it suits you! You weren’t trusting me in those tunnels. You were employing me and expecting a certain return for that contract: my loyalty! You didn’t earn it; I gave it freely. Well, I took back my sodding gift.’
‘You never talk to me; you never tell me what you’re thinking. I never know what you’re thinking, Spike! I’m sorry! I can’t be the intuitive person you seem to want me to be! You have to….’
‘Intuit this, you bugger.’ He’s flattened against the closet doors, kissed, a half-naked, wet body slamming to him, powerful, urgent and needy.
Before he can react, before he can decide how he’s going to react, it’s withdrawn: the power, the urgency and the need. With a last furious look and a challenging tilt to the head that clearly says: you hear me well enough now, don’t you? Spike stomps out. Angel can’t decide whether he’s more surprised by the kiss or by the fact that he understood something Spike was thinking at last.
It’s as if a spotlight has illuminated the private places of his mind. It’s an intense feeling of raw vulnerability. He’s surprised he doesn’t feel anger, but he doesn’t. Spike told him nothing but the truth, as if this truth has been written on his face all this time—as if Spike has somehow learnt to read it. If he feels anything, it’s shame. He’s acutely ashamed that Spike seems to read him so well, but unless there’s a tongue down his throat, it seems he cannot reciprocate that ability.
What he thinks about the kiss is less certain, and he pours a drink with an unsteady hand, pondering this. He likes the word ponder: it implies calm, rational consideration—not the urgent pounding that is actually in his head: a wild beast, caged, fighting against restraints until freedom or death.
Pondering is better than giving in to this passion seething under the surface of his controlled facade. Passion. No one needs to tell him about passion.
What just happened was more than a kiss—he knows this. It was a demonstration of something, a declaration. Whether this was to demonstrate something about Spike, or him, he’s not so sure.
He glances across to the doorway, still open from Spike’s dramatic exit.
He’s just across the hallway.
They need to talk. He needs to calm the situation—maybe get Spike to see the value of pondering, too. He takes a first step toward the door then hesitates.
Did he kiss back? It seems kinda important….
Maybe it should be more important whether he wanted to kiss back—but it’s not. It’s only important whether he did. On reflection, and with some more pondering, he decides that he didn’t.
Perhaps that’s why Spike pulled away so quickly. Or perhaps he had never intended or expected the kiss to be returned. This last consideration—that Spike had not seen something in him that would imply the kiss would be returned—gives Angel moral ground just high enough to cross the distance to the opposite room.
Spike has his music on again, and this time, Angel leaves it. It’s some modern thing—irrelevant. The slim figure is leaning on the huge picture window, staring out over the lights of the city. ‘Go away, Angel. It’s late.’
Angel tips his head to one side, frowning deeply. He has the impression that Spike means too late. It’s distinctly unnerving: this hearing hidden meaning behind Spike’s words.
‘You’re right, Spike. I do use you. I’m sorry. I kinda though we were using each other. You’re here willingly, though. I don’t force you to stay.’
‘No, you don’t.’
Again, beneath this wavers: but you don’t want me to either.
Angel takes a leap of faith and replies to the words he didn’t hear. ‘You’re wrong. I do want you here. I need you here now.’
Spike turns slowly from the window, and to Angel’s considerable delight he looks… unnerved. He presses his advantage. ‘I think you’ve always liked the fact that I can’t read you.’
Spike purses his lips and goes toward the bathroom.
Angel smirks. ‘Haven’t you forgotten there’s no hot water this side?’
Spike starts, and a flush is clearly discernable on his cheeks. Angel laughs. ‘Goodnight, Spike. I’d appreciate your help tomorrow, but if you don’t want to, I’ll understand.’
He goes toward the door, but just as he reaches the threshold, he stops and without turning around says, ‘I do like you, by the way. I still think you’re an idiot, but I’m almost kinda fond of you.’ Half turning, he gives Spike a penetrating look over his shoulder.
He can’t sleep that night. There are hundreds of things whirling around in his mind, most of them things he wants to say to Spike. Now he’s begun looking for sub-text hidden beneath Spike’s words, he starts to enjoy it, playing back long scenes between them, probing for truth beneath insult and hostility.
Should it unsettle him? This realisation that their whole relationship has been something other than he thought it was. It doesn’t. It intrigues him. For the first time in too long, he doesn’t lie awake listening for soft breathing that he’s sure will stop, fearing a tiny mouth trapped against too tight bedding, knowing himself as helpless to save his child from suffocation as he was helpless to save him from hell.
Now he lies sleepless, thinking about passion. Only, this time, it’s not his that he contemplates.
At one point in the night, sometime towards dawn, he stands over a sleeping figure sprawled naked but for a sheet scrunched around his waist.
Spike snaps his eyes open, staring back.
Angel concentrates. Fear, desire, confusion, love and hate—he sees them all in that intense expression.
With a nod, he turns and walks back to his apartment.
Understanding his childe for the first time has made life more interesting; it hasn’t made it any easier.
Angel catches Spike still dressing the next day, hung over and sour, fingers running distractedly through sleep-rumpled locks. He chucks him a bloodbag. ‘Good morning.’
Spike fumbles the catch, swears then holds the side of his head.
Angel chuckles and goes to fetch his coat.
They stand side-by-side, waiting for the elevator. Angel starts to hum tunelessly, a low sound guaranteed to irritate. He smiles inwardly when it produces a snapped, ‘Must you?’
He lets the smile appear on his face, tasting Spike’s imminent denial, waiting in gleeful anticipation.
‘I was drunk last night, ‘k?’
Spike turns, and Angel can see outrage mixed with a fair slice of embarrassment. ‘Is that all you’re gonna say? Okay?’
Angel twitches his expression into a thinking face. ‘Yup.’
Spike narrows his eyes, stomping off, apparently looking for stairs. With an evil, triumphant glance at Angel, he wrenches open a door and storms… into a maintenance closet.
Angel is still laughing when they step into his office.
He tests his new perception of Spike though, carefully studying the seemingly angry, closed-off expression. It’s there: a glimmer of humour, sparkling like sunlight on the blue of Spike’s eyes.
Apparently knowing that he’s been sussed, Spike murmurs, ‘Ponce,’ under his breath.
Before he takes his place behind the desk, Angel murmurs back equally softly, ‘Not the one doing the kissing, Spike….’
They can say no more; Wesley comes in. Angel waits for the others before realising that this is it: Wesley and Spike. Memories of Gunn begin to fester, and his uncharacteristic flash of humour vanishes. He glances up at Spike and, this time, catches his childe’s scrutiny. Without a shadow of a doubt, Angel knows that Spike felt his mood shift. They continue to study each other for a moment longer.
When Angel returns his gaze to Wesley, it’s with the unsettling thought that he’s just had a conversation with Spike without either of them speaking.
Wesley sits down carefully as if he’s feeling fragile. ‘Any luck with Lindsey?’
Angel pouts. ‘Possibly. We’re going down to see him again now.’
Angel glances at Spike. Wesley only raises his eyebrows and nods. Angel adds in a low voice, ‘I’m going back for Gunn, Wes. Work it. With Illyria. She was a freaking God; make her perform some miracles for us.’
‘Actually, I think she was….’ But Angel doesn’t stay to listen. He feels an unusual sense of restlessness, as if he needs to keep ahead of something. At the moment, all he’s ahead of is Spike, and it seems more like running away than leading. As running away from his childe is clearly unthinkable, he slows down and lets Spike catch up. He can see Spike’s hand, swinging at his side as he walks. That hand touched him so quickly the previous night that he didn’t have time to feel it—he’d been too occupied being kissed. He tries to recall the feel of Spike’s fingers on his face and rubs his hand over his cheek, as a man might check for stubble.
‘Do you think he’ll talk today?’
Spike’s question interrupts Angel’s train of thought, and he’s forced to stop thinking about spidery finger strokes on achingly untouched skin. With that lingering intensity distracting him, he murmurs, ‘I thought about what you said yesterday, Spike: about seeking redemption. So, I offered Lindsey an alternate future to being my enemy. I’m hoping he’ll have thought about it all night.’
Angel turns and regards the lowered face. He tries to see beneath the surface of Spike’s apparent nonchalance. He thinks Spike is pleased that he took his advice then remembers that Spike had possibly not been talking about the lawyer. He adds less confidently, ‘I think everyone can repent. I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t.’
‘Can they all be… saved?’
‘I think so. Yes.’ With a supreme leap of faith, he adds gently, ‘Even you.’
At that, Spike’s eyes flick over to him for a moment. Something strange stabs into Angel—low down where he’s not felt such ache for a very long time. They come to the elevator, and he punches the button.
Spike is standing with his lips pursed, staring at the door. For the first time since the kiss, Angel thinks about it properly. He acknowledges his thoughts now are anything but ponderous.
They fire his belly.
He stares obliquely at the lips, pouting to extra pinkness.
The elevator arrives, and they step in together, the closeness and intimacy forced by the closed space heightening his arousal. He hears a faint sigh and looks more directly at Spike. It seems to him then that Spike is waiting for something, that he’s edgy. He doesn’t want to do it, but he flicks his gaze quickly to Spike’s pants. For the first time, it occurs to Angel what the declaration in Spike’s kiss might have been. Once more, the annoying hijacker memory kicks in, and he’s back in another time when promises made with smoking flesh were never fulfilled. For the life of him, he can’t remember whether it was him or Spike who reneged on that pledge.
Once he’s begun to think of Spike in this way, he can’t stop. The judge tells him to disregard the defendant’s last remark, but he can’t; he’s heard it, and it informs his verdict. When he looks at Spike’s hair, he pictures his fingers running through it. When he drags his gaze down the back of the coat, he’s drawing a lazy finger down a prominent spine. He slowly strips Spike, removing the layers keeping the pale flesh from retuning home, flesh of his flesh.
The elevator stops; the doors slide open.
Spike glances over, and there’s a flash of something knowing in his eyes, but it’s quickly obscured by disgust. ‘You know what, Angel?’
Angel can’t reply, he’s still withdrawing his mind from Spike’s naked body.
Spike doesn’t wait for a reply and says bitterly, ‘Sometimes you think too damn much.’
Leaving Angel standing in the elevator, he strides off to the holding cells.
For the second time in their acquaintance, Angel tends to agree with Spike’s assessment. It’s almost as worrying as realising he’s aroused to the point of orgasm merely from undressing Spike with his thoughts.
Puppets don’t work this time, but the panic of that familiar device failing does the job anyway, and arousal subsides to dull ache. Dull ache he can deal with; dull ache he can walk and talk with. It gives him something of a rangy edge, and he uses it to heighten his perception of Lindsey’s mood. It isn’t all that difficult to see that the lawyer is defeated. His denial of knowledge is genuine, and his attempts to help useless.
Dispirited, Angel nods to Spike, and they leave together.
‘I’m getting them back, Spike. Gunn and Fred. Both of them.’
‘Fred?’ Spike’s voice catches, and he bends to light a cigarette.
Disbelievingly, Angel turns to him…. He’d forgotten. He’d genuinely forgotten that Spike and Fred were close. Since her death, so much sympathy for Wesley, so much sadness for himself—her handsome man who could not save her—but none, not one ounce of sympathy given to Spike. And Spike never asks for any. He carries his pain inside. Once more, Angel feels humbled.
Spike pushes the button for the elevator, and they wait for it, both staring up at the numbers.
Spike looks over at him. Angel can feel the intense gaze, but then it’s withdrawn. He turns, but the elevator has arrived, so instead of talking to Spike’s profile, he backs him into a corner and talks to him face on. ‘What?’
Spike seems annoyed to be pinned and questioned like the defeated man beneath them. He looks away then up into Angel’s eyes. ‘I died to save the entire world. Everyone. I burnt up for them all, good and bad. It was so simple.’
‘You died to make Buffy love you at.’ He regrets saying it as soon as the words leave his mouth—not because he doesn’t think it’s true—he does—but because it’s not the whole truth.
He doesn’t need to read sub-text beneath Spike’s look; his childe’s emotions are on the surface, raw. ‘I wasted my time then.’
Angel sighs, lowering his eyes to the floor but not letting Spike out of the tight corner he’s pinned him in, noticing that Spike isn’t making any attempt to leave anyway. ‘I didn’t mean it, Spike. And I know she loves you. She told me you were in her heart.’
‘Well, what’d’ya know…?’
Angel can hear bitterness behind the apparently casual comment. He lifts his eyes. ‘I think the more important question is: do you love her?’
More important for me, if I’m to understand the declaration you made last night.
Spike’s mouth quirks up, but it’s not really a smile.
In a much lower tone, but still keeping Spike’s gaze, Angel murmurs, ‘I think you were right, Spike. I do think too much.’
Before Spike’s face can register any expression (which is just fine by Angel for it saves him from trying to read it) he leans forward and kisses him.
It’s been too long coming. He knows this now, but a century of waiting hasn’t diminished the anticipation.
He hears a high, clear note in his head, like a perfection he never sought. It’s not just the lips, which are incredible. It’s not just the tongue, whose touch tightens his balls with urgent need. It’s his hands on the back of Spike’s neck, feeling short hair that he’s stared at for over a century and wanted to explore. He’s never kissed someone with short hair, and it’s revelatory. Both hands cup tightly around Spike’s head, adding to the pleasure—of it all: lips, tongue and short, erotic hair.
But the elevator pings.
The doors begin to open.
Spike pushes him away, but he’s already pulled back. There isn’t time to see Spike’s expression before they’re not alone.
They stand side by side.
It occurs to Angel, as he studies a large spot on the neck of the anonymous man in front of him, that he has no idea now what Spike is thinking, but that this is slightly less alarming than not knowing what he is thinking. He can't force his mind to stay on the subject of the kiss. When he pushes it, it either slides off, or sort of mushes, so he goes back to thinking about the man and his spot. He tries to look at Spike without moving his head, but all he can see is an impression of blond, which doesn't help at all.
One by one, people leave the elevator on different floors. He and Spike are taking the longest trip, and this thought—a hundred and twenty-year elevator ride—suddenly makes Angel snort with amusement, a sound that seems to alarm the few remaining occupants.
One last person travels up with them to the top floor but steps off first. Angel leans casually forward and presses the button to hold open the doors. He turns back and looks at Spike. 'What now?'
'I think that's kinda up to you.'
Spike frowns, and Angel gets the impression that he doesn’t really believe what he said but is only stalling for time. 'What do you want, Spike? I asked you before, and I'm asking you again. What do you want?' He senses they’re being watched and suddenly adds, 'Can we go upstairs and talk about this?'
Angel takes a small breath but a huge leap of faith. 'To start with....'
It appears that Spike is still intuitive; he narrows his eyes thoughtfully at the invitation. With a small nod, he strides out and heads for the office.
Trying to walk normally with the hardest cock he's had for a very long time, Angel follows more slowly.
By the time he enters the office, his mind already exploding over implications of the after-talk activities, Wesley and Lorne are on their feet and waiting expectantly for him. Spike is by the window, back to the room, shoulders hunched.
With a flash of intuition about what needs to be said, Angel nods at his small team but continues to the elevator, saying curtly, 'Later, guys. I have something urgent I need to do with Spike.'
Spike turns, clearly surprised, but more importantly, Angel can see genuine pleasure in the sudden softening of the blue eyes. He smiles privately at him then adds to his colleagues, 'This could take some time.'
'We think we've found a way to rescue Gunn.'
Angel turns to Wesley, knowing Spike does, too. 'How?'
Wesley indicates for him to sit. Angel hesitates, and not only because he’s calculating whether he can sit.
He perches on the edge of his desk and folds his jacket discreetly.
'It's something Lindsey said: about degrees—that the hell dimension can only hurt you as much as you could stand it.’
There’s a faint sound from behind, and Angel turns to see the elevator doors to the apartment closing. He curses inwardly, but doesn't feel guilty he's put Spike off, staying to hear Wesley out. If Spike has a problem with that, it’s his problem.
What has to be done is set in motion.
As he rides up, he realises his erection has subsided. Thinking about it, and the cause of it—the taste and feel of Spike's mouth, the feel of Spike's cock swelling and pressing into his thigh—inevitably makes it rise once more. With a sigh, he adjusts his pants, closing his eyes.
He's had better days.
As the doors open to their shared hallway and he begins to exit, Spike pushes past him, thumbing the button for the basement. Angel puts his foot into the closing doors, and they jerk open again. 'What's happening? Where are you going?'
Angel's mind leaps…leaving the apartment…leaving the firm…leaving L.A…. Leaving him! 'Huh?' He’s surprisingly angry, even for him. 'Get out!'
'Bugger off. I'm not your minion.'
'No, you're not, Spike. You're the brain-dead dork that for some totally unknown reason—which I'm now really regretting—I just kissed in this damn elevator. Now, get the hell out of it, or I will treat you like a minion and make you. And that will hurt you a lot more than it will me. I'm having a pissy day, and I don't need this shit from you!' He graciously stands to one side and does not make Spike have to push past him. The look he’s given almost hurts, but he ignores it and follows Spike into his room.
'Don't I have any soddin' right to privacy? You can't stop me leaving then follow me....'
'Shut up.' He goes close, very close, forcing Spike to back somewhat quickly to the window. 'Talk! Now!'
'I'm not telling you jack-shit, Angel. You....'
Angel shuts him up with the same tactic he used so effectively in the elevator. This kiss is very rough though; not tentative exploring by a potential lover but possession from an established one pissed off and tired of playing games. Already hard, he feels his balls jump, twitching in response to the eroticism of joining his mouth so violently to Spike's. He’s achingly erect and grinds this hardness against the slim figure, half punishing Spike and half getting off.
He tears his mouth off, glares at Spike then goes back to the assault. Spike finally comes alive under his hands, resistance turning to desperate reciprocation. Suddenly, as he grinds into the slimmer body, Angel’s met by equal hardness, and they both moan obscenely through writhing lips.
Angel pushes him off, digging his nails into Spike’s shoulders, shouting, 'Tell me! I still can't read you enough, Spike! But I want to. I want to, and I can't. Please. Tell me what you're thinking!' He returns to the swollen lips, aware kissing will defeat his object, but making this kiss so tender and gentle that the words his childe finds too hard to say will be eased out on its loving intent.
Eventually, they pull away again, lips parting reluctantly, wetly, tongues withdrawing grudgingly. He runs one finger down Spike's cheek. 'Tell me. Please. You wanted this. You kissed me, and then when I... when I finally got it, you try to leave.'
Spike tries to pull away, but Angel holds him pinned into achingly beautiful sunlight that streams unhindered through magical windows.