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It was a long walk back to his apartment. He could have stolen a car and driven, but he wanted the walk. He wanted the sewers. He hadn’t felt like he belonged in them for a long time, but now he did.
He kicked trash as he strode along thinking about sacrifice and wondering how many more times he’d be asked to give up things he valued for someone else’s greater good. But that was his weakness: he identified too quickly with other people’s problems—Buffy’s and now Fred’s.
He couldn’t help the thought of Ingram coming into his mind. He had felt nothing from the man but antipathy and had the distinct impression that he was going to get screwed in more ways than one that night.
Could he really do this? Could he be willing and able for another man?
By the time he reached his apartment, he was feeling sick with apprehension. He rounded the corner toward his door, and a shadow peeled off from the wall. He started, then said nastily, ‘Come to gloat some more?’
Angel pouted and held out a couple of bottles of JD. ‘Come to help you get… perky.’
Spike nodded ruefully. ‘In that case….’ He held open the door and jerked his head. ‘Come in.’
Angel crossed the threshold and looked around curiously as Spike took the bottles. ‘It’s okay.’
‘What did you think? That it would be a dive?’
‘I kinda pictured tombstones for some reason.’
‘You’re weird sometimes; did anyone ever tell you that?’
‘You did once or twice, I seem to remember.’
Spike smiled softly and handed him a drink. ‘Yeah, I guess I did. Shit. Why do I feel like the condemned man having his last drink?’
‘It won’t be that bad—and I’m not making light of it; I’m not patronising you. Only… it isn’t…. Okay, this is what I thought coming over here in the car: some men do it for pleasure…. Some men crave it….’
Spike went up very close to him and poked him in the chest. ‘Some men like Country and Western music, Angel. The world is full of freaks.’
‘Tammy Wynette’s quite… look, we’re getting distracted here…. You’ll do this thing; it’ll be over with, and then we’ll have Fred back.’
‘You know life is never that simple. Hey…. Does this fucker know I’m dead?’
‘Does he know…?’
‘Jeez. I never thought to ask. I assumed…. I don’t know. Does it make a difference?’
Spike pursed his lips, thinking. ‘Maybe if he found out, he wouldn’t want to…. And why does he want to—with me, I mean? Did he…? What did he say about me?’
Angel opened his mouth to reply but frowned. ‘I don’t know. I asked him that, because, I mean, weird or what? But he didn’t really say….’
‘Weird. You think it’s weird that anyone would want me?’
‘No. I think it’s weird he would.’
‘Buffy. That’s what this is all about, isn’t it? Sodding hell! This somehow sullies your precious memories of Buffy!’
‘What! Don’t be…. What did she see in you? I don’t get it! Me… then you!’
Spike came up close and said snidely, ‘Perhaps she smelt you on me….’
Angel’s mouth opened slightly in confusion. ‘Huh?’
‘I mean…. What did I mean?’ He topped up their drinks, examined the empty bottle, turned around as if looking for the person who’d drunk it all, then opened the other one. He sank onto the couch. ‘I think he’s a bit….’ He twisted a finger against his temple.
‘Because he wants you?’
Spike shrugged. ‘Two minutes and he’s falling under my irresistible spell? I don’t think so.’
Angel took a long drink. ‘So, what are you going to wear?’
Spike spat out some of his drink. ‘And I’m the one who’s gonna get fucked up the arse!! Angel! Have you never listened to yourself? Men don’t talk about what they’re going to wear!’
Angel looked aggrieved. ‘They do. If they’re confident in their masculinity….’
Spike laughed openly and poked him. ‘Now I know what you do at night, in that huge fucking bed of yours all alone: you read GQ!’
Angel got up and went to Spike’s bedroom. ‘Where’s the…? Where’s the closet, Spike?’
‘Why, cus you want to come out of it?’
Angel slapped at him and marched to a cardboard box in the corner, peering in. ‘Tell me this isn’t your….’
Spike topped up his drink and peered, too. ‘’S okay. Does the job.’
‘Sheesh. I’ll buy you a closet.’
‘Maybe I won’t need one after this….’
‘Don’t.’ Spike turned at the sudden softening of Angel’s tone. Angel downed his drink in one and added, ‘You survived me; you’ll survive this.’
‘You think this will be like… dying?’
Spike sank onto the edge of the bed. Angel hesitated then sat down as well. ‘This is small.’
‘I hope he doesn’t say that tonight.’
Angel laughed and banged Spike’s thigh.
Spike hit him back.
Angel hit harder.
Spike drained his drink and then pushed Angel off the end of the bed, falling on top of him.
They stared at each other for a moment. ‘This. It’ll be like this, Angel.’
‘Why not? You can let me do it, but you don’t want to think about it? Maybe he’ll lie on me like this…. Grinding….’
‘Why? Maybe I want to practice….’
‘Maybe I don’t.’
‘Why, cus this feels so bad?’ He rubbed slowly up, then down, and then circled hard over Angel’s groin.
‘I—. I’m drunk.’
‘I know. I sure as hell am.’ He stabbed his hand between them and pulled at Angel’s waistband. Angel’s hand snaked to stop him, but it didn’t actually do anything other than cling pathetically to the strong wrist. Spike grinned. ‘Maybe I could get to enjoy this….’
He glanced up into Angel’s face and then he looked sharply away and sat up. Very slowly, he levered off Angel and lay on his back next to him, staring up at the same spot on the ceiling.
‘I saw his face, not yours.’
‘Oh.’ Angel was silent for a moment then murmured, ‘I have no idea how to respond to that.’
‘So… my face makes it… easier?’
‘Jesus, Angel. You’re so… familiar. Is there anything we’ve not done together? Remember how we used to take a woman between us: me in the front, you in the….’
‘Stop it! I can’t afford to remember those days.’
Angel turned his head, and Spike added, ‘How can you see how far you’ve come if you don’t keep your eye on the starting line?’
Angel swallowed. ‘When did you stop being an idiot?’
Spike grinned. ‘Another drink?’
‘Hell, yes.’ They clambered to their feet, discretely readjusting clothing until Angel said brightly, ‘So, what are you going to wear?’
Spike groaned. ‘Christ. Something—oh, I don’t know—black?’ He suddenly swore and held up the empty second bottle. He hesitated then said, ‘Bar?’
It was set in straight lines, had mock sawdust on the floor and Country and Western music turned up loud. Spike refused to enter until Angel said softly, ‘You said you needed to get used to it… that you might like it….’
‘I was talking about cock up my arse, not….’ He trailed off as a couple leaving the bar shot him a startled look.
He groaned and followed Angel in. ‘You’re buying.’
‘Aren’t I always?’
Suitably armed, they found a secluded corner and slid into a booth. Angel pulled out his cell phone. ‘I need to see how Wes is getting on.’ He punched in a number, hesitated for a moment, then held it so close to Spike that the back of his hand brushed the blond hair.
‘Angel. Ingram studied with Fred—for a semester. Then he dropped out. Some disagreement about the subject of his research topic.’
‘Fuck. He wasn’t lying then. I mean… good… he wasn’t lying then….’ Angel turned to see Spike’s reaction. They were so close their noses almost touched.
Wesley’s disembodied voice was very precise. ‘The best liars sail very close to the truth, Angel. He must have known we’d check him out.’
‘I’ll keep on it. Where are you?’
‘I’m… with Spike.’
Angel almost replied, ‘Do I need a reason?’ but then remembered that for the last hundred years he had.
‘We’re going over options.’
‘All right. Good. We’ve six hours, Angel. I can find out a lot in six hours.’
Angel snapped off the phone and, after a moment, straightened. He saw Spike’s expression. ‘Six hours is a hell of a long time.’
‘I wish it was over! It’s the anticipation that’ll kill me!’
Angel poured him a drink. ‘Don’t think about it any more. Think about something else.’
‘Easy for you to say.’
‘Tell me… what do you think about Gunn?’
‘Huh! Jesus Christ! Have I suddenly become the gay pride advice line here! I don’t think anything about….’
‘About being left… about me leaving him in hell… moron.’ The last was said so affectionately that Spike’s fury evaporated.
He nodded. ‘Okay. I think… I think he’s kinda lucky—he gets to really repent. He gets the tangible evidence of his contrition.’
Angel played with his glass, seemingly deep in thought. Then he nodded and murmured, ‘That’s what I think, too.’
Spike frowned and felt tempted to put his hand on Angel’s arm. ‘Don’t you suffer enough? Sheesh, Angel, lighten up on yourself maybe?’
‘What’s your secret, Spike?’
‘Well, it’s bleach, but then I tint the….’
‘Your soul! How do you survive your soul so easily?’
Spike took a long drink, regarding Angel’s lowered profile. ‘Who says I do? Maybe I’m just a better actor than you.’
Angel leant back, studying him. ‘No. I think it’s because you suffered even before you were souled.’
Spike narrowed his eyes. ‘I was exceptionally evil. Passing acquaintance with someone called the Big Bad mean anything to you, Mate?’
Angel smiled. ‘In another lifetime. Maybe’
Spike grinned. ‘Angelus and William the Bloody. We sound like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.’
‘With this music, I feel like it, too.’
‘Wanna move somewhere else?’
Angel’s only response was to grab the unused bottles and stand.
Spike stopped in the shade on the sidewalk and said with a small smirk, ‘I’ve got an idea.’
Angel groaned. ‘I’ve had a hundred years to learn to fear those words.’
Angel let Spike drive because he couldn’t coordinate to get the key in the lock. He pushed his long legs out and tipped his head back, taking an occasional swig from the open bottle and passing it to Spike.
After half an hour, he took a longer swallow and peered idly out of the window. ‘Where are we?’
Spike said cheerfully, ‘So… Gunn…. Bummer, hey?’
‘Spike… where are we? I don’t….’
Spike swung the car over, dashed out into the shade, and then wandered toward a burly man standing in front of a garish doorway.
The man looked them both up and down and then leered. ‘Wet dick contest today….’
Angel frowned. ‘Who’s Dick?’
Spike grabbed his arm and dragged him inside. The smell of the place should have given it away, but it took a few moments more before Angel reeled and tried to leave. ‘No way!’
Spike pouted. ‘Angel… I wanna… see….’
Angel closed his eyes and seemed to be praying for divine guidance. Then he opened them and nodded toward the bar. They threaded their way though the dancers, and Angel said deceptively casually, ‘If you ever tell anyone I went to a gay dance club with you, I’ll….’
‘Don’t forget entered the wet willy contest….’
Angel put his head down into his hands, waiting for his drink. ‘You don’t seriously think they’re really wet… or even really… come to that. Jesus, look at those two men…. Don’t look! Be cool!’
‘I wanna see…. Oh, my God. They’re….’
Angel bought two large whiskies, and Spike said cunningly, ‘I’m thinking we could get something stronger in here.’
‘Oh, and you’ve had such a good relationship with drugs.’
‘Hell, I won’t even see that cock coming at me….’
‘With your luck, you’ll see three.’
Suddenly a figure materialised in front of them, hands on hips. ‘Hi. You have to settle a bet for my friend—that’s Troy over there, by the way—and me. See, we both think you’re a couple, only Troy says you’re, like, sooo long-term… maybe a month? But I say you met tonight! I can always sense when the love is just….’ He gave a small theatrical wiggle, as if a real fairy about to bestow magic. ‘Beginning…. So, which is it?’
Like a zipper under too much pressure, Spike and Angel parted with an audible hiss.
Angel growled as well. ‘We’re just friends….’
Spike turned to him. ‘In your dreams. You forget: I don’t like you!’
Angel grimaced. ‘That’s because I’m the only one who sees you for the total fuck-up you really are!’
The exotic man nodded. ‘Troy wins. Long-term lovers.’ He flounced off and gave Troy the thumbs down.
Spike began to laugh. ‘Either that’s a let them die or he’s telling Troy he’s crashed and burnt.’
Angel paled. ‘Drink?’
They leant on the bar, watching the dancers, until Spike murmured, ‘I’m going to do it here.’
Angel turned his head. ‘Dance?’
Spike pursed his lips. ‘No. Get fucked.’
‘Angel! I don’t want it to be him—Ingram—for my first time! I wanna know what I’m doing… I really want to know what he’s doing! So, I’m gonna pick a guy and… do it.’
‘Give me one reason why not?’
As Angel could hardly say because I don’t want you to, he said nothing.
Spike nodded as if hearing Angel’s capitulation to his better logic and began to scan the floor. ‘That one—in the blue… the one who’s just stripped his shirt off.’
Angel buried himself in his drink for a moment then said neutrally, ‘He’s too….’ He contorted his face slightly. ‘Young.’
‘Young. You mean pretty.’
‘He’s not what you’re looking for at all. Okay, over there, leaning on the wall. He’s better.’
Spike narrowed his eyes at Angel but turned to look. He scoffed. ‘He’s not leaning; he’s passing out! He’s ancient! Forty at least! And look at that belly!’
‘Spike! Are you really so shallow? He looks… nice….’
‘And nice is a useful attribute for this endeavour, is it?’
‘Fuck off and let me decide. Damn, blue-shirt’s gone. Okay. Hold this.’ Spike shed his coat and thrust it at Angel. With a last glance, which Angel could not interpret at all, he disappeared into the garishly lit throng.
He had no idea how to actually go about it, but he had the vague idea that if he pretended they were all girls (up to the point where it became obvious that one of them… wasn’t…), he’d be okay. He lurked by the stairs and reckoned, given previous experience with the fairer sex, that it would take about an hour. He’d just decided on an expression—somewhere between sexy and bored—when he felt a hand on his arm.
He turned and thought girl. ‘Hi.’
‘You waiting for someone?’
Spike grinned; this was easy. ‘You.’
The man flicked up his eyebrows and nodded toward the rear exit.
Spike trailed after him, thinking about nothing except a nervous laugh and someone who’d believed in him when no one else would; someone who’d cried with him when hell had frightened him; and someone who’d died because he wasn’t strong enough to save her. She needed his strength now.
It was cooler outside, and it felt good on Spike’s sweaty skin.
The alley was in total shade, and dark after the bright lights inside. It was filled with soft grunting, low groaning and moans that could have been pain or pleasure.
The man pushed him, back to the wall and leant in close. Spike twisted his head to one side. ‘I’m not kissing you.’
The man straightened then roughly turned him face to the wall. ‘Cool. You don’t wanna get acquainted first? That’s fine by me.’
Hands slipped around his waist and found the top button of his jeans. He watched fingers undressing him, button by button. When the jeans were loose enough, the man yanked them over his hips. ‘Oh, yeah, commando. And fuck, what an arse. Want me to ram my cock up that pretty arse?’
‘No, but I’m gonna let you anyway.’
‘Just do it, yeah?’
‘Put this on me….’
Spike closed his eyes and shook his head. ‘Whatever it is, do it yourself. I just want this over.’
‘Look, man, if you don’t want to….’
‘I do. Just… stop talking, okay?’
The man seized Spike’s cheeks and pulled them apart roughly. He pressed him to the wall, and Spike spread his arms, rubbing his face on the brickwork to give him something else to think about.
Suddenly, there was a grunt, a soft cry, and the presence behind him became considerably bigger and considerably more familiar. He tried to turn, incandescent with rage, but Angel only pressed him harder to the wall. With an angry, hissed sound, he yanked Spike’s pants back up.
‘Fuck off! I was so close! Angel! Fuck off and….’ Teeth sank deep into his neck. He screamed—a choked sound of shock and fury—and arched his neck. Angel thrust in harder—with his hips as well. Spike was ground into the wall, his angular body feeling every brick, his prick scraped against the rough cotton of his jeans.
Angel held the thin waist and took him, his fangs small, vicious substitutes for the larger penetration he had been denied.
Spike passed the barrier of pain and shock, and then melted to the familiarity of this exchange.
Suddenly though, he felt an unfamiliar shudder. It shot through Angel’s body, and the hands on his waist gripped painfully.
Angel withdrew his mouth and sank slowly back to the wall. Spike took a moment to recover then turned his head.
‘What is wrong with you? I’m trying to do something good here. I don’t understand why you’re doing this….’
He caught a particularly loud grunt of satisfaction from further down the alley and gave a small choked sob, stumbling away. When he reached the entrance to a basement, he turned and said distinctly, ‘Just leave me alone. This time tomorrow we’ll have Fred back.’ He wrenched open the door and disappeared inside.
It was only as he levered open a cover to the sewers that he remembered Angel still had his coat.
It was only as he dropped down into the darkness that he remembered how tightly Angel had clutched the coat to the front of his pants.
Angel stood for a few minutes more, surrounded by the sound of other people’s pleasure. He still held Spike’s coat protectively to his front. As his teeth had broken through the surface of Spike’s smooth skin, as a powerful arc of blood had hit his throat, he’d released a heavy load of sperm into his pants. It had been more like an explosion than an orgasm, and he was still shaking. He had not had an orgasm like that since he’d been souled: every one since muted somehow by the guilt of that enslavement. Yet here, biting into Spike’s neck, grinding into his backside—which, momentarily as he’d exited the club, had been spread and ready to accept the anonymous man’s prick—his orgasm had been all encompassing.
He’d hit the man too hard. He wasn’t dead, but he’d be unconscious for some time to come, his pretty face spoilt for a few weeks after that. Slumped, he looked stoned, and Angel figured that explained the total lack of interest from the other occupants of the alley.
He dug into his damp pants and retrieved his cell phone. As he walked to the edge of the shady confines of the alley, he called for his car. It was two o’clock—four hours left to try and find another way.
It took him half an hour to get back and another fifteen minutes to shower and change: time ticking away like an out-of-control heart. Yet another quarter of an hour was wasted as he made his way down to see Wesley, accosted by employees, needy and demanding—or so they seemed to Angel. The ticking in his head became distracting—a frantic countdown to something he could not rationalise, only felt: that he did not want Spike to do this thing.
Wesley was in his office, surrounded by books, but he was studying the screen of his computer intently.
Wesley jumped slightly and looked up, pinching the bridge of his nose. ‘He’s a rather extraordinary man.’
‘Is he telling the truth?’
‘I can’t say definitely one way or the other. All I can say is that if anyone could possibly know how to do this thing, he could.’
‘Damn? I’d say… good… no?’
Angel sank heavily into the couch and put his head in his hands. Wesley sat down beside him. ‘This is something to do with Spike, isn’t it?’
Angel looked up, but he didn’t reply.
‘Something he doesn’t want me to know. Something you promised you wouldn’t tell me. You might have to tell me, Angel, if I’m going to help you. Spike’s life is threatened by this man Ingram, isn’t it? That was his deal: Spike for Fred.’
‘Yes. In a way.’
Wesley’s eyebrow rose and he stared thoughtfully at the back of his monitor. ‘Oh. I see.’
Angel looked sceptical at this quickness, so Wesley admitted, ‘He never made any attempt to hide his lifestyle—his business interests, yes, but not his personal ones. I think I can guess what the deal is.’
‘I can’t let him do it. I have….’ Angel consulted his watch and grimaced. ‘Two hours forty five minutes.’
Wesley rose and turned to Angel, angry. ‘I really don’t understand you. We have a chance to get Fred back for this very, very minor concession….’
‘Minor concession!’ Angel rose, too, and began to pace. ‘I don’t think….’
‘No! You think too damn much! That’s your trouble. You think too much, and it’s always about Spike!’
‘Spike is a member of the team, no more, no less. I’m doing no more for him than I would any one of….’
‘You sacrificed Fred; you left Gunn in hell, and yet you’re concerned about Spike rolling around in some rich, handsome man’s bed and probably—knowing Spike—enjoying himself thoroughly. Oh!’ He came closer and tried to read Angel’s expression more, but Angel turned away from him. ‘That’s it, isn’t it? You’re not afraid for him. You’re afraid he’s actually going to enjoy it! Angel, are you jealous?’
Angel pushed him against the desk, and the computer wobbled slightly at the impact. Wesley didn’t seem to notice—the impact or the large hands on his shirt, forcing him further and further back. ‘You don’t want Spike hovering around anyone but you. You’re afraid of losing him.’
Angel’s voice was icy. ‘And how ironic, Wesley, that here you are again: contributing to my loss.’
Wesley said softly, ‘I’m sorry…? I’m not with you.’
Angel released him and straightened. ‘I sometimes wonder if you are.’
Wesley came and stood close. ‘Whatever you mean by that… I’ve always been there for you, Angel—always. I’m sorry if you feel that isn’t the case.’
Angel turned. ‘No. I’m sorry, Wes. I didn’t give you the chance to repent. I stole that from you. We’ll do this thing, and we’ll get Fred back—Spike will get Fred back and….’
At the change in his tone, Wesley turned to the door, following Angel’s gaze. Illyria stood in the doorway, arms folded. ‘You plot to destroy me.’
Angel stepped around Wesley and folded his arms, too. ‘Is that possible?’
‘I strode the earth before mountains formed, before rivers chose their course. And you—puny half-breed who should be fodder for the creatures I feed on—you think to destroy me?’
‘Yeah. I do. I think about it a lot.’
She tipped her head to one side, a gesture that in anyone else—someone in particular—Angel would have found endearing. In Illyria, it was intimidating, but he stood his ground. ‘You think you have found some secret that threatens me.’
‘If we’ve found it, then I guess it’s not a secret anymore.’ He felt Wesley’s hand on his arm but could not decide whether it was a gesture of solidarity or restraint.
Illyria appeared to take it as the former, for she turned angrily and left.
‘Don’t provoke her, Angel. She’s not… tame.’
‘She was worried.’
‘I doubt it.’
‘She knows there is something.’
‘Then I’m suddenly afraid for Ingram—for Spike. If there is a secret, if he spills it whilst he’s enjoying the sealing of his bargain….’
‘If Ingram tells him, he’ll be in danger.’
‘Angel! That’s not what I meant! We can’t afford to lose the knowledge if anything happens to them. We have to send Spike in wired.’
‘Fuck you, Wesley! I’m not going to ask him to….’
‘I wasn’t suggesting you ask him anything. We put a device somewhere….’ Wesley trailed off at the look that flitted over Angel’s face. ‘You’ve thought of somewhere… you have something of his….’
Angel pouted. ‘His coat.’
‘Perfect. I’ll get it down to the lab….’
‘Whatever Ingram says to him, we’ll have on tape.’
As Angel didn’t say, “That’s what I’m afraid of,” Wesley didn’t hear it. Already heading purposefully toward the door, he, therefore, also didn’t see the anguished expression that accompanied this non-spoken thought.
Angel watched him leave, unable to articulate the thought that he had an ulterior motive for not wanting to hear Spike’s liaison with the human, but even more unable to articulate the thought that he had an ulterior motive for wanting to hear it, too.
Spike lay on his bed, his arms folded behind his head, thinking.
He felt naked without his coat, but that seemed… appropriate. Angel had walked away with far more than that tonight, and a vague feeling of vulnerability now hung over Spike.
He put a hand to the wound in his neck. It was still fresh. It would stay that way for a while longer: vampire flesh recognising the bite of a sire, refusing to heal, revelling in the marking. It made him hot to remember it: the sinking of the teeth through his skin; the way Angel had leant against him, grinding them together as he’d gnawed. Most of all though, he remembered Angel’s orgasm—not that he’d understood it as that at the time, then only feeling a shudder and hearing a subliminal groan of need.
Now, though, it was vivid in his mind, every twitch of muscle explained. Angel had surged with release at the taste of his blood, quivered with pleasure at the feel of his body.
It made him so angry he could feel a knot of tension in his belly. Quite why it made him angry, he wasn’t so sure. He thought it might be that he’d lain on Angel and practically begged him to be his first—so he didn’t have to stand against a wall and be taken by a stranger—and Angel had refused. Possibly it was this. It could equally well be that even though Angel didn’t want him, he didn’t seem to want anyone else to have him: Buffy… Harmony… the anonymous fuck with the sore head. It left him in limbo, worse than when he had first arrived in L.A. At least then he’d been incorporeal for real, instead of this bloody half-life where he was physically real, but emotionally insubstantial, hanging forever like some sodding wisp of smoke around Angel’s more solid presence.
In some ways, he was actually looking forward to the evening. It sickened him to know this about himself, but it was like planning to deface an altar: a cry into the face of the eternal that fucked you up all the time. He only wished Angel could watch. He’d get a real kick out of thinking of Angel, impotent and trapped in his own denial, watching him share his body with a stranger.
Lying there thinking, therefore, Spike’s mind twisted and turned on the things he’d lost that day. His ability to deny that he wanted Angel was probably the most significant, although he spared a thought for his coat, which he wanted back just as much. The coat was retrievable. The other? Spike doubted that even the vast power of Wolfram and Hart could reinforce denial that significant.
Go to Chapter 3
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