Angel was not having fun. There was something about wakes that had always depressed him, and it had rarely been that he cared about the deceased. The people he'd known had always insisted on celebrating the life, leaving the grieving widows, (for they almost all had been) feeling guilty for their tears. And with that, Angel could identify. Death was subjective - it affected the living rather than the dead. And it had left this life in a state of disarray. 'You let her die, and I don't know if I can forgive you for that.' It had been a fortnight since Wesley had uttered that single condemning sentence. And in all ways that it could be, he had broken a trust between them. The Englishman had broken coda and the habits of a lifetime to join them, even if he hadn't anywhere else to go. But there were always choices, and of all of them, Wesley was perhaps the one who cared most. And Angel had let him down. 'She's not one of yours.........she was mortal.' He'd never thrown that in Angel's face before. Aside from his initial shock at finding Angel happy and content within Spike's arms, Wesley had said surprisingly little about working for a vampire. It was almost as though he hadn't wanted to risk the ease with which he fit into their little family. His tentative, rather clumsy attempts to make Angel employ him had amused Spike and endeared him to the older vampire. That he was good at the research was something they could definitely use. He was one of them, definitely an 'US', one of the boys...one of the good guys. He mattered in a way that the people Angel saved on a day to day basis didn't. If something happened to them, Angel would be disappointed, annoyed, and determined to avenge their deaths. If something had happened to Wesley, or any of the others, he'd be struck by blood-rage. 'The last twist of the knife.' But whilst Wesley was unharmed physically, he had been hurt , and Angel couldn't see how to fix the damage. Part of him didn't even want to try. Not because he wasn't sorry - he didn't want this rift - but because the guilt was something he was used to, something he could deal with and move on. And if it had just been the two of them, that was exactly what would have happened. But... 'Right, so when are you two pillocks going to stop all this farting about and admit that you're both arseholes, so that we can get on with the drinking and having a laugh?' 'It's a wake, Spike,' said Wesley flatly. 'It's not supposed to a gigglefest.' 'Well actually,' began Doyle, before biting his lip and reaching for the whiskey, 'Right, giggles not the order of the day.' Spike grinned and gestured to Angel. 'Come on then, love.' Angel looked at him, wishing, not for the first time, that his relationship with Spike extended only to when the two of them were alone together. In almost the same breath, he wished that every minute of every day was just the two of them, sleeping, feeding, fighting...deep hot sex whenever they wanted it. Mind, that last happened anyway. 'There isn't a problem I'm aware of.' Spike rolled his eyes and turned to Wesley. 'And you? Suddenly developed this freaked out sense of diplomacy as well?' Wesley stared solemnly into his glass, turning it this way and that in his hands. 'I have nothing to say.' Spike smirked and reached for his cigarettes, annoyed that he'd left the lighter in the kitchen. 'Right, there's no fucking deal then is there?' He nodded to Doyle. 'Come on then, mate. Let's you and me go drink ourselves into oblivion whilst the denial brothers spend the next hour lying to themselves.' Angel watched as Doyle held up a hand to protest, then lowered it and reached for the whiskey. He squeezed Wesley's shoulder and followed Spike out into the kitchen. Which left him alone with Wesley. Damn. He risked a glance at the Englishman, only to find that Wesley was also staring uncomfortably into space, unable to pretend that nothing was wrong, unable to think of any way to remedy it. Get ready for a long wait, Spike. 'I suppose they'll drink themselves stupid if we take too long.' Angel picked up the anger beneath Wesley's cool tones. 'Probably,' he said casually. 'Don't know who'll last.' Wesley shrugged. 'Both probably. Doyle was bred on whiskey and Spike...' '...has been doing this for centuries.' 'Mhmm.' The room dissolved into silence once more and Angel reached for the brandy. Eternity was definitely relative. * 'Pissed again.' Spike chuckled and sat down heavily on the solitary kitchen chair. He'd ousted Cordelia twenty minutes previously, and she perched on the work surface, daring him to try and move her again. She was sipping her drink slowly, and he grinned at her attempts to stay sober. Give him an hour, and he'd have her drunk, amiable and ready to divulge her dirtiest secrets. This day had to have some up-side after all. Doyle passed over the whiskey bottle, almost knocking Xander over. 'Here, drink this ya English dog. It'll put hairs on yer chest.' Spike raised a scarred eyebrow, but accepted the drink. 'Getting cocky mate, I'd watch that. You never know when a dog's gonna bite.' 'Ugh, enough with the bad man talk,' said Xander, 'it's too much like high school.' 'Hmm, you mean the place where you're still a loser and the guys don't include you?' Cordelia smiled pleasantly. 'Yeah, I'd say it was pretty much like high school.' Xander gestured vaguely with his right hand, and splashed whisky all over the floor. 'Yeah? Well if this was still high school, where are your little Cordettes, Huh? Where's Cordelia's band of supporters? Where,' and he grinned at her, 'where's Harmony?' Spike spluttered his whisky out, much to the surprise of everyone else. Doyle patted him uncomfortably on the back until the choking ceased, and they waited for the explanation, each sure that this must be a part of a dream. Spike regarded them in silence for a moment, trying to figure out how in hell he was going to recover from this, when Xander suddenly pointed a finger at him, waggling it excitedly. 'It's him, he's got the Cordettes under his power!' 'Shut up Xander,' said Spike uncomfortably, trying to think of a quick explanation whilst the alcohol happily cut off all smart ass wit resources. 'What are you talking about?' 'Him! He was with Harmony back in Sunnydale.' Cordelia looked from Xander to Spike, registering the vampire's rare lack of know-all smugness. 'You were with Harmony?' She chuckled. Talk about your undead meeting your brain dead.' Doyle shook his head and reached for another bottle. 'Who is this Harmony anyway?' 'A friend of Cordy's' explained Xander, 'which should tell you everything. Pretty, rich, unable to string a complete...thingy...collection of words together...' 'Not to mention that she actually tried to oust me from popular pride of place,' said Cordelia, indignantly. 'I mean, she's a bimbo.' Xander grinned and gestured to Doyle for the bottle. 'And Monsieur Love here was boffing the girl back when she became,' he curled his fingers, 'grr.' Cordelia frowned in concentration. 'PMS finally got the better of her, huh?' 'Princess, I think he's trying to say she's a vampire now.' Doyle looked at Spike, a pitying expression across his face. 'And she was your girl, that right, Spike?' Spike stared at his whisky, his voice low and even. 'She was there, she was handy...and she was bloody willing.' Cordelia nodded. 'Hmm, nice to see your specifications are mannishly low.' With a grin, she gestured to the door. 'Does Angel know about your ache for flake?' With something like a growl, Spike reached for the girl, pulling her millimetres away from his face. 'You do that girly, and I'll...' 'Share your halitosis with me?' Spike let go and lit a cigarette. 'So what if I was using the girl...she was a cheap lay, something to play with. You were friends with her.' He leaned forward and grinned. 'You actually chose to be with her everyday for more than eleven years.' Her expression didn't change, but Spike could hear her pulse beat faster. 'You listened to her crap, day in, day out for more than half your life and all to get an extra notch in your Prom crown.' Cordelia huffed and snatched Xander's drink away, knocking it back in one draft. 'See, pet, I may have dipped my wick...but at least I never pretended to like the stupid bint. Takes a really shallow person to do that.' As Cordelia blanched, Xander put his arm round her. She shrugged it off angrily and turned back to Spike. 'Don't try and throw your mistakes back on me, punk boy. I used Harmony just as much as you did, only I'm not trying to edge out of it.' 'I don't see you being all that honest lately, pet.' 'Leave it out, Spike,' said Doyle, 'we're supposed to be in here cause we don't have problems communicating, remember?' Spike grinned and passed the bottle to Cordelia. 'Yeah, I remember.' She took it tentatively and tipped it to her mouth, her eyes fixed on the vampire's. 'Go ahead, love. You can swallow, it's not like I spiked it.' She rolled her eyes at his grin and drank deeply. 'A bit less salty than the last thing you had in your mouth...isn't that right, Xander?' As the boy coughed harshly, Spike winked at Doyle. 'Bloody teenage hormones, eh, mate?' * 'It's not like I meant for her to die.' Wesley shook his head. 'I know that Angel. Believe me, I've searched my soul, and I'm as responsible for her death as you are.' He stared into a middle space. 'Failing Faith, my duties as watcher...there are so many "what if's" about this mess, I can't hope to follow them all.' He sighed and turned to Angel. 'But blame is always apportioned, and whilst most of it is mine, I can't help feeling that if it had been Spike, you would have reacted differently...tried harder to bring her back.' Angel swallowed slowly, unable to refute anything. 'I went to the Oracles...' 'For Spike?' He nodded. 'I carried her body from Faith's to them. I even...I even thought about turning her...him.' 'The embrace?' 'Only for a second. I couldn't...if she was here, wearing his body...' He trailed off, the misery still tangible, still so easily within reach. He'd been prepared to give up everything, so cleanly aware that without Spike, nothing had mattered - his redemption was such a shadow compared to that loss. He'd tried to explain that to the younger vampire, but Spike, ever perceptive, had silenced his fears without mentioning them, a blood drenched kiss that promised the night would never be lonely. He wanted to tell Wesley, to explain...to justify himself, but words had never come easy, and now they seemed more distant that ever - hanging at the back of his mind just out of reach. And if it had been anyone else, they would have made the judgements for him, rendering his speech unnecessary. Xander...Doyle...Cordelia, they would have made the decision, would have assumed his guilt and moved on, leaving Angel to breathe a metaphorical sigh of relief, and the world would spin once more. But Wesley seemed to need things spelt out for him, as though words were the only thing he could cling to. A life buried in books had assured him that language was constant, the meaning surviving an age to provide him with answers. And now, when his faith in Angel had been shaken, he needed to hear the reasons, not simply be left to assume them. 'I know you cared for her.' 'And you didn't,' said Wesley bluntly. 'She didn't have, now what did she say? Oh yes, she didn't have Spike's arse.' Angel blinked at the accurate explanation. He didn't know his feelings had been that widely felt, even less that they had been discussed so freely. He pressed on. 'And you're right, when I knew Spike was safe, he was the only thing...' He swallowed again. '.....the only thing I could think about.' 'I know,' said Wesley. 'I know and I should have understood, but...' He sighed and drank from his small glass. 'We fit, here. All of us. And we've gone the distance when someone was hurt, or in trouble. Particularly for you and Spike.' 'I know, and I do...appreciate it.' 'Do you? Sometimes I wonder.' He shrugged. 'Sometimes I think you can't see beyond him.' 'Sometimes I can't.' Wesley chuckled. 'Well at least I got that right.' Angel shook his head and tried to phrase things properly. 'But I am sorry. If I had to do it again...' 'You'd act exactly the same,' smiled Wesley sadly. 'Some things were meant to be.' 'Yeah.' Silence descended again and Angel worried that this was going to be interminable. He was almost surprised when Wesley clinked a glass against his own. 'To Megan, may she rest in peace.' 'Amen,' added Angel, determined that Wesley would never discover how bitter her death had left her. Let him keep his memories, for they are all that really matter. They drank and then sat there, slightly embarrassed, wondering what to say next. 'Angel?' 'Yeah?' 'About the scroll you recovered...' The vampire shifted uncomfortably, suddenly worried at Wesley's sombre expression. 'What about it?' 'I've managed to translate some of it, particularly that which pertains to the vampire with a soul.' Angel raised his eyebrows. 'I'm mentioned?' 'Unless there's another vampire in your predicament, I'd say yes. It talks of your great quest for redemption, and mentions recent events...and what I assume is the near future.' 'And?' 'You two finished moping yet?' They turned to see the collection of alcohol riddled companions, virtually falling out of the tiny kitchen. Angel noticed the flush of red to Spike's otherwise pale face and longed to make their excuses. What he really needed was to go home and succumb to Spike's delicious ministrations. Anything but to stay here and listen to the rest of Wesley's speech. No-one gave good news with that serious a face. 'Yeah,' he smiled, 'We're done.' 'Thank God for that! Does this mean I can officially swear off cleaning?' 'Please say yes,' said Xander, slightly crushed beneath Cordelia's unsteady body. 'I can't take any more "tips".' Doyle ignored them both and nodded to Wesley. 'Did you tell him?' Wesley shook his head 'Tell him what?' asked Spike. The ex-watcher sighed and turned back to Angel. 'The scroll repeated the term "shansu" several times.' He opened his hands wide. 'At first, I thought it meant you were going to die, but after I cross-referenced my translation with...a ledger I have in proto-bantu...' He hesitated and Angel saw Spike losing patience. 'Get on with it, Weasly!' Wesley huffed and took his glasses off, rubbing his eyes in a familiar nervous gesture. 'They consider life and death the same thing, part of a cycle, only a thing that's not alive never dies. It's saying that you get to live until you die...It's saying...' He looked at Angel, but the vampire had already locked eyes with Spike, his mouth slightly open in unhappy contemplation. 'Angel, it's saying you become human. It's your reward.' And Angel couldn't do anything but stare at his lover, unable to break away for a second, unable to speak. The redness had vanished from Spike's face, the easy grin hidden for the moment, because a time limit had finally been called. And tomorrow was no longer like any other day. Tomorrow might make him human. The vampires' prey. 'the last twist of the knife' *
The door buckled. Angel pushed hard against the solid frame, trying to gain purchase, fingers stretching blindly, trying to open the damn thing without having to break this kiss. He could feel Spike kicking backwards furiously, boots bashing a new pattern on the steel panels. With one hand grasping, pulling at the suddenly unnecessary duster Spike was wearing, he reached into his pocket, his own jacket being torn from his shoulders. 'Wait...wait...the key...' Spike ignored him and yanked his arms free of the leather, his mouth touching every inch of Angel's face, lips teasing, taunting him until he couldn't bear it, the need to get inside the apartment lost in a more immediate want. He fought to try and regain some control, but his clothes were being stripped away, vampiric strength suddenly a whole lot more interesting. As his silk shirt tore, he winced briefly. Make that interesting and expensive. It didn't matter too much, not when Spike was pulling at his belt, struggling with the buckle as Angel ripped the duster off, fingers sliding underneath an ever-present T-shirt. He could hear the younger vampire cursing between kisses, and his hips bounded forward, yanked as Spike struggled to tear the buckle free. He couldn't resist chuckling as the blond dropped to his knees and finally unfastened the clasp. 'Don't bloody laugh, that thing's impossible.' 'Yeah, right, Will, it's a buckle.' Spike quickly unzipped his lover's jeans and slid them over his hips, grinning as Angel gasped. Coolness washed over his skin, Spike's fingers surprisingly warm in the icy atmosphere. He could sense the wet tongue brush along his hip bone before it touched, nerves tingling as he leaned forward. He grabbed the door frame once more, fingers clawing into the plaster as Spike took him into his mouth. Growling, Angel gave in to desire, thrusting harder, fingers pulling against the matted blond hair, demanding more. But before his knees buckled, Spike pulled away to his impatient moan. The younger vampire stood up and met Angel's frustrated stare. 'Problem, pet?' Angel swallowed and grabbed for him, the T-shirt tearing beneath his fingers, dropping to the floor on an errant breeze. Without pause, Spike kissed him again, his tongue delving in and out of his hungry mouth, alcohol still tainting the taste. Angel tried to kick his boots off, standing on the heel and trying to ease them off. But his foot caught and they fell to the floor, Spike straddling him as his head hit the concrete. 'Ow.' The younger vampire laughed and swivelled round, bearing a smooth spine to Angel's gaze. He felt Spike easing his jeans off, the cold floor rough against his ass. A boot bounced away, sliding under the car as Angel tried to make any kind of mental note to retrieve it later. But it was far too hard to think about anything when Spike was planting hungry kisses along his bared legs. His fingers were pulling at the waistband of the blond's jeans before he realised he was doing it, and as soon as he did, Angel tore at the stiff fabric, the cotton snapping beneath his hands. 'Oi, my threads!' 'I'll buy you more,' managed Angel before Spike turned again, shimmying blissfully above him as his clothes came away. With the pressure of his lover's hips grinding against him, the rough floor was really beginning to become irritating. Angel struggled to get up, taking Spike with him, their naked flesh tingling in the coolness of the garage. They stumbled backwards towards the car, banging into the door as the chassis wobbled. He could hear Spike chuckling at their instability, and then... Everything becoming as primitive as it had been the first time. Mine, all mine and I shall never let you go. Fingers travelling the length of his torso. Mine forever. Hands grasping at his ass, pulling forward. Mine until eternity. His cock suddenly enclosed in warmth, Spike gasping and growling in pleasure. Mine...until I'm human. A tear swept down briefly down his cheek and Angel grunted against the car, trying to lose himself again, to succumb to the obvious bonus of what he was doing. But reality was so insistent, the loss so close, that with each thrust, he wondered how long they had. '...love...' How long until the Powers that definitely Fuck About separated them for good? '...love...' How many more minutes would they have like this? Just the two of them, nothing between them but... '...love you...' Angel leant back, sweat beading on his forehead, stunned at Spike's words. He could count on the fingers of one hand the number of times the vampire had pledged his heart. He expected to find Spike leaning his head against him, eyes closed, lost in some pleasure of his own, but blue met brown and the pain was still there. Everything I've thought...you've known. Every fear I've had, you've anticipated. And nothing, nothing ever prepared me for this. Not this. The one thing I never dared to dream about, the event Buffy prayed for, wanted so badly I could hear her pulse quicken just at the thought...Everything that I knew I would never be worthy of...they're giving it to me. And taking me away from you as reward. Spike stared at him hard, unblinking and resolute. His ass pressed against Angel's hips, rocking furiously, arms clinging to the dark vampire's shoulders. His pace was relentless, but instead of slowing and confessing all, Angel matched him beat for beat, using his body mercilessly until the explosion threatened, and even then... He growled into the night as he felt his balls swell, a slow pulse throbbing up through his cock, then the flood, and he lost his mind whilst pleasure flooded his body. And for a single moment, he didn't worry, didn't fear the coming dawn, because all that existed in the world was touch. I would gladly lose my other senses as long as we could still touch...for this is what I will miss the most. Shuddering, he moved against Spike, lifting his head to meet the unsatisfied gaze of his lover. Angel smiled softly and shifted backwards, forcing Spike to find his feet. It didn't take him more than a couple of seconds to rock forwards, finding Angel slippery and welcoming. He grasped the large thighs and started pushing hard, causing the dark vampire to blow hard at the tightness, at the barest slickness of his ass. And it was so damn cold here now, so dark and silent. There wasn't even the illusion of breath as Angel bit his lip and wrapped his arms round Spike's taut frame. He felt the vampire shuddering, reaching his own climax, and he was glad. But as Spike rocked forward on his arms, their connection melting away, Angel wished he could weep for the closeness that could disappear at any moment. You and me against the world now. You and me forever, until the skies fade and Armageddon comes for real. Beyond death. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust... He met Spike's gaze as the English vampire forced Angel to raise his head. 'It's not going to happen, mate.' Angel shook his head. 'What?' And that clear irresistible blue, still his, still full of conviction, even after this. 'Mine, remember, pet? Mine until every last bone disappears into dust.' Angel opened his mouth to speak, but everything sounded hollow in his head. That was the one grievance he'd always had with Spike - he didn't lie to you, in his way, and he made it impossible to lie to him. And before anything that made sense sprang to his mouth, Spike had covered it with a kiss, nipping at his lip, drawing blood and swallowing it. 'Blood of the same bloody blood, love. Mine until I say not. Yours until you drop that big brooding arse into the fires of Hell.' He licked his lips and grinned poignantly at his sire. 'You think being food's gonna change that?' Angel laughed in spite of himself. Why on Earth would they make this his reward now? Learn humanity, become one of them, and then we'll strip you of the one thing you needed to make it this far? And Spike, saying he'd love him till death of any kind came, seeming almost defeated when presented with this prophesy, something Angel had believed he'd never see. How could the Powers that Be act so blindly. They had the power to change everything...to make wishes reality, and death revert. They didn't learn, they didn't grow and they would never see that his reward would be his downfall. That which does not live cannot grow, that which does not change, cannot live. But his soul lived, even if his mortal body was dead. And Spike's demon lived, tempered to the Englishman's desires. They had changed, they had thrived in disability. And the reward for such change was an ending to all things they owned. 'With my dying breath,' he murmured, but Spike pressed his hand against Angel's mouth. 'With your first living one, in...what is it, pet? Two hundred years?' And the pain was gone from Spike's eyes, not quite lost for good, but buried deep enough to remind Angel that all they had ever, was the moment. The lop sided grin was back. 'Two and a half...and Hell.' Spike sniffed and moved away, searching through his tattered duster for his fags. 'Yeah, that Hell gig. Heard time just flies by there.' Angel rolled his eyes and picked up the remnants of his pants, successfully finding the door-key. 'Yeah, real heavy on the fun side of life...as long as you don't actually have a life.' He fumbled in the door, trying to get the now slightly bent key to open the lock. Spike's fingers trailed over his shoulder and he turned back, aware that he'd was tensing in sudden expectation. 'Dead...alive...it's you and me, pet.' Angel clicked open the lock and pushed the door back. 'I didn't expect this.' Spike smiled pleasantly and ruffled Angel's hair up into its usual artfully created spikey do. 'No-one expects stuff, love. That's why it's not all prophesy and bad news.' Elegant fingers strayed back down Angel's face, finding the sensitive nerve in his neck again. Angel felt a slow deep breathing echo in his chest and he reached for the Englishman. 'You think we should make...decisions...for when...' Spike grinned and pushed past him, cigarette smoke billowing down into the empty garage. 'Later.' Angel frowned and followed him in. 'Later? What's wrong with now?' But by then Spike's arms were round him and he was falling back against the sofa. Later would do for such talks. Much, much later. Say in an eternity or so.