One Time Thing

Author: Killa

Spoilers: Slight for last season of Angel

Rating: R

Pairing: Spike/Angel

Disclaimer: all belongs to the bigwigs

Summary: "Me and Angel have never been intimate. Well, except for that one time..."


"Anyway, they're not blue, you know."

It took Angel longer than it should have to put those six words together into a sentence that made sense, and even then, it didn't. That was probably a good measure of how well on his way to being drunk he was. Or maybe Spike was just making less sense than usual, on account of how well on his way to being drunk he was.

Or some combination thereof, he decided, and finished the bottle of bourbon he'd been working on.

"You do know that was a non sequitur, right?"

"Come on, man, keep up. We were talking about Buffy. Despite, notwithstanding that is, the fact that both of us have long since moved on from that relationship--"

"The one of us who actually had a relationship with her, you mean."

"Oh, did too, I'm not having that argument again. And it's irrelevant at this point in the conversation anyway, because despite that very important fact -- us having moved on, I mean -- I'm telling you, her eyes are not blue."

Angel stopped, mid-reach for the vodka that Spike hadn't yet managed to get his lips on. "Yes, they are." He frowned. "Of course they are. Don't be ridiculous."

Spike gave him a look that spoke volumes, and all the volumes were titled, You Sad, Stupid Git.

Angel rolled his eyes. "Look-- Buffy and I are soulmates. Two star-crossed lovers doomed by Fate to suffer the torments of the damned in the hope of redemption. I damn well know what color her eyes are!"

Spike's amusement threatened to become outright laughter. "You're serious. I can't believe it -- you really are serious about this. You don't have any idea, do you?" He shook his head and sank deeper into the couch, chuckling to himself. "Unbelievable. I wonder what she'll say when I tell her?"

Angel felt a tiny, sinking feeling somewhere, but he dismissed it out of hand. Of course Buffy's eyes were blue. Blonde hair, blue eyes, end of story. Spike was screwing with him, that's all. "You think you're funny. But nothing you say is going to convince me, because I know for a fact that Buffy Summers has blue eyes." Next he'd be trying to convince Angel that Darla's eyes weren't blue, either.

The sinking feeling got worse.

He looked at Spike. Spike just raised an eyebrow and shrugged, taking a deep swig from his current bottle of choice, the smirk still playing around his lips.


"You are so not telling her," Angel said, putting as much apocalyptic threat into it as he could muster.

Spike grinned, his own slate-blue eyes sparkling with it. "Dream on, loverboy." At Angel's look, he finally broke up. "Maybe that'll teach you to pay more attention when I try to offer helpful advice."

"When Malroc demons fly."

That put an end to conversation for a while. Angel glowered and brooded and Spike smirked, none of which put a damper on the real work at hand, which was the solemn pact they'd made to keep drinking until both of them were thoroughly and officially plastered. Partners, Angel thought in disgust. It was getting to be a bad habit. If anything was a sign of the coming apocalypse and the dire consequences of the choices he'd made, it was the fact that lately, Spike was the one person he felt he could count on. And how wrong was that?

"You know, one thing I must say," Spike said at last. "These are much bigger bottles than what they had on that plane."

"Amen to that."

"And you know what else?"

"What's that?"

"This couch is really comfortable. Gotta give it to Wolfram & Hart, they know their furniture."

In spite of himself, Angel felt his lips curve. "Counting your blessings?"

"Man's got to start somewhere."

Angel held out his bottle, and Spike clinked his against it.

"D'you think she's happy, though?" Spike asked after a while, and Angel sighed. Spike was the one who'd declared the moratorium on bringing up Buffy's name, and of course it was Spike who kept doing it anyway. He'd always had trouble with coloring inside the lines -- even the ones he drew himself.

"With him? No way."

Spike's expression chastised him for even suggesting it. "Of course not with him. That goes without saying. I mean just in general, do you think she's happy? Better off without us?"

"Better off without you, maybe," Angel shot back.

"Hey, at least I know what color her eyes are."

"Smug bastard." But it was getting harder to muster any real enthusiasm for the fight, when the girl in question was across a continent and an ocean and seemed to be doing perfectly well without either of them. "What's happy, anyway?" Angel said glumly. "Is anybody ever really happy?"

"Right, forgot who I was talking to for a moment."

"I mean, when were you ever happy, really? Before you met Dru?"

"God, no."

"And sure as hell not when you were with us."

Spike looked at him, surprised. "We had some fun. It wasn't all bad." Angel's disbelief must have been obvious. "Maybe you don't remember it that way, but I seem to recall we did have some good times now and then that didn't come with a body count."

"If so, they were few and far between."


"Buffy and I were happy once, and look what happened."

"Yeah, been meaning to thank you for that. You set the bar pretty high with that whole turning evil and trying to kill all her friends thing. Really made it easier on the rest of us."

"Even if you were just the rebound vampire."

"If it makes you feel better to think that, you go right ahead. All I know is--" But he broke off.

"All you know is what?"

Spike looked away, then drank. Something in his expression when he put the bottle down touched an unwilling chord of sympathy in Angel. "All I know," he said at last with a sad, fleeting smile, "is that she made me think it was possible for people like us to be happy. For a little while, at least, there at the end." The wistful sadness lingered only for a moment, then vanished as his eyes met Angel's and he shrugged it off, his expression turning wry. "Anyway, don't know what you're so worried about. Buffy never loved me, not really."

It was definitely a measure of how much Angel had drunk that the words were past his lips, unthinking, before his brain could stop them. "Yes, she--"

He broke off, but too late. Spike was looking at him, a little frown between his eyebrows. His usual restlessness was nowhere in evidence; he seemed to be suddenly holding himself very still. "She tell you that?"

Angel tried to backtrack. "Well, not in so many words, but--"

The frown smoothed out, and for a long second Angel could read nothing in Spike's expression at all. Then he smiled a little, and relaxed. The stillness went out of his body and he started to play with the label on the bottle resting between his thighs. "No, of course she didn't, because it isn't true. It was always you she loved, no matter how much I tried to tell myself it wasn't." His shoulders moved, a shrug that was so familiar to Angel, he could have sketched it from memory. "It's all right, you know? I know she cared for me. I know that much."

Angel could have left it at that. Would have been perfectly happy to leave it at that. Buffy was his, first and forever, and it was good that Spike could finally see that.

It didn't count if you cheated, though. Dammit.

"She told me you were in her heart," he grudgingly conceded.

"She did?"

How did he do that, anyway? Eyes wide and voice uncertain and hopeful, a flash of vulnerable belly that made you forget what he was, what they'd done, what a monumental pain in the ass he could be. Angel grimaced, the flash of insight about just what Buffy had seen in him definitely an understanding he could do without. Girls liked that sensitive guy thing, he remembered. Angel should have been impervious, or something, if anyone should be -- but damned if he wasn't developing a weakness to it.

"She did," he admitted. He was the clear winner in the Buffy Sweepstakes, after all, and it looked like Spike was finally willing to concede the obvious. Angel could afford to be generous. Right?

Spike sighed, and looked away. "It's all bollocks, though. I lied to her, right from the start. And I lied to myself."

Now who was the drama queen? Angel briefly looked heavenward, then let his head fall back against the couch. At last he looked at Spike, impatient. "What are you talking about?"

"After I came back! After I got my soul back. I told her I'd done it for her. I even pretended it was true. I thought it didn't matter, that I could make it true, but it did matter. Does matter. 'Cos I didn't do it for that." His laugh was a soft, self-mocking rumble, and he gestured with his half-empty bottle. "I never even thought of it, d'you see? I just wanted that rotting chip out of my head, that's all. That's what I thought I was fighting for. I was sick of being what I was, of being close to her and never having her, seeing her look at me like that. Like I was nothing. Like I wasn't even worth being afraid of. It drove me bloody bonkers, wanting her, knowing the only reason she even spoke to me was that it made her feel like she was nothing, too." He lifted the bottle and swallowed down the stuff like it was water until it made him cough a little, then wiped his mouth. "That's how I know she never loved me. Because even if she did, a little, what she loved was a lie."

They both fell quiet for a long time. Angel found himself studying him, understanding finally clicking.

"That's why you didn't go to her after you came back. Isn't it? Why you never told her you were alive."

Spike smiled bleakly. "Bully for him! That's right, Monty, show the man what he's won." The smile didn't hold. "Couldn't face her, once I admitted it to myself. Couldn't stand to see her face. And it'd be worse, her thinkin' I was some kind of hero, you know?"

"Funny enough, I do."

"Except you're the genuine article, mate."

"The CEO of Evil, Incorporated? Somehow, I don't think Buffy's saving up her box tops to join my fan club these days."

Spike stopped and looked at him. "You know, for two guys who've supposedly moved on--"

"--we seem to be talking an awful lot about Buffy?"

"Exactly my point."

"And a good point it is, too," Angel conceded.

"Yeah, and you want to know what the really funny part is?"

"What's that?"

Spike sighed morosely, and took another swig from the bottle. "I'll let you know when I think of one."


"That's it," Spike announced. "It's official. I've finally got good and drunk."

"I hope you're not expecting a medal or something."

"No, just that it's about bleedin' time, is all. Shoulda done this days ago. Would've improved things greatly, I'm thinking."

Privately, Angel agreed, on all counts. He wasn't about to show it, but he couldn't feel his knees, and the room felt like it was spinning lazily. A small collection of not-small bottles littered the immediate vicinity of the couch, and he was pretty sure he'd done his share of emptying them. His eyes closed. Blissful silence reigned for a time. Because he'd chosen to get drunk with Spike, that time was short.

"Right. Reckon I'm drunk enough."

"For what?" Angel said, before his better judgment kicked in.

He had time to catch the scent of leather and the sound of weight shifting against it, and then Spike's weight was on him, straddling his lap, thighs pressing against his. Spike didn't answer, just grabbed hold of Angel's shirt and pulled it up without ceremony, fingers finding bare skin. The tip of his tongue touched Angel's neck.

"Spike! Goddammit--" Angel tried to shove him off. But Spike always had been relentless once he smelled weakness, and Angel's dick didn't seem to care that this was all kinds of wrong and more than a little pathetic. It hardened with the first graze of Spike's teeth against his throat, the first whiff of whiskey sweet on his breath.

He knew Spike could feel it, the sudden press of his erection between them -- knew he'd lost the fight before it ever started. Spike gnawed gently on his jugular, tongue busy, hands all over him and hips rocking eagerly against Angel's. "Yeah?" he breathed against Angel's neck. And how much more pathetic was it that he wasn't really all that pissed -- that his fists were knotting in Spike's shirt and mostly what he felt was a kind of desperate relief?

They were too big for the couch. Even under Angel's second half-hearted shove, gravity nearly won; it was a close thing. Saving them from a tumble to the floor by some combination of dexterity, willpower, and luck, Spike counterbalanced and pulled Angel to his feet. Angel didn't fight it. The floor tilted dangerously, but Spike held tight, steadying him. Their eyes met for a long moment, then Spike started undoing his shirt buttons, and he made a clumsy attempt to help with hands that shook.

Really not a good idea, he told himself, but the thought seemed to hit serious interference somewhere in the wires between his brain and the rest of him, which was all too happy to get on board the train as long as it meant he didn't have to think any more. He was sick to death of listening to that little voice inside constantly telling him that he was screwing up, that every move he made just dug them all deeper into the hole he'd carved out for himself. The room reeled, spun. Sick to death. That was a joke. They were all sick to death -- like Fred. Get it? For a second, he hovered on the edge of breaking up, the laugh trapped in his throat like splinters. That's a joke, son--

A sound escaped him, soft and too close to a plea. Spike answered with a sharp pinch to his nipples.

"Stay with me, old man. Got plans for you, and they don't involve you passing out on me. Not just yet, anyway." His fingernails scraped over the tender flesh he'd abused, and Angel's body remembered all on its own that Spike knew him, knew what he liked. How he liked it. Had given it to him more times than he'd counted over the years, willingly or otherwise, not that it had ever mattered to him. Spike knew him. That was what mattered.

They made it to the foot of the bed. "Do it," he said harshly, closing his eyes, struggling against the waves of vertigo. He swayed, and felt Spike move, felt his body behind him, lean and hard and steadier than either of them had any right to be. "Just do it, damn you."

"Always got to have it your way, don't you? All right then." Spike flicked the button of his pants open. In a second he had the zipper down, his hand slipping roughly into the gap, freeing Angel and gripping him hard. Short nails scored Angel's ribs and belly and Spike jerked at his cock, his grasp rough and tight.

Angel spread his legs, thrusting a little in pure animal response, any and all rational thought gone the way of the dodo. Not thinking was good. Rough was good, too. Rough and hard and fast was what he needed, what Spike gave him, hands all over him, jerking him and holding him steady, bracing him so he could let the vertigo and the hot darkness sweep over him. Spike dove down into the vulnerable place between his legs, working him like his own hand, fisting him and squeezing his balls and showing him not a second of mercy, and it was all good. Christ, it was better than good. Don't stop, he wanted to say, but the words wouldn't come. He closed his fist over Spike's instead and let himself lean back, let Spike take his weight. Somehow he'd reached over his shoulder and found the curve of Spike's neck in his hand, solid under his grip. Equilibrium reeled, and he didn't care.

That was when Spike changed the game, stopped jerking Angel off and started stroking him, kissing the back of his neck. Angel stiffened up immediately, shuddering to a halt, jerking away from that unexpected intimacy. The bed got in his way. "What the hell are you doing?"

Spike's head lifted, but he didn't stop the steady stroking. "Doin' what you told me to, mate. Thought we were on the same page, here."

"With my-- on my neck. You kissed me."

"Did not."

"Did so!"

"Oh, for--" Spike broke off. "And so what if I did? You smell good, all right? Sue me. It's not gonna kill you, oh extremely manly one."

Somewhere, Angel thought he had a good answer for that, but Spike was still working him like a pro, slower and steadier now, fingertips starting to get slick. Angel fought to keep his knees steady. "Well-- stop it," he said. It lacked conviction, and he suspected that sound near his ear was Spike laughing at him. He was just mustering the irritation to tell him to fuck the hell off then when Spike shifted and there was a tiny sound like a plastic cap snapping open. A second later, cool, slippery fluid touched his cock and turned the friction suddenly slick and wet. Angel's whole body stuttered. Spike still had his coat on. That incongruous fact registered a second before Angel recovered from the shock of sensation and shuddered in Spike's merciless grip.

"Still want me to stop?"

"Hell, no, I don't want you to-- Where did you get that?"

"Figured it'd do to be prepared. It's not like you're getting any lately, and God knows you're not going to let yourself enjoy it too much when it's just you and the old right hand."

At least my right hand knows when to shut up, Angel thought, but what came out was, "You think you know everything about me, don't you?"

"Know everything that matters. At least for the next little while."

Angel couldn't argue with that, because Spike's hands were slick and doing things to him that made it impossible to think. Things that made him close his eyes again and shiver and forget he didn't need to breathe. Was it like this when--?

The visceral not-memory of being Buffy, of imagining Spike reaching around between her legs, those long, lube-slick fingers slipping inside and against, deliciously stroking vulnerable places, flashed through Angel's whole body, a wave of heat lightning making his legs tremble. His hand found Spike's again, squeezing. And Spike, feeling it, made a sound against Angel's shoulder, a deep, knowing sound that was half chuckle and half sympathetic appreciation. His hand tightened obligingly, moved ever so slightly faster. He let Angel slide between his fingers, knuckles hitting just so, and at Angel's stifled response, did it again. "That's it," he murmured, his voice a deep purr, surprisingly free of the mocking tone Angel knew so well.

Spike shifted closer. Rough denim, his dick hard and confined and suddenly pressing too close against Angel's own vulnerable places. Angel couldn't help recoiling a little, but that just drove him harder against Spike's slick palm, the circle of his fist. He knew he should stop this, should turn and force Spike back against the wall, keep it simple, mutual wank and maybe a little blood, a little rough manhandling, like the old days, like it was supposed to be. But-- God, it felt even better now, too good to stop, and if he was leaning against the bed to hold himself up because his knees felt like they were going to take a vacation any second now, he found it hard to care.

He was close to the point of no return when the cool rush of air replaced Spike's solid presence against his back, and Spike knelt, pushing Angel's pants down. Angel balked. "What are you--?"

"Shh, love. This won't hurt, trust me." Spike tongued him from behind, then, slowly and gently, and nerves fired in a rush that swept straight up Angel's spine, down his thighs, and curled around his balls, made his nipples get hard and quite possibly blew the top of his head off--he couldn't be sure, because he was too busy moaning and feeling his legs give out. Denial surged hotly through him, but somewhere between his brain and the rest of him the message was getting lost, because he wasn't pulling away, wasn't knocking Spike against the wall, he was... he was...

"God-- don't--" His hands clenched and unclenched, desperately needing something to hold on to.

"Shh," Spike murmured again, the soft brush of the exhaled sound raising goose bumps on all-too-sensitive skin.

Then his tongue was stroking Angel again, still slowly but more deeply this time, tenderly, almost, and he had Angel trapped between the firm hand that was opening him and the slick one that still gripped him. Still stroked him. Still--

"Spike," Angel gasped, and he was nothing but shudders now, legs shaking, whole body shaking as his knees pressed against the foot of the bed for support, eyes squeezed shut and God, he was going to come like this, fighting against the terrifying weakness inside of him that wasn't putting a stop to this, this--

Denial ran around inside his head, but there was no escaping the familiar scents of leather and whiskey and pale, cool skin. It was Spike doing this to him, who'd trapped him with his own pants around his knees, whose tongue was melting him from the inside with excruciating persistence. No, he wanted to say. Don't. I can't-- but he couldn't say that, couldn't afford to let himself say that out loud.

Spike rose behind him then with something like a fond, exasperated sigh, leather coat brushing Angel's bare thighs. "You are a piece of work, you know that?"

And before Angel could answer, something cool and smooth closed around his wrist with a metal click.

He had less than a second in which he might have fought it, slipped out of Spike's hold and shoved him back, bought himself a few more seconds of fighting space. It wasn't enough -- not when he'd already given up the fight in every way that mattered, and it was only himself he still struggled against. Spike yanked his right hand behind his back and knocked him forward, off balance, catching his left wrist and snapping the metal cuff around it with a practiced snick.

Now that it was too late, Angel started to struggle in earnest. Outrage swept over him, belated and mortifying. He snarled and lunged at Spike, who wasn't hampered by his pants being down around his legs, and who dodged easily. "You son of a bitch--"

"That's right, and you would know," Spike said, undeterred, and gave a well-placed shove at the center of Angel's chest. They were beside the bed now, and it hit Angel at the back of the knees; inertia and gravity did the rest. His arms were pinned under him, joints protesting at the twisting pressure of the cuffs and his own weight. To add to his indignity, outrage and fury seemed to have no effect on his cock, which remained enthusiastic, to say the least.

Spike's grin as he looked down said he was all too aware of what Angel's libido had to say about the matter.

He didn't give Angel time to protest further. Shrugging out of his coat, he put one knee on the bed, nudged close between Angel's thighs. Spike's own eagerness strained at the seam of his jeans. His nipples were hard under his tight black T-shirt. Angel's mouth felt suddenly dry, and he fought a wave of uneasiness. He wasn't used to that feeling, especially not when it came to Spike, but ever since that night in the desert things had changed between them, no matter how hard he'd tried to pretend otherwise. "Spike," he said, and his voice sounded hoarse. He meant it as a warning, but it came out more like a question.

The grin faded. Spike's eyes raked Angel's body, his exposed chest and belly and cock and thighs, and the intensity in his expression made Angel suddenly very aware of the air against his skin. Spike's eyes never left him as he smoothly stripped the T-shirt off, then unbuckled his belt with one hand. The briefest of thoughts about what he might do with it jolted hot through Angel's body, unpreventable; with another sharp jolt of awareness, he felt the painful twisting of his arms pinned underneath him, the steel binding him, and then Spike bent down and licked him.

"Oh, Christ," Angel breathed, barely audible, and felt himself shudder as the wet caress sent a shock of pleasure to his system. The handcuffs, he realized, were a kindness. His eyes closed of their own volition. Then Spike's tongue was on him again and he had to open them to see the lithe form bent over him, his own helplessness, Spike fumbling with the fastenings of his jeans one-handed.

When Spike finally freed himself and got the lube on them, Angel could feel him shaking. Spike didn't let it stop him, though, just spread the slippery fluid and took them both in his hand, jerking them off slowly, leaning forward without warning and kissing Angel deeply when they were both so close it hurt. His tongue slid against Angel's for long moments before he broke away and closed his eyes, then bowed his head against Angel's collarbone and began jerking them both with tight, steady, hard strokes. God, yes-- Angel bit his tongue to keep from saying it.

"Fucking hell, feels like I've wanted to do this forever," Spike said, fervent and breathless, and Angel, hearing the hitch in his voice when he said it, believed him.

When Angel came he saw stars, maybe because it made him curl up into himself and he banged his head on Spike's. He didn't care, just shuddered and kept coming, sweet and helpless and powerful, like there was no tomorrow. Which, yeah, probably not. Dimly, he felt Spike spilling over him in ragged pulses, trembling and silent. Spike's hand rested against his neck and Angel wondered if he knew it was there.


Angel spent a long, empty time coming back down. When he found himself capable of swallowing, pushing himself up on the pillows, Spike was already sitting with one leg over the edge of the bed, jeans pulled up but still undone, rummaging in his discarded coat for his cigarettes.

Angel watched him lean back against the headboard next to him and wet the paper between his lips, and he thought about Spike's mouth on him. Spike had never done that willingly before. Plenty of times on his knees, Angelus's fist in that ridiculous, foppish hair of his, forcing him to take it down his throat -- but never of his own choice. Maybe that's why he wore it short and practically impenetrable now, Angel thought. Armor, like rest of the image he'd so carefully cultivated. What happened between them had always been about ego, and power, and blood shared -- never about desire. Never before, anyway. And sure as hell never about anything more than that.

Get real, you idiot. Next you'll be looking for love poems. Or writing them, God help us all.

He shifted, making a soft grunt of discomfort, and Spike looked up, the familiar eyebrow lifting in amusement. "Suppose you'll be wanting out of those, now."

"Only if you'd rather smoke that thing than eat it."

"You old sweet-talker, you. A girl could get ideas."

Spike, just to be contrary, leaned over and pulled off Angel's boots and the trousers still twisted around his ankles. When Angel was naked save for his unbuttoned shirt, Spike finally flashed him a wicked, appreciative grin and uncuffed one hand, tossing the key into Angel's lap with perfect aim, the sting and the cold making Angel flinch. Angel gave him a dire look, but Spike just smirked and lit up, drawing the smoke in, watching him, letting it out. He folded one arm behind his head. Angel unlocked the other cuff and let it fall, rubbing his wrist. Spike offered him the cigarette: a peace offering.

Angel took a drag and leaned back against the headboard, making a face at the chemical taste of American mass-produced tobacco. "You could at least smoke decent cigarettes." Regrettably, it lacked something in the ire department, and didn't really do much to counter the rather disturbing feeling of mellow well-being. He suspected it bore an embarrassing resemblance to afterglow.

"I dunno, I'm rather fond of that slight bouquet of formaldehyde. Kinda makes me nostalgic, you know?"

Angel let that one go. Their little trip to Italy had dredged up enough bittersweet silt-memory for at least a month, and reminiscing about the good old days was a surefire way to set them at each other's throats in under a minute.

Then again, maybe that wasn't such a bad idea. At least he knew how to handle that. At least that would make sense. His pants seemed very far away.

Spike looked suspiciously sated and a little glowy himself, which didn't help Angel's state of mind any. He watched the smoke curl in blue ribbons around the bed and couldn't stop thinking about Spike touching him like that, about the unexpectedly gentle persuasion of his tongue. The old Spike would never have been so generous with sex, or spared tenderness for him. Angelus had taught him that mercy was weakness. Angel thought he could guess who had taught him differently, but he wasn't going to be the one to say her name again.

His thoughts turned in small, nervous circles. Before he could find a safe subject, Spike got up from the bed and went to the window, looking out; beyond his bare shoulders and the platinum curve of his head, the city glittered. "One hell of a view from up here," he said after a while.

Angel opened his mouth. Not for the first time that night, what came out surprised him. "You don't have to."

"Have to what?"

Go, Angel didn't say. His throat felt inexplicably tight, and he remembered all of a sudden that he'd meant to send Spike away. Anywhere but here, he'd said. But that was weeks ago now, and here they were. "I mean, I don't care, it doesn't matter to me what you do, but, you know. You could." What the hell was he talking about?

Spike turned, looking at him with an expression Angel couldn't quite read. He thought maybe Spike was laughing at him -- but then, he always thought that. "Yeah?" Spike said, and his voice sounded kind of funny. Not funny ha ha, but funny--

It came home to Angel that he knew that look. It was the same look he'd seen when he'd told Spike that Buffy loved him, the same hope. The same look Spike had been giving him in odd, unguarded moments for weeks now. Maybe long before that, if he was honest.

For one long, excruciating moment, Angel could think of nothing at all to say, and Spike's steady gaze felt like hot pokers, lancing sharp, straight into his heart. In a hundred lifetimes, he couldn't have imagined that it would come to this. That in the end, when he'd burned all his bridges and stood on the precipice, about to make the biggest gamble of his life, it would be Spike standing there with him, ready to jump. This irritating, infuriating, frustrating-as-hell boy Drusilla had dragged home one day, this thorn in his side he'd tried time and again to be rid of but never could seem to shake-- He should have seen it coming, he realized. He, of all people, should have remembered that Fate was a perverse bitch, who always did like to get the last laugh.

Spike was the first to drop his gaze. Smiling a little, he smoked the last of his cigarette and stubbed it out on the glass. "It'll be morning before long. Should probably get some shut-eye." He bent down easily and snagged his coat off the floor, tossing it across the bed near Angel's bare feet. "Seen my shirt anywhere?"

Angel had to clear his throat before his voice would work right. "I think it fell down beside the... yeah."

Spike's head disappeared below the edge of the bed. A second later, he resurfaced, the T-shirt in hand. He pulled it over his head and tugged it down, tucking it into his jeans with an ironic quirk of his lips. "Don't want to give the grubs downstairs too much to talk about." He picked up his coat, eyes flickering over Angel's nakedness, the briefest of hesitations arresting his motion just before he turned away.

The temptation to tell him, to confess the whole big, scary truth of what he was planning, what Cordy had shown him, seized Angel without warning and clenched in his chest. "Spike."

But in the split second it took Spike to turn back, he saw how it would play out. It would be a relief to tell someone, to have one ally in this he could be sure of, and he knew with absolute certainty that it would bind Spike to him in every way that mattered. But instinct told him that Spike was the key to making the senior partners believe his people had turned against him -- that it would never work if Spike's heart wasn't in it. Spike was a blunt weapon. Counting on him to play the subtle waiting game was a recipe for disaster.

He was waiting now, a question in his arched brows. Angel searched for words.

"We're not gonna get... weird, or anything, about this. Are we?"

Spike's grin showed a few too many teeth. "Course not, mate. Both a bit too old for that, don't you think? Just a one time thing, for old time's sake. Nothing weird about it. Right?"

"Something like that."

Spike nodded, as if that settled it. "Right, then." He put his hands in his coat pockets and, after a long moment in which Angel fought to keep himself from making any gesture that would betray how acutely aware of his nakedness he was, Spike tilted his head and angled one elbow toward the door. "So, I'll--"

"Good," Angel breathed with relief.

"Right," Spike echoed, sounding just as relieved.

It wasn't until he was gone, and the sound of the elevator had faded away to nothing, that Angel closed his eyes and let himself admit the understanding that had flashed through him, inescapable, in that moment of clarity: Spike would sacrifice himself again if given the chance. He was close to that already. No different now than it had ever been -- except that now Angel needed him, and everything was different.

Head, and heart. Keep cutting till you see dust.

He'd left the handcuffs. Angel touched the cold metal, running his fingers slightly along the curve. A moment later, he dropped them into the bedside drawer and turned out the light.


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