Relevance of Spike

 

Part 11

 

What a shit week.

 

This was what it felt like to loved? It left Spike alternatively high, low and downright confused. Not strictly speaking a Harlequin or Mills & Boon kind of bloke, he still knew the way it was supposed to happen….

 

Fall in love. Bloke loves you back.

 

Bam! Explosions and fireworks.

 

Asks you to move in to his enormous penthouse, buys you loads of thing to keep you happy, lots of blood and sex, obviously.

 

The stories appeared to gloss over some crucial elements, such as the part where he tells you exactly why he’s always hated you and then skanks off with a fucking werewolf.

 

Angel’s moment of post coital honesty had hit Spike like a slug to the guts and ever since, he’d been waiting for the follow-up blow, the knock-out punch that would send him reeling into oblivion. Every word that Angel spoke was pulled apart and analysed to see if it had other meanings. Such as goodbye.

 

Not that he doubted Angel genuinely felt something for him, but he’d noticed that others seemed to love differently to him. They could just walk away, whereas he became kind of hooked.

 

In Spike’s opinion, it had all started when Angel got hit with a whammy and turned into a puppet. 

 

If anyone had asked Angel, he would have explained that the whole thing coalesced from a chance remark that Gunn passed regarding two such powerful and charismatic figures heading the Company.

 

“It’s lucky that you two manage to present a united front, else we’d be looking at World War Three.”

 

The vampires froze, fleeting frowns at the thought that details of their plans may have emerged, they looked at Gunn in askance.

 

“You must have noticed that Wolfram & Hart is being split in two, right?”

 

Wesley nodded, “Every employee with a grievance against you is questioning whether the right vampire has been chosen to head the Company.”

 

Angel’s frown deepened.

 

Gunn mistook its cause and attempted to reassure

 

“Hey. Not that they dislike you,” he lied and looked around for support.

 

“Absolutely not.” Lorne ploughed in. “True, some would love nothing more than to pull out your guts, twist them around a stick like pretty, pink candyfloss and eat them for breakfast…. Uh, not really helping here, am I?”

 

Angel had been thinking through the implications of Gunn’s comment and merely nodded at Lorne without really hearing. Then the remark registered; a quick rewind of the conversation…

 

“Huh?”

 

“Well speaking frankly, and just as an aside I look better with this handsome noggin attached to my neck, you’re not winning any popularity contests, Peachypie. Whereas Spike….”

 

He gave a smile that could easily be mistaken for a grimace.

 

“Whereas Spike, what?” Angel queried.

 

“I’m popular, Mate,” Spike clarified, albeit with a slight lilt in his tone as though not quite believing it himself.

 

“Huh?” he asked again.

 

“Pop-u-lar,” Spike enunciated clearly, “Like what you’re not.”

 

“I think it’s just because Spike hasn’t killed anyone. Yet,” Gunn clarified.

 

Wesley nodded his agreement and added, “Although some see this as a weakness.”

 

“A few killings demonstrate strength and gets respect.” The others looked at Gunn and he shrugged. “Just the way it works.”

 

“Hey, I can kill. Volunteers step right on up…”

 

He went into game face. Fred giggled and the others ignored him completely. Spike shook it off with a sigh, people seemed to forget, scary vampire here.

 

He also caught the implications. If his strength and ability was being questioned by the Wolfram & Hart drones, then it would also be a bone of contention for Black Thorn members.

 

“So you’re saying that people have a friendly rivalry, but if we became enemies it would escalate?” Angel asked. He had also figured out that the Company seemed a fair reflection of the Circle they were attempting to divide.

 

“Luckily you two are getting along.”

 

“Yeah, lucky…” Angel agreed, catching Spike’s eye.

 

They needed to fall out. Publicly and violently.

 

Spike nodded.

 

Unfortunately, for the first time in their lives they realised that there was nothing that they particularly wanted to argue about. Spike pouted and Angel raised his brows in amusement at the irony.

 

However, their dilemma was easily rectified when Angel turned into a grumpy, belligerent puppet.

 

Uh huh, a frigging puppet! And how ironic is that? Who says the Powers don’t have a sense of humour? Twisted and warped, yeah, but kind of humorous if you looked sideways and squinted.

 

Strangely, Angel never really got the joke. All his other personality traits got exaggerated, but his sense of humour, pooft! Gone. Maybe the others didn’t really notice, but Spike did. Frankly, his Sire turned into an evil little bugger, with a fucking punch that just wasn’t right for a squishy, overstuffed vampire….

 

After all, Spike’s reaction had been more than natural. Who wouldn’t have fallen around laughing if their lover had turned into a puppet? Maybe he shouldn’t have asked if he had a little stuffed todger to match… especially as Puppet!Angel’s nose had come away in his hand during the ensuing fight. It made a man think…. Spike tactfully refrained from teasing about that part of his anatomy. A guy needs some dignity, after all, even if he is a puppet.

 

He still had his cute moments too. In fact, he became incredibly cuddly. Well, ok. Horny. Somehow, having erotic thoughts about a little felt man with a removable penis was too much even for Spike’s fertile imagination. He’d played on the excuse of the curse, before telling him frankly that he could never fancy a puppet.

 

Dark brows had pulled together and Puppet!Angel had glowered angrily. Then it had happened. The business with the werewolf.

 

Spike had watched in disbelief. Ok, Angel was a little pissed because Spike didn’t want to get it on with a little puppet guy, but was that any reason to start making those frigging idiotic mooneyes at Werebitch? Served him sodding right that he got the stuffing torn from him.

 

When Angel finally returned to normal Spike had immediately gone to him, demanding explanations, but wanting reassurance. He reflected afterward that maybe he should have left Angel to readjust to being flesh and blood and get over the humiliation of being Puppet!Angel. Apparently everything was his fault, if he’d been more supportive….

 

Spike had been speechless. It was at least a full five seconds before he had found his voice again.

 

“What! I’ve been Mr Fucking Supportive Guy!”

 

“Really? I must have blinked and missed it.”

 

“Did I say single word to you about your detachable body pieces? No, I bloody didn’t! Did I comment on you and the fleabag?”

 

“If you mean Nina, then yes, you did!” Angel replied furiously. “You pulled my nose off and told her that I fell apart during sex!”

 

Spike tried to hide his grin. That had been a bloody masterstroke. The look on her face had been indescribable.

 

“Yeah… but I was supportive.  I didn’t lose me temper or take the piss, just satisfactorily sorted out the situation.”

 

“Satisfactorily…! She laughed so hard she became hysterical!”

 

“I know. I thought that was real shit of her, bit of sympathy might not have gone amiss. Just her true character coming through... think you had a lucky escape there, Luv.”

 

“Escape? There was nothing to escape from!” Angel denied angrily.

 

Spike had tried shrugging it off, but his temper started to rise in response. He raised his eyebrows.

 

“You think I didn’t know about your intimate little moments? It was fucking embarrassing the way you two behaved around each other!”

 

And suddenly Spike was on the attack and Angel was forced into defensive manoeuvring.

 

“I couldn’t handle anything. There was no middle ground, everything I felt was extreme. Love, hate, affection, anger…”

 

“Horniness?”

 

“Yeah....”

 

“You wanted to shag, I backed off, so you thought Dog Breath would do instead.”

 

“No! Anyway, I wasn’t myself!” Angel protested angrily.

 

“Bitching, fighting and rolling over for some little blonde bint to walk over? Yeah, hardly recognised you.” The sneer in his voice hid the hurt that had been growing inside like a dark thunder cloud.

 

Spike realised that this conversation should have been left for a while and not just for Angel’s sake. He was too pissed off to think clearly. Perhaps he should be more understanding? After all, this was the way things were between them, Angel kept his balance by occasionally losing it with Spike. Which would be ok, he’d have been right there, soaking it up and punching it back, but he had deep-set insecurities regarding Angel and little blonde girls.

 

Angel felt satisfied.

 

This was just the kind of rift they needed and he was pleased how well Spike had caught on and responded. It was really kind of fun to be arguing with him again.

 

“Was it my fault Nina was attracted to me and I’m too much of a klutz to deal with it properly?”

 

“This might sound like a bloody stupid idea but you could have just said that you loved someone else,” Spike suggested.

 

 “Puppet anger? Kinda uncontrollable. And Jeez, you could have been more supportive. Just because I had a puppet body didn’t mean I didn’t still have needs!”

 

Actually, that was surprisingly true and he was ashamed to admit that his explosion of anger had been genuine at the time, so when Nina propositioned him, his cotton-wool brain had been thick with ideas of revenge, maybe using her to make Spike jealous.

 

It had all backfired badly. Made worse because now that he was flesh, he could appreciate Spike’s point of view regarding the practicalities of making love to little puppet men. Especially one that probably did fall apart during sex. 

 

His immediate reaction had been humiliation and guilt, but had then realised that this was just the opportunity they had been looking for; it could be used to create the conflict they needed for their master plan. He was sure this would be uppermost in Spike’s mind, too. Anyway, the stress and upset of becoming a puppet had Angel desperately reaching for the reassurance of old patterns and familiar rituals, releasing it all on Spike was… comforting.  

 

“I was a puppet! Jeez, why can’t you be more understanding? You’re so fucking insensitive and self-centred. That’s one thing I could never stand about you Spike…” he ranted.

 

Maybe this was true and maybe not, but at some point Spike had stopped shouting, stepped back and listened, a look in his eyes that Angel couldn’t decipher, and then he had walked away.

 

Angel stared after him, thinking that he was over-egging the anger a little. It wasn’t unknown for Spike to walk away from a situation, but the silence beforehand? Spike had never stopped talking to him. Hell, he never stopped talking, full stop, Angel smiled slightly at the thought.

 

Spike turned back to him, something about the slight smirk that hovered on his those lips infuriated him and before Angel could even open his mouth it was wiped from his face by a fist smashing into his cheek

 

By the time Angel had blinked away the blood, Spike had gone.

 

He held a cloth to his cheek. Well it was done, but he hated it. It had almost felt real. He guessed rumours of their fight would already be doing the rounds of Chinese whispers and growing in ferocity with each telling. He may as well display his caved in cheek and swollen eye to add some grist to the rumour mill. He touched it and winced at the tenderness. Was there any reason to hit him that hard?

 

Spike eventually turned up the following morning. Apparently they still weren’t talking, at least not to each other. Angel played the game but felt something twinge inside, there was an icy greyness in those eyes that made him wonder whether Spike realised it was all nothing but a play in the deadly game that he had started.

 

The atmosphere in their meeting left the humans distinctly bemused.

 

Angel was talking about taking a more proactive approach in fighting evil.

 

Spike was acting as though Angel wasn’t there, looking around in boredom whenever he was speaking, his behaviour becoming ever more outrageous.

 

“Anyone want to comment?” Angel asked.

 

They all just wanted it over and each shook their heads, except for Spike.  Angel said nothing, just waited, determined to make him speak.

 

Spike sat back, looked at his watch, scratched at his balls.

 

“Spike-hunn? Anything you wanna add?” Lorne finally prompted.

 

“Yeah. I’m going out to get pissed. Anyone coming?”

 

After that meeting, Lorne was hugely tempted but one glance at Angel’s face and he held his tongue. Spike looked around belligerently and then strode out without waiting for an answer.

 

He didn’t go to the bar. Somehow he’d thought a few drinks and his problems would melt into an alcoholic fugue. They hadn’t, and now he was suffering from the aftermath of the previous night’s bender. He shut his office door, ignored his thumping head and pounding confusion, and instead concentrated on working out the details of his next moves against the Circle.

 

Hmmm. Next target… either the Archduke Sebassis or the Grand Potentate of the Fell Brethren. What was it with evil and titles? Wanna be evil? Just add a few bells and whistles to your name.

 

As far as he could figure it, there were four main powers in the Circle. He’d met with Cyvus who represented supernatural power, the Fell Brethren Potentate representing religious, Sebassis who was clearly secular and then Senator Brucker, political obviously. Finally, there were the other four members, Izzy, Chey, Bubba and Don, the Group’s negotiators and go-betweens. Individually they had no special power, although it seemed they were allied as a group, which was probably how they had survived so long in such prestigious positions.

 

Spike remembered Sebassis from the infamous, and in his opinion, disastrous party. An arrogant and powerful Prince of the underworld, with legions at his command.

 

The Fell Brethren he knew nothing at all about, and so called Wesley for any relevant books, as well as scooting around internet sources. There was a surprising amount of information to be found, including whole tracts of religious texts. He soon realised why there was so much buzz on the websites. It appeared that the coming of the Chosen One was imminent.

 

Now wasn’t that interesting…

 

 

oooo

 

 

Angel had a squash game scheduled with Izzy.

 

Apparently the squash courts were one of the safest places to talk, as Izzy said, who the hell talks about business when they’re sweating and panting… they considered this for a second and Izzy quickly amended it to; sweating and panting on a squash court.

 

Both were eager for this chance to update their information. They nodded at each other, pulled on their protective goggles and Angel found immense satisfaction in whacking the living daylights out of the little ball. The violence of his opening play left Izzy standing.

 

“You were in Vail’s basement?” Izzy asked as he took a wild swing at the ball.

 

“Uh huh.”

 

“You didn’t try lying to me? Hmmm.”

 

Angel wasn’t sure if he scored a point or not but Izzy gave it to him.

 

“Does Vail know I was there?” He grunted as he lunged into a wall.

 

“No. He’s an ancient demon.” Izzy tapped his nose. “Old senses not what they were, you know?”

 

Angel nodded.

 

“You didn’t tell him?”

 

“You heard me, my money’s on you.”

 

Another point for Angel.

 

“Why me?”

 

He stood back and dropped his next shot neatly into the corner, it wrong-footed Izzy and he was left stranded uncertainly.

 

“Spike hasn’t got your creativity. He’s just a minor upstart demon. Sure he has a small amount of fame amongst humans but he’s never been a player in the demon world.”

 

Angel was on form, moving confidently around the court.

 

“He killed the Master’s Chosen One. Helped destroy Glory. From Vail’s reaction, I’m guessing some in the Circle are taking him seriously.”

 

Again Izzy was wrong-footed

 

“Don’t you worry about it, Big Guy. I have my own contacts. I’ll start pulling some strings.”

 

Angel wondered how much of this was demon-talk. He was close to winning the game but Izzy took advantage of Angel’s distraction and managed to grab a point.

 

“How will you convince them?”  Angel eventually asked, he needed to know how he was being marketed so that he could play to his strengths.

 

“There are lots of clever, powerful demons out there but not many major league players. You are major league, my friend. Then there’s the importance that the Powers place on you….”

 

So he’d not only be a puppet for the Powers he’d also have his strings yanked by the Senior Partners? Oh joy.

 

Another point slipped away.

 

“What’s swaying them towards Spike?”

 

He was determined to win this one and put on a spurt of supernatural speed to reach it, but Izzy began to come into his own. Short sentences were punctuated by an energetic thwack of the ball.

 

“They think you’re weak. You get too attached to people. They’re looking for the grand gesture that would convince them. They’re attracted to Spike’s independence. He has almost everything you do, but he did it by his own machinations. Even so, some of us are still waiting for him to prove himself.”

 

But Angel was right with him, keeping up and responding. Sensing that the game was almost his, Angel sprang for a long shot.

 

“Who do I need to win around?”

 

Izzy took his eye off the ball for a moment and lost it. He gave a grunt of frustration.

 

“I shouldn’t be telling you this but…” A slow smile showed off perfect predator’s teeth, “I’m an Angelite through and through.”

 

Angelite? That was a new one.  The vampire managed to get the tip of his racquet to the little blue ball.

 

“Carry on…”

 

“Fell Brethren,” Izzy panted, as he struggled to get his racquet to a ball that seemed be bouncing around the court with a mind of its own. “Senator Brucker, Sebassis.”

 

Angel nodded as he won the point.

 

“Good game. Another?”

 

Izzy nodded and focused on doing better in the next round.

 

 

oooo

 

 

“Hi. I’m William.” He stuck out a hand to the pretty young woman. Huh. Small and blonde, just Angel’s type. He carefully stepped around all thoughts of Nina and tried not to dislike this woman on principle.

 

She stared at him in suspicion.

 

“Yes? What can I do for you? If you’re a Jehovah’s Witness then I should say now that I’m not interested.”

 

“I’m from Wolfram & Hart.”

 

She relaxed; a look of relief on her face.

 

“The lawyers? You’ve come about the baby, yes? Come in. I’m Amanda, by the way.”

 

“Uh yeah, lawyers.  That’s right. ”

 

He entered the house wondering what the fuck was going on.

 

“The Brethren said they had lawyers who would ensure that everything was legal and above board.”

 

Ohhhh…

 

“So you’ve met with the Brethren?”

 

“Oh yes. They’ve been very sweet, looking after me, bringing me shakes….”  Her voice tailed off as though she knew that she was fooling no-one, least of all herself.

 

“You know they’re demons?”

 

She nodded and smiled. “But you can’t hold that against them can you?”

 

Her bright smile hid a depth of desperation and he felt a tug of sympathy for her.

 

“So why are you here?” she asked. “My appointment at your offices isn’t due for another two weeks,.

 

“The details of the contract are intricate, so I’ve been asked to come and see you?”

 

That was such a crap excuse. No self-respecting lawyer would approach anyone except the client. She was bound to see through it…. Instead she merely nodded wearily.

 

“Because of his illness? Come with me.”

 

She took him to a dimly lit room.

 

“I insisted on looking after him at home. You know, thought it would help him to have me around…”

 

She turned to Spike.

 

“Silly really but you hear the miracle stories of people coming out of comas when they hear a certain voice. They always seem to happen to someone else though, don’t they? He doesn’t know me. He doesn’t respond. I think he’s never going to.”

 

This was the first time she had been able to talk about her predicament. Who could she tell such a bizarre tale to? Tears were blinked away and she stared at Spike pleading for him to understand.

 

“I have no choice. We have no money and there’s nothing I can do for him.” She gave a pitiable laugh. “Except turn him every few hours to prevent bedsores…”

 

Her voice rose and her laugh was nothing more than a painful, sawing noise. When Spike put a hand to her shoulder she fell into his arms and cried on his shoulder.

 

“I’m sorry. I’ve tried to be strong and practical but sometimes… What can I do? I give them this baby and they’ll feed it, care for it, it’ll be well treated….  He’ll be worshipped. In return they make my Paulie well again. What am I supposed to do? How am I supposed to choose?”

 

They obviously had skipped the Gordabach part. Worshipped and pampered until he was thirteen and then an excruciating death. A sacrificial offering to bring about their demon messiah.

 

“It’s ok, Pet. I’m not judging you.”

 

“Maybe I judge myself.”

 

Spike had no answer and just rubbed her shoulder comfortingly.

 

“Come and sit down. You must be what? Third trimester?”

 

“Well into it. Five weeks left, is all. Thirty-eight weeks they classed as full term, guess that’s why they want me to sign up by then. They’ll take him away. They say it’ll be less painful for me if I don’t see him.”

 

“Yeah, I bet they do.”

 

She took a breath and straightened up. It was all too late, she’d made her choice.

 

“Anyway, the contract needs to state that Paul will be made completely whole, mentally and physically.”

 

“Uh huh. Got it.”

 

And no way was that unborn kid going to end up fodder for some demon religion. He could imagine how hurt Angel would be to see another baby snatched away.

 

Spike had always been a secular demon, but he felt that pretty soon he might have the sudden urge to get religion…

 

 

oooo

 

 

The Fell Brethren, the Senator, Sebassis, Izzy and possibly some of his cohorts, gave Angel a healthy list of potential allies. Not keen to deal with the powerful Archduke until he had formulated a strategy, he considered his other two options.

 

He’d heard of the Fell but knew very little about them, other than they kept to themselves and were deeply religious. Religion or politics? Who would he rather deal with, another god as bad as or worse than Jasmine, or a politician? No competition. He called Wesley and asked him to extract all they held on the religion and beliefs of the Fell.

 

Wes smiled.

 

“I take it that you and Spike are talking again?”

 

“What? No….”

 

“Oh. I’m sorry… it’s just that, these books? Spike already has them. If you want them you’ll have to ask him, I’m afraid. What is this sudden interest in religion?”

 

“Never mind,” Angel replied, “I’ll give them a miss for now.”

 

Spike was ahead of him and already working that angle, so he needed to concentrate on the Senator.

 

He cursed quietly. 

 

Jesus, he hated human politics and all the associated machinations. What a cornucopia of goodies for an enterprising demon, the one place you could openly eat the innocent alive and spit them out to rounds of applause.

 

He called for recent newspapers that contained any articles on Senator Brucker.

 

This Brucker had been the focus of much attention, although it appeared that interest in her was clearly declining…. Seemed that the Mike Connolly juggernaut had overtaken her campaign and left it spinning in his tailwind. 

 

Hmmm. Maybe this was an opportunity to win her around, if he could just find ideas to get her campaign back on track.... So, what made a politician successful? He frowned, not having voted since… well ever, he had no idea what issues won votes. He supposed he’d have to trawl back through old papers and find out why certain people flourished and others were left standing.

 

He’d been buried in paper for half the day. Now he was agonisingly bored and still no closer to finding any answers.

 

His mind drifted to Spike. He was missing him and his cutting comments and incisive insights.  Suddenly Angel didn’t want to be by himself. Maybe he could kill two birds with one stone. Having company would distract him, and at the same time he could glean the opinions of his colleagues regarding the enigma of politics.

 

He hovered awkwardly in the doorway

 

“Hey Wes.”

 

That sounded casual, sociable even.

 

“Angel?” Wes looked up in surprise. “Is there something you wanted?”

 

“Uh no…”

 

Spike could do casual conversation… what would he have said?

 

“Do you want to go for a drink?”

 

“A drink? With you?”

 

He was frowning and Angel had a sudden thought, what with falling out with Spike and everything, perhaps Wes thought….

 

“It’s not a date or anything…”

 

Wesley was now thoroughly flustered.

 

“I never thought…”

 

He finally struck inspiration and wielded his coffee cup with barely disguised relief.

 

“I have a drink, already… thanks.”

 

“Oh…. I just thought that you Gunn, Fred and Lorne have been working hard recently. We could take an hour out and just catch up… but if you don’t want to…”

 

“That’s… Actually that’s very thoughtful of you,” Wesley’s face gradually relaxed into a smile, making Angel embarrassed that he hadn’t genuinely considered taking them for a drink before.

 

“I know a charming little bar quite nearby. Give us ten minutes. I’ll tell the others.”

 

Angel contained a sigh of relief that it was all being arranged for him. Why did he do this to himself? The only company he really wanted was Spike’s.

 

oooo

 

“Well I always like to know their platform of policies,” Wesley explained.

 

“Exactly! Education, women’s rights…”

 

“Well, I just like to see a black man up there,” Gunn admitted.

 

Fred hesitated.

 

“Well… to be honest, if there was little to choose between two candidates and one was a woman...”

 

“It’s natural. We’re drawn to people who we believe are similar to us.”

 

“Don’t listen to them Angelbuns. It’s nothing complicated.” Lorne waved his hands expressively. “It’s about personality. If a politician doesn’t have one then he has his speechwriters craft one. If he’s bad, he just has to make his opponent out to be worse. People try to choose the lesser of two evils. . And that’s politics for you. Simple. And remember, politicians are kinda like  diapers, they have to be changed regularly and for the same reason.”

 

“They get dirty and begin to stink.” Gunn explained.

 

“I knew that.” Angel frowned slightly.

 

The others looked uncomfortable.  Of course Angel knew about diapers

 

“Isn’t that a little cynical?” Fred asked.

 

“We’re in the media age, people. Platforms and news?  Pfft. They want a bright smile, pithy slogans and catchy opening tunes that they can clap along to. It’s about soundbytes and image.”

 

Angel looked towards the others.

 

“Depressing. But probably true,” Fred agreed sadly.

 

Wesley looked as if he was about to comment and then something seemed to catch his eye.

 

“Right, another drink everyone? Angel would you care to give me a hand?”

 

He was chivvied from his seat in rather a rush.

 

“Whoa! You really are thirsty, aren’t you?”

 

“Parched,” Gunn confirmed.

 

“So move your cute tush to the bar,” Lorne encouraged.

 

Angel obeyed, a little stunned that someone thought his backside was cute, he wondered if Spike thought so too. He was attempting to think of a conversational gambit that might give Spike a chance to comment, and so was a little distracted as he approached the others. Which is why it wasn’t until he was about to seat himself that he noticed their private booth had an extra occupant, chatting easily with the others. Until Angel appeared. They simultaneously noticed each other.

 

“What do you think…?”

 

“What are you…?”

 

They turned to glare at the others.

 

“You said he wouldn’t be here!”

 

“Sorry Spikey. This is an intervention,” Lorne explained.

 

Angel frowned.

 

“Intervention? What gives you the right to interfere in our lives?”

 

“Why can’t you lot keep your bloody noses out of our business!”

 

Wesley broke the awkward silence.

 

“I’m glad to see that you two can agree on some things. As for it being none of our business? I believe you’re both forgetting that it is our business.  When our CEO and Head of Special Projects stop speaking to each other it affects the whole Company.”

 

“Gotta agree with the Milky Bar Kid, you can’t carry on like this,” Lorne agreed, “The whole Company is humming with tensions, rumours are rife and employees are taking sides. Animosity is crawling out of the woodwork. Hell they’re starting websites, the Angelites and the Spikophiles. I mean I’m all for healthy competition….”

 

Wesley regarded them seriously.

 

“Totally unacceptable. Frankly, if you two haven’t sorted your differences by tomorrow then I’m cancelling the morning meeting. We refuse to sit through another one like today’s.”

 

They began to slide out of their seats.

 

“We’ll uh… leave you two to it,” Fred said, concern written large in her eyes.

 

They were gone without a backward glance, leaving Angel and Spike alone.

 

“He just cancelled MY morning meeting!”

 

“We just got bollocked by Greenfingers!”

 

“Who the hell do they think they are?”

 

“Too fucking right!”

 

“I’ll haul Wesley before a disciplinary!”

 

“Uh… Will you? Cus he’s a bit soft and all that, but funny enough, I wouldn’t cross him…”

 

“Soft? Be careful of him, Spike. He’s the type that does whatever’s necessary… one day I’ll tell you about Pylea. In fact, if I was ever asked to choose a successor for this Company, he’d come a very close second.”

 

Spike frowned.

 

“Who’s first?”

 

Angel looked confused.

 

“Well… you.”

 

“Oh.”

 

Angel shook his head and brought the conversation back to the point.

 

“We’ve split the Company in two.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Izzy said he was an Angelite.”

 

So Angel was working on Izzy which probably meant he had the other three as well. Angelite….

 

Their eyes met and a look of understanding passed between them as they shared the implications. Black Thorn was dividing into camps, closely imitating what was happening within the Company, which meant that they were getting nearer to the open warfare that Gunn had mentioned.

 

Spike could feel himself flush. He was such an idiot! Angel had been smart, engineering a rift between them and he’d behaved like a lovelorn teenager. Yet surely he had reason, the thing with Nina had felt real….

 

It was almost as though Angel read his thoughts.

 

“About Nina.”

 

Angel took a deep, calming breath before continuing.

 

“I’m sorry. I was trying to make you jealous. It wasn’t what you thought. Even when I was a puppet, it was still all about you.”

 

Spike looked up in surprise. It was the one explanation that had never occurred to him. He buried his hands in the pockets of his coat and toed the ground thoughtfully, before regarding Angel with serious eyes.

 

“Uh. I’m sorry, too. It must have been very difficult having a wank with puppet hands.”

 

Angel nodded gravely.

 

“Impossible.”

 

“I should have helped you out. One day I’ll be fantasising about puppet sex and kicking myself that I missed the opportunity.”

 

“Spike?”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“You’re making fun of me, aren’t you?”

 

“Absolutely.”

 

Angel’s body almost sagged with relief. They were back to normal again and he wanted nothing more than to pounce, pin his Childe down with the weight of his own body and lie covering him, never moving again, let time stop and hold them forever in its frozen clutches.  He sometimes wondered if Spike truly understood how much he was loved.

 

He took a step back. It was time to go on with the show but at least they understood each other. 

 

“I’ve apologised! What the hell do you want me to do? Crawl at your feet?”

 

Their plan depended on them being in conflict, but fighting was the last thing on their minds. Spike contained a smirk at the thought of having his Sire at his feet.  Angel realised what he was thinking and he could feel frustration rising within, the need to touch his childe was overwhelming. Why did Spike have to stand there looking so beautiful and sexy, the filthy grin on his face, matching perfectly the thoughts in his head?

 

This time, however, Spike was determined to play his part in deepening the rift.

 

“You’d enjoy that wouldn’t you? Becoming my bitch?”

 

Angel’s eyes darkened as he snarled, drawing back his fist, knowing that this was the only way he could touch what he wanted to hold and keep. However, Spike was prepared for the reaction.

 

The next day a hefty bill turned up in Accounts, courtesy of the charming little bar.

 

Angel and Spike did not appear that morning. The rumour was that they’d dusted each other. However, they both turned up in the afternoon, and any disappointment that might have been felt was alleviated by the blood, bruises, Spike’s pronounced limp and Angel’s inability to sign any documents with his mangled right hand.

 

Not much work occurred in the W&H offices that afternoon, too busy with gossip, quarrels and stand up fights, as they alternatively denigrated and protected the good or bad names of their chosen vampire.

 

These vampires watched and listened as the tension within the Company wound tighter with each passing hour. It Even though they couldn’t talk or touch, they felt closer than ever. It reminded them of the days when they’d walked the world as though it belonged to them.

 

Angel revelled in the feeling of once again being the protagonist, making things happen, controlling and manipulating.  Spike couldn’t help his pleasure at seeing the old gleam in his Sire’s eyes as they worked with all their old synchronicity. It was as if the clocks had turned back a hundred years and Angelus and William the Bloody were playing their victims in another elaborate charade. But this time their victims were the Circle of the Black Thorn, the most voracious predators the world had seen.

 

Their blood sang to the danger, as they attempted the most audacious play of their unlives.

 

 

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