Chapter 04

Somehow Spike had managed to stumble into Angel’s life during a time of relative peace. Not that there weren’t problems, of course, but they seemed to be more human in nature than demonic. William was always an asset to have around when it came to dealing with other people, and Angel suspected the same could be said of Spike, although the older vampire was sure that, as Spike, the blonde had developed cruder tactics than William would have ever employed.

One such tactic was the one he’d used to pull Wesley from his books. William wouldn’t have volunteered information about himself—he was too self-conscious and shy. Spike was confident and sure of himself and his own abilities. A master vampire indeed, Angel thought, and felt a surge of pride. His fledgling Childe had grown into a very capable Master, which pleased Angel to no end. It wasn’t everyday he got a chance to be proud of the bloodthirsty Childer he’d created.

Wesley spoke then, pulling Angel back to reality. “Angel, I’m sure you have a perfectly good explanation for giving shelter to such a dangerous creature, and I’d appreciate it if you would tell it to me.”

Angel studied Wesley for a long moment, trying to determine how much he could tell the bookish Englishman without worrying him.

“I despise it when you do that,” Wesley said.

“Do what?”

“Act as if you believe me to need coddling. I assure you, I am quite capable of handling the truth. There is no reason to treat me with kid gloves.”

Angel smiled ruefully at that. “I sometimes forget that you’re the most observant member of the team.”

“I find it interesting,” Wesley said, his look thoughtful, as he pushed his glasses up the ridge of his nose.

“What’s that?” Angel asked, puzzled. Had he really given the Watcher something to be intrigued over? He searched his mind, but couldn’t think of anything. It must be a human thing, he mused.

“Ah. Well, according to my calculations, it was a scant ten minutes ago you were encouraging a bloodthirsty creature to subdue me. And now, here you are, unable or unwilling to offer an explanation as to why Spike’s presence here is a necessary one.”

Oh. That. Angel didn’t realize that Wesley would consider that strange. For him, playing such a game with his Childe seemed harmless. Then clarity of struck. Wesley was human. Of course he wouldn’t understand that he had never truly been in any danger. “You were perfectly safe, Wesley.”

“While I can appreciate there are substantial differences between our races, I can assure you that I did not feel perfectly safe having a dangerous vampire violate the sanctity of my home and hold me hostage. I feel violated and decidedly not safe.”

“Even though I told you that Spike will never harm you as long as I don’t give him permission?”

Wesley stared at the vampire as if he’d lost his mind. Did Angel really expect him to believe that Spike would simply roll over, like a puppy, as ordered? “Even though,” he said. “Has it crossed your mind, even once, that Spike may not be the tamed creature you believe him to be?”

Angel couldn’t help it; he laughed. Humans and vampires certainly differed in this way, at least. Of course it hadn’t crossed his mind, because Spike would never disobey a direct order. It was hardwired into his brain—vampires had Sires as a failsafe, a guarantee that they wouldn’t become extinct. No vampire would disobey his Sire unless their own life was endangered, as Angel had when he’d disobeyed Darla. And even then, the pain was excruciating—most likely the worst pain that Angel ever endured.

His hands half-clenching into fists, Wesley took a deep breath, and forced himself to remain calm. “I am quite certain I do not understand what it is you find so amusing under the circumstances, Angel.”

The elder vampire started guiltily. He’d done it again—forgotten that Wesley wasn’t a vampire and so wouldn’t understand the lore that prevented Spike from hurting the Watcher. “I’m sorry, Wes. I forget sometimes that you don’t know everything about vampires.”

“Yes, well,” Wesley said, obviously flustered. “I’m flattered that you think so much of my knowledge, but could we get around to the explanation bit any time soon?”

Shaking his head in bemusement, Angel said, “Why not? And since you said I didn’t need to treat you with kid gloves, I’ll give you the whole story.” He paused, unsure how much or what exactly he should tell Wesley. He’s my Childe and I have to provide a home for him, hardly seemed appropriate, but it was the closest to how he truly felt.

Exasperated, Wesley rubbed the bridge of his nose, pinching the sides together in an attempt to alleviate a brewing migraine.

“Anytime you’d like, Angel.”

Angel started, unused to the watcher being so abrupt. “Oh, right. Spike’s here because I’m concerned for him, and I feel I should keep an eye on him.”

“Are you feeling obligated to help him out because he is part of your blood family?”

“No. I have never felt obligated to help anyone from my past, Wes. I ruled them with an iron fist, which you should know since it’s all included in the Watchers’ journals.”

“Yes, I am quite aware of how it is said Angelus ruled his blood family. If not obligation, then, what drives you to help him?”

Angel smiled self-deprecatingly. “I’m not sure I can explain it to you properly, Wesley. It’s sort of a vampire thing.” That was the truth and not quite the truth. Sure, Angel felt a sense of responsibility towards his Childe, but it wasn’t the type of overwhelming obligatory emotion to which Wesley was alluding.

“Try, Angel. I promise I will listen.”

Yeah, but will you understand? Angel thought a bit bitterly. Even Wesley, the human that understood more about vampires than ninety percent of other humans, didn’t quite grasp the fact that Angelus and Angel was the same person. All he saw when he looked at Angel was Angel—a vampire with a soul. And that soul was what it made it okay to trust said vampire. But Angelus was a part of him, something he could attempt to suppress and hide from his human family, but not something he could hide from himself. Angelus was still very much alive—Angel was Angelus with a soul. He could’ve kept his original name—even had, for a time—but it stirred up trouble wherever he went. Shortening it was the best thing he could’ve done to keep himself hidden from the Watchers. Not, he thought ironically, unlike a certain blonde I know.

Wesley tapped his foot, clearing growing impatient. “Angel, are you going to tell me or not? If not, there is plenty of time for me to return to the riveting tales of River the Tame.”

Angel snorted. “River was anything but tame.”

“I’m well aware of that. Wait. You knew River?”

Angel gave him one of his trademark stares.

“Oh, of course you do. You were ravaging the countryside with William at the time he was in power, no?”

“I was. But I’m pretty sure we weren’t talking about River.”

“We weren’t, but you don’t seem very inclined to discuss Spike with me.”

Angel winced. “I’m sorry, Wesley. It’s difficult to put into words.” At Wesley’s disappointed look, he continued hastily. “But I’ll try. I was out last night, thinking, and Spike sort of came out of nowhere.”

“Not with a hot poker, I presume?”

The dry amusement in Wesley’s tone made Angel laugh, and as he laughed, he loosened up. “No. I don’t think I could go another round with a hot poker so soon after the last one.” The incident had only occurred a couple weeks ago, and though Angel healed quickly, the flesh was still rather tender.

“And what was Spike doing on the roof?” Wesley asked, knowing full well that when Angel disappeared to think, he went to the old abandoned skyscraper a few blocks over.

“Apparently he was waiting to die.”

Wesley let out a small gasp of disbelief.

“I know. I didn’t believe it, either. Spike, the man who ran a hot poker through my side, was waiting for the sun. I don’t know if you knew, but earlier that night I’d had a run in with him; told him to leave the city. I banned him from it, to be honest.”

“Why did you ban him?”

Angel scowled at the memory. “I found him drinking from a passed out junkie in an alley. He wasn’t covering his tracks any better than a fledging would. I think he expected me to find him. I don’t think he expected me to ban him.”

“He probably expected you to praise him.”

Angel shook his head, negating that idea. “Spike would’ve been much more circumspect if he was looking for my praise. No, he was trying to make me angry.”

“And he succeeded, by the sound of it.”

“Yeah.” Angel let out an annoyed sigh. “He always did know how to push my buttons.”

“So if you told him to leave the city, how did he come to be on the rooftop with you?”

“I asked him that same question. He told me he wanted one last perfect picture of the city before he had to leave.”

“How did it go from that to him confessing he was there to greet the sun?”

The curiosity in Wesley’s tone wasn’t judgmental. If anything, it helped to soothe Angel’s fragile nerves and made him want to talk to the Watcher. It made Angel smile a little on the inside, and he wondered how Wesley would feel if he ever knew he had a calming affect on a vampire. He’d probably go ballistic. “About an hour before sunrise, I suggested we hole up in the building for the day, since it’s not attached to the tunnel system.”

That tidbit of information surprised Wesley. He’d assumed that building, along with ninety percent of the old abandoned buildings in the city, were connected to the underground tunnels. “He didn’t agree, then?”

“No. But I wasn’t about to let my Childe turn into dust when his reasoning for wanting to meet the sun was something I could do something about.”

“What was his reasoning?” Wesley was gently curious.

But the question shut Angel up instantly. He would not discuss William’s emotions with anyone but the man in question. The blonde was just too sensitive. If Angel shared Spike’s distress with Wesley, it would eventually get back to him, and Angel wasn’t sure he could live with himself—or Spike—if that were to happen. “That’s between us,” he said.

“I respect that,” Wesley said. Seeing that Angel wasn’t going to offer any more conversation, he added, “Should we join Cordelia and our mislaid adventurer downstairs? I’m sure it would do me some good to converse with the living.”

Angel smiled. Trust Spike to manage something he hadn’t been able to do in months. “Sounds good,” he said.
The two of them came downstairs together to find Cordelia and Spike sprawled out on the floor, playing a game of poker. Spike had spread his duster out on the floor and was laying comfortably, elbows propped up in front of him as he concentrated on his cards.

Without being asked, he slid effortlessly off his duster and onto the floor beside him. Angel took up residence on the duster without comment, flicking a look of appreciation the blonde’s direction. Spike shrugged slightly, as if to say, what’d you expect?

Angel was satisfied that William remembered his distaste for getting his clothes dirty, as well as his distaste for cold floors. Speaking of cold floors, Spike was bare-chested again, and while Angel would never be able to get enough of his lithe body, he wasn’t sure how he felt about the others being able to ogle his Childe.

“Oy! You can’t do that, that’s bloody cheatin!” Spike threw his hand down in disgust and glared at Cordelia.

The brunette smiled innocently back, picking non-existent dirt out from underneath her nails, daring Spike to do something about it.

“How exactly is she cheating?” Wesley broke in, having taken a seat cross-legged on the floor beside Cordelia.

“Takin’ four cards without a bloody ace is bloody cheatin, Ducks,” Spike said, addressing Cordelia and completely ignoring the watcher’s input.

Angel had to smother a grin. Watching Cordelia and Spike interact was going to be fun, he just knew it. The two of them were similar in their don’t-care-about-anyone-but-myself attitude, but they both deeply cared for everyone around them. It was one reason he’d felt inexplicably attracted to Cordelia when she first joined the team, but that attraction had been fleeting once he’d realized he was trying to replace Spike.

That thought sobered him. Ever since he’d left his blood family, the only thing he’d regretted was leaving William behind. William, the Childe who would and had gone to the ends of the earth trying to prove his worth to his Sire. The Childe who had become Spike in a desperate effort to keep his true nature—William’s nature—hidden from the world around him.

“Peaches, make her stop cheatin!”

Angel turned amused eyes on his Childe. “If you think I’m going to mess with a woman and her cards, you are very much mistaken.”

Spike pouted, sending the rest into gales of laughter, but he finally conceded the hand to Cordelia, muttering the entire time about how unfair it was as well as how women always used their guile to get away with cheating, even with something as innocent as cards.

The four of them spent the rest of the night playing poker. Cordelia won, using the guile Spike had accused her of without batting an eyelash. Angel came in a close second, Wesley third, and Spike dead last. Angel had the advantage of knowing the tells of everyone there, and Wesley had a leg up over Spike because he counted cards—an ability that let him win when it wasn’t against Cordelia or Angel. Cordelia could melt the hardest of hearts, and Angel…well, no one could outplay Angel except Cordelia. And half the time, Wesley suspected the vampire let Cordelia win just to keep everything running smoothly. A losing Cordelia was an irate one, and no one liked Cordelia when she was angry.

“All right,” Angel said when they were all played out. “I think I’m ready to call it a night. C’mon, Spike.”

Spike looked torn. He wanted to stay up and continue playing with Wes and Cordelia, who were obviously getting ready to start another game. The two of them didn’t have to worry about exposure to sunlight, after all, so they could stay up as long as they wanted. At the same time, he wanted to obey his Sire, who was giving him an order. “Aw, Peaches, can’t I stay up and play with the kiddies a bit longer?” he asked, giving Angel his best puppy dog look.

Angel rolled his eyes at his Childe, amused at the man’s antics. He lowered his voice to a decibel humans couldn’t hear and said, very softly, “I’ll give you two choices. You can stay up with them. Room number is 103, and I’ll keep it unlocked.”

Just as low, Spike returned, “And the other choice?”

“You don’t stay up with them. If you stay up with them, you won’t get this shirt back.”

Spike blinked. As far as consequences went, they were rather lenient. But Angel also knew how much he wanted that shirt—his Sire had never allowed him to touch, let alone wear, any of his clothes in the past. It was a sort of Holy Grail.
In human hearing, Angel said, “If you want, but you’ll be crap tomorrow.”

Spike gathered his cards together and handed them to Cordelia, who looked at him with a thoughtful expression. The blonde didn’t pause to wonder what it was about. If Cordelia wanted to try and psychoanalyze him, she could do her best. So far, no one but Angel had been able to get inside his head. “Aw, fine Peaches. You win. Bed it is.” He winked at Cordelia, knowing it’d throw her off guard, and was rewarded with her startled expression. “Night, kiddies,” he said, picking his duster off the floor, slinging it around his shoulders, and began to follow Angel out of the room.

Wesley scowled after him. “We’re not children, Spike!”

Spike whipped around with a flourish, walking backwards the entire time, demonstrating his feline grace in an effort to show off, Angel was sure. “Oy! You’re kiddies to me, English. I been alive over a century. I reckon that makes me your bloody senior!”

Wesley snorted. “Having lived more years is not a proof of wisdom or maturity, Spike.”

“Oy!”

Angel was starting to get tired and when he got tired, he began to get cranky. He reached back behind him, not bothering to look what he was doing, grabbed the waistband of Spike’s jeans by the back belt loop, and pulled once. It wasn’t a harsh tug, nowhere near hard enough to cause the blonde to stumble, but it did the trick. Spike turned instantly around, fell into step behind Angel, and, miraculously, fell silent.

The two of them entered Angel’s room without engaging in conversation. Spike immediately went to the side of the room that was devoid of all furniture. He folded his duster reverently and laid it against the wall, then removed his jeans and socks and folded those as well. The shoes he’d been wearing were safe in the entrance hall along with everyone else’s. No one wore shoes in Angel’s hotel—he was very conscious of good hygiene. Perhaps because he’d been born in a time when it was so uncommon. That left Spike standing silently in his boxers as he waited for his Sire to tell him where he was to sleep. He presumed nothing; this was new territory for both of them, and he refused to be the first to screw it up by forgetting one of the rules Angelus had beat into him as a fledgling.

Angel smothered a smile when he saw Spike standing so uncertainly in the middle of the room. It brought back memories of an earlier time, but this was neither the time nor place to explore those memories. That had been years ago—over a century, really—and it wouldn’t be fair to compare Spike to the man he’d been then—just as it wouldn’t be fair for Spike to compare Angel to Angelus. The elder vampire took off his t-shirt and fought the temptation to toss it in his laundry bag. He’d promised it to Spike, and the man had certainly earned such a small thing with his behavior. Angel laid it on the bed after he folded it, watching in amusement as Spike eyed the shirt with longing and hopeful anticipation, but made no move to touch it. He finished divesting himself of clothing until he stood, as Spike did, in nothing but boxers.

Angel picked up the shirt, walked past the blonde to the pile of clothes he’d stacked in the corner, and laid the shirt down on top of them. Spike’s face lit up in pleasure, because he knew from multiple lessons that when Angelus put something on top of William’s clothing, it was a gift. Angel half-expected Spike to bounce over to the pile of clothes like an eager puppy, and could see that the blonde wanted to do just that, but the man never moved.

“There’s a sleeping bag on the top shelf of the closet,” Angel said, wishing he could instead instruct Spike to share his bed. But that was something big, a subject neither one of them had been willing to broach.

“But you only ever used that as punishment before,” Spike protested, clapping a hand over his mouth when he realized he’d spoken out of turn.

Angel frowned. “Things change, Spike. I’m not the same man I was then. And you’re not, either. I’m not using this as punishment, but as reassurance. I have no plans to hurt you unnecessarily. I am not the cruel master you remember.”

Spike’s breath hitched. That was one thing Angel always loved about his Childe—no matter what, he always breathed. The blonde loved pretending to breath, and the only time he didn’t was when he slept. “Sire, I know that I might be overstepping my bounds here, but not being allowed to share your bed, even if it’s just to sleep, is something I will always associate with being punished.”

Angel thought hard for a moment, but it didn’t take much effort to make up his mind. Spike was his Childe, and it had been a long time since he’d had someone in his bed. Even if it was only for sleeping. “All right,” he said finally. “You’ll share the bed with me. But the rules are the same as when you last did so.”

Spike smiled, and when he did so, Angel saw a trace of the shy William peeking through. But that only lasted a moment, and then Spike was back in full. “Aye, Peaches.” No touching, no cuddling, just sleeping. The younger vampire hummed silently to himself as he slid underneath the covers on the left hand side—Angel preferred the right—and fell asleep almost instantly.

Angel shook his head in fond exasperation as he slid under the covers beside his Childe. He fell asleep to the sound of contented purring, though he’d never tell Spike he purred in his sleep. If he told him, his Childe would consciously work to rid himself of the habit. And it was one habit that even in the days of Angelus had been endearing.

Chapter 3     Chapter Index     Chapter 5

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