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Reality Check - Chapter 17
From that small beginning, something like a relationship began to develop. It was unsatisfactory for Spike, but it was something. Something was never to be lightly dismissed. What it was for Angel, Spike never really knew for sure. He suspected that Angel felt much as he did—that he was desperately confused and lonely and wanted a great deal more than this—and occasionally, Angel would do or say something that proved this theory. Most of the time though, Angel maintained his stance that he only wanted someone for relief, and anything else Spike had to offer was resolutely ignored.
When he wasn’t helping Wesley, Spike spent most of his time in Angel’s apartment, either on the couch watching TV or in the bed. Angel tolerated his presence by ignoring him until he was aroused, at which time he wanted either to be sucked or fisted. Sometimes, he just wanted to play with Spike, and it was at these times that Spike most clearly saw the fictions that Angel maintained. It wasn’t possible to play gently and inquisitively with someone’s body whilst purporting no interest in them, and he nuzzled, licked, and occasionally kissed Spike’s body with an interest that belied all his claims otherwise. He never allowed their lips to touch though. This intimacy was refused.
They never had full-blown sex either. Angel rarely fully undressed when he took Spike, keeping that part of his body off limits. He apparently showed no interest in Spike there either, but again, the concentrated disinterest only fuelled Spike’s belief that the whole of their relationship was a fiction.
Sometimes, when he sat watching shows during the day, Angel would come up from the office and join him. The vampire’s pain seemed to scream out to Spike. He longed to take him in his arms and physically tear his defences down, but he didn’t. He’d pushed things far enough.
He believed that things would develop naturally, however hard Angel tried to stop them. They were virtually living together, and Angel could not keep up his pretence of surly silence. Normal, everyday things had to be said and discussed—are you hungry? Want a drink? Where’s the freaking remote? Do you even know how to pick up a wet towel?—and Spike knew that gradually, he was changing from Angel’s beloved enemy into his hated lover. There was a subtle and very pleasing difference in this that made him hold his tongue at Angel’s provocations, made him shy away from pushing for more when they played, hot and needy on the couch.
He would wear down Angel’s resistance until dream merged with reality, until they were living the dream here, in L.A., amidst all the things that were so un-dreamlike for both of them. For the business of the agency went on. Wesley was getting closer to his aim of synthesising the drug; Angel fought the daily battles that came with being the CEO of the biggest, baddest law firm in the city. These battles had increased, possibly coincidentally, since the arrival of the rival firm. No one really believed it was coincidental, and when Angel did make an appearance in the apartment, he was often too tired and depressed to make much use of Spike’s presence one way or the other. However much he needed to share with someone, his guilt over what he was doing to Spike increased the guilt he felt about everything else—deceiving his friends, Fred’s death, Gunn’s pain trying to recover from his stint in hell—until it was all his fault. This much pain was too heavy for the fragile confusions of their relationship, so he kept it to himself.
Therefore, when Spike would ask softly, ‘What’s wrong?’ Angel did not reply: “Illyria grows strong on our despair” or “Gunn tried to kill himself today” or “The whole edifice of Wesley’s life is built upon my lies”, he merely grunted and changed Spike’s channel to the news, relaxing into the easy presence of his childe.
They often found themselves sprawled on the couch watching the TV without any need for sex at all.
Despite Angel’s reticence to speak of his pain, Spike found these times immensely encouraging, as it seemed to him that you could not do this with someone you actually derided.
It was during one of these quiet evenings—Angel seeming particularly ill at ease and fidgety—that they deepened considerably the intimacy of whatever it was they were doing.
Angel flicked channels, clearly not watching them; he paced; he made an excuse to shower when he didn’t need one; he read a book, resolutely ignoring Spike’s presence.
It was only when Spike began to think about going back to his own apartment for once, just to have some respite from the jarring atmosphere, that Angel said, in relation to nothing, ‘The new law firm are impressive.’
‘Is impressive. Firm is singular.’
‘There’s more than one person working there, moron. Whatever. They’re making overtures.’
Spike had no real answer to this. He sensed Angel was getting at something and assumed he’d get there in his own time.
Angel turned a few more pages. ‘They’re courting us—so to speak.’
‘Well, me. No, all of us, I guess.’
Spike changed over to the news. It would be slightly more informative.
‘They’re holding a party.’
Light began to dawn. Spike just smiled and held his peace. He was cruel like that.
‘Hmm. Big party. Of course, Wolfram and Hart are invited.’
Spike flicked again.
‘So, of course, Wesley, Gunn and Lorne will come.’
‘Will they. Good.’
‘And me… of course.’
‘Well, duh. CEO, an’ all.’
‘That’s what I thought: CEO.’
Spike was feeling particularly mean. ‘So, I think I’ll be off. Time to air the old apartment out.’
He stood up and stretched. ‘I’m going home tonight.’
‘No! I mean—. I’m telling you about….’ Angel gritted his teeth. ‘It’s a party.’
Spike nodded, as if remembering such particular pleasures.
Teeth almost locked, Angel managed to say, ‘I don’t do parties well.’
‘Shame. Gonna be a long, hard night then.’
‘Are you going to make me say it?’
Spike smiled beatifically. ‘You know? I actually think I am.’
Angel tipped his head back, closed his eyes, gripped the edge of the couch, and said distinctly, ‘Come to the party.’
‘Are you asking me on a date?’
‘Don’t push your luck, Spike.’
‘But I’m curious. Are you asking me out?’
Spike dodged behind the couch, well out of lunge reach.
‘Seriously, Angel…. You just have to say: come with me. And put the emphasis on the with….’ He smiled mischievously. ‘Or the… come.’
Angel didn’t turn his head. He stared resolutely ahead. ‘Come with me.’
Spike leant over the back of the couch and whispered in Angel’s ear, ‘I want you to suffer. So… no.’
Angel’s eyes flashed for a moment, but Spike saw it was not with anger. He was efficiently hauled over the couch, and Angel pinned him down. As so often these days, Angel’s expression gave lie to the fact that he was either angry or disdainful with his lover. He made an appreciative sound and ran his hands up Spike’s arms, holding his wrists.
‘You tread a dangerous path.’
Spike gave him a look through lowered lids. ‘You’re there with me, step for step.’
Angel ground his hips against Spike, and they both breathed softly with pleasure.
‘I don’t want to have to make small-talk to lawyers all night.’
‘Neither do I.’
‘You’re my childe.’
‘I’m a lot more than that, and the answer’s still no.’
‘I’ll make it worth your while.’
Spike licked his lips and pushed his tongue provocatively into his cheek. ‘Go on, you’ve got my full attention.’
‘I’ll pay you.’
‘Oh, that’ll be a first then!’
‘I pay you now!’
‘Actually, you don’t.’
‘Well, okay then. Simple transaction. You come to this party. You work the floor. I stand in a darkened corner looking surly, and I pay you well.’
‘More than I pay you now.’
Spike began to thrust his hips slowly into Angel. ‘I’ll name my price.’
‘I’m not buying you a Ferrari.’
‘Nah. My dick’s big enough. I want something that’ll cost you more than that.’
Angel narrowed his eyes and lifted himself away from the seductive thrusting. ‘I’m listening.’
‘I want you to kiss me.’
Angel pushed off and walked to the bar, his arms folded across his body.
Spike waited a moment to test the air then said softly, ‘Not now. When it’s over. If I do a good job.’
Without turning around, Angel said dully, ‘That doesn’t seem… much.’
‘It’ll be enough.’
Angel turned his head and regarded him for a moment then nodded. ‘Okay.’
‘A real one, not just some peck….’
‘I know how to kiss, Spike.’
‘I know you do. Why do you think I miss it so much?’
Angel frowned slightly then said in a low voice, ‘Maybe you should go back to your place tonight.’
Spike nodded. He had not realised how much his half-jokey deal would affect Angel. He saw with startling clarity that Angel got that there was far more than just a kiss at stake. He wondered, just for a moment, if Angel had been missing his lips, too.
The day of the party dawned. Which was a huge disappointment to Angel, as plan A had been the emergence of a flaw in time that would prevent dawns of any kind.
He rolled onto his back with a sinking feeling in his stomach. He was trapped. Whether the party went well (he got to stay in a corner and not talk to anyone) or it went badly (he was forced to do a karaoke turn), he was doomed. He flicked his glance over to the figure burrowed under the covers next to him. As usual, he felt a moment’s disorientation about the lack of hair before his more usual feelings kicked in, but as these had been wildly out of kilter for some time now, he quickly reverted to thinking about the hair: what it felt like, how soft it was to touch, how it delineated the scalp, the hardness beneath…. Hardness in general… and who cared about confused feelings? Angel slid down in the bed and woke Spike up. Sucking the long, semi-tumescent cock deep into his throat kept thoughts of the party at bay. Such activity had kept all other thoughts at bay since he’d returned—been dragged back—so why not just obliterate all known thought? He didn’t much like his thoughts these days. He liked the way Spike wriggled beneath his mouth. He liked the smell of him and the feel of him. He didn’t like thinking any further: why he was doing this thing with him; what this thing was they were doing; what he had done to Spike in that dark time; what Spike had done to him to cause that darkness. He banished the thoughts by hard sucking. He drove them out with flicks of his tongue over the soft cockhead. He kept them distant and defeated by plunging swiftly to the root of all this pleasure and slowly drawing up, dragging his lips over swollen veins and rigid column. Still they crowded on the edges of his mind, mocking him, whispering in malevolent tongues of his betrayal. He didn’t care to clarify this: he betrayed; he was betrayed. It reminded him of conjugating Latin verbs in stuffy rooms that smelt of youthful arousal. Only when slim, strong fingers pushed into his hair and stroked him, did the voices cease. Spike’s touch always silenced them.
He knew Spike was close now. The wriggling had become more urgent: pained jerks of hips, sleepy grunts of pleasure-heavy need. Through his lips, he could feel an orgasm hovering, muscles quivering like a finely tuned race car idling, waiting for touch on the pedal to spark it to life. He removed his mouth and took the shivering shaft in his fist. One jerk, two. Spike erupted, his hips heaving off the bed, his heels drumming, fingers dragging painfully on Angel’s hair.
Angel rolled the pliant figure so his own pleasure was concealed, and with a soft grunt, like footfalls in snow, he released against Spike’s backside.
The sleep-warm bed began to heat the tacky fluids, the air smelling salty, like sea-blown fog. Obscuration was good. There was nothing Angel wanted to see. There was nothing he wanted. Sometimes, he thought, there just was nothing. Nothing he could afford to want, anyway.
He couldn’t afford to love again, that was for sure. Not again. Buffy, Cordelia, Connor—all loved, all gone. Each time he had allowed one of them in, it had been a conscious decision to let down his defences. Not again. He kept his armour intact now, worked on it, polished it, mended rents until no chink was left to allow love in. To allow Spike in.
So, he really ought to remove his thumb from Spike’s hairline right about now. He ought to take his hand off the bony hip, stop it sliding to explore on the sticky trails, tracing curving lines to an enticing entrance. Going inside was bad. Inside was where the heart lay. The love. He should roll away onto his back. A grunt of dismissal would be good. Anything but this slow stroking over the bristly scalp.
He needed to think about dressing, not penetrating to the core, separation, not claiming by a slow implanting of seed.
When he brushed the pad of his thumb up Spike’s head, each tiny, cropped hair caught the light.
Let Spike decide for him—go or stay; let his reaction, his expression, decide for him.
Spike turned, and his eyes were full of amused adoration. Angel saw a depth of love in them that surprised him, even though he knew full well now how this man felt about him. He’d seen this love grow in inverse proportion to the hate that he’d spewed forth.
Spike decided him, therefore.
Angel separated them with a disdainful shove and swung his legs off the bed. He checked the clock, grunted, and walked, scratching, to the shower.
Only under the water’s all-forgiving embrace could he allow other emotions to surface, but evidence of their passage was washed away on the heavier stream. He was lucky Spike loved him so visibly; that look was precisely what he needed to avoid on his face. The emotions that gave it life exactly those which he needed to quell.
He could not afford to love again. Not again.