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Spike breathed a sigh of relief when Angel left the bed. They’d stared at each other, inches apart, and his need to feel Angel’s body was so intense that he’d begun to stroke his hands over his own body instead, just to feel something.
He turned onto his back and nestled into the warmth that Angel left, listening to the shower. He was hard, his cock responding to lying alongside Angel. He began to stroke up and down the velvety length, enjoying his own solidity if no one else could. As his body began to respond—balls rising and twitching; skin becoming sensitive and flushed and his breathing laboured—he had the bizarre thought that perhaps his cum would be real to Angel. Perhaps Angel would return to the bed and find it, wet on his sheets. Perhaps he would return early and catch it arcing from nowhere: magical, glistening seed. He turned onto his side and aimed, covering the slight indentation where Angel had lain, shooting streams of fluid into his version of reality.
Angel returned, climbed naked onto the cum, turned onto his belly, put the pillow over his head and did not move again.
Spike watched the strong shoulders for a while, traced his finger over the griffon, which was more real that he was, then whispered, ‘Goodnight.’
There was no response, and Spike fell back onto his side, trying to resist the need to put his head under a pillow, too.
He was woken by a huge gasp and a sharp cry, ‘Spike!’ but Angel was still asleep, and there was nothing Spike could do but watch the restless dreaming. Eventually, after another rasping cry, which sounded to Spike like, ‘Pitch!’ Angel woke. He sat up, sweating heavily, and swallowed, seeming to find it hard to get his bearings. He pulled his knees up and folded his arms around them protectively. Slowly, he put his forehead down then wrapped his arms tightly over his head. The cords in his muscles stood out, as if he were holding onto a great burden.
Spike couldn’t decide who he hated more: Wesley or himself. It was a close run thing. They’d both done this to Angel, but at least Wesley’s motives had been pure. His, he didn’t care to examine.
Knowing it would not help, but wanting to do it anyway, Spike tried to run his fingers through Angel’s sleep-rumpled hair. For one startling moment, he actually felt it. For an even more alarming moment, Angel appeared to, too. He jerked away with a cry, staring around as if he had indeed been touched by a ghost. He put his hand up to his hair. ‘Spi—?’ Appearing to think better of giving into that particular madness, Angel snapped his jaw shut.
Spike tried in vain to make himself substantial again, but with Angel’s sad reverie over, he appeared to have dissolved into nothingness once more.
He sat back on his heels and stared at Angel, then said quietly, ‘You were willing to beat and break my body to bring me back, Pet. Why can’t you just let a little feeling out of that lock-down of yours? Hey, luv?’ He had a sickening feeling that this was something Angel would never do. How could he? A lifetime of denial wasn’t easy to overcome.
Angel slid back down, but Spike could see that he would not sleep again. He wondered how many nights Angel lay alone—sleepless like this. He risked one more touch, but it had no effect. Depressed, he climbed out of bed and went to sit in the other room, smoking and thinking.
Angel could not shake the impression of the dream. It wasn’t hard to interpret: a platform, a blond victim but, this time, the understanding of an adult. He wasn’t surprised he’d dreamt of Spike; even his damn bed seemed to smell of him. He was used to nightmares, waking in the middle of the night, shaking and sweat-coated. What he wasn’t used to was this feeling of being so… spooked. He was a vampire. When he wanted to be, he was a very scary vampire. So, ghostly fingers in his hair shouldn’t freak him out, but they did.
When the alarm sounded, he turned it off calmly, having been awake the rest of the night. He sighed heavily, trying to summon the motivation to leave the bed and start the day.
He allowed himself to think of Spike for a moment: no more snarky entrances; no more derision; no more cigarette smoke ruining his clothes.
It was better this way.
He should never have been released from the amulet. That had been the fundamental error from which all this pain flowed.
Angel frowned deeply. Pain wasn’t the right word. Pain wasn’t the right word at all. He clamped down on the thought that Spike’s death could possibly cause him pain and substituted… confusion. Yeah, confusion—that he would allow. Spike confused him all right.
Feeling considerably better, and now ready to face the day, Angel swung his legs out of bed and went to shower. Life was going to be so much simpler without Spike.
He had messages to return and then a conference. He couldn’t believe how much he’d let things slip over the past few weeks. He felt good: in control, busy, efficient. He felt more like himself than he had since…. It was no good thinking about amulets or the past in any way. He had a company to run and a world to save, and he needed to keep his thoughts on that.
Harmony knocked his newfound serenity considerably when she came in, red-eyed and pouty. ‘More messag—. Sorry.’ She sniffed and blew her nose loudly. She saw Angel’s expression and burst into tears. ‘Is it true?’
‘Is what true?’
A glimmer of hope flashed in her eyes, and she said nervously, ‘It’s not? He’s not dead?’
‘Oh.’ Angel pretended he hadn’t understood her from the beginning. ‘Spike. Yes. It’s true.’
‘Ohhh…!’ She ran out.
Angel felt absurdly angry at her pathetic display and muttered, ‘You only knew him a damn year. Try a hundred….’ Pouting, he realised the contradiction in this to his earlier profession of disdain for Spike’s parting and shut up. He snatched up the telephone and began on his list of messages.
Wesley arrived early for the meeting to brief him on the agenda. Angel watched him surreptitiously, pretending to sign papers. Wesley would not be so easy to fool as…. He cursed softly and rose. He wasn’t trying to fool anyone. What had happened, had happened. To prove his point—if only to himself, as he seemed to be the only one having this conversation—he greeted Wesley cheerfully and poured them both a drink.
Wesley was staring at the couch with intense concentration, and Angel couldn’t help his eyes straying in that direction. ‘What?’ He passed the man a glass.
Wesley started and said, ‘Bloody hell, a bit early, isn’t it?’
Angel frowned and realised he was drinking at nine-thirty in the morning. He shrugged and tossed it back in one.
Angel gave him a puzzled look—he was pleased with this and increased it to utterly confused—and replied, ‘Nope. Why?’
Wesley glanced at the couch again, which, once more, led Angel to glance there too. ‘Well…. I thought the first night after… Spike?’
‘Spike’s gone. Where’s the agenda?’
Wesley shook his head and murmured irritably, ‘Yes, he does!’ and handed over a sheaf of papers.
Angel frowned and said softly, ‘Huh?’
Wesley started and pointed to something, with great concentration, on the agenda.
Angel took the papers and went toward the conference room. As he went, he heard Wesley say softly, ‘It’s just an act.’
He decided to ignore this, as it touched a little too closely on things he didn’t want to examine.
By the time they were on item five, Angel felt totally back to normal, to the extent that he could even say something, miss the lack of a predicable, facetious reply, but not let it affect him unduly. Spike—sure, miss him. He could hear himself saying it to anyone who asked. Spike? Yeah, sure, he’s missed around here.
He suddenly looked up when he realised the meeting had gone quiet. ‘What?’
Wesley glanced at an empty chair, and then at Lorne. Lorne fiddled with his pen and murmured, ‘We need to have a party—for Spike.’
‘No!’ Everyone looked curiously at Angel, so he made some notes in the margin of his paper before looking up and adding, ‘It’s not necessary.’
‘Sorry, but it is.’ Lorne was clearly in one of his stubborn moods.
Angel figured he didn’t have to go, so what the hell? He shrugged his consent. Wesley suddenly said, ‘He will. I’ll make sure of it,’ then turned to Angel, and before anyone could be confused at his first comment, added precisely, ‘We all need to be there. Everyone in this company will miss Spike, and you will be there.’
Angel covered his annoyance with a small laugh. ‘I never said I wouldn’t.’ The spooky feeling returned: not only was he being watched and touched, his thoughts were now being overheard. He shook himself slightly. ‘So, when do you propose to hold this party?’
Damn. Too soon. Everything is too… raw….
Lorne blew him a kiss and turned to Wesley. ‘Do you think he’d want a theme?’
Wesley hesitated as if listening to his inner voice and replied with a smile, ‘Leather.’
Angel rose so quickly his chair crashed to the ground. He strode out of the meeting without explanation or apology.
His smile of amusement at suggesting a leather party for his own wake quickly fading, Spike jogged after Angel just in time to enter the elevator with him. He glanced over, wondering about Wesley’s claim that this was all an act.
It was a pretty bloody good act if it was.
Angel was staring at his shoes with great concentration. He swallowed once or twice and contorted his face as if he had a nervous tic, or an unaccustomed itch.
Spike sighed, bent his head to light a cigarette, and Angel snapped his head up, staring around. He gave one sharp sniff and then backed against the wall with a cry, covering his face.
Spike frowned and stared at the tip of his cigarette. He looked over to Angel. ‘Are you grieving? Was that all an act?’
Angel’s knees appeared to buckle, and he slid slowly down the wall. Spike crouched in front of him and tentatively stretched out his hand. He snatched it back when a choked sob came from the huddled figure. Another sob escaped the lock-down. The doors suddenly slid open, and Spike jumped once more, his nerves strung out. Suddenly, Angel began to cry. Spike murmured, ‘Oh! Fuck!’ and Angel raised tear-streaked eyes with a look of unfeigned horror. ‘Spike?’
Spike knelt in front of him again. ‘It’s me! Angel!’
Angel licked his lips. ‘Don’t leave me, Spike. Haunt me….’
‘Fuck! I’m not haunting you! I’m here!’
Angel appeared to notice for the first time that he was huddled and he cursed and pushed to his feet, walking straight through Spike again. This time, though, he stopped. Slowly he turned his head and stared around the apparently empty space. ‘I’m going mad.’ He wiped his face savagely with the back of one hand and went into the bedroom, shedding his clothes and heading straight for the shower.
Spike took the elevator back down and pounded down the hallway to Wesley’s office. He burst in and swept some books off the desk again. ‘Stop this! Now!’
‘You bastard! What right have you…?’
Wesley stood up abruptly with only the slightest wince as his arm hit the desk. ‘He sits there in total denial, Spike, and if I bring you back now he’ll still be in….’
‘No! He’s not in bloody anything! He’s….’
Wesley jerked his head to one side in an uncanny copy of Illyria’s favourite stance, and said curiously, ‘What?’
Spike gritted his teeth. ‘He’s in pain. He’s in pain, and it’s making me more substantial—like you said.’
‘So… why do you want it to stop?’
‘Fuck you, Wesley! It’s hurting him!’
Wesley came closer. ‘Not as much as denying his feelings for you was hurting him.’
Spike pouted, secretly pleased by this but not wanting that to dilute his anger. ‘Bring me back now, and he’ll still know how much he….’
‘No.’ Wesley spoke very softly. ‘I told you: if he’s ready to really love you, then you’ll come back.’
‘You are so full of crap, Wes. Romantic, human crap.’
Wesley smiled, hearing something in this Spike would have flayed him for pointing out. He nodded and only risked, ‘The universe owes you, Vampire—both of you.’ Even that was too much. With a glare, Spike stormed out and returned to his strange Angel-stalking.
Angel came to a decision while he was showering: he’d go to the party, and he’d play CEO, and he’d not let one crack form in his armour that would allow Spike’s haunting presence through. Every time the grief threatened to overwhelm him, there was essence of Spike, curling around him. That way madness lay; he knew this. He had to stay sane and focused and rational. He could not afford to miss Spike. If he played the part well enough, perhaps he could fool himself, too.
He held the closet doors open and looked at his leather pants. The memories they evoked made him hear the urgent whispers again: Angel, it’s me; I’m here. He shouted, ‘No! You’re not! You’ll never be here again,’ and pulled them on angrily. He added a sleeveless leather shirt, and straightened, breathing quietly, just for the company. ‘I do not miss you. I will attend this party for you, and then I will pack you away.’
He exited the elevator to find the party in full swing—if a large number of gloomy people dressed uncomfortably in leather could be called… swinging. He went straight to the bar and helped himself to a large drink before seeking Wesley out. He smiled, knowing the façade was perfect. ‘What’s up?’
Wesley raised an eyebrow. ‘Not spirits.’
‘Why are there so many people here?’ Angel refilled his glass from a passing waiter.
Wesley looked at him slowly then at Spike, who was standing close to his side, looking around the room. Angel frowned but resisted the temptation to follow the direction of the man’s gaze. Wesley smiled then returned his eyes to Angel. ‘Because everyone loved Spike.’
Spike turned back to him and contorted his face. ‘They bloody well did not! They all hated me.’
‘Most of these people didn’t even know him.’
Wesley made a small face at Spike, but replied to Angel, ‘Sure they did. He got around, made friends, talked to people. It’s you who knows no one.’
Spike narrowed his eyes at the man. ‘Stop bullying him. He’s feeling fragile.’
Wesley smiled softly. ‘He doesn’t look fragile.’
Angel put his drink down slowly. ‘Who doesn’t…?’
Wesley picked the glass up and said brightly, ‘Another?’
Angel, left on his own, wrapped his arms tightly around his body.
Things went well for a few hours. Angel maintained his habitual level of broody silence, and no one knew anything was any different. It was only as the maudlin hours of the evening began, when people had drunk enough to let their feelings show, that things began to slip away from him.
It began with Harmony. She sought Angel out, and after a sniff, she pressed something into his hand. Angel looked down. ‘He’d want you to have it.’
Spike’s lighter lay, small and insignificant, in his palm. He tried to give it back to her—quickly, as if it burnt him—but she wiped her eyes and gave a small, brave smile. ‘He was always talking about you, so I guess it’s where he’d want it to be.’
Spike could have hit her (and tried once before he felt stupid and desisted). Angel shoved the lighter deep into his pocket and nodded his thanks. When she’d moved on, an insignificant man came and stood at Angel’s side. Spike could see that Angel was reaching badly for his name, and whispered, ‘Lenny,’ as if that could help.
Lenny smiled anxiously at Angel then said in a low voice, ‘He always said he wanted you to go first—so I guess this kinda sucks.’
Spike groaned, spied the drinks table and wondered if time theory would break down enough for him to get totally plastered. He wandered over to give it a try.
Angel flushed with embarrassment at the implied sentiment in the human’s voice and at not having the slightest clue who the man was. He just echoed, ‘Go first?’ in a weak voice, playing with Spike’s lighter in his pocket.
‘Yeah, he always said he didn’t want you to be left alone…. Scared him.’
Angel began to feel angry now, this casual assumption from complete strangers that they knew his childe better than he did. He didn’t explore the nagging thought that the anger was because these complete strangers actually did know his childe better then he did. ‘Who are you?’
The man flushed at Angel’s uncharacteristic bluntness. ‘I’m Lenny—from the car pool? Spike and me used to play poker while we waited—for you usually. Shit, he could play a mean game of poker.’
‘I know. I taught him.’
‘Oh, well, any time you want to come down and….’ He implied the rest of the sentence, miming dealing a hand and wandered off.
A demon with an odd appearance (even for a demon) sidled up and offered Angel a drink, which he took gratefully. ‘We’re gonna miss him.’
Angel nodded, wearily.
‘He was a real gent.’
‘And you are at the right party?’ It was petty, but it made him feel better. Suddenly a figure caught his eye, staring at him. He tried to place the face, and it came to him: the janitor. The small scene between Ingram and the man came back to him, and with total clarity he remembered making the comparison between the human’s treatment of the small, ugly man, and Spike’s.
Angel turned back to the demon and said sincerely, ‘Yeah. He was.’
‘Yep, he was one of life’s gracious creatures, man. Never… judged, ya know?’
Angel did and smiled softly. ‘Sometimes, I used to wish he’d be more….’
‘Cautious.’ Angel plunged into memories he didn’t want: Spike’s enthusiasm’s, his total abandon of any common sense when he had a plan; his amazing ability to bounce back. Except from this. Something had finally defeated him. It didn’t seem right.
When Angel lifted his head, the demon had moved on. For one heart-wrenching moment, Angel thought he saw Spike standing by the bar: his faint presence; florescent lighting glinting on his blond hair; and his pale, flawless skin. Someone moved, and the shape dissolved into wishes.
The janitor confronted Angel, and Angel cursed inwardly at, yet again, not having the least idea what he was called. He nodded weakly.
The man had to crane his neck to look up at Angel. It did nothing for his features. ‘You miss him.’
Slightly surprised at the bluntness of the observation, and even more surprised to have it made by someone so lowly, (although only considerably more torture than he’d received in hell would make him admit to that almost English level of snobbery), he could only nod coolly.
‘I miss him more than you can know.’
Angel frowned. ‘You knew Spike, too.’
‘Oh, yeah, old friends… if you know what I mean….’
Yeah. As if Angel was going to fall for that—this pathetic implication that this weasel-faced man had known Spike…. Not only wouldn’t Spike give this little freak the time of day, he’d wouldn’t stand beside him in case his ugly little….
Angel gritted his teeth and tried to remain gracious, as Spike would do. It was the least he could do.
With a malicious look, the little man wandered off.
Angel turned to leave.
Suddenly, music started, and it held him captive in its sad embrace.
Spike spotted Wesley and marched up to him furiously. ‘Those are my CDs!’
Wesley shrugged. ‘Of course. It’s your wake. I thought it would be a nice touch: Spike’s swansong, so to speak!’
‘I want them all back in perfect condition!’
Angel was staring at his feet when the singer began. Wesley saw Spike’s face and said softly, ‘I think you sang it better.’
pours from your walls, drowning your calls, I've tried to hear, you're not near.
Remembering when I saw your face, shining my way, pure timing. Now I've fallen
in deep, slow silent sleep, it's killing me, I'm dying.
Spike glanced over at Angel. ‘Turn it off!’
Wesley shook his head. ‘No. He sat and listened to you singing this. He listened to your fear and your doubt, but still he let you go to Ingram. But worse, Spike; I let you go. We both deserve this.’
Angel’s head had lifted. He’d clearly recognised the track, remembered Spike’s subtle harmony.
this slick fallen rift, came like a gift, your body moves ever nearer. And you
will dry this tear. Now that we're here, and grieve for me, not history But
now I'm dry of thoughts, wait for the rain, Then it's replaced, sun setting
Suddenly, he was in motion. He strode through the throng on the floor and sought Hamilton out. Spike murmured a small, uncertain sound and walked through people to stand at his side. He caught the tail end of Hamilton’s greeting.
‘…impressive number of people. You must be… surprised.’
‘I’m not here to talk about Spike.’
Hamilton laughed. ‘Well, that will be a first for all of us.’
Angel ignored him. ‘I’m here to deal for him.’
Hamilton laid his glass down and began to walk slowly toward one of the hallways. He glanced behind, clearly inviting Angel to follow. ‘I confess I’m intrigued, Angel. Deal for Spike?’
‘I want him brought back.’
Spike wanted to interject something suitably risible but didn’t waste his breath.
Hamilton made a small gesture. ‘I’m embarrassed to say, Angel, that we can’t locate him.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘He seems to have slipped off our radar, so to speak. Of course, we will find him, eventually, but suffice to say, he’s not in any of our regular hell dimensions. But as I pointed out to the Senior Partners, he’s utterly unique! The first souled vampire ever to be staked. I wonder if there’s a hell reserved just for him…?’
‘Yes, you overdressed fairy, there is: listening to you blather all day.’ Neither of them heard, but it made Spike feel better to say it.
‘What exactly do you think you have to offer us, Angel?’
‘Me. My soul.’
Hamilton stopped. ‘That is interesting. You’d be willing to sell your soul for Spike?’
Angel flushed slightly at his choice of expression. ‘Exchange. I prefer to think of it as an exchange.’
‘I don’t believe you, Angel. You wouldn’t give us that even to bring your son back. You created this edifice of lies instead. But for that blond moron, you’d sacrifice the apocalypse.’
‘I’m not critical to the apocalypse!’
‘Hey! Deny I’m a moron, you… moron!’
‘Yes, Angel, you are. Souless you will be our greatest ally.’
‘Can it be done?’
Spike suddenly got that Angel was serious, not just drunk and maudlin. He stopped and put his hand out as if to lay it on Angel’s arm, but they just carried on walking. He jogged to catch up and stood in front of them, but they walked through him. He debated fetching Wesley, but suddenly felt reluctant to expose Angel’s decision to those critical eyes.
He entered the elevator with the other two and thrust his hands into his pockets, mumbling softly to himself.
Hamilton glanced over at Angel. ‘Do you hear something?’
Angel hesitated then replied, ‘I hear it all the time.’
Hamilton nodded. ‘Perhaps we’re haunted. I wouldn’t be surprised. I hear this whole place is built upon the….’
‘Do we have a deal?’
‘Oh, yes, of course. I thought you understood that. My apologies. I will have the contract drawn up tonight.’ The doors opened, and he exited.
Angel leant back against the wall and closed his eyes. The façade had cracked wide open; he was free falling. He’d bring Spike back, and then he could think again. Then he could decide what to do next. Like this, he was paralysed—pretending, denying.
Tears began to run down his face, but he reckoned they’d stop when he put his name to the contract. He couldn’t remember Angelus ever crying.
He’d be Angelus once more, and then the pain would stop; then he would no longer remember that Spike was gracious, and kind and brave. They would both be what they once were, and life would be simple again.
Spike stood alongside Angel, unwilling to leave him but needing to fetch Wesley. He looked deep into Angel’s dilated eyes, came so close his essence almost dissolved into the more solid form. ‘Why haven’t I come back?’
Angel had no answers for him, so he rephrased his question. ‘If you’re so fucking sad, Angel, so fucking sad that you’d give up your bloody soul, why haven’t I come back?’
Still, Angel had no reply. He only brushed the back of his hand over his eyes and exited the elevator.
He did not return to the party but went to his office and stared out at the lights, hands plunged deep in his pockets. The paralysis had not lifted. He couldn’t think clearly enough to do anything other than wait and let events take their course. Hamilton would come; they would sign the contract, and Spike would return. It was very, very simple, and this simplicity soothed him.
Spike also watched the lights, but he watched Angel more. When Hamilton arrived, Angel nodded at his private elevator, and they entered it together.
Hamilton had a leather folder in his hand.
Spike began to run. He tore out of the office into the lobby. He couldn’t see Wesley anywhere, and ran through people seeking him out. He crashed down the hallway to Wesley’s office, cursed at its emptiness, and took the elevator down to the lab.
Wesley turned from the table he was leaning over. ‘You got me thinking earlier….’
‘Angel’s signing over his soul to Marcus Hamilton—to get me back.’
Wesley straightened and pouted. ‘You must be mistaken.’
‘Fuck you! I was there!’ He tried to grab Wesley’s arm (a hundred years of being solid, a hard habit to kick).
Wesley frowned, his pout making the expression almost comic. ‘There is no way….’
‘I told you, Wesley! I told you: you don’t get Angel! Now come on! Please!’
Whether because of Spike’s final, uncharacteristic plea, or his expression, Wesley suddenly began to run. Spike ran behind him, effortlessly matching his pace.
Wesley entered Angel’s elevator then paused, holding the doors. Spike cursed and began to urge him on, but Wesley shook his head. ‘Go to my office and fetch the stake that’s in my top draw.’
At Spike’s look, he said lightly, ‘Angel may have already signed it.’ He glanced up. ‘I don’t fancy saying hello to Angelus all that much.’
Spike cursed again. ‘Wait here.’
Wesley nodded, waited until he was out of sight and then let the doors slide close. Time was of the essence. Angelus wouldn’t kill him straightaway; that wasn’t his style.
He exited into soft candlelight. The darkness wrapped around him.
Before there was time for panic to well, he saw Angel standing by the window, systematically tearing a sheet of paper into tiny pieces of confetti, which fluttered like snow around his bare feet.
Angel didn’t turn his head. He held out the remaining handful of snow and let it drop: a magnanimous Santa Claus.
Wesley came closer. ‘What are you doing?’
‘What does it look like?’
‘It looks like you’re tearing up the contract.’
‘Good visual acuity, Wes. I’m impressed.’
Wesley wasn’t too sure he wasn’t talking to Angelus. He’d never felt so keenly the inseparable nature of the two. ‘Perhaps I should have asked why are you doing it?’
Angel smiled, a small bitter twist of his lips. ‘Because I don’t want Spike back—not like this.’ He turned fully and came very close to Wesley. ‘What is this? Why don’t I want him? It doesn’t matter that I’d be Angelus—he’d still be in that body that I want more than…. Why don’t I want it? Does it matter that he wouldn’t be to me then what he is to me now? That he wouldn’t come into the office all snarky and irritating every day; that he wouldn’t laugh at me when I’m being pompous. He always does that—why don’t any of you do that? Does it matter that he wouldn’t be the one I rely on to tell me the truth? He couldn’t tell Angelus the truth; he’d have to be silent. So, what is this, Wes? Why don’t I want him to come back like this? Why do I know he wouldn’t want this? If he were here, if he knew what I was doing, he’d try to stop me.’ Angel stared down at the white covering. ‘What is this? Why do I care more about what he wants than what I want?’
Wesley put his hand on Angel’s arm. ‘It’s called truth. It’s what the likes of Ingram and Illyria will never understand. They can’t be what we really want—what’s inside the shell. I’ve always known it, and I think for the first time, you’re seeing it, too.’
Angel hung his head. ‘How can there be truth in this edifice of lies? This whole life built on lies….’
‘It’s really rather simple, I think. It’s just love. Not what you want, but what he wants—it’s just love.’
Angel raised a tear-streaked face. ‘That’s bullshit.’
Wesley smiled ruefully.
‘I can’t love Spi…. How can I…?’ His eyes suddenly widened. ‘And if I do, it’s too late! Fuck! It’s too damned late….’
Wesley stepped back out of respect for the great flood of grief, which suddenly hit Angel. Like any river dammed too long, the sudden outpouring was too strong for the frail banks, too all-encompassing. Fragile and human, Wesley retreated lest he be washed away, too.
Stronger arms took Angel in a hard embrace, shoring him up. A more powerful body pressed against his and held him as the world dissolved into water.
There was no vomit, but in all other respects, Angel was six once more. This time though, the strong embrace kept the horror from taking him over as it once had that small child, sending him on a path that would take three hundred years to escape. Spike’s embrace reassured him that the world had changed, and that there were now entirely different definitions of sin to the one that had held him captive to fear.
When Angel came back to a realisation of himself, he was lying on the bed, and Spike was sitting alongside him. He stared at the blond figure then curled on his side, wrapping his arms protectively around his body. ‘Go away. I’m entirely mad now.’
‘You theatrical ponce.’ Spike wrapped his fingers around Angel’s bicep and began to squeeze. He was very, very strong.
Angel frowned. He turned back. He cursed. He said, ‘Ow’ very loudly, and then he sat up, pushing Spike’s very corporeal fingers away.
Spike sighed ruefully. ‘I wasn’t dead. Bloody Wesley… found a way to bring me back. I was….’
Angel put the back of his hand to Spike’s cheek then withdrew it. ‘You weren’t dead?’
‘Well, course, technically….’
‘No! I slipped into another… it was a time thing… big objects… kinda too complicated for you, Angel. But I was here… hanging around like a great….’
Angel suddenly turned away again and flung an arm over his face. ‘This is another spell—you’re here, then you’re not, then you’re someone else, then you’re back, then you’re….’
Spike leant over Angel and opened the leather shirt. Full game face, fangs sharp and willing, he sliced the smooth chest open and drank from Angel’s bleeding nipple.
Angel wriggled in considerable pain and tried to push him off, but it only increased Spike’s intense sucking. Finally, Angel allowed himself to believe the reality of blood. After a very long time, after the crimson fluid reunited them, he said calmly, ‘That’s enough.’
Spike sat up, wiping the back of his mouth cheekily. ‘One day, you’ll let me go too far.’
‘Never happen.’ Angel gave a weak smile. ‘So… not dead?’
Spike flicked up his eyebrow. ‘Nope. Here all the time, haunting you.’
Angel frowned. ‘All the time?’ He glanced toward the shower thoughtfully.
Spike looked innocent.
Angel swung his legs off the bed slightly shakily and went into the living room to pour them both a drink. As he handed one over, Spike said a little too quickly, ‘So, no longed-for reunion? No… kiss?’
Angel looked down at his feet and noticed small pieces of paper stuck to one of them. Idly, he peeled them off, pouting with concentration.
Angel put his drink down. ‘I’m kinda in a bad place with this, Spike.’
‘Have you been reading Comso again? I’ve told you….’
Angel quirked his mouth despite himself but added quickly, ‘I can’t do these extremes—here, not here, not you, you….’
Spike felt his body tingling from the loss of touch he’d been anticipating. He wrapped his arms around his body—a poor substitute for Angel’s better embrace. ‘I’ll go tell Wesley the good….’ He couldn’t be bothered to finish—what was good about any of this?— and turned to go to the elevator.
A hand landed feather-light on his arm. ‘Spike.’
Spike kept his back to Angel, but Angel nudged him around and held him by both arms, studying him. ‘Ingram said that I put myself on a pedestal—that I need for you to see me as perfect.’
‘What a crock of….’
‘Shhh.’ Angel put a finger over his mouth, the touch of Spike’s lips almost undoing him, throwing him off his intent. ‘He was right. I do. I can’t have you see me… emotional… see me…. Fuck it—see me cry! See me lost or… pathetic. But you did. You’ve seen it all, and I can’t take that back now or make myself what I was.’
‘I never thought you were bloody perfect!’
‘I did! I thought that about myself. So, now I don’t know you, but I don’t even know me. How the fuck can we start something when I’ve lost both of us?’
‘So, you’re saying we….’
‘I’m saying we go back to the day before we met Ingram. We go back to what we know.’
Spike shook him off, stepping away from him. ‘We can’t do that! It’s all up here….’ He tapped his temple. ‘In our bloody memories! Shit, Angel, I can feel your tongue on me now! I can remember your hands stroking me as you sucked….’
Angel backed him to the wall and cupped him hard and urgent, his mouth pressed into the hollow of his neck. ‘Do you think I’ve forgotten? I’ve forgotten nothing. And if it’s real, it will still be there. If it’s real, Spike. Can you tell me what’s real anymore? Because I’m damned if I know.’
Spike turned his head so their lips came together, not in a kiss exactly, just resting together almost like old friends. When he spoke, he could feel the vibrations through Angel’s lips. ‘I know this is real.’
Angel smiled. ‘Then it will be real tomorrow and the day after and the day after that.’
‘Why not now?’
‘Because now is too short. I don’t want now anymore. I had that with Ingram. I fucked your body in the now.’
He dropped Ingram’s name between them like a grenade, waiting to see where the shrapnel hit, how it would split them and make them bleed. Spike stared into his dark eyes and suddenly nodded. He eased himself out of Angel’s crush and bent his head to light a cigarette. ‘Back to how we were?’
Angel allowed himself a breath of relief. ‘Until we can see the starting line again.’
Spike laughed. ‘You should stop listening to pseudo fucking philosophers, Angel.’
Angel smiled. ‘I don’t know; he makes a lot of sense sometimes.’
‘So… if we’re back to normal, there’ll be none of these cosy little chats…. I’ll bug the hell out of you all day….’
‘Of course. Only to be expected. I’ll make your life a living hell: nagging, brooding and being miserable.’
‘Totally relying on it. I’ll make sure I fuck up even the simplest tasks you give me….’
‘I won’t be giving you any—and making sure you know that I’m not.’
‘So… we know where we stand.’
‘We know where we stand.’
Spike stepped into the elevator, but just as the doors were closing, he thrust his hand between them. ‘Wear the leather tomorrow, Angel. Cus… you know I fancy the arse off you, and I know you’ll be wanting to fuck me on the conference table. Night.’ The doors slid shut, and Angel was left leaning into them as if he could physically stop Spike’s descent.
Angel had forgotten, with all the other things he’d had to think about, that he had a new client scheduled for a meeting at nine that morning.
Once more, he had not read the briefs. When he walked into the conference room, Wesley was already there, chatting to Gunn. Lorne joined them after a few minutes, and for a while, it seemed very familiar—soothing to Angel’s fragile nerves.
There was something missing though, and Angel felt an increasing sense of tension as he waited for the first glimpse of Spike. He had no idea what they would say or do, decisions and plans made in the heat of the moment the previous night, didn’t seem to hold up quite so well in the bright, accusatory light of day.
Wesley, Gunn and Lorne were deep in a separate conversation when Spike sauntered in, so Angel was the only one who looked up. Spike twitched an eyebrow up in greeting and sat next to him.
Very pointedly, he put his briefcase on the ground and made to open it.
Angel watched this, incredulous, then began to laugh quietly. He’d said it: back to before Ingram had walked in and shattered their lives. He said too softly for the others to hear, ‘There’d better not be a fucking bleep, bleep thing in there.’
Spike looked up with theatrical offence. ‘Now, Pet, that would be trite. No one’s ever accused me of that! I’ve got something a lot more fun.’ He put his hand down as if to produce something, then paused. ‘Nah. I’ll keep it till later.’
Harmony suddenly appeared, ushering in a couple of aggressive looking demons.
The meeting began. Angel tried to concentrate on the flow of conversation, but his gaze kept straying to Spike, whose eyes were fixed intently on him the whole time. Every time Angel looked over, Spike made a small move to his case. Angel’s eyes would narrow fractionally, and Spike’s hand would withdraw teasingly. On one play of this game, Angel snorted with amusement, and all eyes turned to him. He stood up. ‘This meeting’s concluded. Whatever it is you want, we’re not doing it. Evil’s taking a day off at Wolfram and Hart.’
Wesley tried to sooth things over; Gunn and Lorne looked delighted. Spike rose and stretched. ‘Guess I’ll go visit the smurf.’
He sauntered out with a last amused glance at Angel.
Half an hour after the aborted meeting, Angel decided that he’d had his finger off the pulse of the company for too long. It was time he checked out how things were coming along…. It seemed a good idea to start with Illyria. It was only his duty.
Instead of going into the gallery with Wesley, he went into the training room and leant on the wall.
Spike glanced across, took a savage kick to the head for inattention and fell like a stone. He groaned. ‘Haven’t you got something better to do than watch me get my arse pummelled?’
Angel inspected a nail. ‘Nope.’
‘You….’ He never finished; Illyria kicked him so hard he crashed into the wall. He dragged himself to his feet in a fighter’s stance. He landed one good blow on her and crowed with delight. She didn’t take being mocked very well, and the next punch knocked him unconscious.
Angel waited until Spike sat up, groggily holding his head, then left with a bored expression.
Spike caught him up before he made it to the elevator. Angel bent around to look at his head. ‘You’re still bleeding.’
‘She’s a bloody head-case that girl.’
Angel pressed the button and thrust his hands in his pockets, feeling suddenly awkward.
Spike mirrored his position but said easily, ‘So, how’s the pretending that you don’t wanna shag me going?’
Angel heard a number of replies flash through his mind, but nodded ruefully and admitted, ‘Not good.’
Spike laughed. ‘So, if we get in the elevator together, I might get my arse pummelled another way?’
Angel pouted but was saved a reply when a couple of women joined them, waiting for the elevator. They nodded at Angel shyly but continued their conversation.
Angel glanced over at Spike and discovered himself under observation. The elevator arrived; they all stepped in. The inane chatter of the women continued. They appeared to know Spike and began to include him in their conversation. He lit a cigarette, much to their disgust, and exited with them on their floor.
Angel spent the rest of the journey to his more elevated position swearing. It hardly fitted the CEO of such a prestigious firm, but he enjoyed it anyway.
He didn’t have a lot of time to miss Spike, because half an hour later, the blond figure sauntered into the office and flung himself on the couch. ‘Fancy some lunch?’
Angel looked up from his desk. ‘Lunch?’
‘Yeah. It’s great. You get to the middle of the day and feel peckish, so you go eat someone… I mean something. ‘S fun. You should try it.’
Angel leant back in his chair, tapping a pencil against his lips. ‘I told you: we need things to be as….’
‘Bollocks.’ Spike stood up, stretched lazily, and then came over, perching on the side of the desk, swinging his leg. ‘You coming?’
Angel snorted faintly, and Spike rolled his eyes. ‘Great—schoolboy humour.’
Angel began to doodle on his daily planner. ‘I keep expecting Wesley to burst in with a crossbow.’
Spike frowned. ‘Huh?’
Angel shrugged. ‘You had to be there…. What I mean is that I keep expecting you to leap up and say: Ah ha! It’s me! Ingram!’
Spike nodded thoughtfully. ‘I’ve never said ah ha in my life. That’s fucking embarrassing.’
‘You’re not really getting my point.’
Spike snorted, and Angel rolled his eyes. ‘Go away.’
Spike stood up. ‘Last chance before I sweep Harmony away from her desk and take her to lunch instead….’
Angel readjusted his pen in a straighter line. ‘Not a… nooner….’
Spike walked behind Angel’s chair, forcing Angel to spin slowly around.
Angel suddenly lifted one leg, effectively capturing Spike (capture in the loosest sense of the word, given he could have stepped back or around, or just pushed Angel’s leg away. As Spike made no attempt to do any of these, it at least appeared to be an imprisonment). ‘Because I wouldn’t like it.’
Spike hid a grin by tipping a cigarette into his mouth from a scrunched packet. ‘Maybe you should try it first—before you condemn it, like.’
‘Go eat, Spike, but do it alone.’
‘Sheesh. You are so possessive.’
Angel smiled broadly and lowered his leg. ‘I told you: things back to exactly where they were.’
Spike gave him a penetrating look. Agonisingly slowly, he dragged his gaze down the solid body, coming to a stop in Angel’s lap. Just as slowly, he drew his eyes back up. He flicked up an eyebrow. ‘Yeah.’ With that damning comment, Spike sauntered back out, and Angel was left knowing his body had betrayed him once more.
Angel had a series of performance appraisals to conduct throughout the afternoon, and he unnerved a number of his employees by keeping his eyes more on the door than he did on them. Once or twice, he caught a glimpse of Spike, either talking to Harmony, or just walking past. Between meetings, he made a point of going out to the lobby and being visible, but for some reason, these times didn’t seem to coincide with anyone interesting passing by.
Before he knew it, it was five o’clock, and the building began to empty around him. Angry suddenly, he strode out and went back down to the lab. Only Illyria and Wesley were there, so he didn’t stay, but strode even more angrily back toward the elevator. On a whim, he pushed down and exited in the garage. Listening, he caught voices and grinned. He followed the sound of laughter to a small office and found a number of men playing poker.
They all looked up nervously, except one, who just took a long swig from a bottle of beer. This one then made his excuses, threw down his cards, glanced at Angel and strode out into the darkened garage.
Angel followed, his anger now indiscriminate and simmering. It made him silent for longer than he’d intended, and when he finally spoke, his tone was snappy and irritable. ‘What are you doing tonight?’
Spike stopped and leant on one of the cars, lighting a cigarette. When he’d finished, he lifted his head, blew a stream of smoke at Angel and replied, ‘Going out.’
Angel jerked his head back. This, he had not anticipated.
Seeing the small but intense reaction, Spike waved his cigarette in an off-hand gesture. ‘Yeah, this bloke at work…. He’s been dying to ask me all day—he’s finally plucked up courage.’
Angel blinked slowly, a wave of unaccustomed pleasure flooding his body. He leant back on the adjacent car and said lightly, ‘Maybe it wasn’t courage he lacked. Maybe he didn’t have that true masochistic spirit to actually want your company for an evening.’
Spike narrowed his eyes, considering this. ‘Nah. He fancies me.’
Angel didn’t dignify this with a direct response but asked, ‘Is this an out-of-office meeting to discuss work?’
‘Angel. I don’t work when I’m here. I’m hardly likely to do it in my own time.’
Angel smiled softly. ‘So, what time are you meeting him—this guy at work?’
‘Oh, I don’t know… I’ve something to do first…. Seven?’
‘Well, he’d insist on a gay dance club—seeing as he’s a poofter. But the bar around the corner from my place will do. First real date an’ all.’
Angel nodded serenely. ‘Have a good evening then.’
‘What are you going to do?’
‘I’ve got some family business to sort.’
Spike hesitated but then took a long drag from his cigarette. ‘Really.’
Angel nodded. ‘Yeah—things I should have said and done a long time ago. But that’s the beauty of family, I guess: doesn’t matter how much you take them for granted, they’re there when you need it—when you realise you need them.’
‘Who’s this lucky member of the House of Aurelius? Do I know him?’
‘I’m not sure I do tonight.’
Spike pushed off the car. ‘Well, we’ve both got interesting evenings lined up then.’
Angel just nodded and watched Spike saunter away. Before he got out of earshot though, he asked pointedly, ‘What are you going to wear?’
Spike stopped but didn’t turn around. After some time, he replied, ‘Something he’d like. It’s a first date, after all.’
Go to Chapter 10
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