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Mayfly Days

I saw Eternity the other night
Like a great Ring of pure and endless light,
All calm, as it was bright,
And round beneath it, Time in hours, days, years
Driv’n by the spheres
Like a vast shadow mov’d, in which the world
And all her train were hurl’d;
O fools (said I,) thus to prefer dark night
Before true light … and hate the day
Because it shews the way,
The way which from this dead and dark abode
Leads up to God,
A way where you might tread the Sun, and be
More bright than he.

Thomas Vaughan “The World”

Chapter 1

If he had not accepted the invitation to the party, he would not have seen the flyer. If he’d not seen the flyer, everything would have been different. He could not say for better or for worse, for the thread of reality where he didn’t go didn’t happen. The other one had.

He didn’t do parties. He still didn’t do parties, even after ten years of being human. Being human hadn’t given him personality traits he’d been missing before: gregariousness, affability. It seemed to have amplified those he had cultivated as a vampire. He knew, though, that this wasn’t actually what had happened. He’d gotten smaller, less able to contain that powerful personality, so what he had been as a vampire was now exaggerated in his human form. Reserved, aloof, taciturn, unfriendly, inhospitable—he’d heard them all applied to him over the last ten years. He didn’t care. He’d brought other things over to his human state, too—less attractive vampire traits. He still longed for the kick blood had given him. He coveted power over people. He enjoyed pain. Being a little unfriendly, therefore, wasn’t something he was going to worry about. As a vampire he’d relished these desires. As a vampire with a soul trying to be a good man he’d quashed them. As a man who had discovered that no one really cared if he was good or not, they sometimes overwhelmed him. Inhospitable was best when you occasionally fantasised about torturing your guests.

For a while, in the early days of a heartbeat, he’d thought his life would be normal—whatever that was. There had been Nina and sunshine and finding a life. Then there had been Maria, then Emma and then Heather, until he’d realised that he was sleeping with a succession of women whose names ended with the same soft sigh as his inadequate orgasms. It had obsessed him for a while, so he’d lived with someone called Rosie. Then he could hardly recall her face. Now he didn’t live alone; he lived on his own. He saw a subtle but important distinction between these two.

Once solitary living had begun, the desires had grown—perhaps those soft, grunted orgasms had quelled unnatural desire with their banal normality.

The effect of these passions wasn’t all bad. Like many creative people, he used them to fuel his fantasies, and these fantasies he captured on paper: terrifying yet beautiful works of art.

Looking at Angel’s paintings is like reading Milton whilst being given head.

This was his favourite review, and he kept it in a book of other, similar reviews, which he’d clipped from newspapers. He was famous, despite being reserved, aloof, taciturn, unfriendly, and inhospitable. Sometimes he wondered if people wanted him to be that way—if they didn’t expect it from a famous artist who could produce such horrifying beauty.

His agent threw the party to celebrate his latest collection. He’d called it Gifts, and each picture had depicted an appalling gift, but one presented with such delicacy that you were tempted to accept it, despite the consequences to health or sanity. He’d been tempted, when finishing the series, to end with one of a prophecy, but he wasn’t given to morbid self-pity. He’d wanted to be human and now he was. Although he did toy with the idea of one day doing a series called No Point Crying Over Spilt Milk.

So, slightly curious to see the effect this latest collection would have on the culture vultures that bought his art, he accepted the invitation and went to the party.

There was one other characteristic he’d carried forward from being eternal, like some ironic ledger of life: his beauty. If anything, with warm, tanned skin, he was even more beautiful than he’d been dead. But he was ten years older. And not getting any younger. It always made him smile when that inane saying drifted into his head. Not getting any younger. He’d been over three hundred years old. Was he now thirty-six, or had those ten years just been added on to that already large tally? It seemed to him that in many ways he gotten a lot younger over the last ten years.

As a celebrity, as a beautiful, reclusive celebrity, he never really had to make an effort—even at parties. People wanted to stand with him, talk to him, laugh at anything he said and put a hand on his arm as if they could carry a faint trace of his fame or his beauty with them into their lives, which were not enriched. He never wanted to maim and torture more, and when he returned to his apartment after such events, his desires spilled from him either in his art or in violent, self-release, which sometimes left him almost paralysed with exhaustion.

For a break, just to get some air, he went to the lobby of the gallery, and there he’d seen the flyer for the book signinga book about the life and premature death of a nineteenth century English poet called George Summers. He picked up the single yellow sheet, his heart speeding up slightly as it did when he tightened a silk scarf around his neck and pounded his hard flesh to orgasm. The book had caused something of storm in the literary world—or so the flyer claimed—told as it was in the form of an interview with the dead man: his testimony from beyond the grave, so to speak. The author, Henry Benwell, a bespectacled young man with a shadowed face, who had already published a number of similarly astounding accounts, claimed to be a medium. According to him, this time streams of poems had arrived first. They had then been followed by the startling, rich and evocative details of Summers’s life, which had so rocked the literary world with their veracity.

Neither Henry Benwell nor his best-selling books interested Angel at all. George Summers didbut then Angel had killed him, so he guessed he had some right to be interested in what this man might say from beyond the grave.

* * * * * * *

Angel wasn’t fooled by Henry Benwell’s fakeriesuntil he bought a copy of the book and read it one night, eyes flickering rapidly over the words. If Henry Benwell was a fake then he was a very good one. Angel couldn’t fault the accuracy of the tale, the way it evoked the world of nineteenth century London. He stopped a few pages from the end, made himself some coffee but returned like an addict. Summers had met a man at a poetry reading who had purported to like his workintended to buy some for a small Irish literary publication he ran. Angel recognised the lie. It was his, after all. One of his best, it had slid off Angelus’s tongue like sweet wine against waiting lips.

Summers did not claim to have been killed by a vampire. He wasn’t that explicit or foolish. His decline was swathed in unrequited desire; his creative life’s blood spilled for naught. But Angel read between the lines. He remembered another draining, another desire kindled and extinguished for his own pleasure. Summers didn’t accuse him. Angel accused himself, and he began a series of paintings, which he was to call Accusations from Beyond the Grave.

Two nights later he dressed and went out to the book signing.

* * * * * * * * *

Angel was never sure if people recognised him or if the glances and murmured comments were a reaction to his physical presence. One day, he swore, he’d leave off the leather and silk, wear corduroy, wool and flat hair and test his fame. Perhaps he should not have made his first series of paintings obsessive self-portraits, which he had entitled Portrait of the Artist as a Human. His brooding, sultry, dangerous image was now forever caught in canvas and allied to his name.

There was actually a line snaking around the bookstore, and he had to wait. He listened to the desultory conversation and quickly got that he was possibly the only one interested in an obscure poet. People wanted to see the medium, Benwell, touch him, have him touch them or their loved ones who were now so far beyond their touch.

Suddenly, Angel sensed that he was being watched with more than the usual admiring interest. It was dark, and his eyesight was quite normal now, despite sometimes seeing the world bathed in the crimson of blood.  A young woman caught his eye and quickly looked away. He smiled inwardly and noted her interest for future reference. An older man was studying him with a slight frown that could only mean recognition. He seemed about to come forward—autograph? Praise?—then changed his mind as the line shifted forward. Who was it then? Angel’s eyes raked the line in front then he turned to lean on the wall and checked behind him. A young man had been studying his back. Angel squinted, trying to look without looking. He lost sight of him behind two tall men arguing over a copy of the book. Then a hand caught his arm.

‘Fancy seeing you here, Mate. Fancy seeing you at all....’

Angel’s mouth dried, and whatever cool he’d perfected over the last ten years—sexy, reclusive, dangerous artist—left him entirely. ‘Spike!’

Spike smirked. ‘Long time no see.’

Does he mean I look old?

Angel quickly repressed the thought, angry with the vanity it implied and something else he wasn’t going to examine. ‘Spike. Jesus. What the hell are you…?’ What’s he done to his hair? His clothes? Is this really Spike?

Spike held up a book. ‘Can you believe the stuff he’s got in here?’ He opened a page to a section marked with a creased page and underlined with bright red ink blood? and read, disgusted, ‘“Part of the danger in those days, being unpublished, was to stop other, lesser poets stealing my work. There was one in particular: a dreadful little Englishman called William, an acquaintance of my Irish colleague. I complained of him to my friend, and his interest ceased forthwith.” Bloody bastard! As if I’d want any of his crap.’

‘Spike.’

Spike grinned and slapped the book against Angel’s chest. ‘I told you not to leave all those papers and journals after we’d finished with him. Should ‘ave burned them like I said. But, oh no, the great Angelus never listened to anyone. Bloody Benwell must have had a field day when ‘e found ‘em. Anyhows. All’s well that ends well—flushed you out of your hidey hole after ten years.’

‘I’ve not been hiding.’

‘So, how’s life treating you?’ He laughed. ‘So to speak.’

Angel pushed away from the line and began walking back toward his apartment. ‘Hey!’ Spike jogged to his side. ‘Where you going?’

‘Home.’

‘Well, that’s nice, I must say! We meet after ten long years apart, me pining for your….’

‘Shut up, Spike.’ Suddenly Angel stopped and said less bitterly, ‘How have you been?’

Spike wobbled his hand. ‘Dead. You know. Oh, sorry, I forgot, you don’t anymore.’

‘Don’t start this with me again, Spike. We’ve done this.’

‘We’ve done it? You’ve done it, you mean. You stole my Shanshu and….’ Suddenly, he stopped, grinning. ‘Nah, I can’t make it believable anymore.’ He nudged Angel in a familiar way and continued walking; now forcing Angel to stride out and catch him. ‘I’m fine. Last ten have been the best so far.’

‘Oh.’

‘Never got time to enjoy the soul with all that Wolfram and Hart business.’ He was silent for a moment, and Angel knew beyond a doubt that the names of old, dead friends were flicking in Spike’s mind as they were in his. Spike shrugged softly and continued, ‘But now it’s just peachy. Got the world at my feet; feel good about myself, and I’m enjoying… life. Tryin’ a few new things. You?’

Angel nodded too quickly. ‘Yes. Enjoying life. Of course.’

‘How’s Nina?’

‘You have a good memory. She’s… long gone.’

‘Jesus. Sorry, Pet. How’d she die?’

‘Not dead, you moron… we split up.’

‘Oh. Bummer. I liked her.’

Angel gave him a sideward glance, and Spike had the grace to blush faintly. He held up his hands in mock surrender. ‘Never was very good at lying. So, you married? Kiddies?’

Angel felt absurdly unhappy about this line of questioning. He felt he ought to be able to say no to this as easily as he would to someone asking him if he’d started smoking. Fortunately, Spike heard his denial in the silence and changed the subject by saying, ‘You never got it together with Buffy then?’

Angel preferred the marriage and kids question. He shook his head. ‘Did you…?’

Spike looked horrified. ‘Get it on with the Slayer again?’

‘No! Christ, Spike. No! Have you seen her?’

‘And why wouldn’t I get it on with her?’ Slight edge to his voice.

Angel said between gritted teeth, ‘Why the horrified thought when I asked it?’

Spike laughed and punched his arm. ‘Touché. Not senile then, despite the grey hair.’

‘Huh?’ Angel put his hand to his hair and said angrily, ‘It’s not grey. Not one!’

Spike stopped. ‘Jeez. Raw nerve there. I’ll file that away to pick at and use later.’

‘Fuck off, Spike.’

‘Yeah, read my mind.’ He gestured across the street. ‘It was nice meeting up with you again, anyway, Pet.’ He stuck out his hand in a clear gesture of farewell.

‘What?’ Angel couldn’t process what he was hearing. ‘You can’t leave.’ He heard something he didn’t like in his voice and clarified, ‘Ten years, Spike. We’ve some catching up to do….’

Spike held his fingers up and began counting off points. ‘You’ve had lots of girlfriends. I haven’t. You’ve got a life and a job. I haven’t. You’ve got a home. I haven’t.’ He paused theatrically. ‘Anything else?’ Small shake of his head. ‘Nope, that’s about it. See ya, Angel. In another ten years maybe.’ He strode off toward the street.

Angel couldn’t believe what he saw.

Spike looked to the right.

He got to the edge of the sidewalk and looked right. An Englishman abroad finally betrayed by habit.

A car hit him. He was caught in the lights for a moment before being tossed into the dark. Hitting the road with a sickening thump, he was run over by another car desperately trying to swerve to avoid him.

Angel ran to the fallen figure, leaping over the hood of the second car, which was a mistake borne of the same habits of several lifetimes that had made Spike look right. He wasn’t superhuman now and landed with a painful wrench to his ankle, which he felt for about a second before he knelt to the sprawled figure. Without his duster and artificially blond hair, Spike looked even more vulnerable than he might have done bleeding and broken in the street. A few people were beginning to gather.

Angel picked him up and mumbled something, pushing past the on-lookers to the sidewalk.

His apartment was two blocks away, and Spike was incredibly heavy. No. He was weak. He was just a man with human muscle in his arms and back. Two blocks. It seemed to take longer than the ten years had.

Chapter 2

Irritatingly, Spike began to revive just as Angel struggled with the keys to his apartment. He’d shifted him over his shoulder to carry him the last mile and now he sat slumped against the large, sliding door. Angel slid the door; Spike tipped over then said groggily, ‘Shit.’

Angel helped him to his feet and led him into the vast living space. Easing him onto the couch, he crouched down in front of him. ‘You okay?’

‘Oh, yeah. Peachy. What hit…? Oh. Car.’ He eased his shirt out of his trousers and peered at his belly, which had taken the main impact of the first car. Angel hissed at the bruising but then an irrational surge of envy erupted from his own belly. He rose, wincing now at the pain in his ankle, which wasn’t going to heal in a few hours. He didn’t heal anymore. Why should he waste time feeling sorry for Spike?

He did though. It was irrational, but he could almost feel the pain of the broken bones and it didn’t help to know that they would heal. He strode over the fridge and pulled out a couple of beers. When he turned, Spike was no longer on the couch. His shirt was, but he was standing bare-chested in front of the first of the Accusations canvases. Slowly, he turned in place, taking in the high ceilings, the acres of floor space, the studio windows that would flood the place with daylight in a few hours, the minimal furniture. The loneliness?

Angel took the opportunity to do his own study. No wonder he’d taken a while to recognise his.... What is Spike to me now? Perhaps he’d not recognised him fully until he’d spoken—the accent still familiar. The rest wasn’t. Gone was the trademark hair, replaced by shorn, downy stubble of an indeterminate brown. Gone were the trademark don’t fuck with me, I’m hard clothes. He looked now like someone you avoided at railway stations: someone who’d either suck you or knife you for five dollars, depending on your inclinations. Someone who should be out on a ranch, forced to learn the value of the American dream. Someone for whom that dream was too late. ‘What’s with the fifteen-year-old-hustler look?’

Spike turned abruptly, then winced and held his ribs. When the pain subsided, he hitched up the low-slung combat pants with the strategic rips. ‘Duh. It’s urban grunge, Angel. Where you bin the last ten years? Oh, silly me—here. What the fuck did this place cost?’

‘A lot. Beer?’

Spike nodded then seemed to regret the sharp movement. With a laugh at his own foolishness, holding his head, he made his way very slowly to the couch and sat back down. He picked up his shirt. ‘Bugger. It’s ruined.’

‘It was ruined before the car hit you.’

‘Ah, but that ruination cost a lot of money to achieve. Now it’s just….’ He tossed it down and took a swig of beer. ‘So, ten years.’

Angel sat down at the other end of the couch and nodded. ‘How have you been?’

‘Okay. The same.’

Do I look the same? Angel could not tell from Spike’s expression the answer to this question he did not dare ask.

‘What’s with the big ugly painting thing?’

‘What?’

Spike turned stiffly and looked at the preliminary work on the painting.

Angel frowned. ‘It’s not… ugly.’

‘Actually, it is.’ Spike got up and went to stand in front of it. ‘It looks like someone’s being tortured.’

‘What do you want, Spike?’

‘Want? I don’t want anything. You brought me here.’

‘Jesus, Spike. We saved the world together; we’ve not seen each other for ten years, and you were about to walk off into the freaking night!’

‘What do you want from me, Angel? Do you want me to validate all this for you?’

‘No. I—.’ Angel folded his arms over his chest. ‘It’s good to see you. That’s all.’

Spike came back to the couch and stood eyeing Angel thoughtfully. ‘That’s a first.’

Angel smiled ruefully. He couldn’t deny this. He almost said you’re no threat now, but realised just in time that it was he who had lost the edge.

Suddenly, watching something in Angel’s expression, Spike said gently, ‘I’ve missed y—the old life with Wesley and Fred… and you had it a lot longer than I did. Do you? Miss it?’

Angel hesitated then nodded quickly.

Spike pursed his lips looking thoughtful. ‘Can I have a shirt?’

‘Huh?’ Angel shook his head, catching up. ‘Sure. But—.’ He fiddled with the clasp on his watch. ‘You’re not going?’

‘Have to, Luv. Things to do. Big scary vampire things.’

Angel looked up, saw an irresistible twinkle in the blue eyes and responded in kind, throwing Spike’s torn shirt at him. ‘Moron.’

He went over to his bedroom space and pulled a T-shirt out of a drawer. Without turning around, he said, ‘We haven’t caught up properly. Another night maybe?’

When Spike spoke, Angel jumped. He was hardly a foot away, leaning into his ear. ‘I’m counting on it.’ With that, the T-shirt was taken from him, and Spike was gone faster than Angel’s now sluggish senses could follow.

* * * * * * *

Spike jogged down the stairs, tucking the T-shirt into his pants.

He scanned the street, grinned and ran up to the figure waiting for him in the lea of a doorway. ‘Hi.’

‘Well?’

Spike draped his arm over the young man’s shoulders, and they began to walk slowly along. ‘I wouldn’t have known him—’cept for the hair, the face and the clothes, course.’

Henry Benwell poked him in the ribs. ‘So, you’ve decided?’ His voice didn’t match the lightness of the gesture.

Spike shook his head. ‘Nah. Those were just the outside things.’

‘Ah. You’re still not sure about the… inside?’

Spike pouted. ‘Well, we didn’t have time for much chit chatdidn’t want to appear too obvious.’

‘How did you get him to invite you up there?’

Spike grinned. ‘Painfully.’ He turned and hugged the man tighter. ‘So, how did my book signing go?’

Henry sighed. ‘It made me feel like a fraud—as it always does.’

‘Hey, Luv, you type them up for me. You deserve that credit.’

‘Bastard. They all think I’m almost holy, Spike. I don’t like fooling people.’

Spike said slowly, with just the right hint of amusement, ‘But you do commune with the dead. You commune very nicely, Pet—trust me.’

Once more, he got poked for his trouble, which seemed to be the effect he wanted anyway. ‘So….’ They turned into an expensive apartment block, nodded at the doorman and went into the elevator together. Spike leant his arms either side of Henry’s head. ‘….speaking of communing.’

Henry laughed and extricated himself. ‘You’ve got to be kidding! I’m in L.A., Spike. I don’t have to sleep with the dead for a little fun.’

Spike caught at his T-shirt and pulled him close. ‘You cheeky bastard.’ They kissed for a while until the doors eased apart. Spike pulled out some keys, and they let themselves into an elegant apartment.

Spike gave the young man a pat on his backside. ‘Go out then. I’ve got stuff to do anyway.’

‘Scary vampire—?’ Spike kissed him hard and cut off his mocking question. Henry gave him a look then said more sadly, ‘You’re going to brood, aren’t you?’

‘I’m going to think. There’s a difference.’

‘You should have just told him. Let him help you decide.’

‘NO!’ Spike’s eyes flashed with real anger, but the man wasn’t fazed and stood his ground. Contritely, Spike added, ‘We’ve bin through this—he’s got ‘nough on his plate. He don’t need my problems.’

‘You mean he wouldn’t choose what you’d want him to choose.’

‘Go find a little fuck-toy, Henry, and leave me be tonight.’

‘Yeah. Thought so.’ With that deadpan observation, the younger man disappeared into a bedroom and left Spike on his own.

Spike went and stood in front of a large canvas he had purchased earlier that week, now propped against a wall, as if waiting to be hung. It was called Her Birthday Gift. Spike wondered if anyone else looking at the delicately wrapped box with a hint of pink staining would guess what lay within. He knew, of course. He’d been there when Angelus had cut it out of a still living body. He looked at the second canvas, then the third. He’d become something of an avid collector these days. But then, there wasn’t much about Angel’s life over the last ten years that he didn’t know intimately.

That was part of the problem.

Chapter 3

Spike heard them come in sometime in the night but ignored it and curled back into the dream he’d been enjoying.

Later, he heard familiar, easy to distinguish noises but ignored those, too.

Only when the bed depressed and a sing-song voice announced, ‘I’ve brought you a present,’ did he open one eye. Henry was looking dishevelled and inordinately pleased with himself. Another young man—bloody hell, shouldn’t you be doin’ ‘omework?— was staring wide-eyed at him from across the room.  Spike nodded in a friendly way. ‘Morning.’

The boy nodded back. His pupils were unnaturally dilated, and when Spike turned to Henry, his were in a similar state. Henry laughed at the scrutiny and straddled him. ‘Hypocrite. What did you take tonight to get high? A virgin?’

Spike huffed. ‘In my dreams maybe. It was pig. It was cold, and who is he?’

‘He’s called Todd.’

The boy came a step closer. ‘Tom.’

Henry grinned sheepishly at Spike. ‘It was noisy.’

Spike shifted back so he was sitting against the headboard and eyed the boy. ‘How old are you?’

‘Twenty. How old are you?’

Henry laughed. ‘You wouldn’t want to know. So, Spike, do you like my present?’

‘I don’t know. What does it do?’ He held out his hand, and the boy came closer still. ‘I won’t bite.’

Henry tipped off, laughing (the hysteria more chemically induced than from Spike’s sense of humour).

Spike ignored him. ‘Innit a bit dangerous, Pet? Even if you are the grand age of twenty—coming up to a place you don’t know with Christ knows who? I did it once, and it got me in really bad trouble. Still in that trouble, you might say….’

‘I can take care of myself. Are we going to get something on here, or am I wasting my time?’

Henry had recovered from his fit of giggles and was kneeling, unbuttoning his shirt. ‘You’ll have to forgive Spike, here; he’s a bit new to all this
—despite his age.’

Spike shot him a glance, which wasn’t all friendly. Henry chose to ignore it and reached for the boy’s shirt. ‘Let’s help him decide.’ He pulled the boy closer and began to kiss him as he unbuttoned the shirt, his hands then sliding lower and snapping the belt open.

Spike drew up his knees and watched. This was becoming something of a routine in new cities, and he was wondering if he was beginning to get bored of it. Things seemed to bore him more quickly now, as if the passage of the years was catching up on him. Sometimes, he had the frightening thought that he might end up one day flicking from frame to frame, more like an animation than real life, each frame boring him more quickly until his life became nothing more than a blur.

Which is how he had met Henry. How he had started this thing with Henry, which was certainly not something he’d ever thought to want or enjoy.

He wasn’t off women entirely. He wasn’t off their soft bodies and their conveniently well-matched holes, but he’d got bored. Like smoking: he’d given cigarettes up for a while, too. Smoking bored him now, but next year it might seem fun again. Like women. Possibly. For now, he was enjoying men. A lot.

They were on the bed now, naked, Henry underneath the slim boy, but watching Spike almost challengingly. Spike grinned and shifted until he knelt behind the boy, rubbing his thumbs speculatively over his rounded ass cheeks. Then he eased them apart and knelt closer.

The boy whirled around. ‘Hey! Condom?’

Spike and Henry exchanged glances, and Henry said patiently, ‘I told you, Todd—Terry—Tom? I explained all this, remember? You don’t need one with—.’

‘Fuck you!’ The boy scrambled off the bed. ‘You’ve gotta be out of your minds! That was just a line! You wear a fucking bag, or I’m outta here.’

Spike tumbled onto his back, not needing this. He wasn’t that bored. Henry tried soothing the furious boy, and their voices faded into the other room. Spike spread himself on the bed and wondered, for some reason, what Angel was doing.

No one had ever lived in that vast apartment with him; that Spike had sussed within the first minutes (despite playing the injured vampire). Actually, he had been injured. He sat up and examined one or two breaks and bruises. They only made him think of his dilemma though. How was he supposed to make this damn decision? It was too much for anyone.

He mulled over Henry’s suggestion that he just tell Angel, but that wasn’t going to happen. He could almost hear Angel’s response now. He needed to make his choice unencumbered by Angel’s views on the matter.

‘Sorry.’

‘Gone?’

Henry nodded glumly. ‘I even told him you were a vampire so didn’t carry diseases. Didn’t help.’

‘Uh huh. You thought tellin’ ‘im I was dead and a demon would encourage him to let me fuck him without a condom. Good plan.’

‘Maybe you should just wear one!’

Spike waved his hand imperiously. ‘One of the few privileges, and I’m not about to give it up. Come here.’

Henry grinned and climbed on beside him. ‘Maybe I won’t do it without one either.’

Spike laughed. ‘Yeah. Turn over.’

‘You are so romantic, Spike.’

‘You’re the one who woke me up from a perfectly nice dream and expected me to perform for your entertainment. You owe me.’

‘Am I paying nicely?’

Spike was engrossed in the sensation of sliding into the hot, tight body, so only nodded.

Henry grunted with pleasure and pushed back against him, until he was sitting in Spike’s lap, deeply filled. Spike nuzzled at his neck, the warmth and thin vulnerability of the skin tempting him, hardening him. Henry whispered, ‘Do it,’ so Spike changed and sliced delicately into the welcoming flesh. As Henry’s blood flowed into his mouth, he released inside him—no preliminaries, no movement, just spontaneous release that flooded the young man’s body. They sighed, and Spike withdrew his mouth.

Henry grinned. ‘Now we can do it properly.’

Spike pushed him over onto his hands and knees and, riding on his own lubrication, began to work his almost constant hardness into the yielding flesh. Come squished out between his pale cock and the boy’s dark, spread hole. It was intensely fascinating to Spike, and he hoped it would stay so for a while longer before ennui with this overcame him, too. He suspected he had a few more years left to go yet…. He licked his teeth as he plunged in and out, enjoying a faint aftertaste of human blood. The bruise on Henry’s neck was vivid, the epitome of a love bite. What could be more loving than allowing someone to drink from you?

Spike grinned and ran his hands down the curved spine. He was fond of this human
very fond, and he knew they made a good pair. Which took all his thoughts right back to Angel. He’d never thought about Angel whilst fucking before, and that was novel. But they’d made a good pair, too—in their own way. Especially in that last, great battle. Maybe it had been Wesley’s death, but Angel had relied on him more, deferred to him more, needed him more. And he’d risen to the challenge. They’d faced death together and triumphed and then… parted. It still left a bitter taste in Spike’s mouth, ruining his enjoyment of the blood, when he thought about Angel’s reward. The bastards had even given it to him in the middle of a sunny day, so Angel had metaphorically as well as physically stepped away from him into sunlight. He’d been left in the dark, seething.

For about a year.

He was over it now. Well over it. And hence his current dilemma.

‘I am down here, by the way.’

Spike grunted an apology and gave his attention back to the matter in hand. ‘So, how did you like L.A. at night, Pet?’

‘Are we going to stay here for a while?’

Spike smiled. Henry had liked it—he could tell by the wistful longing in his companion’s tone. It couldn’t be easy living with a dead man. ‘While I decide, yeah.’

They never discussed what would happen after that decision had been made—to them. There wasn’t any point. Spike would not let this thing with the human affect his choice, so there was little point discussing the maybes and perhaps.

He felt flattering tremors in the man’s deepest recesses, evidence that he was very close. Too soon. Always too soon for him. He tried to will his orgasm forward so they could come together. Henry began to cry out. Spike slowed down and made his thrusts into slides, long and slow, in rhythm to the man’s spills, pumping them out of the tight body. When it was over, Henry’s arms gave way, and he lay panting on the damp bedclothes. Spike eased out of him, replacing his cock with the tip of his thumb, just swirling it around the spread walls while he worked his thickness as hard as it needed to be worked.

Behind closed lids, he toyed with erotic images to fuel his orgasm, stoking the fires of need deep in his gut. Before he could stop it, he saw a canvas covered in violent images; a man tainted with paint, like blood; cool flesh spread beneath his, gradually warming to his friction. The smell of coppery blood filled his senses. He gasped and held his spurting cock to the hot anus, cooling it with his streams of come.

With a grunt of finality, he reinserted into the twitching hole and spread himself over the warm human, entwining their fingers.

Henry stretched luxuriously under the weight. ‘Tom doesn’t know what he missed.’

Spike had been thinking about Angel so only grunted in reply.

‘What’s on the agenda for tomorrow?’

Spike kissed his back. ‘You’ve got interviews.’ Henry groaned. ‘I’m thinking of the subject for our next book, by the way.’

Henry turned his head, his interest piqued. Spike began to trail his tongue over the sweaty skin. ‘I think a certain gentleman in black is gonna start talking to you from the grave, Pet.’

‘Will Smith…?’

‘Huh?’

‘Go on… who?’

‘Bloke was a Nazi. I used to meet him at certain select parties. He’s gonna start tellin’ you ‘bout sex and the SS.’

‘Great title. It’ll probably sell better than one about an obscure English poet.’

Spike chuckled softly. ‘He’s only obscure cus we ate ‘im.’

‘That’s not funny.’

Spike sighed and rolled off. He was still hard, and it had been warm and comforting in the soft body. ‘Bloody PC world these days.’

‘I’m not sure eating people was ever funny.’

‘I’m paying you to type not be smart.’

Henry wriggled closer and snuggled around the hard, angular body. ‘You’re not paying me at all, in case you haven’t noticed.’

‘Go to sleep. You don’t want to look…. Actually, you’re supposed to be a medium. You should look shabby and hung over and suffering from lack of sleep. Get up and make me a snack.’

Henry didn’t move; Spike hadn’t expected him to. He hugged him closer as he slept and went back to thinking about Angel.

Chapter 4

Angel had been expecting Spike from the moment he opened his eyes. It was just like him to turn up unexpectedly, inconsiderate and in the way. He didn’t go out, though, just in case….

Tension began to build in his body, although he could not assign it a cause. His canvas called to him, willing him to come and release upon it. When the sun began to angle directly in through the panels of glass in the roof, he needed it so much his fingers were shaking as he undressed.

He painted naked.

At first it had been a serious attempt to keep his clothes safe. Then he’d begun to enjoy the freedom. Then the release he found from painting became more… tangible. He sometimes wondered if the pretty young things who found his work so sensual had any idea what actually went into making them….

He began to work in some detail on the broad outline he’d completed the other day, but soon realised this was not what he needed.  Strokes became bolder as he developed the original idea in strong colours. The sun warmed his skin. Warm skin made him stiffen. He let the knob of his heavy cock brush the canvas as he worked, enjoying the feel of slight rasping on its sensitive tip. Sweat began to trickle down his back and chest, and he used the excuse of rubbing it off to touch himself, running his fingers through tight hair and around the root of his power. Thin trickles of crystal fluid then watered the paint where they bubbled, and his knob took on the hues of the paint. The apartment was hot. He was hot. His blood felt alive, as if it wanted to climb out of his body and take up independent life. He needed something more than this. He threw his brush down and tipped his head up to the sun.

Why isn’t he here?

Suddenly, Angel opened his eyes, feeling the intense light on his retinas. He’d actually forgotten. He’d forgotten that Spike couldn’t come out in the day—not to a place like this where there was nowhere for him to hide.

The sun was just for him. It separated him: what he had been; what he now was. There was no way for Spike, without the monies and magics of Wolfram and Hart, to overcome that. This confirmation of what he had strived so hard to win should have made him feel good. He dressed in some old sweats and went to the gym to work his body to exhaustion, neither asking nor answering the question of whether good came into the equation at all.

The gym was one of his favourite places—he hated the place.  It punished him physically as well as mentally, pandering to his essentially masochistic nature. He refused to do Lycra. He refused to sip from bottles of Evian water. He refused to study his body in the overwhelming number of mirrors. Perversely, he was self-aware enough to know that he didn’t need to do any of those things to look better than the other men there. He saw their envious glances and used them like darts to prick his bubble of self-doubt, should that threaten to overwhelm him. He worked out, sweating heavily, his mind a swirling mass of confusing thoughts. But the session achieved what he had intended it to: his erection subsided, he stopped trying to climb out of his skin, and he could face the rest of the sunny day without needing to kill someone.

* * * * * *

Spike arrived just after Angel had given up expecting him, which perversely made him smile with the familiarity; so, he was smiling as he slid open the heavy door.

His eyebrows shot up. ‘Armani?’

‘Nope, just me.’

‘I meant—.’

‘I know what you meant, Poof. Gonna invite me in?’

Angel stood to one side and watched the flawless, beautiful suit slide past him. He’d never seen Spike in a suit. Not once. He swallowed something that seemed stuck in his throat and murmured, ‘You look different.’

Spike shrugged. ‘Gotta keep ‘em guessing.’

Keep who guessing? At Angel’s blank look, Spike made a small gesture with his hands. ‘We’re going out, yeah? For that catch-up drink?’

Absurdly pleased, which immediately annoyed him, Angel nodded. ‘Okay. Give me five?’

Spike laughed. ‘When have you ever got ready in five minutes? He plonked down onto the couch, making Angel wince at the thought of creases in such perfect fabric, and waved his hand imperiously. ‘Take as long as you like.’

The apartment being open plan, Angel could watch Spike from most of the other living spaces. Even in the bathroom, shaving, he could see the couch in the mirror. He glanced once then found the lack of Spike’s reflection depressing. ‘Ponce.’ Angel jumped and cut himself then cursed and swung round on the smirking vampire. Spike held up his hands apologetically. ‘Want any help?’

Dabbing at his face with a towel, Angel scowled. ‘I’ve had ten years to learn, Spike. I think I can manage.’

Spike’s eyes roamed over Angel’s body, resting on the towel-covered hips for a moment. ‘You’re too thin.’

Angel could have kissed him, but he restrained and replied nonchalantly, ‘Never got into the habit of eating. Too….’ He left the rest unspoken and went back to his reflection in the mirror. ‘I’m guessing you aren’t living in sewers—if that suit is anything to go by.’

Spike shrugged but didn’t allow his topic of conversation to be hi-jacked. ‘Looks like you work out, too.’

Once more very pleased but damned if he was going to show it, Angel grunted.

‘So, this human thing is really working out for you?’

Angel heard this as words, but he heard something much more intense and silent beneath them. Once, he would have read Spike’s sub-text as easily as he read all his other mannerisms. Not now though. He heard it, but he didn’t know what it meant, so replied with another grunt. He couldn’t see Spike’s reaction to this, as he was concentrating on the razor and his own reflection in the mirror, but he sensed anger disappointment? and knew this suspicion was confirmed when Spike nagged tetchily, ‘Come on, will you? Pubs are gonna close at this rate.’

* * * * * *

Angel dressed in the new suit he’d bought for the party. Hugo Boss. He smiled to himself for no apparent reason.

Spike eyed him as they waited for the elevator and gave a small snort of amusement, which he also didn’t explain. He thrust his hands in his pockets and asked instead, ‘Any suggestions?’

Angel suddenly said, ‘You’re not smoking.’

Spike rolled his eyes. ‘He just notices.’

‘Why not? I mean—.’

‘Things change. I got bored.’ He paused then laughed at some private joke. ‘I got bored with lots of things.’

‘Was it hard?’

Spike looked confused for a second then seemed to recover. ‘Yeah, very. That’s the fun of it.’

Not sure they were talking about the same thing, Angel turned the conversation back to suggestions for places to go, and they settled on a bar that he knew some blocks away.

It was a warm, pleasant night, and they both relaxed into the old familiarity of strolling along side by side. Everything else had changed so much that this seemed even more familiar—as if they were clinging to things that they could find in common.

In that spirit, Angel asked, ‘So, who have you kept in contact with?’

‘I see Buffy and Giles every so often. Giles is looking kinda frail.’

‘He’s only—what?—fifty?’ He hated the panic he couldn’t shake whenever anyone mentioned aging.

Spike nodded. ‘He got cancer last year. Didn’t you hear?’

Angel turned, his eyes wide. ‘Cancer? Where?’

‘In England.’

Angel wanted to hit him. ‘It isn’t funny, Spike! Not for… us.’

‘I don’t find it funny either, Angel. I misunderstood you. It’s skin cancer, but he’s doing okay. Just a bit frail.’

‘Jesus.’

‘I see Dawn quite a bit.’

‘Gunn is still here.’

‘Let me guess: running a shelter for homeless kids and fundraising for… drugs’ awareness?’

Angel turned. ‘You’ve seen him?’

Spike grinned. ‘It was just a guess. A good one by the sounds of it.’

‘Has Illyria been in touch?’

Spike shook his head. ‘Dawn’s got two kiddies now. One’s called William.’

Angel wasn’t sure whether he was becoming more in tune with Spike, even over this short re-acquaintance, or whether Spike was losing his ability to dissemble, but he read that clearly as diversionary tactics. Spike did not want to talk about Illyria for some reason. He probed. ‘She called me last year.’

‘Well, I think she always fancied you a bit.’

‘Me? She never saw me when Wesley was in the room.’

‘Wesley? Nah. If she liked any watchers, it was Giles. But father-figure an’ all.’

‘Spike, what are you talking about?’

‘What you’re talking about! Dawn fancying you!’

‘Not Dawn! Illyria. And not…. I said Illyria had been in touch.’

‘Oh. Is that the place you meant?’ Spike turned into the bar and was ordering the first drinks before Angel could pursue his subject. He brought them over to the table Angel had chosen. ‘Bit bloody pricey in ‘ere.’

‘Exclusive.’

‘You don’t change, Angel; you really don’t.’

Angel was fairly sure this wasn’t a compliment so ignored it. ‘Where are you living?’

Spike turned his head, watching the people in the room. ‘Here and there.’

‘Here and there where?’

‘You know. Here. And—.’

‘There?’

Spike grinned. ‘Why no girlfriend then?’ He turned back and raked Angel with his gaze.

Angel blushed. ‘You seem very eager to probe my life but give nothing away about your own.’

Spike looked wounded. ‘What do you want to know, Pet? Go on, ask me anything.’

‘Where are you living? I already asked.’

Spike sighed. ‘In a rented apartment right now.’

‘Are you… alone?’

‘No.’

‘Oh.’ There was a very long pause and deep, thoughtful drinking before Angel added, ‘Is she… human?’

‘Would I be able to live with fellow vampires?’

‘No, I guess not.’ He toyed with a small spill on the table. ‘How long have you known her?’

‘So, I ask you about a girlfriend, and we end up talking about me.’

‘I’ve had plenty of girlfriends! Just not right now….’

‘Why not? That’s what I want to know. Is something… wrong?’

‘Wrong? What the fuck do you mean by that?’

‘I don’t know! You tell me! Are you unable to find something to talk about; do you miss being inexhaustible; are you too old to get it up?! What?’

Angel rose, angrily. ‘You bastard.’

‘Sit down. People are looking at us.’

Angel sat quickly, then realised just how easily Spike still managed to manipulate him. He ran his fingers through his hair and said between gritted teeth, ‘I have nothing to offer, Spike. They get bored with me.’

‘Nothing to offer…. Nothing to offer. Rich, beautiful, clever, talented…. Nothing to offer. Oh, right, I get that.’

Angel took a hasty drink then said more slowly, ‘If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were hitting on me.’

If he was expecting Spike to bite, he was disappointed. Spike merely leant back in his seat and said, amused, ‘I’ve gotta do something now I’m not smoking—and wanking’s kinda messy in a public place.’

Angel blushed again, well aware that Spike would not only be able to see this evidence of his embarrassment and confusion but smell the rising blood, too. He lifted his eyes to make a rejoinder when he frowned, staring at someone at the bar. ‘Where do I know him from?’

Spike turned and glanced over his shoulder then turned back. ‘Dunno. Drink up—let’s go on a tour of the nightlife round here.’

‘No. I know him. Where from? He isn’t wearing glasses… I know him with glasses. And wearing something yellow…. Hey, no! That’s the guy from the flyer. The book signing. That’s the freaking medium who claimed George Summers was talking to him!’ He made to rise, but Spike caught at his arm.

‘What are you going to do? Go over there and embarrass him like a fan? Jesus, Angel, have more street-cred, yeah?’

‘Spike! We—.’ He lowered his voice and sat back down, keeping a wary eye on Henry. ‘We killed George Summers.’

‘Well, duh. I know that. All the more reason not to go over and talk to someone who’s talking to him!’

Angel sat back. ‘You agreed that he was a fake. That he was using journals Summers left.’

‘Well, yeah. But he may think he’s actually talking to him. You know how weird all these I-believe-in-the-dead people are. Leave it alone.’

Angel ignored him and stood up, going over to the table where Henry was now sitting with another man. He sat down and put his hand out. ‘Hi. I read your book. It was very interesting.’

A number of expressions flickered across Henry’s face—alarm and annoyance not the least of them—until he saw Spike. Then it was just amusement. Spike sat down next to Angel and said with an edge to his voice, ‘I’m Spike and this is Angel. He liked your book—on the poet.

Henry leant back, studying Angel. ‘Well, well. Someone’s been a little… disingenuous.  You’re not what I expected at all.’ He gave Spike a slightly bitter look. Spike set his features to angelic innocence, which then made Henry quirk a small, intimate smile. Angel frowned. ‘What do you mean?’

Henry recovered quickly and clarified, ‘You’re that artist guy. I recognise you.’

Angel nodded briefly, not unused to this, and was about to ask another question when Henry added politely, ‘This is John, by the way.’ He looked pointedly at Spike and licked his lips suggestively.

The man leant forward and said in a bored voice, ‘Jonah.’

Spike laughed. ‘It is quite noisy in here.’

Angel nodded at the man politely then pursued his line of questioning. ‘You were reticent about Summers’s death. If the man really is talking to you that kinda surprises me. Shouldn’t that have been the real punch-line of the whole tale?’

‘Do you mind if we don’t talk shop? I’m off-duty, so to speak.’

Angel leant forward and put his hand over Henry’s wrist. ‘You claim to be speaking with the dead, Sonny. I think that’s not something you stop and start on a freaking whim.’

‘I do talk to the dead.’ He looked at Spike with a fond twinkle in his eyes. ‘I get a lot of crap back from them—but some of it’s worth hearing.’ His amusement was short lived when Angel began to tighten his grip. ‘Hey! Ow.’

To Angel’s amazement and intense anger, Spike removed his fingers from Henry’s wrist. There was a moment of silent embarrassment around the table until Jonah, staring at Spike’s deceptively slim fingers, whistled, ‘Wow, you’re strong, man. You don’t look it.’

Spike stood up. ‘Let’s go.’

Angel was too angry to stay—either with these humans or with Spike. He stood up then leant down into Henry’s face. ‘You’re a fake, and I intend to make sure people know it.’

Furious, and very possibly bolstered by Spike’s clear support earlier, Henry spat back, ‘I know exactly how George died, Angel.’ He added in a melodramatic voice as if trying to live up to his reputation, ‘Or should I call you Angelus?’

Angel reared back. Spike caught his arm and dragged him from the bar. Outside once more, he turned and said calmly, ‘We—.’

Angel punched him. ‘Don’t you dare! Don’t you dare ever tell me what to do!’

Spike rubbed his jaw, wondering whether he should fake more pain than he actually felt. He wasn’t in the mood and corrected curtly, ‘I made you do it, Angel, not told you.’ Angel swung again; Spike deflected it. ‘I’m thinking you don’t want to get into this with me now.’

Angel was furious, but he wasn’t stupid. But he couldn’t lose face either—so he hit him again. It was a more successful punch: it actually made Spike stagger slightly. He righted himself and pushed his hands deep into his pockets as if to remove the temptation to retaliate. ‘We’ve done enough catching up, Angel.’ He spun on his heel and began to walk away.

Angel caught him up. ‘Don’t. Don’t do this, Spike.’

‘Me? What about you?’

‘I—. Aren’t you in the least bit concerned that he’s—?’

‘This isn’t about Henry Benwell, Angel. This is about us. It’s always about us.’

Angel stepped back. ‘What do you mean?’

Spike half-laughed, half-shrugged. ‘We couldn’t stand to be in each other’s company for more than two minutes, but couldn’t stay apart for more than one.’

‘Wh—?’

‘Oh, come on, Angel. Don’t give me that stuttering incomprehension. I understand things better now. I see what was there for what it was.’ Suddenly, he hung his head, studying his shoes. ‘Why am I dragging all this up now? This isn’t what I came here for.’

‘Came here for?’

Spike said seamlessly, covering, ‘The drink? To catch up?’

‘Oh.’ Angel frowned, feeling that he was missing something. Finally, trying to be gracious, he said, ‘I’m sorry. I’m kinda… keyed up. I shouldn’t have hit you.’

They both knew that this was truer than he meant, but neither wanted to explore the reasons for that.

* * * * * *

Equilibrium re-established, they began to walk toward another bar Angel knew. It was getting late, and he wasn’t sure what time it closed—if at all—and took a shortcut. Spike glanced around the alley and suddenly laughed. ‘Now who’s obsessing about old times?’

Angel laughed, too, wryly. ‘This is one thing about being a vampire that I don’t miss.’

‘So… there are things? That you miss?’

Angel stopped and toed the ground for a moment. ‘Sure. But everyone one of them comes which such a heavy penalty, that I don’t miss them at the same time.’

‘Such as?’

‘Well… the invincibility. Sure, I healed then, but I was dead. I was stronger, but I was dead.’

‘And what’s so bad about being dead?’ He looked up swiftly and added, ‘I’m not picking a fight, Pet. I mean it. Is it that bad?’

‘Why talk about it, Spike? I made my choice.’ A note of anger was coming into his voice, so he began to walk again. He was so engrossed in his thoughts he missed the warning cry from Spike. Something hit him hard, and he went down onto his knees.

On instinct, he raised his arm, and something that would have hit his head, hit his elbow instead. He screamed in pain and, cradling it, staggered to his feet.

Five vampires were surrounding him. Well, four vampires and Spike, who was edging closer, apparently wired with excitement and anticipation. Angel could see this quite clearly in his expression. His feelings were more complex. He had known it would happen one day: this confrontation with something he had once been—something he had once been the best of, the most feared. Angelus.

Now he was just a man in a silly suit who dabbled with paint. And if Spike were not with him, he would be dead. Drained. Who knows, even turned? Low-life vampire scum once more, condemned to do it all again….

What are we waiting for?
Just as Angel asked himself the question, there was a blur of movement. Spike took two of their attackers out in a blink of an eye, but the third put up more of a fight. Which gave the forth time to come and play with him. Angel wasn’t quite sure what the vampire had expected, but he clearly didn’t find it. Not only was Angel very fit, he’d spend three hundred years being one of them and knew every move. And he wasn’t scared, which any other human would have been. They were almost evenly matched. Almost… but not quite. Eventually, Angel was knocked off his feet. A boot slammed into his face, a second into his belly, and then, winded, he was helpless when teeth sank into his neck.

It was the longest of all times then. Memories of another such taking swam up in the red fluid leaving his body. Power and the lusts of the vampire broke the surface first, and then memories of Buffy emerged not far behind, bright, like little fireworks in the dark. Wolfram and Hart gurgled up like stench in a pool, bubbles popping and filling his mind with regret and shame. And then he started to harden. He knew somewhere in his fading mind that this was a physiological reaction to blood loss, but it coincided with memories of that last, great battle: fighting the dragons of his life. And Spike. Alongside him. Then all went white. Was it the sunshine he had fought so hard to win or was he dead? Air suddenly rushed past him as if he were being sucked up… no… something flying past him, and then silence, just echoes of his thoughts and a voice he’d missed more than he could say….

* * * * * * *

‘Bloody hell! You okay?’ Spike fell to his knees alongside the pale, death-like figure. He seemed almost paralysed by fear, his hands moving aimlessly in jerky movements over Angel’s body.

Angel mumbled, ‘I’m okay! Jesus.’ He tired to stand, but he couldn’t. ‘Oh.’

Covered in blood from a split cheek and the tear in his neck, Angel sank back to the ground and, mercifully, passed out.

* * * * * * *

Spike grimaced in wry irony at carrying Angel in his arms back to the apartment and propping him against the door. He fumbled in Angel’s pockets, found the key and let them both in, depositing Angel on the couch, just as he had been the previous night.

He knelt and put a hand to the broad brow. Angel was still concussed and suffering from blood loss, his eyelids fluttering as he tried to hold onto consciousness and drag himself to the surface. The damage to Angel’s cheek was almost obscene on his smooth beauty. Spike hesitated only for a moment, bit his tongue then leant down and licked under the loose flap of skin, cleaning with his magical, healing blood. It was as intimate as a kiss, so he turned it into one before he pulled away. Angel’s bathroom had the usual supply of human medicinal requirements. He chose some tape and scissors and put delicate butterfly sutures across the newly sterile flap. Angel would heal and without a scar, and Spike didn’t question why this gave him such a sense of pleasure.

The neck wound was more serious; the vampire’s teeth had torn deep muscle. It wouldn’t respond so well to his cleaning, but Spike wasn’t about to let logic put him off what he wanted to do. He unbuttoned Angel’s shirt, spreading it out, exposing the wound and the perfect, hairless skin of his chest.

Spike had been telling the truth in that explosive confrontation outside the bar: he did see their relationship in the past a lot more clearly now—his motives if not Angel’s. Which is why he really shouldn’t run his hands over Angel’s warm, human skin. And particularly why he shouldn’t examine the dark bud of one nipple to see if it hardened to a scrape of his nail. He hadn’t come for this at all. This was only going to complicate what was already intensely complicated. So, kissing Angel’s nipple was probably a bad idea, too…. Nibbling it was just disastrous….

‘What are you doing?’

Spike lifted his face from Angel’s chest and stared into confused brown eyes. ‘You’re hurt.’

‘Not there, I’m not.’

Very slowly, keeping his eyes fixed on Angel’s darker ones, Spike lowered toward his mouth. Angel watched him to the last minute, his frown deepening, then he heaved in a breath over damaged ribs and shoved weakly at him. ‘Get off! What the fuck is this?’

Spike pursed his lips and sat back on his heels. ‘You never been tempted?’

‘Tempted? Tempted? Tempted by what? Kissing you?’

‘Yeah. Well, no, not me in particular. Anyone. Any… man.’

‘Fucking hell, Spike.’ He tried to sit up but gave up the attempt. Suddenly, as if it was a question on a completely different subject, he asked casually, ‘Have you?’

‘Ten years is a long time.’

‘And that’s an answer?’

‘Work it out for yourself.’ He rose and went to fetch Angel some water and a drink for himself.

Angel twisted his head around and watched him. ‘I don’t believe you.’

Spike laughed. ‘Maybe if you’d let me kiss you I’d have convinced you.’

‘You’re sick.’ He sat up and rubbed his head.

‘You okay?’

‘No! I’m not okay; I’ve just discovered you’re—.’

‘I’m a dead man, Angel. I’m just a dead man. I can’t be defined any other way.’

‘Bullshit. Don’t give me that bullshit. Not me. What? You think I’m gonna be impressed with that? Well, it’s bullshit. I’ve been dead, and I’ve been alive, and believe me, there’s not much dif—.’

Spike handed him the water and sat next to him. ‘Not much difference between them?’

Angel flinched slightly. ‘I wasn’t going to say that.’

‘Yeah. You were.’

‘Look. I’m kinda beat. Can we do this another night?’

‘Do what?’

‘Stop it. I’m not playing this game with you, Spike. I say something, and you twist it to mean something else. You’ve thrown me a curve and I… need some time to think about it.’

‘Angel…?’

‘What?’

‘Why does it matter to you even one tiny bit what I do with my body?’

Angel turned and looked squarely at him. ‘It wasn’t your body you were about to get off on.’

‘Oh.’ Spike grinned his infectious grin. ‘You were supposed to say something else then.’

Angel suddenly relaxed back against the couch. ‘Ten years of peace and quiet and then one night of you, and I’m battered, bitten, bruised black and blue, confused and depressed.’

Spike nudged him. ‘I’m gonna well up in a minute; you really did miss me.’

Angel closed his eyes. ‘If I keep them closed, will you go away?’

‘Nah. I like it here.’

‘You won’t in the morning.’

When silence greeted this, Angel snapped open his eyes, hearing the sub-text for the first time. ‘I mean the glass. It’s very sunny in here during the day… for the painting. I didn’t mean you could stay the night!’

‘Calm down, Luv. But, just out of interest before I go, would you have offered your couch before I told you that I’d… expanded my interests?’

‘Is that what you call it? Expanding your interests?’

‘Well, I sometimes call it reaming ass.’

Christ!’ Angel rose stiffly from the couch and went toward the bathroom. ‘Just go, please.’

‘You didn’t answer my question.’

Without turning around, Angel said coldly, ‘Because I don’t know the answer. You did tell me and that… changes everything.’

Spike stood up, feeling doubly angry with himself, firstly for letting Angel’s body seduce him momentarily and secondly for being dumb enough to get caught showing that interest. His agenda was blown now. This wasn’t going to get him the answers he sought, and he still wanted those answers desperately. He went toward the door, well aware that Angel listened to every footfall. ‘There are still things to say, Pet. Can we meet again?’

‘I think we’ve said all we have to. Done all the catching up we need to.’

‘I—.’ Spike stared at the tense, resistant back. ‘Are you happy?’

The confusion on Angel’s face when he turned to reply gave Spike all the answer he needed. Spike sighed. ‘That wasn’t the right response. I came here needing to find you happy and—I don’t know—maybe married? With little kiddies…. With a good life.’

‘Get out.’

Spike nodded. ‘What am I going to do, Angel? How am I going to bloody decide?’ Not waiting for answers to questions that had not really been directed at Angel, he left.

Chapter 5

Henry was pacing the apartment when he got back. ‘What the fuck was that all about?’

Spike shrugged. ‘Of all the bars in all the world, you had to walk into the one….’

‘I thought you’d set that up.’

‘Jeez. You have so much confidence in me.’

You are a manipulative vampire.’

Spike smirked. ‘Compliments will get you anywhere.’

Henry’s shoulders sagged. ‘I’m sorry. Did he… suspect anything?’

‘Not till I snogged him, no.’ He sat gloomily on the couch.

‘You didn’t.’

‘Almost. I was this far from doing it.’ He illustrated with his fingers then sighed. ‘I’m gonna take up smoking again.’

‘Not if you’re living with me you won’t.’

‘I’m not living. How did the interviews go, anyway?’

‘I’m the next best thing to Jesus Christ, apparently.’

‘You’ll be walking on water in no time.’

‘I don’t want to do this anymore, Spike.’

Spike held out his hand, and Henry flopped onto the couch next to him. ‘How was Jonah?’

‘Hot, and don’t change the subject.’

‘We’ll be leaving soon. Wanna go back to England?’

‘You’ve decided?’ His voice was deceptively casual.

‘Almost.’

‘And that means… you’re not going to do it, are you?’

‘Would you?’

‘You’ve asked me that before. How do I know? I’m not a vampire. It’s not fair to ask.’

‘Would you?’

‘No. I wouldn’t. There. Does that mean anything? Does that make you happy?’

Spike took the obvious cue and pulled him in for a kiss. ‘You make me happy.’

They kissed and played around on the couch for a while until Henry eased himself away. ‘You’re really pissed about that almost-kiss with Angel tonight, aren’t you?’

‘I’m something about it, yeah.’

‘Did you really expect him to kiss you back? Just like that?’

‘No. Course not.’

‘You’ve always told me that the last time he saw you, you were at each other’s throats.’

‘Well, that’s not the whole truth. We were really close at the end, too. I can’t explain it. We almost didn’t need to speak. We just knew what the other was thinking.’

‘But you weren’t either of you thinking about sex! You were fighting the third damn world war.’

‘Sex isn’t just physical.’

‘It’s best when it is.’

Spike rubbed his hands over his stubbled hair. ‘I need a drink.’ Henry laughed and knelt up. Spike groaned. ‘Not that kind.’

* * * * * * *

Angel couldn’t sleep. He couldn’t settle to anything. His head hurt; he felt sick and dizzy; his cheek stung; and his elbow was so swollen he couldn’t paint. But he knew these were only the physical, surface reasons why everything seemed wrong.

Had he dreamt that conversation with Spike? Had he really woken to find him… sucking on his nipple? Even now, that memory… sent tingles into his balls—he couldn’t deny it. Which is not the reaction he wanted at all! He wanted to keep up the anger and disgust and hurt that had assailed him to start with. It was hurtful to find that Spike had this whole other life that he’d known nothing about. Had Spike thought these things when they were together? Had looks or touch from him been misinterpreted?

Had he led Spike on? Jesus. What was he thinking? Ten years. Things changed so much. Who had changed more? He wouldn’t have said it was Spike—the unchanging one. But perhaps it was. What had he done with this decade? Why didn’t he have those very things Spike had seemed to want to find: wife, children, home… happy life? Had he let the confusion of the overwhelming shock of becoming human obscure everything else for ten years? Was this his wake-up call to find something more in his life?

A temptation wormed its way into his conscious mind, but he shoved it down ruthlessly. Not now! But it wouldn’t be repressed, and by the evening of the next day he was hopeless in its power.

* * * * * * * * *

The club struck him as ever with its surface normality. Many times he’d been here now, and each time it was like walking into a Hollywood set where the designer’s notes were annotated “Standard bar in LA”. He was recognised and offered a drink, which he accepted greedily. He needed to be drunk for this: he always did.

Before too long, just as alcohol had stoked the ache and brought it to a raging conflagration, a woman he vaguely recognised came over to him. ‘Hello, stranger.’

Angel nodded.

‘Glad you’re here. It’s been quiet.’

Angel didn’t want to talk. He wanted what he’d come here for, and then he wanted to leave. She seemed to sense this and took his arm with a small smile. ‘Shall we go and play?’

Hating her, hating himself more, he walked by her side to a door, which led downstairs
to a dungeon. He had to resist the memories—Lindsay, Gunn, offers made for redemption—but the sounds of pain and pleasure in the dark were so familiar, so comforting Angel was hard before they reached the bottom step.

The woman was peeling off her blouse, under which she wore a leather bra. ‘I’ve been very naughty today.’ She turned and began to select various instruments with which Angel could punish her, but before she’d made her choice, he selected a lash and pushed her roughly against a wall. She moaned with pleasure and begged, ‘Punish me, Handsome.’

Angel never spoke when he came to this place. But then he wasn’t playing. He didn’t need to make up fantasies about punishment and pain; he had memory to draw upon: three hundred years of it. He only wanted to purge his system of the heady build-up of need, like venting from a vast steam boiler, so he could begin again and be a good man. If he hurt her now, he would be released from the need to hurt for many months. The temptation to bite and rip and fuck was almost overwhelming, so he curbed it by laying the whip to her back and hearing her sharp intake of breath. He ripped her bra so he could see nothing but skin, and she clasped her breasts, kneading them viciously. He spun her around and bit one nipple. She arched against him, her leather skirt riding up. He wasn’t here for sexnot yet anyway. The need for pain was still there. So he hit her, a blow to her shoulder where she wouldn’t mark. She sucked in the pain and moaned, her hand creeping under her skirt. He flung her around and punished her for that by putting three clear stripes of red down her back. He thought he’d gone too far, but she turned back and hooked him with one knee, rubbing herself, like some obscene dog, on his leg.

She grabbed his hand and tried to push it where she needed to be touched, but he drew back, holding her off. Who was he kidding? This wasn’t about memory of pain. This wasn’t even about Spike’s confession or his shocking, erotic touch. It was about that other touch. In the bar. Spike had removed his hand as easily as an adult might do a child’s. Seething resentment for what he had become, for what Spike still was, for their redefined positions in the pecking order, swelled in Angel’s gut. There wasn’t enough hurt in the world to give him relief for these feelings. There wasn’t enough sexual potency to overcome his worthless impotence in the face of his childe.

Then Angel’s head swivelled slowly…

… to the enticing sounds of male pain….

He felt a new surge of blood to his cock at that hum of pure, sexual potency. His head almost swam with need.

It was not entirely a new thought
to play with a manbut this was the first time he’d acted upon it. He pushed the woman away from him, ignoring her outrage, following the trails of pain. Then he watched from the shadows. This was primal; it called to him in places that her soft pain never could. His balls tingled then hardened; spasms made them clench and rise. His cock was so hard he could not find a place for it to lie comfortably, and his foreskin caught and rubbed on the inside of his leather pants.

He went closer to the men, one strapped upon a bench, one standing behind him, lashing him. Angel could hear the unspoken communion between them. He had shared this once with victims and missed it intensely.

The top turned to Angel as he approached and eyed him speculatively from the toes of his boots up his distorted leather pants to his face. He groaned softly and rubbed himself through the leather chaps he wore over dirty jeans. He held out the handle of the whip and stood to one side, running his free hand over the sweat and pain on his victim’s back. Angel took the whip and caressed it, running it through his fingers. He trickled it over the taut skin, the groan this elicited making him sweat with desire. Instead of following through the tease, he stepped up behind the man and began to rub his leather clad erection against the jeans-clad backside. Sex was not obligatory in this place; they came for the pain and pleasure, but sex nearly always followed. Only, up until now, that, for him, had always been a joining with soft female tissues. It had always been enough—until now.

So why this now? Why this man spread and vulnerable in front of him? Did he really want to pull the torn jeans down around those strong thighs and examine the spread more intimately? Is this what Spike now did? Spike had knowledge and experience he did not? Once more, resentment flared in Angel. Spike took his pleasures where he wanted with no thought to consequence or shame. Spike did not have to curb his inclinations. Spike was free.

Spike was more alive than he was.

Angel ripped the man’s pants down, and pressed his swollen leather into skin. The top groaned at the sight and walked around to the victim’s front. Keeping eye contact with Angel, he released his fat cock, letting it stand red and angry from the leather chaps. With little ado, he inserted it into a willing, welcoming mouth then bent to tweak painful-looking clamps on the victim’s nipples.

Angel crunched slightly at the waist, excitement almost overcoming him. He closed his eyes and regained some control, until in the dark, behind closed lids, he saw Spike’s lips descending toward him once more. This time, he made them finish the journey. In his mind, he kissed Spike as he rubbed against this anonymous bare skin. In his mind, he replaced Spike’s mouth to his nipple, moaning as he pinched one for real through his shirt.

The man being sucked off was saying something to him, urging him to do something, but Angel wasn’t ready for that. He opened his eyes and watched what was happening at the front end instead. The beefy man was ejaculating, shuddering, his eyes closed, a look of intense pain on his features. He held the prone man’s head and grunted formulaic encouragement to him as he filled his mouth.

Revolted, excited, scared, Angel staggered away from the couple. But his eyes went involuntarily downward to the pink rawness twitching in expectation of penetration. His breath hitched with shock or need—he was too far gone to tell which. His own orgasm hit him at the sight of the open hole: painful, totally unsatisfactory and trapped in tight leather. He fell to his hands and knees, panting, tears in his eyes at a deep sense of loss.

There was a hand on his shoulder, but he wrenched away and ran back toward the exit; the sounds of the dungeon now mocking him.

* * * * * * * * *

Angel did not remember the journey back to his apartment. He remembered standing in the kitchen, drinking pint after pint of water, trying to assuage some thirst he could not name.

Then reality began to come apart at the seams. Wesley was with him, sitting on his bed, his calm calming him… for a moment, until something in his fevered brain registered that Wesley was dead; he was always dead; still dead, and no magic that he could conjure would bring him back. Then Buffy, tantalising, just out of sight, and he thought that he came in the sheets—they were damp enough. His body was wracked with pain, and Holtz was the cause of it, pushing something hot and sharp into his most private of places, humiliating him with his body’s responses to this intrusion.  He fought him, but he was surprisingly strong, holding him down onto the bed and whispering for him to be still. Whispering? And not Holtz. English though. Angel’s eyes flew open, and he saw Spike and a man standing over him, instruments of torture in their hands, and Spike was holding him down. Was he punishing him for stealing his Shanshu? Was he angry because he had spilled and wasted his sperm? What did Spike want from him? What did he really want from Spike? Could Spike give him what he had just sought from another man’s pain? He reared up in his heat and confusion and captured his pale torturer. He forced their lips together, grinding them until his hurt—just a minor pain on his pain-wracked body. He was almost there, at some elusive place where all need was calmed, when the human stuck something in his arm. He released Spike’s lips like a drowning man releasing the spar that was saving his life. Sweet oblivion took him, and when he woke again, he felt reborn—physically anyway. Nothing hurt, and his whole body lay in a state of pleasant, drained numbness.

‘Well, well, he returns to the land of the living’

‘Spike?’

Spike sat on the edge of the bed and put the back of his hand to Angel’s forehead. ‘You never do anything by halves, do you?’

‘What—?’

Spike’s hand shifted to Angel’s neck, and Angel felt a stab of residual pain. ‘That bloody bite became infected. You’ve had blood poisoning—what blood you had left to poison. Doc said you’d be fine though.’

‘Doc?’

‘Hmm. I called one when I found you… ranting.’

Angel closed his eyes. ‘I was dreaming.’ A trickle of worry suddenly wormed down his spine. Did I kiss Spike in that dream or for real? ‘W—What did I say?’

‘Oh, bunch of stuff. Nonsense.’ Spike rested his hands in his lap, his head tilted to one side. ‘Do you want anything? A drink of water?’

‘Why did you come back?’

‘I told you: we have unfinished business.’

Angel sank against the pillows and closed his eyes. He heard Spike moving toward the kitchen, listening to the sounds he made. Someone else in his living space. Someone else in his… life. For the first time, Angel realised how starkly alone he was.

Spike returned with a couple of pills and some water. Angel saw the slight hesitation before he held them out, knowing that Spike had been about to put them directly onto his tongue, wondering why he had not. He swallowed them and lay back. Drowsiness stole upon him almost at once.

He felt the hand return to his forehead and caught at Spike’s wrist. Neither of them said anything. Angel’s lips were burning, but he told himself it was just the fever. The moment stretched on. Spike moved his thumb—just a light stroke over Angel’s forehead. When Angel dragged opened his eyes, Spike’s expression was troubled. He veiled his thoughts though and removed his hand. ‘Go to sleep.’

Angel’s eyes began to close then they snapped open. ‘I’m—. Where are my—? Who undressed me?’ He blushed deeply, remembering what may have been on his clothes.

Spike glanced away. ‘I did.’ He pouted. ‘Seein’ as you mentioned it, they had blood on them: human—and not yours.’

Knowing that Spike must have seen the come stains as well, Angel replied faintly, ‘I—. There was an accident.’

Spike nodded as if accepting that this was the most likely explanation, his eyes saying he knew it wasn’t true.

This dissembling angered Angel. Despite the almost overwhelming desire to sleep, he suddenly lashed out, catching Spike on his jaw. Spike’s face crumpled into uncertainty, disappointment and confusion, and he rubbed the spot where Angel had hurt him. Without lifting his head, he said simply, ‘I’ve been given the chance to be human. If I want it. That’s why I came here—to help me decide.’ He looked up and caught Angel’s gaze. ‘I wanted to see how you were enjoying it.’

Angel tipped into drug-induced unconsciousness with a scream of denial ricocheting around in his brain.

Chapter 6

Angel woke to muted light, which confused him for a moment until he blinked and saw dark material draped over all his windows, tiny pinpricks of sunlight streaming through them like projections in a movie theatre. His first coherent thought was how easy it was to incorporate Spike into his life.

Then he woke fully and remembered.

‘Spike?’

Spike’s head appeared over the back of the couch. ‘You’re awake then.’

Angel sat up and rubbed his neck, then ran fingers through his hair. ‘You’re going to be human?’

Spike made a face as if he had hoped that Angel might have forgotten this. Then he nodded and came over to the bed, perching on the end of it. Suddenly, he said, ‘I need a drink. Why don’t you get dressed?’ Hastily, he went to the kitchen area, his back to Angel. Angel closed his eyes with embarrassment. His erection was huge, more than tenting the sheet—pyramiding it. Then he flushed with something else when he realised that Spike’s reaction probably wasn’t embarrassment.

With as much haste as Spike, he went into the bathroom to shower. Under the water, he relieved the pressure, stroking and cradling his balls until his powerful cock spasmed and sent globules of thick fluid into the thinner water cascading over him. Even then he didn’t subside fully. It was enough to pass though, so he pulled on some loose cotton pants and went slowly over to the couch, easing himself down like the old man he feared soon to be.

With a grimace and laying his head on the back, he said firmly, ‘Now. Tell me.’

Spike sat down next to him, twisting around to face Angel’s profile. ‘Illyria and I knocked around together for a few months.’

That got Angel’s attention. Tiredness and stiffness forgotten, he twisted around, too. ‘Illyria. And you.’

Spike nodded. ‘What the hell was she supposed to do? Where did you think she’d go?’

‘I—.’

‘’Xactly, you never thought about it.’ He added quickly and more gently, ‘You had ‘nough to cope with. This human business threw you a huge curve to start with. I know that.’

‘You know? I mean… you make hell of an assumption there.’

Spike blushed faintly. ‘I’ve sorta been keeping tabs on you.’

‘Is that so…. So… seeing me at the book signing wasn’t a coincidence?’ He stared at Spike then dropped his head onto his chest, groaning. ‘It wasn’t really a book signing, was it?’

‘Well, not the real author, no.’

Connections clicked in Angel’s brain, and he flushed a dark red and asked more hesitantly, ‘So you know him? Henry Benwell?’

‘That in the biblical sense, Luv?’ He held Angel’s gaze, and Angel had the answer he wanted—and desperately didn’t. He looked down at his lap. ‘Do you… love him?’

Spike snorted.

Angel looked up, frowning, and Spike shrugged. ‘We’re getting off the important things a bit, aren’t we?’

Angel was tempted to reply that it was important to him but couldn’t actually hear himself saying it. Instead, he prompted grimly, ‘Illyria.’

‘Yeah. So, we had some time together. Got friendly. Very….’ Once again, he held Angel’s gaze.

‘Jesus! It’s only been ten years. What else have you done?’

Spike ignored the outburst and continued. ‘She contacted me a few weeks ago cus she’s… going back. Into the hole.’

‘Illyria’s going… what? To die?’

‘Not in any definition we can understand of that, no. I didn’t get it either, but she said this wasn’t her time, and that she’d decided to take Wesley’s advice: sleep until the humans are gone. I told ‘er she might ‘ave to wait a tad—like maybe another ten millennia. She just gave me one of those looks of hers and spouted on about worms and stars. So I let ‘er be.’

‘She’s willingly going back into her sarcophagus? I don’t believe it. She said there was no way for her to leave the shell… her body. Fred’s body.’

Spike had no real answer to Angel’s scepticism, so he suggested hopefully, ‘Drink?’

Angel nodded and followed him distractedly into the kitchen. Spike pulled two beers out of the fridge then hopped up onto the counter. Angel leant next to him. ‘So…?’

‘So, she’s going release energy into this world. Some of the power she brought to it—less the stuff you stripped out of her, course. An’ that energy can be used. And she’s offered it to me. To make me human again.’

‘And you accepted.’

‘Was that a statement or a question?’

‘Huh?’

‘Are you making the assumption that I’d just leap at the chance?’

‘Yes! Shit, Spike, isn’t this what we fought about? Isn’t this why you went off and left me when I got my Shanshu?’

‘You think I went and left you?’

‘I don’t think; I know! I was there! I turned around, and you’d just gone!’

‘I was standing in the fucking shadows, Angel! If you’d have looked for me, you’d have found me! You were blinded by the light!’

‘And you couldn’t give me a few minutes to adjust, could you? I was in shock! I’d signed it away, Spike. I’d given up everything I’d ever wanted with the stroke of my blood. But there I was, despite the Black Thorn: human. And there you were: everything we were to each other just blown away because you couldn’t stand the thought of me having what you’d always wanted.’

‘And just exactly what were we to each other, Angel? Can you enlighten me, cus I never really got it, ya know?’

‘You’re getting it now though, aren’t you! Do you like what Henry fucking Benwell gives you?’

Spike jerked back. Angel’s eyes widened with the shock of realising he’d given away too much. Spike jumped off the counter and strode to the door, wrenching it open. Angel caught him up and grabbed his arm. Spike swung, and Angel was flung back across the room. Spike cried out, distressed, and went to him, but Angel kicked out at him then  rose and punched him and slapped him and pushed him back against the wall, totally out of control, impotent fury driving him, not one of the hits even registering in the blue eyes until Spike held his arms and said gently, ‘That’s enough, Luv. That’s enough.’ Exhausted, still fragile, Angel sagged in his arms. Spike swore and took him back to the bed. Angel pushed him away, glaring. ‘You’re the father of lies, Spike. You lie and you manipulate. Why are you hesitating to accept her offer?’

‘Because I’m not sure there’s anything for me if I take it.’

‘And you came here to find me to see— what? If I could offer you something?’

‘No! To see if—. Jesus, Angel, who can I learn from if not from you? You taught me to be a vampire. You’re my sire! I needed to see what it had been like for you.’

‘And you’re hesitating?’ Angel stood up. ‘You’re implying this isn’t working for me! Fuck you, Spike. You have no right to come here and judge my life.’

‘Oh, why, cus going to bloody S and M clubs is the sort of lifestyle I should envy?’

Angel paled. ‘How dare you.’

Spike stepped up close. Very close. ‘Have you forgotten so quickly what it’s like? I can smell that you want to hit me right now. I can smell that you’re aroused by this. I can bloody smell that you wanked in the shower and—.’

Angel hit him—much harder than he’d hit him before. Caught unawares, Spike stepped back. His feet tangled in the discarded sheet, and he fell onto his backside, hard. He made a theatrical wince and began to stand, but Angel dropped onto him, straddling him and, double-fisted, punched him again. Spike’s head rocked back onto the floor, and he grunted. Angel made to swing again, but Spike caught his fist and held it tight. Angel tried to pull free, but Spike jerked him back. Supported only on his bad arm, Angel collapsed and fell onto him.

They froze for a moment. Then a single droplet of sweat fell from Angel’s brow to Spike’s lips. Instinctively, Spike’s tongue darted out, a tiny pink tip retrieving the potent fluid. Before either knew or cared what was happening, their lips were furiously grinding together, their bodies rubbing for maximum pleasure. There was no sense that one had initiated this, or that one was more experienced or another needier. They were just themselves as they had been for centuries. Spike opened his mouth wide, and Angel moaned, pushing his tongue in expertly. Then they eased back enough to stare down to see the effect of saliva on lips and hot tongues. They liked it; a tiny smile of complicity graced both their mouths, and they went back to the deep kiss, mashing and grinding their lips, sucking on tongue and licking teeth.

Angel was the first to pull off. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, staring down at the swollen lips he had been enjoying. There was one moment when he could have fled from what they had done, but Spike cupped his injured cheek with one hand and said gently, ‘This can mean everything and nothing to me, Angel. You make it mean what you want, yeah?’

Angel heard his voice as if Spike were standing at the end of a long tunnel. He tried to reply, but his mouth would not co-operate with his head. Slowly, with frightening unavoidability, he slid unconscious to Spike’s chest.

* * * * * * *

Spike cradled Angel’s head for a while on his chest as he pondered life. He wasn’t including the universe and everything in his musing, but it felt like it. Something that had hovered outside of their vision for so many decades had finally materialised. They’d tasted it on their tongues; they’d felt it in fingertips and balls.

For the first time, he regretted what he’d begun with Henry. It was like tasting something before it was properly baked. He wanted to clear his emotional palette with something astringent, so he was new and pure to experience this with Angel. With Angel. It was hardly credible. He’d come here to find out how human life was treating his sire, not to revive unresolved issues with him. Or had he? He’d kept tabs on Angel for the last ten years. He’d bought his paintings; he’d sometimes gone to openings, keeping to the shadows and not letting Angel see him. So, why did he pretend now to need to find out more about Angel’s life?

Wasn’t this exactly what he’d wanted?

Spike smiled wryly and lifted his head to kiss into Angel’s hair. Then very carefully he sat up and carried him to bed.

He gave it no thought whatsoever, but tucked Angel carefully under the covers, took off his own shirt and boots and crawled into bed next to him, pulling the solid body into a tight spoon.

He didn’t do introspectiontomorrow could take care of itself.

Didn’t all great romances use that excuse not to face the issues?

* * * * * * *

He couldn’t sleep, that critical question still oscillating in his mind: what did he really want from Angel? To learn about his life or something more? That he was lying in Angel’s bed cuddling him kinda pointed to the something more. But he’d wanted to make his decision free of Angel’s influence (because he couldn’t deny that Angel did influence him; he always had; even trying so hard not be under Angel’s influence directed his course: whether to follow or deny, it always came back to Angel).

He’d known very well that Angel would try to persuade him to accept Illyria’s offer. Of course he would. Angel was a man who had striven all his life to be allowed to read a certain page of a certain book because he believed that the knowledge it contained would inform his life: purify it, improve it, validate it. Make it enjoyable. Of course he wasn’t going to admit that the book now bored him, or that he could have read the same thing written more succinctly elsewhere, or that he couldn’t read it at all because he’d never learnt the language. No, the book was all. The page of his life was perfect and everyone else must convert to its teachings.

Spike wasn’t interested in purifying or improving or validating. And he enjoyed things just fine now. He was very well aware that what Angel liked about being human, he might not. Angel relished the simplicity of it. Spike never saw the complexity of being a vampire. Angel loved the opportunities he saw opened up to him. Spike reckoned the world was pretty much at his feet now. Angel had hated the evil inside him. Spike never really had all that much anyway. Now, though, Angel knew. Now, he would not be free to weigh Angel’s new life in the balance and make the decision for himself. For, despite what he had told Henry, he was nowhere near deciding. He wondered idly why he often asked Henry what he would do were their situations reversed but had never asked him what he wanted him to decide. It was probably because he knew what the man would reply. Henry like him just as he was: hard, inexhaustible, inventive, not bothered over-much with scruples and, of course, the bareback king of Britain.

This was not good. He could not afford to let Henry affect his decision, too. Within a blink of his eye, Henry would be old and grey, and then what? It would be too late for Angel, too, he’d be….

See? This is why he’d not wanted to start anything with Angel. It was already affecting his thought processes. What he could or could not, would or would not, have with Angel was nothing to do with this. This was for him alone. Not him as Angel’s other half. Better half. Significant other. Longtime companion… in the human definition of long, of course….

But Angel hadn’t even hinted that this is what he wanted either. One (long) confused kiss after some rough stuff hardly equated to a proposal. Perhaps he was worrying over nothing. Angel would wake up, be free of the heavy drugs the Doc had given him and be shocked and disgusted by the memory of their kiss.

Why was his life always being complicated by things he had no control over? It had been simple enough: an ex-Old One teleported from the Hole in the World, now in Fred’s body, had offered a hundred and fifty year old vampire with a soul the chance to soak up her excess life force when she returned to the grave to enable him to become human again. Simple! But now it was all buggered up by a kiss. And what a kiss. Spike tasted his lips gently, smirking. He’d kissed Angel. He’d done a lot more with other men, but other men weren’t Angel. Angel for fuck’s sake! He’d kissed him.

Very glad he wasn’t given to introspection, therefore, Spike finally fell asleep sometime toward morning, having decided nothing about Illyria’s offer and even less about this curve thrown him by Angel’s kiss.

Chapter 7

Spike wasn’t used to waking alone these days. Waking with strange young men in the bed, waking with sperm all over him, waking once wearing a dress and stockings—these he was getting used to. An empty bed was oddly unpleasant.

He sat up.

Angel was painting.

Angel was painting naked.

Spike’s eyebrow rose. Was he supposed to look away?

Yeah. Right.

He drew his knees up, rested his chin on them and took a good, long look. Angel’s buttocks were magnificent. Spike’s cock thought so, too. It twitched, keen to probe and explore what lay between them. Spike knew that taking Angel would be so extraordinary emotionally that the physical act would surpass anything he had experienced with a man before. Each cheek dimpled as Angel moved angrily around his canvas. Spike moaned softly, licked his lips and pictured making them dimple for other reasons.

Silently, he left the bed and padded barefoot over to where Angel stood.

He must have been up for hours. The new picture was bold and strangely disturbing. It was of a male figurethis much Spike had seen from the bed. Something wasn’t quite right with it, though. As he got closer, he saw where the confusion lay. When looked at in detail, key parts of the manhis eyes, hair, nipples, genitalshad all been created from smaller figures. And these figures were female: a curled, foetal woman formed each eye; women entwining were the man’s root, their hair entangled to make his; his cock was an upheld arm and fist, the cockhead’s blush formed from painted nails.

Spike reeled back. ‘Bloody hell!’

Angel spun around, seemingly careless of his nakedness. His eyes were red. It was surprising he could paint through the tears. Spike felt such a huge stab of pity and love for this lost person that he wanted to take him in his arms and tell him that their kisses had been nothing more than a dream or that they were true and good and real—whatever…anything Angel wanted to hear. Instead he picked up Angel’s pants from the floor and held them out.

Angel looked down, slightly bemused then seemed to come back from the place where he’d been whilst painting. He took the pants and pulled them on, but didn’t immediately fasten them. He laid down his brushes, his back to the disturbing imagery. ‘You were asleep.’

Quite what this had to do with anything, Spike didn’t know. Hesitantly, he went closer and closed his fingers over Angel’s wrist, giving it a tiny shake. ‘I meant what I said, Pet. Anything you want this to be.’

‘I want you to decide about Illyria’s offer.’

This seemed much more relevant to Spike than Angel’s first comment. He wanted to decide this, too. Everything seemed to hinge upon the outcome of that decision.

Suddenly, Angel turned and closed his fingers over the fingers upon him. ‘Stay here while you decide. See what my life is really like and then decide to become human.’

‘That’s not fair, Angel. You’re trying to manipulate me!’

‘Duh! You’re a demon! You’re dead! You could be human!’

Spike wrenched his hand away. ‘I knew this would happen! That’s just your perception! I’ve never hated being a vampire.’

‘Yes. You have, Spike. You hated it when Buffy wouldn’t love you. You hated it when I wouldn’t… when I became human.’

‘When you wouldn’t love me?’

‘I didn’t say that.’

Spike hung his head and rubbed his hand over his face. Slowly, he lifted it to Angel. ‘If you could go back ten years and say no, would you?’

‘Don’t be dumb. Of course not.’

‘You’re lying. I’m not sure you know that you’re lying, but you are. Don’t tell me that if you and I could be standing here right now, just like this with that bloody amazing kiss heavy between us, but you were still Angel, you wouldn’t want it!’

Angel turned away and said icily, ‘I am still Angel.’

‘Oh, you’re as good at avoiding questions as I am, Mate.’

Angel turned back angrily. ‘How do you expect me to answer that? Okay, what if I’d stayed as a vampire—what then? We’d have gone on arguing and fighting and—.’

Spike kissed him.

He just lunged forward and clamped him hard into a kiss. He rubbed Angel with one raised knee, inserted his tongue into the hot mouth and stroked the back of his neck.

Then he pulled off.

‘Sorry. You were saying?’

Angel’s mouth hung theatrically open. A tiny trail of Spike’s saliva glistened on his bottom lip. Spike shrugged and returned to suck it off.

Angel’s hand fastened onto the small of Spike’s back. Spike hesitated over the sucking, drawing it out. Angel moaned and pressed him back against the edge of the table. Spike opened his thighs, and Angel came to stand between them as if he’d always been there, as if it were his rightful place. They kissed slowly now, enjoying the individual pleasures rather than the rough whole. Inevitably, their minds drifted lower to the need sparking from their groins. Both dressed only in thin pants, the rigidity of erections could clearly be felt between them. They rubbed together as they kissed, hands straying from necks to swell these lower delights.

Spike had just formulated an entire plan to seduce Angel, which took into account Angel’s relative inexperience and his own fairly extensive knowledge, when Angel eased off and whispered, ‘Accept her offer, Spike.’

Spike jerked his head back, away from Angel’s seductive, lying mouth. He pushed him off. Angel staggered back and hit the couch, sitting heavily.

‘You bastard! Have you ever had one honest emotion in your entire sorry life?’

Angel wiped his hand over his mouth. ‘I didn’t mean it like that.’

‘Yes. You did. You thought if I wanted something enough, I’d just do it—without thinking. I’m love’s bitch, remember? Done some crazy things for love in my life already.’

Angel licked his lips. ‘Love?’

Spike immediately shrugged off his slip and went to the bed to fetch his shirt. ‘I’ll decide in my own way. I should never have come to see you.’

This time, he was the one caught off guard by Angel’s stealthy approach. Standing just behind him, arms folded over his chest, Angel said in a low, serious tone, ‘Don’t go. I’m sorry. I wasn’t trying to trick you. I just needed to ask you then. It came to me then. Because of what we were… doing.’ He caught Spike’s arm. ‘Please. Don’t go. Stay here like I said, and we can work through this thing together.’

‘No. You’ll try to—.’

‘I promise, Spike. I won’t try to do anything you don’t want to do. But I want to show you something of life. It’s not fair of you to judge on what you’ve seen so far. From me.’

‘How can I say here? You don’t have a spare room; you don’t have—.’

‘We managed okay last night….’

Spike laughed, disbelievingly. ‘What? You think we’re going to chastely share a bed?’

Angel blushed. ‘The couch is comfortable.’

Spike’s shoulders sagged, and Angel capitalised on the capitulation. ‘Just for week. It’s a huge decision—a decision for eternity. One week, Spike. Seven days—give it that much.’

Spike pouted. ‘I have to go back to my place first. There are some… loose ends I need to tie up.’

‘Benwell.’ It was stated not asked, and in a flat voice that could not hide the emotion behind it.

Spike held his gaze. ‘Yes.’

Angel turned away. ‘I guess I’ll see you later then.’

Spike wasn’t sure enough about his own motives or emotions to even attempt to help Angel sort his. He just nodded, pulled on his T-shirt and left.

* * * * * *

Henry was still asleep when Spike got home. As they’d never kept normal hours, this wasn’t unusual. Spike stood and watched him for some time before he crossed to the bed and slid in alongside him.

The human stirred, pulled him into his arms, grunted something rude and went back to sleep—or appeared to. Just as Spike was sliding into sleep himself, a quiet voice asked, ‘You’re leaving me, aren’t you?’

Spike’s eyes blinked open. ‘Huh?’

Henry sat up, disentangling his arms from Spike’s slim body. ‘Three years, Spike.’

Spike looked down at the sheet. ‘Don’t do this, Luv.’

‘Don’t do what, Spike? Don’t tell you that you’re a bastard and—.’

‘You know how it’s been between us! This is how you wanted it! Jesus, Henry, I’ve never fucked anyone else without you since I met you. You’re the one who brings home a different guy every—.’

‘And why do you think that is, Spike?’ Henry stared at him, challengingly.

Spike had never really thought about it. Other than the obvious. So he suggested this, for wont of something more perceptive to say. ‘Because you like fucking around?’

Henry began to laugh bitterly, and he climbed out of the bed, hugging himself. Spike pulled his knees up to his chin and watched him silently.

Henry stood still for a moment, his head hanging down. ‘I was trying to stop you getting bored with me, Spike. Guess I shouldn’t have bothered. You have anyway.’

‘This has nothing to do with you!’ Spike realised as soon as he’d said it that this was probably the worse thing he could say. He shot out of bed and tried to embrace the resistant form, but Henry pulled away.

‘Just go. If you’re going, I’d rather you just got it over with and went.’ Suddenly, he lifted his face and stared at Spike. ‘I don’t envy him at all. You’ll get bored of him, and he’s too fragile to survive that.’

‘Don’t, Henry. Don’t do this.’

Henry began to cry, tears running unchecked down his face. Spike came forward slowly and kissed one trail, pulling him in tightly. ‘You’ve always known we’d have to part, Pet. Sooner or… later. I can’t give you what you need.’

‘You’ve given me my entire life, Spike.’

In a low voice, Spike then asked, ‘What about me? I need things, too.’

Henry held his gaze for a long time then with his face creasing up in misery, he nodded. ‘I’m sorry. I’m acting the queen bitch, aren’t I?’

Spike wrinkled his nose. ‘We’re getting kinda gay here, Luv. Scary vampire, remember?’

Henry tried to laugh. Spike hugged him again.

‘Have you decided?’

Spike shook his head. ‘I’m giving myself another week. With him. Maybe something about his life will convince me it’s worth it.’

‘What about the book—the next one…?’

‘Do you still want to work with me?’

Henry nodded ruefully. ‘I’m a mercenary queen bitch.’

Spike suddenly kissed him. ‘I’m missing you already.’

The kiss deepened. Spike tried to say that it wasn’t right—that it wasn’t what they both needed right then, but the human was conveniently deaf. He backed Spike to the bed and fell on him. They kissed and rolled, the awareness that it might be their last time, spicing the passion that always flared between them. Nuzzling into Spike’s ear, Henry whispered, ‘Let me take you for the first time.’

Spike jerked his head away and laughed. ‘Yeah. Like, not.’

‘Yes.’ He straddled him and lifted Spike’s arms over his head, biting into his armpit. ‘Please….’

Spike frowned, the temptation surprisingly strong. Then he let his eyes travel slowly up the man’s neck to his hair. It was the wrong shade. He rolled out from under him and sat hunched on the edge of the bed. ‘I’m sorry.’

Henry watched the bent back for a moment. ‘You’ve got it bad for him, Spike.’

Spike twisted around. Henry kissed him swiftly on the forehead. ‘Go have your life, Baby.’ He climbed off the bed and went out of sight to the living room.

* * * * * *

Spike felt oddly chastened when he arrived back at Angel’s with a few clothes in a bag. He seemed to be hurting everyone when all he wanted was to unravel this dilemma. He was tempted to call Illyria and tell her that the whole thing was off—that he’d just stay as he was and the devil take him, but something held him off making that histrionic move.

Angel also seemed ill at ease, as if his impetuous decision to invite Spike to stay had been revised during his absence. He fidgeted for a few minutes then said with false cheerfulness, ‘I’ll cook tonight. I’ll go to the store. Help yourself to….’ Grabbing his jacket and wallet, he left.

Spike helped himself to the phone. He threw himself onto the couch and dialled his own number.

After a time, it was answered. ‘What?’

Spike pouted. ‘I’m sorry.’

‘Yeah, well, sorry doesn’t alter the price of fish.’

‘Huh?’

‘It’s an expression.’

‘No it’s bloody not.’

‘Oh, fuck off.’ Spike did not miss the tone of deep affection in the man’s voice. He shifted the phone to his other ear. After a pause, both seemingly waiting for the other to break the ice, Benwell asked, ‘Why don’t we just go home, Spike? My Mum’ll cook us one of her famous roast lunches, and we can chill out in the English rain.’

Spike sighed. ‘Yeah. I promised ‘er we’d be back in a few weeks.’

‘Well, you are her favourite person.’

‘I think she kinda sensed I have this thing about mothers.’

‘Spike…?’

‘Hmm?’

‘What if this thing you want with Angel makes you decide to take up the Smurf’s offer, but when you do… things with him change?’

‘Huh?’

‘Look, when I met Angel the other night, he didn’t strike me as someone who was going to give you what you want.’

Spike laughed. ‘If you’ve worked out what I want, let me know, yeah?’

‘I know you’re never going to let someone take you. You’re one of life’s natural tops. But… so is Angel.’

There was a pause, and then Spike asked with slight annoyance in his voice, ‘What do you mean?’

‘You know what I mean. You’re gonna fall in love, cus that’s what you do, and you’re going to give up what you have for some romantic illusion that you can be human with Angel and grow old together, raising cats. He’s the wrong one for you. He’d be more at home in a sweat-stained wife-beater, punching around some thin blonde on a Saturday night.’

Spike pouted, studying his fingernails. ‘You should have been the writer.’

‘I’m in love with one; that’s enough for me. You need someone to love, Spike. Someone… less than you. You need someone who has a hole in their life that’s your shape.’ There was a pause and then a faint snort of amusement. ‘Or one that’s willing to stretch to take you.’

Spike perked up, the conversation going more to his liking. ‘So… what are you doing now?’

‘Don’t.’ Henry laughed incredulously. ‘Don’t tell me you’re even suggesting we have phone sex! You are, aren’t you?’

‘I was only askin’….’

Henry chuckled. ‘Will you be there all week?’

‘That’s the plan.’

‘What if you… need something he won’t give you?’

‘You offerin’ to stand in?’

‘You know I am.’

‘I know where you live, Ree. This isn’t the end unless you want it to be.’

‘You know what I want.’

‘I can’t give you that. You knew that when we started.’

‘I guess I thought I could change you.’

‘I’m not even sure all of the Smurf’s power can do that.’

‘Jesus. Just take care, okay? You’re not the big badass vampire you think you are.’

Spike laughed. Then he heard someone fumbling with the door. He snapped off the phone but didn’t quite get it back to its cradle before Angel came in, balancing two large grocery bags.

He stared at Spike and the phone and slammed the door unnecessarily hard. Spike gave him one of his innocent looks. ‘That’s a lot of food for one anorexic and one dead man.’

The implied flattery did its job; Angel seemed to relax. He almost smiled. ‘I’ve asked some friends over.’

Spike didn’t comment. This was so obviously an attempt to prove something about the quality of his life that he felt only a surge of affection for the effort.

Angel put the bags down and glanced obliquely at him. ‘I’ve told them that you’re my cousin from England.’

‘One out of two ain’t bad. Angel…?’

‘Hmm?’ Angel was unpacking the groceries, reading labels.

‘We kissed….’

Angel flushed and began to open some cans. ‘I’m not going to do this with you now. I need time to… shit!’ He held still, staring in wonder at a bright pulse of red that splattered from his finger. ‘It slipped.’ The can-opener lay discarded on the counter, the can with its vicious, twisted lid fell from his hand.

Spike hissed and came forward, grabbing the dishcloth. ‘Press this on it.’

‘It’s dirty. Get something from the….’ Spike took the finger.

He stared at it in wonder. Suddenly, tears sprang into his eyes, and he said softly, sadly, ‘Human blood.’ He looked up. ‘I didn’t get it. Even after all these years; you’re… so far away from me now.’ Very slowly, almost in a daze, Angel pulled his bleeding finger from Spike’s hold but then brushed it over Spike’s lower lip. Spike shook his head; the movement disturbing one incipient tear, making it roll down his cheek. He whispered, ‘Don’t.’

Angel ignored him and pushed the finger through the wet opening.

For one moment, Spike tasted Angel’s ten years of life in the welling, crimson fluid: pain, sunshine, loneliness, sex, success, longing. Then the taste of the rich, warm human blood overcame him. He almost swooned with pleasure against Angel. Angel caught him around the back of his neck, and from his expression, Spike knew that Angel was deliberately giving him this pleasure—knew that ten years hadn’t dulled Angel’s memory of the longing for human blood. But this was more than just blood. After Spike suckled for a moment, Angel eased his finger back. When disappointment creased the sharp features, he pushed it back in, and then began to systematically finger-fuck Spike’s mouth, smearing his lips with the tacky red liquid, making him moan.

Spike’s hands began to roam desperately over Angel’s body. One slid inside his shirt onto the flat belly, one went lower and cupped him. Angel bent over slightly at the waist and moaned as distinctly as Spike. Spike felt the thick column beneath Angel’s pants harden and rise, pushing toward him, so he freed it, making Angel hiss and arch into him. Angel glanced down, a deep flush suffusing his face, then with urgent need he began to dry thrust into Spike’s fist, his rosy-blushed cockhead peeping out then disappearing into the paleness of Spike’s hand. Spike’s tongue lapped at the healing wound in his mouth and let the silk-wrapped column of steel run through his fingers, totally content.

Suddenly, Angel shivered and stood still.

He hung his head then shook it.

He pulled his shirt out, covering the evidence of his need.

He turned his back to Spike and leant on the kitchen counter.

Spike stood uncertain what to do, the taste of Angel strong on his tongue and in his heart. Finally, he just put a hand to the small of Angel’s back and rubbed him gently through the soft shirt. Angel stayed for a moment to enjoy the comfort then held up his finger as an excuse and went to the bathroom.

* * * * * *

Angel was sombre at his own dinner party, and Spike wasn’t sure whether to assign this mood to the sore, bandaged finger, possible confusion over the almost sex in the kitchen or to the hideousness of Angel’s so-called friends. If Angel was trying to convince him that life was precious and much to be desired from this collection of sorry specimens, then he was failing badly.

They had not spoken about what had happened. As soon as he was showered and dressed, Angel had asked Spike to go out and buy some drink and would not catch his eye as he made the request. When he’d returned from his errand, Angel was cooking with great concentration and wouldn’t speak to him.

Then they’d started arriving: odd people Spike thought would be the last kind of humans Angel would count as friends.

He’d watched Angel making a half-hearted attempt to re-bandage his finger until a slim, blonde woman with haughty shoes had stepped in to help. Very willingly, Spike noted. He watched the interaction between them. She was keen (he could smell this), but Angel’s responses were more difficult to read. Then he’d been dragged away by a greying man with a goatee to discuss Angel’s work. Angel, Spike noted, had turned his latest creation of the woman in man to the wall and pushed a chair up against it to deny the curious. Spike wasn’t surprised; he still wasn’t sure what Angel was trying to say in that freaky conception. He didn’t much like any of the possibilities. Goatee wanted to discuss less then he wanted to talk. He talked a lotsome about Angel, but mostly about himself. Spike wasn’t surprised to hear that he painted, too. He would have blown the man off, but occasionally he said something interesting about Angel, so he let him ramble. He could still see Angel and the woman (not that he was looking), even though he could not hear what they discussed.

‘…. England?’

Spike heard the raised inflection of a question and turned to a young woman with serious glasses who had joined them. ‘Huh?’

‘Whereabouts do you live in England?’

‘Er… I move around a lot.’

‘What do you do?’

‘What do you do?’

She blushed and frowned, but goatee began talking again, so she was saved from responding to Spike’s rudeness.

He turned back to look for Angel once more and swore when he could not see him.

Walking abruptly away from the man, who continued to talk to himself, Spike went over to the bedroom area. There were voices in the bathroom, and he felt an absurd stab of annoyance poke his gut (which could have been jealousy, if he were the jealous type, which obliviously he wasn’t). They came out together. She looked flushed. Angel was inspecting a neatly bandaged finger. Spike relaxed; they smelt of antiseptic ointment and nothing more incriminating.

Angel gave him a bitter look that clearly told him to stop scenting him and mind his own business. Spike sent back a look that he hoped said just as clearly that Angel was his business.

Angel gathered people around the large table at the far end of the apartment. With the lights lowered and candles lit, Spike could see the pride in Angel’s face at his achievements as these cultured rich people took seats around his table. He wondered idly if Angel remembered the parties Dru would throw for them: the wild games, the fun, the richly laden tables of food eaten by those who were soon to be eaten by them. Did he miss those days? Spike watched him closely and concluded that he did. The act was good. It was almost flawless, but no one in the world knew Angel as well as he did, and he saw desperation hidden behind this mask of cosmopolitan urbaneness. The fact that Angel was still refusing to look at him pretty much bore out this suspicion. If he was so confident about this new life of his, why was he afraid to face the things that were challenging it?

‘…. Los Angeles?’

Once more, Spike had to ask lamely, ‘Huh?’

The young man seated on his right repeated, ‘What brings you to Los Angeles?’

‘I came to visit Angel.’ This one was slightly more interesting than the others, and Spike felt a familiar stir that made him smile with its inappropriateness. The man smiled back as if he got the joke.

‘Did you catch his latest exhibition: Gifts?’

Yeah. I bought most of it.
‘Mmm. Impressive.’

‘I bought For the Child’s Room. It was so weird. It looks like toys scattered around a kid’s room, but when you look closely, they aren’t toys at all. They’re demons, and they’re all advancing on this little kid who’s trying to show them to his father. You can see the father just sees toys. It’s scary. Where does he come up with these ideas?’

‘Beats me.’

The man laughed, and when Spike looked puzzled, he clarified, slightly embarrassed, ‘You can hear that more than one way.’

Spike played it in his mind then rolled his eyes fractionally. Then the thought of Angel beating him made him lift his eyes to the figure at the head of the table. Angel’s eyes were drilling into him. Spike looked away quickly then back. But Angel was now talking to the blonde.

But he was watching me. A spark of pleasure kindled by anticipation fired Spike’s belly. He knew beyond doubt that Angel was thinking about what they had done in the kitchen. Perhaps his finger was throbbing, reminding him of it. Perhaps something else was throbbing, drawing his mind inexorably back to that moment when he’d allowed another man to take out his cock and play with him.

‘Not hungry?’

Spike risked another glance at Angel, but the brown eyes were now fixed on the female ones opposite him with an almost glassy stare of concentration. Spike pushed his plate away, annoyed. ‘Not for food, no.’

A knee pressed against his. ‘Perhaps you have… English tastes?’

Spike leant back in his chair and allowed the knee to press pleasurably against him. He turned his head lazily and dragged his eyes slowly up to the man’s face. ‘What was your name again?’

‘Rain.’

Spike tipped his head back and chuckled. ‘Oh, there’s nothing that suits an Englishman’s tastes more than being soaked in sweet rain.’

Suddenly, his plate flew from the place in front of him, almost catching him on the head. The knee was snatched back, and Angel leant over to clear the unused cutlery. ‘My food not to your taste, Spike?’

Spike pouted but had the sense not to reply. Angel couldn’t carry all the plates so when he left to take those he had, Spike picked up one and brought it to the kitchen, too. Angel kept his back turned to him as he stacked them. ‘Enjoying yourself? I hear he’s real easy; hardly worth you getting excited about.’

‘Maybe I should have stayed blond and made doe eyes at you instead.’ Angel turned around and glared. Spike said gently, apologetically, ‘How’s the poorly digit?’

Angel’s shoulders sagged. ‘This party was a mistake. And it hurts. Thanks for asking.’

Spike pushed off the counter and leant gently against him. ‘Poor baby. Does it… throb?’

Angel flicked his eyes warily to the guests at the other end of the room, but an unmistakable glimmer of a smile lit his face.

Spike came as close to batting his eyes as he ever went and whispered, ‘What say we blow this party and go do something more interesting?’

Angel closed his eyes. ‘You’re not really getting with the programme, Spike.’

Spike sighed. ‘Well, I’ll stay and do the nice, but you have to promise that tomorrow we’ll do something I want.’

‘You’re not here to do things you want. You’re here to….’

‘Make my mind up. Yeah, I know. But that means I have to explore my options. Be sure.’

‘I didn’t have that privilege.’

Was Angel admitting that if he’d had a chance to try it out for a while he wouldn’t have accepted being human? Spike was about to ask when Angel clarified, ‘Sometimes having no choice is better, Spike. The best thing is chosen for you.’

Spike toed the tiles on the floor for a moment, mulling this over. ‘You chose eternal life for me.’

‘Stop glamorising death! You aren’t a girl in overdone eyeliner, sitting alone in her room because she has no friends, thinking vampires are cool. You are a demon inhabiting the corpse of a man long dead! And, no, I didn’t give you any choice. We aren’t meant to choose about things like this. Take her offer and live your life again, William. As you were meant to do!’

Spike lifted his eyes slowly. ‘I wasn’t meant to like cock. I’d have been strung up for that preference once. Times change. People change. I’ve changed. I’m not sure I want to live the life I was meant to….’

Angel took his shoulders. ‘Not literally. You can make a new life for yourself and be anything you want to be. I’ll help you. I have money, some influence….’

Spike chuckled. ‘I’m not short of a bob or two.’

Angel shook him gently. ‘Accept her offer. Tonight. Please….’

Spike blinked slowly and smiled. ‘You come out with me tomorrow, and I’ll think about it.’

Angel shoved him off. So sure he’d won, he wasn’t used to his persuasive tactics failing—didn’t like what it implied about the weakness of his current status. Was a time, Spike would have been entirely in his thrall. Was a time, he made the decisions for Spike.

He picked up the dessert bowls and brushed past him. Spike held his arm. ‘Tomorrow?’

Angel hesitated then nodded, but he added, ‘But you behave nicely tonight.’ At Spike’s nod of agreement, he began to walk back to the table. He stopped, his eyes on Rain. ‘But not too nice.’

Spike laughed, and as he passed Angel, he trailed his hand over the taut backside. If anyone at the table noticed this odd behaviour between cousins, they didn’t mention it.  

* * * * * * *

Spike watched incredulously as Angel fetched a pillow and some blankets and laid them on the couch. Angel didn’t catch his eye. ‘Sleep well.’

This was not how Spike had anticipated the end of the evening at all. He had played nice, but not too nice, just as Angel had requested. So why was he being relegated to the couch? Tetchily, he replied, ‘I would if I had a nice comfy bed.’

Angel’s gaze almost reached his chin. ‘I don’t think that’s a good idea.’

‘Why? You protecting your virgin ass?’

Angel thought for a moment then shrugged. ‘Maybe.’ He began to walk away then he stopped. ‘Would you accept Illyria’s offer if I said I’d—?’

Spike felt something very akin to horror creep down his spine. He replied with an edge to his voice, ‘Have you just offered to prostitute yourself to encourage me to become human?’

Angel wrapped his arms tightly around his body. ‘Fuck you.’ He went into the bathroom, and the sound of a slammed shower door punctuated this invective.

Spike sat heavily on the couch and pulled the pillow onto his lap. Things were worse than he thought. He could not believe that the Angel he knew had sunk so low as to offer what he had just offered. Had pride been stripped from him with his immortality? Why was he so keen to have Spike join him being…?

Suddenly, Spike got why. Exactly that: to join him. Misery needs companionship.  Angel needed him to be human so there would be someone else as miserable in this world as he was. More miserable.  He’d done it before, after all: it was why he’d turned him. Spike bunched the pillow angrily, taking his ire out on its soft disinterest. Oh, Angelus hadn’t been miserable. Far from it. But he’d wanted companionship, someone he could debase. He’d wanted someone else to be as damned as he was. More damned. It’s why he’d picked him: the one who would suffer the most. Well, Angelus had been wrong. He hadn’t suffered. He’d risen to every challenge thrown at him. He’d surpassed his sire. He liked being a vampire! Spike stood up and threw the pillow at the bed. ‘Fuck you, Angel!’ He slammed the main door on his way out, harder than Angel had been able to slam the shower.

Chapter 8

Spike let himself into his rented apartment and was met by a sea of seething male flesh, which, when he’d taken stock for a moment, turned into just Henry and three other men on the couch. But they were seething.

He could almost hear the clash of tongue-studs from where he stood.

He rolled his eyes and went to the bedroom, sitting on the bed and gloomily putting his chin into his hand.

‘Hi.’

He looked up. ‘Yeah.’

Henry came and perched next to him, Spike’s despondency not helped now by the erection that winked at him, wavering like some horny cobra from the nest of dark hair in the man’s lap. ‘Didn’t make even one night then.’

Spike shook his head. ‘He’s hard work.’

‘You’re not easy either, Spike. Don’t blame it all on him.’

‘Hey! Whose side are you on?’

Henry grinned and began to stroke the snake. ‘Mine, of course. Wanna come play?’

‘Jesus. I’m not sure I could get vomit up let alone my cock.’

Henry slid a hand into his lap. ‘Is that so?’

Spike smiled wryly and addressed the prominent bulge. ‘Traitor.’

A voice called from the other room, and Henry stood up. ‘Come on.’

‘Maybe. I’ll take a shower first.’

Instead, when Henry disappeared into the other room, Spike rose and shut the connecting door then lay back on the bed, thinking. The unpleasant thought had occurred to him on the way over that Angel wanted him to join him not because he was miserable but because he was insanely happy with his new life. Sure, from his perspective it didn’t seem that this was the case, but that was the problem: he wasn’t the best one to decide. He almost felt like hiring a third person to come in and judge between them. He’d lay out all the pros and cons on both sides and let this theoretical person decide. On his side the advantages would be invincibility, eternal life, preternatural strength, getting to outlive wankers, being cool, and fucking strangers without a condom.  He felt there should be more, but he didn’t want to appear too pushy. On the down side, there would be… no sunlight, (this was harder), getting bored very quickly, and… outliving everyone you loved. There were probably more on this side, too, but he didn’t see why he should have to be the one to point them out; altruism had never been his middle name. Angel’s advantages would be—. The phone alongside the bed rang. He jumped. Only Henry knew this number. Suspiciously, he picked it up. There was silence at the other end then a hesitant, ‘Spike?’ Spike sighed. ‘How did you get my number?’

‘You dialled him from here!’

‘Oh. What do you want?’

After a pause, Angel said oddly neutrally, ‘I was thinking of saying you then. How weird is that?’

Something fluttered in Spike’s belly. ‘You wanted me well enough once.’

‘I wanted your blood.’

‘I remember it differently.’

Angel had no reply for this. Spike knew he was staring at a perfectly manicured nail. He smiled affectionately, picturing the scene.

‘I’m sorry. Come back? You promised you’d stay for the week.’

‘I thought I was going to be made more welcome.’

‘In my bed? That’s not going to happen, Spike. But I thought tomorrow we could maybe buy another…. It’s a big place.’

‘Tad twee innit?’

‘I have no idea what you just said.’

Spike laughed. ‘I said yes.’ He heard a sigh of relief.

‘Come back tonight?’ There was a loud cry of orgasm from the other room, which Spike knew Angel had heard. ‘Unless you’re…. Unless you’ve found someone….’

‘Angel?’

‘What?’

‘I’ll come back because I want to, yeah? Because it’s what I want most right now.’

He heard Angel smile. The image was as vivid as that.

* * * * * * *

This time, the couch almost looked welcoming. Angel had pushed it to the far end of the large living space, creating a more intimate area for Spike. He’d arranged a quilt and blankets for him, and pulled a table up and put a drink and a book on it.

Spike felt absurdly grateful, and knew he didn’t deserve this. He added to the list he was compiling of Angel’s pros: being a nice guy. Angel had always had the potential to be nice, only the demon inside had held him back. Being souled hadn’t been enough: the demon was still there. Now he was pure. Being human made him pure. Spike could not deny that this was a major attraction of becoming human again. Damn, he’d finished his list, and he wasn’t about to go adding dumb bits in pencil to the bottom. Besides, he’d miss his demon if he kicked it out. It had been his companion for well over a hundred years, and they mucked along together quite happily most of the time.

‘Do you want to watch a movie or something?’ Spike dragged himself back to the present and was just about to reply in the affirmative when they both realised at the same time that the couch was now some forty feet from the TV. Suddenly, they began to laugh. It felt weird, laughing together, yet right, too. Then they sobered. Something about laughing suddenly seemed more highly charged than… other activities. Ice, once broken, couldn’t be reformed exactly the same, and in the thaw other things lost their hard edges, and all things seemed possible….

Spike nodded slowly as if agreeing to something he was telling himself in his head. ‘I think maybe I’ll turn in.’

Angel almost looked relieved. He glanced at Spike’s temporary hangings over the windows. ‘You gonna be okay in the morning?’

‘If you see fire, come put me out, yeah?’

‘That’s not funny, Spike.’

He was about to add something when Spike said icily, ‘You don’t need to say it.’

Angel pouted and looked at his bare feet. Slowly, reluctantly perhaps, he turned away to his own side of the room.

* * * * * * *

What had seemed like the most practical solution when he’d thought of it—pushing Spike’s couch to the far end of the space—seemed no more effective than spitting into the leading edge of a conflagration when Angel lay that night in bed. If he’d thought that putting those forty feet between them would do anything to lessen his confusing physical reactions to Spike, he was wrong. He became increasingly hard and ached more acutely as the minutes ticked by. Of course, he had not had sex for a long time (except with his hand, which didn’t count). He was just missing it, and his body was responding to the…. But he couldn’t keep up the pretence; he wasn’t that dumb. He knew exactly what he was doing. He was getting hard to glimpsed pleasures possible from Spike’s body: his hands roaming over that invulnerable flesh, his lips grinding on lips that did not split and bleed against his stubble, a body that could quell his terrible desires.

Spike could offer him what he had sought in the dark underbelly of LA’s nightlife. Spike could be his release.

He turned onto his side and curled up his knees, desperate to take his cock in his hand and pump the astounding pressure out into the sheets. But he knew that Spike would hear him… would smell him. Spike wasn’t asleep. Angel could hear rustling and restlessness from the other end of the room. It began to irritate him. He hadn’t shared his sleeping space with anyone for too long. Irritation did nothing to quell his own prickliness; he wanted to climb out of his skin again, slough it off onto the bed and rub his raw insides until they bled him some relief.

The rustling got more noticeable.  ‘What! For fuck’s sake, Spike, what?’ There was a pause then a cough. ‘I’m just checking.’

‘What?’

‘To see if they really go blue. Always been curious.’

Angel sat up. Spike’s face appeared over the back of the couch, a pale shadow in the shadows. He grinned. That much—the familiar smirk—Angel could see despite the gloom of the apartment. ‘You bastard.’

‘Oh, my heart bleeds, Mate. You feeling your virginity threatened all that way over there?’

Angel swung his legs out of bed then marched determinedly over to the smiling vampire. He spread his hands on the back of the couch and leant down, close to Spike’s grin. ‘I don’t know what kind of manipulative games you’re—whoa!’ Weighing well over one hundred and eighty pounds, Angel wasn’t used to being heaved through the air. Spike just grunted as if he were lifting a bag from the floor, then grunted some more when all those pounds landed on him.

‘Sorry, Mate—you were saying?’ Suspiciously not bothered about hearing what this was at all, he lifted his face and kissed Angel, hard and relentless on his open, startled mouth. To Angel it had all happened too quickly to prevent: happened in the time it had taken him not to say playing, which is what he would have said if Spike’s tongue hadn’t been exploring along the top surface of his teeth and his smile easing its way into his heart. As Angel kissed back, therefore, the thought playing echoed around in his head, seeking a way out. When it didn’t find one it battered at him—playing, playing, playing—and before he could stop himself, he lifted his hand and punched it into the side of Spike’s head. He almost burst with pleasure at the feel of flesh under his fist.

Spike winced and pushed Angel back, further down his body, holding the side of his head. Before he could complain or retaliate, Angel rose up onto his hands and knees and drove his thigh hard into the hardness between Spike’s legs. Spike went pale, then an odd shade of yellow and curled into a ball—the movement dislodging Angel to the floor. He scrambled to his feet and waited, fists curled. Spike looked up at him through screwed up eyes. ‘It still hurts, Pet. I’m dead—not disputing that—but it still hurts. Seem to remember you getting your knackers crushed once or twice and not liking it.’

‘Not by a puny human.’

Spike had to concede that and slowly uncurled keeping a wary eye on Angel. He shook out his shoulders. ‘Nothing puny ‘bout you—human or demon.’

Angel felt an absurd—given the circumstances—stab of gratitude to Spike for the dignity he was willing to give him… dignity he rarely gave himself these days. He took a step closer. Spike stood up. ‘How’s this gonna play…ugh.’ He straightened from the punch. ‘Uh huh—like that then. Do I get to play, too?’ He swung; it was a feint; when Angel dodged, Spike caught him around the waist playfully and heaved him close.

Back to Spike’s cool chest, Angel sucked his breath in with wonder. He was crushed against a baseball bat, uncurling against his buttocks. Spike whispered, ‘Like the feel of that, hmm? Is that what this is about? Let’s… see….’ He slid his hand very slowly down Angel’s naked belly and under the top of his loose cotton pants. ‘Is he going to resist me? Or welcome me?’ He wormed a finger under the elastic, and Angel elbowed him, double fisted, in the ribs. Spike dropped him and doubled up, laughing. ‘Good one. He resists.’ He looked up at Angel through dangerously lowered lids—Angel knew that look only too well, and a shiver of intense anticipation coursed through him. ‘I didn’t know you could be so much fun.’ He darted forward and rugby-tackled Angel, arms tight around his waist, but instead of running him back into the wall, he hoisted him onto his shoulder and then dumped him on the couch once more. This time though, he was on top, straddling the human before he had time to fight the unexpected tactic. Angel tried to hit up at him, but it was an awkward angle, and Spike caught his flailing wrists, holding them and then stretching them over Angel’s head, lowering as he did to brush Angel’s lips with his own. ‘I’m sitting on something rather uncomfortable. What could that be, Luv?’ He wriggled with a perplexed look on his face. ‘Hmm. Weird. Feels like….’ He wriggled some more. ‘Could it be…’ he whispered ‘an erection?’ The final word unfurled in deep into Angel’s mouth as Spike kissed him, running his tongue up inside the warm top lip.

Angel bucked his hips up and twisted, and Spike tipped off onto the floor. Angel fell, too, and used his weight to maximum advantage, pinning him down. If the thought crossed Angel’s mind that it was too easy—that Spike had let go his wrists, that the vampire had been too easy to dislodge, that he was pretending any of the hurt and all of the weakness—then he suppressed it. He straddled Spike, panting, glee on his face. Spike cocked up his eyebrow then let his gaze graze down the bare chest to Angel’s lap. ‘Huh, I was right.’ He slid his hands up the cotton-clad thighs until his thumbs reached the impossibly hard root of the erection that tented obscenely from Angel’s pants. Angel shifted slightly and with all his power and muscle, backhanded Spike so his head rocked and a tiny trail of spittle flew out and hit the couch. The erection reacted in much the same way: a spit of dampness appearing on the thin cotton. Spike put a finger to his bleeding mouth and wiped deliberately at the trail of blood. Slowly, he turned his head back and lifted his finger to Angel’s mouth. ‘I’ve seen grown men piss themselves when I’ve done this.’

Angel flicked his eyes down to the blood. ‘Huh?’

Spike tipped his head to one side. ‘They didn’t know I was clean… blood is the new vampire, Angel: the new nightmare they conjure in every waking dream. Blood will tempt them, suck them down into hell…oh….’ Angel dipped his head and caught Spike’s finger in his mouth, sucking the familiar taste onto his tongue. Spike felt his own cock shift and lengthen under Angel’s hard backside. Ten years, and he had just found something that wasn’t boring at all. He urged the finger deeper, twisting it around the eager mouth, letting Angel get the full flavour of his blood. He watched the dark eyes dilate then slowly close with the delight. Very low into the darkened room he whispered, ‘You’ll be in my thrall.’

Angel let the finger drop, a trail of saliva hanging between them, and replied just as quietly, ‘Since when was I not?’ As if answering his own question, he stretched Spike’s arms high over his head, nodded at the effect then bent to one soft hollow and bit deeply. Spike gasped and writhed beneath him. Angel held on, his teeth holding actual flesh in his mouth until it bled. It was a dream not dreamt in the clubs he’d frequented. Played at, sure. But not this—this feel of tearing and consuming, blood and hair and sweat all playing around his mouth and nose. Like Spike, he knew only too well the fear of blood these days. He feared it as much as it still called to him, and now he could enjoy it once more. He lifted his bloodied mouth from the armpit and pressed it to Spike’s, leading the savage kiss this time, pressing the flavours back to their owner.

When he felt Spike had been given enough pleasure, Angel sat up straight, shifting his weight back. Spike showed the first hint of genuine worry that night. ‘Careful, Pet—‘less you want your game to end too soon.’ Angel couldn’t help a quirk of a smile at the thought of bringing Spike off just by sitting on him and deliberately, blatantly, ground down on the throb beneath. Spike arched, which didn’t help, and his hands flew to Angel’s thighs, urging and constraining in one contradictory squeeze. His thumbs dug once more into the centre of Angel’s lap and his eyes flew open. ‘Christ. You’re… like a bloody tree stump.’ He pressed some more. Angel’s eyes rolled up in his head, and he began to pant rapidly.

Very carefully, Spike eased the waistband of Angel’s pants down an inch. He shuddered with pleasure then tucked the elastic under the flared, shiny cockhead. ‘Oh, not a stump at all; you… blossom.’ He ran a thumb over the perfectly shaped tip, sliding delightfully on the natural lubrication dripping like tears from the rose-pink slit.

‘Don’t.’ Angel caught his wrist and held it away. ‘You don’t have permission to touch me.’

Spike let him hold him thus: it was all part of the game; he got that. ‘What would I have to do to be given permission?’

Angel slapped him again, a direct and accurate open-palmed slap across his cheek. The finger marks flared red on the pale skin almost immediately, like an artificial blush of shame or pleasure. Spike closed his eyes, and his face creased with pain for a moment, but the way he eased his hips explained the reaction. Angel grinned and slid his hands back to the rock-hardness and squeezed. Spike’s eyes flew open, and he shouted, ‘No!’ but it was too late; Angel felt heavy wetness under his fingers. Bone-deep shudders wracked Spike’s body, their power transmitting up through to the human riding him. Before he could stop it, Angel’s cock began to spurt. Trapped upright and held by the waistband, the first gob launched vertically and hit him under the chin. He jerked his head back, and the second arced, raining down on Spike’s bare chest like hot spits from a kettle. The next few were just bubbles, spilling over and running down to soak the elastic restraining him. By the time Angel had finished, Spike’s wetness under his hand was like a pool. The vampire’s shudders were still sending aftershocks through them both.

He hung his head onto his chest, his heart beating wildly.

A cool hand gently pressed over it.

Spike groaned, and it had more pleasure in the sound than the noise he had made ejaculating. Angel opened his eyes and watched pale fingers caressing his chest. Anyone else might have targeted his nipple. Not this one though; this one only wanted to feel what lay beneath. He tipped his head back and felt absurdly grateful that he could give something back to Spike for all he had been given that night. His knuckles hurt; his palm stung; his balls ached as if they’d been squeezed dry, and yet he hadn’t felt so euphoric since….

He climbed off and almost ran to the privacy of the shower, leaving Spike to watch him with puzzled, hurt eyes.

But ten years was a long time not to know happiness.

Chapter 9

Angel knew that Spike was watching him. Although too late to worry about being naked, he nevertheless kept his back to the glass door of the shower, and was glad he’d flicked a towel over the top earlier. Suitably wrapped, he emerged from the steam and went up to the silent, watchful figure. Casually, as if inspecting a car for damage, he checked Spike’s face and then his bitten armpit. Spike followed the inspection with his eyes then stared back at Angel. ‘It was good for me, too, Luv.’

Angel blushed and turned to stare at himself in the mirror. He didn’t seem to like what he saw, for he blushed some more and began to brush his teeth vigorously. Around the brush, making a foaming mess of toothpaste, he spat out, ‘Just because something is good doesn’t make it right.’

‘I think it does between consenting adults.’

‘Don’t be obscure.’

Spike frowned a little, out of sight behind Angel’s back, then with a tiny smile asked, ‘Do you mean obtuse?’

‘Huh?’

‘Missing the point?’

‘No, I’m not.’

Spike sighed and gave him the benefit of the doubt that it was nearly dawn and they’d had no sleep. ‘Anyway….’ Angel cast him a look over his shoulder to see if he was listening, and Spike gave him one of his innocent, intelligent looks. Angel narrowed his eyes slightly but continued, ‘Anyway, you know damn well that what just happened between us only confused the whole freaking issue.’

‘Oh… I don’t know. I can see really some attractions of being human now….’ He could see that Angel didn’t want to ask. He watched Angel brush even more furiously, rinse and spit then wipe his mouth slowly with the back of his hand. Finally, he weakened and asked. ‘What?’

Spike smirked inwardly. ‘You get to see in the mirror how pretty you are after a good shag.’ He laughed and dodged out of the bathroom, and by the time Angel emerged, he was just a lump under the blankets on the couch.

* * * * * *

It did not escape Angel’s notice that Spike had not showered.  He lay there, sleeping, with his come drying on his chest…. Angel wasn’t sure whether the thought disgusted or aroused him and groaned when his body began to make up its own mind. It was too late to return to bed, too early to be up. He went over to the large canvas, turned to the wall for the party, and turned it round. Removing the window coverings on his side of the apartment, he began to work.

* * * * * * *

He was blocked.

All his passion and desperate need had dissipated—had been quelled by Spike’s cool body. Which wasn’t bad
far from it; he had not felt so calm for weeks. But he had nothing to put into the strokes of paint for he had stroked already over the planes and contours of Spike’s body.

Cautiously, Angel walked the length of the room and peered over the back of the couch. Spike was deeply asleep, as only a vampire during sunlight hours could be. Angel remembered the almost visionary state: the sense of being far from the body, looking back from a place of darkness and blood and pain. His sleep was two-dimensional now, and this filled him with intense longing and sadness. Before he knew what he did, he was sitting on the low table alongside the couch with a sketch book in his hand.

No grand, demented image. No commercial sale for this one. This one was just for him. Silently sketching was as close as Angel had come to his pre-human life for ten years. That it should be Spike—the one great constant of his life—that he now drew seemed beyond coincidence. Something still held them—dead or alive—bound together. For good or bad, Angel could not rightly say.

Spike’s arm dangled off the couch, his hand curled loose and vulnerable on the tiles. Long eyelashes fanned the sharp bones delineating his cheeks. Angel focused on the hair for a while, picturing the rough blond locks falling, wondering where they had been swept—which country now held those evocative fragments of his life. His fingertips ached to touch for real what his pencil created on the paper.

He was not unaware of time’s uncanny ability to play tricks, deceive and toy with its victims. He had exploited that trait more than once in his old, magical life: bending time and reality to his desires. Sometimes, he felt that time’s inconsistencies intruded on his human life, too. Ten years seemed like ten days, but one bad day could sometimes last for years. And he felt its influence now: time’s spiteful game. Had he sat here all his life, studying that sleeping face, or was this tiny moment of time no more than a fleeting delusion, a tiny ghost of memory?

He looked down at the sketch he had hardly been aware of creating. It was as perfect as the original. It would last for eternity as the original. But both would one day pass beyond his Mayfly days and into that great ring of pure and endless light.

Unless he could change Spike’s mind…!  After all that had happened between them, Spike had come to him. He had ventured into the vast shadow of his life to taste its darkness. Angel sensed that Spike’s hold upon his eternity was now precarious. One tug at his heart-strings, and he would fall. To him.

He rose almost feverish with desire for this fall, and as he looked at the image confined within the span of his hands, he felt the overwhelming conviction that this was the last representation that would ever be captured of the vampire, William the Bloody.

Chapter 10

‘No.’

‘Yes.’

‘No!’

‘You have to trust me!’

‘You have to be joking.’

‘You trusted me once….’

‘I’ve known you nearly a hundred and fifty years; once is not much to boast about.’

‘You’re doing that obtuse thing you do so well. You know very well that you trusted me with your life in the final battle—with their lives, Angel: the people you loved.’

‘Maybe. But I’m not trusting you with that! No! Stop it!’

Spike stood back from the scowling face. ‘I can’t do it anyway if you do that.’

‘Good.’

‘You promised, Angel.’

‘I promised we’d go out! I never said anything about goddamned….’ Angel stood up and cast a surly glance at the slim pencil in Spike’s hand.

‘If you don’t like it, you can take it off!’

‘I don’t want to know if I like it!’

Spike suddenly grinned. ‘Ah… now we’re gettin’ closer to the truth.’

Angel closed his eyes and hung his head. ‘If I let you, will you stop bugging me?’

Spike nodded, even though this enthusiastic gesture couldn’t be seen.

Angel sank back onto the edge of the bed and lifted his face. Spike came close, approaching cautiously as he might a wild animal. Angel gave him an almost amused look. ‘Stop being theatrical and just get on with it. The sooner you do it, the sooner it comes off.’

Spike pushed softly in between Angel’s thighs and cupped his chin gently with one hand. ‘Close your eyes.’

‘Jesus!’ But Angel did as Spike asked.

Carefully, with great concentration, Spike drew a line of black Kohl along each of Angel’s eyelids. ‘Look up.’ Ignoring Angel’s glare, his tongue protruding with concentration, he did a similar line along the lower lids. Quickly, before Angel could move or protest, he ran his thumb along it all, smudging. ‘There.’ He stood back. Suddenly, his smile of amused triumph faded.

Angel looked worried. ‘What?’ He pushed past Spike and went into the bathroom. Spike came and stood alongside him. Angel was blinking slowly. Spike wasn’t sure if his eyes were irritated by the eyeliner or whether he was trying to catch the look unexpectedly to gauge its effects.  To him, it was intensely beautiful, so unexpectedly so that he’d been momentarily silenced. Angel looked like the fantasy version of what he had once been. He was seduction made manifest. Spike backed out and fetched the clothes he’d laid out on the bed. Wordlessly, Angel took them.

A few moments later, he emerged from the bathroom, dressed in black leather pants and a skin-tight, sleeveless, metallic T-shirt. ‘I’m not going to like where we’re going, am I?’

Spike just shook his head dumbly, staring. Suddenly, he added with a grin, ‘They’ll like you though.’

 * * * * * *

Spike and the cab driver were consulting over a tiny scrap of paper. The driver had never heard of the address; Spike was deciphering a map.

Angel felt so self-conscious he stayed in the cab, arms wrapped tightly across the jacket he had insisted wearing over the outlandish outfit. He knew he was being dragged to a gay dance club. Why else would Spike have dressed him like this? He wasn’t sure which of those two descriptions he was most anxious about.

Direction apparently sorted, Spike jumped back in, and they set off again. He was grinning out into the night, wired, on something.

He’d reverted to his hustler look, and Angel tried to keep his eyes straying from the strategically placed rips in the faded blue denim. One even showed a wisp of hair, so was particularly hard to ignore.

* * * * * * *

‘This is it.’

‘Huh?’ Angel jumped then glanced warily up at the apparently abandoned office block. He paid the cabbie and climbed out, too. There was the faintest thump, thump of a base somewhere, but other than that, they were standing on a run-down street of tenements and office blocks.

Angel tipped his head back, letting his eyes travel slowly up the empty floors. ‘You’re kidding. Where’s the club?’

‘What club?’

‘You’re bringing me out to a gay dance club…?’

Spike looked taken aback. ‘Why would I want to do that?’

‘I don’t know! Because…. Because you think my life is boring; you don’t like my friends, and you’re going to show me what I’m missing?’

Spike tipped his head to one side thoughtfully. ‘This isn’t about gay or straight, Pet. I don’t need to be human or demon to be one or the other. Neither do you. Why would I want to show you just another facet of human life—one you could find quite easily for yourself?’ He left just the right pause. ‘’Specially if you wear that outfit more often.’ On that cue, he put his hands to the edges of Angel’s jacket and slipped it off his shoulders.

Angel was about to argue but a number of people were approaching.

No… not people.

He hissed. ‘They’re demons….’

Spike placed a hand on his bare arm. ‘And so are you—for tonight. Follow me.’ Without waiting, he tagged onto the group. Angel looked around at the deserted street, swore loudly and followed.

He expected them to go up into the building. Instead, the group headed into the underground carpark. Long abandoned, there was no lighting, and it was an intensely eerie place, smelling of stale urine and decay. The beat of the music grew.

They walked down four or five levels, Angel trying to fade into the shadows, aware that he was only one who saw the place shadowed, trying to remember how it would have looked through his better eyes.

At a door, a large demon stood with his arms folded. As they approached, he picked up a tiny instrument from his desk and, one-by-one, pricked a small blood sample out of those seeking entry. Each time, a beep sounded and a barrier clicked, allowing them to pass into the place beyond.

When it came to Spike’s turn, he leant on the desk, playfully keeping his finger out of reach. ‘Bit of a boring job they’ve sticked you with, Mate.’

The demon shrugged. ‘You wanna go in or not?’

‘Oh, yeah.’ He held out his finger. A sample was taken, and the barrier clicked. Spike tried to pass through, but, apparently, it wouldn’t open. He grunted and lifted his eyebrows at the demon. With a curse, he put down the instrument and gave the barrier a shake. At the same time, under cover of this distraction, Spike stepped back. Angel thought he saw his hand approach the scanner, but then the barrier flew open, and Spike laughed wryly and went through. ‘Must be the bloody soul.’

The demon, uninterested, picked up the scanner and pricked Angel’s finger. There was a long pause then the barrier clicked. The machine did not beep. Spike pulled Angel through. ‘You need to get that bloody thing fixed, Pet!’ The doorman nodded, shaking it.

Spike heaved on Angel’s arm, and then they were standing in the dark, the music deafening. Angel shouted, waiting for his eyes to adjust, ‘You fucked with that scanner thing.’

Spike nodded and brought his mouth to Angel’s ear. ‘I used to have to do it for Henry—to get him into these things.’

‘Just what the hell is this…?’ Angel’s eyes had become accustomed to the dark. His belly fluttered, and he could not tell, these ten years on, whether it was through fear, disgust or sheer, genuine excitement. The large underground space was filled with demons. Different tribes, groups, families, allegiances… a truly homogenous group of demonic life all… having fun. The music was loud; the activities were noisy, ugly, brutal… and breathtakingly exciting. He felt Spike’s lips brush his ear once more and, highly strung on some other emotion, he felt his cock rise at the contact.

Spike shouted, ‘After the war, we all had to go underground—literally. Only the few who look human—like me—can live openly now. There are places like this all over the world.’

Angel turned to him. ‘How did you find this one?’

‘Duh. They have a website.’

‘Oh.’

‘No humans allowed, Pet. Hence the scanner thingy. You’re my honoured guest. Only….’ Angel looked at him expectantly. Spike grinned wryly and finished, ‘Don’t mention our part in the war, yeah? Come on, let’s get a drink.’

‘I’m not sure I want any fluid that’s in here in my belly.’

Spike turned back, his heavily kohl’d eyes widening with amusement. ‘That so? Damn. That buggers up my plans for us later then.’ He flicked up his eyebrows and turned to push his way to the bar. Angel waited for a slave and his master to pass then tried to slide inconspicuously after him, trying to block out any images that might have occurred from that last comment.

Spike was chatting up the barman, trying to get reduced-price drinks, so Angel had the opportunity to lean back on his elbows, back to the bar and watch the entertainment.

He felt something unfolding.

It was as if the great, dark wings of his memory had finally found room to stretch. They creaked and complained from disuse but then unfurled in all their fearful glory. He closed his eyes, tensed all the muscles in his arms, a lean, hard figure of black and gunmetal grey. When he opened his eyes, Spike was staring at him then quickly looked away. He steadied himself and looked back. ‘You’re cheating.’ Passing him his drink, Spike moved away to a group of demons he appeared to know.

Angel, flushed from embarrassment and pleasure in equal measure, closed his eyes and lost himself in the luxury of memory for a little longer.

He opened his eyes with a frown. Two small Gorthan demons next to him, waiting for drinks, were whispering what sounded like, ‘The Godfather is here.’ He was about to question them when they sidled off. Grabbing his drink, he followed but lost them in a crowd of tall Narsecs. They, too, were talking about the Godfather. Slightly wary, Angel picked one of the harmless slaves who had been left tethered to a pillar. He offered the creature his drink, which was refused, then asked neutrally, ‘Who’s the Godfather?’

The slave tittered: a little malicious sound of glee. ‘You shouldn’t be here. Nosy smells human rotten—something even lower than slavey.’

‘Who’s the Godfather?’

‘No need to be snippy. Human man’s ears working very well not. Not the Godfather—the God-fighter. The God-fighter is here.’

‘The God-fighter? What’s the God-fighter when it’s at home?’

‘Not home! Oh, no! Comes from place far away—conquers all.’

‘Oh, boy.’ Angel moved off in disgust at the fawning misinformation and elbowed his way back to the bar to ask Spike.

Spike was nowhere to be seen.

Suddenly, lights on a high gantry flooded a central area of the large space, turning a raised platform into an arena that drew all eyes.

Angel felt a trickle of memory alarm him. Demons were pushing hungrily to the edges of the stage, bets being taken, boasts shouted and derided. Angel felt a hand on his arm and turned to find Spike. His sense of relief was palpable, and Spike grinned. ‘Big scary demons frightening you, Baby?’

‘What the hell is this place?’

‘It’s a fight club. ‘Bout fifteen years ago, ‘parantly, there was a famous one here in L.A. that was run by humans—making demons fight. Now we’ve bought the rights, so to speak. They’re in every major city now—great one in Glasgow for some reason.’

‘Jesus, Spike, I was there! I was in that first one!’

‘Well, ain’t life full of funny little ironies? You’re here again now.’

A bout began on the raised dais. Angel felt like a voyeur.

And wasn’t that the point? The realisation hit him with the force of one of the punches being thrown on the stage that the vicarious enjoyment of someone else’s pain could assuage his own.

The crowd of demons pressed against them. Angel felt one with the pack again: hard and invincible. But this wasn’t what he wanted at all! He wanted to bring Spike to the bright light of humanity, not leave him in the dark with demons… having such a great time…. They began to cheer, and before he knew it, he was cheering, too, as the smaller of the two combatants on the stage began to defeat his fearsome opponent. Bets were being slapped on palms around them; all was noise and movement and hot, spicy scents, the memories of which Angel had subjugated under turpentine and celibacy.

A cry went up, and hot liquid sprayed across his face. He wiped it with wonder, and his palm came away red. He lifted his eyes to the illumination, hated what he felt but did not deny it.

A tremor went through the crowd. The God-fighter, The God-fighter. He turned to ask Spike the question he’d meant to ask him in that other lifetime—
the one before the spray of demon blood on his face had clenched his balls—to find the space beside him empty. The announcer screeched into the microphone, fighting to raise his amplified voice above the hysteria of the crowd. ‘You’re in for a treat tonight, folks! You heard the rumours! Well, here he is, for one night only! The God-fighter!’ The crowd went wild. Angel was knocked on his arse and trampled on for a while until he fought back to his feet, the feel of flesh and bone knocked and pummelled beneath his hands causing more than a clench. ‘He took on a God and beat her down, folks! He trampled her into the dust and ate her bones! He’s the undefeated champion of the world!’ An elbow slammed into Angel’s eye, but he clawed his way to a space and saw him: tiny, head bowed, slim, vulnerable. His childe. Spike lifted his face with a tiny, seductive grin, and although the crowd took it as its own and unleashed its furious passions upon it, Angel knew it was just for him. Spike was admitting the debt: I’m your childe, Angelus; admire your creation.

A huge gladiator demon stepped up to take the challenge, grunting with the effort to see Spike though piggish eyes weeping thick, oily mucus.  Angel’s spine tingled with fear, and he tried to shout to Spike, but he didn’t know what words actually emerged. He feared they were the same as those all around him: vicious, inciting the bloodshed that was sure to follow. The demon hefted a large axe and swung it toward Spike. One slice would cut him through. Then a weighty hush descended upon the spectators. As one, they were holding breath—those that could—and limbs were held as if the weapon came toward them, not the seemingly frail figure facing it.

Angel did not believe what he saw.

Spike danced like a flicker of reflected light high into the air and spun to his own laws of nature. No gravity, no linear time constrained him. He floated gracefully toward the demon now unable to tip his fat-beefed neck back far enough to see the danger approaching him from above. Then there was an explosion of muscle and power, and something splattered onto the demon in front of Angel, something rank and hot, which sizzled, and all he heard was a thump onto the dais floor before the whole room erupted with hysterical shouting. Above the deafening sound, the announcer shouted for another fighter, and there were no shortages of those willing to be the one to finally defeat the God-fighter.

Not all Spike’s bouts were as easy as his first. His reputation had clearly preceded him. Some demons seemed to have worked out ways to affect his apparent ability to bend time and defy the impossible—making it possible just for him. He took some heavy damage, each blow and cut and break bringing Angel helplessly closer to the stage. Every fibre in his being screamed to stand at Spike’s side. His guts ached from suppressing the need to jump into the ring: Angelus returned. All he could do, though, was watch as Spike took the poundings demon after demon inflicted upon him. The mood of the crowd changed. They sensed a defeat of this foreign champion, this annoyance who looked so like the creatures they despised, the vampire who was one of them but could pass for the enemy.

The bets began to change, rapid recalculation of the odds against Spike. Angel watched, dismayed, as Spike struggled to his feet, his face bloodied, his body ripped and bleeding onto the sweat-slicked floor.

Then a vast, terrifying cheer went up: the local champion took up the challenge. He leapt confident and fresh to the stage. He was well over seven feet and dwarfed Spike. He was pumped with the excitement and the opportunity to face this infamous champion. He could defeat the God-fighter in front of his own home crowd. He almost drooled with the need to tear Spike apart.

They circled each other, Spike limping noticeably. Suddenly, he repeated his time-bending trick, but the demon plucked him out of the air as easily as if he’d been picking fruit from a tree. He held Spike aloft then with a grunt, brought him down across his knee, slamming the thin body into a hideously unnatural bend. Angel tried to get to the stage. He had no coherent thought what he would do if he managed to reach it, but he wasn’t put to the test. The excitement of seeing the God-fighter defeated brought the whole throng pressing to the front. He was crushed by his chest against the raised platform and feared he would be asphyxiated.

Suddenly, there was a thump in front of his face, and Spike’s body settled, bouncing slightly on the stage. Only inches apart, Angel still couldn’t see him all that clearly and forgot his need to breath as the more urgent need to wipe his eyes overcame him. He ground the heels of his hands into the tears then saw the blue eyes open.

Once more, the look was just for him. This time, he was the only to see it.

The cheeky smirk spread just enough for Angel to get the message then Spike was dragged off backwards by his feet.

Fear at being crushed returned, and Angel’s only recourse was to duck beneath the stage. The peace and quiet after the crush and roar was almost scary. He tried to steady his breathing, deep breaths causing some considerable pain to his ribs. Suddenly, he ducked. Something landed hard on the stage above him making it shudder. He was crouching but could still feel the vibrations in his shoulders. The floor appeared to be some kind of mesh and he could see the dark shapes of the two combatants. From this angle, he could only tell which was which by the amount of shuddering that occurred when they hit the deck. There was a heavy one, then a number of lighter ones and then a pause, until very light ones rained down. He was confused and disorientated. Blood began to ooze through the mesh in a number of places. Still crouching, feeling sick, he pushed his way back out into the crowd. They were stilled now, an awed hush through their ranks as they watched the stage. Angel turned.

The demon was still on the stage, only now he was in a number of pieces, scattered and bleeding into the canvas floor. He appeared to have… exploded.

Dripping his adversary’s blood, Spike hopped off the stage and pushed his way through the crowd to the gallery where the announcer sat with his mouth hanging theatrically open. Seeing Spike approach, he sprang up and began to babble, ‘There you have it, folks! We see why he’s called the God-fighter! Undisputed champion of the known world and by the looks of those tactics, a few unknown ones, too!’

Angel watched Spike disappear into an office next to the gallery and began to fight his way through to follow him.

Before he got very far, Spike was at his side once more, leading him to a side exit, which he punched through. He pulled him out into the dark, relatively fresh air then whispered urgently, ‘Now, we kinda need to hurry, Pet.’

‘W—.’ Angel couldn’t have summoned up spit let alone a coherent question, so he stayed silent as Spike hailed a cab and bundled him into the backseat.

Spike watched the club anxiously out of the rear window for a few moments then relaxed. With a sigh of satisfaction, he began to rummage in his pocket. ‘Writing is prob’ly less painful, but it don’t pay as well.’ With a flourish, he brought out a wad of notes, followed by a second from another pocket. With what was clearly a practised eye, he flicked them, counting. ‘Suckers. They always take the bet. Over a hundred grand!’

‘What?’ Angel swallowed and repeated. ‘What the fuck has just happened tonight, Spike?’ He could hardly articulate his anger. He got that Spike had this big choice to make. He got that being human wasn’t all good—that demon life still had something to offer. But what Spike had done tonight went beyond reminding himself of demon fun. Spike was rubbing his nose in it—making him feel dissatisfied and inadequate.

Spike gave him an angry look back. ‘Don’t tell me you didn’t enjoy that!’

‘Enjoy!’ He had, but his vicarious enjoyment of the deaths made him so disgusted he was unable to admit it.

Spike helped him out. He grabbed Angel’s crotch. ‘Yeah. This hardness is enjoyment, Angel! Do you remember what one of these is?’ He leant over suddenly and licked hard up Angel’s stubble. ‘Bloodied and hard. Remember?’

Angel lashed out, as much from awareness of the presence of the cab driver as from fury that his body betrayed his base desires. He caught Spike a blow to his shoulder, and Spike winced. Badly. His eyes glowed with some inner light Angel couldn’t interpret. ‘Is that what you want? Stop the car!’

When they came to a halt, he pushed Angel out of the door and followed him, tossing a note imperiously onto the back seat. Accepting no refusal from Angel, he pushed him away from the street and into an alley. At random, he kicked in a door, and they found themselves in a large, mainly empty storage area.

Spike strode into the very centre where a shaft of light from a high window bisected the room: shadows and dark, eerie light. ‘Come on, Angel. This is what you’ve been wanting ever since you saw me in that book-signing queue—the question you’ve been asking yourself: am I still better than him.’ He began to circle, taunting Angel. ‘Now’s your chance to find out. I’m broken and I’m bloodied. It’s the best chance you’re ever gonna have.’

Angel went for him and caught Spike a blow to his belly. Spike was too slow to dodge, and he took the blow hard, falling to his knees. He struggled to his feet, too slow again to avoid a kick to his head. But when Angel came in again, he flicked out his legs and brought Angel down. Quickly, he straddled him, blood dripping onto the fallen figure from the kick to his cheek. Angel bucked, and Spike tipped forward, landing on one arm. He cried out, and Angel capitalised by throwing him off completely and springing to his feet. He felt blood pumping furiously around his body until it reached his cock—where it stayed. All of it. All eight pints lodged there in one impossible erection. It left none for his brain, which was fortunate, as he didn’t want to ask himself, nor have the question answered, why he was beating up on Spike. Conveniently, Spike replied to the silent interrogative for him, a reply of punched words, circling once more, staying in the shadows, a disembodied voice in the darkness.  ‘Don’t like me being stronger than you. Don’t like me looking like this still. Don’t like what you see in the mirror.’ Angel lunged at the sound of the voice, and Spike was even slower to respond. He took the punch and staggered back into the wall, where his knees went from under him, and he slid down slowly. Angel bent over him and hoisted him up to standing, pressing his face into the bloodied one, spitting on him as he hissed vindictively, ‘You are demon scum, Spike. You always were and you always will be. You ripped apart those creatures tonight. Do you think I want anything to do with that? I’ve left that behind me!’

‘Yeah? That so?’ Spike crushed their mouths together, grinding his hips forward into the impossibility in Angel’s jeans. Angel’s stubble tore at his lips, grazed his chin, so he pushed his tongue deep into the resistant mouth to end the opposition. Then it was all soft and wet and warm and inside flesh tasting of desire. With hands no longer needed to hold Angel into the kiss, he began to work on belt and zipper.

Angel’s cock was too swollen to pull through the opening, so Spike shoved the pants down, exposing the tight, tanned backside. The kiss became more attentive, thoughtful, as Spike began to relieve some of Angel’s tension. Long, slow, tight-grip strokes up the hard, hot column made Angel’s tongue inventive and receptive. They explored and danced their pleasure between them as Spike worked. Gradually, Spike turned them so Angel’s back was against the wall. With a last, long, lingering kiss he whispered, ‘Want me to go down on you?’

Angel swallowed—some of his spit, some of Spike’s. No one had ever asked him that before. Girls had either done it or not but had been entirely unable or unwilling to articulate such a thing. Hearing the words from Spike’s mouth made him tremble with anticipation, and in a similar spirit, he said, ‘Yes,’ more clearly and more definitely than he had said yes to anything for many years.

Spike dropped to his knees. Angel waited for the first touch of a male tongue on his cock. Spike’s tongue. It began at the very base of his root, just a pressing in of tongue and lips, but it was enough to make his knees wobble.

Then Spike swallowed his sac.

Angel almost screamed, but he was too shocked and pleasured for anything that articulate to emerge. It was just a long, incoherent noise of approbation as his incredibly tight balls were teased over teeth, separated by an educated tongue and mouthed until they roared with the need to release their seed. He held desperately onto Spike’s head, no hair to push his fingers into, nothing but soft, downy stubble under his calloused pads, but he tried to ease him off and keep him on with the same, frantic signals: I’ll come. Jesus, Spike. Don’t.

Spike murmured something appreciative and let the balls drop from his lips—very slowly, sucking the whole of the release.

Angel took a swallow and a breath of relief, both of which were cut off mid-gesture when his foreskin was sucked off his cock, stretched and invaded by an eager tongue. Delving deep into the protective folds of skin, the tip of Spike’s tongue reached the hot cockhead and flicked repeatedly over the slit, causing flickers of delight like tiny sparks from an electrical current. Angel’s balls responded in kind, beginning to tighten for release. Once more, he tried to hold Spike off but found himself instead rubbing his hands in ecstasy around the perfectly delineated skull and whispering uncontrollably, ‘Yes, yes, yes.’

It was only the beginning. On the brink of an orgasm already, Angel jerked forward in desperation when instead of sucking up, Spike pushed on: swallowing a good third of his cock into his mouth. His foreskin now dragged down, allowing his sensitive tip to rub on the roof of Spike’s mouth. He thrust forward to repeat the sensation and found his cock sliding down the tightest, hottest tube it had ever known. Spike swallowed reflexively, and this time, Angel did scream—loud and long as the throat muscles tightened and massaged his length. Spike was still only two thirds on. He shifted his position slightly, clasped Angel’s naked backside with both hands and pulled him closer.

Angel slid the rest of the way, a second Adam’s apple appearing on the smooth front of Spike’s neck, one that rubbed against his soft, slippery walls and filled his throat with sweet running fluid.

Gripping Angel’s cheeks, Spike began to slide his mouth slowly up and down the great length of Angel’s shaft, his tongue dancing along like a wayward child, enjoying its own pleasures away from the main event.

Angel began to pant. His balls were screaming for relief from the pleasure that no human man could withstand.

When Spike began to give short, heady sucks and pulls to just the round knob, his lips plopping deliciously on and off, Angel gave up the battle to prolong the experience. He tried to warn Spike he was coming. He tried to pull him away, but Spike resisted. He tipped his head back, fixed Angel’s gaze, held the heavy pulsing cock over his extended tongue and caught each arching shot.  They came thick and fast: three heavy pulses in succession then smaller ones while Angel’s face screwed up in pleasure-pain and his hand milked the thick hose for more and more of its sticky essence.  Finally there were only the few last bubbles, not leaving the tip of Angel’s penis, but emerging sluggishly to coat his livid, red cockhead. Spike’s throat rumbled in pleasure. He swallowed his tongue load and began to lick and clean gently around the sensitised tip.

Angel’s legs folded beneath him, and he slid down the wall, his cock now lying on his thigh. He pulled his knees up to his chest and hugged them, resting his forehead and hiding his face.

Spike sat back on his heels and regarded him silently, enjoying the aftertaste of the come in his mouth.

At moments like this, he felt very little boredom at all.

* * * * * * *

In the darkness of his lap, Angel could see the faint outline of his cock, soft and yielding like a hunk of used rope. He focused on the after-tremors and light spasms of orgasm in his groin and not on his anger. He had little right to be angry now; he had lost the moral high ground where he could claim that what he had witnessed in the fight club had disgusted him. Funny kind of disgust: that thick, shooting spill with which he had watered Spike’s mouth.

But he was angry. He was intensely angry that Spike had hijacked him in this way. He didn’t need to be reminded what he was missing. It was like giving a blind man his sight for the night, a paraplegic his legs. And was he really comparing his human life to a form of disablement? Spike was the one disabled—he was the one unable to function in life, to walk in the sunshine.

And Angel’s revenge came to him as easily as that. He didn’t call it revenge, of course. He was trying to help Spike decide this impossible choice. Of course he was. He lifted his face. ‘I need some space tonight, Spike.’

Spike’s reaction to this rejection was unreadable. He just sat there on his heels, watching him. Angel added, ‘But come back tomorrow morning? I still want to—. I—. We said a week.’

Spike half-nodded, half-shrugged.

In silence, Angel rose and adjusted his clothing. He knew he should say something. His behaviour was appalling. Spike or not, man or not, things needed to be said.

He adjusted his shoulders and stomped back toward the street, his body still tingling from the relief Spike had given it.

Chapter 11

Spike slid into bed alongside a sleeping Henry and pushed him down, waking him to his urgent need.

Such treatment not unknown, Henry murmured something appreciative and mouthed deep into the root of Spike’s erection but then pulled away and sat up. ‘Bleeding hell, Spike. What happened to you? Oh, God! You went to a fight!’

Spike pouted. ‘Seemed like a good idea at the time. Won lots of dosh….’

As Henry’s practised hands skimmed over the worst injuries, Spike could not help but compare this human’s response to Angel’s. It had not seemed to occur to Angel that the only reason he’d been able to lay a finger on him tonight was because he was broken and bleeding: organs ruptured, bones shattered. Neither had it occurred to Angel, apparently, to be concerned about any of this. Sure, Angel knew he’d heal. But so did Henry, but it didn’t stop this man fetching him things and babying him for a while. Spike liked being babied occasionally, especially when he was feeling guilty and sorry for himself. Which he was on both counts. He knew why Angel was pissed with him. Why had he veered off from his original intent to take him out drinking and dancing? Why had he gone to that dumb fight club? To prove what? That he really was so superior to Angel now? Was he really that petty? Had he waited ten years to exact that spiteful little revenge?

It certainly didn’t help him make his decision.

Or did it? Perhaps he’d just been reminding himself what he was giving up. But he wasn’t tempted yet to accept anything being human had to offer; so, why the need to do something like that?

Spike suddenly had the worrying thought that the sex with Angel in the apartment had affected him more than he’d realised. Perhaps he was being tempted more by an Angel-thing than by a human-thing. And as Henry had so helpfully pointed out, if he took the decision based on wanting something from Angel, what if that something eventually proved to be an illusion?

Spike felt angry now to add to his guilt and self-pity.

‘…you?’

Spike blinked and tried to focus on the pretty eyes watching him. ‘Huh?’

Henry pouted and smiled at the same time. ‘Penny for them.’

Spike smiled around his painful cheek. ‘A hundred grand more like.’

Henry’s eyes widened. He grinned lasciviously. ‘My rates have just gone up.’ He buried his face deep in Spike’s lap and breathed deeply. ‘A six-figure blow job.’

Spike caught at his hair. ‘Yeah. For a hundred grand I get to fuck your ass. Turn over.’

Henry refused and spread his arms on the bed. ‘He’s not improving your manners, Spike.’

‘That’s cus he has none. Bastard didn’t even….’ Deciding judiciously not to discuss Angel’s lack of post-coital finesse with his current lover, Spike flipped him over, despite the resistance. ‘Christ. I could dent concrete.’

Henry hissed as Spike began to play with his hole, softening him up with fingers and spit. ‘Have you done this with him yet?’

Not sure what the man wanted to hear, Spike opted for the truth. ‘No.’

‘Because he doesn’t want to?’

‘He don’t know his arse from his elbow, Luv. Thinks he’s one thing, wants to be another, can’t be either.’

‘Well, now, who does he remind me of…?’

Spike lay over him, his mouth against the sleep-warm ear. ‘If you get cheeky, I’ll have to punish you.’

Henry wriggled with excitement, and the movement beneath Spike reanimated the testosterone he’d been pumping all night. He felt his cock stiffen to a painful need, and with care, he brought it to the spread, waiting hole. He paused then felt a sense of deep betrayal that he’d just pictured those pink, glistening walls as someone else’s for a moment. To his knowledge, he’d never taken a virgin ass before, never seen one quiver and open up just for him. He had the startling thought, at this very inappropriate time, that if Angel’s ever did blossom, opening just for him, it would stay exclusively his.  He didn’t mind sharing Henry—had never minded sharing Henry. Henry was more fun shared around. But Angel was…. ‘You fucker.’ Henry rolled onto his back and slapped ineffectually at Spike. It was first real rebellion in their three years together. He gave a spiteful look at Spike’s slightly feigned astonishment. ‘You crawl back into my bed because he’s kicked you out—.’

‘He did not kick me—.’

‘He kicked you out. You expect me to blow you without any preliminary Hi, Henry, nice to see you, how’ve you been? Then you want to fuck me, but you stare at my fucking ass thinking about his!’

‘I wasn’t thinking about—.’

‘You were thinking about his ass, Spike! I’m not dumb!’

‘Oh, and you’ve never thought about someone else when I’m doing you.’

‘Oh, lover, be sure that I have. You’ve done a damn good impression of Leonardo Sbaraglia sometimes—in the dark, with my eyes closed, behind me!’

‘So! Why get all bloody—?’

‘Because that’s just a fantasy, Spike! You come from Angel’s body but use mine as a substitute!’

‘I wasn’t using—.’

‘Yeah, you were.’

‘Will you stop bloody finishing my—?’

‘No! Because you don’t have anything much to say I want to hear anymore.’

It was said, and neither of them needed it translated.

It was finally over.

Disbelieving that he did it, Spike felt his jaw wobble. He pouted and hung his head. They were the best things he could have done, although they were not planned nor had any hidden agenda. Henry sighed and pulled him into his arms. ‘How the hell do you survive as a demon, Spike? You have a heart pumping with more human emotion than anyone I’ve ever known.’

‘I don’t want us to—.’

‘It’s time, Babe. You said it yourself. You can’t give me what I need.’

‘A good shafting?’

They smiled and kissed softly. ‘You’ve always given me that.’ Henry fell back onto the bed, pulling Spike with him. ‘For old time’s sake.’ Very deliberately, he lifted his legs and wrapped them around Spike’s back. Spike was deep inside before they knew, moving and opening up the tight coils of need.

Henry brushed his hand over Spike’s forehead as if the vampire had hair to adjust. ‘It’s been great, Spike. Every moment.’

‘What will you…?’ Spike cleared his throat and tried again. ‘What will you do?’ The man was so soft to ride, so tight around him, and he put every brain cell he had into the effort not to wonder how Angel would feel thus. He didn’t want to be that dishonest to a man who had been his companion for this short blink of his eternity.

Henry arched and cried out at the pleasure. ‘I’ll – find – something.’

‘Someone?’ Spike breathed it close to the warm, human lips and then pushed his tongue deep as if licking out a reply.

Henry smiled into the kiss and knew what answer this complex, loving demon wanted. ‘Yes. I’ll find someone. I won’t be lonely, Baby.’

Spike brought them off together as the last endearment eased between them. He felt his belly wetting with Henry’s release as he sent his high into the man’s warm body. It would be there for some time, lodged deep in that dark privacy.

He did not stay to cuddle or exchange the rude banter they enjoyed so much. It was too late for that, and the parting needed to be done. He dressed and then crawled back across the bed to the still naked human. Gently and insistently, he pushed the bundles of notes into his hands.

Henry frowned and was about to refuse them. Spike hushed him with a finger. ‘I owe you, Luv. Do this last thing for me and take it. Go live with your old Mum and use it to keep yourself while you write that book you’ve always been talking about. Give me a starring role, yeah?’

Henry smiled wanly, but nodded. With a last caress to his cheek, Spike slipped out of the room and into the dark with no good idea of where to go or what to do to ease the pain.

* * * * * *

Angel was home. Spike stood in the street below and watched the soft amber light of the apartment through the large windows. He wasn’t going to go in. The last person he needed to see was Angel. He wished now he’d taken Illyria’s offer away to some quiet place to consider. Where there were no distractions. If he’d done that, he’d probably be human now. It was a startling thought, and the amount it worried him was an indication of how far he was from making that decision yet.

He was too depressed to decide what to do, so he sat down into the doorway across from Angel’s apartment and thought about taking up smoking again.

His choices recently had been too painful.

He wasn’t good at losing people.

Which was odd when you considered the practise he’d had.

A shadow moved in front of the light. Spike tensed, the outline very familiar. He fancied he could almost make out the features on the strong, handsome face. Angel looked naked, but that was probably wishful thinking.

He was such a crap demon.

He’d been such a crap man.

Maybe Illyria could offer him another alternative.

Maybe she could just take away the pain.

* * * * * *

Angel hated himself so much by the time he returned to his apartment that he needed a sacrifice, a gesture to the Gods that would appease the guilt. He pulled out the sketch he’d done of Spike and held it ready to rip in two. But he couldn’t do it. And that only fuelled his self-loathing. He took a shower, washing his cock and remembering the agile mouth upon it. He hardened to the memory and thrust into his fist, picturing Spike’s upturned face watching him. How had he allowed himself to become so entirely lost? His responses to the fight club had been so unexpected, so confusing, so extreme that he’d exploded into Spike’s mouth with no thought to consequence. He felt dirty, tricked, used, manipulated, weak, small… human.

His erection wilted.

That had not happened since the last of the Ninas or Heathers: those soft bodies that had almost disgusted him with their fatty, cloying needs.

He beat harder, desperate, frightened... spontaneous impotence… a lifetime of dependence on Viagra.

Furious, he strode naked out of the shower and ripped open a drawer. The silk flowed like sex over his hand, coiling like wisps of breath breathed by a lover upon his skin. With slow deliberation, he wrapped one end of the scarf around his neck. The other he fastened to the rail in his closet. He stood alongside his clothes, which smelt faintly of the deliciousness of leather and slowly lowered to his knees. The tightness kicked in before he was halfway there… blood pounding in his ears… unable to take deep breaths… panic flooding his body with adrenalin… and then the hardness, the excitement, the tearing desperately at his cock to come before he passed out… before he died… hard to the thought that he now needed to breathe, that he was alive…. Or maybe hard to the not breathing once more… hard to memories of what he had once been… the only way to take himself back to that much missed state…. So hard, such a force of sperm hitting the wall and sludging in slow rivulets to the ground. His hand fell heavy from his cock. The pounding was more like hammering on wood from deep underground. Was it memory or predestination?

He felt like the sperm now: slow, heavy, moving to the floor with thoughtless obedience to gravity.

But something was wrong with this.

He needed to…

… with a last desperate lunge, Angel reached the rail that suspended him and took the weight off his neck.

Blood rushed back, painful and dizzying.

His fingers slipped on the too tight knot. It would leave a welt.

It had been close this time.

Too close.

But he was drained, empty; the self-loathing that had driven him to seek relief in a vampire’s mouth had squirted from his body.

He walked naked through the apartment he had given up so much to have, and poured a long drink.  He did not want what he had seen tonight. He had left all that violence and thoughtless bloodlust behind now. He had a good life. He walked slowly the window and leant on it, staring out into the dark street.

He wondered where Spike was and what he was doing. An eerie thought drifted through his mind that Spike somehow knew what he had just done—was watching him. He’d seen him bend time so this did not seem all that unlikely.

Something moved in the street below. A dog? Perhaps the detritus of city living.

Living.

He was living.

He pushed off the glass and went to bed, knowing he would not sleep. It was one of those nights where he felt too small to risk that unknown territory alone.

Chapter 12

By the time Spike arrived at the apartment, under a blanket and still smoking slightly, Angel was almost ready and packed. He didn’t cast Spike so much as a look, only nodded toward the elevator. ‘You won’t need the blanket—or the jacket.’

Spike toed the ground. ‘What’s this surprise then, Pet?’

‘I thought you wanted help to make your decision.’ Angel kept his voice and face neutral but wasn’t sure whether he was hiding his guilt from himself or from Spike.

‘I do. I guess.’ Spike followed Angel into the elevator and stood quietly.

‘You okay?’

For one moment, Spike thought that Angel was asking about his heart, which was still broken and bleeding over Henry.  When he didn’t get a reply, Angel flicked his gaze over. ‘Healed?’ ‘Oh. Yeah. Sure.’ He’d spent the rest of the night drinking in a bar and felt more like death than actually being dead, but he didn’t bother to point this out.

They emerged into an underground garage, and Angel made his way toward a car. Spike halted and frowned. ‘That looks familiar.’

‘Last perk.’

‘You mean you stole it.’

‘Well, yeah.’

‘Why’d ya want a sun-proof car, Poof?’

Angel coughed faintly as he slid in behind the wheel. ‘I stole it before I… before the end.’

‘Bastard!’ Spike grinned and felt immensely cheered at the thought of CEO-Angel filching things from Wolfram and Hart.

They pulled out into the sunshine, and Angel headed west. Neither of them could think of anything much to say, so they stuck to listening to the radio and not talking. Spike wanted to ask Angel about the mark on his neck. Angel wanted to ask Spike why he stank of alcohol. The radio option was so much easier.

Eventually, they arrived at the coast road, and Angel headed south for an hour or so. Then he pulled sharply in to the right where a track led down between some dunes to the beach. Carefully, he eased the car right onto the sand and then killed the engine.

Spike lifted his eyebrows but didn’t ask.

Angel climbed out and fetched a bag from the back. He dropped it onto the sand then hung in the open doorway, his face lowered. ‘I don’t know why you took me there last night, Spike—don’t interrupt me. You know what you have to decide. I hope this helps.’ With that, he slammed the door, picked up the bag and strode a few feet away to a place that held a great view of the deserted beach. Casually, he took a towel from the bag and laid it on the already sun-baked sand. Then he peeled off his clothes. All of them.

Spike watched the entire performance, sure this was a joke. He watched Angel pouring lotion over his smooth, tanned skin, watched him rubbing it in, swirling it around. Then he watched him lie down.

He watched that for some time before he tapped on the window. ‘Okay, I get the point, Angel. Can we go now?’

Angel didn’t reply.

Spike got a little bit angry. Not a lot—not yet.

He banged again.

He looked around the car for a blanket… which Angel had said he wouldn’t need. That did make him angry. A lot. He hammered on the window. ‘Hey! Fucker!’

Angel stretched and turned over in the sun.

Spike didn’t even bother to enjoy the sight of Angel’s cock, thick and heavy over one thigh. That was how angry he was.

‘Angel!’ Angel reached for some shades from the bag and slipped them on.

Spike flung himself back into his seat and considered burning up just to give himself the satisfaction of upsetting Angel. It would be spectacular: he’d just reach the towel, his hair and skin burning, but Angel would be unable to put him out….

Just his bloody luck and his mystical essence would be sucked into a sand crab and come back, metamorphosed into something far less pretty than he was now. He tried the radio, but it wouldn’t work without the engine. Neither would the air con, and it was now very, very hot. He glanced at the clock. Only ten. He wondered how long Angel intended to make his punnishment. Because he got that punishment was what this was all about. Whether it was punishment for taking him to the club and showing him up, or whether it was for sucking him off, he wasn’t sure.

He rummaged in the pocket of his jeans, then the glove box, just to see if there was anything interesting to do. Then he began to count grains of sand.

It was ten past ten.

The sun crested the sand bank next to him and hit directly into the car, the safe glass giving no respite from the heat. He stripped off his T-shirt and tried to do it slowly to pass a few more minutes.

Angel had turned over onto his belly and was reading.

As much as he hated himself for doing it, Spike began to watch Angel’s backside.

It was pretty much perfect, which was only fuel to his growing anger. He had a few choice things he’d like to do to that backside that wouldn’t leave it so pretty.

Angel produced a bottle of water and arched his back to drink it, the dimples in his ass-cheeks flexing as the deep muscles clenched and unclenched.

Something deep in Spike clenched too.

He groaned. Not only was he hot, he was now… hot. And hungry.

He added eating Angel to his list of painful things he wanted to do to him.

And it was only half ten.

* * * * * * *

Spike woke from a boredom-induced snooze to the sound of voices. Angel had clearly heard them, too. He rummaged in the bag and produced a swimsuit, which he pulled over his hard, darkening body. Spike kicked the dash in frustration at the sight of him, so lean and tanned and fucking perfect. In the sun.

Two girls came toward them, strolling along the beach, chatting. They saw Angel and came closer. Spike could not hear the conversation, but Angel handed them the sun lotion. They all laughed. Spike kicked the dash again. One of girls turned to look at him in the car; Angel said something, and they all laughed once more.

Spike turned his head and stared resolutely at the sea. He therefore missed the girls sitting on the towel with Angel, missed the fun spreading on of lotion and missed the subsequent activities that he could hear but did not want to see.

His only consolation was that things came to a halt when no one on the towel had a condom. The ubiquitous bag of goodies wasn’t that good. He, of course, wouldn’t have needed one. He allowed himself a malicious grin and wanted to point this out, but as he wasn’t taking any notice of what was going on, he couldn’t.

Once the girls had moved on, Spike began to wonder if even Angel was getting bored of his game, but had his reply to this unspoken question when Angel stretched and jogged down to the water for a cool, refreshing swim.

Over one hundred and fifty degrees in the car now, Spike tried hard not to envy him. To hate him.

To want him… water droplets glistened as Angel walked slowly back over the hot sand. His muscles moved gracefully, taut engines beneath smooth skin. How could anyone not want him? The swimsuit hid nothing.

Spike pulled his knees up and buried his face from the shame of wanting him so much.

He had Ilyria’s number. He could call her tonight. Tell her he’d made his choice. What he wanted. What Angel wanted, which would have to be what he wanted.

Because what he wanted was on that blanket.

Only… he wanted it in here with him, in the dark.

Arms over his head, feeling as if he were sinking in an ocean of despair, Spike began to cry. He wanted his sire back. He wanted things to be as they were and not this confusing new world where he was so alone.

* * * * * *

Angel was not unaware of Spike’s keen interest in the activities on the towel with the girls, even though he was pretending not to look.

He was even more aware of the scrutiny given to his body when he returned from the swim.

But the slow peeling off of the tiny slip of red fabric and subsequent re-oiling went unobserved. Which pissed him off. He’d watched Spike through to the very end of his triumph: the God-fighter, so fucking invisible. Well, he couldn’t fight this. He wasn’t invincible in the sun! So why wasn’t he watching and suffering?

Angel went cautiously toward the car.

Spike appeared to be asleep, curled into a ball on his seat, head buried deep under his pale, naked arms.

Angel’s cock betrayed him. It rose to the thought of how cool that skin would be to touch now. How unpleasantly hot he was, scorching in the sun. Spike’s tongue could cool him. Spike’s sperm would splatter upon him like sweet Irish rain. He closed his eyes and almost swayed with the intense pleasure of the thought of cool sheets and playing with Spike, cool, in the dark.

But he’d begun this, and he had to see it through now. He backed off to the towel and plonked down, wishing he could get out of the sun. He put his shirt on to protect his back and then his pants.

He’d meant to stay out until dark.

The thought occurred to him, however, that he’d do well to be far away from Spike before dark….

With a curse, annoyed with himself for being so weak, he swept up his things and stormed back to the car.

Shit, it’s hot in here. Spike didn’t look up as Angel climbed in, only turned his face away.

Angel slammed into reverse and took them back to the track. He stopped, elbow resting on the closed sill, letting the car idle and the air con catch up. ‘I’m sorry.

Spike?’

Spike straightened. ‘Can I have some water? Please.’

Angel felt as small as the bottle he passed over. ‘I just wanted to show you what you could have if you—.’ He stopped, the lie embarrassing them both.

More gently and more honestly, he added, ‘But you could, Spike. We could come to the beach together… you’d feel the sun on your skin…. This could be yours tomorrow! If you wanted it….’

Spike turned his face and held Angel’s gaze. With great deliberation, he said, ‘And then I’d probably get skin cancer and die.’

Angel slammed his fist into the wheel (and immediately regretted it). ‘You don’t know that! Jesus, Spike, if you take no risks what will you achieve in life?’

‘Why take risks when you don’t have to?’

‘You never had any real intention of considering her offer, did you? This is all a sham for some nefarious purpose of your own. What? Did you want to have the one-off pleasure of fucking me on the pretence that you were going to stay with me?’

‘You think fucking you would be a pleasure?’

‘Don’t. Don’t play games with me, Spike. I know you too well.’

‘You don’t know me all that well, Luv, if you think this stunt today was going to influence my decision.’

Between gritted teeth, Angel ground out, ‘It wasn’t meant to do that, moron. Like your day, did you?’ His eyes flashed with malice, and he didn’t need to say the words, I was punishing you.

Spike pouted and turned away. He’d lost Henry for this. Suddenly, he opened his door and stepped out. He began to walk.

He heard a shout of terror but felt a sense of deep calm.

Felt something thrown over him. Rolling and sand in his mouth.

Hot sand and heat everywhere.

Then the heat was where hands touched him.

But he didn’t care, one way or the other.

* * * * * * *

Angel was shaking as slammed the door on Spike. He kicked the car, relishing the pain in his bare foot. He went around to his side and climbed in. He didn’t know whether to shout at Spike or hug him and tried to do both. The shout, consequently, ended in a whimper, and then he was just hugging, crooning softly, ‘You stupid bastard. You fucking moron. I hate you so much.’

Spike curled into the embrace. He’d been so close to making his own decision: not human, not demon. Just somewhere else.

It wasn’t to be.

He began to pull out of Angel’s arms, but as he did, his face lifted. They were both burnt in their own individual ways. They were both sweating, tear streaked and hot, and they came together as if something in this joining could heal them both.

Angel had been right; Spike’s mouth was unbelievably cool, his saliva balm for hot lips. Spike could taste the day on Angel: sun, salty ocean and life pumping through his flushed skin. They kissed hard and urgent, pulling off to study swell and curve of lip before returning to a new position, a new place to explore with tongue or teeth. Hands joined in, roaming over sore, burnt skin, seeking cool or heat or hair or muscle. Seeking hardness and finding it.

There was a loud rap on the window. They flew apart. A man was leaning against the glass angrily. ‘Want to maybe take that someplace else, guys? I’ve got kids here.’

Angel didn’t acknowledge him. He shoved the car into first and took the track too fast.

They hit the road.

‘Find a motel.’ Angel flicked his eyes over to his passenger. Spike licked his lips, which seemed to help Angel decide.

As soon as he saw a motel, he pulled in.

He seemed more furious than aroused when he slammed the door and stomped off to reception.

Under the cover of the walkway, Spike followed the angry figure to the room.

It was hideous.

But it had a bed, which is all they needed.

Clothes were torn in their haste to explore contrasting skin: hot, cold, dark, pale. Their moans were loud and incriminating, but they didn’t hear or care. Falling to the bed, it was only mouths and hands and the delicious grind of cock to cock. Spike could hear Angel’s heart pounding. Angel could sense Spike listening to it. It was a third vast red pumping organ between them.

Before he knew what he did, Angel began manoeuvring his body as he would with a girl: lying half over her, fumbling and pushing. It was only when a cold grip like a steel band clamped around his wrist that he came back to any awareness of where he was and what he did—who he did it with. Spike held his wrist for a moment, staring up into the dark eyes.

Then, deliberately, not succumbing but inviting, he released his hold.

Angel spread his hands over the flat chest and bowed his head in gratitude… relief? He wasn’t thinking all that clearly. He just wanted to be inside and rubbing off, sliding his cock into something more interesting than his fist.

The resistance was terrible, frightening, something so new and alien he didn’t know if he could continue. But the friction of the tightly puckered skin against his exposed cockhead was incredible. He pushed some more against the dry skin, pressing his weight down onto the silent figure. Spike winced and put his hand down, but Angel batted him away. He shifted position and lifted Spike’s thigh. His cockhead rasped through. Spike jerked back and grabbed the headboard, dislodging him. Angel swore and tried to push against the hole once more, avidly watching its raw, red contrast against the paleness of Spike’s thighs. He grabbed the back of Spike’s neck and tried to pull as he pushed, to force him on. Spike shoved him hard and rolled off the bed. ‘Fuck off!’

‘What the…!’ He lunged, but Spike sidestepped and rounded on him angrily.

‘Stop using me as your sexual punch bag!’

Angel didn’t know where to begin being outraged at that, so he went with what occurred to him first, which was probably a mistake. ‘You’re a freaking vampire, Spike!’

Spike took a step back, his hot rage turning icy in the time it took him to process these words. He nodded as if they confirmed something he’d always thought. ‘And that means I can be used and abused as you see fit, does it?’

‘I’m not using or abusing you. Get over yourself, Spike. You want this as much as…. You want this. Don’t deny it.’

‘This?’ Spike wrapped his arms around his torso. ‘I wanted something, yeah. But I didn’t want you heaving into me like some freaking testosterone jockey.’ He pouted and seemed to be debating whether to say something else. Finally, without looking directly at Angel, he added, with a small self-deprecating laugh, ‘I’ve never done that before—it was my first time.’ He sat suddenly on the chair by the window and turned his face away from the one watching him on the bed.

* * * * * * *

‘Neither have I.’

Angel’s quiet comment made Spike turn his head sharply. Angel refused to catch his eye. He pulled up his knees and hugged his nakedness. ‘First time in a motel. First time with a man. First time with you. And I’m sorry.’

Spike rested his elbows on his knees and ran his fingers over his stubbled head. ‘Why did you stop me?’

Angel lifted his head, trying to process this in light of what they’d just admitted. Then he got that Spike wasn’t talking about the aborted sex at all. He glanced away. ‘I’m not going to let you just… burn up.’

‘But why?’

‘Don’t be dumb, Spike. I’m not getting into some kind of pissing contest with you—proving how much you mean to me or something.’

‘If I accepted her offer, if I became human, would you try to prove it then?’

Angel had no real answer to this. He couldn’t see his own life playing out let alone a life with someone else—with a man… with Spike.

Spike nodded at the reply spoken so loud in the silence. He began to dress once more until Angel hopped off the bed and pulled him to his feet. ‘If you don’t become human, then there is definitely nothing for us. We’re incompatible like this, Spike. Isn’t that what we’ve proved? Last night? Today?’

‘I thought we were trying to prove who had the biggest nads by pissing the other off the most.’

Angel smirked and looked away, trying to hide his amusement.

Spike kissed the side of his smirk, and suddenly the kisses were the only thing between them—no contests, no irreconcilable differences, just a liking for the taste of the other.

Angel wrapped his arms around Spike’s bony shoulders and whispered, ‘Wanna try again?’

There was a tiny hesitation then Spike lifted one leg onto the chair. Angel cried out in delight, and without thinking what he did, he dipped his body and slid up inside Spike’s. They held together, shivering with the extreme, novel sensations. Angel’s hands strayed down to Spike’s backside and cupped him. It was exactly what was needed; he lifted him fractionally, settling the stretched anus comfortably onto his fat erection.

Spike arched back; his shoulders connected with the wall. Angel leant in and planted his hands firmly either side of the shorn head, staring down in wonder to where they were so profoundly joined. He tested the joining: two pumps of his hips. They both breathed out long sighs of astonished pleasure, and then it was so easy. Angel did what he been doing for over three hundred years—only never in such exquisite tightness. Spike stretched his lean body over the wall and went along for the ride, enjoying discovering what he’d given, up to now.

He opened his eyes and found Angel watching intently as he fucked. It was incredibly erotic. Spike held the look, even as he was lifted and thrust into and fucked, never losing eye contact.

Toward the end, Angel lifted Spike’s thighs, parting him wider, holding him up as he thumped into him. His human legs were trembling; his forehead and torso beaded with sweat, but the spread was incredible. With each thrust he buried his tool to the hilt, right down to hair grinding into the stretched ring. At each pull out, his cockhead appeared like a swollen pink mushroom, the thump back in then becoming nine inches of pleasure for the quivering rectum.

Spike was the first one to succumb to orgasm, digging his nails into Angel’s shoulders and crying something incoherent only understood when a great fountain of sperm shot up and hit Angel under the chin. The sight of the pink hole emptying brought the final clench Angel’s balls needed to send him over the edge. It was only a human orgasm—but it was the best he’d had for ten years. It went on and on, redefining time. Shot after shot of hot, live sperm coated the deep recesses in Spike’s body, leaking out of him, making the joining slippery, sticky and potent.

Finally, it was done. So was Angel. His legs gave way; his arms were locked and unable to release their burden, so they fell together in a tangle of sperm, sweat and twitching to the stained carpet of the motel room.

Spike coughed, scratched and tried to close his legs. ‘So, not that incompatible then…?’

Angel flung an arm over his eyes, but he couldn’t hide his smile. He shook his head.

Spike twisted around and slithered seductively over Angel’s collapsed body, straddling him, leaking out over his chest. ‘Maybe I’ll just stay dead but stay with you anyway. What do you reckon?’

Angel began to laugh with pleasure but then his face froze. Spike lifted the arm. ‘What?’

‘I’ll be forty soon.’

‘So?’ He knew exactly what, but he’d be damned if he’d let Angel’s sudden rationality deflect him from what he wanted.

‘Then fifty.’

‘So? Angel! So what?’

‘Get off.’ Angel heard the harshness of his words and softened them by stroking Spike’s thighs. ‘Get off, Spike.’

Spike grabbed his wrists and pinned them down on the carpet, bending to Angel’s mouth. ‘I’ll want you when you’re forty, fifty, sixty, seventy….’

Angel didn’t even try to argue. He just looked at him.

Spike banged the wrists up and down in frustration but then climbed off. Before Angel could even attempt to stop him, Spike put his fist through the connecting wall. It was a blow of such desperate ferocity that it shocked Spike, too—brought them both back to the time and place. Suddenly, what they had done replayed loudly—exceptionally loudly—in their minds. With frowns, they dressed hastily and returned to the car.

Angel held the wheel, staring at nothing. In a quiet voice, he pleaded, ‘Please. Become human, Spike.’

Spike bit his lower lip and didn’t want to say the words. But they needed saying, so he said them. ‘So I can be forty, fifty, sixty, seventy…?’

Angel had no answer for that. How could he? Aging was the most terrifying thing he had ever faced. How could he wish that on Spike?

Very slowly, he nodded to the inevitability of Spike remaining as he was.

Spike felt a huge weight lift from his shoulders. The decision was made. As the weight departed, though, another began to form within his heart—one which he knew would never be lifted from him. Parting from Angel had been hard enough ten years ago. Now he felt as if he were burning up once more—only the pain was all inside.

As if reading his thoughts, Angel said softly, ‘Stay for… a while. A few years?’

Spike turned his head away and stared out of the window at the motel rooms. ‘You give definition to pain.’

Suddenly, Angel put his hand over his eyes and began to cry. It was so uncharacteristic it was painful to hear. With difficulty, he said against the sobs, ‘I don’t want to be human anymore, Spike. Don’t leave me alone like this.’

Spike pulled him into a hug, running his fingers thoughtlessly through his hair, over his neck, down his back—anywhere that would give comfort. ‘You need to move on, Luv. All these years, waiting for me to come back.’

Angel pulled away. His eyes were wide with tears, red rimmed. He blinked to clear them. ‘Oh, God.’

Spike pulled him back, and they stayed that way until the car was thrown into shadow and the temperature began to drop. Spike eased Angel upright. ‘I’d better go now.’

‘No!’ Angel began to cry again, but he had very little left inside—too much sun, too much sweat, too much sperm—and his crying was dry and painful.

‘It’s for the—.’

‘Just tonight!’

‘What good would it do, Pet?’

Angel’s mouth opened, quivered for a moment with indecision, and then he whispered, ‘I want you inside me, too.’

Spike felt a lurch of such unexpected desire deep in his body that it was almost painful. He tried to shake his head, to deny this need, but Angel knew capitulation when he saw it. He fired the car to life and pulled away from the motel before Spike could articulate his useless denial.

Chapter 13

Everything then took on the slow inevitability of death. Poignancy coated everything they touched or did. Angel lit candles throughout the apartment as if electric light was too harsh, as if something unwanted would be exposed in that more telling light. They drank wine curled on the couch, kissing and talking about times past—and of the ones they’d lost: Darla, Dru, Cordelia, Fred, Wesley. Painful memories shared and eased, helped by the expensive wine, which softened their bodies, too, and made them ripe with need.

Finally, Spike stood and took Angel’s hand, leading him to the bed. The profound sense of sadness he felt, that some other man would inherit the need he was about to flare within Angel, almost overwhelmed him for a while.

He spread Angel face down and decorated the bed with the pretty body, arranging limbs just as he wanted them. He was so smooth and hard and muscled, rippling power and human perfection, that Spike wanted to wrap him up and prevent time finding him and taking him to that place of age and decay. But he couldn’t. All he could do for this one night was enjoy what time allowed. Allow Angel to enjoy it, too.

With a murmur, he slid lower in the bed, between Angel’s spread thighs. Like a sleek, pale, jungle cat he began to lap at the slightly salty, warm skin, licking along the hint of a crease where buttock met top of thigh, up one dense, curved cheek to the delicately hair-dusted indentation of spine and back down the other buttock. Angel shivered under his tongue and shifted on the bed to extend the invitation further.

Almost purring, Spike seized him and widened the shallow crease that held the centre of all their pleasure that night. The laps became wetter and more insistent, tonguing deep into the low valley, exploring its textures and flavours. Angel began to whisper into the mattress, but they were incoherent words not meant to be understood literally. Spike got their meaning though and penetrated Angel for the fist time, worming his tongue eagerly through the tiny folds of protection until smooth walls eased his way. He explored for a moment then withdrew, staring in fascinated delight at the wet, pink entrance. He dragged Angel higher and dove in once more, eating him hungrily, noisily. Hearing the change in Angel’s voice and feeling the tiny spasms beginning in the soft walls, he clamped a hand firmly around the base of the thick shaft that was so close to betraying them. Angel cried out in frustration but did not try to remove this restraint.

Spike returned to the waiting hole, playing with fingers and tongue, seeing how far he could stretch the opening, what dark pink secrets he could reveal and taste, lick and touch. There was no desire now to hurt this pretty backside, only longing to display it in all its glory: spread and open, gaping like a hungry little pout of need for him—his tongue, his fingers, his cock.

He was so ready he could feel tiny pulses of clear pre-ejaculate tickling out of his slit. He wanted them to tickle along Angel’s hot walls: little trails of coolness marking the passage of penetration. With his free hand, he brought his offering to the glistening bowl of Angel’s need and milked a few drops onto the heat. Angel hissed and arched, and his cock leapt free of Spike’s hold. Spike grabbed it again and slowed things down, just stroking Angel’s lower back and kissing one buttock.

With infinite care, he positioned himself against Angel once more, a perfect alignment of pestle and mortar.

Rubbing the smooth cheeks hard, pulling and stretching, he began to ease in. Angel arched, as Spike knew he would. ‘Okay?’

‘Uhhhh.’

‘Shhhh. Push out. Yeah, that’s it. Oh… Christ.’ He slid in on Angel’s push: vast, fat, wide, stretching and stroking as he went. He felt deep spasms in the soft walls and waited, shivering with the delight of knowing what he did. When they passed, he continued, until he could graze Angel’s flesh with his short, wiry hair.

He pushed up on his powerful arms and began to dip his hips, in, out—each stroke the definition of pleasure. Angel rocked with each thrust, meeting it, pulling away then meeting it again. Spike released the throbbing cock from the confines of his tight grip, and Angel began to curse, pouring forth a string of meaningless invectives, pumping his too hard shaft to find relief.

Spike eased his cock out of Angel’s body and fell to the open hole, able to push his whole mouth in. Angel began to almost sob with need, and he twisted around onto his back, pulling Spike over his body so he could have that mouth another way. As they kissed, he scrabbled frantically at Spike’s cock, urging him to push back in, lifting his legs in supplication.

Spike slid back in and began to stroke his hardness where Angel needed it.

The kisses became careless: wide-mouthed and sloppy, full of moans and meaningless sounds of pleasure.

Spike sped up, jack knifing his cock into the receptive hole, jerking that last bit needed to feel grind of hair on stretched skin. Then he circled hard, swirling his thickness to stretch the fragile walls before pulling out and doing it all again. His hand found Angel’s balls, and he played with them, connecting occasionally with Angel’s fingers on the hot shaft that lay between their bellies.

Suddenly, Spike felt his hand seized. Angel held off from a kiss for a moment and entwined their fingers. They peered down together. Hands clasped, cock pistoning in and out of Angel’s body, they came together, and neither could have said which had the strongest or more satisfying orgasm.

As he filled Angel, squirting hard and fast into the warm body, Spike buried his face into the smooth hollow of Angel’s neck. He didn’t want to see Angel’s expression or have it imprinted in his memory and taking away the pleasure of all his lonely orgasms to come.

When they were done, clinging together as the shivers left their body, it seemed to Angel that they had merged and become the average of their individual states: one alive, one dead, they were now both dying. The shock and pleasure of the sex and the knowledge that it would be the only time forced him to fight tears, and he crushed Spike harder to him, using him like a buoy so he would not drown in his own despair. Before he could stop himself, he begged, ‘Don’t leave me.’

Spike turned his cheek to lie on Angel’s shoulder. ‘What binds us together will get tighter, Angel, every day, every time we make love, every time we laugh together, every time we share some casual thought, until the parting would have to be so violent to force us apart that it would destroy us both in the process.’

Angel’s voice was croaky with the effort to control tears. ‘Then we don’t part. You stay with me until the… end.’

Spike lifted his face and trailed a finger over Angel’s broad brow. ‘I think you’d end up staking me.’ Before Angel could deny this, Spike added sadly, ‘And I think I’d probably let you.’

Please. Just for a while longer. You can’t know the future.’

Spike turned Angel’s face toward his. ‘I’m here now.’ The kiss was long, passionate; it sent blood pouring back into cocks, stiffening them once more. Spike rolled onto his back and pulled Angel to lie on him. As they kissed and played with their tongues, Spike parted Angel’s thighs and stroked his cock over the wet, sensitive flesh.

Angel grunted and sat up slightly, his hands splayed on Spike’s chest, and the one thing they both would have thought impossible happened: Angel began to ride Spike’s cock, head thrown back, as wanton as any lover Spike had ever impaled in that almost debasing position.

Even lost in this exquisite, unplanned pleasure, Angel’s brain functioned enough to realise that he was experiencing the best this would ever be. His size and weight would defeat most men, leave them lying beneath him, unable to assist. Not so Spike. He had all the strength and power needed to lift him, support him, drive up into him. And he drove deep. The huge implement Angel rode filled him entirely, warming his body from the inside with its friction on his walls, stretching him to aching, the throb so intense and pleasurable that he heard with disbelief the unbecoming moans and cries driven from his body. But the best thing of all was not his pleasure. It was Spike’s. From this position, he could watch every flicker of pleasure cross that familiar face, every jolt of surprise—and those pleased him the most. After all this time, as well as they knew each other, he’d been able to surprise Spike. The thought hardened his cock, made him desperate and wild upon Spike’s body, using it shamelessly for his relief: thumping down, grinding around, lifting off to feel exquisite evacuation—and then refilling.  Thoughtlessly, his fingers brushed over Spike’s nipples, and he pinched them. Spike’s reaction thrilled him. For the first time he heard shock and pleasure that matched his own, and he took them again between his strong fingers and kneaded and stretched them as he rode the impossible hardness within his body.

Spike writhed beneath him, and Angel grinned, breathing heavily with suppressed memories of domination and power. He tortured the reddening nipples, gripped hard with his thighs, controlled the power of the fucking, and when he caught Spike’s gaze, he saw almost no recognition in the dilated pools: Spike was lost in world of unforeseen delights, taken and held there by the power of his body. When he came, Angel’s hot sperm rained down upon Spike’s chest and over his throbbing, twitching nipples.

Spike watched, enthralled, whispering his encouragement, as the cock, unsupported, lifted and shot each arc of milky white fluid as if it were alive, spitting its fury at its pale victim.

He wanted to come, too. Fear seized him that he would not. Then Angel, still shuddering, scooped his thick, slurpy offering off Spike’s chest and fed it to him with clumsy, shaking fingers, thrusting them into his mouth, rubbing them around his face: marking him.

Spike cried out, a choked scream filling the huge apartment, grabbed Angel’s waist, and jack knifed. Intense spasms released this second load into Angel’s hot passages. He jerked for a long time—more like a man dying in agony than one being brought to life with pleasure—and when it was over, he fell death-like to the bed with the weight of Angel heavy upon him.

* * * * * * *

Angel lay with his cheek on Spike’s chest, one unnaturally red nipple temptingly within reach of his tongue, concentrating on the novel sensation of having a cock softening in his arse. He was throbbing too badly to separate all the individual feelings, but he could detect the slow trickle of come and the gradual shrinking of the vastness within. It amused him that when he licked the nipple, the shrink… reversed.

‘Quit it.’ Spike swiped gently at him, his voice husky.

‘I thought you were asleep.’

‘Uhhh.’

Smiling at the coherence of Spike’s reply, Angel stretched and slid his arms underneath the cool, relaxed figure. ‘Spike?’

‘Hmm?’

‘That thing you did with time—when you were fighting….’

‘Hmm?’

‘Can you do it now? Can you put a bubble around this bed and let us stay this way forever?’

‘What would you do when you needed to pee?’

Angel shook him slightly for being so irreverent. ‘We’d stop changing.’

‘You’d stop. I don’t change now.’

Angel was silenced for a while until the subliminal thought of pissing began to work upon his abused bladder. He gritted his teeth and tried to ignore it.

* * * * * * *

‘You’re clenching.’

‘Huh?’

‘Your ass. You’re clenching.’

‘And that’s a bad thing?’

‘No. Just thought I’d say.’

Angel admitted ruefully, ‘I need to piss.’

Spike flicked open one eye. ‘Not on me. Although….’

Angel chuckled and slowly began to pull off the semi-hard erection that had now become such an essential part of his life. Stiffly, he crawled off the bed, Spike hanging onto his fingers to the very last moment and rolling over to watch him walk away.

‘Your bottom is very pretty.’

‘Shut up.’

‘Can I come watch?’

‘You’re sick. Go fix us some drinks.’

When he came out of the bathroom, Spike was standing in front of the unfinished picture, drinks in hand. Angel came over and stood behind him, wrapping his arms around the smaller figure, fitting them together.

He studied his own picture. ‘It’s all wrong, isn’t it?’

Spike nodded. ‘I thought that when you did it, but you had to see it for yourself.’

‘I’ve never felt so….’

‘Manly?’

Angel laughed and relieved Spike of one of the drinks. ‘Myself, sure. Masculine? I guess. We double up the testosterone, not diminish it.’

‘First time I did it with a bloke, I thought I was gonna emerge wearing a frock or something. Instead, I felt like a master of the universe. I could ‘ave seeded the whole of the world.’

‘Why did you… the first time? Want to try it, I mean.’

‘Do you want the truth?’

Angel pouted, although he was aware Spike couldn’t see this. ‘That depends. Tell me and I’ll let you know.’

‘Ponce. Cus he was American, and cus he was tall and dark, and cus he reminded me of you.’

‘You’re kidding.’

Spike shook his head. ‘Wish I was.’

‘Oh. Why?’

‘Cus he was nothing like you really, and it was… frustrating.’

‘Christ. I’ve never consciously wanted anyone because they looked like you.’

‘Smallish and blond you mean.’

Angel pouted again. ‘I need another drink.’

He went over to the fridge then turned and leant on the counter, watching Spike. Spike turned his head at the sense of being watched, and they stared at each other across the flickering space that separated them.

‘I have to go now; you know that. Be easier to go ‘fore it gets light.’

‘If I find a new or better way to beg you, will you stay?’

Spike closed his eyes and tipped his head back. ‘I’ll see other men behind your back, Angel, cus one day you won’t be able to satisfy me. I’ll lie then, and you’ll know I’ve been lying, and the lies will build like a sludge of shit in your gut you won’t be able to expel. They’ll be there every time I enter you, poisoning what we have. One day, my lovers will pass for your grandchildren. Don’t beg me to stay, please. Let me do one decent thing for you in all the time I’ve known you and leave you now.’

Angel turned away and braced his arms on the counter, his shoulders stiff and resistant. Spike nodded and went into the bathroom for a shower.

* * * * * *

Angel stared at a spill of red wine on the smooth surface of the drainer. It reminded him of something, but his head was so full of grief he couldn’t extract the memory.

What was he supposed to do? This life which had seemed for the last ten years as short as a Mayfly’s precarious wing-flick upon this earth now stretched before him long, lonely and desolate. A place of no respite from pain. He was swollen and fecund with need for Spike’s body, but he would dry up and wither from the bitterness of losing him. He blinked, and the wine was no longer wine—memory transformed it to blood. He lashed out, swiping it away, knocking items off the counter.

The knife made the largest clatter as it hit the floor.

He watched it bounce in slow motion—time must have distorted as it fell, for in that falling he had time to see himself cut open, dying, dead and then… revived by Spike.

The plan hit him with the force of the orgasms driven through his body by Spike’s cock. He bent and picked up the knife. Where? In the heart? Across the wrists?

But a demon with no soul.

Would Spike do it—bring Angelus back to save him?

The telephone rang.

Angel jumped so badly the knife cut him, and not sure what he did, sucking his bleeding finger, he picked up the receiver.

‘S—Spike?’

Angel pulled the instrument away from his ear and stared at it, then replaced it. ‘No! It’s fucking not!’

‘Can you—? Angel, can I talk to Spike. Please!’

‘What the fuck is—?’

There was a grunt of pain from the other end, and the man cried urgently, ‘Please!’

Spike came out of the bathroom, rubbing his hair on a towel and saw Angel holding the phone. He frowned; his eyes flicked to the blood and then to the knife. ‘What’s going on?’

Angel held out the phone silently.

Surprised, Spike strolled over and took it from him.

Angel went into the bathroom and threw up.

* * * * * * *

What a fool he’d been! What a dumb fuck. Spike had no intention of staying with him. It was all bullshit: all the poignant, romantic crap. He was still involved with Henry Benwell! They were still so together that the man could phone here for Spike… Henry Benwell was the one who was going to be allowed to pass into old age with Spike.

Spike strode into the bathroom, about to speak, and saw Angel leaning over the sink, pale and sick. ‘What’s wrong?’

‘Just go, Spike.’

Spike swore and came to stand alongside him. ‘Some guys from the fight club came for me and took him instead. They’ve got him, Angel. And they’re gonna hurt him.’

The relief that swelled in Angel’s belly was so powerful he turned and vomited again. Spike handed him a towel then said in a low voice, ‘I have to go.’

‘I’m coming with you.’

‘No—.’

Angel pushed past him and began to dress.

Spike watched him with anxious eyes. He wanted to explain why he didn’t want him there: that he was now just another liability, someone he would have to take care of. But the thought of saying something so hurtful to Angel hurt him with an unexpected intensity. He nodded and pulled on his own clothes.

* * * * * * *

As they rode down in the elevator, Angel said calmly, ‘This is about the money you fleeced them for, yeah?’

Spike nodded although he knew that it wasn’t. Demons coveted power. It was all they really wanted, and he had it. He had it in spades, thanks to Illyria.

But he wasn’t about to give it up.

He wasn’t about to have Henry hurt, either.

Or Angel.

He sighed at the added complexity of being in love with Angel, and Angel added, missing the point of the small, weary sound, ‘You can just give it back.’

Spike nodded again.

He’d be buggered if he’d do that either.

Chapter 14

Spike was tense as he sat next to Angel in the back of the cab. He was pretty sure they wouldn’t hurt Henry until the man had served his purpose—getting him there—but he wasn’t sure enough. Angel was quiet, staring thoughtfully out of the window on his side.

Spike had just begun to wonder what he was thinking about when Angel’s hand came to rest on his thigh. He gave a squeeze and then left it there, stroking his thumb over the thin cotton.

Spike turned his head and regarded the beautiful profile.

He was very tired of missing Angel.

It seemed to him then that he had two choices: leave Angel as planned tonight and go on missing him, or have him. The missing would be worse afterwards, but it would be after: after however little time life granted them together. They would just have to make that short time their eternity.

Suddenly, Spike leant forward and gave a new address to the cabdriver. Angel questioned him with his eyes, but Spike did not explain.

* * * * * * *

Spike led the way up into the apartment he was renting and shoved open the door. Angel followed him in then stopped in wonder, staring at his own paintings.  ‘What the…?’ Spike ignored him and went to a trunk in the corner.

Angel turned to question Spike about the pictures but found a sword being laid reverently in his hands. It was his: the one he had slain the dragon with. Spike nodded. ‘You’re right: we can’t know the future. I may die before you, staked in some dumb fight with a fledgling—who knows? But I want you. I want what you gave me tonight, and I’ll want it tomorrow and the day after that. I’ll want it when you’re forty and fifty. I don’t care. And when you’re too old to bend or stretch, I’ll do that for the both of us.’

Angel lifted the sword and held it vertically against his face, closing his eyes. He stayed very still for a very long time then slowly drew Spike into his embrace, the lethal metal cold between their faces. He whispered simply, ‘Okay,’ the one casual word sealing their fates together. With a strangely familiar purpose in his tone, he added, ‘Let’s go fight some dragons.’ Spike stared at the closed eyelids, studied the immense strength of the lowered brow and had the startling thought that already there was less difference between this human and the all-powerful sire he missed so desperately.

Angel’s authority seemed to unfold around them both. He led the way back to the street and into the cab. The atmosphere was so tense between them that Spike could hardly bear to risk a glance at Angel’s expression, but when he did, he saw a familiar, dark, grim certainty on the handsome face. Something more than just the weight of decision-making fell from Spike’s shoulders.

He watched the passing nightlife, remembering their lovemaking, thinking about the future and all the lovemaking yet to come, laughing inwardly at memories of the past when the lovemaking had been only in his fervent imagination.

Angel leant over and pressed his lips to Spike’s ear. ‘Stop smirking.’

Spike choked back a reply then laughed out loud, admitting his joy. Even his fear for Henry could not dampen this moment. Angel chuckled too and tipped his head back on the seat.

Spike mirrored his position, and they rolled their heads lazily, regarding the other.

Suddenly, Spike shivered and turned away, staring out of the window once more.

Angel’s hand returned to his thigh. ‘What?’

Spike shook his head and changed the subject. ‘We’ll be there soon.’

He watched Angel out of the corner of one eye, ostensibly still watching the street. He could not explain the terrifying certainty that had just washed over him: he was going to lose this man. But it wouldn’t be in ten years or twenty or thirty; it would be tonight.

Effectively, they had already had their eternity. 

* * * * * *

Spike wanted to leave Angel in the cab—knock him out if he had to and pay the driver to take him away somewhere safe. But he was too experienced in life’s pissing games to think that this would keep Angel safe. When it was your time to go, it was your time, and it didn’t matter whether you were in the middle of a fight with hoards of demons, or unconscious on the back seat of an L.A. cab, life would end.

Somewhere, in some tiny corner of his brain, Spike got the beautiful irony that was playing out this night. They had come together in one great blaze of passion and now, because of him, because of his problems, Angel would never fade away. He would go as he had always been destined to: a warrior and a champion.

‘Spike, what’s wrong?’

Spike paid the driver and climbed out. ‘Nothing, Luv.’

Angel eyed him thoughtfully. ‘I can’t read you anymore.’

Spike grinned and poked him playfully in the ribs. ‘You never could, or we’d ‘ave been shagging a good century before this.’

Angel caught the finger and pulled him into a hug. ‘What will you tell Benwell?’

‘Huh?’

‘About us. When we’ve rescued him.’

Spike felt tears prick his eyes and pulled away. ‘Let’s go do it first, and I’ll worry about that later.’

‘But you will….’

‘Yes, Angel. I’ll tell him.’ I’ll tell him about the champion I loved who gave his life for him. I’ll try to tell him why I can’t love him anymore—why I can never love anyone again. I’ll try to tell him just how many pieces my heart lies broken in. He straightened his shoulders and walked slowly into the underground garage.

* * * * * * *

It was exceptionally eerie without the thumping music from their last visit.

Angel could not believe how natural it all felt: eeriness, Spike at his side and a huge sword in his hand. If he concentrated, perhaps he could will his heartbeat away, too.

Concentrating on stopping his heartbeat was easier than thinking about the incredible thing that had happened that night. Spike had fucked him, and Spike had agreed to stay with him. He knew he was grinning like a fool so paced ahead of Spike to enjoy his idiocy in private. He suspected he would not be grinning in ten, or twenty, or thirty years time; why not enjoy it now? He wondered how long it would take for the rot in his body to begin to show. What would come first? Grey hairs streaking his dark locks? Crowfeet around his eyes? Liver spots on his hands? Would he let it happen, or would he try to resist time’s demands by obsessive buying of the new wonder cream, the new hair product—refusing to go gentle into that goodnight. He had the sudden and frightening vision of himself sitting in a deckchair watching his young lover as hair dye dripped inexorably down his lined, grey face.

He glanced behind and found Spike watching him with a dark, enigmatic look on his face. He stopped, and when Spike caught him up, he pushed him against the wall and kissed him, feeling the sword like a metal shaft of need between them. ‘Did I tell you that I love you?’

Spike swallowed and shook his head. A tremor passed over his face, but he controlled it. ‘Tell me then.’

Angel grinned and breathed it deep into Spike’s mouth. ‘I love you.’

Spike nodded, but it seemed to Angel that it wasn’t with pleasure. It seemed to him that Spike was admitting the inevitably of something—that this declaration, such a long time coming, had decided something in Spike’s mind. Spike pressed into him, lifting his leg and entwining them, pulling him back for another kiss. They shared their mouths and tongues, exchanging saliva and smiling into the exchange. Finally, kissing Angel’s lower lip as he pulled away, Spike murmured, ‘Come be a champion for me one last time, Pet.’

Angel heard in this only that Spike thought their future life together would be a peaceful one where champions were not required. This suited him just fine. He nodded, ran his hand once more down the sword just to check its balance was true, then turned and went on, down into the dying of the light.

* * * * * *

The scene that greeted them made Spike reel with its theatrical horror. He staggered and felt Angel’s hand grip his arm, reassuring and solid.

The stage was illuminated by one powerful overhead spotlight that streaked its beams down in a brilliant column of light to a pale figure.

Henry had been crucified, his blood pooling darkly around his feet, the simple wooden cross an obscene taunt in this demonic place.

Spike’s knees gave way, and he sank to the ground. It was too much, coming so close upon his premonition of Angel’s death tonight. It was more than just his human lover up there, hung like a sacrifice to his selfishness.  Suddenly, the horror of losing Henry, losing Angel, losing everything he ever loved overwhelmed him, and he surged to his feet, ready to run to the stage. Angel’s hand tightened. ‘Stop. Wait. He’s just tied, Spike. It’s not blood.’

Spike snapped his head up and forced his preternatural senses past the fear for Angel that held his body in a knot of pain. It wasn’t blood. It was dark shadow from the hanging body. And not hanging: standing. Not nailed: strapped. Angel eased him into the shadows that coated the walls like thick molasses and whispered, ‘He’s bait.’

Spike cursed softly. His senses should have told him all this, not Angel’s.

Angel was sparking, wired, as animated as he’d been when impaled and pleasuring himself on Spike’s thick cock. He had the same sexual, animal energy, and Spike drew closer, needing it, wanting it.

Thinking they’d been unobserved, it nevertheless didn’t surprise either of them when after a slight crackle a voice came over the loud speaker. ‘Welcome. You honour us with your presence, God-fighter.’

Spike ignored the sarcasm evident in the tone and stepped into the light. ‘Come out where I can see you.’

A man stepped out the office next to the announcer’s gallery flanked by a small army of vicious-looking demons. They were hideous and menacing, but they paled into insignificance compared to what they held restrained around their chunky, demonic wrists. Each demon held the leash of a dog—in the loosest definition of canine. Larger than small ponies, jaws like a sharks, these creatures strained and disturbed the air with low, vicious growls—air that wavered in the heat the creatures exuded. For each dog flickered with flame, spines of orange and yellow and blue. It looked as if they’d been set on fire, but the flames came from within. These creatures were formed from the flames of hell; pain was their rendering, and pain induced their insane intensity.

Despite the prospect facing them, Spike could not help a tiny smile when he heard Angel whisper, ‘Bring on the dragons.’

Henry had seen them, and he straightened, pulling on his restraints. Spike tried not to look at him: he didn’t need the distraction.  With a confidence he didn’t feel, he marched up to the group and folded his arms. ‘I’m here now. Let him go.’ The demons laughed. The dogs howled and strained to be free. The man pursed his lips and seemed to be considering Spike’s demand. Then he laughed, too. ‘Interesting suggestion, but… no. I want what you have, Spike: your power. And I’m thinking if you came here voluntarily for him, you’ll do a lot more than that when we start to take him apart—limb by limb. I can make it last for such a long time, Vampire.’

Spike kept whatever he felt deep inside and said with a smirk, ‘Then you’d kinda be defeating the whole point of this impressive little drama, Mate.’

The man narrowed his eyes. ‘How so?’

Spike leant forward conspiratorially, blowing a cheeky kiss to the dog closest to him. ‘He is my power.’ He felt Angel’s eyes boring into his back. He felt Henry’s swivel with confusion to him, but he only shrugged his shoulders slightly and added to one mucus-dripping demon, ‘Don’t suppose you’ve got a fag, Mate… the English kind, course.’

The man waved his arm to prevent the demon moving, as if he actually had been about to rummage in his leathery hide to find a cigarette for Spike. ‘What do you mean?’

Spike looked bored and glanced for the first time at Henry as if the whole subject wearied him intensely. ‘He’s not human. He’s a key, formed into the shape of a human to hide it.’ It had sounded better coming from Giles—but then Giles hadn’t been lying.

‘A key?’

‘Yeah. A mystical key.’ It sounded convincing enough, though, so he ploughed on. ‘He is my power—my key to the God’s power. Why do you think I bring him to all my fights? And why do you think he never shows up on the scanners as being human?’ He almost poked the man in the chest to emphasise this brilliant point, but refrained at the last moment: lying was best done with less obvious intent.

One of the brighter looking demons leant toward his boss and murmured, ‘Kid was with him in New York when he defeated Lord. They say he’s always with him.’

The man nodded thoughtfully.  ‘Seems to me my original plan was fine all along: we hack him up; his power’s released; I get it.’

Spike tutted and shook his head. ‘Now, how you gonna do that? You can’t just release mystical energy and suck it up like big cosmic Hoover. ‘Specially as my freakily good senses tell me that you’re just a blood and bone regular human—and how’s that working out for you: exploiting all us demons again…?’

Suddenly, the peaceful, slow negotiation went wrong. Spike sensed it before he actually turned his head and saw it—saw Angel on the stage, sword raised over Henry, releasing him, protecting him. In that one moment, under the brilliant fall of light, Angel returned to Spike as he had once been: pale death, all-powerful—his sire.

Then the demons released the dogs.

They flowed onto the stage, more fire than flesh.

Angel slashed Henry free then turned the sword upon the first of the hounds, but when he hacked at it, it turned to pure fire, roaring up his arm as if powered with a back draft from hell.

One by one, the fire-beasts enveloped Angel, but in the last glimpse that Spike had of him, his grin was triumphant. Spike suddenly knew why he had felt such a forceful premonition of death that night: it had come from Angel.

Angel had found his eternity.

* * * * * * *

Spike howled as viciously as the dogs, but he could not reach the stage. The demons overwhelmed him. Suddenly, he rose above them, time standing still in his presence for an infinitesimal moment. But it was not enough. Distraught, he could not sustain the illusion—for that is all it was, all it had ever been: parlour-tricks taught to him by a bored God, as they had lain sated from their own peculiar passions.

He fought like a man who was losing the one thing that sustained him. He fought like a mother for her child; a soldier for his brother; a man for his lover. But it was not enough. Not all his power and skill could save the two humans who were now indistinguishable in the flames that consumed the stage.

Chapter 15

The club owner cowered against the window of his office, his image wavering in reflected fire. Spike despatched the last of the demons that held him back from the deaths being enacted in front of him.

He tried to leap upon the stage, but the flames beat him back.

He screamed Angel’s name. He choked on the heat as it seared his throat.

And then something moved.

Something small and insignificant yet filling vast space with its presence.

It emerged from the flames, streaming blue behind it like cold flame.

‘Is this what you screech so piteously for, Half-breed?’

Illyria, holding the scruff of Angel’s neck in one hand and Henry’s in the other, stepped out of the flame.

She didn’t wait for Spike to reply but dumped them unceremoniously off the stage. ‘I grow weary of waiting for your reply, Vampire.’

She jumped off and walked up to the man frozen against the glass, his eyes following her progress as a minnow might a shark’s. ‘You’re the ancient one…. He defeated you….’

She tipped her head to one side and fixed him with her speculative, blue gaze. ‘Why do you still live?’

As if given a cue, the man scrabbled frantically at nothing and began to run.

Spike fell to his knees at the humans’ side, but Henry began to scrabble frantically away from him, shaking his head in rapid denial. He collided with the hacked up body of a demon, its yellow puss-like blood gooey on his hands. He cried out and tried to wipe them on his pants, frantic, careless, sitting amongst severed body parts.

Spike bowed his head and whispered, ‘I’m so sorry. It shouldn’t have ended like this.’

Henry hesitated for a moment then staggered to his feet and ran blindly in the direction he had seen the other human go. He could not have demonstrated more forcibly that he agreed with Spike’s assessment: it was finally over.

Illyria watched him go with the same interested regard she gave to the smallest, most insignificant amoeba. ‘His fear stinks more than the scum your kind once fed upon.’

Spike felt a movement at his side, and Angel stood, dark and burnt and bleeding, but his eyes full of cold intent. ‘How are you here, Illyria? How did you know where we were? That we….’ He glanced at the stage, still burning, but did not continue.

She glanced at him dismissively. ‘My power rose like fury into the air and summoned me.’ She turned her gaze to Spike and fixed him with it as effectively as a pin would fix a bug. ‘You misuse it, Vampire.’

Angel took a step toward her. ‘You fucked him and gave it to him!’

Her head snapped back to Angel. ‘The Half-breed lies like Hope and Love did in my world! I allowed him to be my Pet and rub whining against my leg.’

Spike coloured.

Angel gritted his teeth. ‘Then how the power?’

To his amazement, Illyria looked away. ‘It appears I leak to those I favour.’

‘And you picked Spike to… leak with?’

‘I like his voice. He reminds me of—.’

His name did not need to be spoken between them, missed as he was by each of them so very much.

Illyria shook her head as if sloughing off all unnecessary feeling and reiterated, ‘Decide, Vampire. I am impatient to leave this place of such mediocrity. If you do not want my power, it will dissipate into the universal whole of which I was once so great a part. Decide.’

Spike didn’t turn to look back at Angel. ‘I have.’

She held his gaze for the longest of times. To Angel, it seemed that the intensity of the look entirely belied her claim about the nature of their relationship. Finally, she nodded. ‘I read your heart as if it were the book of your life, Spike.’

She turned to look at herself in the reflection of the huge window, her eyes travelling from Angel’s dark form, to Spike’s absence, to her own brilliance, not dimmed despite deficiencies in the mirror. ‘This world will not see my like again. I almost grieve.’

Suddenly, in a crack of vast energy, her image fragmented.

And in that instant of her departure, Spike regretted his decision. He screamed, sending her name high into the empty building, begging her to return. Anything—old age, decay, dying, death—would be better than being parted from Angel as profoundly as he was now. But it was too late—she was gone, and all her vast power with her.

He stared at the place she had last occupied as if he could absorb a vestige of her power.

And it was only then that he saw that Angel had disappeared.

* * * * * * *

The glass was entirely empty, quavering slightly from the power of the exit of a God.

Spike spun around on a half-choked scream… and there he was—Angel, on the ground, blown down and bleeding.

But not in the mirror….

Refusing to listen to the traitor Hope that rose teasingly in his heart, Spike fell to his knees, cradling the unconscious form.  It was cooling.

It had no pulse.

Its heart had stopped.

It was dead.

* * * * * * *

His eyes flew open full of dark power.

Spike’s belly clenched with a morass of uncontrollable emotions. ‘Angel? Angelus…?’

A blink greeted his timorous question.

A dark gaze travelled to emptiness in the glass.

The gentlest of voices murmured, ‘Thank you.’ When he heard this soft gratitude, Spike knew that some great debt, owed since Fred’s painful death, had finally been paid.

Angel rose from the bloodied floor, resonating all his power and glory, stretching into his so-familiar body. ‘She has restored me. I am as I was before—before I stepped out into that first sunshine.’

Spike stood, too, and they faced each other, their pale faces illuminated by the dying flames. Spike feared his voice would betray him, but he forced out, ‘She said she read my heart.’

Angel smiled gently. ‘And you knew mine.’

A stab of guilt for what he’d done made Spike’s face clench with worry. ‘But you always wanted to be human, Angel! You fought so hard for it!’

Angel silenced him with a cool finger across his lips, pressing just too hard and smiling just too seductively for the gesture to be entirely for quieting. ‘I wanted to be free of the guilt. I wanted to be free of the curse. And now I am.’ His eyes flashed with a mysterious light. ‘This is my soul, Spike. As yours is: wanted and cherished.’

Suddenly, he grabbed Spike’s shoulders and spun him around wildly, almost dancing over the corpses at their feet. ‘I want to live, Spike. I want to live! Hell, I think I want to be here when she makes her next appearance. What do you say? You and me? A thousand years together?’

Spike began to laugh, more from release of fear and tension than from real amusement at this idea, but he didn’t ruin Angel’s moment by telling him this.

Angel laughed, too, and began to edge him toward the wall.  Spike read his intent in the dilating pupils, smelt his desire in the pheromones pouring off his demonic body. He flicked his gaze, repelled and surprised, to the scene of death behind. It seemed wrong and out of character, somehow, that Angel would want him after what had happened here tonight. Suddenly, Spike dropped his chin onto his chest and chuckled. Angel was a demon once more, and he was only reminding them both what that meant.

Angel read the emotions flickering across Spike’s expressive face with an ease that belied his ten-year vacation from such perception. He nodded with pleasure when he saw that Spike understood. Slyly, with an ability to flirt honed over three centuries, he asked, ‘How many fucks could we have in a thousand years?’

Spike smirked. ‘Maths was never my strong point.’

Angel kissed into his neck, biting hard. ‘Nor mine… I know what one and one makes though.’

* * * * * * *

It was rough, hard fucking, bloodied and bold against the wall. They could do finesse; they could do romance—they’d proved it. They just didn’t want to do it—not this time. Not for this great, longed for reunion.

Angel felt the pain and anguish of the last ten years slough off him as easily as the sweat from his brow. He felt the lies finally stop squirming in his gut. His dead body didn’t even feel strange; it welcomed him like a familiar. If felt strange to be inside Spike’s body in this body—that he would admit. But strange was good. Strange was very, very good. Strange was tight and dangerous and exciting and wrong and right and defined something he couldn’t even begin to name.

He was flooded with the aphrodisiac of his own power and beauty. God-like power perhaps. Perhaps it would wear off. Perhaps in a few days, riding his cock high into Spike’s rectum wouldn’t make him feel colossus-like: striding through a world he entirely mastered.

But it did now .

And maybe he was leaking some of this great power into Spike, for Spike seemed, to Angel, illuminated from within: glowing and alive, hot and sweet and fuckingly edible. He bit him, sucking noisily, and Spike laughed—a long peel of sound. It was deep and melodious, ringing in this beginning, this ending, until broken by sharp gasps of orgasm overtaking it.

As Angel released deep inside Spike’s body, he could not help but wonder at the paradox that he had produced live seed when so profoundly dead but dead seed now—when he sparked and pulsed with this magical, fascinating life.

He pulled out and put his fingers to Spike’s hole, playing in the slurpy mess, easing it back inside with strong, insistent pushes. Spike moaned. Angel possessed his lips with his own, and they were ready to go again.

Only then did Angel turn to the scene behind them and whisper, ‘I want slow and sweet now. I want to make you shiver for me, Spike. I want you whimpering and begging me for your release. I want you out of here.’

Spike stood still and unresisting as Angel dressed him. He watched the pale fingers working his zipper and buttons, felt them on his face, cleaning him, rubbing through his hair then said simply, ‘I’m not your childe.’

Angel went on working as if he’d not heard this—as if he didn’t know exactly what Spike meant by it. Spike felt a tiny worm of mutinous fury wriggle into his brain, and he added, ‘I’m not going back to being less than you. I won’t whimper or beg for your cock. I’m top of the food chain, Angel. Things have changed. I’ve changed.’

Angel smiled and finished buttoning Spike’s shirt. He patted him down, pleased. ‘I guess I’ll have to make you beg for my asshole then. Now, are you coming?’ He flicked up an eyebrow and strode out without a glance at the mayhem he left behind.

Spike leant back against the wall and smiled, unable to keep his pleasure inside. He looked down at his feet. ‘Sweet dreams, Blue.’

* * * * * * *

Angel was already in the street, waiting for him. As soon as Spike emerged, Angel began to run. He was running for the sheer pleasure of being able to. He flowed like mercury: spookily smooth and compact, the glint of metal from his sword only adding to this illusion. He caught Spike’s arms and danced him around then took off again into the night. Spike knew that Angel wanted to hunt and feed—he did too—and it seemed for this one night that the world and all that was contained within it was theirs to do with as they pleased. Like an astronaut newly returned to earth, astounded by the power of gravity, Angel would feel the irresistible pull of blood.

And then a shadow moved. Spike felt something lurch within his gut, as if that deep, unseen part of his body sensed that some terrible moment of decision had arrived.

The old homeless man mumbled and shifted again.

Angel slowed his flight and pooled, dark yet silvery, at his side.

He cupped the man’s face, staring at his drunken incomprehension, fascinated.

Spike wanted to intervene, to prevent what he knew was about to happen. He would even turn time back and have Angel human once more, if he could only prevent this inevitability. But he stayed where he was and observed.

Angel or Angelus, this dark creature would do as he pleased.

‘Ten years.’ Angel bent closer to the man and repeated, ‘Ten years.’

Spike bowed his head and begged silently in his head, ‘Don’t.

Angel suddenly lurched up and grabbed Spike’s arms. ‘Ten years! I’ve helped no one for ten years! They’ve been entirely alone.’ He turned and rummaged in his pockets, only coming up with a few notes. He rummaged in Spike’s, too, then knelt beside the man and pushed all the money he’d found deep into a torn pocket. Spike blinked to clear his vision but still couldn’t see too clearly. From feared demon to God-like saviour, his reactions to Angel were veering dangerously out of control—he really needed to start seeing him as the irritating ponce he'd always seen him.

Angel left the man and came to Spike’s side, sliding his arms around his waist. Nudging Spike’s mouth to a good position, he began to kiss him, open-mouthed and passionate. He sensed Spike smiling into the kiss and couldn’t hide a tiny smirk himself. He whispered, ‘Ye of little faith,’ and took off again into the night.

They came to a park, grass and trees just formless dark shapes in the night, the metal structures of play equipment eerily still. Angel leapt onto a swing, then in one fluid movement jumped for the top bar and swung onto it, crouching feral-like to survey his shadowy domain. Spike watched shapes shifting nervously in the trees, predators of very different prey. Henry had liked cruising parks at night—but Spike did not need any added complications in his fragile emotional state, so repressed all thoughts of the man he would not see again.

Angel materialised beside him, and Spike could swear that gravity altered for Angel’s convenience, landing as he did with less impact than if a cat had graced him with its presence. He walked to a small bank of grass at the back of the play park and flung himself down, gesturing for Spike to join him.

They lay side by side on the sweet-smelling grass in the centre of the vast city, listening to the sounds of the night. Angel chuckled. ‘Look at the stars.’

Spike frowned. ‘Huh? Too much light pollution.’

Angel shook his head. ‘Look harder.’  Spike turned his head instead to watch Angel’s profile. Suddenly, he sat up. ‘What the fuck?’

Angel turned lazily to him. ‘What?’

Spike licked his lips. ‘Nothing.’ He lay back down. ‘Your eyes looked blue—but it was just a reflection, I guess.’

Angel lifted an eyebrow. ‘Maybe of the stars.’

‘Yeah, the blue stars.’ He so needed to start smoking again.

‘I can hear the grass growing and the echoes of the children who were here today.’

‘Stop it.’

Angel propped himself up on one elbow, looking down at Spike. ‘I can hear your heartbeat.’

‘You’re gonna get smacked in a minute, Mate.’

‘Echoes… perhaps memories of how strong and hot it once was.’ He placed a hand over Spike’s heart then opened his shirt and slid it onto the cool skin. He stroked his flat palm over Spike’s nipple, the delicate gentleness of his touch in startling contrast to the power he’d been demonstrating all night. One by one, he undid the buttons of Spike’s shirt until the slim torso was a brilliant object of reflected moonlight in the otherwise murky pool of shadows. He replaced his hand over Spike’s heart and nudged his mouth against Spike’s ear. ‘Concentrate. Can you feel starlight upon your skin?’

Spike was so wired by the feel of Angel upon his skin he hissed and nodded faintly in response. Angel bent to the other nipple and kissed it with the lightness of touch of an insect wing. Spike moaned and arched for more. Keeping his gaze fixed on Spike’s, Angel slid his hand slowly down the prominent ribs to the hollow of his concave belly. He swirled a finger around the belly button, pressing harder now, eliciting stronger moans. Stretching his hand to its considerable full extent, one finger slipped beneath Spike’s waistband.

It was Angel’s turn to groan as his sensitive fingertips brushed the hidden line of hair. He snatched his hand out and fumbled over Spike’s thighs, murmuring with pleasure when he found a thick jungle creeper distorting the smooth trunk of leg. He fell to it and mouthed into it, biting and sucking through the material. Not a creeper then—a snake woken, rising and throbbing under his lips. He pushed his hand back into the jeans and spread his fingers, pushing down over Spike’s wiry hair, running his fingers through it, spreading the undergrowth to find the snake in the grass. He touched it, and it reared up. Spike cried out, fumbling, lifting his hips, and it was free, rising milky and blind into the night, wavering and naked.

Angel grunted like a predator but fell like a supplicant to its root, nuzzling in around the stretched tendons, grooming Spike with his tongue. Slowly, he lifted his face up the swaying, pumped muscle, tracing with his tongue one prominent, dark vein.

Spike whimpered when Angel reached the tip. It was still trapped within its tight skin, hot and painful. He lifted a hand, but Angel rolled on top of his legs, pinning his arms. With great concentration, Angel began to free Spike’s cockhead—with his mouth. He slipped his tongue under the tightness; he nudged it with his lips. He tested its stretch with strong sucks, pulling it up then letting it sink back. When he sensed that Spike could take no more, he opened his throat and took Spike there—no warning, he just swallowed him. Somewhere on the journey to the back of Angel’s throat, Spike’s cockhead popped out of his foreskin and only the spongy, sensitive tip finally came to rest against the willing walls.

Just as swiftly, Angel pulled off and left Spike’s cock wet and hard in the moonlight. He blew on the wetness, lying hard and heavy over the wriggling body beneath. He watched thoughts and feelings flit across Spike’s mobile face for a while then laughed at his own game and swallowed him once more.

Somewhere in the back of both their minds, they were aware that this was the first time Angel had ever tasted another man’s cock. Those distinctions didn’t seem to matter now. It was a night for firsts: for new and old to merge and loose distinction. He blew Spike like a pro, tormenting him, teasing him, making the slim body sing for him, every nerve in tune with the agonising pleasure he was giving.

When it was finally time for the snake to spit its load, he eased it out of his mouth and held it in a tight fist, working it against his tongue, milking it. It jerked with life and began to splatter the walls of his mouth and throat. Sperm pooled on his tongue. He lapped at the wide hole and felt the strength of Spike’s release tickle as it shot past. He swallowed then swallowed again, come over his tongue, come spilling over his lips, come cool and salty on his palate.

With a moan of thwarted need, Spike rose up and seized Angel’s face between strong hands. He kissed and licked then mouthed wide and wet into Angel’s mouth, sucking the flavours from him. Their passion became noisy and out of control. Prying eyes that may have overlooked the previous activity could not mistake this. They rolled down the bank, a tangle of limbs, trying to climb into each other’s mouths, and then Spike was on top; Angel was pinned beneath, and Spike arched his face to the stars. Not a single man watching mistook that look. Somehow, in the roll, Angel had been released and Spike exposed, and he was impaling himself on the hard column that jutted so thick and needy from the open pants.

Spike’s shirt tails covered their joining—when he was fully impaled. When he rose, the solid meat pushing into him was entirely revealed. He leant forward to find Angel’s mouth, and all was made known: pale stretch and pulsing size.

As they kissed, Angel whispered deep into Spike’s mouth, ‘Can you hear them?’ Spike nodded and kissed Angel more wildly to the erotic sounds of slap, slap upon human flesh and moans of incredulous delight.

Their demons rose to the occasion, subjugating more natural human discretion. On a stage of grass and moonlight they fucked with the abandon of animals but with the skill and emotions of men, until with a cry more of capture than release, they came together, shuddering, mewing and spilling.

All around them, the night seemed to pant and moan in tune with them, orchestrated by their passion.

Spike fell onto Angel and embraced him, resting his check against Angel’s shoulder, uncaring that he was spread and exposed, enjoying the cool night air on his wet hole. Gradually, as if reluctant to leave its new home, Angel’s cock slipped out and plopped wetly onto his thigh. He wrapped his arms tightly around Spike’s back and sighed. Spike chuckled. ‘I like slow and sweet.’

Angel lifted up and peered at the top of Spike’s head. ‘We haven’t gotten there yet. This was… what shall I call it? Interlude in the park.’ He climbed to his feet, pulling Spike with him, adjusting their clothes. ‘Slow and sweet is for when we get home.’

Spike frowned and allowed Angel to dress him once more. Home? It had not occurred to him that human Angel still existed—in Angel’s memory anyway. Somehow, he had assumed that the ten years were over for Angel as effectively as they were for him—wiped out by the power of Angel’s resurrection to their life.

How was this going to work?

They began to walk toward the edge of the park, leaving their new worshipers to their particular rites of devotion.

* * * * * * *

Still pumped and wired on Illyria’s power, Angel decided to take to the rooftops.  Spike followed him, leap for leap, studying the form he knew so well. He had not thought beyond the restoration of his sire. A thousand years? He’d be buggered if he was going to spend the next thousand years in this damn city watching Angel paint.

They neared the apartment, and Angel came to a halt, holding up his hand. ‘Hear that?’

‘Stars? Grass? Heart-fucking-beats?’

Angel ignored the sarcasm. ‘Sirens.’

Spike heard it, too.

‘Let’s go see.’

Spike smiled softly. ‘My champion….’

Angel swiped at him then stepped off the building. Spike peered over, cursed, then followed. He didn’t land nearly as gracefully and hobbled after Angel, muttering.

As they drew closer to the sound, Angel began to run, and it wasn’t until they rounded the final corner that Spike got why.

Angel’s apartment block was on fire.

Flames leapt up to the sky just as viciously but inflicting more damage than the ones that had tried to consume Angel that night.

Fire engines surrounded the building, and the place was chaotic stage of blue and orange.

Incredulous, Spike lifted his face and watched the flames billow out of the windows. ‘Do you think this was some kind of revenge attack?’ He thought, “Fight-guy”; Angel thought, “Benwell!”

Angel pushed past a barrier and grabbed the arm of a fireman. ‘That’s my apartment. What happened?’

The man stared contemptuously at Angel. ‘The damn place was filled with burning candles.’

Angel turned to Spike, his eyes widening. He mouthed, ‘The candles!’

‘It looked like a great place, too. Tough break, buddy—you’ve lost a lot of valuables.’

Angel watched the flames, their light flickering in his dark pupils like some demonic inner light. Then he began to laugh. He stretched out his arm and snagged Spike around his neck, pulling him close. ‘Only valuable thing I have is here.’

They turned their backs to the burning building and began to stroll into the dark that wrapped around them, embracing them. Too close to be anything other than intimates, they nevertheless walked with too much easy confidence to be anything other than equals.



The End

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