The trilling of the phone startled Spike, causing his hand to jerk. Like it had been hit by an
earthquake, the house of cards he had been building collapsed onto the kitchen table.
"Bloody fucking hell!" The blond vampire shoved back his chair, stood and stomped into the
living room of his apartment. He'd told the Slayer he didn't want to be bothered with anything
tonight, not even an impending apocalypse. He was worn out, both physically and mentally, from
the recent battles he'd fought in addition to those pertaining to his sworn duty.
Lately, demons were coming out of the woodwork and directly after him. And he knew it was
because he was helping Buffy and her cronies, too. He'd had a problem with his fellow demons
when he had first started helping her, but the attacks focused on him had dwindled down as the
years passed. Now, it was as if a bounty suddenly had been placed on his head.
The past week had been the worst, thus far. Every night after Spike had dropped the Slayer at
home after their patrol, he'd end up fighting at least five demons before he'd make it back to his
apartment. It took him three days to realize that his opponents were waiting until he'd separated
from Buffy to jump him, a fact that royally pissed him off... almost as much as the ringing phone
was pissing him off.
He snatched the portable phone from its recharger with a growl. "What?"
With a single word, Spike's entire world shifted on its axis. His anger, tiredness, and annoyance
vanished in an instant, replaced by a bone-deep sense of worry. Something was wrong.
"You at home, Peaches?" Spike asked as he walked rapidly out of the living room, the phone
cradled between his shoulder and his ear. He shoved the sweats he was wearing down as he
moved, and he was naked by the time he stepped over the threshold to his bedroom.
"Um, yeah," Angel replied, his voice quiet over the line.
"I'll ring you back in five," Spike grabbed the black jeans at the end of his bed and slid them on,
"just let me get rid of the roaches, eh?"
"You have company? I can call back later--"
"Nah, I wanted to get rid of 'em anyway," Spike lied. He pulled on a boot and quickly laced it
up. "I'll ring you back in a few and we'll play 1-800-WANK-OFF."
Angel chuckled, but it sounded hollow to Spike. Something was seriously wrong. "Talk to you
soon, luv," the blond said.
"Okay," Angel agreed, then disconnected without saying goodbye.
Spike cursed and tossed the phone onto the bed. He put his other boot on, slipped a t-shirt over
his head, grabbed his wallet and car keys, and returned to the kitchen. Once there, he scribbled
"Angel's" on a Post-it note, took it and his duster and went out the front door. He stuck the
Post-it to the door, then ran down the stairs and out of the apartment building.
He waited until he blew past the "Thank you for visiting
Sunnydale" sign in his black '65 Mustang to call Angel on his
cell phone. The car was a replacement for his precious De Soto,
which had died a valiant death when he'd driven her into the gaping maw of a Tralac'ci. The
resulting indigestion from his actions had caused the gigantic hog-like demon to explode. If he
hadn't been so upset over losing his baby, Spike would have been ecstatic over the chaos the
Tralac'ci's death had caused.
The car's tires squealed as Spike took a sharp corner that led him off the main highway to the
back roads. The shortcut he and Angel had discovered shaved close to an hour off the two hour
drive between Sunnydale and Los Angeles. At the speed Spike was driving, he would be on his
Sire's doorstep in forty-five minutes, tops.
Spike punched in the numbers on his cell phone and put the phone to his ear. He tapped his
finger impatiently on the steering wheel as the line rang once... twice... three times... fo--
"So, what aren't you wearing, sexy?" Spike purred, keeping all traces of worry from his voice.
He wanted to be as close to Los Angeles as he could be before finding out what was wrong.
"Demon entrails," Angel replied blandly. "Although I think some of its blood is still under my
"Wear polish," Spike suggested. "It'll hide the gunk."
Angel was silent a moment. "Spike, when was the last time you cleaned under your nails?"
Spike chuckled. "Couple months ago."
"But your nails are all black..." A low groan came clearly over the line. "You're sick."
"You expect me not to be?"
Silence fell between them, and it made Spike uncomfortable. He shifted in the driver's seat,
willing the car to go faster, as he searched for something to say. "So... er... whose turn is it to be
Angel snorted, then cursed. "You ass, you made me spill on myself."
"Already? Bugger, you're gettin' trigger happy in your old age."
"Very funny," Angel said dryly.
"I thought so, mate," Spike said.
"Hold on a sec while I wipe this up."
Spike heard his Sire put the phone down, and the blond wondered how long he could keep up
the pretense of conversation. In every word Angel said, Spike could hear an underlying note of
pain. Since Angel hadn't blurted out that he was short one coworker, the younger vampire
assumed that at least he didn't need to start making funeral arrangements.
Spike raised his hand to bite at his thumbnail, when he stopped, looked at it, shuddered,
and put his hand back on the wheel.
By the way Angel said his name, the pretense of conversation had ended a lot quicker than Spike
had hoped. "Yeah, sweets?" the blond vampire said.
"I need to talk to you," Angel said quietly.
"We are talking, you poof," Spike teased, hoping that the quiver he heard in his voice wasn't
really there. Nothing ever good came from any variation of the words "we need to talk." The
last time someone had said those words to him, Drusilla's new beau tried to feed Spike his own
"Please, Will... I need..." The strain was thick in Angel's voice, and when he trailed off it felt like
something had reached into Spike and twisted.
Don't leave me, Spike thought, his hand tightening around the steering wheel. Don't you
fucking dare leave me.
But instead of saying what was on his mind, Spike swallowed past the lump in his throat and
said, "Go ahead, Angelus. I'm listenin'."
Angel was quiet again, and the tension Spike was feeling grew. He started to panic. Angel was
going to leave him. Angel didn't want him anymore. Angel was going to destroy his heart.
Spike was about to open his mouth to say something when Angel finally spoke.
"You what?" Spike's brow knitted in worry and confusion.
"I didn't save him," Angel said in a pained whisper. "Doyle had a vision, and I tried to save Michael,
and I failed."
Angel wasn't leaving him! Spike slumped in relief that his fears weren't realized, and, before
he could curb his tongue, said, "Is that all."
Shit!, Spike mentally exclaimed, instantly realizing his stupidity. He may not care about some
stranger's death, but he knew that Angel did. And Angel had called Spike for comfort, and Spike
had basically brushed off his overly-sensitive Sire. Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit!!
"Angelus--" he began.
"I have to go," Angel interrupted in a dull, emotionless voice. Then, he hung up.
"Fuck." Spike quickly redialed Angel's home number. "Great going, you stupid prick. What do
you do for an encore, tear out his soul-filled heart?"
The other end of the line rang and rang. Spike waited until it rang twenty times before he
disconnected. He dropped the cell phone into his lap, then hit the steering wheel hard with the
heels of his palms. "Damn it!"
Spike's foot pressed down on the accelerator. The needle on the speedometer shot past the
ninety miles-per-hour mark. One hundred. One ten. One twenty. One thirty. The Mustang
flew over the dirt roads, shooting stones and dust up behind him. His headlights cut a swath
through the darkness, illuminating the road that his car ate up.
Twenty harrowing minutes later, the vampire's tires squealed as he skid to a stop in the
underground garage of Angel's building. He hopped out of the car and rushed into the building.
"Angelus?" Spike called as he entered his Sire's apartment. His footsteps echoed on the wood
floor as he crossed to the bedroom. "Angelus?"
There was no dark-haired vampire curled up on the bed. The bathroom was equally as empty, as
was the rest of the apartment.
Spike jogged up the stairs to the office. Angel Investigations was dark and silent. No Angel
brooding in his desk chair. Which meant either he was on the roof or he was gone.
The blond flew up the steps to the roof. Be here, be here, be here, he mentally chanted. He
shoved the door open and rushed outside. "Angelus?"
Angel was half-sitting on the ledge that ran around the roof of the building, looking out over the
city. Spike was relieved to have found the other man, then was instantly contrite when Angel
didn't acknowledge his presence.
Spike crossed over to his Sire, the apology tumbling from his lips. "I'm sorry, pet. I didn't mean
it like it sounded."
"Yes, you did." Angel didn't turn when he spoke. "Don't lie to me."
The blond stopped next to Angel and put his hand on the other vampire's arm. "But I didn't
mean to hurt you."
"Well, guess what, Spike? You didn't," Angel said bitingly. "I'd have to care about what you
say first before you could hurt me."
Spike winced. "Angelus, don't do this."
"Don't do what?" Angel looked at Spike, his face set in an expressionless mask. "Don't tell the
"It's not the truth, you tosser," Spike growled. "And you know it."
"Isn't it?" Angel's dark eyes bore into Spike's. "How do you know that I care about anyone or
"Come on, luv," Spike said. "I know I said something stupid, but that doesn't mean that I'm
stupid. Something happened, you're hurting, I'm here to kiss it and make it better."
Angel stood and got right into Spike's face. "You can't make it better," the dark-haired vampire
hissed. "Michael is dead. There's not a band-aid that you can slap on him and bring him back to
life. There's nothing you can do."
"Yes, there is. I can do this." Spike slid his arms around Angel's waist, rested his cheek on
Angel's shoulder and hugged him tightly. Angel's arms hung limply on either side of him, but
Spike refused to let go.
The tears came slowly, but they came. Angel began to shake in Spike's arms, and he hicced
several times as he tried to choke back his cries. Then, his arms came up around Spike and he
gave into his grief.
Spike closed his eyes and wished there was more that he could do, other than hold Angel as he
cried. It was times like this when Spike came closest to regretting that his love had a soul.
"I failed, Will," Angel rasped. "I failed, and he died. It's my fault."
"Sh-sh-sh," Spike ran one hand up and down Angel's back, "none of that, now. It's not your
"Yes, it is." Angel sucked in a gulp of unneeded air. "It is."
"Did you do everything you could to try and save him?" Spike asked.
"Yes or no, pet." Spike raised his head to look at his Sire. Angel's face was streaked with tears
and twisted in pain and guilt. "Did you do everything you could?"
Angel pressed his quivering lips together and nodded. Then, he blurted, "But he died. He wasn't
supposed to die."
"I know, Angelus." Spike brought his hand from around Angel's back and brushed his thumb
across Angel's wet cheek. "I know. But humans are fragile. Sometimes they die no matter what
"Maybe I should have--"
"You're not infallible, ducks," Spike interrupted. "You aren't going to be able to save everyone."
He ran his thumb over Angel's other cheek. "As long as you tried, that's all that's expected of
"Sire, don't make me pound it into your thick skull," Spike said in irritation. "I'm trying my best
to be comforting and sensitive, but you're starting to get on my nerves."
Angel suddenly chuckled despite his tears. He pulled Spike to him again, closed his eyes and
rested his cheek on Spike's head. "I'm glad you're here," he murmured.
Spike grunted softly, but said nothing. He just held Angel in return.
The stood there together for several minutes, the sounds of the city floating up to them from the
streets. The night wrapped around them like a blanket, comforting them as she comforts all
creatures of the dark. No one disturbed them on the rooftop, and one by one their troubled
thoughts drifted away.
"How did you know to come?" Angel asked quietly.
"A.S.P.," Spike replied.
"Don't you mean 'E.S.P.'?"
Spike lifted his head and gave Angel a lopsided half-smile. "Nope, A.S.P. -- Angsting Sire
Angel groaned and released Spike. "That was really, really bad."
"And yet, you still love me," Spike said.
"Don't remind me," Angel said as he began walking towards the door.
Spike fell silent as he trailed behind his Sire back to the basement apartment. Angel went directly
to the bathroom, and Spike heard the sink faucet turn on. The blond removed his duster and
tossed it on a chair, then he moved to the couch and sunk down into the soft cushions.
After a few minutes, Angel walked into the room and sat beside Spike on the couch. Spike
reached over and laid his hand on the dark-haired vampire's thigh. Not a second passed before
Angel laid his hand over Spike's.
"It still hurts," Angel whispered.
"I know, sweets," Spike said, gently squeezing Angel's thigh.
Angel's dropped his head onto the back of the couch. "This would be so much easier if I didn't
have a soul."
Spike propped his head with his fist, his elbow resting on the arm of the couch, and studied his
Sire. "Would you rather be like me?"
Angel rolled his head on the couch and looked at Spike. "What do you mean?"
"Helping without caring about those you help," Spike replied. "And I'm not talking about
working with Buffy and our other friends. I'm talking about people like your Michael or the
others we've saved over the years."
"If it changed even one tiny iota of what I have with you, then no," Angel said with a small,
"Poof," Spike teased, an echoing smile on his face.
"If it didn't change anything, though," Angel sighed, "then maybe. I don't know if you really
have it easier than me, or not."
"You mean, turning against your demon brethren, allying yourself with your mortal enemy,
falling in love with the traitor of your kind, and having yourself outed by a bad true-stories book
"Well, when it's put that way..."
"Oh, wait, I forgot about the bonus of having to fight for your unlife practically every night
because of a bounty on your head."
Angel straightened abruptly. "You have a price on your head?"
Spike shrugged one shoulder. "Don't know. Maybe. It could be just a plot against the Slayer."
"Or backwash from the book." Angel frowned deeply. "Anyone who's going to read it would
have by now."
"Don't worry your pretty puss about it, Angel. I can handle myself," Spike told him. "I have
those neat Tai Chi moves you showed me, and I've been watching my Jackie Chan pictures."
"Spike, this isn't a joking matter," Angel scolded.
"I don't take my unlife as a joke, mate," Spike said seriously. "I happen to like not being a big
pile of dust."
"Maybe I should come to Sunnydale--"
"No!" Spike practically shouted, sitting up straight. Angel looked at him with surprise. The
blond cleared his throat, a blush stealing over his cheeks. "No, you shouldn't. You'll ruin the
affair I'm having with Xander."
"Okay, I'm thoroughly disgusted now."
Spike shot him an off-kilter grin. "Just picture it. Xander Harris. Naked. My mouth wrapped
"Aargh!" Angel covered his ears with his hands, jumped to his feet and ran towards the
Spike chuckled, stood and leisurely went after his Sire. He pushed away the panic he'd felt when
Angel suggested he make a trip to Sunnydale. There was no way Spike wanted to involve his
lover in whatever was happening back home.
He happened to like Angel not being a big pile of dust, too.