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Nature abhors a vacuum.
Spike’s thick release, carrying its precious load, was absorbed into Angelus, sucked in to fill where he was empty: his God-shaped hole. His soul returned to his body and flooded him as autumn rain relieves the summer pastures.
Overwhelmed with the remorse and the pain this inevitably brought, he fled.
Spike, too hurt to give chase, did not even attempt to rise from the bed.
He’d done what they’d asked. He’d given Angel back all the pain that the world could offer one such as he.
He lay curled foetal-like on the mattress, wondering how soon Angel would take on the additional burden of the evil he had done that night, wondering when the guilt, which Angelus had said lay in his belly, would fester and, like a huge, suppurating ulcer, burst, poisoning the body. How much guilt could one person be expected to bear? He’d wanted to save Angel from that, have him as he was: surviving the life.
He drifted into unconsciousness from his wounds, but it was as pleasant as falling asleep, and he didn’t fight it. He wanted to be somewhere else for a while; anywhere other than this reality, which seemed continually to disappoint.
He felt mushy in his head, drunk—without the good part of that. He couldn’t think as fast or concentrate. He waited. It would return. You don’t take a hit to the head like he had and come out unscathed. He didn’t understand his magical body, but he accepted it, taking it for granted when it was whole, waiting patiently for it to heal when it wasn’t. Bones reformed; brain cells would return.
He dozed the day away on the blood-soaked mattress and only realised it was thus when what he had taken for Angel’s fingers returning to him—feather light on his skin—were in fact flies. He was covered with them (well, there were two; he didn’t like flies), so he rose with a grunt of disgust and limped into the bathroom.
Was there anything scalding hot water from a power-shower couldn’t heal? He laughed ruefully and reckoned there were a few. Bones had almost healed; head was nearly back to normal, but his heart was flayed: raw and bleeding out into the cavities of his body that had once been filled by Angel. That, the hot water couldn’t touch. That needed a touch of an entirely different kind.
As he dressed, he made some calls. New mattress, new life. He’d bought this mattress for one life; now he feared he would have to accept another.
He bought a stack of blood from his usual supplier then went to his local store. He felt in need of some iconic worship.
When he got home, the men were waiting for him. He let them in, watched them removed the old mattress, and didn’t bother to argue when they told him there would be no trade-in, considering….
It was only as they were bringing in the new one that it came to him, perhaps brought on by the final flooding back of all his sharp intelligence: he would never sleep on that mattress. He would never sleep in this apartment again.
The exchange—old for new, bloodstained for pristine—was like their lives. He felt as if Angel had wanted him to help him make a similar transition in his life—help him take his first tentative steps down a new path.
Now though, he saw this for what it was.
Now, he knew what Angel needed.
When the men were gone, he sat down and composed the first letter he’d written in over a hundred years. His handwriting was rusty, and his fist cramped around the pen. The feeling that Angel would not stay away much longer drove him on. He needed to write this, and then he needed to leave.
Angel should have stayed on the path he was on.
And, ironically, this insight had come from the father of lies himself: Angelus. He’d said it, in his twisted way. Angel couldn’t be what Spike wanted him to be. Angel couldn’t be his lover. Angel couldn’t love another man. As Angelus had asked: How you gonna solve that?
Well… this way.
He left the note on the table, took a few clothes in a holdall and left.
It was really incredibly easy.
Angel lay with his gut heaving, spasms of pain coursing through him. He could hear voices but knew who they were. They’d been silenced for a while, for the few months since he’d released Spike from the amulet. He guessed he’d been too busy being annoyed with Spike to hear them. Now they were back: his victims. If they’d blamed him, he’d have coped. They didn’t. They forgave him. They were in a higher place, and they pitied him. They had the answers he sought, but they would not give them to him. He writhed in an agony of the soul that he had not felt since returning from hell.
It wasn’t the same though.
It was short and sharp and over in twenty four hours, like the flu, and like that malady—which he’d never experienced—it left him feeling low, shaky and out of sorts.
Not so low and shaky that he couldn’t make his way back to Spike.
He felt as if nothing could ever keep him from Spike now.
He had something to tell him.
It was kinda revelatory.
It changed everything.
When he reached the door, he knocked, although he felt his eagerness was so palpable it should blow the door down like some mythical wolf.
He knew Spike wouldn’t blame him. Spike was a demon; he was souled. Who would understand if Spike didn’t? They’d tortured each other before. Spike would understand.
When the knock was not answered, he tested the door, found it unlocked and went in.
He saw the letter straight away. Its whiteness was in contrast to the dull fixtures and fittings in the apartment.
He picked it up and looked around.
Nothing seemed altered, nothing moved, nothing missing… until his eyes scanned the bedroom.
As soon as he saw the mattress, he knew. He felt a sinking sensation in his belly, tender from the recent churning, and swallowed excess, bitter saliva that was pooling in his mouth.
He opened the envelope, read the brief note then deliberately, with intense concentration, shredded it and let the tiny pieces of paper fall like confetti to his feet.
He didn’t have time for Spike’s farewells; he had something important to tell him.
Finding Spike became an obsession. A useful one, for it took Angel’s mind away from hearing voices, away from the need to return to the scene of his crimes and brood upon them, as he surely would have done without this distraction.
He returned to Wolfram and Hart, but had little time for Wesley’s relief, concern, or interest. He checked the car pool and discovered nothing was missing. It meant Spike would travel by night. Then he wondered if that was what he was supposed to think, and that Spike would actually find some way to travel around the clock and evade him. Then he wondered if this was some kind of double bluff….
He became frantic, feeling as if time were defeating him: every minute taking Spike away from him. He felt as if they were attached by some loving cord that was being stretched too thin, past breaking point, but still it clung on, trying to keep them together.
Feeling the pain from this, slumped in his office, he hardly roused when he sensed someone entering.
He finally looked up to find himself under observation. He shifted in his seat and murmured, ‘Illyria.’
He waited, trying to make her speak by the simple device of leaving a void that needed filling. She did not seem to fit the normal human pattern, so in the end, he tried to say pleasantly, ‘Something I can do for you?’
‘No. But I believe there is something I can do for you.’
Angel tried to keep the bitterness out of his voice. ‘Can you find Spike for me?’
Angel stood up and came round the desk.
She put her hands on her hips. ‘Do you remember your ensouling?’
Angel blushed a deep shade of red, which he felt sure would be a beacon of embarrassment on even his preternaturally pale face. ‘Some of it,’ he lied.
She nodded as if hearing the truth behind the lie. ‘I will not waste my time explaining the science that I adapted to enable you to be carried in Spike’s ejaculate….’
Angel shrank, and not just his body.
‘… you do not have the mental capacity to comprehend it. However, you disappoint me.’
Angel swallowed, felt he wanted to twist one foot around the other leg and said, trying not to sound humbled, ‘I do?’
‘You each carry the essence of the other now. So far, I have found only one thing in this world of yours that has impressed me. I discovered it in one of Wesley’s books: “Go placidly amidst the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.” I had not thought its relevance to you until now.’
With that, she turned and left.
Angel watched her go. Her words were heavy with truth. They swum around his head, making him feel drowsy. He rode up in the elevator, lay on his bed, and let his mind float.
Later, he didn’t know if he actually detached from his body or not. If felt as if he did. The sensation of rising and moving through the world was so intense that he actually smelt the heat rising from the sidewalks, heard faint car horns, felt the hot air on his face.
He went to the warehouse where they had tricked and fooled and destroyed each other. Spike was not there.
He went to the scenes of his most recent kills, wondering if Spike would return and fight his inner demons with their ghosts. Spike was not there.
He realised he wasn’t silent enough, realised he was still letting the world in, so he went deeper into his own demon where, ultimately, there was the silence of despair.
In that deep silence, he found him.
He was asleep, and Angel hung over him for a while, caressing him with his thoughts. Then he withdrew, opened his eyes and grinned so widely that a split in his lip opened up and bled. He put a finger to it. A love bite? A victim? He couldn’t remember. It was immaterial; he had something to tell Spike, and that was all that counted now.
Angel stood looking down at Spike for real.
He didn’t know why his childe had chosen to return to this old house, why he lay in the room where he had become insubstantial. He wondered if that was how Spike was feeling now: insubstantial.
He looked healed but exhausted, dark rings under his eyes, even as he slept. He was almost unconscious rather than asleep. Angel could not believe he had not stirred upon his entry and filed away the thought that he would chastise him for this later—much later, when they were sated and happy.
He sat on the edge of the bed and waited. He saw no reason to wake Spike; he could watch his sleeping face for an eternity. He had not noticed how long Spike’s eyelashes were before. Like a girl’s, they fanned his cheek. There was nothing feminine in the facial structure though: razor-sharp cheekbones, scarred—it was the face of a fighter… a fighter in repose. Angel ached to draw him and filed this away, too. After the lecture on personal safety, he’d make Spike pose for him. Life seemed full of good things suddenly.
He wondered if everyone felt like this when they fell in love for the first time.
That did it. Thinking about how much he loved Spike made him take one shoulder and shake it gently. ‘Hey! Spike….’
Spike’s eyes snapped open, and Angel could see by the expression on his face that although he had lain still and silent, his dreams had not been easy. Spike wore the expression of a man who had been fighting inner demons and losing. He sat up, clearly confused. ‘Angel?’
‘Hmm.’ Angel nodded and laughed. ‘Long time no see.’
Spike backed up to the headboard, but it wasn’t the action of a cornered creature—more a gesture of control and power. He took back control of the moment, having woken disorientated and sad. ‘How did you find me?’ He lit a cigarette and blew a long trail of smoke into the gloomy air.
Angel shook his head. ‘Time for that later. I need to talk with you….’
‘You got my letter?’
Angel shrugged. ‘I’m not letting you leave, Spike.’
‘But you read it?’
‘Yeah, but it’s not….’
‘So, you know how I feel.’ He swung his legs off the bed and began to pace.
Angel watched him from the bed, and despite all the import he’d planned to bring to his announcement, he just said simply, ‘Angelus knew that you were going to resoul him. He turned his back to you and let you do it.’
Spike froze and turned his head to stare at Angel. After an age, though, he said simply, ‘You want to believe that to stop me leaving.’
Angel shook his head. ‘I was coming to tell you when I found your letter.’
‘Angelus feared nothing but his soul. He tried to kill me to stop us taking him in.’
Angel looked at him oddly then said, amused, ‘I was kinda there, Spike; you don’t need to tell me what happened.’
Spike frowned. ‘Yeah, well I was there, too.’
Angel felt the first stab of uncertainty. This wasn’t how the script was supposed to go. He was supposed to tell Spike this great revelation—and it was the most significant thing that had happened to him since he’d made his initial decision to take what Darla offered—and Spike was supposed to see the Goddamned significance and fall into his arms, saying something like, ‘Oh, Angel, you agreed to have your soul so you could have me? I love you.’ He wasn’t overly particular about the actual words—he’d allow Spike some latitude to say them in his own character—but the sentiment was mandatory. Spike didn’t even seem to get the import. He tried to tell him. ‘I chose my soul, Spike! I chose to be Angel. I mean, Angelus chose to be me….’ He cursed inwardly. Angelus had confused everyone on this enough for one lifetime; he didn’t want to give the impression he was equally confused over his identity.
Still Spike paced and smoked. Angel felt a stirring of annoyance and stood up, catching his arm. ‘Stop that and look at me.’
‘Sorry. I’m a bit blind still in my left eye, can you move over…?’
Angel took a step back. ‘This is about the torture.’
Spike waved his hand dismissively. ‘No. It’s not. That was dumb.’
Angel cursed again—that would have been an easy one to solve. Suddenly, he felt a wash of understanding. ‘This is why you came here! Jeez, I’m slow tonight. You’re playing piss-Angel-off, aren’t you?’
Spike’s hand hesitated halfway to his mouth, but he didn’t dignify this with a response. Suddenly, he said, ‘I really have to be going, Angel. Look, this isn’t the end of everything. I’m still your childe; you’re still my sire. Nothing will change that. We’ll put all the rest down to Ingram and his fucking spells and science, and get on with our eternities. I’m going to Italy. I wanna see Buffy.’
Angel gave Spike credit for slipping Buffy in. By reminding him of her, Spike was subtly making his point about him: that he loved women, not men and, ergo, couldn’t love his male childe.
He nodded, ceding him this small victory. Then he countered swiftly. ‘You’re doing this for me—to save me. You think that I’m harmed somehow by what we have.’
‘I don’t think anything, Angel—I know. I’m the one who sat on you and tried to feed you my fucking bleeding cock! I didn’t see you so eager to go tripping down the merry path to gayville then!’
Angel was about to retort that they were vampires and therefore could not be gay, but felt this would fundamentally weaken his position. He pouted. ‘So, you’re the only one who can freak out when it suits him….’
Spike gave him a bitter look and turned away. After another drag on his cigarette, he said in a low voice, ‘You can’t even give this a name, can you?’
‘A pain in the butt?’
Spike smiled, despite his misery. ‘Look, I’m going to go, whatever you say. If there’s something real in any of this, then it’ll still be here in a few years. I’ll come back maybe, see if you’re any happier….’
Angel narrowed his eyes and hissed, ‘I’m fucking happy now….’
Spike took a step back, raised his eyebrows, but felt he didn’t need to point out the contradiction.
Angel backtracked, holding his hands out, trying to placate him, but Spike suddenly threw the cigarette down and came very close, pushing his face into Angel’s. ‘I don’t like being called a faggot. I don’t like being tortured in every place, in every way that I’d shown you I wanted to be loved. I don’t like my lover turning into a monster then turning back and expecting me to just to give him access to my body again!’
‘This IS about the torture!’
‘No! No! It’s not! It’s about you! I don’t know who you are, Angel! If that had been Angelus, I’d shake it off and forget it. If the man making love to me was Angel, I’d welcome him back, but, oh, there was so much of you in him, even when he was torturing me—it was your knowledge of me, your hands that found the places I’d let you love me. And now? Who are you, Angel? You don’t even know yourself. How the fucking hell am I supposed to know?’
‘Who are you, Spike?’ Angel’s voice was chillingly low. ‘You are just like me. We carry our demons like other people carry smiles. You were aroused when you found those bodies. You wanted to roll in their blood and fuck with them, too.’
Spike nodded. ‘Maybe I did. But I’ve never lied to you about any of it. I don’t carry my soul, Angel; I embrace it.’
Angel felt a surge of triumph. Victory was so close he could taste it. ‘And now I do, too. I chose it, Spike. I knew what you were going to do, and I let you. I let you put your damn cock in my arse! What more do you fucking want me to do to prove…?’ He dried up. He didn’t need to see the expression on Spike’s face to know he’d blown it. He could hear his own words: confusion of identity, abhorrence for this form of lovemaking. He stepped back. ‘I’m sorry.’ He sat on the edge of the bed. ‘Oh, fuck. You’re leaving me.’ As if the horrors of the past two weeks suddenly caught up with him, Angel began to cry. They were the tears he should have shed in this room the first time. They were the tears that should have fallen when Ingram’s clients systematically raped him. They were the tears he should have released at the torture, at losing his soul, at having all this new horror churning in his gut. They weren’t. None of that could have brought them forth, but the thought of losing Spike, now, did.
He felt the bed depress next to him and an uncertain arm slide over his shoulder. He felt an ineffectual patting, then he was pulled into strong arms and held.
Spike had once wanted ranting and hair tearing. He’d wanted tangible evidence that Angel loved him. Now that he had it, he wanted it away. ‘I’ll stay for couple of weeks, Pet. Till you’re stronger. Sheesh, you’ve been through a lot, even for you. One day, I’m going to have a word with your fucking scriptwriter—give you some easy scenes, maybe a beach and a long holiday. There could be a mystery to solve, just to keep it interesting. Maybe shells being stolen. And there’d be lots of opportunity to get you half naked, cus that always seems to sell….’ He rambled on until the shudders slowed to the occasional deep hiccup.
Angel rolled onto his back and put his arm over his eyes. ‘You’ll stay?’
Spike felt like shit adding the qualification, but he did it anyway. ‘Couple of weeks, yeah.’
‘Why are you doing this?’
Spike frowned at the hidden expression. ‘Because I love you. I love you enough to do what’s right for you.’
‘I think I know better what’s….’
‘No, you don’t. Think back over the last hundred years, Angel. When’s the last time you did something because it was right for you? Not to save the world, not to help Buffy, not to beat back the forces of darkness; none of those. Just because it was right for you.’
Angel had no reply to this. He couldn’t think of a single one.
Spike patted his thigh. ‘Two weeks.’
Angel grabbed his hand and would not release it. He sat up, and like a summer storm over dry land, the turmoil, dramatic as it had been, was over. He looked into Spike’s eyes. ‘Make a deal with me.’
Spike kept his gaze. ‘I’ve not had a good experience with deals recently.’
‘If I can persuade you that this is what I want—in these two damn weeks—you’ll stay.’
‘How can you turn this into a deal, Angel?’
Angel looked away. ‘Because I’m desperate.’
Spike felt a stab of something deep in his belly. Instead of refusing Angel a second time, he said, ‘If it’s right for me to stay, we’ll both know it. We don’t need deals.’
Angel turned back, a spark in his eyes. ‘So, you don’t deny that it could be right.’
‘Huh? I think I did.’
‘No. You said we’d both know when it was right—so, it could be right, at sometime.’
‘No! I mean…. What are we talking about?’
Angel laughed and tipped his forehead to Spike’s. ‘Two weeks. I’ve got to get to work.’
Spike watched him climb off the bed and knew, with a flash of something that was definitely very pleasurable, that Angel didn’t mean saving the world.
Spike went back to his own apartment feeling angry that he’d let Angel manoeuvre him into staying, albeit for only two weeks. He was utterly convinced that what he was doing was ultimately right for Angel, but another two weeks of doing something that was so wrong for him did not appeal.
His whole body had yearned toward Angel as they’d sat on the bed—and not just his body. His emotional compass was altered. It pointed irrevocably to Angel, and wherever he travelled in the world now, Angel would always be his lodestar.
He felt depression tripping on his heels.
Things were narrowing around him, and echoes rang in his ears.
The knock on the door startled him out of his fugue for a moment, but it still dogged his steps.
When he opened the door, he felt a sudden wash of senses: smells, colours…. A man in a uniform passed him a huge bunch of exotic flowers and a clipboard.
Spike began to shut the door. ‘Wrong life, Mate.’
The man consulted his board. ‘Spike?’
Spike felt an immediate desire to deny this. The man seemed to see this in his expression and thrust the flowers at him. When Spike still hesitated, he reached in and detached a card. ‘Know anyone called Angel?’
The man began to look impatient. ‘Look, do you want the damn flowers, or not?’
Spike nodded dumbly.
Suddenly, he did.
He laughed and took them, scrawling his signature.
In nearly one hundred and thirty years, they were the first flowers he had ever been given.
In the gloom of his apartment, they seemed to make a statement far more potent than merely plucked blooms. He stuffed them in the sink and stood back to study them.
He could not actually believe that Angel had done this. He couldn’t believe how he’d reacted when they’d arrived. He felt guilty for giving Angel such a hard time about admitting the changes that had occurred in their lives, when he clearly found it hard to admit them himself. He noticed he hadn’t said to the man, sure, he’s my lover, when asked if he knew someone called Angel. Why not?
He wasn’t too sure he wanted to answer that question.
He tipped his head to the other side and studied the flowers that way for a while. They were no less pretty, and he smiled softly.
Rummaging for something to put them in produced nothing. He suddenly saw his apartment for what it was: hideous. He had nothing, owned nothing, cared for nothing, except one thing, and he was now giving that away.
He desperately wanted to put the flowers in some water, as if caring for them with intense devotion could make up for his lapses in other areas of care.
Before he tried to make a makeshift container out of an old milk carton, there was another knock at the door.
He frowned. He’d had five visitors to his apartment the entire time he’d lived there, that two of them should knock within five minutes of each other seemed bizarre.
Cautiously, he opened it up. ‘You Spike?’
A parcel was thrust at him. ‘Sign here, please.’
Spike juggled the box and signed.
He went inside.
He knew he was smiling as he tore the box open. So what? That black dog was still licking at his pain.
An exquisite crystal vase lay surrounded by packing material, snug, safe and beautiful.
He’d never owned one of these before either.
He carried it over to the sink and put the flowers in. As he did, he had an odd moment of clarity, as if Angel had meant him to see more in this—this act of joining. Although the flowers were beautiful, almost perfect, and although the vase was out of this world, together they made a harmonious whole that one alone could never have achieved.
He was tempted, out of mischief, to separate them again, but he didn’t. He knew the flowers would only last a couple of weeks; then they’d die, and he’d have to throw them out as he left. Might as well give them two weeks, too.
The flowers dominated the small, dark apartment out of proportion to their size. Their scent soon permeated the air, and their colours were so vibrant that they almost stayed on the retina when stared at too long.
Spike couldn’t decide whether to give Angel credit for planning this—the way the flowers were all he could think of all evening—or whether it was a spontaneous act given far more significance by him.
He also wondered why Angel had chosen flowers, wondered what statement he was trying to make. It seemed to Spike that Angel was using the same tactic he had once used: think girl. This infuriated him, for it not only told him that Angel was missing the point; it reminded him that he wasn’t as secure and confident as he tried to come across to Angel. Only three weeks ago, he had been hovering at the bottom of some steps like a virgin sacrifice and thinking girl. Being a hypocrite disturbed him. The flowers made him feel like one. When he was being more generous though, he thought that Angel had thought all this but had still bought the flowers. They were his double bluff against society’s expectations. He understood they were both men; he wanted them both to be men, but still he had bought the flowers.
Spike thought about these things all night, turning and trying to sleep on the new mattress.
He was feeling low again when his inner clock told him it was morning. The black dog was staring at him, waiting for him to falter. He didn’t give it a chance to speak. He turned on his back, pulled the sheet over his head and decided to sleep the day away. He had nothing better to do.
He recognised the knock.
He sat up and immediately tried to flatten his hair, frowning when it wasn’t there. The absence of the blond locks that had taken so much work in the mornings threw him completely. He wrapped the sheet around his waist and went to the door. Without opening, he said more brusquely than he would have without the lack of sleep and confusion on waking, ‘What do you want?’
‘To come in?’
‘I’m kinda…. What’s the point, Angel?’
‘I’m working, Spike. I need your help.’
Spike pursed his lip and opened up, keeping the door only open an inch or two. ‘Why me?’
Spike made a face. There was some truth in this. Who else could Angel trust? He let him in.
‘It’s ten o’clock, Spike….’ Angel wandered over to the flowers.
‘Yeah, well, I didn’t sleep….’ Spike could have bitten his tongue off. Why did he have to go and admit that he had things on his mind? It was pretty obvious what.
Angel ran his fingers over the long petals of an Iris. ‘Do you like them?’
Spike mumbled a reply and waved distractedly at the bathroom, carefully shutting the door as he went through.
Angel smiled softly and bent to smell an orchid.
When Spike was dressed, he picked up his coat and, trying not to catch Angel’s eye, asked, ‘What’s the case?’
‘I want to check someone out, and I need you.’
Spike shrugged. It was pretty immaterial; he didn’t know why he’d asked really. As long he got to kill something nasty, he’d be happy. A nice killing was just what he needed.
They walked through the sewers so like old times that neither felt the need to speak, other than making desultory comments on the level of the water, or the amount of slime on the walls. Spike wanted to ask Angel why he’d bought the flowers, but wasn’t sure he wanted to hear the reply.
They came up in a shady alley and then dodged around and into a large building. Spike squared himself for a fight but then stood looking around, slightly bemused. He whispered to Angel, ‘We gonna foil a bank robbery, or something?’
Angel smiled and walked up to the enquiry desk and asked for the manager. He sat down in one of the armchairs and crossed his legs elegantly. Spike did the same—without the poofy thing with the legs.
A man emerged from a door to the left and came over. Immediately, he came up to Spike, looking obsequious. ‘Mr Spike! How pleasant. We rather expected you to return a few weeks ago.’
Angel stood up, looking pleased. Spike got slowly to his feet, a cold chill washing down his spine. He grabbed Angel’s arm and led him out of earshot. ‘I don’t know that man, Angel…. Is this another freaky spell?’
Angel put a hand to the back of his neck and rubbed it gently. ‘Shhh. Ingram had his accounts transferred so when he had your identity he could still access them. He came here the first morning he left me—set it all up.’
Angel led them back to the bank manager, who was looking at them oddly. Angel, Spike noticed, still had his hand on the back of his neck and showed no sign of removing it. The manager raised an eyebrow, and Angel smiled sweetly.
Eventually, the man said, ‘Perhaps you’d like to view your current status? Three weeks of interest, with such sums, can be rather impressive.’
Angel nodded. ‘Yeah, we would.’
He led them to his office. Angel sat down and put his hand on the arm of Spike’s chair. Utterly distracted by this, and trying not the study the elegant fingernails and remember times when they’d not been so elegant (when they’d been deep inside him, when they’d been caked with his blood scraped from welts on his back, welts torn during their lovemaking in that other lifetime when things had, for a moment, seemed to simple) Spike didn’t hear a word that was spoken.
‘…. Mr Spike?’
‘Huh? It’s just Spike.’
‘So, what would you like to do?’
Spike looked helplessly at Angel. Angel smiled, and the hand shifted onto his thigh. ‘I think a small withdrawal today—couple of thousand—and we’ll consider our options for the remainder.’
The man tipped his head on one side quizzically. ‘I don’t believe I caught your name, Sir.’
‘I didn’t give it.’ Angel let that sink in then added, ‘My name is Angel. I’m the CEO of Wolfram and Hart.’
The man’s face brightened considerably. ‘Ah, my apologies. Mr Spike’s lawyer.’
Angel laughed. ‘His partner.’
There was just the right amount of ambiguity in this for the bank manger to understand that Spike was a partner in Wolfram and Hart. The other possibility, which seemed to be given certain credence by the hand on the thigh, he dismissed. In his experience, homosexuals didn’t look like these two gentlemen, and certainly didn’t bank their millions with a respectable banking institution such as First City.
He rose and extended his hand to Spike. ‘See one of the cashiers, Mr Spike, and please, any time you’d like to come and discuss your options, don’t hesitate to call.’ He gave his hand to Angel. ‘Honoured to meet you, Mr Angel. I don’t believe we have any dealings with your firm, but of course, I’m always very keen to extend our profile—where it counts.’
Angel beamed. ‘I think we’d like to keep our private and working lives separate.’
The man nodded and showed them out.
Five minutes later, Spike had two thousand dollars in his hand, a chequebook and a shiny card, which was supposed to look like diamonds. Five minutes after that, they were in the sewers again. Angel flicked some dust off his coat and said pleasantly, ‘Guess I’ll see you later.’ He threw Spike a small salute and disappeared into the darkness.
Spike didn’t move for so long that rats took courage and began to run over his boots. He started and began to walk toward his apartment. He felt more stunned than he had when he’d been used as a baseball. Angel had put his hand on his thigh and called him his partner. Spike didn’t see any ambiguity in this at all. Did he look like a fucking lawyer?
Angel had chosen a public man, a public place—a place of commerce and industry, a place where heterosexuality was polished at night along with the floor tiles—and he’d announced that Spike was his partner. He’d claimed him and discussed their finances, implying a relationship, implying they were live-in lovers: buying things together, waking up together, sleeping together, doing other things in bed together…. Spike knew he was getting carried away. He knew the pompous man had probably not seen any of this in that small claiming by Angel’s hand, but that was immaterial—he had. He’d seen all of it in that one tiny gesture.
It was only as he returned to the apartment and walked into the sweet perfume that now filled it that he remembered the money. He wasn’t sure he’d actually seen how much he was worth. There’d been a huge number of zeros, and once they got past seven, you kinda knew it was enough. He put his chequebook on the table next to the flowers and added his shiny new card. Then he laid out the money. He had a startling vision of coming home from work and chucking change into a bowl that they kept on the kitchen counter for that purpose—small domestic scenes given life by scent and colours and the glittering of a card.
With a grin, he picked up the money, went to his favourite corner shop, and bought some things he normally couldn’t afford. He didn’t notice until he got home that he’d bought enough for two.
That night he didn’t sleep either. He lay awake, unable to stop thinking about Ingram. Once more, he wondered whether Angel had intended this. Had he seen this claiming of Ingram’s identity as some sort of catharsis of the human from their lives—his life? Spike kept forgetting that he was leaving in thirteen days; there was no their life. He could not see any other reason for Angel doing this. He couldn’t want him to have the money, for it only made his flight so much easier. With money such as he had now, he could go anywhere, do anything, and travel in style. So why had he done it, if not to make some kind of statement about Ingram, about the things they had done under that man’s influence? Spike couldn’t help but see the bank as a very clear statement by Angel that from this point on, everything was new.
The hand on his thigh certainly was.
Spike cursed inwardly. He’d told himself that he wouldn’t think about Angel’s hand on his leg while he was in bed and… vulnerable. He couldn’t help it now. It was the sexiest thing that had happened to him in a long time, and his thigh still burned from the feeling of that erotic touch. Angel had actually pressed lightly with his fingers, kneading his flesh. His hand had been placed just so—just high enough for the little finger to brush his bulge but low enough to make this brushing so light that Spike’s cock had had to do the work, stretching to meet the finger.
Spike’s mind developed the scene, changing it as his hand slid down his belly. Angel began to move his hand, sliding it up and down, all the while discussing business with the suit. Then the man had nodded and indicated what Angel was doing. ‘Please, feel free. Anything we can do to accommodate our customers.’ Angel slid to his knees and spread Spike’s thighs. He put one hand on each and, pressing them in hard, slid them up until the thumbs came in contact with Spike’s straining cock. Grinning, looking up at him through lowered lids, he lowered the zipper. Very carefully, Angel arranged his cock so just the tip appeared, still covered by the foreskin.
Then he teased the covering off, revealing the slick, hot mushroom beneath.
Spike arched and began to work himself faster, the picture of his cockhead, red and shiny and poking out from his black jeans made his balls harden and tweak with need.
Angel obligingly gave the watching man a better view, playing with Spike idly, staking his claim to his property, making it clear that when you had eternity, there was no need to rush.
He pulled Spike further down in the chair and slid his hand underneath, and as he licked playfully around the slippery cockhead, he massaged Spike’s arse, thumbs pressed hard into his cotton-encased perineum.
Spike ran his other hand down and tried to mirror the action for real and felt a stab of self-pity that he couldn’t make this wank anything like as good as the blowjob he was getting from Angel. He stroked his balls, but it wasn’t as good as Angel doing it.
He had Angel suddenly stand and lower his zipper. His large, stiff cock appeared from out of his fly. He straddled Spike and teased it over his lips. Spike’s tongue flicked out and tasted the slightly brackish, crystal drops oozing from the end. They glistened on his lips, made his mouth slippery, and Angel used the slickness to push in. Spike took all of the ten inches into his mouth. Angel murmured his appreciation, and Spike reminded him it was his fantasy, and he could make anyone any length he wanted. He let the cock push into his throat in a way he couldn’t do for real and swallowed compulsively, constricting his throat muscles like a fist around the hard shaft, milking it.
He was very close now. His balls were so hard his stomach was slick with his own pre-ejaculate, dripping out as he played with Angel in his mind.
When he felt Angel close to coming, he stripped him, pants magically not there. Then he could hold his backside, pull him further down his throat, and play with his soft valley.
Suddenly, Spike pushed himself up on one hand, gasping as he crashed toward an explosive orgasm. As he began to shoot strings of white fluid onto his chest, he lowered Angel onto his cock and, in his fantasy, shot deep into Angel’s quivering rectum.
He took a while to come down, just lying in the dark, running his fingers through his tacky sperm. His fantasy had been revelatory. Now he remembered why he was leaving.
It was all very well Angel buying him presents (and flowers, at that), and it was all very well Angel taking him like a child to open his first bank account. None of that solved the problem that Angel had to be in control. Angel had to take the lead. Angel could not lie down and be fucked, with all that that implied: trust, release of the self in someone else, surrender of power, transfer of power to someone else. Angel was still in total control and in denial. A hand on a thigh wasn’t going to keep them together for eternity.
Spike couldn’t stop the treacherous thought that it was a pretty good start though.
He groaned and turned onto his belly. His head was spinning with it all. He slept but had strange, troubled dreams, at one point dreaming that not all of Angel’s soul had been released on that flooding orgasm into the demonic body and that a few little quirks had remained behind, hiding in his balls. They’d been released now though and were scrabbling around on his belly, trying to find Angel. They asked him if he’d seen him, and Spike had replied that he never saw Angel, only Angelus, and they’d run off, screaming, and trying to climb back into his cockhead. Their way was blocked by flowers, stems stuck into the tiny slit, and Angel was sitting alongside him in a pink, flowery shirt, arranging the other blooms, one by one, pushing them in. The scent was so strong that he’d cried out, and an English voice alongside him on the pillow said, ‘Could you keep it down, Spike?’ Spike had replied that it was never down when Angel was around and had turned to find Wesley and Illyria making slow love alongside him. It was slow because she was still encased in leather and both of his arms were in plaster. Wesley had laughed and said he’d been fishing.
Spike turned back to tell Angel to stop decorating him, but had found Angelus instead. Angelus had held out a fistful of the shirt and the tiny, pearl-handled scissors that Angel had been using to trim the stems. Very deliberately, he put his hand down and pruned his own dick, holding it up to Spike’s inspection. Then he too went back to pruning the flowers and arranging them delicately in Spike’s prick.
Spike woke, sweating heavily and thirsty. He stumbled from the bed, trying to resist checking to see that he wasn’t sprouting and drank straight from the tap, greedy gulps of the cold water. As he drank, he eyed the flowers balefully, beginning to wonder if they were poisoned, their scent created to drive him insane.
He growled at them, knew he would not sleep again so fetched a book. He didn’t read a word but lay staring thoughtfully at the flowers, trying to interpret the dream.
Spike cursed and peered from one eye. He felt drugged, hung over, listless, grumpy, and still the sweet perfume flooded his senses. He wondered if he was allergic to all flowers or just the ones Angel bought him.
He staggered once more to the tap and began to drink, calling in a husky voice, ‘Yeah,’ as he did so.
Angel came in, looking as if he’d stepped out of the pages of GQ. He glowed with vitality and went immediately to the flowers, commenting on how well they were doing.
Spike growled faintly and threw himself on the couch, arranging the sheet. Angel frowned. ‘It’s eleven.’
‘So fucking what? Are you my bloody mother?’
Angel raised his eyebrows and pursed his lips. ‘Bad night…?’
By the way he trailed off, Spike knew without a doubt that Angel could smell the dried cum on his body. He could smell shoe polish on Angel’s highly buffed nails, so it was a pretty sure bet that his sire would be able to smell the…. He glanced down and mentally flayed himself alive. He was covered in flaking as well.
He dragged himself off the couch and stomped into the bathroom, slamming it this time. There was something nagging at him, something pissing him off more than usual, and it only occurred to him as he turned the shower on. Angel was too fucking immaculate. There was no way you could crease that suit by frenzied undressing, no way you’d dare to muss the styled hair as you tried to climb inside that perfect mouth. It was all very well having all this want suddenly, but where the hell had all the need gone? Once more, an image of Angel in pink, castrating himself flashed into his mind, and in a very bad tempter, he dressed and went back into the living room.
Angel was sitting in the armchair, one elegant leg crossed over the other. That pissed Spike off so much he deliberately tore at a blood bag and let its cold, tacky contents run down his chin.
Angel waited politely until he had finished then said, ‘Feel like doing something useful?’
What? Ripping your clothes off and fucking you hard over the couch…?
‘Something I need to check out. I’d kinda appreciate some back up.’
Spike shrugged. It was better than smelling those damn flowers all day.
This time, they took a car, and Angel drove swiftly and expertly up into the hills.
They pulled up in front of a single storey house, surrounded by trees. It was gloomy and looked neglected, but even Spike could see that it had once been beautiful, and could be again. Again, it came down to care. Someone had not been caring for this house as they should, and for some reason, this angered him.
‘What’s the case?’
Angel craned his neck to peer out of Spike’s window, looking at the house. He spotted a figure on the porch and murmured, ‘Try to run nonchalantly.’ With that, he exited the car and strode—quickly—to the shade.
Spike swore and did the same. Angel was shaking hands with a young woman. She didn’t look particularly evil, but Spike took no chances and kept his eyes fixed unwaveringly on her as he shook, too. She blushed and produced a key. ‘Well, follow me then.’
It was an odd start to a case, and it got odder. She walked around the empty house, reeling off facts and figures about floor space and utilities. Spike trailed behind Angel, silent, trying to be morose but impressed, despite his better intentions, by the amazing house. It was beautiful, all wood and soft angles, and the main room, behind the heavy shades, had a panoramic view of the hills. The woods fell away so steeply that if you stood on the deck, you’d have felt as if you were in a treehouse, the topmost leaves brushing the railing. There wasn’t another building in sight, and the sense of peace was palpable.
When they reached the main bedroom, which had a similar arrangement of vast French doors leading out onto the deck, the woman stopped. Spike nodded expectantly: now they’d get to the crux of the matter. In his experience, if there was murder, haunting, demon activity, or people blowing their brains out, it always happened in bedrooms. It was the sex. It riled things up.
He leant forward, looking interested, waiting to hear the gory details, but she only turned to him and said, ‘Would you be living here alone, or do you have family? As you can see, space has been gained in the main rooms by sacrificing bedrooms.’
Before he could reply to this inanity, Angel stepped up and patted him lightly on the shoulder. ‘If we take it, we’ll only need one bedroom.’ She didn’t blush, which was just as well, as the heat from Spike’s threatened to cause a small conflagration. She seemed flustered, but it was not embarrassment. Smelling her excitement at this thought, Spike blushed again and mumbled something, leaving quickly.
Angel shrugged and said conversationally, ‘He’s nervous.’
Spike wanted to turn and contradict this, but the woman replied cheerfully, ‘Living together for the first time can be a shock.’
Angel laughed. ‘Actually, we lived together a long time ago, but we both had other partners then.’
Spike cringed and went out to stand on the deck, lighting a cigarette.
Perhaps he was still Ingram.
Perhaps Angel was Angelus and this was some devious plan to end the world (again).
Perhaps the woman was Illyria.
Maybe he should walk away from it all now, before it got any crazier. He was leaving in twelve days, so why not?
He heard a bird calling from one of the trees and a rustle in the undergrowth. It was very peaceful.
The other two emerged, and she extended her hand to Angel. ‘Let me know if you want to make an offer.’
He nodded. ‘We’ve got some more to see, but I’ll let you know.’
Spike watched her lock up and walk to her car but put a hand on Angel’s arm when he began to follow.
‘You need to stop doing this, Angel. I’m leaving in twelve days, and you’re just gonna have to accept that.’
Angel pulled his arm away gently. ‘I already have. If I’m going to be left, I don’t want to be alone in that soulless apartment. I’d kinda like to live here—with or without you.’
He dashed to the car and waited for Spike to join him.
He didn’t pull away immediately when Spike slid in alongside him, but sat staring at the house. Spike squinted through his cigarette smoke at him. ‘You’re really going to buy this place?’
Angel pursed his lips. ‘Depends.’
‘If you stay, I think we should pay halves.’ He put the car into drive and swung away from the house.
Spike suddenly shouted, ‘Stop!’ Angel obediently pulled into the side of the track and twisted in his seat, expectantly.
Spike immediately regretted picking this time and place for the confrontation. They were trapped in the car, neither able to pace and expend just a fraction of their vast energies as they needed to when arguing. For that reason, he kept his voice more reasonable that he might have done. ‘A few days ago, Angel, you were lying on your bed like a friggin’ zombie; now you’re like a bloody schoolboy on a day off. This doesn’t wash. It’s false and dumb, and it’s pissing me off.’
Angel pouted, studying a nail thoughtfully. When he looked up, his eyes were angry. ‘I’m making a fucking effort, Spike; that’s what I’m doing. Yeah, I freaked out when Ingram had me tied over that fucking spar for two weeks. Kept thinking, this’ll do it: this’ll get him out of my head, out of my heart, out of my body. Need this! Gonna suck it in, and all this pain will get that damn man out of my head. Cus, ya know? I’m not finding this easy! I’ve loved women for over three hundred years, and now I love a man. So, you tell me, Spike. Because you’re so fucking clever all of a sudden, you tell me what else I can do. Do you want me to go back to lying on that bed, feeling fucking sorry for myself because I’ve suddenly discovered I’m a fucking sodomite? Do you want me to crawl into some hell dimension because I’ve discovered I’m gay?’ He slammed the car into drive once more and skidded down the track.
Spike hunched into his seat with a look of hurt innocence, but he kept very, very quiet on the way home.
Angel dropped him off at the apartment by the simple expedient of leaning over and opening his door for him. ‘Get out.’
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