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Reality Check - Chapter 18
Spike noticed the change in Angel’s mood as a mother notices a pinprick of red on a baby’s skin: with obsessive interest. He was becoming something of an expert on all Angel’s moods. Did Angel assume that he couldn’t feel the pain of such confusion and doubt? He felt it in every stroke of the thumb over his head, every trail of an errant finger towards his centre. He knew Angel was resisting with everything he had. Resisting him. The troubled vampire’s pain was palpable; how could he not feel it?
He watched him now, covertly coveting, through half-closed eyes.
There was nothing like stoking the fires. ‘So, party time, hey?’
Angel flicked him an evil look but went back to heating some blood.
Spike stretched into the pleasantly damp bed and went in for the kill. ‘What ya gonna wear?’
Angel stared morosely at the revolving bloodbag. He pouted as if something in its slow circling bothered him. Nonchalantly, nothing to do with Spike’s question, he wandered to the closet.
Behind his back a small, evil smile accompanied a casual, ‘CEO, an’ all—wanna get it just right.’
For some reason, this didn’t appear to help. Angel fingered the sleeve of a pinstriped suit. Spike nodded, enjoying the wise, helpful gesture, even if Angel couldn’t see it. ‘Good choice. Says: stable, mature, to be trusted.’ That got dropped, and Angel then ran his finger down the silk sleeve of one of his favourite shirts.
‘What are you wearing?’
The quiet question caught Spike unprepared. It wasn’t like Angel to engage him in conversation that didn’t relate to mess around the apartment or work. Anything more intimate apparently hinted at… intimacy… and that Angel would not allow. Spike climbed off the bed and came to stand beside him, naked, feeling more vulnerable than this familiar state would normally engender. ‘Haven’t got a Scooby. Literally… haven’t really got much.’
‘Maybe we could…?’
Spike was so shocked at the voluntary (albeit possibly inconsequential) we that he missed the rest of Angel’s suggestion and, much to his chagrin, had to ask, ‘What?’
‘Go shop. Maybe we could go shop.’
Confused, pleased, angry for no apparent reason he could think of other than that this kind of thing made him see how inadequate this relationship really was, made him see how he wanted it to be, he replied sulkily, ‘Case you forgotten, you don’t pay me.’
Angel sighed. ‘Shit, Spike, I’m buying! You’re coming to this damn party for me, after all.’
‘Not for you…. With you….’
To Spike’s disbelief, a wry smile creep around Angel’s lips, and the dark vampire said meaningfully, ‘Yeah, with me….’
For one moment, Spike thought that Angel was about to reach out and embrace him, but after an initial twitch, his arm stayed at his side. Spike nodded ruefully, and as he passed Angel, he nudged him with his shoulder, a gesture that could mean as much or as little as Angel wanted it to.
They pulled on their everyday clothes; Angel summoned a car, and they went to the mall in some style, albeit in silence. It wasn’t uncomfortable though: a quiet acceptance between them that the party had changed things. Angel was grateful that Spike was willing to come with him despite… things. He liked the idea of arriving with something so fundamentally attractive. Even if no one knew that they were…. Whatever, he still liked the idea of walking into the room with Spike at his side. Even more, he liked the idea of watching Spike, knowing that they were… that they could… that they would…. He just liked the idea of going with Spike. Did he have to explain it anymore? Spike was just aware that the distance between them was closing. Angel didn’t need him at this party. Angel was far more skilful an operator than he liked to admit. Angel wanted him there because he wanted him. It seemed fairly simple to Spike, but he admitted that it might not seem so to Angel just yet.
It was weird but oddly right, somehow, that they swept along, driven skilfully through the city, cosseted in the rear seat. It was the fulfilment of a promise of eternal life and power, a promise that had all too frequently been broken on the more normal squalor and hardship of this demon life. This was how it should be. Spike relaxed against the soft leather and closed his eyes to the warm sun.
He felt something brush his hand and looked down. For a moment, he thought that Angel was about to hold his hand, but then he saw the slim card being pressed between his fingers. He glanced over, and Angel said with a shrug, ‘I’m thinking we’ll hit different stores, so that’s for you. It’s pretty much… inexhaustible… but I wanna see receipts.’
Spike held the card up to his eye line. ‘And you have no problem with spending the profits of evil?’
Angel turned his head. ‘It’s nothing to do with the firm. It’s my private account.’
‘Oh.’ Spike frowned. ‘Why haven’t I got one of those?’
Angel was unsuccessful repressing a smile, so he turned and stared resolutely out of his window. There was something so pleasurable in thinking of Spike spending his money that he was unable to speak for the confusion it caused.
When they arrived at the mall, they separated as Angel had predicted, seeking different kinds of purchases.
Occasionally, one would catch a glimpse of the other across the galleries, or in one of the glass elevators, and their gaze would lock for a moment, both seeming startled by the juxtaposition of location with emotion. It was hard to look at a man carrying bags, knowing it to be someone you were intimate with, in such a normal, human surrounding, and not see that something far more than mere fucking was going on. The thought “There’s Spike” took on far more significance when Angel spotted the neo-nazi hairstyle emerging from a record store. Just the sound of the name in Angel’s mind created a vortex of swirling emotions: scents, sounds and the remembrance of hot touch.
As if sensing that he was being watched, Spike turned and scanned the crowd. His eyes raked over Angel’s dark presence and then returned, settling on him with pleasure. He gave a small tilt of recognition to his chin, held up a bag clearly bulging with other things than clothes and, with a cheeky grin, marched into a jewellery shop.
Angel felt foolish smiling at nothing, so repressed the feelings Spike’s little display had brought forth and went back to trying to find something to wear.
Spike sipped his coffee appreciatively. Being souled made things taste better. Weird, but true. Being souled had brought him Angel; Angel made him happy; being happy made things taste better. Not so weird. He grinned and dunked his chocolate-coated doughnut into the bitter liquid. Without looking up, he sensed that he was being watched.
He relaxed back into the chair, slowly licking his fingers one at a time, staring at the swirling black drink.
It seemed like an age passed, but finally Angel came forward and sat opposite him. He put a number of bags beneath the chair that held Spike’s. He looked around the café for a moment then gestured to the girl. When she came over, he ordered coffee and looked pointedly at Spike. Spike eagerly pushed his empty plate toward her. ‘’Nother of these, Pet. And another coffee while you’re at it.’
She grinned wide-eyed at him. ‘Where’d ya get that accent? You’re killing me!’
Spike leant back and folded his arms with an interested look. ‘Killing you. Now, there’s something I’ve not thought of for a while.’ Angel placed his foot over Spike’s boot and kicked him sharply in the shin. Spike smirked. ‘Guess it’s your lucky day. Just coffee and doughnuts then, Luv.’
Angel waited until she was out of hearing and opened his mouth to speak, but Spike said slyly, ‘You were checking her out.’
Angel reared back. ‘I was what?’
Angel clenched his jaw. ‘And you were practically drooling over her.’
‘From a purely predatory standpoint, Pet.’
Their order arrived, and they leant back in their respective chairs. They kept their eyes resolutely to the front then realised at the same time that they were doing this and laughed. When the girl left, Spike shook his head slowly. ‘’S been a while since I’ve seen you laugh. ‘S nice.’
Angel didn’t reply but held out his hand expectantly. Spike feigned ignorance then dug into his pocket and brought out the card. With a rueful pout, he placed it in Angel’s palm. ‘Do I want to know the damage?’
Spike raised his eyebrows innocently. ‘Prob’ly not.’
Angel nodded and tucked the card into his wallet. ‘You bought clothes though?’
Spike looked bored. ‘Yeah.’ He peeled off the chocolate icing and dropped it into the coffee, stirring it thoughtfully. ‘Why’d ya come and sit with me?’
Angel was watching small, greasy lumps appearing in Spike’s coffee with horrified fascination and said distractedly, ‘Huh?’
‘Why sit here with me?’
Angel tore his eyes away from the cup and replied snappily, ‘Coffee? Me drink?’
Spike nodded. ‘But there’s maybe ten foodhalls in this mall. And there’s over thirty tables in this one, most empty. So, why that particular chair?’
‘Do you want me to move!’ Angel actually stood up until Spike put his hand down to snatch the bags, knowing Angel wouldn’t leave without them. ‘Sit down, Pillock.’
Clearly annoyed, Angel did, but he pushed his coffee angrily away, cursing when it slopped over and messed the table.
Spike broke the remains of his doughnut in half and with a small, wicked smile held it towards the stiff figure. ‘Peace?’
Angel seemed about to snap another reply but stopped when half the offering fell off and plopped into his cup. His lip quivered, and he rolled his eyes. ‘Sometimes, hating you is so damn hard.’
Spike ducked his head to his coffee and said in a low voice, ‘An’ I’m glad you sat here, too.’
That elicited an actual smile. Angel relaxed, waved the girl back and ordered fresh coffee.
He stared thoughtfully at Spike’s lowered head for a while until Spike twitched under the scrutiny. Jokingly, without looking up, he murmured, ‘Thinking ‘bout that kiss, Mate?’
Without missing a beat, Angel replied seriously, ‘I am.’
Surprised, Spike looked up and held his look. ‘You’re going to have to pay up. I’m going to behave impeccably, and you’ll have to pay me. We agreed.’
Angel held his gaze locked with Spike’s for some time then said very precisely, ‘I’m thinking I might pay you in advance.’