All About Spike

Beggars Would Ride
By wiseacress

The neon motel sign was a pink ghost between the last stars left in the sky when they pulled in and parked, trailing a pall of dust. Just over an hour to Los Angeles, but this was as far as they were going to get tonight. There'd been too much time wasted already, shoving and shouting; Spike was wearing the proof of that in a long purple bruise down the side of his face.

Angel cut the engine and there was a moment of silence before either of them moved. Then, without looking anywhere in particular, Spike put his hand on the door handle. It was almost a tentative gesture. Angel glanced at him.

"Don't."

Spike held onto the handle, and tapped his thumb against it.

"Where would you go, anyway?"

Spike lowered his head so he could peer through the windshield at the roof of the motel. There was nothing there but a satellite dish pearled with dawn, but he stared at it as if it were giving him an idea. Angel looked up at it too, then shook his head and pocketed the keys.

"I'm getting a room. Wait here. Make a scene, and you'll sleep in the trunk."

Spike raised an eyebrow and nodded thoughtfully, still staring at the satellite dish. After a minute Angel shook his head again and got out. He walked around the front of the car, and Spike watched him go into the little office, where a short man with a combover was watching television behind a glass partition. Spike leaned forward and squinted: the television was showing Bonanza. The little man gave Angel an annoyed, sideways look.

Spike turned his head and looked back through the rear window, where the desert hills were bleeding pink light into the sky. The air smelled of diesel and gasoline, dust and human garbage, but beneath that it smelled of daylight. Just around the corner. As he watched, the pink started to turn orange, and he felt a pricking in the skin of his cheeks and neck. He turned back around and slumped a little lower in the seat.

Angel came out of the office fast, sorting in his pocket for his keys, not bothering to glance back at the sunrise. He was already talking as he opened the driver's side door.

"I got one that faces north—"

When Spike kicked it, the door snapped straight out and hit Angel in the belly and knees. He let out a whoof of air and stumbled, then grabbed the top of the door and stood holding it tightly, staring at the pavement, his jaw twitching. Spike stayed where he was, twisted around in the seat with his arms braced, his legs drawn up to kick again. Angel pried his hands off the doorframe, glanced back at the sunrise, and rubbed his face. Finally, when he seemed to have control of himself, he looked in at Spike.

"What the hell was that supposed to accomplish?"

Spike shrugged. Angel stared at him for a second, then reached in and there was a moment of stupid tussling, while Angel tried to grab Spike's feet and Spike tried to keep them free. Angel got hold of his ankles at last and threw them sideways, so they cracked the dash. Spike winced and dropped them into the footwell, then sat up and started searching his pockets for cigarettes. Angel peered in at him.

"If you do that again—"

Spike gave a derisive snort. Angel watched him for a moment, then got in and slammed the door. They drove around to the north of the building, and Spike led the way inside, with Angel's fingers digging into his neck.



"This is bloody ridiculous. I'm calling for a movie."

"No."

"It's...one o'clock in the afternoon. There's nothing on. I'm calling for a movie."

"Spike."

"You got the Watcher's Visa, right? Put it on that."

"Spike."

"Look at this shit. They're all zombies, watching this shit. Where's the card?"

"Spike. Shut up."

"Shut up yourself, you fucking nance. Running errands for the Slayer. 'Angel, Spike's so baaaad, I wish someone could do something about it.'"

"Shut up, Spike."

"Get me a movie and I'll shut up, you wall-eyed twat. You know she's fucking soldier boy, don't you? Got her hands full there, I guess. Among other things. But still got the royal eunuch to tie on an apron and take out the garbage when it—"

Angel rolled over suddenly and stared at the ceiling. Spike sat watching him closely, the remote dangling from one hand. "Spike," Angel said after a moment, "you have a choice. You can be quiet and enjoy the trip. Or you can keep this up and enjoy traction."

Spike sneered and looked back at the television. "If I didn't know you for a bog-trotter, I'd peg you a Scot. How much does a movie cost, anyway?"

Angel closed his eyes and put his hand over them. "Spike, turn the television off and go to sleep."

"Fuck off, you cork-sacking Judas."

Angel lay still for a moment, then suddenly swung his legs off his bed and stood up. Spike grinned and dropped the remote. "All right then," he said. He grinned wider, peeled the human face aside and bared the hard sharp ridges of the demon. "Haven't trashed a hotel room in a month of Sundays."

Angel stood in the small space between the beds, staring at him. After a minute Spike raised an eyebrow. "Come on—I'll give you home advantage even."

Angel regarded him a moment longer, then leaned over and picked up the remote. He killed the television, then tossed the remote onto the night table on the far side of his own bed.

"Christ you're wet," Spike said, watching him do it.

Angel sat back down on his bed. "You want to trash the room? It's the middle of the day."

Spike glanced at the clock, then at the shaded window. Angel put his legs up on the bed and closed his eyes.

"I don't need a bloody remote to turn the telly on," Spike said after a minute. The human face had slid back into place without his notice. He started to get up from the bed.

"Spike," Angel said quietly, his eyes still closed. "Are you ever going to learn?"

Spike started to say something, then stopped. He sank back down onto the bed and examined his fingernails. The room was quiet.



The doorknob made a little click, and Angel opened his eyes in the darkness.

"Spike."

Silence.

"Stop it. Get back here."

Silence. Angel stared at the ceiling, waiting. After a minute there was another little click—the sound of the tongue easing back into the door—and then Spike's footsteps moving back toward his bed. Angel closed his eyes again.

He was almost asleep when there was a sudden movement to his left, and a hard ringing blow on the side of his face. He reached up to grab Spike's fist and Spike punched him in the side of the neck. Angel caught a glimpse of Spike's human face, white and furious. He caught another punch before it landed, yanked, and took the tail end of an off-balance blow on his shoulder. Then he was sitting up with both of Spike's wrists in his hands, hanging on while Spike tried to wrench free.

Spike's face was contorted with rage, and he bit his lip as he fought. Some part of Angel's mind noted with approval that he was trying to turn toward the thumb. That had been a lesson, a long time ago. Always turn toward the thumb to break a hold. Unless of course the other man was strong enough to stop you.

He held tighter, waiting for Spike to speak or give up. His ear was ringing from the punch, and his left eye was watering, and now that he was finished being surprised, he was angry. He tightened his grip even more, as hard as he thought he could without snapping Spike's wrists. Spike made a furious little sound and fought harder. He still wasn't looking at Angel; his eyes were fixed on nothing, and his face was tight and masklike. Angel stared at him, his anger ebbing. Spike kept fighting. Stupidly. It was stupid, what he was doing—just yanking and twisting, over and over, when it was clear by now that wasn't going to work. He ought to try for a bite, or use his feet. His face was a rictus.

"Spike," Angel said quietly. Spike's eyes rolled over him as if he were a bystander. "Spike, what are you doing?"

Spike gave a little start, and his arms went limp. Angel held on, just in case. They looked at each other for a moment, Spike stunned, Angel blinking tears from his left eye. Spike glanced down at Angel's hands on his wrists.

"What, are we an item now?" he asked, giving his hands a shake.

Angel stared at him a moment longer, then let go cautiously. Spike rubbed his wrists. "Ow. Bastard."

"You just hit me."

Spike looked at him critically. "Well, you deserved it."

"You remember doing it?"

"Sure." He turned away as he said it. "Wouldn't want to lose such a precious memory as that, would I?"

"You seem...a little strange."

"Christ, look who's talking. Where's the remote?"

Angel watched as Spike wandered around the room, picked up the phone book, put it down, fingered the plastic-wrapped glasses on the bureau, looked sideways through the blinds. He passed the remote without touching it.

"Are you all right?"

"Be all right when I finally ram a stake through your tiny quisling heart." He went back to the window and peered out again, rubbing his wrist. "What time is it?"

"Just past three o'clock."

"What time's sunset?"

"Nine."

Spike laughed mirthlessly and walked back across the room to his bed. "You know they have websites can tell you that now," he said, falling onto the mattress on his back. "Tell you sunset, sunrise, anywhere in the world."

Angel watched Spike toe his boots off and arrange his arms behind his head.

"I remember," Spike said, closing his eyes, "you used to thrash me no end for not knowing when sunset was."

Angel lowered his head and ran his hand over his face.

"Never did any good," Spike said. "Still can't tell."

Angel waited, but that was it. After a while he lay back on his bed and stared at the ceiling, trying to think.



Spike slept like a corpse, his hands behind his head and his ankles crossed, a little frown on his face. He looked tired. The skin was tight over his cheekbones, and there were smudges under his eyes.

Angel sat with his back to the wall, his arms hanging over his knees, watching Spike sleep. He hadn't noticed before—he'd been too busy hauling Spike out of Sunnydale, trying not to get stabbed or bitten or staked in the process—but Spike was getting thin. His wrist bones, when Angel had held them earlier, had felt naked. The bruise on his cheek and temple hadn't healed yet. Angel glanced at it and then away. Why had he punched Spike, again? Self-defence. He thought about the feeling of his fist connecting, the hard brief gleeful pain in his hand and forearm, and winced. Well, Spike had been trying to land his own punches, trying to get out of the crypt and disappear. There hadn't been much choice. And once Spike had hit the ground, he'd stopped.

He glanced back at the bruise, rubbed the side of his face, and looked away.

Spike's getting out of hand, Buffy had said. I can't stake him like this, it seems... I don't know, heartless. I was hoping you could maybe come and do a little no bad dogs with him.

He hadn't asked many questions. Any questions. Staring at the angle of Spike's rib cage, he wondered why he'd been so willing to do this. And what exactly was he going to do with Spike, now that he had him?

The plan had been to take him back to the Hyperion and then decide. There were plenty of rooms, plenty of things to tie him to, and when he started to feel like knocking Spike's teeth down his throat, he could always walk away and let Wesley or Cordelia take over for a while. It wasn't much of a plan, but it was a start.

Angel looked back at the moons under Spike's eyes, and thought about the way he'd fought the hold—dumbly, frantically. The way he might have done it lifetimes ago, when he was first made and didn't even know the proper way to make a fist. He'd been such a milquetoast. Tried to learn, but didn't. Well he'd learned to turn toward the thumb. Turn toward the thumb or I'll kick you down the stairs, boy. No wonder he learned.

Angel blinked and twitched his head as if that could make the memory go, then found his gaze drawn back to the cant of Spike's ribs. He suddenly wanted to see exactly how thin Spike was, and he stood up, reached out, and lifted the bottom of Spike's shirt. Spike's belly was pale and concave, and his hipbones showed at the top of his jeans. Angel stared at him, expecting him to wake up and snarl. He didn't. After a minute Angel dropped his shirt again and went back to sit on his own bed. He'd had a strong urge to put his palm on Spike's stomach, in the smooth cup of hunger.

He sat on his bed for a long while, staring alternately at Spike and the carpet. At last he got up, patted his coat pockets for his cell phone and keys, and went silently out of the room.



Spike rose smoothly out of ink-black sleep toward a voice predicting warmth. He looked left and saw that Angel was sitting on the foot of the other bed, watching a local weather forecast with the sound turned low.

"Fucking hypocrite."

Angel waved a hand vaguely, and turned the volume up. They'd panned east now; it was going to be ninety-five in Sunnydale tomorrow. Did he watch the Sunnydale weather report every day? Pathetic. Spike sat up and looked at the clock; it read half past eleven. "Fuck!" Angel glanced over. "Supposed to get dark at nine, I thought."

Angel nodded. "It did. It's dark now."

"What are we doing here, then?"

"You were asleep."

"I know that, gobshite. Why didn't you wake me up?"

"You need the rest." Angel turned back to the television, and Spike sat up and grabbed the clock off the night table. "Don't." He didn't turn to look, and Spike weighed the clock in his hand a minute, running a finger over one hard plastic corner and staring at the back of Angel's head. Finally he dropped the clock in disgust and got up.

"Fine, let's go."

Angel raised the remote and turned the television off. Spike tensed and stood waiting, but Angel didn't say anything. He sat staring at Spike's boots, his elbows on his knees and his fingers templed loosely. Spike raised his arms in frustration. "What? What's the fucking problem now?"

Angel was silent for another moment; then he shifted slightly and seemed to square his shoulders. When he looked up, his face was impassive. "There's no problem. We're not leaving."

Spike stared at him. "What?"

Angel didn't repeat himself. Spike scowled and half-laughed, staring around the room. "What—you want to stay here?"

Angel picked up the remote, stood, and put it in the cabinet beside the television. He closed the cabinet doors and turned back to Spike. "Go back to sleep."

Spike gaped at him a moment longer, then snorted, shook his head, and started for the door. "Well, you can set up house if you like, I'm bloody leaving."

"Don't."

He flipped the safety bar off and started to turn the knob, and Angel was right behind him. He flinched slightly, turned, and struck out, but Angel only caught the punch in one hand and put the bar back on with the other. Spike was pressed against the door, and his other arm was trapped. He swallowed. "Piss off, you pathetic wanker. Go watch the Weather Channel some more, see if they show her house."

That got no reaction at all, except a silence too long for comfort. He tried to pull his hand free, but Angel held it still. "Fucking hell, let—"

"I told you to go back to sleep." Angel's tone was low and flat. The hairs on the back of Spike's neck rose, and he twisted his other arm free and tried to punch with that one. Angel batted it aside almost without looking, because it was Spike's right hand, his slow hand, no surprise there. The surprise was in the fact that Angel's own hand followed through, fastened on his throat, and began to squeeze.

He coughed in shock and tried to writhe free, but Angel only squeezed harder. It couldn't kill him, couldn't knock him out, but it hurt like having his head cut off. He clutched at Angel's hands, caught a glimpse of Angel watching him with dark dispassionate eyes, and tried to kick. He connected with something, he couldn't tell what, and Angel winced, then pulled a fist back and slammed it into the side of his head.

He had the vague sense that he was being dragged, and then he landed on something soft. His head was roaring, and his tongue tasted its own blood. Distracting. It was dark in the room now. He tried to get up on his elbows, and something shoved him back down. A heavy shape leaned over him.

"What did I tell you?"

He rolled his head away, and a hand slipped under his cheek and turned his face back. He looked up, squinting slightly. Angel was regarding him coldly. He half-smiled and wondered if he could spit that far straight up.

"What's funny?"

Spike laughed and swallowed more blood. "You are, you fucking berk. You're not him."

"Not who?"

"Oh, are we playing Jeopardy now? Should I phrase my answer in the form of—" Angel pinned him with a hand on his chest and smacked him hard across the face.

"I'm not who, Spike?"

"You're a limp, whinging Slayer-lackey, is what you are. A bloody step-n-fetchit favour-currying traitor. Fucking deserter, mate."

"I'm not your mate."

Spike laughed again, lifted a hand experimentally, and when Angel didn't stop him, wiped the blood from his lip. "Oh, pardon me. I meant to say, you're a fucking deserter sir. That's right, isn't it? I'm supposed to make believe you're Angelus, and have some sense thumped into me?" He started to push up onto his elbows, and Angel put a hand on his throat and shoved him back down again. "For Christ's sake, it's not going to—"

"What did I tell you to do?" Angel asked quietly. His eyes were dark and depthless. Spike squirmed.

"You planning to sit on me all night, mate? Because I can't think of any other way you're going to keep me—"

Angel's face twisted, and for a moment Spike thought he was in tears. Then he smelled the pure sweet smell of the demon, and his confusion and pleasure lasted just as long as it took the white streak of fang to bury itself in his throat.

He was crushed under Angel's body, his eyes and mouth wide, grabbing at the empty darkness. A frantic choked clucking sound came from somewhere. The teeth were hot and freezing in his neck, he could feel Angel pulling hard, the blood hurrying out of him, and the pain was unbelievable. He tried to buck free, tried to grab Angel's neck or arm to throw him off, but his hands were cold and clumsy all of a sudden, and he couldn't shift Angel's weight. He tried to remember what Angelus had told him to do. Eyes. Knees and eyes. Don't let it pull you under. Don't get sleepy. Don't get warm.

He tried to dig at Angel's eyes, but couldn't find them. He couldn't feel his feet to kick. He hadn't eaten in three days. Before that, only pigs' blood. His body was so heavy, and Angel was so heavy on top of him. It was almost nice. Nice to feel another body pressed along his own, a hand clasping his shoulder, a mouth at his neck. Angel's erection pressed into his thigh. The room was even darker now, and very quiet. He closed his eyes and felt his hands stop clawing weakly at Angel's back and simply rest on it, in a kind of embrace.



Some time later Angel raised his head. Spike lay in a kind of tipsy swoon, a slight smile on his face and a dark stain creeping out over the blanket by his neck. His hands fell limply from Angel's back and lay on the mattress beside him.

Angel swallowed and said quietly, "What did I tell you to do?"

There was a long pause.

"Sleep," Spike murmured at last.

"Good," Angel said. He pressed two fingers over the wounds in Spike's neck. "Tell me who I am, Spike."

A longer pause. Spike rolled his head woozily from one side to the other, tried to focus his eyes, then closed them with a smile.

"Spike."

Spike's lips moved, but no sound came out. Angel slapped his cheek lightly. "Answer me, boy."

Spike opened his eyes and looked at Angel, lucid for a moment. "Fucking Judas," he said, and smiled, and slept.



It was almost three o'clock in the morning before he moved again, and then it was just a slight shifting of his legs under the blanket. Angel stayed where he was, in the armchair on the far side of the room. He'd been sitting watching the headlights stream past on the freeway. They were smooth and hypnotic, and they helped keep him from getting up and walking out, or walking back across the room to the bed. His mouth tasted of William.

There was another faint shifting sound, and he looked over. Even in the darkness he could see the thin body coming around, one pale hand snaking out of the sheets and clutching at the edge of the mattress for balance. It took him a couple of tries to sit up. Then he sat slumped and round-shouldered in the middle of the bed, unmoving, his eyes closed.

Angel stood up and walked over.

The bleeding had stopped hours ago, but there was still a flaking stain down the side of Spike's neck, and the scabs like moist black plugs. As Angel watched, Spike raised his hand and touched them lightly. His face was confused and annoyed.

"What the fu—?" He was slurring, and he couldn't quite sit up straight yet. Angel took him by both shoulders to push him back against the wall. He jumped when he was touched, tried to punch, and jumped again when Angel caught the slow clumsy blow. His eyes were huge and panicked, and his face was white as chalk. His hand turned in Angel's, grabbed hold, and squeezed.

"You're all right," Angel said quickly. "It's all right, you're fine."

Spike swallowed, blinked, and glanced around the room. His face hardened. "You still here?" he muttered, and tried to pull his hand free.

Angel took a breath and looked down. "That's a terrible fist." He pried Spike's hand open and remade it, one finger at a time, thumb last. Spike's wrist felt thinner than ever in his grip. "I thought you learned this," he said as he let go.

Spike snatched his hand back to his chest, as if from a fire. "You bloody drained me," he said in a tone of bemused indignation. His hand drifted up to his neck again, and his fingers pushed lightly at the scabs. After a minute, he dropped his hand and said, "That's completely fucking offside."

Angel had too much blood rushing through his gut and head not to laugh, but he stopped when he saw the look on Spike's face. "What do you mean, offside?"

"You know what I mean, you miserable prick. You did it so I couldn't leave."

"I did it because you wouldn't do what I told you to do, Spike."

"Oh, right, because we're playing master-and-servant, I forgot."

"We're not playing anything."

Spike shook his head, his eyes flicking away over Angel's shoulder, checking the corners of the room. "What the fuck do you want?" he demanded suddenly.

Angel settled himself a little more solidly on the edge of the bed, and waited until Spike looked at him. "I want you to tell me who I am," he said.

"Well, that's bloody easy. You're a soft—"

"Spike."

"Oh, I get it. I can't leave until I say you're him? Right, you're him. You're bloody Angelus, Scourge of Europe, Plague of the Indies, Pox of America. I can go now, right?"

Angel reached out and put his hand over Spike's feet, still under the blanket. Spike flinched, then sneered and held still.

"If you could," Angel said, "where would you go?"

"Disneyland." Angel circled one hand around Spike's ankle and didn't say anything. He didn't squeeze, just let his hand rest there. After a minute, Spike said, "Sunnydale."

"Why?"

"My stuff's there."

"Would you stay there?" Spike laughed sharply, then put his hand up to his head as if he felt dizzy. After a minute he said, "Dunno. It's a funny place. Anything can happen."

"What about that army group? The ones who put the chip—" Spike kicked his leg free and Angel tensed, but Spike didn't try to get up. "They're looking for you."

"What the fuck do you care?" Spike's tone was loud and sharp, and Angel reached for his leg again. Spike tried to pull it away, but Angel caught it and gave a warning tug. "I can keep out of their way all right. Plenty of other idiots around to fill the Petrie dish."

Angel sat silently, rubbing his thumb in a small circle against Spike's leg. After a minute Spike said, "That's annoying," so he stopped.

"You're a nuisance to Buffy," he said. "She won't stake you while you're...like this, but I can't let you go back there and harass her anymore." Spike tried to yank his leg free again, and Angel tightened his grip and held on. "And it's not safe for you, either."

"Since when do you give a tinker's fuck what's safe for me?"

"I'm your sire, Spike."

"The fuck you are. And I don't remember him giving much of a toss either, frankly."

"Spike."

"And I don't need your bleeding-heart welfare program, either, mate. I'm all grown up now. Perfectly capable of taking care of myself in the big bad world."

Angel studied his hand on Spike's leg. "Then what are you doing here?"

Spike stared at him for a second, then looked away. "How long you planning on camping here, exactly? Because I'll want to order a couple of movies."

Angel just looked at him, and the silence stretched out. Spike stared at the wall and touched his neck again, tentatively, then dropped his hand when he noticed himself doing it. Angel ran his tongue over his teeth. He still had the taste in his mouth.

"Show me the book where it says draining is unfair," he said conversationally. Spike jerked his head around and glared at him. "You think it's unfair because you weren't expecting it. Because you trusted me."

Spike's eyes narrowed. "Because you're a poof."

"It never crossed your mind that I might do that."

"I don't think like a poof, I guess."

"No. You think like someone fighting his sire."

"Oh, Christ."

"If I'd been someone else, would you have let me pin you down that easily?" Spike opened his mouth, then closed it. Angel leaned toward him. "Either you were off your guard because you trusted me or you were too weak to fight. Take your pick."

There was a pause. Finally Spike said, "Just haven't eaten in a while," his eyes fixed on the blanket.

"Why haven't you eaten?"

"On a regime."

"You can take animal blood. There are places in Sunnydale to get it."

Spike looked up and met Angel's eyes evenly. "That's rich," he said. "Coming from the one who just drained me."

"You're a mess. You're not eating because you don't have any money to buy blood. You're half-starved, you can't fight. You're lunch."

"Right. Thanks."

"I know what it's like, Spike. I was like that once." Spike scowled and shook his head, but didn't speak. Angel studied him a minute, then said, "I didn't make you to be like this."

As soon as he'd said it he wanted to take it back. It was the wrong thing to say, it was the wrong thing even to think. He only thought it because he had the rich nostalgic taste in his mouth, and he'd just felt the joy-seizure of pinning a struggling body with his own, surrendering to what was best in the world, the sweet tight thrust of his fangs into flesh. He'd been grinning when he'd bitten.

He'd done it for Spike's own good.

He wanted to do it again.

He closed his eyes for just a second, and opened them to find Spike staring at him.

"No," Spike said. "You made me to be a murderer." His eyes were very clear and bright now.

"I made you..." Angel said, and then couldn't think of how to finish. After a minute, he realized that was enough, and said it again. "I made you."

Spike fingered the scabs on his neck in silence.

Angel ran his hand over his face and then looked back at him. "When, exactly, did you do that to your hair?" Spike shrugged. "I liked it better before."

"Before when?"

"Before. The way it was when you were..."

"Alive?"

Angel paused. "When you were William."

Spike's face tightened, and he drew himself up and cocked his head slightly. "What colour was it?" he said.

Angel opened his mouth, thinking of William curled up asleep in the corner of a jolting carriage. His hair—it had been a kind of dark blonde. Maybe brown. It had always been night, and the lights were so weak in those days.

He was still sitting with his mouth open, and Spike laughed bitterly.

"Bastard," he said.

There wasn't much he could say to that, and he felt a wrench of sadness. He tried to smile. "A lot's changed," he said.

"Not really. Not the sort of thing he'd remember either."

Angel shook his head. "I remember...all kinds of things. Things about you, and Dru, and Darla, about how we were." He felt Spike stiffen at the mention of Dru. "I remember houses we had, and...people. I remember people we killed, Spike." He glanced up. Spike was watching him closely.

"Yeah?" he said curtly. "So do I."

"I remember what I was like. I remember teaching you things. Like how to make a fist. And how to get out of a hold."

"How to take a thrashing," Spike supplied, but the corners of his mouth had turned up slightly.

"Yes. And I remember...other things. About how we were then." He could have said more but he stopped, and waited to see if Spike would acknowledge that. Spike wasn't smiling anymore; he stared at Angel with an utterly serious expression for several seconds, then looked away.

"Where are my smokes?"

"It's a non-smoking room."

"Probably a non-draining room too, poof. I feel like shit, I want a cigarette."

Angel stood up, went to Spike's coat, and took his cigarettes and lighter from the pocket. He came back and handed them to Spike, who took them with a nod and lit one. He breathed in deeply, sighed, and sat examining the orange tip.

"So, you spend a lot of time reliving the glory days?" he asked, blowing out a jet of smoke. "Bit pathetic, that."

"I know."

Spike looked sideways at him, and dragged on the cigarette. "So you remember all that crap. So what?"

Angel shook his head. "I don't know." He watched a string of smoke rise to the ceiling. "But I remember all that, I carry all that around, so I must be him."

Spike snorted. "We're back on that, are we? You still want to wear the sash and crown." He shook his head. "You may remember a few things, but that doesn't make you the real item. You're a knockoff."

"Maybe."

"Angelus wouldn't be fetching me cigarettes, idiot. He wouldn't be the Slayer's personal secretary. And he wouldn't have let them put—" He broke off and took a fierce drag of the cigarette. There was a short silence.

"Maybe."

"No, definitely. He was a brutal bastard, but he wasn't a turncoat."

"You miss him."

Spike shook his head derisively. "I'm not an idiot. I don't miss having my head staved in on a regular basis, no. But what's the other option—you?" He stared at Angel and laughed. "I'd rather him, yeah. At least he wasn't a hypocrite."

"I'm not—"

"Oh, right. It sickens you, the violence. 'How can they do that? Monsters!' You got a hard-on when you drained me."

"I didn't—"

"You sit around remembering all this stuff, killing and fucking and all those bad, wrong things, and it gets you off."

"No, it—"

"You wish you were still like us. You said it just now—you didn't make me to be ornamental." Angel sat in silence, his hands at his sides. Spike paused, smoked a little, then pointed the cigarette at him. "You're not him. But you wish you were."

"Sometimes." He stared at the window on the far side of the room, the endless string of lights. "It was simpler."

"Well, I wish you were too," Spike said. "I bloody wish you were him, too."

"No. You don't."

Spike studied him, then took a final drag off the cigarette and stubbed it on the packet. He brushed a little ash off the blanket and looked around. "What now?"

"Now you tell me who I am."

"Oh right. And if I don't, you'll suck another couple pints out of me?"

"Spike." Angel leaned forward until they were too close for comfort, and watched Spike pull back against the wall. "I won't let you go like this. Neither would he. So either way, you're going to do it."

Spike sat silently with his head pressed against the wall, his eyes cold and his mouth tight. Angel waited. After a minute, Spike said slowly, "You're breathing my blood on me."

Angel leaned forward and pressed his lips to Spike's. For a long moment Spike did nothing at all. He just sat still, his mouth closed, making no sound. Angel closed his eyes and let himself go a little, let himself breathe in all the unimportant smells, the modern smells that meant nothing, and the old familiar smell beneath them. The smell of William's skin, William's mouth, William's forgotten hair somewhere under the disguise. Some part of his mind kicked up a fossil thought: he's been smoking, I'll have to take that out of him later on.

He heard Spike shift, and without opening his eyes he gauged carefully what was about to happen. It was what he thought; Spike's arm came up and dropped over his shoulder in a weary embrace. Spike pulled his face away and rested the back of his head against the wall. Angel's eyes were open now; he was staring at the holes in Spike's throat. The smell of William's blood itched in the roof of his mouth.

Spike's other arm came up and settled over him, and then Spike was pulling him into an awkward hug. Angel raised his own arms and closed them carefully around the thin shoulders, gathering them in, stroking the back of Spike's neck.

"It's all right," he said, feeling Spike's head push blindly into the curve of his throat. It made his eyes prick, made him blink and swallow and press his palm to the sad round bone at the top of Spike's spine. "It's all right, Will, you're all right." Spike's fingers tightened in his shirt, and he closed his eyes briefly and touched the back of Spike's head, where the cut must have been. Sweet Jesus, they'd cut into his head. He wanted to kiss it, wanted to cover it with his hand and banish it. He wanted to make his boy whole again. Make him his boy again. His erection was back.

There was a moment of silence, and Spike's grip on his shirt became tighter and tighter, and began to tremble. Angel frowned. "Spike, are you—"

There was a blinding pain in his right shoulder, where Spike's head was buried, and he jerked away with a grunt. Spike was leering at him in game face, blood on his chin. Angel looked down; there was a tear in his shirt, a pair of long ugly gashes in the flesh of his shoulder. Dark blood was welling out of them and running down his arm. He stared, lifted his left hand and touched the wetness gently, and examined it between his finger and thumb.

For a few seconds it was too astonishing to make any sense of. He looked up at Spike. "What—why did you do that?"

Spike was licking blood off his lip, watching him with a calculating expression. "Because I could," he said. "You're not him. Fucker."

The blood was running down Angel's chest and back, tickling. His shoulder throbbed. Somewhere in his gut, a red-black inferno was building, crowding up into his chest and throat, until he couldn't remember what William had smelled or tasted like, or why he'd ever cared. Blood ran out the cuff of his shirt and down his palm to his fingertips. He raised his hand, studied it, then flicked the blood away and turned to Spike.

"Come on then," Spike said, smiling and settling back against the wall.

The world was red and black and stank of fury, and he was part of it. He launched himself without hesitation at the bitter ghost in front of him.



The first time had only hurt until he'd sunk into the idyll, and then it had felt good. The second time didn't stop hurting. Angel didn't let it. He bit and bit, bruising Spike's jaw with the hard edge of his forehead, bruising Spike's collarbone with the hard edge of his chin. He yanked the blood out in black ropes, gulped it, knocked Spike's head to the side and bit again while the first wound drooled into the sheets. His hands were cold and hard as lead weights dropped on Spike's throat and chest.

When it started, Spike was smiling; at the first bite, he even laughed. That made Angel snarl, and that in turn made Spike laugh again, even as the heel of Angel's hand came up and rammed into his cheek. It was too amusing: Angel trying so desperately to be the thing he hated. All the hitting and biting and throwing-around-of-weight. It was pathetic. Angelus had done the same things, but he'd done them effortlessly, thoughtlessly, joyfully. He'd been made to do them. But he was gone.

He laughed again and Angel reared up and punched him twice in the face, hard. Then he dropped back down and bit again, and Spike had stopped laughing now; the punches had split his lip and blood was weakly filling his mouth. He turned his head to let it spill out and tried to push at Angel's shoulder. The teeth seared in his neck, and the smell of iron filled his nose.

"Stop it," he said quietly, as if they were having a reasonable conversation and this might be enough. Angel pulled off, just to bite again. His body was rigid and heavy, trembling, his fingers jammed stiff into Spike's skin. The pillow beneath Spike's head was soaked and cold. He began to feel a quiver of panic.

"Stop it," he said again, a little louder. He was slurring. He pushed again at Angel's shoulder, and tried to twist free. There was a tearing pain in his neck. Angel growled and fumbled his hand over Spike's face to his chin, then pulled his head farther to the side and bit again. Spike tried to wrench his head free and couldn't, tried to bite and couldn't get purchase. Angel's fingers were cold and slippery with blood. His growl was a deep long vibration between their bodies.

"Bastard," Spike said faintly, trying to hold his eyes open. Angel shifted and bit again, and the pain was like a cord hoisting his knee up between Angel's legs, but he knew even before Angel shifted that it wasn't going to work. The teeth knifed out and in again, and he lay with his head pinned to the side, the growl shaking his guts, a thin string of white lights sliding silently by in the dark. He was warm and tired and afraid.

"Don't kill me," he whispered, and covered his eyes with his own blood-stained hand.



He surfaced wearily to fingers raking over his scalp. He was still warm, still floating, and the room was black as a mouth. He couldn't tell which way he was lying, or where Angel was. There were the hands in his hair, and there was the stink of blood in his nose and mouth. The hands felt good. Something was pressing into the back of his leg. He blinked and started to slide, and the hands pulled his shirt over the top of his head.

He wanted to struggle, but his limbs were loose and boneless, and he couldn't even protest as he was rolled onto his back and his jeans unbuttoned. His eyes wouldn't stay open, his mouth wouldn't stay closed. He was vaguely certain he looked idiotic, and wished at least for the dignity to control his face. His jeans came off in one yank.

Angel dropped heavily down on top of him, still clothed, not taking any particular care. His head pushed into Spike's neck and Spike flinched, but there were no teeth. Just a cold tongue pushing at the warm sore glow in his neck, and if he lay still and closed his eyes he could pretend it was meant as a comfort. Angel's finger pushed his chin aside, and his tongue worked roughly down to Spike's collarbone.

Spike lay staring with half-lidded eyes at the string of lights outside the window. Lights dragging on like lives, the sort of thing that Dru saw all the time. He wondered if she'd seen this coming for them, if it was why she'd been so desperate sometimes. He and Angelus both unmanned, Darla gone. The family fallen to ruins. Poor Dru. Wandering somewhere, God knew where. There was a curse, there must be.

He felt a hot sting at the corners of his eyes and closed them, then lifted his hand and let it rest on the back of Angel's head. His hair was thick and soft and strangely short. It had always been longer; he'd kept it that way, past all reason. Darla liked it, and Dru was too mad to notice. Will had made some comment about it once, and had his wrist broken for his trouble.

Angel shook his head slightly and moved it away, and the cold tongue travelled over to Spike's shoulder. His hand felt strangely empty now. He wanted to lapse again, faint or sleep or whatever it was, but couldn't. Angel's tongue was cool and rough and comforting on his throat, attending to him. Cleaning him. He wanted so much to close his eyes and believe it was Angelus. Open his eyes and see that hard cruel beautiful face in the darkness over him. Mocking him, and owning him.

Angel's hands slipped under his shoulder and waist and flipped him neatly over, so he was lying on his belly. A white arc of panic leapt through his brain and he somehow found the strength to scrabble at the sheets and pull himself half off the bed. Angel pulled him back. Something hard pressed against his thigh and he tried again to get free, but Angel's weight was on him now. He turned his head and tried to slash with his teeth. Angel pressed his head into the pillow so he was blind and deaf, so all he could see was the colour strobes behind his eyelids, and all he could hear was the click of his own throat as it convulsed.

Angel was lying full length on top of him, cold and heavy, the fabric of his shirt and trousers the only thing between them. Light fabric, California fabric. Angelus wore heavier stuff. One of Angel's hands was holding Spike's left wrist against the bed; the other one was on his head. His mouth touched the back of Spike's neck, then the base of his skull. His thumb ruffled the hair there, as if he were looking for something. Spike lay still, and after a moment Angel took the hand off his head and pressed it down the muscle of his back, just right of his spine.

It felt good, and Spike pushed up into it for a moment, then remembered and flattened himself against the bed again. Angel didn't seem to notice. He brought his hand back up to Spike's shoulder and pressed down the left side of his spine. He had to lift up a little to do it, but Spike didn't try to shift free. He kept his face pressed to the pillow, and let the hard fingers press into his back and buttocks. It was the sort of thing Angelus might have done to look for an injury. Every inch examined. No shame, no privacy.

Vaguely he realized that there was no hand holding his arm to the bed now, that both hands were on his back, one holding loosely to the nape of his neck while the other dragged down his skin and ground into the muscle just above his buttock. Then it moved smoothly down and without hesitation pushed his legs apart. The fingers touched him and he shivered and tried to pull away, but the hand on his neck held him still. He lay watching the strobes behind his eyelids, while the hand between his legs ran lightly over the insides of his thighs.

There was no great traumatic memory from the white room, that was the thing. No large-bore needles or restraints, no leering Mengele with clipboard and saw. It had all taken place when he was asleep, and when he'd woken up he'd got out fast, before he'd even known what they'd done to him. And really, there was a part of him that caught the fair play in the turnabout. He'd murdered hundreds of them in his day; why shouldn't they have a go at him? He could almost admire the gall.

The nightmare was in being crippled. Crippled and useless and alone, a blight and a laughingstock. Alone. He'd been alone since Dru left; why should it bother him now? He hadn't thought of Angelus in years, except to hate him. Why should he want him now?

The hand moved between his legs and cupped him, gently and almost impersonally, as if this too were simply an examination, a procedure to be completed. He was soft, barely budding; he hardly had the blood in him to keep the room from swaying, so there was none to spare for this. He felt it nonetheless, and let his legs fall farther apart in mute abdication. The hand stroked him, then moved back between his buttocks and entered him barely, gently.

He pressed his forehead to the pillow and thought how strange it was, that it should feel like this and that he should remember it so clearly. There was a mouth grazing the back of his neck, fingers in his hair, and everything was moving so slowly. As if time had quit and the lights had fallen still, and there would never be a waking or another loss. This was the world he'd let slip. Silent midnight, the smell of blood. A body overtop his own.

He gathered his weight on his elbows and pushed back weakly against the finger, and it entered him smoothly, completely. He was a little harder now, not much. The mouth brushed his ear, his jaw. An arm settled around his waist and helped him push back against the hand again, then held him while the finger crooked slightly inside him. He gasped.

The mouth moved up from his jaw and he turned his face away before it could reach his lips. He pressed back again on the hand instead, and gasped again when the finger pulled partway out, then pushed back in. His head was alive with lights. The arm had left his waist, and he could feel his shoulders shaking under his own weight. The body behind him shifted, and he heard fabric, the sound of a zipper. That sent a deep buckling pulse through him, and he groaned. The finger inside him pulled out. He splayed his legs farther and dropped his head onto his knotted hands.

There was a passing brush against his buttock, and then, while he was still taut with that intimacy, a firm cool pressure between his legs. A pair of fingers opened him slightly, rubbed him, wetted him with a few drops of something cool. He moaned and pushed back, but there was no answering thrust. The fingers stroked him, pressed gently into him, then pulled out and ran over his cock. He still wasn't hard. He wanted to be, but he couldn't.

The body behind him shifted again, and he tried to lever himself up again, tried to hold his exhausted muscles still, but instead of a hand or a cock between his legs he got a mouth at his ear.

"Tell me," Angel said quietly, "who I am."

Spike lay still, the lights circling behind his eyes. Angel's cock rubbed a cool wet line between his legs, and he pushed back, but Angel pulled away.

"I don't know," Spike said. "I don't know what you want me to say."

"You do." A hand pushed his legs farther apart, helped him steady himself.

"I don't—I can't say you're him. You're not him."

"No."

"Then what do you want me to say?" He heard the desperation in his own voice and cringed. That Angel should hear him like this, that Angel should have made him like this. That he should want this from Angel at all. He ground his head into the pillow, jerked and gasped when the finger pushed inside him again. "Oh, God."

Angel's hand was on his shoulder, rubbing the muscle. "I'm not him," he said. "But you're still mine. That's what I want you to say, Spike."

Spike kept silent, trembling, arching back against the finger in him. Angel put his free hand to Spike's hair. "Spike." A moment later, he tightened his fingers and said, "Boy."

"I'm yours," Spike said quietly. There was no point in fanfare, or maybe it was all fanfare. Enough. He was a traitor now too. He'd had enough of being alone.

Angel bit his shoulder lightly, shifted his weight, and pushed into him. Cold and hard and too big, but the pain was part of the memory and he pushed back hard to earn more of it. He was gasping. Angel's teeth were working at the skin of his back, kissing and biting without breaking the skin. His arm was around Spike's waist, pulling him close, holding him still. Spike reached back and scrabbled weakly at Angel's back and side, felt the light California fabric of his shirt, and gathered it tight in his fist.

Why should it make such a difference, when he knew that tomorrow night he'd be back in Sunnydale, and Angel would be driving west? He knew it. Wasn't an idiot. Darla was gone, Dru was wandering. There was no family anymore. Time didn't stop, no matter how long you lived, or what you did. The lights never really stood still.

Angel kissed his back and thrust harder into him, and he tried to push back but had no strength left to do it. He felt burned and scraped inside. He was grinning into the mattress, and his face was wet.

He'd still be a cripple tomorrow, and he still wouldn't have seen that hard beautiful face in over a hundred years. He might never see it again. Maybe he didn't really want to. He remembered a lot, like Angel, but he'd forgotten some things too. Some of them on purpose.

"You're mine," Angel said sharply, as if he knew exactly what Spike was thinking, and Spike grinned wider and found a little bit of strength in his legs to lift and roll. Angel gasped and put a hand on the small of his back, then grabbed his hip and thrust desperately into him, saying something that wasn't his name or any word at all. Spike felt the cold wet jerking inside him, and somehow he had his own orgasm as well, a moment long and hardly even damp, but sweet and hollowing nonetheless.

Angel shuddered and dropped on top of him, pressing him into the mattress, licking the back of his neck. He'd always done that. It felt good.

He did it for a minute or two, then stopped abruptly, as though he'd become self-conscious. "Spike?" he said. "Spike, are you all right?"

Spike nodded. He had his eyes closed to hoard the darkness. After a minute he said quietly, "Do that some more."

Angel hesitated, then lowered his head and started to lick Spike's neck again. Spike lay watching the lights slide wearily past in the darkness, wondering how many hours till dawn.

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