Instead of retreating to privately enjoy the glow of Angle’s approval, Spike lowered his face, hiding the sudden profusion of emotion and returned to his journal, pretending to find his place as he attempted to regain his composure.
“Uh…” He struggled to bring himself back on track “Yeah…after Hainsley there was me being dragged back to hell and begging for help. Peaches was busy saving the werewolf. It was a scary time, actually, but luckily Fred was listening.”
Angel looked down.
“S’okay, Pet. I asked Fred not to tell you.”
But whatever Spike said, it didn’t comfort the other vampire. In his pig-headed blindness, he’d nearly let his Childe slip away. Now all he wanted to do was wrap him in cotton wool, cocoon him and lock him away from everyone else.
It was Wesley who broke the uncomfortable silence.
“What did Fred do for you?”
Spike shrugged, not altogether sure exactly what she’d been doing.
“She ran tests and she was kind.”
Wesley smiled gently.
“Yes. She’s a wonderful person.” He agreed before clearing his throat and continuing. “So she carried out tests…”
The conversation continued carefully covering all points.
Lunchtime came and Lorne was looking agitated as he emerged from his interview with Mede. A ‘now what’ look from Angel prompted him to shake his head.
“I’m sorry, Angelpie, he was probing was about Spike, wanted to know what everyone thought of him” He shook his head in apology. “I had to tell him.”
“What did you say?” Spike asked curiously.
Lorne merely looked significantly at Angel and replied, “The truth.”
Angel slowly nodded his understanding, acknowledging that Lorne probably knew more about his feelings than he did himself. Somehow, the fact that someone else knew seemed to make it more real.
“Did anything else significant or even insignificant fall out of your meeting?” Wesley asked.
“It was much as Gunn reported yesterday, but he wanted to get a handle on emotions and tensions.”
“Did you get any sort of reading from him?” Spike asked.
“Just an inkling. A warning for you, sweetcheeks, keep your back to the wall. And for the boss, a pretty even mix of respect and derision but on the whole he thinks Angel is soft and will be easy prey…. Hey, easy Big Guy, I’m just the messenger. Also? There’s one other thing I got from him. He’s hiding something. And it’s something pretty damned big. He thought he was managing to keep it from me but he’s not as good as he thinks he is. He damn near had a red neon sign flashing over his head saying I’ve got a secret.”
“I don’t like the sound of this.” Wesley said. “Supposing we’re missing some piece of crucial information?”
The implications for Angel, and maybe themselves, were all too clear.
Spike listened in disbelief, knowing that if Ghan had wanted to hide a secret then there was little doubt he could have. Even from Lorne. This was a personal message and a warning. Childish, but typically Ghan. A reminder that he had a secret and wasn’t afraid to use it.’
“I could try…” Lorne began.
“No. I want you all to stay clear of him. No casual encounters or conversations. Formal meetings only,” Angel refrained from glancing in Spike’s direction, “to be arranged through me.”
The meeting broke up and Spike found a quiet office where he could contemplate his choices.
Thought escaped him and he ended up contemplating his black, badass nails instead. Huh, badass? They lied. They announced to the world that here was the Big Bad. The attitude may still be in place but the reality had long since evaporated like dew in the sun. He looked up with a sigh, knowing that Wesley was watching him, concern rolling off him in waves.
“You’re worried about Angel?” He asked.
The next words gave lie to his unconcern, as he shook his head.
“I think I need to see Ghan and winkle some more info out of him.”
He really didn’t want to do this but the thought of Angel losing his head went beyond distress. It dug out his flesh and everything vital, leaving him feeling profoundly empty.
“Mede? Angel said none of us are to see him without his permission.” A worried crease marred his smooth brow.
“Angel is a bloody fool to himself. If I can turn the situation to our advantage I will.”
Wesley’s frown deepened and he couldn’t contain his anxiety.
“Don’t rush into anything, Spike. You can be a little… impetuous sometimes.”
Spike gave a forced smile.
“And if I do nothing and you all go to the wall? You know my motto, Percy; regret the things you did and not the things you didn’t.”
This did nothing to allay Wesley’s fears.
“And all the things you’ve done and all the regret that trails behind you like the chains of Marley’s ghost, teaches you nothing? I’m deeply disappointed in you, Spike.”
“Yeah? You’re not the first. Doubt if you’ll be the last.”
“You realise I’ll have to tell Angel…”
“Headboy running to tell tales? Do what you want. Don’t matter. I’ve been told to be proactive. Find the source of the fire and that’s what I’m doing.”
“I have to go. It’s time for my interrogation with Mede. Don’t decide anything in haste, Spike. Think on what you’re doing.”
With that he turned away.
Spike had decided to hold off any decision until Wesley had concluded his meeting and reported back, so he was frustrated that there was nothing new to add. Other than Mede made Wes’s skin crawl and that the ex-watcher disagreed with Fred. He thought Mede was hardly attractive at all.
Staring blankly out of the window, Spike pretended an interest in the city below, whilst the meeting dragged on behind him. Everyone talked a lot, but there was nothing new on the table. Now it was dark and soon a car would be arriving for him.
He heard everyone leave. Everyone except…
“It’ll be ok, Spike.”
Angel had moved silently to stand shoulder to shoulder beside him.
“Will it?” Spike looked up at him, trying to guess if it was just casual reassurance or something his Sire knew from sources unknown.
Angel nodded but was obviously distracted and a small frown creased his brow.
“What is it?”
“Why do I even need to be fighting like this? When I first took over they knew my goal was to help those in need. You were in need, of course we all helped you.”
“Some more reluctantly than others.”
He realised what he’d said and quickly turned to face Angel, a word of apology on his lips. He didn’t want to fight. Not tonight. But Angel was hardly aware of his comment.
“So why have they suddenly changed the rules of the game? Why must I justify helping you?”
“Maybe the rules haven’t changed.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well… we’re just assuming that Ghan has found some evidence against you, ain’t we? Maybe it’s just what he wants us to think.”
“But why? Just for the fun of watching me squirm? There has to be more to it than that.”
Which brought Spike back to his starting point. He needed the information that only Ghan could supply. He turned away again, for once, grateful that there was no reflection staring back from the window. Christ knows, he couldn’t have kept his feelings from showing on his face if he’d tried.
“It don’t seem likely that someone would engineer this whole elaborate charade just for the purpose of…”
“Fucking you? I agree. I mean tell me, what the hell is so damned special about you? Why does everyone want you?”
There was something in Angel’s voice as he asked that last question that tore at Spike. He sounded…plaintive. Suddenly, Spike was tired of the way they danced around each other, tired of second-guessing if Angel had any sort of feeling for him. And really tired of lying and being lied to.
“He’s sending a car for me tonight.”
“What? If you’ve got something to say, just come out and say it.”
“You’re your own person, Spike. You can do what you want. I don’t own you.”
“No you don’t. You never did.”
Now it was Angel’s turn to hear something in the tone.
“You told me once that you don’t do casual, so what is it? What is this thing you have with Mede? Is it love?”
“Of course it ain’t!”
Another voice answered him and the fact that neither vampire noticed Wesley approach, showed how intensely they were involved in this conversation.
“I rather think he believes he’s buying your life. There’s the report you asked for on my meeting with Mede.”
Spike threw him an angry look.
Angel gave a small a laugh that failed to reach his eyes.
“Funny. Spike has made it quite clear what he thinks of me.”
Despite the filthy looks, which were being thrown like spears in his direction, Wesley couldn’t resist a parting shot. Honestly, if he left it to those two, their misunderstandings would drag on for another century.
“Yes, I rather believe he has.”
With that he made a strategic exit with two pairs of eyes digging uncomfortable into his back.
“So…. What was that about? My life…?” Angel finally asked; his brow furrowing and his eyes narrowing to piercing gimlets.
Spike just shrugged and gave in. Damned if he knew what to do, maybe Angel could come up with something.
“Ghan’s got a secret, told me he’d send a car for me if wanted to ask the questions.”
“And is he telling the truth? He’ll answer them?”
“He said so.”
“So a favour, out of the goodness of his heart? I don’t think so. So what is it? Is Wes right? You’re selling yourself to keep me safe. Is that what you think you’re doing?”
Spike silently worried at the newly applied black varnish on his nails. He’d never felt less like the Big Bad.
Something inside Angel was lurching madly as he watched his anxious childe.
“He wants you.” The words came out in quiet hiss through gritted teeth. “Well, he’s not fucking having you!”
He spun Spike around and eyes finally met and locked.
“Tell me honestly! Is this what you want?”
Spike stopped tearing at his nails and looked up.
“What the hell do you think, Angel? To be blackmailed, to be powerless, to not know what the hell I’m letting myself in for, but forced to go through with whatever he wants… yeah, sure. A frigging dream date, innit?”
“Oh Jesus, Spike…! Don’t do it. Not for me. Listen, I have my own plans… trust me. There’s no need to do this.”
“How can you say there’s no need? We don’t know what it is he knows.”
“God, this is such a bloody mess.”
Spike couldn’t disagree.
“What do you want me to do?”
He really wanted to know. Not because it would change his decision, but he needed to know for his own peace of mind if Angel would willingly pimp him out.
“I want you not to climb into that damned car. I want you to stay here with me. I want…”
He caught Spike and roughly pulled him into an embrace.
“I want.” He finished softly.
That answered the question. And Spike found himself holding on tight to his powerful Sire, wishing more than ever that he didn’t have to do this, as Angel gently soothed him.
“We’ll think of something, Will.”
Twenty minutes later they were sitting on the couch, still thinking. Angel had grabbed his wrist to stop him tearing at the edges of his nails.
“Jees, the situations you get yourself into! How did you get to know this guy anyway? I mean vampire and human, not normally... well yeah, Buffy obviously….” He stopped.
“Dunno. It just sort of happened. I mean he does stand out in a crowd. Grabs your attention.”
Angel grunted noncommittally. “You never showed an interest in men before, that I recall.”
“Bloody hell, Peaches, I didn’t look at him it that way! I was stalking the bloke, wasn’t I? Then I noticed he was a bit odd... I mean, he had dealings with demons but they treated him like he was a lit fuse.”
The grip eased from Spikes wrist and unconsciously slipped down to his hand, lightly covering it.
“Didn’t that kinda give you a clue that maybe he wasn’t the best victim in the world? I mean, making demons nervous, a bit of a give away?”
Spike was kind of half distracted. Was Angel holding his hand?
“Uh…. Didn’t occur to me. Anyway, finally jumped him, but even that was strange….Yeah, he was scared but not mortally terrified. You’d think being bitten by a vamp was nothing more than a rollercoaster ride. He was kinda enjoying it, yer know? Then I noticed the really odd thing about him. He refused to die. There couldn’t have been more than a thimbleful of blood in him and yet somehow he was still alive.”
“Shit, Spike you bit an immortal judge!”
The pressure on his hand tightened in fear, as Angel realised exactly what Spike had tried to do.
“Well what did I know? Had no bleedin’ Sire around to teach me any better, did I? He told me I must be very young if I hadn’t heard of him and asked me to carry him home cus he felt a little weak. Well you’ve gotta admire the attitude.”
Angel felt no such compulsion.
“So you took him to his place and?”
“And stayed a while.”
“Uh huh. Became adventurous and expanded your horizons…. With him?”
“You’re asking if we shagged? The answer is yeah, we did.”
His hand was clamped painfully for a moment.
“Didn’t it bother him that you ate his kind? Frigging hell, you tried to eat him!”
Spike couldn’t even be bothered with the obvious crack and just gave a shrug.
“Think he viewed it as part of the world. The tiger, the lion, the vampire. Natural selection and all that. Morality ain’t really his subject.”
A thumb was now circling the inside of his palm and Spike was finding it increasingly difficult to concentrate.
“How long were you together?”
“A couple of months.”
“Not long. What happened?”
“Heard that Dru had left her latest shag and was looking for me again. So I left.”
“Was the human upset that you were leaving?”
Spike looked a little shifty.
Now that expression Angel recognised of old and he carefully probed a bit deeper.
“Oh. He doesn’t seem the type to hide his emotions.”
It was impossible to concentrate on lying when Angel was doing that to his fingers, those long cool strokes…
“Nah. That was the problem. Didn’t want a scene, so went out to hunt and never came back.”
Damn, Ghan was right, he was a frigging terrible liar! And now Angel had removed his hand altogether. He pouted as he watched it gesturing angrily, wanted to drag it back and make it move across his naked skin again.
“Christ, Spike! No wonder the guy wants revenge, if that has been festering in him for all these years. Why didn’t you tell us earlier? We might have been able to…”
Spike sighed and reluctantly abandoned his hand… well, ok, technically it belonged to Angel seeing it was attached to him and everything…
“Able to what? What could you have done differently? Anyway, wasn’t my fault, I assumed he’d have guessed something was up, what with him being a truth reader and everything…”
Angel shook his head.
“No you didn’t. You wanted an easy out and took it. Jeez, I’ve been beating myself up thinking it’s something I’ve done to him in the past. I might have frigging guessed it would all come back to you!”
Spike pouted but couldn’t deny it.
“So have you thought of a way out of this yet? Really don’t want to become his toy for the night.”
Angel rubbed a hand down the back of Spike’s neck.
So, no plan then. At least he had Angel’s hand caressing his flesh once more and almost purred to the touch.
Angel looked at his face and wanted to comfort him, pulling him into a hug, which Spike reluctantly allowed.
“What time is he coming for you?”
“Dunno. He just said he’d send a car tonight.”
“Perhaps it won’t be what we think.”
“I’d take your place if I thought it would help…”
“You wouldn’t. You’re only saying that cus Ghan hates yer guts so you know you’re safe.”
“I might have done.” Angel replied defensively.
“You can’t stand anyone having power over you.”
“You’re no better. I’m your Sire. I should have power over you but I never have. I’ve had to fight for every bit of influence.”
“That’s just me, yeah? Independent.”
“Wild. Out of control…”
“A menace to society and a danger to yourself.”
“Used to be once.” He sounded regretful.
Angel’s brows drew together.
“You miss being evil?”
“No… Just that they were simpler times, yeah? Want, take have. You must miss some things…”
“Nothing. I wouldn’t choose to be Angelus again for the whole world.”
“You don’t understand, Spike. You’ve never had the same sort of perverse pleasure in evil as Angelus. You just enjoyed your unlife and people got hurt and killed and murdered but you didn’t care either way, there was no malice. I guess that man was right. You were no different to any other natural predator. Whereas I was a demon.”
“Oy, take that back! I was a bloody brilliant demon.”
“No. You weren’t.”
“Well why did Angelus keep me around so long if he thought I was so terrible.”
“He kinda cared for you. I mean, yeah, irritating as hell, always more trouble than you were worth but he loved your fire for life.”
“What a pile of crap! He didn’t even like me.”
“He wanted you, Spike. And you kept refusing him, which didn’t exactly put him in the best of tempers.”
Spike looked completely gobsmacked and wondered if he’d misheard.
“Oh, come on, Peaches. You’re kidding me?”
“Really not. I mean, all those mornings we woke up together…”
“When you were sparking with fury to find me wrapped around you?”
“Angry? What the hell are you talking about? Every time it happened, you would run from me… him. Course he was pissed off.”
“Cus you… he hated me being there!”
“He didn’t hate you being there. When I got my soul I couldn’t sleep, partly because of the demon’s memories and partly because I missed you tucked under my chin.”
“You missed me? You, as in Angel?”
They waited in the silence that seemed to grow and spread until it settled over them like a warm blanket, comforting them both.
“Yeah. I missed you.” Angel’s voice slid softly through the silence.
Spike blinked, the small gesture gave him a fraction of time to collect the insanity of his thoughts. When he opened them, he found it wasn’t his thoughts that were insane, but the world had gone stark raving mad. It had melted into his imagination and Angel was saying things that Spike only dreamed of.
“And Angelus didn’t mind waking with me?”
“I told you, he loved it. Except for anticipating the moment when your eyes would open and you’d fly away again. He used to enjoy the time just before you woke… you used to try to bury yourself in me…. You wanted him too?”
“I was kind of innocent in those days, I hardly knew what I wanted… just knew it had something to do with you. Loved touching you, holding you. Loved the way you smelt and the way you twisted the world to suit you.”
“Do you still love m… all those things about me?”
Spike lowered his eyes shyly and whispered, “Yeah.”
Angel stared in disbelief at getting this answer. If Spike’s world had gone insane, his was slowly making sense, as his Childe’s shy little look turned his bones to water. It was so bloody adorable that Angel found himself smiling. The smile widened and he began to laugh.
Spike didn’t know whether to be offended or to smile back.
“What? What is it, Poof?”
Angel finally realised exactly what it was he felt for this person. The sire/childe bond, the affection, the want, the need, the desire. Nothing but add-ons to the main emotion. It made him feel brave. It made him want to take yawning chasms in a single leap. It made him want to risk everything on the chance turn of a card.
It made him take his very unlife into his hands.
“I love you, Spike. I love you so damn much.”
For the second time that evening Spike looked stunned.
He started a couple of sentences but nothing came out. He finally found his voice.
“What are you talking about? It’s not true! You hate me.”
Angel was playing with a strand of hair, coaxing the gel out of it until it twirled around his finger in a shiny, golden ringlet, whilst a small smile hovered around his mouth. Spike hadn’t run from him screaming, which was a definite plus. In fact, he was leaning slightly in towards the playful fingers.
“Yeah. Really feeling the hate here.”
Spike was silent.
“So are you gonna say something.”
“Why now? Why did you have to tell me now?”
“I only just figured it out. Why? What difference does it make?”
“A big difference! I’m about to leave, to do God knows what. If he decides… if he… Christ, Peaches! No one has ever done that to me… I’ve always been the one in control, yeah? Supposing he wants to…?”
Angel managed to figure out what he was doing his best not to say.
“Jeez! You can’t fucking go! That freaking creep is not gonna be your first!”
Angel going apeshit, really wasn’t helping.
“I suppose, just have to think what difference does it make in the long run? It doesn’t mean anything really….”
“It means something." Angel's voice was dark and intense. "And I want it to be me... It should be me! I’m the one who loves you. Your first time should at least be with someone who loves you…”
Spike still couldn’t quite get his head around the l*** word. Of all the four lettered words that fell from Angel’s mouth that was the one he’d honestly never expected to be applied to him. Hell, he couldn’t even say it in his head, it freaked him out.
Angel noticed his face and stroked along a sharp cheekbone.
“What’s the matter, Will? Have I made things uncomfortable…”
Spike looked into his eyes.
“I never knew you were that brave, Luv.”
“Brave? It didn’t take courage…”
“Yeah, it did. I know it did. Cus I’ve never managed to find it.”
“You? You’re the most courageous person I know. The way you throw yourself headlong into a fight…”
“Ain’t talking about fighting, am I?”
“Ok. So. Are you gonna tell me what you are talking about?”
“Since the first night I met you, I’ve…………………”
Spike’s voice was so low and mumbled that even Angel’s heightened vampire hearing couldn’t make out the words. But it seemed vitally important that he did.
“Bloody hell, Peaches Do I really have to say it…?” He pleaded.
“Yeah. I really think you do.”
It was such a fundamental thing. Denying his love for Angel made up his whole approach to life. What would his life be without that foundation? Would everything slowly tumble down around him?
And then he looked into intent brown eyes that gazed at him so hopefully and suddenly it was bursting out of him. He had to say it or explode from the pressure of keeping the words locked inside.
“I love you…” he got no further with his quiet declaration.
Angel had pounced.
One moment he was sitting staring as his childe as Spike struggled to find the words and the next he was laying on top of Spike. Angel’s lips sealed over his, sucking the words that lingered on his tongue, devouring every word that would have spilt from his mouth. Claiming every word of love that Spike would have uttered because he needed no more than those three words he’d heard.
Maybe later they’d decorate this feeling with other words and actions, but for the moment he revelled in the simplicity of being in love.
Time slowed to individual moments, found and held and treasured like diamonds unearthed from the depths of mountains, and never was there jewels as precious as these seconds. Pearl drops caught, hanging forever in the web of their eternity, to be held in their minds until the last days of their unlife.
Each meeting of lips, the brush of soft flesh, loving hands that touched in wonder, eyes that beheld beauty as though it were newly created the instant they let love explode in their hearts.
These delicate moments tinkled into fragments, shattered by Harmony’s voice chirping on the intercom.
“Bossy? I mean, Boss. There’s a car here for Spike. Hey Spikey, where you going?”