Spike had his head propped up on the car-door, watching as the world flashed by. He looked casual, with that bored quietness that usually meant trouble—or it had so long ago. Now it just looked like introspective brooding. He was all angles and sharp, cold colors in the moonlight, looking distant and hard.
Beside him, radiating warmth and a self confidence that was still disconcerting, Xander drove them home. He was in warmer colors than Spike, his look more textured and without the hard or brittle edges that Spike seemed to thrive on.
Their hands were clasped between them.
They made a pretty picture, Angel mused. He knew Cordelia had seen it because she’d mentioned it with a wistfulness Angel hadn’t been prepared for, but she’d been equally surprised when Angel agreed. He didn’t know why—he’d always liked pretty things. Hadn’t she seen the kinds of people he surrounded himself with? Say what you want about his various relationships but they were all with incredibly gorgeous creatures. Insane, murderous, and psychotic, yeah, but still delicately beautiful.
And Spike. . .
Angel refused to even think that the other vampire was broken. Because he wasn’t. Couldn’t be. Spike would be fine.
“Anything you want to do tomorrow?” Xander asked Spike quietly, interrupting Angel’s own brooding. That was another surprise. The loud, brash boy who lived to make others laugh, had leaned how to be quiet? An apocalypse was coming. Or maybe the sun was green.
Spike shook his head without saying a word but he must have done something, because Xander sighed and began tapping the steering wheel. “Come on, there’s gotta be something in LA you want to do, right? A museum, or something? How about a club, I know there are some good cover bands you like based here. We could see when they’re playing?”
No response, but Angel was pretty sure Xander didn’t expect one.
“Do you want to help me again?” Angel asked, grinning when Xander nearly started out of his skin. They rolled to halt at a red light which gave Xander time to turn around and stare wooden stakes at Angel.
Angel blinked. That was certainly more familiar, although previously it was because Angel had Buffy’s love and attention, things Xander would never have. This, however, wasn’t jealousy or the macho pissing contests the boy sometimes indulged in. There was real menace in those snapping black eyes that startled the elder vampire. Xander was seriously angry.
Like usual, Angel had no idea why.
“Or, you know, maybe a club sounds good?” he babbled, desperately trying to fix whatever he’d done wrong. He thought back over the evening, trying to figure out what would have made Xander as dangerously angry as he was now. It was about Spike, of course, but what exactly. . .? “Um, maybe I could come, too? I know Cordelia would like that. Except there are cases I should be working on. She’ll yell if I don’t.”
“Yeah. Cordy’s good at yelling.” Unstated threat under the casual tone, and Angel was struck again by just how grown up the boy behind the wheel was; that and the totally familiar feeling of being unable to keep up with the conversation. Back in Sunnydale, he’d played casual arrogance rather than just admit that he had no idea what the teens were babbling about and, most of the time, they were babbling too fast for him to try and get a clue.
He wondered if they realized there was a correlation between their quick, fragmented speech patterns and his need to be aloof and cryptic. There was one, although he’d only realized it after spending time with Fred and forcing himself to smile and look interested.
“Yeah, she is,” Angel agreed. “She’s probably going to yell at you later.” He made himself look guileless when another look was shot at him, although this time it was from Spike. It was a furtive, quick look—which was not what Angel was used to from the brash, younger vampire—clearly saying *don’t mess with mine*. Angel blinked and tried to quell the sudden flash of hope. That look may not have had any of the ‘old’ Spike’s usual characteristics but it was closer than anything else Angel had seen in the past two days.
He suddenly realized that he was waiting for the comment he could practically hear through the sound of the engine. The snappy, sarcastic, witty comment that Spike always made at times like this; the rejoinder that told his audience just how little he thought of them and how much more important Spike himself was.
Angel was surprised to realize he missed the banter.
Xander was chuckling, oblivious to Spike or Angel’s reaction. “I dated Cordelia. She doesn’t worry me anymore. Scare me, yes,” he added hastily. “But if she wants to yell at me, let her. I’ll yell back.” He was rubbing his thumb along the back of Spike’s hand, an unconscious gesture that Spike pressed into. It was only the presence in the backseat that prevent Spike from borrowing against his human, the way he clearly wanted to do.
That was part of the reason Angel had let Cordelia borrow his car.
Beside him, Fred mumbled in her sleep and started upright. “Oh!” she said, blushing and shrinking back down. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to, well, crash like that. It’s just been a busy day, y’know?”
This time Spike’s grin was warm and welcoming as he nodded encouragingly at her. Spike was obviously taken with the shy girl, regaining some of his old demonstrative behavior around her. When Angel had raised quiet concerns, Xander had waved him off, saying that he’d expected this. Spike liked taking care of things and she was someone who needed that care.
Angel had bitten his own lip to prevent himself from shouting.
It wasn’t Xander’s fault. Well, no, some of it was Xander’s fault, but it’s not like Xander knew that when he did it. Xander loved, and respected, Spike; that was totally clear.
Angel just hoped that Spike really did love Xander in return.
Lorne had spoken briefly with Spike after the stunning performance but neither would tell anyone else what the message had been. That didn’t surprise Angel. It still bothered him.
Spike was just. . . Spike was his.
For all the books on vampires, from fiction to works written by authors who were in a position to have more accurate information, not much was really know about relationships between vampires. Most humans couldn’t understand the relationships and Angel dreaded the conversation he owed Xander about it. Xander had to know, despite Angel’s limited skills at exposition. . .
The problem was that there were a lot of complicated, almost labyrinthine, traditions—more like instincts—that every vampire followed. Every vampire. It wasn’t a conscious decision, it was part and parcel with the demon. You could fight it if you were strong enough but certain relationships and ideals remained no matter how hard you fought.
Angel knew that. He was currently battling one fierce tradition, one he never thought would affect him this strongly.
Spike wasn’t looking to Angel to help him. He wasn’t looking to Angel, at all. He needed and wanted and doted on someone else and tolerated Angel only because he had to.
The part of the souled-vampire that still remembered drinking deep of hot, rich blood howled in rage at the defiance. It howled at the betrayal and at the interloper who should never have interfered with the affairs of vampires. It should have been him Spike looked to, not the pathetic excuse of a. . .
No. That was wrong. It shouldn’t have been him, not anymore, and Xander. . .
Angel struggled with himself for the rest of the ride.
At the hotel, he didn’t argue when Xander ushered everyone to their rooms with the weary skill of someone who’d done this many times before. Given that Xander and Spike had become Dawn’s primary care givers over the past summer, Angel wasn’t surprised. Teenagers didn’t like being told to go to sleep.
Sliding on silk sleep-shorts, Angel got under the covers and stared at the ceiling. How was Xander going to take this? Spike had always told tradition and ritual to sod off. How was he going to reconcile the walking contradiction of prior behavior with current? It was tradition, yes, but it was tradition demons knew within minutes of the first waking, tradition that was so ingrained, so complete that it was more like instinct. Being a rebel was irrelevant to this kind of pressure.
More importantly, he doubted Spike was actually conscious of what he was doing. It had been so gradual that Spike probably thought this was normal behavior. Even for him.
Worry and fear kept Angel up the rest of the night, even though he now kept partially human hours and normally went to sleep around two in the morning; unless there was a case and then he usually didn’t sleep at all. Tossing and turning, he wracked his mind for a way to explain something that had no explanation, not in mortal terms. Lost in his musings he drifted towards sleep, grumpily waking periodically to roll over and brood a bit more, before sinking. . .
The dip of additional weight on the bed woke him completely.
Angel kept himself as still as only a dead body could be, ignoring the fear that settled in his belly. It was just past dawn, the sun barely cresting the horizon—the time when all good little vampires should be snug in their crypts, hidden away from the deadly oncoming light. Vampires slept deepest and heaviest during this time, their bodies telling them that no, they should stop raping and pillaging because nature was about to provide the humans with very handy weapons. . .
His covers were eased off and his silk shorts slid down his thighs. Angel spared a moment to wonder if he was grateful—or not—that vampires had neither breath, blood, nor scent to alert others to their wakefulness. . .
It took supreme effort not to twitch when skilled hands picked up his flaccid cock and placed it in an equally skilled mouth.
Lips slid their way down to the base, and suction was applied so fiercely that Angel was afraid that it might just get sucked off. Throat muscles squeezed and wasn’t it a good thing, not having to breathe? Then those soft lips were moving back up, that tongue tracing the vein that did its best to throb appreciatively.
Angel tried to keep his body motionless, but when his sac was cupped and fondled he was pretty sure he gasped. Borrowed blood filled his cock so quickly he hurt, the way he used to, back before he met Buffy. Or even after he met Buffy. Thoughts, disjointed and twisted, meandered and he wondered why everyone thought celibacy would be so hard. He’d done it before, after all; for a hundred years he’d done it.
Then again, he’d also jacked off when the pain got worse than the guilt. Which was often.
The mouth slipped off, a hand stroking while that mouth moved to lick along his perineum and then suck at his balls. The hand continued to pump him, up and down, and up and down, and sweep precum off the tip, spreading it back down. . .
He jerked when blunt teeth nipped his thigh. Staring mindlessly at the ceiling, he gave up pretending to be asleep and buried his hands in soft hair. No one could sleep through this, not even a vampire. The mouth returned to his purpling cock, bobbing in oh, so familiar, patterns which still had their desired reaction as Angel felt his balls rise up and tighten.
Lips pulled back, sucking on the head, tonguing the underside in a way that made Angel whimper. He dazedly recognized a finger slipping inside and finding—
His orgasm was so ferocious it was painful. He bit his own wrist, sucking desperately at the blood, only partially in an attempt to muffle his screams. The mouth on his cock took everything he had to offer, hands stroking him while he jerked, massaging his balls to make sure they were empty for the first time since. . .
Understanding warred with orgasmic lassitude and he struggled to stay awake. He was redressed and recovered before he regained the ability to speak. “Wait.”
The silent figure at the door paused, its back towards the bed. Angel pushed himself up on his elbows, shifting to see through the gloom. Shoulders were slumped dejectedly, a head hanging low between them, the entire posture shouting from unrelieved tension.
What the hell was he going to say? “Thank you?” he offered, cursing what Cordelia called his ‘woodenness’. He didn’t care what it was called but unless something needed lifting or killing he was pretty much useless.
A brief nod, but the figure stayed where it was.
Angel felt his gut completely ice over, for the first time realizing just how bad it was. He thought back to Xander’s inexplicable anger, and felt the ice grow colder still. “You didn’t have to do that. Not—I don’t mean because of the soul. That isn’t a problem. I mean, it was fantastic, but—but not—” Not true happiness. Which had nothing to do with the person, but— “Does Xander know?”
And Spike went back to bed
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Angel eventually went downstairs just to quiet the voices in his mind.
Initially, he’d been absolutely stunned at Spike’s behavior, but the blow-job worked its magic and sleep overtook him. Waking around one, he’d paced and brooded, trying to decide the best course of action. Or maybe that was the least hurtful course of action? He didn’t know.
That was the problem.
Waving a good morning to Fred, he found a mug of heated blood already on his desk. He took a sip as he riffled through his case—“Cordelia!”
She appeared at his doorway in an instant, smirk telling him she knew what was going on. “Yes, Angel?”
“This is human.” He drank human blood very, very rarely. Aside from the whole penance-atonement complex, there was the simple fact that it made his coworkers smell like food. Given the likelihood of his going insane, or an appearance by his worser-half, this was a bad thing.
“I know. Xander had a bunch delivered this morning. Seems Spike told him that you were hoofing it too much, and you’d get sick if you didn’t drink it more often.”
Wasn’t it interesting how rage, guilt, worry, shame and fear could be felt all at once?
Cordelia fixed her normal forthright glare on Angel and the various emotions disappeared into plain old normal Cordelia’s-going-to-kill-me fear. “If you needed to drink human blood, Angel, why weren’t you drinking human blood?”
Angel sighed and explained his reasons. Cordelia sniffed in response. “That’s stupid, Angel.”
“Do you eat dogs or cats?”
“Ew! No, of course—oh. I get it. But Angel, you need this. If I had to eat dogs or cats—and ew, thanks for the mental images—to survive, I would.” She sighed and relaxed against the doorjamb. Her expression made her look older. “I get why you don’t want to do this, Angel, but you have to. Spike’s worried about you, Xander said. Oh, he also said, and I quote, ‘Do you think I’m stupid?’ Whatever that meant. Not that I don’t agree with the sentiment.” The return of the glare, but it lacked her usual fire.
Angel felt the obscure need to swear. He rarely did so—not when he had been human and not once he had been turned. It was just. . . too crass. Too gauche. As a human, he’d been wealthy and educated despite his desire to be the town wastrel and it had just seemed too much of an effort to have to speak like his friends—even though he acted like them. Darla had never appreciated a foul mouth—unless he was using it on her—and once he’d had a soul he’d never wanted to vent like that, preferring to turn the problem inward.
Now he wanted to curse like William had, when he’d first become Spike.
Anger burned, obscuring the sight of Cordelia giving him a sad look and closing the door behind her. He wanted to give into the hate that suffused him but he knew it was irrational of him—and more importantly, unfair. What was the boy going to do? What choices did Xander have, and were those options going to actually help Spike? No. In all probability, it would only end up hurting the damaged vampire. So he did nothing.
And Angel had no doubt that Xander hated him for the helplessness.
“I’m not good with words,” he told his empty office, frustrated and angry at the frustration. Killing, he could do. Drawing, when he wanted to be softer, subtler. But words? That was William’s forte, always had been; in song, in speech, in the ability to put thoughts coherently on paper, that had always been William.
“I am not jealous,” he added as he picked up his empty mug. Empty? He must have been craving human blood badly to drink that down without even realizing it.
Which only proved Spike’s point.
Growling, Angel stomped out into the lobby. “Where are they?” he snapped at Wesley, who was sitting at Cordy’s usual desk.
“Xander and Spike? I believe Xander mentioned something about surprising Spike this morning. They’ve been gone for several hours.” The look Wes gave him added a silent ‘and you should have known that’ reproach.
“Oh. Um. Where’s Cordelia?” Hadn’t she been here a moment ago?
“She had an appointment, Angel, remember? She left twenty minutes ago.”
“Oh, heh, right,” he stuttered out.
“You’ve been brooding, again.” The ‘I’m-a-dork’ feeling, stolen from meetings held in a possessed library, fled under the calm accusation. “About Spike? Or Xander?”
The mild, neutral way the questions were asked made Angel uncomfortable. “Look, it’s kind of—”
“Complicated? Yes, I gathered.”
“Where’s Gunn?” Angel hedged, frantically. “Or Fred?”
“We had a call. The Lumurian clan-leader is in town and his devotees wished to prepare accordingly. As they can’t decipher the proportions set down in their texts, I thought Fred would be of great assistance.”
“Decorations. Non-fatal decorations.” That infuriatingly English smile—tiny and condescendingly amused—did nothing to decrease Angel’s fear. Or his growing irritation that everyone he knew was part of some conspiracy to annoy him. Which was probably true, given Cordelia. “They aren’t sure how to convert them to the space they have picked out and Fred can probably be of assistance based on the sketches they have. She’s skilled enough not to need to actually look at their texts.”
Good, since Angel was certain Fred didn’t know a thing about the Lumurian language or how to read it. Wesley might but numbers weren’t his strong suit. “And Gunn?”
Wesley gave him another look, and Angel was grateful vampires couldn’t blush. They’d had enough problems to know that you never went by yourself if you could avoid it. You always had a partner, even if it was just to provide muscle or the illusion of authority.
Right, try to be casual. “So how come you didn’t go?” Against his better judgement, Angel found himself at the refrigerator, opening another pack of human blood for himself. “I’m sure you read Lumurian.”
“Indeed. However, I felt Gunn would be more appropriate.” Meaning they were still trying to get Fred to stand up for herself and take a little control. Gunn had nothing to take control of in a case like this, unless it turned dangerous, so that meant Fred would have to. “That, and I wished to speak with you.”
Angel gulped his blood to prevent himself from cursing. “Really?” he asked as normally he could, returning to the desk. Wesley just looked at him. Sighing, Angel pulled out the other chair and sat down. “Right. You want to talk to me.”
“Yes, about Xander.”
Blink. “Xander? There’s nothing wrong with Xander.”
“Really? Then he, of course, had no problems with giving up his chance to go somewhere relatively demon-free with his boyfriend and come here, to see a vampire he has previously gone to great lengths to prove he dislikes.”
Blink. Angel buried his face in his hands. “I hate you,” he mumbled into his palms.
Wesley merely smiled, a response Angel didn’t need to see to know it was there, and relaxed against Cordelia’s super-deluxe-support-chair that she’d made Angel buy to try and help deal with the headaches. “Xander’s quite angry with you and I think the actions that bothered him have a great deal to do with the reason Spike is as. . . quiet. . . as he is.”
“I do try to please. My point, however, is that it’s time for you to start explaining what’s happening, Angel. And you need to be aware of your actions more, as well. Didn’t you notice when you called Spike ‘boy’?”
Shoulders hunching, a hint of blank nothingness in normally animated features and the sweet, sharp scent of blood. Spike’s blood. The hate in Xander’s eyes when they met Angel’s.
“Fuck.” Good word, that. Nice and guttural. “No, I didn’t. But I remember it now. Fuck.” Maybe he should start swearing more often?
“Quite.” Wesley typed a few things on the keyboard, waiting for Angel to reorganize his thoughts.
“You’re right. I did it, and I didn’t even realize it. And Spike reacted to it.”
“Well, then.” A notepad and pen appeared out of no where and Wesley leaned forward a bit. “Perhaps you should attempt to explain this to me, first? I’m more than happy to act as a sounding board and I believe I may be useful in translating some of the more. . . complicated. . . aspects into something Xander can understand.”
Angel knew he sucked at words. Wesley didn’t—and there was no hint that any of this was going to end up in some Watcher’s chronicle. Just concern, the fundamental desire to help and the characteristic curiosity that made Wes so good at what he did. “Right. It all comes down to control.”