Warning: strong language and slight m/m sexual content

 

Part 4

 

His mind was floating like driftwood in a sea of unconsciousness that lay somewhere between deep sleep and stirring awareness, that wonderland time when his subconscious tossed over the problems that weighed him down during waking hours and attempted to make sense of it all.

 

Papery whispers were advising him that it all came down to expectations. All he desired was physical release, whilst avoiding perfect happiness, so was it really fair to call Nina, who would surely be expecting so much more? Spike, on the other hand, held potential. He could see, in theory, how it might work. But although his brain clambered over the principle of the thing, it balked at actually imagining how it could ever come about. Their fledgling friendship was still developing and he had been more than satisfied with that. To ask for anything else verged on greediness, yet now the thought was in his head he wasn’t sure how to exorcise it.

 

In the end there was no need to worry about exorcising anything. It was almost as though Spike knew what had been predicted and was fighting it with all he was worth. Being woken with an elbow to his ribs must surely be the most un-amorous way to start the day.

 

“Hey, Poof. I’ve been thinking about my name…”

 

And that nickname just about put a cap on any lingering libido.

 

“I’m asleep.”  His eyes were shut and his face squashed into his pillow.

 

He looked crumpled and sort of cute. Spike quickly crushed such risible thoughts. That way lay insanity.

 

“Yeah? Anyway, Ghost sounds ridiculous. Imagine calling on Wesley and he has to say, ‘Hello Ghost. Would you care for a cuppa?’ I mean, bit wank, ain’t it?” 

 

Angel opened an eye.

 

“This is what keeps you tossing and turning all night?”

 

He envied him and wished his own thoughts were as ingenuous.

 

“Yeah, well. A new name’s important innit? Anyway, I reckon I’ll use your idea and have a superhero pseudonym, you know?”

 

“Uh huh. Good idea.”

 

Better than the Angel and Spike one anyway.

 

He turned on his back and eyed his childe. Why did he always look so good in the mornings? The bed hair was particularly enticing, begging for fingers to card through the rumpled spikes and curls. Instead Angel ran a self-conscious hand through his own soft hair, suspecting that it looked tufted and weird rather than sexily mussed.

 

“Superhero eh? The tights will show of your ass….”

 

He nearly bit his tongue. Where the hell had that come from? A couple of sleepless nights and suddenly words were thoughtlessly tumbling around like puppies let off the leash. He’d never considered Spike’s ass in his life. Well, only in the spirit of manly appreciation…. Manly appreciation? His brain gave up trying to rationalise it because it wasn’t working.

 

Spike snorted.

 

“You’ve got so many kinks, Pet, it’s just untrue. Anyway, I was thinking more along the lines of leather trousers, leather coat.”

 

Angel accepted that sleep time was over, yawned and gave in gracefully.

 

“Crap disguise, Ghost.”

 

“Yeah, well. Don’t need a disguise, do I? As far as anyone else is concerned Spike died a year ago. ‘Ghost’ is all there is.”

 

Spike tried to avert his eyes as Angel sat up and stretched his sleek body, yet still somehow managed to watch the full movement in fascination as muscles rippled over the powerful body, extending, bunching and relaxing. That damned word would not be laid to rest. Lovers? He wondered which alternate reality the Predictor thought it was in… this in turn caused him to wonder if there was some obscure world where such a situation could exist. It was almost unimaginable… yet his brain did its best to visualize it. He groaned softly. Bloody hell! What had he been distracting himself with? Oh yeah. New name.

 

Angel wandered into the bathroom. He could hear Spike testing out his name.

 

“The name’s Ghost. I’m Ghost.  Ghost. The Ghost... Spike and Angel.  Angel and Spike. Spike. And. Angel. Oh sod it.”

 

It made him smile, until he heard the sound of their names aligned together, causing his mind to turn over the problem again. Did he really want this thing with Spike? Angel wasn’t altogether sure and maybe that was why he balked at envisaging anything more. The desire for his childe had been a pure Angelus trait. Yet it was Angel who needed the connection. He had told Spike that he was turning to stone and it was true. He needed something to bring him back to life. And after all, there was the beginnings of affection between them. He’d seen it briefly shining within Spike and felt it flaring in his own dead heart.

 

Ok. He’d approach it logically. He began listing advantages and disadvantages and weighing them up in his head.

 

With Spike there wouldn’t be the depth of feeling he’d shared with Buffy, so there would be no chance of a moment of perfect happiness, which had to be a pro. Then there was Spike himself. His approach to sex seemed as casual as lighting up a cigarette, so at least he wouldn’t cling and make some big deal out of what would be essentially nothing more than physical release.

 

The major difficulty would be overcoming Spike’s distaste, which seemed to have no basis in any sort of homophobic feeling, but instead was pinpointed into an Angel-focused aversion. A pout formed on his lips. Although the thought didn’t ignite the rage that Angelus used to feel, he still felt affronted by Spike’s rejection. Buffy had thought he was desirable and worth loving… then again she had been very young and Spike kind of knew him better. Huh. He could count on one hand the number of people who had loved him. And still have a couple of fingers to spare.

 

He let the hot water remove the sting of self-pity from his eyes as he realised that even if he did decide on Spike, he was pretty sure that his childe would have something to say on the subject, probably starting with ‘no’, and ending with ‘fucking way’. He composed himself, pulled on a pair of sweats and emerged, casually towelling his hair.

 

“Do you need help bathing?”

 

“I suppose. Can these splints come off yet?”

 

“I guess. Just try to not bump into anything else. How’s the finger?”

 

Spike tapped it. No pain.

 

“Mended.”

 

Angel, again, became instantly detached in his role of doctor. Once attention turned to his injuries then awareness of them nagged at Spike and he noticed the discomfort and lingering ache. Regardless of this, he began to wriggle his toes and Angel nodded in approval.

 

“You want to try standing?”

 

Spike hauled himself unsteadily to his feet, his face a blank mask of someone refusing to register pain.

 

Overall, Angel was satisfied with the progress and realised that pretty soon he’d no longer have an excuse to keep Spike. Whatever his decision, he needed to make it before it was too late and his childe disappeared once more.

 

He felt a hand on his arm. Angel looked up, eyebrows raised in query.

 

“You know what would help me heal faster?”

 

Spike was looking at him with a tentative smile, his head cocked to one side.

 

“What’s that?”

 

“Sire’s blood.”

 

Angel looked away and didn’t reply.

 

Spike’s face fell and he felt a blinding frustration. He’d honestly believed that they’d moved on, found a new place where they could just be themselves, but the denial implicit in Angel’s silence made Spike look at him with doubtful eyes. Had he misread everything? He withdrew his hand and his sense of hurt began to coalesce into defensive anger.

 

“Frigging hell! It’s Sunnydale and the bloody wheelchair all over again.”

 

“No, it’s…”

 

How could he explain? 

 

How could he say that he slept here every night, sometimes rigid with the need to kiss and touch, to feel something? The temptation he found simply in the physical contact was difficult to deny, but blood taking was something else. The penetration of teeth piercing flesh, the cool kiss of lips on his skin as they sealed over the life he offered and the sounds of pleasure as the body hardened on the gorged blood.  If he gave in to this request then all choice would be lost. He would be lost.

 

“For fuck’s sake, don’t brood about it! I get it, ok?”

 

Spike’s whole body was a twanged string, vibrating with suppressed anger.

 

“No, you don’t get it. Not a single damned thing.”

 

“Just go, will you? I’m knackered and I don’t want to do this now.”

 

Angel hesitated.

 

“I’m not rejecting you.”

 

Silence.

 

He reluctantly left Spike to his various entertainments and spent a long, tiring day chasing dead ends, knowing that he needed to think, but thoughts continually skittered away from the subject, as though the Spike of his imagination were greased with oil, slipping away whenever he tried to reach for him. The analogy seemed strangely appropriate. That’s how Spike had always been. Slipping away from his touch. Oh Christ, he was going to lose him; he could feel it in his bones.

 

oooo

 

Now that the splints were off, he found everything so much easier.

 

True, standing was agony, Spike could almost hear the sound of bones grinding together, but he could manage it at a push and was thankful for the little independence it gave him. Particularly valuing the ability to dress and undress himself. Reliance on Angel for such things was too intimate, causing a host of unwanted thoughts to gather and clamour for attention. Although, occasionally he found himself wishing the intimacy were for real and not something forced on to them. This must have been what momentarily confused him, the false intimacy that the situation had built.

 

Angel paid a brief noon visit 

 

It was ludicrous. The Predictor had set the notion of a possible relationship with Spike in his head, but he had let it breed and multiply. He’d thought about it all morning, and the more he thought the more absurd it became. And the more alluring. He knew his need for connection made him weak.

 

Then there was Spike, made vulnerable by his soul, his injury, his need for affection.  He felt sure that Spike had forgotten what was involved in the giving and taking of blood, after all, he had only ever experienced it that one time, but Angel had shared with his other offspring and well knew its effect. On them and him.

 

It hadn’t mattered in the old days. But here with Spike everything felt precariously balanced. Angel himself was so starved of any other sort of satisfaction that he was afraid of the effect of the demonic sharing. Feared it would shatter the relationship they’d so painstakingly created during the past week. But he didn’t know how to express this or how to explain how little self control he really had. So he didn’t try.

 

Instead he asked the mundane questions. How are you? What have you been doing? And received the mechanical replies such questions deserved.

 

Spike had withdrawn from him again and Angel realised that his refusal to share blood had been a wrecking ball, demolishing the burgeoning trust they had been building. Somehow he had to fix this. He needed the trust and the friendship back.

 

Angel spent all day and most of the evening at work, leaving Spike feeling aggrieved at how quickly his Sire was trying to disassociate himself. So the ‘lovers’ thing wasn’t getting Broody’s vote, which was fine by him, he’d never heard of anything so ridiculous. Yet he couldn’t understand why Angel was refusing to help him heal. He knew it wasn’t the pure malignancy that motivated Angelus or the automatic response that Angel customarily made towards him. What the hell. He should have learnt his lesson by now, he’d been rejected so many sodding times, from their very first meeting in Sunnydale when the lies had poured forth. But this one, more than any other, left Spike feeling depressed and unwanted. He supposed it was because he used to have the doubtful comfort of Dru. Now he had no one.

 

He finally heard Angel enter the bedroom and move quietly around the room. He hated being ignored and it annoyed him that Angel seemed to be pretending he wasn’t there. He could feel the old petulance clouding his thoughts.

 

“For fuck’s sake will you stop making so much bloody racket and just get into bed?

  

Angel sighed and clambered in with a heavy heart.

 

For the first time they slept without touching at all. It was a long night and his sleep was disturbed by the anger thrumming invasively from the figure next to him. He longed to reach out, spoon against the cool body and touch the satin skin. Unwanted thoughts of long gone nights invaded his thoughts and he moved restlessly, trying to turn his thoughts to other topics.

 

The following day was no better. He couldn’t concentrate. The more he attempted to push Spike from his head the more the blonde kept popping up.

 

He tried to focus on Fred, who was explaining something about viruses, which was when Angel had his stunningly simple idea. His whole mood lifted and he could have kissed Fred and spun her around the room. Instead he smiled and nodded, whilst running through how this idea would work in practice.

 

His plan to rid himself of his growing obsession was based on the theory of inoculation, a small dose to immunise himself from the full blown disease. Allow himself a taste of Spike’s body. Reach out and touch, become accustomed to him, until it became a commonplace thing, thereby banishing the shade of Spike that was haunting him every second of the day.

 

Spike was wearing a discontented pout and watching an old film with blank disinterest. His eyes carefully avoided Angel.

 

“Hey, Spike.”

 

“Poof.”

 

It was a greeting of sorts and more than he’d hoped for.

 

“Ok?”

 

“Uh huh.”

 

“Want some blood?”

 

Spike looked at him as though trying to suss if he was taking the piss and Angel suddenly realised what he’d said and a look of anguished contrition crossed his face. Jeez, even when he was trying, he still managed to get it so wrong.

 

“I mean heated up…”

 

Spike acknowledged the genuine mistake with a small nod.

 

“Got some.” He raised his mug in explanation.

 

But Angel was still dwelling on the offer of blood….

 

This could solve a problem of how to lure Spike into a more intimate situation. He hadn’t been looking forward to having a discussion with him. Jeez, how uncomfortable would that conversation be? He could just envisage it now. ‘Spike, I think we should make-out to help rid me of my obsession with you…” Derision would be the best he could hope for.

 

No, this would work much better. Entice Spike with his blood and then lay back and enjoy the consequences.

 

He heated up a bag of pigs’ blood for himself and then flopped down next to Spike, trying to look as though they were perfectly comfortable together.

 

“You’re right. My blood would help you heal faster. We’ll do it. This evening. Ok?”

 

Spike stilled, but only said; “Don’t put yourself out on my account.”

 

“Yes, on your account. I want to do it for you.”

 

Well… that wasn’t quite true. He felt like a hypocrite, knowing that if it hadn’t been for his plan he wouldn’t have given in to Spike’s request. He could still remember how it felt to have a childe suckling upon his skin, draining his essence and moaning in need. Oh God! He couldn’t exist like this much longer. His thoughts were wild-eyed horses, running free and galloping roughshod over all else. He refused to be obsessed by his Childe. Angel gave a slow blink and in the brief darkness gathered back the reins of control. 

 

Ok. Inoculation. It seemed like his only hope.

 

Neither said another word but Spike’s eyes followed him as he left.

 

He was left pondering similar ideas that had already occurred to Angel. As they’d sat together and Angel announced his agreement, Spike had suddenly thought about the physical act of turning towards his Sire and placing his mouth on smooth skin. Memories flooded back. The taste of powerful blood exploding through his body, sending his senses spiralling into another plane. It was need and ecstasy, oblivion and life… it was orgasmic.

 

All his pouting and petulance and now he understood Angel’s initial refusal, which, in turn, led him to consider the meaning of this new capitulation. Had Angel changed his mind about the ‘lovers’ thing? It was difficult to believe and gave him a lot to consider during that afternoon. He couldn’t escape the conclusion that Angel was finally reaching for him after all these years. A small bubble of happiness began to rise inside.

 

oooo

 

This wasn’t going to be easy.

 

Angel had showered, hovered uncertainly, procrastinated some more and then decided to seize the day. Or the night. He considered for a second before slipping his boxers back on and finally exiting the steamy haven of the bathroom.

 

He lay nervously on his side of the bed, under his own set of covers, casting covert looks across to Spike, whose lower lip was stuck out as he gazed thoughtfully at the ceiling. Angel had an urge to reach out and stroke a finger across the full flesh, gently wriggle the tip inside, letting it envelop him in moist warmth, watching as Spike opened up for him, sucking his finger down and that pout slowly closing around his length.  God he was so desperate for release that he was becoming hard just from imagining Spike sucking his finger.

 

“You want to do it now?”

 

Spike kept his face blank. This didn’t sound very lover-like to him. Maybe the Poof was just out of practise. He was feeling a little edgy himself and wished Angel would talk to him, admit the result of the Predictor. Tell him how he wanted to play this, because Spike was lost in this uncharted territory. Not a good feeling, it made him angsty and irritable.

 

“Suppose so.”

  

There was something in Spike’s attitude. He seemed withdrawn, which was weird, considering he’d got his way and was about to receive the blood he wanted. Angel tried to think of a way to relax them both.

 

“Can I get under the covers and just hold you?”

 

“Dunno, can you?”

 

He didn’t know how to take that, but the obvious hostility kept him in his normal place.

 

“Well if it’s gonna stop you tossing and sighing then just get under the bloody covers. And mind my leg. Tosser.” Nerves made Spike sound harsher than he meant to be.

 

The shrewish behaviour had begun to make Angel feel well and truly inoculated and he started to think that maybe there was no need to go through with this after all. But he’d promised. He couldn’t back out now. Still, this was so fricking awkward.

 

“So. Uh. Where do you want to drink from?”

 

This wasn’t right, it felt clinical and passionless. But Spike couldn’t refuse his Sire’s blood. 

 

He considered the major arteries: aortic, carotid, radial, femoral. Instead he reached out a finger and traced along the shoulder where the axillary lay, the source of the enticing scent that had comforted him through all those innumerable nights.

 

“Here.”

 

Angel nodded and watched with barely contained anticipation as his childe nuzzled in. It felt so familiar and yet so new.

 

He wrapped Spike in his arms, cradling him. It was so good to hold him again. He could feel Spike changing into game face; hard demon bones were shifting against his skin, calling to Angel’s own demon and causing it to stir in response.

 

And then the twin pricks as Spike unerringly found his mark.

 

Angel gave a small hitch of pleasure as Spike began to make small noises of contentment. It seemed different to anything he’d shared before. Gentler. He moved a hand, giving in to the desire to run his fingers through incredibly soft hair.

 

The first surge of blood hit the roof of Spike’s mouth and he was lost to the sensation that bloomed through his body. He could have keened in delight. Here was the connection he’d been searching for, under his nose all this time. It sparkled through him like multicoloured magic from a Disney wand, beautiful and life affirming. It was invigorating and soothing. The ultimate comfort, it was everything he’d never even realised he’d missed. At the same time it was more than comfort, it fizzled and sparked through his body and sent his awareness soaring.

 

The experience was more powerful than he could ever remember. He was drowning in the intensity.

 

It made him sensitive to Angel. Everywhere they touched, blood crawled to the surface of his body, every cell yearning towards each point of contact with his Sire. He tried to get closer, as though he belonged somewhere under Angel’s skin and was trying to reach that place again.

 

As Spike wrapped himself around his Sire and hung on like a drowning man clinging to a lifeline, so Angel slowly surrendered to the heat of the other vampire’s need and to the sensation of knowing that at this moment all Spike’s desires met in him, were focused on him.  He pulled Spike closer, urging him on with encouraging noises and felt the tug of blood being pulled through his body.

 

Blood moved again and circulated. He had a pulse that beat to the rhythmic suckling and in this demonic act he briefly found the cadence of humanity and life that filled his body like a rising symphony. He admitted to affection for this childe who could produce such feelings. His hand became lost in silky blonde strands.

 

Spike responded to the soothing touch by relaxing his death-like grip and moving one hand to caress his Sire’s chest, hovering in amazement as he felt blood flowing through the long dead heart.

 

It made Angel feel as though he was with a lover and effervescent happiness bubbled through him. He knew he must be wearing an inane smile on his face, but he couldn’t help it. His demon was staking his claim and this childe was the land where it raised its flag and declared ownership. It was damned near perfect…

 

The thought hit him like a two tonne truck. This was happiness and ecstasy. This was Angelus territory.

 

“Stop! Spike, no more!”

 

But his childe was consumed by the blood, cocooned in his own world where all that mattered was the pleasure in joining once more with his Sire.

 

Angel pushed frantically at the blonde head and finally managed to dislodge him. Spike fell away, confused and disorientated. Golden eyes blinking up at his Sire. Slowly the face melted back to humanity.

 

“Sire?”

 

The plaintive question nearly brought tears to Angel’s eyes.

 

“I can’t do this with you.”

 

“Oh.”

 

If Spike had been confused before, now he was absolutely blank with incomprehension.

 

“I…”

 

“What is this, Angel? I mean really, I want to know.”

 

“I’m sorry. I was afraid of this…. It’s the blood. I know it’s not real.”

 

“Oh.”

 

Spike felt naked without a covering of words but his normal lexicon deserted him. Angel despised him so much that he couldn’t even complete this act that came naturally to most sires. Yet despite this they were still lying tangled together, fingers resting intimately on each other and bodies hard.

 

Mouth and body were speaking words that argued and conflicted. He decided to listen to Angel’s body and not the hurtful, tearing words.

 

“Angel?”

 

“Hmm?”

 

“Despite what I say, I don’t seduce everyone who crosses my path.”

 

“So you’re saying what? You’re pure and chaste?”

 

Angel eyed him in disbelief.

 

 “Well, not exactly. I’m just saying I’m not very good at casual. Well, besides Harmony.”

 

“Ok. Why are you telling me this?”

 

“You realise that every inch of the front of your body is plastered to mine?”

 

“God, yes.” He was very much aware of it. The potent blood had worked its magic on them both.

 

“Every inch?” Spike queried as his dark brows rose.

 

Angel felt almost delirious with need. He was sure it must have been the blood that caused the happiness. How could he resist the feeling of life pulsing through him? He felt certain that he wouldn’t find perfect happiness with Spike if they confined it to a purely physical release.

 

Words fell from his mouth, untruths and other sounds without meaning.

 

“Shhh. We won’t do anything. Just need to hold you. This will work. I’m inoculating myself.”

 

Spike took this supposed turn in the conversation fairly adeptly, considering.  Sooner or later he was convinced that this would lead somewhere.

 

“Inoculating? Against what? Are you ill, Pet?”

 

He had it so firmly fixed in his head that Angel didn’t and never had found him physically attractive that the truth didn’t even come close to surfacing in his head.

 

“I think I am. Feverish. Fred was wrong, this vaccine isn’t working. It’s still all about you.”

 

“Me? What do you need, Sire? What can I do for you?”

 

Angel let out a groan, thinking of everything Spike could do for him.

 

Spike was becoming seriously worried at the groaning and pained expression.

 

“Do you want some of my painkillers?”

 

“Are you really so innocent?”

 

His hips moved slightly against Spike. God! He so needed to move.

 

“Ah…”

 

“Even that’s cute.  So knowing and yet so downright innocent.”

 

Spike looked across at him. So close to what he wanted and yet so far. He felt lonely. He needed so much, could he settle for so little? With anyone else maybe he could, but with Angel…? Then Angel moved again and Spike could feel the hard cock being dragged wetly against his skin. It made him shiver and all those firmly repressed desires were lying like embers in his brain, burning their way through his body. Part of Spike wanted this so badly. He couldn’t control his response to Angel and his own body began to twitch into life. As blood flowed south, commonsense flowed out.

 

He knew that Angel was staring at his mouth and licked his lips nervously. Angel’s eyes turned black. Spike began to breathe, shocked by the searing heat that burned between them.

 

Angel watched through half closed eyes.  When the pink tongue swiped across soft lips, his whole body reacted, every nerve ending jolted to life. He gave into his fantasy, reached out with his thick forefinger and followed the path that the tongue had taken, touching pouting lip, that soft swell of flesh.

 

“When you meant inoculation, you were talking about me weren’t you?”

  

“Hush.” Angel laid his finger over the lips. “Yeah, I guess I meant you. But its ok. This means nothing, Spike. It’s just mutual release, physical satisfaction. We both need it. I need it. I need to touch and be touched. I need someone that I won’t lose my soul in. There’s only you.”

 

Angel laid himself out and made himself vulnerable as he never had before; he reached out and once more gently smoothed Spike’s hair. He didn’t notice the effect his thoughtless words had on his childe. Until his hand was angrily shaken off.

 

“Hey. Cheers Mate. Thrilled to know that I’m nothing but a disease and incredibly flattered as I am to learn that you want me cus I’m the only one available to you, the answer strangely enough is ‘fuck off and die’.”

 

Spike’s eyes were sparking with fury. Angel hadn’t wanted him. Hadn’t been reaching for him. He was just bloody convenient.

 

“You don’t give a damn do you? A mouthful of Sire’s blood and you think you’ve got yourself a fucking easy lay!”

 

This was so close to the truth that Angel defended by attacking and unleashing his own anger.

 

“You’re kidding me? There is nothing easy about you. What did you expect? Romance and flowers? It’s never been like that between us.”

 

“You forget. There has never been anything between us.”

 

“I guess I have a better memory than you. I remember when we first met.”

 

“I remember Angelus and I remember a soulless William. It was never you and me.”

 

Angel considered this.

 

“Yeah. I guess you’re right. We just don’t have the same spark they did. You’re here but it was never really about you. I’m sorry. Forget this ever happened.”

 

He knew as soon as he said it that he would regret these words. He should have just told Spike how he felt. He would. He’d just be honest.

 

“Spike…”

 

“It’s ok. Already forgotten. Go to sleep, Peaches.”

 

Angel regarded the obstinate back and miserable and disheartened, he gave up.

 

oooo

 

They were assiduously normal to each other that, so much so, they could almost hear their words creaking under the strain.  

 

Spike decided his recuperation had dragged on long enough. He couldn’t stay in this room anymore. It was going to drive him mental.

 

“I thought I’d come down today. Feeling better and all that.”

 

So Spike was as good as his word and all was forgotten, but Angel was feeling guilty. He hadn’t behaved well and he wanted to make up for it now. Show Spike that he could also let the disastrous evening fade into memory. He turned his mind to do reasonable and mature.

 

“Of course. You’re a valuable member of the team.”

 

Spike stared at him, waiting for the punch line but Angel just carried on dressing.

 

“Ok? I’ll see you later.”

 

Spike took his time. He also felt a bit sheepish; he’d overreacted and behaved like a hysterical virgin. Angel was right; they had both become carried away by the blood, that’s all it was. Still, he could have had his Sire for one night. One perfect night, and he’d let stupid pride get in the way. He had an awful feeling he was turning back into William, which was never gonna happen. He painted his nails black and pulled on his leather coat. Well the blood had been good for one thing. His bones had finished their re-growth and he could walk down to the offices.

 

“Yo, man. Should you be up? I know vamps heal quickly but that was a nasty shot you took.”

 

“It’s either drag myself down here or go insane with boredom. Close call but I’ve done insanity and it ain’t all its cracked up to be. So here I am.”

 

“Ah, Spike. Welcome back. It’s good to see you’ve mended. You’re just in time. Angel is calling a meeting, so you may as well join us.”

 

They wandered in together and it was like going back a week in time. Angel ignored him and he was left feeling kind of out of place.

 

Angel looked gravely at the gathered group and then waved a letter at them.

 

“I’ve just been given notice that an inspector is arriving tomorrow.”

 

“Why, we got vermin?”  Gunn eyed the floor suspiciously.

 

“This is Wolfram & Hart, cockroaches and rats at every desk, or hadn’t you noticed” Spike asked, raising one eyebrow mockingly.

 

“That would be an insult to vermin - they’re regular cutie-pies compared to the employees you’ve made me read.”

 

“Company inspector,” Angel cut through their backchat, “not sanitation inspector.”

 

“Inspector? Dear lord. This isn’t in any way related to their audits, is it?” Wesley asked, apprehension showing on his face.

 

“It’s similar but they’re not carried out by the Senior Partners and they’re arranged on ad hoc basis, with little or no warning. The penalties aren’t quite as far-reaching as the audits.”

 

“What does that mean? What penalties?” Fred frowned.

 

Spike settled back into his accustomed role.

 

“Yeah, what’s got Percy so agitated? What happened at the last audit?”

 

“Let’s just say that everyone was keeping a tight hold of their heads to stop them rolling.” Gunn explained.

 

“As I was saying,” Angel continued pointedly, “inspection isn’t quite so broad in its remit. It’s the heads of departments who are held responsible for the Company so we personally are being investigated. We could lose our budgets or our jobs, but decapitation is highly unlikely. I mean none of us are guilty of fraud, corruption or gross negligence.” He gave a small, reassuring smile.

 

Shocked silence greeted his upbeat assessment.

 

“On the upside, if we do well our branch of Wolfram & Hart could stand to gain a windfall.”

 

“This is a big deal, Angel.”

 

“If it involves my head then it’s a damned big deal!” Gunn clarified.

 

“What do we have to do to prepare?” Fred asked.

 

“We haven’t got much time, but he’s looking for effective and efficient working. All you can really do is to ensure files and paperwork are in order, your procedures are up-to-date, your staff are aware of what’s happening and everything runs as smoothly and efficiently as possible.”

 

“Do we know anything about the inspector?”

 

“Human. He can detect truth and lies, it wasn’t made clear, but I don’t believe he is a mind reader. My advice? Don’t upset him. These inspectors aren’t known for their patience, so I want you all bending over backwards for him.”

 

They all nodded their agreement.

 

“So what do you want me to do?” Spike asked.

 

“You? Don’t do anything. Just don’t get in his way. In fact I don’t want you talking to him, or meeting with him or…just stay out of his way, Spike.”

 

So that was the end of their short lived bonhomie. Peaches had repaid the perceived debt of his life with some shiny technological baubles, medical attention and a splash of blood. Ok. He should have guessed how it would be but still he was surprised by the depth of his disappointment and the speed with which things once again returned to normal. Frigging hell, he’d only been on his feet a few hours and suddenly here they were again.

 

“So much for being a valuable team member then, Peaches.”

 

Angel noticed his pout but really, this was too important for him to pander to Spike. Despite his upbeat assessment this was life or death and he had some serious worries about which way the verdict would go. He couldn’t afford distractions, and Spike got him so that he could hardly think straight. Instead he simply tamped down on all his emotion. Shut it away and locked the box. He’d make up for it later.

 

“He’ll probably want to talk to us each individually. But nothing to worry about…”

 

Wolfram & Hart became a veritable hive of activity.

 

Angel spent the day with Harmony sorting through paperwork. He was pleasantly surprised, her filing system actually made sense. He’d been expecting more of a Cordelia-like logic. The others, meanwhile, saw to their own departments. Except for Spike, who was beginning to feel isolated amidst all the bustle. Everyone was absorbed. Even the cleaners had no time for their usual poker game in one of the store cupboards. Willing to lend a hand but he was nothing but an irrelevant spare wheel. When he left no one even noticed. Angel didn’t even notice.

 

He went up to the penthouse and began kicking through all the meaningless stuff that Angel had bought him. It had been fun but it was probably time to head back to his own apartment anyway. After all, he had no reason to stay.  He found a bag and began disconsolately gathering up his things and stuffing them in. Peaches would be pleased. The room looked neat and minimalist without his clutter.

 

“Spike? What are you doing?” A note of panic entered his voice.

 

It was obvious what he was doing; all his clothes and cds had been swept up. Anything small enough to be fitted in his bag had been taken. After all, they were payment for a debt he was owed. He eyed the enormous TV regretfully. Never mind, it probably wouldn’t look right in his tiny apartment.

 

“Thought I may as well go.”

 

“Where? Why? Is it because of what I said earlier? I only meant…”

 

“You meant for me to stay in your room and not embarrass you.”

 

“No. Well, yeah. But you don’t have to go. Supposing you need painkillers in the night?”

 

“Haven’t needed them for a while. I’m healed, Pet.”

 

Angel couldn’t think of what to say. It never occurred to him to simply ask Spike to stay. Instead he shrugged.

 

“Whatever you want. As usual.”

 

Spike walked past him, hesitated, and glanced back. Why wouldn’t Angel just trust him? How many times did he have to prove himself?

 

“I’ll piss off and stay out of your road for a few days.”

 

“Fine.”

 

Spike sighed. Angel could be so perceptive when it came to other people and so clueless when it came to his own childe. He slung the bag over his shoulder and left.

 

Angel returned to work cursing the inspector back to the hell he came form.

 

His temper grew progressively worse. After he’d reduced several grown men to tears, Wesley was moved to intervene, suggesting that there was nothing more they could realistically do and perhaps it was time to call it a night. 

 

“Why don’t you go up and spend some time with Spike. Frankly, if you’re looking for a fight, at least pick on someone who’s your equal and not your underling.”

 

Privately, he thought Spike was the only one who could handle Angel when he was in one of these moods. The only one who had no fear of him.

 

The vampire was about to unleash his petulance onto Wesley, when he saw Fred hovering in the background, nervous but determined to intervene on Wesley’s behalf. So instead he let the aggression slip away and reined in his temper.

 

“Sorry, this damned inspection. I guess it’s got me jumpy.”

 

“It’s understandable. You need to take some time out.”

 

Fred stepped forward.

 

“Wesley’s right, go see Spike. He’ll be lonely and naturally feeling a little left out, y’all know how he gets.”

 

“Spike decided to return to his own apartment.”  Angel told them curtly.

 

Neither said a word but both now understood the source of his sudden moodiness.

 

He headed to the elevator. It opened into a spotless room. He hadn’t seen it looking like this since before Spike’s arrival. He took a deep breath and relaxed, it felt like his space again.

 

Except the silence was almost spooky. No music, no TV, no Spike. He walked into his pristine bedroom, removed his clothes and was about to put them in the linen basket, then changed his mind and dropped them on the floor. But to no avail. They weren’t making the statement he was looking for. Instead the crumpled pile just lay there, looking sadly out of place. He gave it a kick, sighed, gathered them up and then dumped them in with the rest of his dirty washing.

 

He made his way to the bathroom. Glancing back he still felt unsettled and hovered uncertainly. He’d never realised how sterile the room was. He ran his fingers distractedly through his hair and then turned the shower to hot; hoping the scalding water would melt away his tension. It must be anxiety about the coming inspection. At least he no longer had the idiot here, distracting him with inane chatter and absurd questions.

 

He soaped his body, enjoying the feel of shower warmed flesh and decided it was the touch of another person he would miss more than anything.  Despite his best intentions, his thoughts turned to Spike and how much he’d enjoyed holding him night after night, waking up to actually feel another person underneath his hands. Spike himself was extraordinarily tactile; surely he too would miss touching someone else…would miss touching him?  Perhaps he should have suggested that Spike stay for a while - it would have been the generous thing to do. But after last night’s mistake, maybe it wasn’t wise.

 

Maybe this sleeping together had been a mistake, getting to know the intimate movements and reactions of each others bodies had raised expectations, amongst other things. He thought about everything sensibly. He was sure it couldn’t be Spike in particular he was attracted to. It was just that he was the only one available. He was slowly convincing himself. Despite appreciating the much improved physique, Angel could honestly say that the fact that it was Spike was irrelevant. It was just a body he could use without fear of consequences. It was need, pure and simple. He could have focused that need on anyone but Spike had been the one here. Lying in his bed. Vulnerable and needy.

 

However, intellectually speaking, Angel had to admit that he did find that body interesting - demons weren’t supposed to be able to change. Clearly a myth, as both he and Spike could testify.

 

He should have asked Spike to pose for him so that he could analyse these changes, and wished he had thought to try to capture that self-contained power and energy. Maybe not charcoal, the medium was too impermanent and insubstantial for those strong body lines. He wondered if he could have sculpted it. He’d never been inspired to try chipping an image from marble or stone, but the more he thought about it the more attracted he became to the idea.

 

The idea of hewing Spike’s shape out of solid rock appealed to him; running a sharpened chisel carefully over delineated muscle, carving out the sinews of his arms and the ripples of his abdomen. Angel could almost feel it taking shape under his hands and he groaned softly, imagining the body emerging from the solidity of rock, revealing the sharp lines of his face, chiselling the hollows of his cheeks, gently smoothing the expanse of chest and the taut stomach, polishing the body to a smooth sheen with slow circular movements, until he encountered his sex. Not like the Greek statues of old. Somehow those flaccid and insignificant parts would be an insult, an injustice, to the very essence of Spike and the sexuality and energy he exuded. Angel imagined him engorged and needy. He fantasised moulding and shaping him to full erection, polishing with gentle strokes, kneeling before his graven image and putting his mouth to the stone hard shaft, feeling the smoothness with the tip of his tongue, tasting…

 

Angel came with an explosive grunt and sagged slightly. He looked with disbelief at the hand that had betrayed him. He had just come to orgasm thinking of Spike! This hadn’t been about physical fulfilment in an anonymous body. He hadn’t even been hard until his thoughts had started to roam freely over that sleekly smooth body.  He couldn’t deny it. He wanted Spike and he was ready to admit that no one else would do. He shook his head miserably because last night he’d well and truly fucked up, and today he'd chased him away.

 

He wasn’t inoculated at all. He was addicted. Addicted to Spike.

 

He stepped out of the shower and into his empty bed and wondered if Spike was managing to sleep ok without anyone to hold him tight. 

 

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