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Angel wasn’t watching Spike, but he was becoming increasingly irritated by what he was doing. He wasn’t going to let him see this, of course. He played with his fountain pen instead, capping and uncapping it, whilst the infuriating bleep, bleep continued.
When the client arrived, Spike was supposed to stand in—silently—for Gunn. Angel wasn’t about to explain to anyone that his promised legal genius was taking a short holiday in hell. Spike, therefore, had to take his place—silently.
He’d arrived in good time, which had surprised and pleased Angel. He’d looked serious, intent on the task ahead. He’d sat down and opened his briefcase purposefully, and Angel had relaxed fractionally, sitting down at the head of the conference table to study the background briefs. Then Spike had produced it: the bleep, bleep thing, which was now driving Angel insane.
Even though he wasn’t giving Spike the satisfaction of watching him, or of admitting to even noticing what he was doing, the small smirk that hovered around Spike’s lips as he played the Gameboy obsessed him. He desperately wanted to wipe it off. He knew exactly how he wanted to do that, too. He’d been good at that once. Once, Spike would not have smirked in his presence.
Just at the very moment when he saw himself lunging across the table and inserting the Gameboy into the smirk, his buzzer sounded. He closed his eyes and spoke into the intercom. ‘Yes.’
‘Mr Ingram’s here, Boss.’
‘Okay. Send him in.’ Angel opened his eyes and tried to relax. Spike was still bleeping. Angel watched him incredulously, but at the very last moment, just as a man appeared in the doorway between the offices, Spike slipped the toy into his pocket and straightened with a serious, concerned look on his face.
Angel rose and held out his hand. ‘I’m Angel.’
The man shook hands and took the chair opposite Spike. ‘You come very highly recommended, Mr Angel.’
‘It’s just Angel.’
‘Of course. Angel.’ He looked expectantly at Spike, clearly waiting for an introduction.
Angel smirked slightly and said, ‘So, Mr Ingram, how can we help you?’ As soon as he’d spoken, he regretted not introducing Spike. Now he’d given the bastard a status that introducing him wouldn’t have. ‘This is Spike.’ How hard would that have been? Now though, Spike sat there like some sort of covert operative. Although he was still not watching him at all, Angel could see that Spike was enjoying this, playing the part in his mind. He missed the client’s next comment and had to say weakly, ‘Sorry?’ Spike didn’t smirk, but he did nod wisely, which had just about the same effect on Angel.
‘I said: I assume you’ve read my proposal?’
Angel hesitated. He’d meant to. He had it in front of him. He would have read it if a certain someone hadn’t distracted him so successfully. ‘Perhaps you’d like to outline the salient points, Mr Ingram. I believe in making proposals in person.’ If you smirk, I swear I will leap this table and rip you another, somewhere less visible. Spike didn’t move a muscle, and Angel tried to concentrate on the man’s words.
He caught up about halfway through. ‘… and although they extended me every assistance, I felt it time to move on. Wolfram and Hart is never one to entirely drop a client, so when I proposed relocating my business from New York to L.A., it was proposed that I negotiate similar… assistance… from yourself.’
‘Exactly what business are you in, Mr Ingram? Your brief wasn’t all that clear.’
‘I have many interests, Mr Angel—Angel. I diversified some years ago: telecommunications, research….’
‘You’re a kiddie pornographer.’
Angel had to give Spike credit—for a first contribution to a meeting it was a good one. He glared privately at him, then turned back to apologise to his client, but caught the tail end of a furious look just slouching off the man’s face. Despite his expression, he said calmly enough, ‘As I said: many interests.’ He leant forward and regarded Spike carefully. ‘We weren’t introduced.’
Spike—by now expertly twisting his pen through his fingers with great concentration—replied, ‘No, we weren’t.’
The man laughed—apparently genuinely amused. ‘Are you human?’
Spike pursed his lips. ‘Are you?’
‘Spike!’ Angel leant forward. ‘Could you please go and ask if Wesley would join us for a moment.’ He had no idea what he’d do when Wesley actually turned up, but anything to get rid of Spike for a while.
Spike lifted his head from his absorption in the spinning pen and gave him a look. Angel flinched and said more softly, ‘I can handle this. I need for you to….’
‘Angel….’ It was so rare that Spike ever used his name like this—having that English thing about ever actually doing so—that Angel was momentarily distracted. It sounded odd. He was more used to the name Angelus easing over those lips. He shook his head to stop Spike continuing. ‘Please.’
Spike rose to his feet, shoving his chair back. He left, giving a fairly good impression of flouncing. If he’d slammed a door, it would have entirely completed the image. He stormed over to Angel’s desk and picked up the handset, turned to show it to Angel with a suitable expression and punched some numbers.
Angel sighed and turned back to his client to apologise, but the man seemed oblivious to the emotions that had flown silently between the vampires. He was watching Spike, and for a moment, at Ingram’s expression, Angel’s mouth watered, a subliminal thought of blood creeping in. ‘Mr Ingram. I do things differently here in the L.A. branch. I think you’ve been misinformed. I can’t help….’
Angel sat back, annoyed by the man’s contemptuous tone and continued fixation on Spike (who was now sitting in his chair and rummaging through his drawers.)
‘Pity for you….’
‘No, Angel, actually it’s a pity for you. You see… I’ve heard that you have a little demon problem that I could have helped with… cured, so to speak.’
For one freaky moment, Angel thought that the man was offering him a cure for Spike.
He swallowed and said blankly, ‘Cure?’
‘Hmm. The ancient one—Illyria. I was going to tell you how to send her back to where she came from—how to retrieve your colleague.’
Angel leant forward sharply. ‘Bullshit. You come from the East Coast and suddenly know all….’
‘Did it not occur to anyone why Illyria chose Winifred Burkle?’
Angel wasn’t sure whether it was the man’s impressive knowledge of his affairs or his supercilious attitude that was most putting his back up. He hedged his bets and said neutrally, ‘An acolyte chose Fred.’
‘Rubbish. Do you really think a creature of Illyria’s power would leave a decision of that magnitude to a minion? She picked Fred because she knew Fred was the only person who would have known how to destroy her. She had to destroy her first.’
‘Fred. Fred would have known…?’
‘It’s all science in the end, Angel. You may call it magic, but that’s just science beyond our ken.’
‘I don’t believe you.’
‘I don’t really give a shit whether you do or not. It’s immaterial now.’ He rose.
‘Wait. Was it true—what Spike said?’
The man sat down again, stretching out his legs comfortably, as you might do under your own desk. ‘Spike. I see why he’s called that now. It suits him.’
As if sensing his name being spoken, Spike looked up from whatever he was doing on Angel’s desk. Angel didn’t acknowledge him, but continued to stare at the man.
Ingram, however, was giving Spike a very long, frank appraisal. When he’d had his fill, he turned and said carefully, ‘It was true, but for the same level of protection as I enjoyed under your New York branch, I’m willing to allow that slice of my business to… slide.’
Angel felt an unaccustomed surge of hope wash through his body. He tried to keep the eagerness off his face. ‘Then I think we can help each other.’
The man smiled. ‘I have some conditions of my own though.’
‘Conditions? I don’t do deals.’
‘If you want my information, Angel, you will.’
Angel picked up his pen and tapped it against his lips. ‘I’m listening.’
The man nodded and looked down. ‘I want Spike for a night.’
Angel frowned and repeated blankly. ‘You want Spike for a night.’
Ingram crossed his legs nonchalantly. ‘Yes—willing and able. I have personal reasons, too, why I left New York. It was getting too… small… for me. No… challenge… left.’
Angel’s mind was still a white sheet of nothingness. ‘I’m sorry. I’m not following you. Spike isn’t actually a lawyer….’
The man laughed. ‘It’s not his legal briefs I’m planning to examine.’
The penny suddenly dropped, and so did Angel’s jaw. ‘OH!’
‘So—do we have a deal?’
‘Jesus! I don’t speak for Spike! Not in his…. No!’
‘I heard Spike was fond of Fred. Very fond. She was willing to sacrifice herself to bring him back—so I heard.’
‘You are well informed.’
‘I’m thirty-one and one of the richest men in America. Good intelligence on the enemy is the commodity I value the most—the commodity I’m willing to pay the most for.’
‘Am I your enemy?’
For one moment, a crack appeared in the man’s veneer of supreme confidence. ‘No… that I would not like. You would be a very unfortunate enemy to make.’
Angel hid his pleasure and nodded.
‘So, as I said: Spike must feel some obligation to Fred? Some debt?’
Angel ran his fingers through his hair. ‘Shit. You can’t seriously expect him to…. And why him?’
The man looked puzzled and jerked his head back. ‘Why him?’
Angel waved his hand dismissively at the figure now studying them intently from the outer office. ‘He’s a… moron.’
‘I’m not interested in his intellect.’
‘I didn’t mean that. Look….’ Angel felt a sense of supreme weariness creep over him. ‘I won’t ask this of him—I wouldn’t ask it of anyone.’
‘Because you fear he’ll say yes.’
‘You know he’ll say yes—that his love for Fred will make him agree to my terms. That’s why you won’t ask him.’
‘Damn you….’ Angel stood up. ‘You’ll have your answer by six this evening.’
The man nodded, stood up, offered his hand, did not seem put out when it was not taken, and strode out of the office, giving Spike a small smile as he passed.
Angel had the distinctly upsetting thought that he’d been manoeuvred into something he didn’t want to do by being goaded with something he didn’t want to consider.
He strode out to his office. ‘Get out of my fucking chair. What have you stolen?’
Spike stood and stretched. ‘Nothing. Nothing worth nicking. So, have you dealt with the devil again?’
Angel pursed his lips. ‘I’ve got work to do, Spike.’
‘Why were you two talking about me?’
‘You flatter yourself.’
‘No… I never do that. I can read my name on someone’s lips though.’
Angel went to stand at the window, his arms folded across his chest. ‘He says he knows how to bring Fred back.’
‘Huh? That dumb pillock?’
Angel turned. ‘Is that what you thought of him?’
Spike came closer. ‘Don’t tell me you believed him?’
‘I’m not sure. He seemed to know a lot about Illyria and Fred.’
‘Duh! He had five minutes in the lobby with the blond bimbo before she showed him in!’
‘No, it was more than that.’
‘Well, okay, if you think so. So? Where is she?’
‘He had… conditions.’
‘Oh, bollocks. Let me guess: access to the Powers; unlimited licence to do evil; virgin sacrifices allowed every second Tuesday in the….’
Spike didn’t move for a minute then he came up to Angel at the window. ‘I’d slice and dice him in a fucking nanosecond. Why does he think he can take me?’
Angel licked his lips. ‘That’s not the kind of taking he had in mind.’
Spike tipped his head on one side and blinked. ‘He wanted to… I’m not getting you, Angel. What? He wanted to draw me… take my likeness…?’
‘He wants to fuck you, Spike. That kind of taking.’
Spike reminded Angel of one the gargoyles from his childhood: contorted face screaming outrage and denial in total silence.
He licked his lips again and frowned, concentrating on the view.
Spike nodded very slowly a few too many times. ‘Okay. And you said…? And the answer here, Angel, should be two words, one beginning with F and one with O.’
‘I said I’d tell you, and that’s what I’m doing.’
‘No! No! You should have said no!’
‘I did. He said you’d agree… that you loved Fred….’ He suddenly felt dirty and pursed his lips, studying his nails as if that’s where the dirt lay.
‘Oh.’ Spike turned away and went to the couch. He sat down heavily and sank his head into his hands. ‘Oh.’
‘What would you have said, Angel—indulge me, here; I’m curious—what would you have said if he’d wanted you?’
‘You loved Fred, too—more than me. You’ve been grieving more than any of us—although being the closed-off bastard you are, I guess I’m the only one who’s noticed. You loved her—what would you have said if he’d asked you to fuck him? And let me answer for you: you’d have said no. And not in words I’m thinking… I see a huge Angelus fist sinking….’
Spike rose, strode over to Angel and punched him. ‘I’m fucking babbling? Babbling? Jesus, Angel! Why didn’t you…? Why couldn’t you…? Shit…!’ He turned away and leant on the desk. ‘Why couldn’t you save her? Why does it have to be me? And why does it have to be like this?’
Angel came closer and stood over the tense figure. ‘You’re going to do it?’
Spike refused to lift his head. ‘Give me an alternative.’
‘We forget that anyone called Ingram walked in here today and go back to rescuing Fred our own way.’
‘I.e., not rescuing her.’
‘You don’t know that….’
Spike suddenly reared up. He grabbed the telephone and waved it at Angel. ‘Yes! I do! Call Wesley, Angel! Ask him how far he’s got in saving Fred! A big fat nowhere, that’s where. What have I learnt in all my sparring with her? That she can kick my skinny ass from here to hell and back. What have you learnt? Nothing. Nothing!’
‘But this is….’
‘What? What is it? Is it worse than burning up? Worse than having my balls melt?’ He hesitated for a fraction of a second.
Angel tried to hold it in but couldn’t. He choked on a small chuckle and murmured, ‘Kinda unfortunate analogy, maybe…?’
Spike’s mouth dropped open in feigned outrage then he sagged and mock-punched Angel’s arm. ‘You sodding bastard.’ He turned and perched on the edge of the desk. ‘Fucking hell.’
‘I said I’d let him know by six.’
‘Are you sure he doesn’t just want to torture me for a while? Cus you know me: never said no to some recreational…. No? Fuck.’
‘You’re really going to do it?’ There was something very interesting marking the carpet, and Angel studied it intently.
Spike lifted his head. ‘What?’
‘What, what? Nothing!’
‘Yes. I heard… something. What are you thinking? Is there some reason you don’t want me to do this thing?’
‘No! All right…. Only, you’re my… childe…?’
‘From the House of Aurelius…?’
‘And I repeat: and?’
‘We have a reputation…?’
‘Oh… oh… tell me you’re not actually saying that fucking some human for one night is going to ruin a reputation built up on the torture, rape and murder of thousands upon thousands of innocent people? Tell me you’re not saying that.’
‘I—. Wesley…!’ The relief in Angel’s voice was palpable, and he went toward the human.
Spike suddenly laid a hand on his arm and said extremely softly, ‘Just between us, yeah?’ Angel looked down at the hand then up into the troubled blue eyes. He nodded.
‘You wanted me?’
Wesley glanced annoyed at Spike, and Angel said quickly, ‘I need for you to look into the operation in New York. See what you can find on a man called Ingram—one of their clients. His file’s on the table. I want to know everything there is to know about this man, especially any links to… science.’
‘Science? I’m not with you.’
‘He’s a business man, but I got the impression that he was very well informed on many other subjects. Where’s he getting his information? Who’s briefing him? Who does he have working for him?’
‘What does he look like?’
‘I saw someone talking to Hamilton.’
‘Fuck. I didn’t think of that. He’s about five-eleven….’
Angel turned to Spike. Spike shrugged. ‘You always think people are shorter than they are.’
Angel gave him a small look and turned back to Wesley. ‘He had dark hair, kinda plain….’
‘Angel! He was bloody gorgeous… and you get that I say that in a totally disinterested way….’
Angel twitched his neck and said precisely, ‘He was very good-looking, six-two and about a hundred and eighty pounds….’
‘Same man, I’d say.’
‘Damn!’ Angel began to pace. ‘Maybe it was all bullshit—his so-called information….’
Spike tried to pace with him but eventually gave in and grabbed his arm. ‘You mean I don’t have to…?’
‘What information do you think it is that he has, Angel?’
Angel turned back to Wesley, rubbed his face wearily and sat heavily on the edge of his desk. ‘He claimed he knew how to bring Fred back, that…. Wes!’ He pried the man’s hand off his arm and said more gently, ‘Wes….’
‘He said that! He said that!’
‘Yes. He said Fred would have known how… and that he knew, too.’
‘The science connection!’
‘My God. Illyria targeted Fred deliberately. Supersymmetry…!’
‘Angel! You went to her lecture!’
‘Oh, that super…. Anyway.’
Wesley suddenly looked business-like again, his whole body taking on the air of a man now in a war he could actually win. ‘I’ll see what I can find—if there’s a link between this man and Fred, I’ll find it….’
‘You have until six.’
‘That’s when I agree to his terms.’
Angel felt Spike move closer and pursed his lips. ‘Another member of the team makes a sacrifice. And I’m not willing for that to happen.’
Wesley nodded, turned purposefully and left.
Angel turned to Spike. ‘What are you going to do?’
Spike shrugged. ‘Wash my hair? Shave my legs?’
Angel rose and seized him by the lapels of his coat. ‘Don’t joke about this!’
Spike banged his hand away. ‘Don’t tell me what to do!’
‘I’ll tell you…. Fuck.’ Angel strode over and flung himself onto the couch. ‘This is all bullshit. You can’t do this.’
Spike sat down next to him. ‘It’s really not that big a thing—when you think of some of the things we’ve done….’
Angel stared at his nails. ‘Things are different now.’
‘You have a soul.’
‘I’m going to fuck someone, not indulge in pagan rites and blood sacrifice.’
Angel turned the full force of his gaze on Spike. ‘A man. You’re going to fuck a man, Spike. Don’t make light of this.’
Spike blinked. ‘I’m not.’
Angel’s gaze dropped. He found a piece of fluff on his pants that seemed to engross him. ‘Have you done it before? I mean….’
‘What do you think?’ Spike voice was genuinely curious.
Angel huffed ruefully. ‘Freaking hell! I feel like I did when Buffy asked me if her butt looked big in something.’
‘I would think the answer to both was pretty easy.’
‘No, Spike, I don’t think you have. I don’t think you have any idea what you’re getting into.’
Spike gave him a curious look. ‘That’s an odd thing to say.’
Angel pouted. ‘It’s wrong—for you to do something under coercion. And I believe that doing wrong can never be justified, however good the outcome seems to be.’
He leant back, and Spike mirrored him. ‘That’s bullshit. If you kill an evil man, that’s good.’
‘In the short-term, narrow view we have of things, maybe. But perhaps in the bigger….’
‘This isn’t the bigger anything though, is it? This is me doing something pretty unimportant to achieve something very, very important. Despite what I said, Angel, I think you’d do it too… if he’d found your fat arse attractive….’
‘No. I wouldn’t.’
Spike stood up, furious. ‘You bastard! Are you saying that you’re better than…?’
‘No, Spike. I’m saying that I admire you. That you’re willing to do something to save Fred that I… couldn’t. That I don’t have the guts to do….’
‘Oh.’ Spike sat down again, and they were silent for a few moments until Spike said nervously, ‘Do you think I’ll actually need to be brave then?’
Angel laughed ruefully. ‘From everything I’ve read, I’d say your twisted enjoyment of pain will come in kinda handy.’
Spike gave him a look and said with an amused smirk, ‘Everything you’ve… read?’
Angel waved his hand dismissively. ‘The classics, of course….’
‘Oh, of course….’
‘So… you’re going to do it…?’
‘I’m going to do it.’
‘Do you want a drink?’
Angel got up and poured them both one, despite it still being only ten o’clock in the morning. They downed them in one, and he topped them up.
‘I guess if I get stonkingly drunk, I won’t even feel it or remember it.’
‘Good plan.’ He handed him another. ‘Ingram didn’t say anything about you being sober. Oh….’
Angel winced. ‘He said willing and… able.’
‘Able! Able!’ It appeared that the magnitude of what he was about to do hit Spike for the first time, and he sank back into the cushions with a deep swallow. ‘Oh, God. I can’t do this. I’ll never be able to get it up! I mean…. A bloke!’
Angel sat down again, acutely embarrassed by the turn of the conversation, but morbidly curious as well. ‘You won’t have to get it up…. I mean…. He’ll do it all…?’
Spike turned his head so slowly that Angel had time to replay the entire morning before their eyes met. He realised that Spike had misunderstood the man’s intention completely. Spike blinked and repeated distinctly, ‘He’ll do it all.’
Angel tried to look annoyed. ‘That’s what I said.’
‘You said…. I thought you meant…. I’m not doing it.’
‘NO! No Spikes! I’m not doing it! I thought: sod it; stick it in! What does it matter with your eyes closed? I’ve stuck it in some right dogs in my time… and you get that I don’t mean canines…. But I’m not being fucked! Angel! What do you think I am?’
Angel knew he would torture himself for a very long time to come for what he was about to do, but betrayal was something he’d been willing to do before, and he would again. ‘I thought you were Fred’s friend.’
Spike didn’t say anything immediately, and that, more than any bitter retort he could have made, shrivelled Angel’s heart one tiny bit more.
Then he nodded. ‘Okay. I know where I stand with you now. I’ll do this thing you so need for me to do, and then we’re through. Cus, you know what? Every fucking time I see you from now on, I’ll be hearing you say that to me. Every fucking word you speak to me will be that betrayal just wrapped up in fancy shit.’ He stood. ‘I’m going home to change. Maybe have a little snooze. Guess I’ll need to be all… perky… later.’
He went to the door then turned. ‘Oh, and, Angel? Just so you know, I’ll be thinking of you the whole time.’ He stomped out.
Angel looked up, puzzled.
Spike stomped back in. ‘I meant that I’ll be thinking of you in my place. I’d love to see you getting fucked.’ He stomped out.
Angel frowned, still puzzled.
Spike appeared once more. ‘Okay, I’m not going to be thinking about you at all.’ He nodded as if satisfied at last and left.
Go to Chapter 2
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