Chapter 02

Angel didn’t know what he was going to do with his wayward Childe. He’d saved him from self-destructing, in a quite literal sense, but to find a place for him in his life, in his home…there was a challenge there Angel wasn’t quite sure he was ready to meet. His primary concern, for now, was to keep Spike alive; to prevent him from slipping away and into the sun, despite the fact he’d forbidden the younger vampire from doing so. William had been an obedient Childe, always doing everything in his power to prove he was worth Angelus’ attention. Spike, on the other hand, was a bit of an enigma to Angel. He knew that Spike was just a persona, a mask William had adopted to keep the world at bay, but he also knew that it was impossible to keep from taking on some of a persona’s characteristics, even if only incidentally. In simpler terms, he wasn’t sure just how much William still resided behind the mask of Spike.

“Peaches, I’m not going to run off into the sun. I don’t need to be on suicide watch.”

Angel frowned. “Not even an hour ago you were singing a different tune.”

Spike snorted. “Yeah, but an hour ago I didn’t have the option to stay with you.”

His frown softened. “Does it really mean so much to you?”

Spike shifted his weight uncomfortably from one foot to the other, making no move to reply. It did, but he didn’t think he could explain it to Angel. All the years he’d spent as a vampire, the only thing he’d ever wanted was his Sire by his side, consequences be damned. Nothing mattered more. He couldn’t answer, not with words, but he nodded once in assent. Angel frustrated him more than words could say because he wanted his Sire. And for a long time, Spike had been unable to admit that Angel and Angelus were the same man. But the time he’d spent helping the Slayerettes had taught him that everyone had a light and dark side, and he could admit to himself now that Angel was his Sire. Not a shadow, but the man Angelus had been before the demon took over.

Angel saw how pained William became at the question. Spike, he repeated firmly in his mind. The younger vampire was a master in his own right and Spike was his chosen name. And Angel didn’t know if he could honestly call Spike William without getting lost in memories of a man who no longer existed. At least, not in the way he remembered him. “Okay,” he said. “Get some sleep. This building doesn’t connect to the underground tunnels, so we’re stuck here for the day.”

Spike’s face etched in disgust. “We have to stay here? This place isn’t exactly clean.”

“That’s a bit of an understatement,” Angel added dryly. He wasn’t too pleased about their circumstances, either. The skyscraper was an abandoned building, and the walls of the basement were covered with dust and cobwebs as was the floor and ceiling. Nothing had disturbed the place in a very long time, save for a few rats and the two of them.

Spike didn’t add anything else. His next few actions surprised Angel, but the elder vampire didn’t comment. The blonde started clearing off the floor with his bare hands and piling the mess he gathered in a small pile in one of the corners of the room. He took off his duster and handed it to Angel, who took it silently. Spike removed his shirt, allowing Angel to drink his fill of the lithe body, and began running it along the floor until there was a large enough area clear of dust and cobwebs for a man to lie comfortably. He took his duster back and laid it along the length of the clean area.

Watching all this, Angel could feel a bit of anger start to rise up, because Spike, as usual, was thinking only of himself. He wanted to demand an explanation, a reason for his Childe’s impertinence, but he stopped himself when he saw what the blonde was doing.

Spike took his shirt and cleared off another man-sized area of dust and cobwebs and tossed it to the side. Instead of curling up on his jacket, which was what Angel expected the younger vampire to do, Spike curled up, shirtless, on the cold floor. He turned to Angel. “Well? Aren’t you going to sleep?”

Angel’s lips quirked and he settled comfortably on Spike’s duster. Why had he ever thought Spike could be selfish? The man might be brash and obnoxious, but he had been Angel’s favored because of his selflessness in regards to his Sire. It seemed like that, at least, hadn’t changed. Angel felt possessiveness surge through him, as well as gratitude and appreciation for the man beside him. Acting on impulse, he pulled off his own shirt. “Spike,” he said, addressing the man’s back.

“Hmm?”

Angel rolled his eyes. Trust Spike to be half-asleep even on an icy floor. “Sit up, put this on.” He waited until the blonde was sitting and handed him his shirt. He started to make a remark about how insufferable Spike was, but the look in his Childe’s eyes took him off guard.

Spike eyed the shirt his Sire handed him with awe, nearly reverent. In all the years he could remember, Angel had never allowed him to touch his clothing. And here he was, willfully handing him a shirt. “Ta mate,” he said, trying to conceal how touched he truly was.

“Stop staring at it and put it on already.”

Spike tore his eyes away from the shirt and refocused them on Angel. It took him a few seconds to process what had been said and he pulled the shirt on eagerly when he realized what his Sire wanted.

Angel shook his head in fond exasperation. Only Spike would make a big deal out of being given a shirt to sleep in. “Go to sleep.”

He needn’t have bothered. In the few seconds it took him to say the words, Spike’s snores filled the room. Angel lay down, bemused, and fell asleep himself.

Spike woke before his Sire, which wasn’t too surprising since waking before Angelus had been a survival instinct for years. One he hadn’t been able to rid himself of, despite trying. He spent some time just drinking in his Sire’s form. In sleep, his true face showed, and Spike could count the ridges on Angel’s forehead. He longed to touch them, to trace his fingers over them, but doing so would wake the elder vampire. Not to mention, doing so without permission was forbidden. Touching him at all without permission was also forbidden, but it didn’t stop Spike from wanting to. His Sire was curled on his side, facing Spike, statuesque in his stillness. That stillness used to scare him when he was still a fledging and hadn’t understood that vampires didn’t need to breathe. Now, though, just drinking in his Sire’s presence was more than enough. Spike grinned as he absently fiddled with the end of a shirt a couple sizes too big for him, ecstatic that he’d been allowed to wear it.

Just as he was about to start drinking his fill of Angel’s chest, the elder vampire woke up. It was never a gradual awakening—he went from asleep to awake instantly. “Morning, Spike.”

Spike scowled. “It’s about time you were up. You sleep too bloody long.” He wished his Sire had slept just a little longer, but he wasn’t about to say that to his Sire.

“Give me my shirt. We need to get going.”

Hurt flashed through Spike’s eyes, but he masked it quickly and removed the shirt, handing it silently to Angel, who slipped it on.

“You can have the shirt back when we get to the hotel. I don’t want Cordelia and Wesley to see me half-dressed.” Angel had seen the hurt in his Childe’s eyes and understood what caused it, even if he didn’t quite get why him wanting his shirt was painful for Spike.

Spike grinned. “Ta mate. Can I have my duster back?”

Angel blinked. He was asking permission? “Did you hit your head on something last night?”

“What are you talking about, Peaches?” Spike looked as confused as Angel felt.

“You, asking permission for things.”

“Ah. That.” Spike’s entire body tensed, almost as if he was expecting to be hit.

“Yeah, that. Want to explain?”

“Not really.” The blonde looked anywhere that wasn’t at Angel, very uncomfortable with the turn the conversation was taking.

“Let me rephrase. Explain.” Angel’s tone hardened, making it clear he would brook no disobedience.

Spike sighed, still refusing to meet Angel’s eyes. “All right, fine. I just want to do this right. It’s the first time you’ve given me a chance and I don’t want to screw it up by not following your rules.”

“Not all of those rules are still applicable,” Angel said wryly, intrigued by this softer, more pliable version of Spike.

Spike grinned. “Yeah, I kinda figured that, seeing as you don’t hunt anymore and all.”

“Neither do you,” Angel said, his tone unyielding, his body gone hard. He half-expected the blonde to fight him on this, because as far as he knew, the younger vampire had never stopped hunting. It didn’t matter that Spike occasionally helped the Slayer and her friends, he would have found a way to hunt without killing—the way Angelus had taught him to hunt—and thus escaped her radar.

“I know,” Spike said, surprising Angel when he put up no resistance. “But the other ones… I was never the kind of Childe to willfully disobey. And if you’re letting me back in your life, then I see no reason to keep acting as… what did you call me last night…a renegade?”

“Okay,” Angel said. “I’ll accept that explanation. And I’ll also say that if that’s what you’re willing to do, to put the past in the past, then I’ll do the same. Your slate is clean with me.”

Spike grinned wryly. “So no retribution for the hot poker?”

Angel rolled his eyes. “Don’t tempt me, but no. A clean slate is exactly that.”

“And the rules, aside from the ones about hunting, are still the same?”

Angel grinned. “Mm-hmm. Think you remember them all, Spike?”

The blonde swallowed hard at the challenge in his Sire’s tone. “I’m sure you’ll remind me if I don’t, Sire.”

Angel laughed aloud at that. “You’d be right at that.” He picked the duster up off the ground. “I believe you asked to have this returned.”

“Aye,” Spike said, his voice soft.

“You can have it back,” Angel said, handing the duster to the blonde, who pulled it on eagerly.

“You could’ve kept it,” the blonde said. “Why didn’t you?”

“Because,” Angel said, “keeping it would be a punishment. And as far as I know, you’ve not done anything deserving of one.”

Spike’s eyes lit up with pleasure as he pulled the duster closed around him. “Ta mate.”

Angel rolled his eyes, but couldn’t stop the smile from spreading across his face. To see his Childe like this, happy and carefree even for a moment, meant everything to him. And, for the first time, he understood exactly why Spike would follow someone to the ends of the earth. Now that he had the blonde back where he belonged, Angel would stop at nothing to keep him there.

Spike followed closely behind Angel, contemplating everything that had happened in the last couple of days. He’d been determined to meet the sun that morning, but Angel’s appearance had changed pretty much everything. That didn’t mean that all the problems were gone, though, because nothing was ever that easy.

Angel telling him to get out of the city had simply been the last straw, the last item on a rather long list of problems. First, there was the Slayer. Buffy had been brought back to life and he’d done his best to comfort her, to show her that it was okay to have a little darkness inside her. But she hadn’t appreciated the help, had even gone so far as to accuse him of rape; nothing even came close to happening, which was the story of his life, really, being blamed for someone else’s mistakes. And then there were the Slayerettes. Xander, Willow, and Tara. Xander didn’t get it at all. He was completely prejudiced against the entire demon world, and Spike couldn’t blame him. The kid had to stake his best friend, after all, so had more reason to hate vampires than the Slayer. Willow and Tara with all their witchy madness were a story all on their own; a story Spike was more than willing to leave well enough alone. And although the four disagreed and bickered constantly, there was one thing they all agreed on: Spike was a hindrance, an annoyance.

Spike sighed as he thought of all that, making sure to keep close to Angel. He found his mind turning to the humans Angel employed and wondered if maybe here he could find a place to fit in, a place to finally call home after so many centuries of running. He’d met all of the humans before, but at that time he hadn’t been interested in getting to know any of them. All he’d wanted then was the Gem of Amara, which he hadn’t gotten, but it was worth the effort.

Cordelia he remembered from Sunnydale. She was a pretty brunette who had been very popular as a teenager and rather high maintenance. But she’d never been afraid of vampires or any other demon, though she’d been grossed out by plenty of them. The woman might have a weak stomach, but Spike had always admired her courage. The others, Wesley and Gunn, Spike didn’t know much about. He knew that Wesley was a Watcher, like Rupert, and that Gunn was a demon hunter, but that was as far as his knowledge went. When he’d gone after the Gem, he hadn’t really stuck around to figure out their personalities. And he’d heard rumors of a fourth member, but hadn’t set eyes on her. He’d half-assumed she was just a story, not an actual person. In any case, he’d find out soon enough.

“We’re here,” Angel said, bringing Spike back to the present.

Spike pulled the leather duster as close to his skin as possible, half-wishing he hadn’t used his shirt as a duster last night. He stepped up so that he was nearly on Angel’s heels. He didn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea and try to shoot him before his Sire could explain his presence to the humans. A part of him hoped that the humans would just accept his presence without commenting, but he knew logically that three trained investigators wouldn’t just let it lie.

Angel opened the door. He was a bit bemused at the way Spike was trying to use him as a shield. Knowing the blonde was self-conscious didn’t diminish his amusement in the least.

Cordelia, as always, was the first to greet him. “Hey, Angel,” she said, coming out from behind the desk. She stopped short when she saw Spike. “What is he doing here?” she demanded, fists planted on her hips.

“Nice to see you too, Ducks,” Spike said, trying and failing to keep his tone neutral, which caused the words to come out in a less-than-pleasant snarl.

Angel sighed. “He’s here because it’s the best place for me to keep an eye on him.” He eyed the blonde speculatively. He was going to have to rein the man in, and soon, if Spike couldn’t get his temper under control.

“Why can’t you keep an eye on him through the Slayer?”

“Aw, and here I thought you missed me,” Spike said, his tone more conversationally sarcastic than snarling this time. He’d apparently realized snarling at his Sire’s humans wasn’t the best way to show Angel his pleasure at being offered a second chance.

Cordelia rolled her eyes. “Like I’d ever miss you, bleached wonder.”

“Oy! I don’t bleach!”

“There is no way that your roots are that blonde.”

Angel smiled. With the way the two were bickering, he had a feeling Spike and Cordelia would get along just fine. “Where are Wesley and Gunn?”

Cordelia flipped her hair impatiently out of her eyes and turned her attention back to Angel. “Well, that’s what I was going to tell you before I got distracted by this bleached menace here.”

Spike scowled. “It’s not my fault you got distracted by my hair.”

Cordelia snorted. “Like your hair could ever distract me. Your presence here is just a little unnerving.”

“Unnerving?” Spike said, eyes lighting up with a grin. “You afraid, Ducks?”

“Of you?” Cordelia scoffed. “As if.”

“Oy!”

Angel sighed impatiently. “Gunn and Wesley?”

“Oh, right. That’s what I was meaning to tell you. They’re both here, but I can’t get them to come to work. Wesley is in his room, reading some ancient text about demon mating rituals, for all I know. And Gunn is in his room, drinking himself under the table. And Fred is… well, she’s doing her usual thing. But you didn’t ask about Fred.”

Bemused, Angel said, “No, I didn’t. Fred’s fine when she’s in her room. But Wesley and Gunn are starting to worry me. I know that work has been slow lately, but Wesley has never withdrawn this far into himself before and Gunn’s drinking is really starting to get to me.”

Spike spoke up then, willing and able to volunteer his services. “Peaches, I can get the Watcher out of his books, I’m sure of it. I mean, if you’ll let me near him.” He suddenly felt self-conscious, realizing he was trying to insinuate himself into the family dynamic. It was second nature for him to help out, and he didn’t really know what he’d do if Angel refused. Stand by helplessly, he supposed.

“I’m not sure that’s a good idea,” Cordelia said, frowning at Spike. “I’m still not sure it’s a good idea for him to be here, even if you are keeping an eye on him. Give me one good reason I shouldn’t kick his ass out of here.”

Angel frowned at Cordelia, suppressing the urge to smile. If he smiled in front of Cordelia, she’d think he’d lost his mind, or worse, his soul. “You’re not going to kick him out, Cordelia, because I’m still your boss and I say he stays.”

Spike felt warmth suffuse him at those words. His Sire was sort of sticking up for him. Not quite in the way he’d like, but there was plenty of time to work on that. After all, this was a new ball game for both of them. “That’s right, Ducks. Now which room is mine?”

“Spike.”

“Peaches?”

“You’ll be sharing my room.”

“Oy! I don’t need to be watched that closely!” Spike felt insulted. Surely Angel didn’t think he was going to renege on what he’d said earlier about obeying him.

Angel turned to face Spike full on and the blonde caught his breath at the serious look on his Sire’s face. “If I think you need to be watched that closely, do you really think you have the right to complain?”

Before Spike could answer, Cordelia broke in. “Guys, if you’re going to fight, can you at least wait until I’m out of the room? I’d really like to avoid the bloodshed if I can.”

Angel never took his eyes off Spike. “Don’t worry, Cordelia. We won’t be fighting. Will we, Spike?”

Spike shivered at the tone in his Sire’s voice. Even though he felt self-conscious about answering Angel while someone else was in the room, he was more afraid of what would happen if he refused, since refusing to answer would be a deliberate disobedience on his part, and Spike wasn’t sure just how far Angel would go. “No, Sire.”

“You’ll be sleeping in my room. Understand?”

“Aye.”

“Good. Now, why do you think you can help pull Wesley out of his books?”

Spike grinned, his moment of self-consciousness over. “Well, mate; I’m a walking, talking legend. Surely he won’t be able to resist that!”

Angel grunted in amusement. Only Spike would think of telling a story to get a Watcher out of his books. “Okay. He’s in Room 425. Try not to scare him. He’s a bit jumpy around vampires.”

The younger vampire gave Angel a ‘would I do that?’ look and began walking towards the stairs.

“I mean it, Spike. If Wesley has one complaint about your behavior, I will not be happy.”

“Aye. Ta mate.”

Angel turned back to Cordelia, still slightly amused at the exchange he’d had with Spike. “So, you said Gunn was in his room, drinking again?”

“Yeah, he is; as usual.”

Angel sighed. The night was going to be a long one. Spike was just the beginning of his problems. “Thanks, Cordelia. I’ll explain Spike later. Right now, I better see to Gunn.”

Chapter 1     Chapter Index     Chapter 3

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