Disclaimer: Not mine, this is just for fun.

Feedback : Yes please to lpritchard2020@btinternet.com

Description: A 'missing time' piece. What would have happened if the Scoobies had not forgiven Spike for helping Adam, and nobody was prepared to feed him?

Rating: Adult - non-explicit slash.

Genre: Angst

Pairing: S/A

 

Thanks again to Arrie – Queen of the Buffyverse!

 

Shades of Grey

By LisaP

 

Spike hovered uncertainly on the steps outside the big, dilapidated looking hotel. Suddenly he wanted to be anywhere but here, in LA, outside his sire’s lair. He doubled over in pain again, clutching his bony hands over his concave stomach. If this is what starvation feels like he thought grimly then you can bloody well keep it!

Try as he might, Spike couldn’t stop himself from groaning, a muffled miserable sound that would have gone unnoticed by most, but which was clearly heard by the hotel’s only permanent resident.

 

Angel lifted his eyes from the research that he was currently helping Wesley with and cocked his head to one side, listening. Wesley, noticing the vampire’s alert expression, peered at him questioningly over his spectacles.

 

“What is it Angel?” The ex-watcher never failed to be impressed, and not a little unnerved by, his colleague’s super keen senses.

 

“Don’t know, maybe nothing…” Angel rose to his feet, and strode out of the office and into the lobby, where he stopped and quested about, as if trying to locate a particularly unpleasant smell. Then he growled. Wesley, hearing the feral noise, came to the doorway of the office, just in time to see Angel bound towards the entrance of the hotel, flinging the main door wide open, and dragging something large and struggling back inside with him.

 

Wesley shrank back in alarm as Angel flung the creature hard on the floor.

 

“Spike!”

 

Instead of the vicious fight that both Wesley and Angel had been expecting, Spike just lay where he had been thrown, curled up as though waiting to receive the next blow. Ex-watcher and vampire gave each other a startled glance, before Angel aimed a swift kick at the blond vampire.

 

 “Get up Spike” Angel ordered. Spike just groaned again, and didn’t move.

 

“Angel, be careful. You know what he’s like, it could be a trick” Wesley warned his colleague.

 

But Angel was realising that there was something seriously wrong with the younger vampire. He smelled…odd. Leaning down, he grabbed Spike’s chin and pulled his head round so that he could look at him properly. Spike flinched, but was too weak to resist.

 

“Spike, what’s the matter with you?” Angel’s voice was still hard, but a tinge of concern flickered in his brown eyes. He’d never seen Spike so beaten and weak. This creature bore little resemblance to the cocky, spiteful and reckless vampire who had made Angel’s life, and those of his friends, such a misery in the past few years.

 

“Hungry….” Spike’s voice was barely a whisper. For the first time, Angel saw how emaciated his childe was, his skin was almost translucent, stretched tight across jutting bones.

 

Angel looked up at Wesley. “He’s starving” he said almost matter of factly. He turned back to Spike.

 

“What’s happened, why haven’t you fed?”

 

Spike turned dull eyes to meet his Sire’s implacable ones.

 

“Can’t….nothing alive….no-one will help”.

 

Angel was nonplussed.

 

“Wes, I’ve no idea what’s going on here, but Spike…well, he smells strange. Can you phone Giles and see if he knows what’s happened?” Wesley nodded and went back into the office to make the call.

 

Angel watched Wesley go, and then turned back to Spike, crouching down next to the curled up vampire. He stretched out a tentative hand, and laid it on Spike’s shoulder.

 

“Spike, it’s OK. We’ll sort something out. You’ll be OK”.

 

Their eyes met, looking equally surprised. Angel, for wanting to comfort his childe, and Spike, for receiving comfort from his Sire.

 

-0-

 

“There’s a thing called the Initiative. Apparently it’s some military demon-hunting operation. It’s got a base in Sunnydale, including a research and experimental facility. It seems that they trapped Spike - they call him Hostile 17 - and put some sort of microchip in his brain. Giles wasn’t clear on how it works, but it effectively incapacitates him with pain if Spike attempts to either attack or feed from any living creature”.

 

Wesley had come back into the lobby, and was leaning across the reception desk, polishing his spectacles as he talked to Angel.

 

“Spike hasn’t exactly made himself popular with the residents of Sunnydale over the years. His last trick was to try to assist some uber-demon that the Initiative created to start a war. Giles and the team have had enough of him to last several lifetimes. They refused to help him any more.  Now he can’t kill his own food, nobody else is inclined to provide him with chilled or butcher supplied blood. Spike disappeared several months ago, much to everyone’s relief, although Giles was a little curious about where he had gone.”

 

The ex-watcher looked warily at Angel, who was still crouching by Spike’s limp form.

 

“Giles recommended strongly that…uh…we don’t feed him either. It’s not as if he has become ensouled or anything, he’s still the same Spike, just…sort of de-fanged”.

 

Angel wasn’t listening. He gazed at the younger vampire, horrified, despite himself, at what been done to him. No wonder Spike smelled peculiar; he had spent so much time in a laboratory…and that chip, it must do something to disrupt Spike’s internal chemistry.

 

He came back to himself and stood up abruptly.

 

“I’m taking him up to my rooms. Tell Cordelia and Gunn what’s happened when they get in. In the meantime, I’d be grateful if none of you came up. I’ll check in with you all later on.”

 

Wesley opened his mouth to object, but thought better of it as he saw Angel scoop the starving vampire up into his arms, and carry him easily up the stairs, Spike’s blond head resting against Angel’s broad shoulder.

 

-0-

 

“Here, drink this”.

 

Angel handed the warmed container of pig’s blood to Spike, who was hunched up on the sofa in Angel’s living room. Spike snatched the container from Angel with shaking hands, and gulped desperately at the sticky liquid. Angel watched for a moment, and then went back to his kitchen to heat up some more blood. He looked in the fridge, knowing that Spike would need everything that was in there, and much more besides. Angel made a mental note to increase his order from the butcher.

He walked back over to Spike, and gave him the second lot of blood, which Spike drank down almost as quickly as before.

 

Spike had downed Angel’s entire stock of pig’s blood, nearly seven pints, before the terrible pain of starvation finally eased. He could feel his recovery starting, far slower than if he had been able to have fresh human blood, but recovery all the same. He slowly uncurled himself, stretching out on the sofa, needing to sleep. As he began to doze off, he felt a pillow being gently placed under his head, and a soft, warm blanket tucked around his body and legs. A light hand stroked his hair briefly, and then he was left alone. For the first time since the Initiative had done this terrible thing to him, Spike felt safe. He slept.

 

-0-

 

“Is he completely mad?”

 

Angel winced as he heard Cordelia’s shriek of disbelief coming from Wesley’s office. Steeling himself, he joined his three colleagues. Cordelia jumped up from her seat as he entered the room.

 

“Are you insane?” she yelled into his face, not giving him a chance to even open his mouth. Gunn was looking puzzled at the exchange, but he knew Cordelia well enough by now to wait his turn, rather than try to interrupt the girl when she was in full flow.

 

“Wesley tells me you’ve got Spike up in your rooms – I don’t care if he’s been neutered or something – he tried to kill you – and us – the last time we saw him. Why haven’t you just staked him?”.

 

Angel looked imploringly at Wesley, who just shrugged helplessly. Cordelia wasn’t finished.

 

“He’s a vicious, evil, twisted little scumbag of a vampire, who tortured you almost to death for that damned ring. I vote we kill him now” and she brandished a stake threateningly.

 

Gunn coughed. “Uh, guys, who is this Spike character, and why would he come here if he is your enemy?”

 

Cordelia opened her mouth, but Angel laid a restraining hand on her arm.

 

“Cordy, please.” She subsided, with a huff.

 

“Spike had nowhere else to turn. He was starving, and in a great deal of pain”.

Angel said simply. Gunn still looked confused.

 

 “Yeah, I get that already. But why’ve you taken him in is what I want to know, I mean, you stake vampires for a living”.

 

Wesley answered his colleague. “Spike and Angel are related. Angel was his sire”.

 

“I am his sire”. Angel corrected gently. “He’s my childe, and my responsibility. He’s completely helpless because of this chip. I can’t just leave him to starve into nothingness”.

 

“Why not?” Cordelia challenged. Angel stared at her, until she finally dropped her gaze.

 

“I’m sorry guys”, Angel said eventually. “But I have to help him. I don’t expect you to agree with me, but…I just have to, is all”.

 

Wesley nodded. “OK Angel. In any case, if what Giles says is true, then he doesn’t pose any kind of a threat to us. However, Angel, he could still attack you.”

 

“Might knock some sense into that thick skull if he did” Cordelia muttered, shooting Angel a furious look.

 

Angel spread his hands in a supplicating gesture.  “I’ll be careful. Thanks guys.”

 

The vampire gave them a brief smile and went back upstairs to see to his charge.

 

“I don’t like this one bit” Cordelia grumbled.

 

Gunn chuckled. “I think we’re getting’ that, Cordy. What’s the heads up on this Spike vamp in any case, I’m hearin’ you guys have already had dealings with him”.

 

Wesley pushed his spectacles up his nose, and enlightened Gunn. “Spike. Formerly known as William the Bloody. He got his nickname from his charming habit of impaling his victims on railroad spikes. He was a ne’er do well poet, wastrel, whatever, in London in the late nineteenth century when he was turned by Angelus. He is the second of only three ‘offspring’ to whom Angelus chose to pass on his blood. Penn was killed fairly recently, Drusilla you already know about. Angelus seems to have had a talent, if you can call it that, of selecting those who when they are turned, become vampires with…well, plenty of character. Spike, as Cordelia so graphically reminded us, is a particularly vicious creature, with a cutting verbal wit and a penchant for looking like an eighties punk rocker. Like all of Angelus’s get, Spike is – was – an exceptionally powerful vampire, and a ruthless killer. I understand he even dispatched two Slayers in his time.”

 

Gunn whistled at this description. “Jeez. Doesn’t sound like the kind of guy you want as a houseguest. You say he tortured Angel? I thought vampires were always respectful of those who sired them”.

 

“Oh yeah” Cordelia said sarcastically, “That’s why Angel staked Darla when she looked like beating on Buffy, and set her on fire the next time she was resurrected. I think this particular family of vampires brings new meaning to the word ‘dysfunctional’.

 

Wesley frowned at Cordelia. “This ‘family’ as you call it, not altogether inaccurately, have had to cope with their patriarch being re-ensouled, disappearing out of their unlives for a hundred years, and then re-appearing as one who kills their own kind alongside a Slayer. All bets are off as far as what could be called normal vampire relationships are concerned.”

 

Cordelia shrugged dismissively. “I still think we should stake Spike and be done with it”.

 

“Yeah, you’re probably right, but this is Angels’ call, and unless he says otherwise, looks like we’ve got two vamps livin’ in this hotel now.” Gunn rolled his expressive brown eyes. “I sure am glad my crew can’t see me. This is so not what I thought I was all about”.

 

Wesley laughed ruefully. “Well, the Watcher’s council sacked me. They’d probably have cut my head off if they had thought I would end up working alongside a vampire.”

 

Cordelia tossed her head. “Hah. if ever fame and fortune finds me, you can be sure that Angel Investigations will not be forming part of my official biog”.

 

 

 

-0-

 

It was nearly dawn. Angel had left Spike still sleeping to go out on patrol. He was confident that his childe would not waken, his body needed the rest to heal. Now he was slowly returning to the Hyperion via the extensive sewer system that criss-crossed underneath the city of LA. He had stopped off to get fresh supplies of pig’s blood on his way back for himself and Spike. Thank goodness for the abbattoir’s total lack of curiosity.

 

Angel had tried to understand his almost protective reaction towards the sight of Spike, so vulnerable after his ‘modification’. He knew that Cordelia was right in her assessment of the blond vampire. Why did Angel feel he deserved a second chance? He supposed it was because there seemed to be an echo of what had happened to him when he was cursed by the gypsy clan. The re-ensoulment had been forced upon him – he would have fought it had he been able. 

 

The underground entry way into the hotel was upon him almost before he knew it, he had been so lost in his thoughts. Blinking with tiredness, Angel slowly made his way into the main lobby of the hotel. All was quiet and dark, his colleagues were probably still all in their beds at their respective homes.

 

He unlocked the door to his suite, and saw that Spike was fast asleep in the same position as he had been when Angel had left for the night. The older vampire put the blood into the refrigerator, after heating up some for his own needs. He quickly scribbled a note to Spike in his elegant, flowing handwriting, telling him how long to microwave the blood for, and left it where the younger vampire would see it. Finally, Angel was ready for bed, and slid between the sheets with a small sigh of relief. He was tired.

 

Spike had begun to wake up as soon as Angel poured some of the pig’s blood into a mug, the scent alerting his unconscious mind to the possibility of food. He lay, half waking, half sleeping, listening to Angel making his preparations for bed. Then he must have dozed off again, for the next time he opened his eyes he was aware that it was full daylight outside, even though the windows in Angel’s suite were blacked out to prevent direct sunlight from penetrating the rooms. He swung his legs off the sofa, relishing the feeling of his increased strength. The hunger was keen, but not agonising.

 

Spike saw Angel’s note, and pulled a face. Pig’s blood, disgusting stuff. Last night he had been so desperate that he had not been concerned about the blood not being fresh, or human. This morning, he felt a bit more picky. Still, it couldn’t be helped, it was this, or nothing. Spike heated a container up.

 

As he finished drinking, Spike’s attention was caught by a noise from Angel’s bedroom. He put down the empty container and wandered across to investigate.

Poking his head around the doorway, Spike was taken aback to see Angel, asleep, but obviously in the throes of some kind of nightmare.

 

The big vampire was twitching and trembling, his body covered in a sheen of sweat, and occasionally a whimper was torn from him, accompanied by a particularly violent jerk of his entire frame.

 

Spike watched, fascinated. Vampires usually sleep like the dead bodies they actually are, with no breathing or movement, even when they dream. He wondered what kind of horrors could invoke such powerful physical reactions, especially from Angel, who was usually so self-controlled.

 

Angel was panting slightly now, and still making tortured whimpering sounds. For some reason, Spike was not enjoying watching his sire suffer, and he found himself wishing he could somehow make the nightmare stop. He looked around for something he could throw at Angel to wake him. Spike picked up a book, hefted it and hurled it hard at the sleeping vampire. The book struck Angel squarely on the head, making him yelp with pain and surprise as he was shocked into wakefulness. Angel’s yellow eyes were wild and disorientated as he instinctively fell into an attacking crouch, and then fastened on the younger vampire. Spike shrank back under his sire’s baleful stare.

 

“What do you think you’re playing at?” Angel hissed.

 

Spike bristled. “Pardon me for breathing…well, not breathing. If I’d known that you were having such a good time in the land of Nod, I’d have left you to it, despite all appearances to the contrary.”

 

Angel rubbed his head where the corner of the book had hit it. “Oh, yeah. Like you’re concerned for my wellbeing. Just stay out of my way Spike. You’ve given me no reason to trust anything you do or say. Last time I saw you, you were encouraging that vampire pervert to torture me to death.”

 

Something inside the blond vampire snapped.

 

“Don’t you come the high and mighty with me, Angelus. Let’s just count backwards shall we? I helped the Slayer stop you from sending every living thing to Hell – you were really on a roll that summer weren’t you? I thought it was great you coming back to us – and the first thing you did was take Dru, really made me want to trust you, that did. And before that? Killing your own kind – even your own sire. Mmm, I so felt trusting of you then. Before that? Abandoning us all without a backward glance – you swore you’d never leave me. That was that pesky soul thing then, wasn’t it. And, there’s something else…let me think. Ah, yes. Don’t I remember being seduced by a big, handsome Irishman, tempting me with a kiss? I trusted you then too.”

 

Spike held up his hand, all fingers splayed.  “By my reckoning I’m still owed at least three or four more return matches before we’re evens in the trust stakes.” Spike’s blue eyes were ice cold.  Angel dropped his gaze, his shoulders slumping as the home truths pierced him to the quick.

 

The silence stretched out between them. Spike went to leave the room.

 

“Wait…”

 

Spike turned back to look at where Angel was hunched over himself in the bed.

 

“Thanks for waking me.” Angel paused, as if deciding whether or not to say any more. “When I came back…from Hell…what happened there…to me…it was wiped from my memory…so I could go on…but, sometimes, I remember bits…in my dreams….” He stopped, shuddering involuntarily, and then looked up at his childe, his deep brown eyes revealing the depths of his tormented soul.

 

“I’m sorry Spike…about everything.”

 

Spike stood for a moment, considering his sire, and then, walked over to the bed, sat down on it and hitched himself up so that he was leaning against the headboard, next to Angel.

 

“What a pair we make. Here we are, two of the biggest, baddest vampires in history, now look at us. You, tortured, guilt-ridden soul-boy, me – scientifically neutered, can’t even kill a bloody mouse. Humans, don’t you just love ‘em?”

 

And then he began to laugh.

 

Angel stared in amazement at the sight of his childe, now roaring with laughter, and then, despite himself, he started to laugh too.

 

Within moments, both vampires were helpless, laughing so hard that they were clutching at each other for support, tears streaming down their faces as they giggled uncontrollably.

 

Spike pointed a shaking finger at Angel, and between screams of laughter managed to get out “You were the S-scourge of Europe!” Angel gave Spike a shove and wiping his eyes replied “Yeah, and you killed Slayers as a hobby!” They both collapsed again in fits of hysterical giggles.

 

Each time they thought the laughing was starting to subside, they would steal a look at each other, and it would set them off again. Spike wondered if he had ruptured something he had laughed so hard. Angel felt weak in a way he had not experienced for over a hundred years. His chest hurt and his face ached. It felt good.

 

Finally they stopped, exhausted, slumped back on Angel’s tangled and mussed up bed. Spike propped himself up on his elbow and looked down at Angel’s beautiful face, even more beautiful with the traces of a smile still on his features.

 

“You tore the heart out of me the second time you left, you know. It was bad enough the first time – you disappearing without a word of explanation. Darla told me you were fed up with us all, fed up with me. Then, you came back for that short time in China. Even though I knew there was something wrong, it didn’t matter, just to have you with me again was enough. I thought everything was going to be like it was before…then you left again. I kept waiting for you to turn up, for years. It was never the same with just Darla and Dru”.  Spike couldn’t keep the hurt out of his voice.

 

Angel turned his head and gazed at his childe, searching Spike’s expression.

“Spike…Will…I didn’t leave. I mean, I didn’t want to leave. It was Darla. She couldn’t stand it that the gypsies had given me back a soul. She couldn’t bear to have me in her sight. She threw me out that same night they cursed me. Told me she would stake you if I tried to come near her again. She knew she wasn’t strong enough to kill me…but you…I believed her. So I left.” Angel’s eyes clouded with the pain of the memory. “I looked for you non-stop, you know. For two years I followed your trail. Caught up with you all in China. I tried…God knows how I tried…but Darla, she couldn’t forgive me. After that, I was on my own.

 

Spike stared at Angel, his blue eyes widening as he digested this previously unknown information.

 

“I – I didn’t know. Darla…she never said anything, she just implied that you didn’t want to be with all of us…with me…anymore, and that you’d taken off on your own.”

 

Spike’s face hardened. “That bitch. It wasn’t enough to cast you off, she wanted to hurt me at the same time. It worked, too well. She made me hate you.”

 

Angel turned on his side to face Spike.

 

“I’m so sorry Will. I didn’t realise she had lied to you, although, knowing Darla, I should have figured it out. She was always jealous of you”.

 

 The two vampires, blond and dark, gazed at each other silently, searching each others’ eyes. As if finding what he was looking for, Angel reached up and drew Spike down to him, placing a light kiss on the younger vampire’s mouth.

 

“Come to bed” was all he said.

 

-0-

 

Angel woke, feeling his legs and arms still entwined around Spikes’. Spike had his face pressed against Angel’s chest, while Angel was resting his chin on the top of Spike’s head. Angel smiled lazily. He had forgotten how well their bodies fitted together. He slowly ran his hand down Spike’s back, bringing it to rest on one lean hip. Spike purred, alerting Angel to the fact that his childe was also awake, and he began to nuzzle against Angel’s neck. Angel pushed him away good-naturedly.

 

“You’ll have to wait until I’ve fed before you can have some more, greedy.”

 

Spike chuckled quietly, he knew he’d had more than his fair share already, but it was worth a try.

 

“Come on. I’ve got to get up. Work to do”.

 

Angel swung his long legs out of bed, and went to the bathroom to shower. Spike watched him go, still marvelling at his sire’s magnificent construction. No wonder Darla had to have him when she first saw him. Spike had never seen a more beautifully made creature than Angel, and he had seen many, many bodies over his long life. He sighed blissfully, still tasting Angel’s blood in his mouth. Sire’s blood. Nothing like it.

 

“There’s pig’s blood in the fridge. I’m going downstairs now”. Angel was dressed and on his way out. Spike gave him a languid wave.

 

“Fancy goin’ out later? You can show me LA’s best drinking holes”. Angel’s laugh drifted back to him as the tall vampire left. Spike dropped back into a half-sleeping, half waking doze, replaying in his mind the events of the previous few hours. Angel’s caresses, his whispered apologies, pressing Spike’s hungry mouth to his bared throat. The lost, hate-filled years had melted away, as his sire had fed him, nourished him, re-established their bond. Spike smiled, as, for the first time in a hundred years, he had felt Angel take ownership of him once more.

 

-0-

 

Wesley came out of his office as Angel was finishing his second container of pig’s blood from the downstairs fridge. The vampire gave Wesley a nod of greeting before sticking his head back in the fridge, hunting for some more.

 

“You’re hungry this evening” Wesley commented as he poured himself a cup of coffee. Angel didn’t reply, he was too busy heating up the third container.

 

“How’s Spike doing?” Wesley asked.

 

“Yeah. Better. Uh, Wes, are we busy tonight? I thought I’d take Spike out, you know, let him get acclimatised…”

 

Wesley shook his head. “Nothing that we’re not all ready on top of. Cordy and Gunn are sorting out that Jeola demon problem downtown. We should be fine as long as you take your phone with you. And make sure it’s charged up and switched on.” He added wryly, knowing Angel’s seeming complete inability to work out modern telecommunications.

 

The Hyperion’s front door banged loudly as Cordelia and Gunn returned to the office. Both demon hunters looked somewhat the worse for wear. Gunn was covered in green demon goo, while Cordy’s normally immaculate hair was in complete disarray.

 

“Eugh. Enough. I want a nine to five office job, where I get to polish my nails and read gossip magazines” Cordelia groaned as she fell onto the reception banquette.

 

“Uh, huh. Why is this stuff so…gooey? At least when you stake vampires all you need is a dust buster.” Gunn caught Angel’s look “Sorry guy. But I’m only tellin’ it like it is”.

 

“Mmm mm. My Cordelia, don’t you look pretty. Not”.

 

Cordelia screamed and leapt off the banquette and away from Spike who was leaning over the top of her, grinning and smoking a cigarette.

 

“Get away from me you little shit!” Cordelia yelled, fumbling in her bag for a stake.

 

“Now, now Cordelia, Pet. Is that any way to greet an old friend? And, oh dear, you are looking older”. Spike inhaled deeply and blew out a stream of smoke.

 

“I take it that blondie is the vamp we been talkin’ about?” Gunn came over to stand by Cordelia’s side.

 

“Spike’s the name, vampin’s me game. And aren’t you the big fellah? I bet  Angelus gets a pain in the neck when he has to talk to you for too long”.

 

“Shut up Spike” Cordelia hissed, “And his name’s Angel, not Angelus”.

 

 “Funny” Spike mused gazing at the glowing tip of his ciggie “I’m sure I called him Angelus for….let me see now….about twenty-odd years, how long have you known him pet? Six? Think you’ll find I’m right”.

 

Gunn stepped forward threateningly. “Think you’d better shut your mouth now. Else I’m gonna shut it for you, permanently”.

 

“Oooh. Scared.”

 

“Spike. Behave. Stop teasing them”. Angel’s voice was quiet but firm. Spike looked around at him and grinned wickedly. Angel looked impassively back at him, but there was a glint in his eye that brooked no nonsense. Spike subsided.

 

Angel turned his attention to his two human colleagues. “Cordy, put the stake away. Spike can’t hurt you. The chip, remember?”

 

“Shame it didn’t stop that mouth of his. ” Cordelia muttered as she put the stake back in her bag.

 

“Some people might say that about you too, Cordelia.”

 

Cordelia’s jaw dropped. Did Angel just say that? She stared angrily up at the tall vampire, ignoring the snicker of amusement from Spike. Angel just stared back, his dark eyes unreadable.

 

Her heart beating uncomfortably fast, Cordelia tossed her matted hair and turned on her heel. “I’m going to get cleaned up.” She glanced at the smirking Spike. “And I hope that he’s not around when I get back”. She flounced up the stairs.

 

“Spike, get your coat. We’re going out.”

 

Angel was already pulling on his long black duster.

 

“Right on, mate. God, I need a drink. LA here we come”. Spike hooked his leather coat onto his back, closing one eye against the cigarette smoke as he did so. He smiled sweetly at Wesley and Gunn as they watched the two vampires head for the door.

 

“Don’t wait up kiddies, I’ve a feeling we’re going to make a night of it”.

 

-0-

 

Wesley slumped into the nearest seat. “And that, my friend, is our new houseguest”.

 

Gunn blew out his cheeks and let out a long breath.

 

“Jeez, English. There ain’t no way he’s going to last the week. One of us will have dusted him long before that. How did Cordy describe him? An evil, twisted little scumbag? She was being too kind, I reckon”.

 

“Hmmm”.

 

“Wesley. You know I just hate it when you go hmmm. What’s up?”

 

The ex-watcher sighed and leant forward, elbows on his knees. “It’s Angel. I’m just a bit concerned about his reaction to Spike turning up here. It’s…unexpected”.

 

Gunn peered at his friend. “Like, how? Do you mean like when he shut Cordy up just now? Hell, we’ve all wanted to do that at some point”.

 

Wesley nodded thoughtfully. “Ye-es. But Angel. He might think it, but say it to her face? That’s not like him. It’s like he was defending Spike.”

 

Gunn considered this for a moment, but looked unconvinced. Wesley continued.

 

“He asked me before, whether we were busy, he wanted to take Spike out tonight…to get him acclimatised to LA, whatever that means. Why would he want to bother?”

 

Gunn shrugged. “I dunno.” A thought struck him. “Hey Wes. You said this Spike vamp was a starving wreck when he arrived here yesterday. He sure looked OK to me tonight, even if he is on the skinny side.”

 

Wesley frowned and pushed his spectacles further up his nose. “Yes. And that’s another thing. Spike shouldn’t have been able to recover that quickly just by drinking pig’s blood, even large amounts of it. I hope I’m mistaken, but Angel drank an awful lot of blood this evening when he came down. Far more than his usual ration.”

 

Gunn stared at his colleague, a look of revulsion creeping across his features.

 

“Ugh, you don’t mean….” He stopped, appalled.

 

Wesley sighed. “I’m afraid so. I think Angel may have allowed Spike to feed from him. His blood is potent, it would have speeded up Spike’s recovery immeasurably.”

 

“Jeez – us. Now that is not good. Not good at all”.

 

“What’s not good? Has that little shit gone? Where’s Angel?”

Cordelia had re-appeared, still rubbing her wet hair with a towel. Showered and changed she looked far more like her ex-prom queen self.

 

Glancing uneasily at each other, Gunn and Wesley prepared to share their concerns.

 

-0-

 

“Alright! This is great. I just love the car! What a chick magnet!” Spike grinned and slapped the dashboard, as if urging the convertible on faster. Angel just smiled and kept driving. There was something about Spike’s enthusiasm, his sheer lust for living that Angel found hard to resist. Even though, being a vampire, he was technically dead, Spike still seemed full of life, more alive than most humans, in fact.

 

“LA – what a great city. Makes me wonder why I didn’t come out here long ago”.

 

Angel gave Spike a sideways glance.

 

“Probably because I would have staked you on sight if you had” he said quietly.

 

“Yeah. That’s probably it” Spike said agreeably.

 

Angel drew up outside the neon lit entrance to a club. Spike peered up at the name.

 

“Caritas…a karaoke bar? You’ve gotta be kidding me”.

 

Angel grinned. “Go get us some drinks, I’ll find somewhere to park”.

 

Spike hopped out, keen to get the night started, and disappeared into Caritas.

 

Angel came down into the noisy club, noticing that in addition to the karaoke slots, Lorne had booked a band. People and demons were  dancing on the already crowded dance floor. He winced slightly as the noise and smells of the club invaded his senses, and then saw Spike’s blond head over by the bar. Slowly, Angel made his way across the club to his younger companion, not noticing the glowering or scared looks that he was receiving from much of its demon clientele as he did so.

 

Spike, ever observant, had.

 

“Well, Sire. You might have got your goody goody soul in place, but it looks to me like you’ve just swapped terrorising one lot of creatures for another.”

 

Angel leaned back against the bar and took the drink that Spike had handed to him.

 

“They’re safe here. Caritas is a refuge. It’s bound by a spell. No demons can attack or hurt each other while they’re in here”.

 

“Oh Great. Now I can’t take a slap at demons either. Are you trying to spoil all my fun?” Spike scowled at his sire. Angel ignored him.

 

Thrilled to have a stiff whisky in his hand, and loving the noise and activity of the club, Spike quickly regained his good humour. He looked critically across at the band, a tight five piece playing the best of eighties music.

 

“S’not bad. Singer’s crap though. I could do loads better.”

 

“Really – perhaps we might get to find out a bit later”.

 

Spike whirled to face the tall, green faced demon who had come up to the other side of the bar, and who was now smiling genially at him. Lorne glanced at Angel.

 

“Well, hullo Angelcakes. Care to introduce us?”

 

“Hi Lorne. Spike, this is Lorne. He owns Caritas. Lorne, this is Spike. He’s got a big opinion of himself.”

 

Spike glared at the older vampire before turning back to Lorne.

 

“Don’t listen to him. He’s just cranky because I get all the birds. Charm personified, that’s me”.

 

Lorne laughed, delighted with this quirky creature. “And, how do you know our Champion for Good then? It strikes me that I’ve only ever seen Angel chatting to another vampire when they are on the end of a stake, just before they go pouf. If you know what I mean”.

 

Spike caught, and ignored, Angel’s warning glance.

 

“Oh him? He’s me dad.”

 

For the first time that Angel had known him, Lorne was speechless. Spike leant back on the bar, took a swig of whisky and winked at Angel. Angel gritted his teeth, but the bubble of laughter that had formed when he had seen the amazed expression on the Host’s face, now burst out of him.

 

Lorne’s jaw dropped even further, making Angel laugh even harder. Spike joined in, slapping Angel on his back, making the bigger vampire hiccup.

 

Lorne just stared at the two hysterical vampires, completely dumbstruck. Other Caritas clients were also turning to gaze in stunned silence at the sight of Angel, silent, taciturn Angel, laughing so hard that he was wiping tears from his eyes. Spike looked at Lorne gleefully.

 

“Now. When do I get to show this lot how this singin’ lark should be done then?”

 

-0-

 

Spike flatly refused to go on the karaoke machine.

“Nah. That’s for amateurs. I’m goin’ to talk to the band”. He jumped off the bar stool and strode over to where the band were having a break while the karaoke singers did their stuff, black leather coat swirling behind him.

 

Angel sat back and watched his childe, a faint smile still playing across his handsome features. Lorne, seeing Angel alone once more, wandered back to stand beside him. Angel glanced up at Lorne, but didn’t say anything. “He’s quite a character. Was he kidding when he said you were his father?”

 

Angel’s mouth quirked. “I’m not his father. I’m his Sire. It’s not the same”.

 

Lorne nodded, his red eyes surveying the dark haired vampire.

 

“Stop it, Lorne. I’m not singing. Don’t try to read me”.

 

Lorne put up his hands, acting the innocent. “Farthest thing from my mind Angelcakes. In any case, it looks like I’m going to get the opportunity to read your companion any time now. He’s right about being Charm personified, looks like he’s persuaded the band to let him be their singer”.

 

Indeed Spike had. The band were taking up their positions once more, but Spike was now adjusting the microphone stand to a comfortable height, while the regular singer stayed at the bar and ordered another drink. Angel shook his head in not quite disbelief. Was there no end to Spike’s cheek? Angel had to admit to himself that Spike looked good up on the stage, totally at home among the leather-clad musicians.

Spike looked up and over at where Angel was sitting, and gave him a beaming smile.

 

“OK girls, boys, creatures of the night, get ready to rock!”

 

The band launched into a tight, pounding version of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s ‘Relax’.

 

Spike grabbed the microphone and began to sing.

 

“Oh my Lord, a star is born” breathed Lorne, as the blond vampire took command of the stage, his vocals swooping and perfectly pitched. He was every inch the rock star, and knew it.

 

“Can’t resist any opportunity to show off, that one”, Angel said, and took another pull on his drink, his eyes glinting amusedly at the antics of his childe.

 

“I can see he’s quite the extrovert. Tell me Angel, did you deliberately choose someone who was the complete opposite of you in every way?” Lorne’s face was guileless, and Angel chuckled deep in his chest, but didn’t reply.

 

Lorne turned his attention back to Spike who was still belting out ‘Relax’ along with appropriately suggestive hip thrusts. The anagogic demon allowed his concentration to settle on the blond vampire, reading him as he sang.

 

The club exploded in a riot of applause, cheers and whistles as the band finished the song, leaving the regular singer looking bootfaced as he sipped his drink. Spike swept an extravagant bow, his blue eyes sparkling with the buzz of being on stage. As he left to return to the bar, Angel could see the lead guitarist wanting to get Spike’s details. Spike pointed over to where Angel was sitting.

 

“Follow that!” He crowed as he returned to Angel’s side.

 

“I have no intention of trying” said Angel. He passed Spike a fresh drink.

 

“Well, young Spike, I can see that you have made yourself most unpopular with the band’s usual singer. Do I take it they want you to work with them again?” Lorne was still hovering.

 

Spike grinned. “Yeah, of course they do. Be stupid if they didn’t.” He glanced at Angel. “I’ve told the guitarist to come over and get one of your poncy business cards so they can get in touch with me”. Angel gave Lorne a long suffering look.

 

“See, treats my home as if it’s a hotel”.

 

Lorne took Spike’s arm gently.

 

“I don’t know if Angel explained about my special skills. I can read people, and demons, when they sing, sometimes help set them on their true paths. Would you like me to tell you what I read about you?”

 

Spike glared at Angel. “You bloody sod. Why didn’t you tell me this before I got up on stage?”

 

Angel shrugged. “Would it have made any difference?”

 

Spike considered for a moment. “Nah. Probably not”. He eyed Lorne. “OK then Bonanza boy. You can tell me what you saw. But not in front of tall, dark and tuneless.”

 

Lorne ignored the Bonanza comment, and gestured to an empty table.

 

“Sure, we can talk over there.”

 

Angel watched the green demon and the blond vampire as they sat down together. Not for the first time since Spike’s return, he examined his own feelings and reactions to the younger vampire. Somehow, Spike’s presence seemed to make Angel feel that life was more…colourful. He was able to make Angel laugh in a way that no-one else had ever been able, not since he had been a young, still human, man in Ireland.

 

Spike could be completely infuriating. Loud, brash, extrovert to the nth degree. Wayward, unreliable, reckless. In fact, Lorne was absolutely spot on when he had remarked that Spike was in every way the opposite of Angel himself. And yet…it had not always been that way. Angel made a point of never allowing himself to think back to the time before the gypsies cursed him with a soul, to the creature he had been before guilt and conscience had flooded over him. Now he pictured himself in his mind’s eye. He too, had been flamboyant, charming, wild and reckless. Spike, or William as he had been then, had originally been quite a nervous, mousy creature. Angelus had turned him, and then set out to recreate himself in this new fledgling. Looking at Spike now, Angel realised what an excellent job he had done. He stared into his whisky, not wanting to explore this uncomfortable train of thought any further.

 

Spike was wondering if it had been such a good idea to agree to listen to the Host.

 

“My, you are a seething mass of contradictions aren’t you, my platinum friend”.

 

Lorne fixed the vampire with his penetrating red gaze.

 

“Craving activity, but wanting peace. Being cruel, but needing tenderness. Hating and loving. Acting simple, but feeling complicated. And you’ve not been kind to life in your past. Now life is not being kind to you. It’s been kinda rough the past few weeks, hasn’t it, kiddo?”

 

Spike shrugged and lit a cigarette. “It’s been better”.

 

Lorne smiled gently. “And it’s just got better again, hasn’t it?” He looked over to where Angel was sitting, lost in his own thoughts.

 

“You’ll have to go at his pace, not yours, you know. And I get the feeling it’s always like that between you, am I right? He calls the shots.”

 

Spike’s face hardened. “Don’t know what you’re talkin’ about, mate.”

 

Lorne wasn’t fooled for a second. He had caught the fleeting look of pain on the vampire’s face before his expression had become shuttered.

 

“Have it your way, Spikelet. But you might be surprised. You needing him – letting him know that – might be a good thing. Think about it”. Lorne stood up.

 

“I’m pleased you’re here. I’ve never seen Angel laugh before. It’s long overdue”. And with that the Host made his way over to the stage to introduce the next set.

 

-0-

 

It was nearly four in the morning by the time Angel and Spike returned to the Hyperion Hotel. They had left Caritas to go on to another club, as Spike wanted to dance. Angel had reluctantly acceded to his childe’s demands, and had spent the rest of the night fending off advances from predatory young women – and some young men, while Spike whirled and spun on the dance floor with a never ending stream of pretty partners.

 

Angel had drunk far more than was usual for him, and that, combined with the relentless noise and pulsating lights of the night club had made him tired and tetchy. Spike, on the other hand seemed even more energised than he had been at the beginning of the evening. Angel flopped down onto the banquette in the Hyperion’s reception area, and gazed blearily at Spike from under half-closed eyelids.

 

“Where the Hell do you get your energy from? And how do you stand the lights and noise of those places?” he groaned as Spike came over with two glasses and the bottle of scotch that he had stolen from behind the bar at Caritas.

 

“God, Angelus. You used to be able to outlast all of us, we could never keep up with you when you were out for a good time.”

 

Angel grunted. “Yeah. But I remember when a good time was going to balls, dancing to minuets, eating the host and hostess, and then fighting with, and killing, all the local militia.”

 

“And drinking every bar and pub dry while you did it, don’t forget that either”. Spike handed Angel a full glass of whisky.

 

Angel eyed the scotch wearily. “Guess I’m out of practice”.

 

He tossed back the whisky in one long gulp, and then got to his feet.

 

“It’s no good, I’ve got to go to bed, otherwise I’ll be good for nothing tomorrow.” He started towards the stairs, and then stopped, looking back to where Spike was fidgeting uncomfortably.

 

“What’s the matter?”

 

Spike felt stupidly embarrassed. “Uh…where am I sleeping tonight?” he muttered, looking down at the floor.

 

Angel began to climb the staircase, and had disappeared from view before his voice drifted back down to Spike.

 

“With me, of course.”

 

-0-

 

Gunn and Cordelia stared at Wesley, and then each other, completely aghast.

 

“Eeeew! You can’t be serious. I mean, Angel…and Spike…I thought he had better taste!” Cordelia slapped her hand over her mouth to emphasise her disgust.

 

Gunn had visibly paled as he tried to digest this latest, and most shocking, piece of information about vampires and their relationships.

 

“English. Please tell me you are makin’ this up.”

 

Wesley shook his head, and re-settled his spectacles on his nose.

 

“Cordy, Gunn, I have to confess I’m surprised that neither of you were aware of this aspect of vampirism. After all, you are both supposed to be expert demon hunters”.

Gunn snorted.

 

“Huntin’ the things is one thing. Knowing about what they get up to as far as sex is concerned…not on my list of priorities”.

 

Cordelia was still visibly dismayed. “But Wes, Angel…I mean, he’s not like that. What about Buffy? She’s the love of his life. I know he’s picky about his clothes, but Angel…he’s not gay…is he?”

 

Wesley was unmoved by his colleagues’ discomfiture.

 

“Vampire sexuality is completely different from ours. Gay, straight, bi, whatever, those labels don’t really apply to vampires”.

 

Wesley had earlier called a meeting between the three of them so that he could share his concerns about the renewal of Angel and Spike’s relationship. In particular the possibility that Angel’s soul could be in danger. He had been taken aback to discover that neither Cordelia or Gunn had any idea that sex was an integral part of the Sire/Childe relationship, regardless of  gender.

 

He sighed, a little impatiently. “Why do you think Angel sired Spike in the first place? To have an eternal chess partner? The fact of the matter is that Spike has been here for over a week now. We have every reason to suspect that Angel has already allowed Spike to feed from him. If that supposition is correct, then they will have also had sex. Sharing blood and sex are inextricably linked as far as vampires are concerned. My concern is this; are the blood ties that link this pair likely to trigger the clause in Angel’s curse?”

 

Cordelia looked like a woman who has seen a straw to grab. “Angel only did it the once with Buffy – that was enough to make him revert to Angelus” she shivered involuntarily at the remembrance. “So he can’t have…you know….with Spike. And again, Eeeew.”

 

Wesley frowned. “I’m not sure it’s the same. Angel was in love with Buffy. By his own admission, he’d never felt that kind of human love before. His Sire relationship with Spike is more about possession than love. However, vampires are extremely passionate creatures. The terms of the clause are vague. I mean, can either of you define perfect happiness? I know I can’t, it means something different to everyone, I suspect”.

 

Gunn swallowed uncomfortably. “He seems OK, I mean, I haven’t noticed anything real different about him, have you?”

 

Wesley thought a moment. “Not exactly. He’s still drinking more blood than usual, and he seems to be reverting to only nocturnal hours of activity. I haven’t seen him around during daylight hours for at least three or four days. Apart from that, he does seem pretty much as usual”.

 

“Except when Spike’s around” Cordelia interjected. “I mean, it’s nothing really obvious, but I get the feeling he almost enjoys it when Spike winds us up. He certainly doesn’t make any attempt to stop him. Angel knows I can’t stand the little creep, I would have expected a bit more support.”

 

Gunn stood up and put a friendly hand on Wesley’s shoulder. “It looks like you need to have a chat with Angel. Let him know we’re a bit concerned”.

 

“Why is it always me who has to have these awkward discussions with Angel?” Wesley protested.

 

Cordelia gave him a thousand megawatt smile. “Because you are ex-watcher guy. He respects you. Besides, Gunn and I would rather have hot needles put in our eyes before we brought up the subject with him, right?”

 

-0-

 

Spike was bored.

 

“I can’t believe you don’t have a TV, or video, or anything even remotely connected to the Twenty first century”.

 

Angel gestured vaguely at the rows of books lining the bookshelves in his living room.

 

“Why don’t you read?” He said mildly, not really paying his childe a great deal of attention. Angel was concentrating on a piece of translation that Wesley had asked him to help with.

 

“Bleedin’ books. Too much like hard work for my liking”.

 

Angel sighed and closed the book he was working on. “OK. Why don’t you check out the rentals of a TV, and anything else you feel you absolutely can’t live without. You can set yourself up in one of the many unoccupied rooms that we have here. Preferably as far away from this one as possible”.

 

Spike grinned. “Great. I’ll sort something out now, before I turn into a pile of dust through sheer boredom”. He leaped up and disappeared downstairs, leaving the door to Angel’s suite wide open. Spike never picked up clothes, washed dirty glasses, or closed a door. Angel was irritated, but couldn’t be bothered to get up and shut it. Spike would be back soon enough. Angel returned to his translation.

 

Spike swung down the staircase of the Hyperion, humming to himself. He stopped as he became aware of the cold looks he was receiving from Cordelia and Gunn. Wesley was nowhere to be seen, probably hiding in his office, Spike thought scornfully.

 

“What, not pleased to see me?” he said sarcastically.

 

Gunn just turned away, but Cordelia couldn’t resist the sparring match.

 

“When are you going to get out of here, and let us get back to normal?”

 

Spike shrugged carelessly. “Angelus seems pretty happy to have me here, so I don’t think I’ll be going anywhere for a while. In fact, Pet, why don’t you make yourself useful and get me the numbers of a few TV rental companies.”

 

Cordelia ground her teeth in annoyance. “Listen Spike. For the last time, his name is Angel. He’s good now. And I’m not going to help you do anything that looks like you’re settling in permanently”.

 

“Ah, Jealous are we?” Spike said, snidely.

 

Cordelia flinched, Spike’s words hitting home, more than she liked. Gunn noticed the girl’s pained look and joined the fray.

 

“Shut up microchip head, and get out. We don’t want you around, or hadn’t you got that. And whatever you think, I reckon Angel don’t need this either.”

 

Spike laughed. “And what would you know about it, Mr T? You act big, but you don’t know anything about vampires”.

 

Cordelia bristled furiously. “He does too! He’s killed more vamps than you’ve had hot dinners” remembering that Spike hadn’t had a hot dinner for over a hundred years, she changed tack. “Anyway he knows loads about vampires. He even had to kill his own sister when she got turned”.

 

Spike cocked his head and examined Gunn thoughtfully.

 

“Hmm. I can see why you and Angelus get on. He killed his own sister too. You both must have so many happy memories to share”.

 

Gunn seemed to freeze for a second, and then, with a roar of rage, he leapt at Spike, punching him with the full force of his considerable strength.

 

Spike staggered from the force of the blow, and instinctively went to retaliate. But as his hands went around Gunn’s neck, the chip kicked in, causing Spike to fall backwards, clutching his head and screaming in pain.

 

In his suite, Angel heard his childe cry out, and hurled himself out of his rooms and down the stairs.

 

Gunn, still almost blinded with rage at Spike’s vicious jibe, had pulled a stake from his pocket, and was raising his arm to plunge it into the writhing vampire’s chest, when he was picked up bodily and hurled across the whole length of the lobby. Gunn landed hard, but rolled to break his fall. The street fighter was fast, but Angel was ten times faster. As Gunn scrambled to his feet, he was grabbed by the throat and lifted clean off his feet. Snarling, Angel slammed him against the nearest wall.

 

Gunn’s eyes widened in terror as he struggled ineffectually against Angel’s iron grip. The vampire’s eyes glowed like burning coals as he pinned the human against the wall.

 

“You touch him again, and I’ll kill you”. Angel hissed, before dropping Gunn, who landed in a heap, gasping for breath.

 

Cordelia started to protest. “He had it coming, Angel, you didn’t hear what he said to Gunn”.

 

Angel turned on the girl, and although he had reverted to his human countenance, his voice was still thick with menace.

 

“Shut up Cordelia. I don’t want to hear it. Not. A. Word.” He growled as the girl opened her mouth again. Cordelia shut it with a snap, and backed away from the angry vampire.

 

Wesley had come out of his office at the first sounds of the fracas, but hadn’t been able to intervene, events had happened so quickly. He watched as Angel turned to help Spike to his feet, the blond vampire still clutching his head and whimpering.

 

With a final glare, Angel turned on his heel, and half-carrying Spike, went back up the stairs. The three humans heard the distant sound of a door slamming, and then looked at each other unhappily.

 

-0-

 

Angel heard the knock on his door, and ignored it. Spike lay cradled in his arms, still trembling from the agonising pain that the chip had caused when he had tried to retaliate to Gunn’s attack. Angel rocked the younger vampire, gently stroking Spike’s hair and face, while still trying to calm himself down from the fury that had overtaken him at the sight of his childe, helpless, and on the verge of being staked.

 

He heard the door click open, and growled at the intrusion.

 

“Angel…it’s me. We need to talk”. Wesley appeared in the doorway to the bedroom, taking in the sight of Angel, his eyes still flecked with gold, hugging Spike protectively.

 

As if calmed by the Englishman’s own stillness, Angel seemed to come to a decision. He gently laid Spike down on the bed, and covered him with a quilt, before turning to Wesley and gesturing him back to the living area. With a last glance at his childe, Angel followed Wesley out of the bedroom, gently closing the door behind him.

 

“I thought you should know, Gunn has left. He says he’s not coming back unless Spike goes, and then he’s still not sure he’ll return”.

 

Angel’s expression was unreadable.

 

“Cordelia?”

 

Wesley shrugged. “She’s upset. You frightened her. They don’t understand what’s going on, Angel.”

 

“And you do?”

 

“More than them. At the very least, I understand why you reacted the way you did when you thought Gunn was going to kill him”.

 

Angel considered Wesley, gazing at him from under lowered brows.

 

“I can’t just send him away, abandon him. You know that?”

 

Wesley nodded, not saying anything, hoping that Angel was going to open up a little.

Angel sat down, holding Wesley’s gaze all the while.

 

“It would have been better if they had killed him. To make a vampire so helpless…he can’t feed himself, can’t defend himself. At least when the gypsies cursed me they didn’t take away my power. I still have it, even if I choose not to use it.”

 

“I think that Cordelia and Gunn could have that explained to them. It doesn’t help that Spike…it’s difficult to feel sympathetic towards him. Even though he can’t hurt humans anymore, he still seems the same as he was before…the chip”. Wesley was trying to choose his words with care.

 

“He can’t change who he is overnight”. Angel sounded defensive. “It took me a hundred years to accept my ensoulment, Spike’s had less than a year with this thing in his head. In any case, I’m not sure I want him to change”. Angel’s last comment was spoken so quietly, Wesley had to strain to hear what had been said. Angel fell back into a brooding silence.

 

“Angel, we have other concerns…” Wesley was in two minds as to whether he should press the vampire at this point, but felt that he had no option but to continue.

 

“You’ve been alone since you were cursed, apart from Buffy, that is…Now you have Spike back in your life, your blood childe. I’m sorry Angel, but the curse…is there any danger it could be lifted?”

 

Angel gave a short, mirthless laugh. “Does it look like I’m close to experiencing a moment of perfect happiness?” he shook his head. “Ironic, isn’t it? History and folk lore are littered with stories that end happily because a curse has been lifted. But not where I’m concerned.”

 

Wesley caught a glimpse of Angel’s tragic eyes, before the vampire turned his head away, looking over to where Spike was standing in the doorway.

 

“You lot still don’t get it do you? Not even you, Watcher.” Spike’s voice was sneering, his eyes like shards of blue ice. Wesley gulped apprehensively before remembering that Spike could no longer hurt him.

 

Spike gestured at Angel.

 

“How’d you feel if you were forced to eat only nutritional tablets all your life – an’ preferably not in front of anyone, ‘cos they find it disgustin’? How’d you feel if every time you saw another human being you were expected just to kill them? Oh, and you can’t have sex, and even if you did, you’d have to do it with twenty condoms on, and the other person was fully clothed throughout?”

 

Angel shifted as though he was going to speak, but Spike silenced him.

 

“Shut up Angelus.” He turned his attention back to Wesley.

 

“What you lot jus’ don’t get is that he can be himself when he’s with me. He can sink his fangs into my neck and feed from me, and can feel me doin’ it to him. It’s not disgustin’, it’s fantastic. He can be what he is, a beautiful, wonderful vampire, called Angelus. This whole Good versus Evil thing you’ve got goin’ here, it blinds you to the fact that Angelus was much more than just a killin’ machine before he got that cursed soul. He was glamorous, exciting, adventurous, wild, sexy.” Spike had crossed over to where Angel was sitting, looking up at his childe, enthralled. Spike smiled at him, and tenderly ran a finger down Angel’s face.

 

“I know him. I remember it all.”

 

-0-

 

Cordelia sipped at her drink, peering around the crowded bar as she did so.

“Are you sure Gunn will come?”

 

“ He’ll be here. He’s just adamant that he’s not going near the Hyperion while Spike is still in residence”. Wesley glanced at his watch, sounding more confident than he felt.

 

“Ah, here he is now”. Wesley gave a brief wave to the tall streetfighter. Gunn raised his chin in acknowledgement and made his way over to his two colleagues.

 

The three of them had agreed to meet so that they could discuss a plan of action. Gunn’s refusal to come anywhere near the Angel Investigations offices, meant that a rendezvous at Caritas had been arranged. Wesley had been profoundly disturbed by his discussion with Angel, and even more so after Spike’s tirade.

 

The Host saw the three anxious-looking demon hunters hunched over their drinks, and decided to stop for a chat.

 

“Hullo chickens. I hope you are here on business, because if it’s pleasure, I have to tell you, it’s not working. Looks like you need to spend some more time with Angel and his charming companion, they could give you lessons on how to have a good time.” Lorne smiled at the memory. “I’ve never known Angel be that light hearted. Warmed the old cockles of my heart to see it.”

 

Noticing their scowling faces, the green demon knew he had struck a sour note with the girl and two men. He pulled up a chair.

“I’m taking it that not all is sweetness and light at Angel Investigations? Guessing that the new arrival has something to do with it?”

 

“You could say that” Gunn said grimly.

 

“Yeah. We’re having a council of war. Angel’s not the same since that little shit came on the scene”, Cordelia huffed. Wesley didn’t say anything, but looked uncomfortable.

 

“Ah yes. I can see how Angel being happy, actually enjoying being with someone who has known him for a hundred plus years  – someone connected to him by blood – I can see how that must be upsetting for you.” Lorne’s tone was genial, but his red eyes were cold.

 

“That’s not what we mean…” Cordelia protested.

 

“Um, then sweetie, what do you mean?” Lorne leaned back in his chair and folded his arms.

 

“Hey, man, this is not your business”. Gunn said bluntly. Lorne simply raised his eyebrows.

 

“Honeypie, you’re in my club, and talking about someone that I happen to care about too. So, actually, think you’re wrong.”

 

“Lorne’s right. It may be helpful for us to have his input.” Wesley rubbed his nose. “What did you make of Spike when they came in the other night?”

 

“You mean, did I read him?”

 

Wesley nodded.

 

“I did. But confidential – right? You know that. However, if you’re asking my opinion on what I see, rather than what I read…” Lorne paused, watching his three human friends closely. Their attentive expressions decided him.

 

“I like Spike”.

 

Cordelia gasped. “Lorne, you can’t like Spike. You don’t know what he’s done. He’s a killer. It’s only by the fact that he’s got some sort of microchip implanted in his head that he hasn’t finished us all off.”

 

“Mmmm” Lorne mused. “Sounds like someone else we know. Killer, soul, no more killing…humans, anyway.”

 

“Yeah, yeah. But Angel’s different. Spike’s so…” Cordelia struggled to explain her feelings.

 

“Unpredictable? Sarcastic? Tells it like it is a bit too much for comfort?” Lorne said helpfully. “Or is it that all of a sudden you’ve all got to share Angel? Worse, the three of you have got to take a back seat to this new kid on the block? I do like Spike. He’s quirky, fun, and he makes Angel laugh. In my book, that’s gotta be a good thing. Angel’s life needs a bit of colour. Spike provides it”.

 

“And we don’t?” Cordelia was hurt.

 

“Not like he can”. Wesley’s voice was quiet, his face pensive.

 

“No” Lorne agreed. “Not like Spike can”.

 

Wesley spoke directly to Cordelia. “Cordy, you’re the only one who has ever known Angel when he has been without a soul. What was he like?”

 

Cordelia grimaced. “Like? You mean, apart from being the most terrifying thing I’ve ever run from in my entire life? God – Angelus- where to begin? A complete bastard, that’s for sure. He seemed to be able to get into your head and say things that really make a lie of ‘Sticks and Stones’ etc etc. Jeez, his words really could hurt. Glamorous, though, always looked really hot. But, arrogant or what? Strutted about as though he owned the world. Complete opposite of Angel in fact, well, apart from the looking hot bit.” Cordelia had the grace to blush a little.

 

Wesley glanced at Lorne and Gunn.

 

“Sound familiar?”

 

They nodded.

 

“Interesting”. Lorne scratched a horn distractedly. “I assumed Angel found Spike attractive because he is the complete opposite of him. It looks as if I was wrong. It’s more because Spike is a reflection of who Angel was before he got his soul”.

 

“No he’s not. Spike is but a very pale imitation of Angelus. Believe me”. Cordelia said with a shiver of recollection.

 

“An echo then, if not a reflection” Wesley amended.

 

“OK guys, this is all interestin’ stuff, an’ all. Makes no headway with me though. I’m through with both those vamps less’n things change big time”. Gunn was getting to his feet. “Looks like all you want to do is talk, not do something. Give me a call if you change your minds”. With that, he was gone.

 

“Spike said some awful things to him, he’s very hurt and angry” Cordelia said to the Host by way of explanation. “And he can’t forgive Angel for attacking him.”

 

“Well, he was trying to stake Spike at the time.” Wesley reminded her. Cordelia shrugged dismissively, then put her hands to her head, screwing her face up in pain.

 

“Vision…” She fell off her chair onto the floor, moaning as the agonising message from the Powers blasted into her brain. Wesley and Lorne knelt on either side of her. Cordelia opened her eyes, her expression one of unadulterated panic.

 

“It’s Angel…four men are attacking Spike…Angel’s going to kill them all. Oh God, we have to stop him!”

 

-0-

 

The vision directed Cordelia and Wesley to a bar situated on East Street. As they turned the corner into the street, they saw Spike standing outside the bar’s entrance, his face illuminated briefly as he flicked his lighter open to light a cigarette. Angel was nowhere to be seen. Then, seemingly out of nothingness, four young street fighters materialised around the blond vampire, surrounding him. They were all armed with stakes and axes. Wesley and Cordelia started to run. Spike whirled, looking for a way to escape, but the four men closed on him with lightening speed, hefting their weapons.

 

“Stop!! Stop!!” Wesley cried out too late, as acting as one, the men fell upon the helpless vampire. They could hear Spike screaming in pain, both from the microchip in his head, and from the injuries he was getting because he couldn’t defend himself.

 

A sudden, deep throated roar stopped them in their tracks. Angel had appeared, terrifying in his blind fury, eyes blazing like the fires of hell.

 

“For Christ’s sake, run!” Cordelia shrieked at the four streetfighters. “You can’t fight him, he’ll kill you all in seconds…Run!”

 

The young men scattered. With a blood curdling snarl, Angel leapt after them, at the same instant that Wesley loosed a crossbow bolt, straight into Angel’s belly. The sharp pain of the bolt made the big vampire stagger for a second, enough time for Wesley to follow up with a high velocity tranquilliser dart, with enough tranquilliser in it to down a large elephant.

 

For one petrifying moment, Wesley thought Angel was going to turn on him, but then the vampire’s attention was diverted by a cry from Cordelia.

 

“Help me…Spike’s hurt…bad”.

 

Angel started to run to where Cordelia was kneeling by the side of his bleeding childe, and then he fell to his knees as the tranquilliser began to take effect. With a groan, Angel slowly collapsed. Even with such a massive amount of sedative inside him, Angel did not lose consciousness, but Wesley knew that the vampire would be too drugged to move for a few minutes at least. Enough time for Spike’s attackers to escape with their lives.

 

Wesley crouched over the limp form of Spike, next to Cordelia. The girl was spattered from head to foot in gore. She gave him a brief glance before returning to the task of desperately trying to staunch the blood that poured from a gaping wound in Spike’s chest. One of his attackers had nearly cut the vampire’s body in two with an axe.

 

 

 

-0-

 

Somehow, like people living a nightmare, Cordelia and Wesley managed to get both Spike and Angel back to the Hyperion. They left Angel in the car while they lugged Spike into the hotel, laying him down on the floor of the lobby. Cordelia sprang into action. She quickly retrieved the much-used first aid kit and returned to kneel by Spike’s body.  For what seemed hours, but was only minutes, the two of them desperately tried to clean out the awful wound, while still stopping the bleeding. Cordelia had her trusty tweezers. The girl had developed a surgeon’s skills in removing debris, having had to dig out a variety of objects from her colleagues in the past. Now she quickly picked out the shattered parts of Spike’s ribcage.

 

Cordelia looked up at Wesley’s tense face as they finished the bandaging.

 

“Wes…can he recover from this? This is worse than anything I’ve ever seen… and it’s so close to his heart.”

 

“Unbelievably, he probably can. But it might take months as opposed to days or weeks. Even such extensive damage should be recoverable. After all, vampires are unchanging in all respects after they are turned, therefore any changes inflicted on their bodies through injury, should always be temporary, no matter how severe.” Wesley hoped he was right.

 

Now that the great hole in Spike’s chest was dressed, and the bloodflow staunched, the situation looked greatly improved. Wesley and Cordelia were aware that Spike needed to feed, even though he was unconscious, if he had any chance of recovering. They looked at each other.

 

“He needs Angel” Cordelia said simply. Wes nodded and went back outside.

 

 Angel was already out of the car and lurching unsteadily up the steps to the hotel entrance. Wesley rushed to him and hooked one of the heavy vampire’s arms over his shoulders to help support him. He looked anxiously into Angel’s dark eyes. They were still unfocused from the effects of the tranquilliser, but it was clear that the vampire was coming back to his senses.

 

“Wes…how did you know?…”

 

“Cordelia had a vision about you. We got there in time to stop you from…uh…but Spike’s been seriously injured. We’ve done our best to help him, but he must feed if he’s any chance of recovery. Your blood is far more potent than anything else we could give him.”

 

Angel paused at the entrance to the hotel. “I would’ve killed them all if you hadn’t stopped me…Oh God, what’s happening to me?” Angel started to shake in distress.

Wesley made comforting noises, leading Angel inside, and down towards Spike’s limp form.

 

“Go on Angel. We know he needs it.” Wesley said encouragingly. But Angel just stared down at his grievously wounded childe, and made no move to help him.

 

Cordelia looked up at Angel anxiously. “Angel, he needs to feed now if he is to recover. The blood loss has been too great for him to do it on his own. What are you waiting for?”

 

“I nearly killed four humans tonight, because of him”. Angel’s voice was almost a whisper. “I-I can’t seem to control myself anymore. I’m driven to protect him…a soulless demon…I should be killing him, not saving him…” he slumped down onto the banquette, a portrait of confusion and despair.

 

Wesley sat down next to Angel. “But he’s not just another soulless demon, is he, Angel? He’s your childe. You made him. Think about it, Angel. Do you think you could have killed Penn, if Kate hadn’t done the job first? And what about Darla and Drusilla?”

 

“I staked Darla” Angel said quietly.

 

“Yes, the first time. But that’s because she was just about to kill Buffy. And look how torn up you were when Wolfram and Hart brought her back. You couldn’t bring yourself to kill her again, could you? It’s no surprise you want to protect Spike now he can’t do it for himself. He’s part of you, your bloodline…your family”.

 

“No.” Angel clenched his fists. “I killed my family.”

 

Wesley laid his hand on Angel’s arm. “No, Angel. You killed Liam’s family. He was human. You’re a vampire.”

 

The silence stretched out between them as Angel struggled to acknowledge what Wesley was saying to him. Finally he nodded, and knelt down beside Spike. He let the change transform him, and bit deeply into his own wrist with razor-sharp fangs. As the blood welled up in the wound, Angel pressed his wrist to Spike’s half-open mouth. Even though unconscious, Spike’s vampire reflexes caused him to close his mouth on Angel’s wrist, and suck the life giving essence from his sire. Angel closed his eyes and gritted his teeth as Spike drew more and more blood from him.

 

Cordelia’s face was nearly as pale as Angel’s. “Angel…that’s surely enough, Angel…” Wesley put his hand on Cordelia’s shoulder.

 

“Cordy, he knows what he’s doing. He’ll know when to stop. Just get some pig’s blood heated and ready for him, will you?”

 

Cordelia rushed out to the kitchen, glad of the excuse not to have to witness any more of such vampiric behaviour from Angel. She shuddered at the memory of Angel sinking his fangs into his own wrist. It brought back the awful recollection of the only other time she had seen him actually bite. It had been that terrible few months in Sunnydale. Angel – Angelus – had cut a swathe through the human population, killing and maiming countless victims in the short time between him losing his soul, and being sent to hell. She had been leaving the Bronze one evening, and he had casually appeared and snatched one of her group of friends, deliberately tearing her throat out with those same vicious fangs in front of them all.

 

Cordelia leant her head against the fridge, feeling weak and sick with the remembered terror she had felt. The microwave dinged, bringing her back to the present.

 

She returned to the lobby with the heated pig’s blood, noting with relief that Angel had finished feeding Spike, and was leaning back against the banquette, his human features white and drawn looking. Cordelia handed him the blood. He took it from her, gratefully, and drank it down.

 

After a few minutes, the three of them gently lifted Spike, and carried the wounded vampire up to Angel’s suite. Once they were sure that Spike was settled on the bed, Cordelia and Wesley persuaded Angel to also rest. They had left him huddled on his sofa, exhausted, but still too devastated to contemplate sleep

 

0-

 

Back downstairs in the office Wesley and Cordelia stared at each other over their much needed mugs of tea, and wondered  what would happen next.  A noise outside the office alerted them to the fact that they had a visitor. Before they could go to investigate, the door opened, and Gunn walked in. His face was grimmer than either Wes or Cordelia had ever seen it.

 

“Four of my crew nearly got themselves killed tonight.”

 

“Oh Jesus.” Wesley breathed. “Can this get any worse?”

 

“Ain’t but one vamp in this town that could scare off four of my crew, like they was babies. I’m right, ain’t I?”

 

Cordelia went to stand between Gunn and the door. “You don’t know what happened, so don’t think you can start anything with Angel over this.”

 

Gunn made no attempt to move past the girl. “I’m not goin’ to do anything like that, Cordy. For a start, I’m not kiddin’ myself that I’d have a snowball’s chance in hell of dustin’ Angel. But fact is, I reckon what happened tonight was more or less my fault”.

 

 Cordelia shook her head in confusion. “Uh…how’s that, again?”

 

Gunn leant against the wall, folding his long arms. “After I left here the other day, after the fight with Spike. I went back to my crew. I was mad, I c’n tell y’all. Bitchin’ and swearin’ about that blond punk vamp. Didn’t say that Angel had busted my ass tho’. Bruised ma ego as well as ma throat. So wasn’t gonna say anythin’ about that.” Gunn allowed himself a wry smile. His serious expression returned.

 

“Some of the boys thought they’d impress the hell out of me by dustin’ Spike. Coupla the guys told me that they’d decided to tail Angel and Spike, wait their chance, and voila, come back like the conquering heroes. Didn’t work out that way. I suppose they didn’t know Angel was on the scene, and kinda protective over this particular vamp. Guess they owe you both a big thank you for savin’ their sorry asses.”

 

Cordelia sat back down in her chair. “Oh, Charles. It was awful. Your crew, they took an axe to Spike, they nearly cut him in two. Angel saw it happen…it sent him crazy.”

 

“He’s in a terrible state, Gunn. Absolutely demented with remorse over what could have happened, I’ve never seen him like this.” Wesley added.

 

Gunn grimaced. “Well, guess you’ve never known him nearly kill anyone before. Look guys, no matter how bad Angel feels now, fact is, he’s shown he can’t be trusted anymore. Face it, he’s getting’ more and more vamp-like the longer Spike is around. It’s just a matter of time before we all start to look real appetisin’, then what?”

 

Cordelia and Wesley shifted uncomfortably, not knowing what to say.

 

“OK, my crew were fools, and actin’ out of their patch, and outside orders. But, Hell. They were doin’ what they’re supposed to do – kill vamps. Angel’s off limits, they know that. But Spike? Chip or no chip, he should be dust. Tell me I’m wrong.”

 

But they couldn’t.

 

-0-

 

Cordelia had left Wesley and Gunn in the office. She had ostensibly gone to check on Angel, but she needed time on her own to think as well. God, the situation was just so tangled and confusing, she was lost in the maze of trying to figure out the rights and wrongs of it all. She sat down at the top of the stairs.

 

So, Angel didn’t want to stake those vampires that shared his blood connection – why was that so bad, in any case? But Angel was right, they were soulless demons, inherently evil. His – their – mission was to protect humanity from the same creature that Angel felt so driven to protect. This was making her head hurt.

 

Cordelia got back to her feet and trudged down the corridor towards Angel’s suite. She cautiously opened the door and peered in. There was no sign of Angel where they had left him. The door of the bedroom was open, so she tiptoed over to it.

 

Spike was where she and Wesley had put him, stretched out on his back on Angel’s bed. Angel, finally asleep, was curled against him, one arm tucked protectively around his childes’ head.

 

Cordelia gazed at this little tableau for some time before quietly making her way out of Angel’s suite and back down to where the two men were waiting for her.

 

Wesley was replacing the phone on its hook as Cordelia came back into the office.

 

“I’ve just had a conversation with Giles”, he explained, gesturing at the phone. “I’ve explained the situation as we see it, that Spike’s presence is making Angel increasingly unreliable, and I’ve persuaded him to take Spike back to Sunnydale. He’s agreed to arrange for Spike to be provided with pig’s blood, and will sort out some accommodation for him. Ironically, he’ll probably be safer in Sunnydale under the protection of the Slayer and her Watcher, than anywhere else. Giles has agreed to drive over as soon as possible to collect him.”

 

Wesley stopped, noting Cordelia’s sad expression. “Cordy? We thought you’d be delighted to be getting rid of Spike at last.”

 

“It’s not Spike…it’s poor Angel. He’s going to be alone again.”

 

Wesley slipped a comforting arm around the girl’s shoulders. “I know. I feel bad about it too. But what else can we do? It’s going to tear Angel apart if Spike stays or goes. At least with Spike gone, Angel won’t have to worry about protecting him all the time, with the inevitable dire consequences of that protection. We won’t always be able to be around to stop him if things get out of hand, you know that, Cordelia.”

 

Gunn nodded in agreement. “That power that’s in Angel…it’s gotta be kept channelled in the right direction. You’re the one that told us about what it wuz like when he reverted to Angelus. Point that power the wrong way…we’re all dead. Spike bein’ here…he wants Angel to be who he used to be…remindin’ him of the good times they had together. It’s startin’ to seduce Angel, he’s losin’ focus. That makes him dangerous, with a capital D”.

 

Even though Cordelia knew her friends were right, she couldn’t stop herself from arguing. “Lorne thought that it was good for Angel to have Spike around, what did he say? He gives a bit of colour to Angel’s life.”

 

“Yeah, but at what cost to the rest of us?” Gunn’s tone was firm. “I reckon Angel’s gotta keep to black and white, too much of any other colour, includin’ grey, is likely to cause him trouble sooner or later. An’ when somethin’ causes Angel trouble…well, we bin there before, an’ I for one am in no hurry to go there again.”

 

Cordelia accepted the truth of what Gunn was saying, but frowned as another thought struck her.

 

“It’s all very well, us deciding to send Spike back to Sunnydale, but what if Angel doesn’t want him to go? If he wants him to stay, then none of us have any choice in the matter. It’s not as though we can force Angel to let him go, is it?”

 

Wesley and Gunn exchanged a glance.

 

“We’ve thought of that, Cordy.” Wesley said. “We’re going to arrange for Angel to be searching the underground tunnels downtown for some kind of demon, when Giles arrives. It’ll be a white lie to keep him well out of the way. Gunn and I think it’s best that we present Angel with a fait accompli rather than put him in the position of having to decide for himself whether or not it is best for Spike to leave.

 

Cordelia looked unhappily at her two colleagues. “I hope you’re right. I don’t dare think of what might happen if you’re not.”

 

 

 

-0-

 

Spike had gone.

 

Giles had waited in his car, a few blocks away from the Hyperion, until he had got Wesley’s call to tell him that Angel had left the hotel. He had driven to the entrance, and helped Angel’s three colleagues to carry the still unconscious vampire down to his car. With a brief wave, the Watcher left with his new charge. The whole thing had taken less than fifteen minutes.

 

Now Wesley, Gunn and Cordelia had to wait for Angel’s return, so they could break the news to him of what they had done. The tension in Wesley’s office was palpable.

 

Finally, after what seemed an eternity of waiting, they heard Angel replacing his broadsword in the weapons cabinet.

 

“Hullo? I’m back guys. Uh…couldn’t find that Dunara demon though, we must have been given dud information”. Angel called, as he closed and re-locked the cabinet.

He turned to see his three colleagues standing together, looking equally uneasy.

 

“What’s up? Something happened?”

 

Wesley stepped forward, once again having been delegated to be the team’s spokesperson.

 

“Angel, we have something to tell you.”

 

Gunn and Cordelia watched Angel closely as the ex-watcher explained to the vampire their decision to send Spike back to Sunnydale, and how the plan had already been executed. Angel’s expression was unreadable. Finally, Wesley had finished.

 

“We’re terribly sorry to have had to do this to you, Angel, but I hope you can accept that we’ve done it with the very best of intentions…for you, and for everyone else”.

 

For long moments Angel said nothing, just gazed levelly at his friends. Cordelia thought she would scream, she was wound so tight with nerves. Then the vampire sighed.

 

“You’ve done the right thing. I’m the one who should be sorry. I’m sorry that you’ve all had to go through this, I realise how incredibly difficult it must have been for you all. It was never going to work, Spike being here, chip or no chip. No, you’ve done the right thing. Thanks guys”. Angel managed a half-smile, as the tension drained out of the atmosphere.

 

“Um…it’s been a long day – for us all, I guess – why don’t you all get an early night. I know I need one.” Angel’s voice was soft, forgiving.

 

 Cordelia went over to him and put a hand on his arm. “Will you be alright?”

 

Angel smiled down at the pretty girl. “I’m fine, Cordy. Go home. All of you. We’ll start again tomorrow, OK?” he walked up the staircase.

 

“We-ell. That went far better than I expected it to” Gunn breathed a huge sigh of relief.

 

Wesley polished his spectacles thoughtfully. “Angel is an old, wise creature. We sometimes forget that when events conspire to overwhelm him. He would have probably come to the same decision in any case, given time. We just speeded things up a bit”. He shrugged on his jacket. “I don’t know about you two, but I need a drink after all of that. Anyone care to join me?”

 

Gunn and Cordelia smiled at him, nodding, and the three of them left together, switching off lights and locking doors as they went.

 

-0-

 

The Hyperion descended into its customary silence after the departure of the three humans. Its many dark, empty rooms seemed to echo with memories of times long past. The hotel’s brooding emptiness was almost tangible. But tonight, its silence was broken by the loneliest sound in the world.

 

A vampire, weeping.



| Fiction Index | Home Page | Back |