Make or Break

Chapter 1

Happiness

It was ironic. Only that night they had discussed happiness. Philosophical meanderings, as the peaceful softness of darkness wrapped around them, soothing the turbulent sea of emotions that had ebbed and flowed during the past twenty-four hours.

Following their victory over the legions of hell there had been much to do; caring for wounded slayers, the heart-rending task of recording those who fell, returning their bodies to families who would never understand the importance of their sacrifice. The majority of uninjured slayers had departed for their own countries and states. Some few remained, awaiting flights.

“Giles has transferred the wounded to Council quarters.”

Angel nodded his approval.

“The others?”

“Shipping out tomorrow.”

“They really came through.”

“Yeah, they saved your bacon, Mate. Considering half of them are only kids, they fought like hellions.”

“You’re going to continue training them?”

“Course, they’re mine. How about you?”

“I’ve signed that contract with Giles and the new Council. Wesley, Fred and Gunn want to start up the Agency again. Then there are your visions. Guess I’m going to be pretty busy.”

“Wolfram and Hart?”

“Going to assume their attempt to terminate me indicates the rescinding of my contract.”

Spike rolled his eyes.

“Normal Wolfram and Hart overkill, a letter of dismissal normally does the trick. Get Gunn to sue for unfair dismissal. Tie them up in legalese for a change.”

“Don't be an id…. Actually, that’s an interesting idea.”

“Common sense, attack’s the best form of defence.”

“Huh. Any other pearls of wisdom?”

“Always guard your perimeter.”

Angel raised his eyebrows, a look of mock incredulity on his face.

“You amaze me. All those years I tried to teach you, ignite the spark of your curiosity, always thinking I’d failed miserably.”

An irreverent snort escaped the blonde vampire.

“Ignite the spark….! All I used to get was ‘be quiet, William, no more of your dumb questions, Boy’.”

“Yeah, well, you were always curious about the wrong things.”

“Things you didn’t know the answers to, you mean.”

Angel’s grunt was noncommittal.

“So… why can’t I see my clothes in the mirror when I’m wearing them or even when I’m holding them? Yet if I hold a human their reflection still appears?” Spike asked, a small smile hovering over his mouth.

“I’m glad you asked. It’s to do with the animate and inanimate. The inanimate has no will and becomes an extension of you, the living have their own existence, independent of you, not subject to the laws that govern you.”

Spike let the hovering smile flower into genuine amusement that lit up his face.

“You’ve given this some serious thought since the last time I asked. Did I ignite the spark of your curiosity, Pet?”

“It drove Angelus insane; the questions you asked that he couldn’t answer.” Angel admitted.

“I know. Always enjoyed irritating Angelus.”

“You succeeded. Surprised you lived to tell the tale.”

“Won him around with my natural charm.”

It was Angel’s turn to give a derisive snort of disbelieving laughter.

Spike looked at him, at his laughing face, such an unfamiliar sight that it made Spike realise how heartbreakingly miserable the vampire normally was. He found the laughter deeply poignant.

“So you happy then, Peaches?” Spike asked softly.

“What do you think? Having you foisted on me as my seer? Forced to endure your company for the rest of eternity?” Angel gave the huge sigh of a sublimely contented man, which gave lie to his complaining tone.

“I think I make your happiness complete.”

Angel took in the suspicion of a smirk and the self-satisfied expression.

“No, I think the Powers are making sure I have an eternity of torment and suffering.” He contradicted.

“And I volunteered my services, eternal torment with a side-order of suffering, coming up.”

Angel turned away, maintaining his stoic image, whilst hiding his rumbling turmoil. He thought he’d lost everything, sacrificing himself and his friends in a defiant but ultimately useless gesture. He still could hardly believe his desperate gamble had paid off.

Spike noticed the hunched shoulders and guessed what he was thinking.

“Hey, Pet, it’s alright. Sure, it’ll all turn to shit again, but right this moment everything’s how it should be.”

He rubbed a hand over those broad shoulders and then casually pulled him into an embrace.

Angel felt one cold hand settle on his neck, solid, physical evidence of all he’d achieved. A companion, a childe and a seer.

“When I was in Pylea there was this guy doing the dance of joy. That’s how I feel, as if I’m doing this insane dance of joy…. I’m not alone anymore. Do you know what it means?”

“Yeah, I know. Loneliness is the killer.” Spike agreed. “Even quarrelling with you was better than loneliness.”

“Never again though. I always thought that Shanshu would be the end. Earn redemption, become human and finally die. That’s all it ever was to me, task done and closure. Then as I turned you, made you my childe, the woman called it; 'the doorway to the flawless heart of the universe’, the means to redemption. Alone we would have failed, together we have a chance. No more loneliness. Bound together. My seer for eternity. My childe…”

“Give it several days and you’ll be cursing the fact.”

“When you were human but I thought you were dead….”

“You were strong, Angel. You’re always strong.”

“Yeah but when I’m alone… it’s too hard without you. I’m talking about life, you get that, don’t you?”

Spike gave a cockeyed grin. “Whatever.”

They stood together looking out at the dark landscape of the gardens, so peaceful, almost idyllic.

“Difficult to believe it was a battleground.” Angel commented.

“Yeah, that was one helluva welcome home party, Pet. Not everyday we get the chance to battle a dragon. Huh… home.” He savoured the word. “Gotta say, it’s bloody good to be back.”

“Don’t ever disappear again.” The emotionless tone failed to disguise the depth of feeling.

Spike reflected a second before sighing.

“I can’t promise and neither can you. We do whatever’s necessary.”

“I’m glad you’re here but it’s raised the stakes. I guess everything’s easier when there’s nothing to lose.”

“You were just disconnected. That place drove you insane with doubt.”

“I know, but don’t you ever worry that everything we do is pointless?”

“You see. This is just your problem; you think too much. It does you no good. Look, we play our part as best as we can. Yeah, sometimes we’re wrong and sometimes we stumble, we’re not saints. But there’s one thing I’ve learnt from all this; wasting energy on regret is one the most pointless ways of spending an hour, far better to work out the angst doing something practical and go kick the shit out of another evil monster.”

Angel rolled his eyes.

“Don’t patronise me, Childe. I know we’re not saints and when you’re grabbing your axe, I’ve already got my sword in my hand. I was only asking if you ever felt doubt.”

“Oh. Well yeah, sometimes.” Spike admitted. “But I refuse to brood on it and it passes.”

“I don’t…”

“Yeah, you do.”

“I prefer to think of it as…”

“Pondering? Same …”

“Not what…”

“Contem….”

“No. Well, okay. Yes. But I need…”

“Understood.”

“Then why the…”

“Not criticism. Just commenting…”

“Oh.”

“You’re too…”

“I’m not defensive!”

Spike raised his eyebrow at this comment and Angel had the grace to concede. They enjoyed the familiarity of old, meaningless, verbal sparring, so well used it almost slipped into non-verbal. It had all the comfort of old clothes and worn slippers.

“Frightening that it’s taken us over a hundred years to reach this time and place. All it needs is for some hell god to sneeze and we’ll be blown away.”

Angel looked thoughtful before replying softly, “Happiness never lasts though, does it? The more you attempt to protect it, the faster it slips away.”

“Typical. Your only unhappiness is your fear of losing it.” Spike’s eyes crinkled with amusement. “You’re a constant contradiction, Pet.”

“Just saying, it’s insubstantial. The only certainty is this moment.”

“We can plan for other moments just like this.”

“And whilst we make plans, real life happens.”

“Then you have to seize the day.”

“Carpe diem? You were always about seizing the moment.”

“Yeah, I was. No change there then.”

Spike suddenly leant forward and kissed him. Not the gentle kiss of a loving childe or even over-exuberant man-to-man affection that males sometimes shared in moments of triumph. The kiss was rising passion and need. He pulled away and laughed quietly at Angel’s shocked expression.

Neither vampire normally expressed or showed such blatant displays of emotion, except maybe under the guise of blood and bonding. Spike’s eyes held a wicked gleam and Angel fingered his lips wondering what the kiss meant. An interesting potential, certainly. Then he frowned. Spike must realise there were some places they could never explore again.

“Sun’s rising.” Spike remarked as though nothing extraordinary had occurred.

It was still pitch black, but towards the horizon the skies held a hint of iron grey.

“A new day. What will we make of it?”

“Sleep gets my personal vote.”

Angel agreed with a theatrical stretch, allowing one arm to drop companionably around his childe’s shoulders. They descended to the basement they had turned into a nest in some other lifetime. Undressing, they shared a bed for the first time since Spike had fallen at the Greater Well.

“You’re one day old, Spike.”

Spike frowned, “That can’t be right. You can’t start counting from the beginning.”

“Sure I can. Vamps don’t count the years before their turning and you rose a day ago.”

“When Buffy returned to life we didn’t start counting again.”

“This is different. You’re my childe, I’m your sire and I say how it’s going to be, Fledge.”

“Master vampire here, one that’s gonna whip your hide. Sire.”

Angel smiled. He reached out an arm to allow Spike to settle on his shoulder.

“Whatever you say, but save the whipping for tomorrow, I’m beat.”

“Yeah, me too.”

“So does it feel different this time around?”

Spike was silent

“Being turned again, being my childe?”

“It feels no different.” He lied.

“All that soul searching just for that?”

But Spike would say nothing more.

Angel wrapped an arm around Spike’s neck, wrist pressed to his mouth.

“Drink. I want my fledgling to grow big and strong. He’s got some interesting times ahead.”

Spike grunted in annoyance at being called a fledge, but his irritation didn’t extend to refusing sire’s blood. In some ways he was very much the fledgling Angel named him. He latched on to the wrist and felt the blood course through his body and sighed in contentment, falling asleep with fangs still embedded in Angel’s flesh. Angel left them there, until, as Spike slumbered, his face relaxed into his human aspect and his head tilted away. He took Spike’s hand and brought a finger to his mouth, then gently bit down, rolling the few drops of blood around his mouth, attempting to find what it was that Spike was so eager to hide. There he found it, something new, something that belonged wholly to his childe. He tasted a deep passion and need for his sire, far surpassing anything he’d ever felt for Angelus. Spike loved him with the devotion of a new childe. And feared his loss with the resignation of experience.

Soul and demon reached a rare agreement. They would never leave this childe again. Instead he would search again for ways to secure his soul, something he’d never pursued before, never having the spur to drive him to attempt it. Now, as he looked at Spike’s sleeping face, almost beautiful in repose, he found all the stimulus he needed. He remembered nights between their unsouled selves and wanted to explore this new thing with his souled childe. His blood quickened at the thought, and he felt the thrill of excitement pulse through him. Never since the curse had life held such promise. This afternoon, he would begin investigating it the moment he woke.

Angel was weary, this was his first rest since the battle and he quickly followed his childe into sleep, thinking of their life to come. Their quest for redemption wouldn’t be easy. Even now they might still fail. He hadn’t been bluffing when he mentioned interesting times. He’d overheard the conversation between Buffy and Willow just before they’d left. With a small smile, he hugged the knowledge tightly, wondering if life could get any better…

Fred was wondering the same thing. She had been the first to raise her hand when Angel asked for volunteers to help him against the Circle of Black Thorn. She’d done so with no expectation of surviving. They’d had all the power of Wolfram and Hart at their disposal but it had meant nothing as, ultimately powerless, they fell from one crisis to the next. She’d gotten tired of it and as she raised her hand, so the power and certainty had flooded back. She’d drawn the line in the sand, this far and no further. Not everyone had the luxury of choosing the time and manner of their death. She’d chosen this time and this fight.

Yet against all odds she had survived and so had everyone she cared about. They were going to start up Angel Investigation. The Council had proved itself in its first major battle. And Wesley loved her. She corrected herself. She and Wesley were lovers. She looked across at his face highlighted by the soft glow of a nightlight. His long lashes sweeping towards his cheeks, his sleep tousled hair, the slight curve of his lips as he slept...

“I can feel you looking at me.” He murmured without opening his eyes.

“That was an easy guess. I’m always looking at you.”

“What have I done to deserve you?”

“Maybe you were really bad in a past life.” She suggested and a smile tugged at his mouth.

He stretched a hand sleepily towards her. She took it and laid it against her face. She loved his touch.

“What were you thinking?”

“Oh, I was just wishing that everyone was as happy as us.”

“I think Angel and Spike are.”

“Wasn’t it amazing when Spike stepped out? You could feel the shock of emotions ripple through the battlefield. Then when they worked together to bring down the dragon… you’re right, I’ve never seen them so happy.”

They snuggled down to enjoy their last couple of hours of sleep before it was time to rise again.

Minutes after falling asleep Angel awoke, jolting himself upright. His eyes widened with terror. It couldn’t be… he’d been happy but there had been no sex, sure he’d been thinking of it, but he’d definitely remember sharing orgasms with Spike.

Then there was no time for thought, he could feel agony building inside, tearing at the fabric of his identity and splitting him in two. For an instance, he was a cloven figure of a man, writhing in anguish, howling out against the loss of his most precious possession, as his soul ripped loose and the demon struggled free, breaking its hated shackles.

He fled, fearing the wave of destruction his demon would unleash. Staggering outside and sinking to his knees, a burgeoning scream of despair was swallowed by euphoric laughter as Angelus emerged from the depth of imprisonment. He raised himself from the ground and the predator surveyed his world with delight. He was free and the night belonged to him.

The world was full of wonder and potential, he felt like a newborn vampire, lost to the sights and the scents, and oh! What fragrances. Blood and pain from the recent battle. Slayer blood. He smacked his lips at the thought of the house, a veritable chocolate box filled with tasty morsels, slayers, young and sweet as nectar.

Then a frown marred his brow as he remembered Spike, the one thing that he and Angel agreed upon - the turning of Spike. The newly forged blood bond was roaring in his ears. It called to him and, souled or not, he wanted his boy, wanted to teach him what it meant, to be the childe of Angelus. But the slayers and Spike combined, presented a problem. Reluctant as he was to abandon his fledgling, their bond meant he couldn’t hide or dissemble. Spike’s awareness and the slayers collective strength would have him bound and souled in no time. He growled in anger but accepted that he had no immediate alternative, except to flee the nest, stretching the golden thread of their bond until it snapped.

He moved quietly back inside, dressing and picking up the things he needed. All but one. His childe was resting in sweet oblivion. Angelus thought of picking him up and running. But he wouldn’t risk his freedom, not before he’d considered all his options. He would have liked to have left some clue, a sketch or a bloodied heart but he didn’t have time for his games… yet. Instead, he departed quickly, taking a Wolfram and Hart car, still stowed in the garage. As he drove away he reflected that nothing was forever and when he’d reached full strength then he would be back for his childe.

He melted into the night as though he were part of it.

Spike slept deeply until the afternoon, awakening with a stretch and a grunt, wondering where Angel had disappeared to. He called out, planning to tease him for neglecting his day old childe, but there was no answer. Unconcerned, he showered and wandered upstairs. Still no sign of Angel. He hung with the remaining slayers and contacted Wesley and Giles to discover if they’d sent the other vampire out on some mission but no one had seen him or heard from him.

Everyone convened at the house and began dealing with the outstanding practical matters. Giles drove the last of the visiting slayers to the airport and then helped Gunn, Fred and Wesley set to work clearing away the detritus of the battle. Gunn scouted the grounds to gather any weapons that were still serviceable.

“Hell! I’ve got myself an armoury.”

“Give them to the Council.” Spike said. “They’re more likely to need that quantity of weaponry than we are.”

“What all of them?” Gunn asked in disappointment.

“Well, no. I’ll take that….”

“Axe.” The others chorused.

“I’m not that predictable. I was going to say… well yeah, ok. Axe. Pass it over will you?”

Giles eyed the gory weapons with distaste.

“I fervently hope you were planning on cleaning them before palming them off onto me?”

“Of course. Charlie boy was just going to suggest that very thing. Weren’t you?”

“Hey, it’ ok with me. Would rather be cleaning weapons than cleaning a house. Probably why the vampire has gone AWOL, washing and cleaning is clearly women’s work.”

Chris and Erica entered just as he finished speaking.

Gunn took in the situation; Fred hovering with a nasty looking scourge in her hand and the two slayers who headed Spike’s crack squad.

“Yeah. Sorting and classifying weapons, clearly women’s work. You know it takes… ummm intelligence and…uhh… guys help me out?” He pleaded.

They eyed him with pity but turned away, after all they had their own skins to protect.

“Whaddya think, Chris? Fred? Leave him in one piece or…” Erica asked a nasty gleam in her eye as she fingered the edge of a lethal looking dagger.

“Well he is sort of on our side, I suppose.” Fred said.

“Fair enough. Gunn you get on with cleaning the house and we’ll make a start on the weapons.”

Gunn cut his losses and dutifully picked up a cloth.

“So no one knows where the ponce has gone, then?” Spike asked for the third time.

“We’re not his keepers, Spike.”

“Could have bloody well left us a message though.”

“Maybe it’s a surprise. He might have gone to the mall. He threw out most your things when you, you know… left.” Fred suggested.

“Buying me presents, you mean?” Spike’s eyes lit up. It would be just like the Poof, the only man he’d ever known who actually enjoyed shopping.

So Spike relaxed and spent the rest of the day rediscovering old routines, training his slayers and hindering with the cleaning. But as evening fell and the night wore on he felt a twinge of uneasiness and tried to fight down a useless surge of anxiety.

“Still no word from him?” Gunn asked.

“Not yet.” Fred replied with a small shrug.

“You’ve got to admit, its damned odd.”

Spike was fiddling with his empty mug and finally gave in to his nagging disquiet.

“Sod this.”

Withdrawing to the basement he found the silence he needed. This was something he’d never attempted before, a deliberate search for his sire. He knew it could be done; Angel had used it before to locate him. Closing his eyes he concentrated and followed the tendrils of their bond. Relief swept through him. Still alive. But there was no sense of direction in the link, just a feeling of distance. Alive but distant. What the hell was happening?

They searched the city, questioned contacts and interrogated anyone who might have information, with limited success. The general conclusion confirmed Spike’s suspicions. Angel had left.

“Well at least he’s still alive.” Giles said.

“But why has he left? Supposing he’s been kidnapped or something?”

Wesley took Fred’s hand and gave it an affectionate squeeze.

“Don’t worry, we’ll find him. Willow was kind enough to suggest a number of spells, in case of emergencies.”

Spike was sick of all the talking.

“Well? What are you waiting for?”

Wesley was confident and began with the demon finding spell. They spread out a map of the U.S.

“I’ve been wanting to try this out. Willow thought it would come in useful eventually. Can you give me something of Angel’s please?”

There was silence as sand was distributed evenly over the map.

“There we have it.” Wesley pronounced with quiet satisfaction. “He’s in Wyoming…?”

“And Dallas.”

Florida. New York. Kansas.”

“Oh dear.”

“Bloody hell! Don’t say that, Percy. It never bodes well.”

“What’s gone wrong, Wes?”

“Nothing, that is, I’ve done everything just as Willow advised.”

“So there are now twenty odd Angels?” Gunn asked.

It was Giles who replied.

“Obviously not. I believe Angel knew we would try to locate him in this manner and he’s reflected shadows of himself around the country.”

“Whaddya mean shadows?”

“Of course.” Wesley agreed. “It’s shadow play. Making an Angel shaped shadow and projecting it far away from where he is. Although it does appear to suggest that he doesn’t wish to be discovered.”

Spike’s apprehension changed to leaden apathy and his fragile happiness evaporated. Angel had left and didn’t want to be found. He’d frigging run off again.

“Try something else.”

Wesley thought for a minute.

“There is something but I’m not as adept as Willow. But maybe, it’s not as if I have to search other planes of existence. Yes, I think this could work…”

“What?” Spike asked with a frown.

“I don’t know how much they told you about their attempt to find you. Willow searched for your soul, expecting to find it in some hell dimension. I think Buffy had some notion of rescuing you from hell.”

“She did?” Spike and Giles made a perfect duet of the words.

Wesley merely raised his eyebrows and nodded.

“Instead they found you in London. Not exactly hell.”

“You’ve never tried commuting on the underground during rush hour.”

“Quite. Anyway, providing I don’t have to search other dimensions then I think this soul search would work.”

“What are we waiting for?”

“I need to meditate and please no distractions.”

Wesley sat cross-legged, using a crystal as his focus. The others waited in silence as the minutes dragged out. Finally, Wesley gasped and fell forward, Fred was immediately there, putting an arm around him.

“You ok?” she asked.

He opened his eyes and nodded

“Well?”

“I’m sorry. His soul is either no longer here or Angel has found a way of blocking this search too.”

“He just doesn’t want to be found, Spike man. Maybe we should give him his space. He’ll turn up again eventually.”

“Why would Angel leave? He seemed happy.” Fred asked the question that was in all their thoughts.

“Maybe it wasn’t Angel, I couldn’t locate his soul, it could mean… was he with you when you slept?”

Spike nodded.

“I’m sorry, but I must ask. Were you and Angel…intimate?” Wesley asked.

“Intimate? We shared blood occasionally so I’d say, yeah, pretty intimate.” Spike replied with deliberate misunderstanding. “What’s your point?”

“No, I mean did you know him…in the biblical sense?”

“Hell, Wes.” Gunn shook his head in disbelief. “The man wants to know if you and Angel were getting it on, you know doing the groiny thing?”

“Doing the groiny thing? Good grief. What the children are trying to ask is, did you and Angel engage in sexual intercourse?” Giles clarified.

“Yeah, what he said.” Gunn agreed.

“What do you think we are? Even if we wanted to, which we didn’t, there’s this little curse thing. You honestly think either of us would be that irresponsible?”

There was a shuffling of feet and shaking of heads but their eyes remained doubtful.

“Christ on a cross! The answer is no, ok?”

“So why did he leave, did you argue?”

“Yeah, course. We argue all the time. But he was happy. Pig in shit, cow in clover happy.”

“Can you feel him now?”

“Nothing specific, either he’s too far away or he’s shielding. I’m getting nothing.”

“Right, we’ll do what we can to find him, use our contacts, try more spells, whatever it takes. We will find him, Spike.”

The days wore on. Spike was scratchy and restless. He might be over a hundred years old but at the same time he was no different from any other newborn vampire. He needed his sire. Sometimes he was overwhelmed with need and the restlessness would drive him from the house, seeking to release his energy into hunting and confronting the latest evil, running like the wind to chase it down and battling with the frenzy of a whirling dervish. On nights like these he would return bloodied and tired, physical exhaustion finally sending him to sleep. Mostly he would be tied up in research, chasing down the smallest of clues, hardly sleeping and hardly waking but in that in between stage, constantly on edge, held in limbo. Waiting.

It was one of those days. He was sitting at the computer going through Angel’s files, hoping that something would click into place and make sense of the puzzle. There was an audible click. Another email. He didn’t recognise the email address: Some pretentious spotty school kid more than likely. Still even spotty school kids might need help. He opened it.

Spike stared at the message on his screen trying to take it in:

After the kiss, I realised what was in your heart. I bit your finger and tasted it in your blood. I haven’t that sort of passion in me. Not for you. Decided it would be better if I left. Sorry. Don’t try to find me. A.

Short, to the point and finally, a reason for his abandonment. He stared in pained disbelief. He remembered long nights when passion pulled at them as continuously and as powerfully as the tides that rose to meet the moons. Passion that seemed insatiable when they’d tumble to the bed again, laughing at their exuberance and need.

He sent his reply

Liar.

Why had Angel claimed to leave because of the kiss? It hurt too much. He stopped thinking. The click of a received email, he sat for a while and contemplated it, lying in his inbox like a trap waiting to be sprung. He went and heated up a mug of blood. He needed all the strength he could muster. Finally he opened it.

You mistake me for Angelus.

Was that true? It was Angelus who had travelled with him on that voyage of discovery. He himself had been un-souled, yet it had still been his journey and his passion. Maybe this was different for his sire. Did he even know Angel? One thing he knew for sure.

You were happy with me…

He wanted to take back that message as soon as he’d sent it. It looked too pathetic and needy. He was such a sad tosser. Maybe he could recall it… too late it had been opened. Supposing he denied even his happiness. Yet that couldn’t be right, Spike had tasted it in his blood and seen it shining from him, making him vibrant and alive. He’d been doing the sodding Pylean happy dance.

click

I was. But with the kiss you changed the rules. It switched something off inside me. You fell asleep and I had a vision of you offering your skinny little ass to me… I freaked and left.

Damn. That had to be up there with Cecily and Buffy and the most wounding words given to him. He seemed to be making quite a collection of them. There must be some way of putting this right.

Come home. I can live without passion.

click

Liar

This casual cruelty was unlike Angel. The only thing he was sure about was that Angel was deliberately pushing him away. It went against everything they’d built over the past months.

You’re afraid of the curse.

Spike was almost certain he had a handle on where Angel was coming from. He’d been happy and was afraid of where of it might lead.

Whatever you want, Spike. Yeah. Sure. I was afraid of finding perfect happiness in your ass. Sheesh.

Spike considered the message. He found it hard to say whether it was the sarcasm or the patronising tone he most objected to. Or maybe it was the realisation that perhaps Angel was speaking the truth and he’d lost him. Friendship, love, companionship all lost because of his weakness, his inability to keep his bloody stupid feelings to himself. Barely one week old and he’d lost his sire already. Nice going Spike, new bloody record.

He stood up, stepped back and then kicked out at the screen, sending it hurtling across the room and crashing into the far wall. The noise brought Fred running in.

“Spike! Why…?”

His eyes held a peculiar emptiness.

“I’ve lost…” He stopped, unable to give voice to his loss.

“You lost…? Oh! The computer beat you at one of your games?”

Wesley and Gunn also entered and surveyed the wreckage.

“I know what it’s like. You’re on the edge of your seat, nearly finished a level and then you crash and burn. It’s a natural reaction. Never mind man, you may have lost at Full Metal Jacket, but you beat it hands down at kick boxing.”

“Maybe you should try Simcity, I find it most relaxing.” Wesley recommended.

He looked at them with incredulous eyes.

“Are you all stupid?”

No immediate answer sprang to their minds

“Angel has left. It’s my fault ‘parently. He doesn’t want us to search for him.”

He looked at their shocked faces, shook his head and stomped out.

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