Redemption Songs

Redemption Songs

By DeAnna Zankich

Rating: NC17
Summary: Angel's back from Hell and he needs a little help from his old pal, Spike.
Notes: Soundtrack: "Fade into You" by Mazzy Star. Spoilers: Some from Season Three, but the story is mostly AU.

***

Spike:

The mansion seemed smaller than he remembered. Well, in some ways. In other ways, it seemed even more hollow and vast-echoing with the resonance of torture and debauchery. They'd had fun there, the three of them. Before Angelus had started all that yammer with Acathla and the whole ending the world bit, it had been a right party. But once he got his black little heart set on his own brand of Armageddon, everything went straight down the toilet.

Spike did what he had to. He had no choice. Betraying Angel was never any fun for him, but the big baboon just got so full of himself sometimes. He needed sorting. Spike was fairly certain being sent to some hell dimension by the slayer was probably a bit over the top as far as comeuppance went, but life was funny that way.

And now, apparently, Angel had been regurgitated back into their very own proverbial hell dimension. At least that was the rumor in the underworld. Spike had to see it for himself. Hence, there he stood-in a dark corner of the coldly elegant home he had shared with Drusilla and Angel only a few months before. Squinting into the dim, dusty and cavernous main room his vampire eyes adjusted to the tilting shadows until they finally fixed on the figure on the floor.

Half naked, drenched in blood sweat and trembling, he was. Whimpering in his sleep as though he were freezing to death. Not that he could freeze to death, but that's how he looked. And she was there, too. Watching him. Watching OVER him, but unable to save him from the unimaginable nightmares having their way with him. Her pretty little face was set in an expression closely resembling guilt, but slightly related to fear, as well. She wished he would let her hold him. The desire emanated from her in a continuous tone until it became a song of longing to be forgiven. Spike understood that.

Waiting stock still, he watched her for hours as she sat near Angel's shuddering body. He lay on the cold stone floor but he was still glittering with perspiration. The sweat smelled like copper and citrus. It smelled of terror and confusion. Spike understood that, as well.

Finally, the slayer gathered her little handbag and slipped out the mansion's door. It was nearly 3:00 a.m. and she needed her beauty sleep, after all. Spike waited until he was sure she'd got far enough away and then he moved soundlessly out into the center of the room.

Angel was sleeping, but he still seemed keenly aware of his surroundings-as only wild things can be. Cautiously, Spike knelt down and crept forward on his hands and knees until he was about two feet from the trembling shell of his sire. For a long time, he just watched Angel's face, trying to follow the traces of the expressions, hoping they would lead him to understand the nature of Angel's nightmares. All that frowning and twitching ultimately offered nothing. Spike sighed and moved forward a bit more, knowing his proximity would soon be detected.

Suddenly, violently, Angel flinched awake and skittered backward on his feet and hands until his shoulders were pressed against the large stone hearth. He panted and stared at Spike with fierce eyes-eyes full of suspicion and panic.

Sitting back on his haunches, Spike raised his hands up and showed his empty palms. "Easy, mate," he said softly. "It's all right. I'm not here to hurt you."

Angel seemed unable to comprehend the words. He simply stared at Spike unblinkingly, his bare torso shimmering as his chest heaved with useless frightened breaths.

"Angel," Spike said, his voice low and soothing. "It's me." After a moment, he inched a bit closer on his knees, still showing his hands to illustrate harmless intent. "You know me, right? Spike."

The quivering creature that so very much looked like Angel continued to stare, but his reflexive breathing did seem to slow a bit.

Spike stopped where he was and settled down into a seated position, folding his lean legs Indian-style. They were only about two feet apart again-surely close enough to smell each other. Spike had been able to smell Angel far off, but he had no way of knowing if his sire was able to recognize his scent. In his gut, he felt like Angel knew him, but there was no visible evidence of that as yet. That was fine. Spike could wait. Where Angel was concerned, he could be as patient as Job.

"Right," he said slowly, calmly. "I'm just going to keep talking and . . . maybe in a bit . . . you'll relax."

Angel watched him with narrowed eyes.

Taking a deep breath, Spike thought about what to say-what, if anything, might help Angel recognize him. A story, perhaps. Some dishy secret from their past. Something only he and Angel knew. There were many such things, actually. The bulk of 124 years was a long time to get into mischief with a like-minded bloke. They'd made good use of their time together. But stories were likely too complex for that moment. Angel seemed barely able to understand language, much less to access humor or sentimentality. No . . . Spike needed another way to make contact . . . something more . . . primal.

And then, it hit him like a blast of cold water in the face.

Looking into those wild golden brown eyes, Spike held Angel's gaze for a long moment until he could feel the tingle of connection in his belly. Angel was really looking at him-seeing him. Waiting. That was when Spike began to hum softly.

The tune was one he'd heard as a boy in England, but it was actually an old Irish melody. Young William had heard a group of food merchants singing it all together one bright afternoon in the marketplace as he walked home from school. The melody had stayed with him his entire life. The first time he'd sung it in front of Angel, Spike didn't really know he was being heard. He was in the bath in a hotel in Paris and he'd been humming the tune to himself while he soaked and relaxed. The scent of lavender soap permeated that memory. Angel had been standing in the doorway for almost ten minutes before Spike had noticed him there.

The song was simple, about a girl who sold fresh shellfish from a cart. In his youth, Spike remembered the song being called "Cockles and Muscles, Sweet Molly Malone" but he always thought of it by the phonetic title "Alive, Alive-oh". He hummed the first verse quietly then he raised his voice just enough to add in the words. Angel stared at him while he sang, his fierce demeanor shifting ever so slightly as the tune carried on. Spike held that fervent gaze and kept on singing, the lilting melody wrapping around on itself as he reached the chorus.

"Alive, alive-oh
Crying cockles and mussels
Alive, alive-oh . . .
She was a fishmonger and sure t'was no wonder
for so were her father and mother before
And they all wheeled their barrows
through streets broad and narrow
crying cockles and muscles
alive, alive-oh . . ."

Spike's voice broke slightly on the lower notes, but he didn't think his audience would mind. As he continued to sing, Angel's breathing slowed and evened out until it appeared to stop all together-a much more natural state for a 245 year old vampire. After another verse, the brunette actually leaned forward slightly, seeming to want to be nearer the sound of Spike's melodic voice.

Carefully . . . so very carefully . . . Spike inched forward and when Angel did not recoil, he inched forward some more. Soon they were close enough that Spike's bent knees almost touched Angel's outstretched toes. His scent was strong then, a bit acrid from the fear-sweat but still delicious at the core. Angel, no mistake. One's scent could not be replicated, not even by a demon imposter. Spike's mouth watered, just like always, and he had to swallow a few times before he could continue singing. His voice was stronger that time, just a little louder, and once again, Angel did not pull away.

While he sang the last chorus, he tipped forward almost imperceptibly until he was within reach of Angel's legs. Slowly, he held out his hands-once again showing he had nothing in them-then made the motion of touching the brunette's exposed ankles. Angel frowned and drew his legs back in silent protest. He shook his head once just to make his point that much clearer.

"Right," Spike said calmly. "No touching. That's fine." He offered a tiny seductive grin. "It's just that you smell so lovely, all sweaty and dirty like you are. And I know you're hungry. I can feel it."

Angel lowered his chin and licked his dry lips, just like a cat ready to pounce on a nice juicy mouse.

Feeling encouraged by the reaction, Spike shifted his legs out from under him and sat on his backside on the floor, stretching his feet out in a wide V around Angel's legs. He pushed up the sleeve of his black coat and showed his thin, pale wrist. The dark blue veins raised up there like roads on a map and Spike stroked them with his fingertip to show how tender they were.

Angel watched this action very closely and then he licked his lips twice more. From deep in his chest came a soft vibration, a tiny sound that was almost a word. He uttered this sound once, then uttered it again and the second time it had cohesion.

"Feed . . ." he said in a rasping whisper.

Spike smiled and scooted forward again, that time with more confidence. "Do you want to taste me?" he said, bringing his own wrist to his mouth and cutting the thin skin there with his fangs. He winced slightly and then blood began to drip from the two shallow wounds. Again, he offered his wrist to Angel and the brunette leaned forward with his full lips parted, inhaling the scent of Spike's blood with great interest.

Without any unnecessary contact, Spike brought his wounded wrist to Angel's cool lips and let his sire drink. As always, it felt amazing-the hard pull of having one's life force sucked with such velocity. He sighed and wished he could crawl into Angel's lap and press against him like they used to, but he knew better. Not tonight, anyway. If Angel continued to improve, there would be plenty of time for those deep, luscious kissing sessions. Tonight Angel needed a different sort of care.

"I can go out," Spike said softly, trying to keep his head clear even though he wanted to swoon from the lovely sucking. "I can get you someone."

Angel's eyes were half closed as he drank but at that moment he looked up sharply and pulled away. He stared at Spike with cold reproach, frowning as though he were trying to understand an insult in a foreign language.

"No," he said. "Too much . . . killing . . . no more . . ."

Spike sighed and tried not to roll his eyes. "Oh, right," he muttered. "I guess the soul's back in town. Hard to tell with you in this condition. Last I saw you, you were . . . well . . . you don't remember, do you?"

Angel continued to stare at him for a long moment, then his glittering eyes moved back to the dripping wounds on Spike's wrist.

"Angel, you're hungry," Spike said. "Sucking on me will only whet your appetite. I have to get you some warm human blood. I promise . . . you won't have to kill anyone. But please let me feed you."

Uncertainly, Angel's prominent brow knit and smoothed as he tried to process what was being said. Finally he settled back against the stone hearth, his posture offering tacit agreement.

Spike nodded and stood up, licking his cut wrist to stop the dripping blood. "I'll be back, then. Don't go anywhere." He smiled reassuringly at the half-naked Angel and then he slipped out the mansion's door into the inky night.

He found the woman easily enough. Spike always did. Flirting was an art form he had perfected and it was his favorite way to lubricate a kill.

He led the hapless lady back to the front door of the mansion, then he laid on the brash Cockney charm and said he simply couldn't wait to kiss her. He batted his long, wheat-colored lashes and gave her his best cheeky, boyish grin, then he did kiss her, because he loved kissing, but it only lasted a few seconds. As soon as he felt her relax against him, he drew her near and sank his teeth into her tender, hot neck.

Draining her quickly, he piled her limp body in a cluster of trees around the corner from the door. He had to stop and lean against the wall for a moment as the fresh, burning human blood mixed with his own. He felt the chemicals working together, changing the original compound and making it into that rich elixir that was the staff of unlife. Spike waited until he felt his extremities heat up and then he hurried inside.

Angel was right where he'd left him, leaning against the stone hearth. He looked very tired and very weak but still impossibly gorgeous. Spike had to laugh. Only Angel could become even more shaggable by getting coughed out by the seventh layer of Hell.

Spike approached him slowly, hands visible again, then he sat down beside the brunette-close enough so their thighs touched. Angel did not pull away. Instead, he licked his lips and smelled Spike's neck hungrily, ragged little breaths pulling in and out of his lungs.

"That's it," Spike purred, offering his neck like a virginal maiden. "Take it from up here. I'm warm from it. You can have half. But stop if you hear me whimperin', all right?"

Angel made a tiny, supplicating sound and then he pressed his mouth against Spike's bare neck, forcing his fangs into the flesh above the jugular. If Spike's heart were working, it would have been pumping like mad then. He didn't know if this feral version of Drusilla's sire understood that he had to stop drinking at some point. Not that he could kill Spike that way, but he could damage him plenty. On top of all that, being over-drained hurt like bloody hell.

Gritting his teeth, he waited as Angel took his first greedy drinks. It felt lovely, like it always did at the beginning, and then the brunette began to hum with pleasure. That was the best thing. Spike sighed and leaned against him, feeling his cock itch and swell in his black jeans.

"Mmmmm . . ." he sighed. "That's the way, peaches . . . take it . . ." His hands came up instinctively, trying to stroke Angel's hair, but as soon as his fingers touched the wild brunette's ears, Angel drew back immediately.

Spike's newly thinned blood dripped from Angel's lips and fangs. He stared at Spike with fearful accusation as though the younger vampire had struck him rather than attempted to pet him.

"I'm sorry," Spike said, holding up his hands again. "Christ, it's all right, Angel. Really. I'll keep my hands to myself if it'll help. Just . . . come on back. Drink a bit more. You're so weak, mate. You need to feed."

Chest heaving again, Angel stared at him for a long time before he moved.

"Blood's getting cold, luv," Spike reminded him, then he reached forward with his left hand and gingerly placed it flat against Angel's belly. Hoping with all his might that the touch would be familiar and comforting, Spike waited and kept his eyes fixed on Angel's. "Come on back," he urged. "Just a little more."

The brunette looked down at Spike's hand and then up into his eyes again. His tongue lapped at the blood clinging to his lips and teeth and he shivered slightly from the delicious taste.

Curling his fingers gently, Spike reached around Angel's thin side and drew him forward. "Come on, then . . . it's all right."

Allowing himself to be pulled, Angel closed his mouth over the wound in Spike's neck again. First he just licked it and then, after a moment, he began to suck at the blood again.

Having established contact, Spike took the opportunity to softly caress Angel's hard belly while he drank. With the backs of his fingers, he tickled the rippling abs, toyed gently with the silky hairs around the navel. All tiny gestures of pleasure and affection meant to calm this beautiful, savage beast who was somehow hiding his mentor. But after another few seconds, the draining became unpleasant and Spike pressed his hand against Angel's belly to signal that he should stop.

"That's enough," he said. "Wrap it up, now."

Thinking he was in for a fight, Spike was surprised when Angel simply stopped and extracted his dagger sharp fangs in a quick but graceless movement. Then he sat back against the hearth.

Bringing his fingers to his neck, Spike winced when he felt the wound there. Angel had made a big, jagged tear in the flesh instead of his usual fiercely clean and rather elegant double puncture. Spike felt like he'd almost been eaten and something about that idea was just a bit intriguing.

Looking at Angel's face, he tried a smile again. "Maybe you would have preferred me grilled and served over greens."

Those dark eyes glimmered in the dim room and for a moment, it seemed Angel couldn't really focus. Spike knew what he was feeling. His senses were reeling from the blood he'd ingested and the pleasure was blotting out everything else around him. It would pass in a moment, like it always did, but a fresh blood buzz was one of the best things going. Settling back against the hearth himself, Spike figured he could wait for an answer.

He could smell the approaching dawn in the air and feel the instinctive fatigue in his bones brought on by it. Glancing around, Spike's memory was flooded with scenes from their very recent past-parties, orgies and fights they'd had right in that very room. All the furniture seemed untouched since they all blew out of there that day. He and Drusilla went off to Brazil and Angel went off to Hell. Spike had some vague knowledge that the slayer disappeared for awhile, too, but he had no idea where she went. Didn't much care, to tell the truth.

But now, they were all back again. All but Dru, that is. She hadn't wanted to join him on this errand. Instead, his beloved black goddess had stayed behind in South America.

Spike couldn't help but wonder what she was doing then. Who she was doing. Girl had an unbelievable appetite for sex and didn't much care who was giving it to her. That was the thing he loved the most about Drusilla. And the thing that caused him the most heartache.

Angel shifted beside him and lay down on the ground near the hearth. He drew his long legs up to his chest in the fetal position and tucked his arm under his head.

"Yeah," Spike said softly. "Rest. That's a good idea." He got up and went down the dark hallway that led to the row of bedrooms in the mansion.

The dust on all the surfaces was inches deep and undisturbed as he moved lightly down the marble corridor. No one had been there since they all left that fateful day. No squatters, no vandals, no authorities. Spike wasn't surprised, really. They had selected that mansion because it was so very ominous and intimidating to passers-by.

Knowing no one had been there, he assumed the things they had left behind would also be untouched. Going to Angel's bedroom, he stopped in front of the door for a moment and listened-just to be on the safe side. No one there but him and the spirits, it appeared.

The hinges whined when he opened the door and the room inside was stuffy and pitch black. He took out his Zippo for a bit of illumination. The bright flame revealed the room exactly as Angel had left it-huge unmade bed, clothing scattered around on the overstuffed chairs, half empty molding goblets of wine and scotch glasses littering the table tops. Everything was tinged gray with dust. Particles moved and floated in the air around Spike's lighter like little ghosts coveting the heat and light.

Walking to the large dresser, Spike pulled open the top drawer and found it full of Angel's roughly folded and beautifully made shirts. The next drawer was filled with cashmere sweaters and the next with t-shirts made of the finest cotton. Figuring Angel was in no mood to bother with such things that night, Spike slid the drawers closed again and turned to the bed.

He tossed back the red velvet bedspread and grabbed the less dusty blanket underneath, tugging it until it came loose. Wrapping it around one arm, he tucked a pillow under the other and went back out to the main room.

Angel was shivering slightly but he was already asleep. Spike shook out the soft blanket, folded it in half, then draped it gently over Angel's body. He set the pillow on the floor by the brunette's head, but he didn't think Angel would notice it. At least it was there, in case he woke up and wanted a bit more comfort. Spike wondered if he even remembered what a pillow was for in his current state.

For a long time, he just watched Angel sleeping, wishing he could get inside that troubled mind and quell those nightmares. The dawn was very close and he looked around to see if the windows were all safely covered. He couldn't leave Angel exposed. Spike walked around the room checking all the places where the sunlight might sneak in until he felt satisfied his sire would be all right there. Finally, he moved back toward the shadowy hallway again, glancing over his shoulder one more time before leaving.

The pillow was under Angel's head and the tall brunette was still and calm under the blanket.

Spike smiled. "See you tomorrow, peaches," he whispered. "Sleep tight."

Halfway down the echoing hallway was a secret door that Drusilla had found one day when she and Miss Edith were playing hide and seek. It led to the previous owner's wine cellar but all the wine had long since been consumed. When the three of them were living there, they had set up this basement room as a sort of bunker in case of an attack. Like everything else in the mansion, this room had remained untouched in their absence.

At the bottom of the narrow stairs was a shelf built into the wall. Inside were two flashlights and a box of pillar candles with matches. Spike went about lighting one of the candles and then made his way into the room to set himself up for a few nights.

There was less dust down there, but still plenty of it. Along the far wall were three heavy stone coffins that Angel had taken great pleasure in getting down there. He'd made four of their previous feckless minions schlep them down the stairs by hand and arrange them against the wall just so. The memory of that day made Spike grin. Angel could be such a clever bastard when he put his soulless mind to it.

Selecting the coffin Drusilla had favored, Spike set his candle on the polished wooden rim. He brushed off the dust and sediment on the soft satin pillow-pink, it was, because Dru loved pink-then he climbed on in. It only took him a moment to settle in and feel as snug as could be. He thought the satin might still smell like his girl, but alas it had been too long since she'd lain there. All he could smell was dampness and dust and the faint honey-scent of the beeswax candle. That scent had its own pack of memories, didn't it?

Deciding to leave the lid open, Spike licked the pad of his thumb and middle finger and extinguished the candle. He was ready for a nice long nap after all the stealthy traveling he'd done over the last few days.

As the deep trance-like sleep of the undead began to steal over him, he heard the soft far away sound of a melody. Was he imagining that? Was that real or just the faint beginnings of a dream? He was asleep before he could be sure. But just before he drifted off, he could have sworn he heard Angel humming.

Buffy:

The guy at the butcher's looked at me like I was some sort of ghoul. If I'm going to keep this up, I'll need to come up with an excuse for buying a pint of fresh pig's blood every day. Maybe I could tell him I have a really large pet bat. A bat the size of a Volvo.

I'm shaking as I approach the mansion because I have no idea how I'll find him today. I only slept last night because I was exhausted, but I dreamt about him over and over. Dreamt he was suddenly evil again and came to kill me and mom. Dreamt he was just putting on an act with all this feral-I-forget-my-own-name-because-I've-been-in-Hell-for-an-eternity-where-you-sent-me, lover crap and he just came back to feast on me and end my days. Like I deserve. I mean, what else does a person who kills her own lover deserve but to have him kill her right back? I don't even think I'd be mad at him.

I probably kept dreaming that because some part of me wants him to kill me. Ew. How freaky is that?

The door creaks a little, which is not helping my nerves. I don't want to frighten him if he's sleeping. I try to be really quiet as I come into the main room but I don't see him. I have to let my eyes adjust to the dimness and then I take a good look around. No sign of him.

"Angel?" I say very softly. "Angel, it's me. Are you here?" I walk toward the hallway that leads to the bedrooms but I have to stop because it's pitch dark down there. I set the container of blood down on the floor and get in my handbag for my little pen-sized flash light, then I keep going down the hall, not liking it one bit. "Angel?" My ears are all pricked up and tuning and I think I hear something from down below, but that could be anything. Could be a mouse. Could be Satan. Could be the plumbing, for all I know.

I stop in front of one of the doors and look inside. This must have been his room when he lived here with Spike and Drusilla. His clothes are all over the place still. Those leather pants he looked so wicked hot in. And those fitted silky shirts. Cashmere sweaters. Everything yummy to the touch, just like he likes. Or used to like. Who knows what all he likes now. Now, he might be into the prickly inner ear fur of yak colts. I shine the light around in there but the room seems empty. Just dust and dirty glasses in there.

Moving on to the next room, I open the door very slowly and shine the light inside. More dust, but this room is a little more organized. This must have been Spike and Dru's room. It has the essence of a woman's touch, even if said women is a murdering nutjob vamp who needs a wake-up call that goth has been over since Peter Murphy went solo. Oh, yeah-there's the telltale sign-one of her icky, creepy, eyeless dolls propped up on the dresser. God, I hate those dolls.

No one in there, though. No Angel, for sure. I shut the door and go to the next one down the hall, but I find that door locked. For a moment I think about knocking, but then I figure if it's locked, Angel didn't go in there. He's not even coherent enough to tie his shoes, much less to remember where he left his keys before he blew town for Hell.

Further down, this hallway opens up to the ballroom. This is where it happened. This is where Acathla was and this is where I killed Angel. Well, I guess it's not really accurate to say I KILLED him for obvious reasons. But I did send him away on a long hot vacation and I did it from the very center of this room.

For a moment, I can't help but just trip out on the weirdness of being there again and on the exceptionally freaky weirdness of having him back. In a way, I'm totally buggin' about what he'll say once he can talk again. Will he tell me what happened to him? Will he blame me? Of course he will-I mean, why wouldn't he? I blame me. I was there, I know who did that to him. And it wasn't that big ugly stone troll, that's for damned sure.

So, I'm standing there like a dork in that big echoey room and I let him sneak up on me. I kinda know he's there, but I kinda don't, too. Either way, I jump and turn around and there he is. He must have been hiding just in case it hadn't been me coming into the mansion. I wonder where he was . . .

"Hi," I say and try to smile, but my heart is totally hammering. Is now when he's really going to eat me?

He's still shirtless and covered in smudgy dirt-dirt and whatever else that got stuck to his beautiful, sweaty body when he was beating the crap out of that Pete freak. When he's verbal again, I have to remember to ask him where he found those jeans he's wearing. And those shoes. He got himself half dressed and just didn't bother with a shirt. Well, I guess I can't complain. I mean, LOOK at him.

"I brought you . . ." I nod toward the end of the hallway where I left the cup of blood. ". . . something to eat," I finish lamely. "It's cold. I don't know if that'll make it too gross to consume, but maybe we can heat it up. I can make a fire . . . if you want. Um, are you cold?" I can't believe I'm stammering like that and I really can't believe I just asked a 245 year old vampire if he was cold.

He's just looking at me and not saying anything or moving. Just standing there and watching me.

"Angel?" I say, really quietly. "Are you . . . okay?"

He steps forward and his eyes glimmer in the little beam from my flash light. He's looking at it so curiously. I can't tell if he's afraid of it or if he's just annoyed by it. Either way, he reaches for it but when I go to hand it to him, he flinches back. I stay calm and keep holding the light out to him. In a minute or two, he moves forward again and reaches out with shaky fingers to touch the flashlight.

"It's just a pen light," I say. "It isn't hot or anything. See? I can just turn it off, if it's bugging you." I flip the button on the handle and the light goes out. Now I can barely see him, but there's a little light coming in from the high windows in the room and I can tell that he's even more fascinated now that I've made the lightbeam go away. I'm very concerned that he doesn't remember what flashlights are. God. What else has he lost?

"Here," I say, holding the light out. "Go ahead. Take it. It's just a little thing. Plastic, batteries. Nothing scary." I hold it out in my open hand and he just looks at it. And then, so suddenly that I really jump and almost drop the flashlight all together, he speaks.

"I know . . ." he says and his voice is so scratchy. The sound of it would be a painful kind of sexy if he wasn't so messed up. "I know what it is," he says. "I just . . ." He sighs and brings his dirty hands to his head, running them through his filthy hair. "It just seems so . . . strange to me."

"Okay," I say, heart really hammering now. "You're talking. That's really great. Really."

He looks up at me with the most heartbreaking expression-a horrible mixture of confusion and frustration and anger. Sadness is in there, too. I want to hold him so bad, I can taste it like metal in my mouth. I know he won't let me. That's the worst part.

"Are you . . . feeling better?" I say. "Any more, you know . . . yourself?"

He shakes his head really hard and turns away from me, shuffling down the hall to the main room as though he can escape the question by changing location. I follow him, but I stop asking him stuff. Clearly he doesn't want to talk. Or maybe he does want to talk so much and just can't.

Back in the main room, he plops down on the hearth and just sits there with his broad shoulders all slumped. He's still shaking his head like he's saying no over and over again, but I wonder who he's saying it to. Himself? Me? Someone there I can't see?

Instead of doing anymore girly yammering, I just sit next to him-but a few feet away. If I sit too close, he'll wig and go scurrying off into the corner or something worse. I'm glad he's letting me get this close, so I just count my blessings.

He sits there shaking his head for the longest time and then finally, finally he gets still. I start to wonder if my being there is bugging him so I figure now is a good time to ask.

"Angel?"

He looks at me and I see for the first time that his beautiful eyes are all red and wet. He's been sitting here crying and I didn't even know. He was so quiet about it.

"Oh," I hear myself say and then I'm moving forward before I think better of it. It's instinct. My beautiful lover is hurting, I move to comfort him. But of course, it's not what he wants. He moves away quickly and stands up in the center of the room, but at least he didn't run off.

Again, we just stare at each other and I feel totally, completely helpless.

"I'm sorry," I say. "I know you don't want me to touch you, I just . . . you look so . . ." Oh, crap, now I'm crying. I didn't even feel like crying and then all of a sudden, there it was. Boohoo, right on cue, the girl bursts into tears. I hate that. The way it just sneaks up. One second, I'm all fine and cool and collected, next second I'm doing my Alice Cooper impression.

I'm so ashamed of myself that I have to look away from him. I mean, it's dumb that I'm doing that because he's not gonna care if my mascara runs. I see him out of my peripheral vision and he's not running away. Not yet. In fact, he actually moves forward a little. Not like he's going to hug me and everything will be all fine or anything, but he moves forward sort of on instinct just like I did. Like he needs to comfort me. I wish he would. I wish that with all my will and energy. Wish it so hard I could explode.

"Buffy," he says my name all gravely and raw and I look at him, tears streaming away.

That's all there is. He doesn't say anything else, neither do I. We just look at each other for like, ever. Finally, he turns around and moves over to the dusty couch in the center of the room. I have the feeling he hasn't sat on it yet since he's been back. Maybe he didn't think he deserved to for some reason. I know, I'm projecting, but I'm feeling the need to grasp at straws here.

When he's near the couch, he doesn't really SIT as much as he sort of leans forward into the cushions until he collapses there on his side. He pulls his legs up and hugs them-again, like he's cold. See? I knew he was. Watching him like this is killing me.

Okay. I have to do something. So I'm going to make a fire. Luckily, there's some dry, dusty wood still in the box beside the fireplace and my inner girlscout sorts out a crackly little blaze in no time. The blood I brought is still sitting on the floor over by the hall and I go get it, taking the plastic cup out of the brown bag it's in.

He's lying on the couch and staring straight ahead. It's only then that I see the blanket and pillow sort of shoved under the couch. I set the cup on the floor and kneel down, really carefully. No sudden moves. He looks at me.

"Do you want this blanket?" I say, reaching for it and pulling it out slowly. I show it to him and he eyes it thoroughly, up and down, like it might be concealing some tricky monster. Then he looks at me again and I don't know how I know, but I can tell he wants the blanket on him. I smile as I lean forward to place the dusty thing over his body. "We should get you dressed," I say. "Looks like your clothes are still here."

He just looks at me and then he sighs really heavily. It's an awful sound, too. Full of listless, worn out rage.

The fire I made pops and he eyes it warily. When he sees that it's just a little totally contained fire, he sighs again. Then he raises up on his elbow and looks over the edge of the couch at the cup. I'm encouraged by this. He's hungry and he's willing to let me provide him with nourishment. That's something, anyway.

I take the lid off the cup and hold it in both hands, offering it to him. He sniffs it and frowns slightly. Maybe I should have got cow blood. Then he moves in again and his eyes lock on mine, all cautious like I might pull the cup away if he doesn't watch me really close. I stay very, very still. And finally, after an age of that cagey staring, he puts his lips to the rim of the cup and takes a drink.

I keep a reassuring smile in my eyes as he takes a few more sips. I wish I could just prove to him that everything's going to be okay. I need him to know I'll take care of him. If he'll let me. I'll bring him all the way back to himself. To me. My Angel. I'll do anything to get him back.

He's had almost half the cup and then he shifts and sits up so he can take it from me. His hands are black with grime but they're still beautiful. I sit like a good girl and just wait for him to finish the contents of the cup. It looks horrid, all thick and syrupy. Makes me rethink the merits of the whole vegetarian thing. But it's helping him, I can tell. He looks better already. His eyes are clearer.

I take the empty cup from him and set it on the floor. He almost lets me touch him, but not quite. I guess I have to be patient. He remembers me, and that's a lot. He trusted me to feed him, and that's huge. I can wait for the rest. I feel that he wants to come back as much as I want him to.

"Thank you," he says, so very softly.

And, right on cue, the girl bursts into tears again.

Spike:

Once again, he waited until the slayer was long gone then he emerged into the hallway at the mansion. The soft combined scent of nightblooming jasmine and honeysuckle clung to his leather coat from outside and he sniffed at his sleeve. Spike loved that smell. It was exclusive to Southern California and always reminded him of happy times-even if all the times he'd spent in Sunnydale hadn't been so happy. As yet, anyway.

He had already been out for a hunt so he was full and warm and ready to try to reach his ailing sire again.

But first things first.

Spike went into the large bathroom across the hall from the bedrooms and tried the lightswitch. The room was instantly bathed in soft pinkish light from the rose colored overhead fixture. Next, he went to the faucet in the sink and turned on the hot tap.

The pipes had air in them and made a few good solid clanks, but then the water began to flow. If Spike's memory served him, he remembered that Angel paid all the utilities on the mansion well in advance. How far in advance remained to be seen, but he had a good feeling that since there was electricity, there was likely to still be hot water.

He let the rust run out of the line and then waited with his finger under the running water to see if it heated up. After a few minutes, it did. Quite nicely, in fact.

"Excellent," he said. "Now we just need to get the old boy in the bath." He turned off the sink and walked over to the large, freestanding tub in the center of the room. Drusilla had loved taking baths in that tub. Spike had been able to move all the way around it and see to her every pampered need, even when he was in the wheelchair. He planned to do just the same for Angel, if he would let him.

Giving the same treatment to the faucet in the tub, Spike rinsed the dusty porcelain until it shone in the rosy light. On a built-in shelf on the wall, he found some fancy little shampoos and soaps Dru had put there for decoration. Peeling back the tissue paper around one round bar, his nose was assaulted with the scent of lavender perfume. Instantly, he was transported back to that bath tub in Paris over a hundred years ago when he'd been singing while he soaked and Angel had come up on him. The memory made him tremendously sad for some reason, even though the event itself had been quite pleasant.

Shaking his head, Spike set the bar of soap and a little bottle of shampoo on the edge of the tub, then waited a moment until the bath had filled about half way. Testing the temperature of the water with his hand, he said, "close enough for rock 'n' roll," then he turned around and headed out the bathroom door.

Angel was still sitting on the couch but his handsome, dirt smudge face was turned around toward the hall and the noises coming from it. Spike offered a smile as he came into view, then he slipped his coat off and draped it over the arm of the couch. The little blaze the slayer had got going was still flickering on the hearth and the room was nice and cozy.

"'Evening, peaches," he said cheerfully. "Don't worry about the racket. It's just the pipes clearin' their throats. How are we tonight, then? You look better."

Angel never stopped watching him, his dark eyes flickering with what might have been gladness. He nodded once, started to say something, then stopped. He was still wrapped in the blanket Buffy had put on him-the same one Spike had given him the night before.

"Did you let the little girl feed you?" Spike knew she had-he'd watched it all from the safety of the shadowy hallway.

Angel nodded again.

"That's good." Kneeling in front of the brunette, Spike held out his hands, palms up. "Can I see your hands?"

Brow creasing uncertainly, Angel hesitated for a long time before he slipped his arms out from under the blanket. He showed Spike his hands but did not offer to be touched. Still, it was better than last night.

"May I?" Spike said, reaching forward very carefully until the pads of his fingers touched Angel's. He stayed there for a moment letting his grandsire get used to the contact, then he took a look at those large, long-fingered hands.

Angel's nails were black with filth and jagged from god only knew what sort of activity. It looked like he'd been digging bare-handed in hard craggy soil. Cuts and gashes faulted the pale skin on the top and rough scratches marked his palms. Spike stroked Angel's hands gently.

"You're in dire need of a manicure, luv," he said, smiling playfully. "Maybe you'll tell me how your lovely hands got so chewed up?"

Angel just looked at him.

"Or not." Spike held the brunette's hands softly in his own and smiled into those tentative dark eyes. "Here's what I'm thinking," he began. "I've got a nice bath drawn for you in the other room and I'm hoping you'll let me help you clean up a bit. How do you feel about that?"

Angel looked down at their joined hands and kept his focus there for a long time. So long, in fact, that Spike became concerned.

"Right, well if you'd rather have the little girl do it, that's fine. I understand. I'm sure she would be happy to help you. I just thought that since I was here and all . . ."

Without looking up, Angel said, "Buffy."

"Yeah," Spike said. "That's right. Buffy. The blonde bit. Do you want to wait for her to give you a bath?"

When Angel looked at him in the next moment, his eyes flashed with an unmistakable smile. Spike smiled back hopefully.

"William," Angel said, his voice a soft, caressing whisper. The sound was so nearly seductive, that for a moment Spike felt he was once again in the company of his flirtatious mentor.

Lowering his chin, Spike grinned and said, "that's right, pet. I'm your William." He stroked Angel's hands again, but that time with the intent to give pleasure as well as comfort. He tickled the sensitive skin of Angel's wrists with his nails then used just a bit of pressure to tug on those long dirty fingers suggestively. Again, Angel smiled slightly.

"So?" Spike encouraged. "Do I get to rub suds all over you, or what?"

After a very long pause, Angel nodded.

"There's a good lad," Spike said, smiling into those dark, golden eyes. He carefully removed the blanket then stood up, holding out his hands again. Angel stood of his own accord, but let Spike take his arm once he was on his feet. They went to the hallway and down to the bathroom, but Angel stopped in the doorway and looked around the room with wide eyes.

"What?" Spike said. "Don't you remember this room?"

"Yes," Angel said, the sound of his voice still quite startling. Spike would have to get used to him speaking again. "I . . ." With his brow knit, Angel looked over his shoulder at the dark bedroom that used to be his own. He seemed to be remembering lots of things in that moment and, judging by his expression, not all of them were pleasant.

"You all right, mate?"

Frowning at the bedroom door, Angel swallowed and his throat clicked dryly. "Drusilla?" he said.

"She's fine," Spike assured him. "She's in Brazil, where I left her. She didn't want to come back here with me. After last time, Sunnydale's no longer her favorite holiday destination."

Angel looked at him again, his expression drawn taut with dismay.

"What?" Spike asked, not liking the weird clammy feeling crawling in his gut.

"You know you shouldn't leave her alone," Angel said, and then his expression smoothed into that near smile again, almost as though he were playing. "She's naughty."

Letting out a relieved chuckle, Spike stepped into the bathroom. "Yeah, well-that's not news. Come on, then. Let's get you naked."

Angel stepped into the room, looking around doubtfully at first and then seeming to relax.

"Park yourself on the edge of the tub, there," Spike instructed gently. When Angel was seated, he kneeled again and carefully tugged off those mud-caked shoes. Angel's feet were bare underneath, but they were also covered in disturbing cuts and scrapes. "Right," Spike said, showing his hands as he reached for the buttons at the waist of Angel's battered jeans. "I'm going to take these off you now, so just . . . stay calm. I hope you know you can trust me."

"Can I?" Angel said and they looked at each other directly.

Momentarily taken aback, Spike frowned then turned his attention back to undoing Angel's trousers. "Well," he said, his tone faltering. "Here's the thing. You and I . . . I mean, historically . . ." He sighed in frustration, wishing he could just sort his thoughts and get them out so they made sense. But they didn't make sense. They never had. The situation itself was cluttered with confusion. He looked in Angel's eyes again. "You do remember how you know me, right?"

"Yes."

"And you obviously remember Dru."

"I remember everything," Angel said.

"Okay, then. You know we're family, you and I? You, me and Dru."

"Yes." Angel reached down and fumbled with the zipper on his fly, then he let Spike open the jeans and pull them down over his lean hips.

"Do you remember how I was made?" Spike said, sliding the jeans all the way down and off Angel's long, coltish legs.

"Drusilla made you," the brunette said. Naked then, he sat on the edge of the tub looking very much like a marble statue that had fallen to neglect. All the dirt and marks did nothing to diminish his beauty, though. He still took Spike's breath away.

"Who made Dru?" Spike asked, keeping up the refresher course.

"Me."

"And who made you?"

Angel frowned but Spike didn't think it was because he couldn't remember. Angel frowned because the memories inside him then were painful. "Darla."

"Yeah," Spike whispered. "Darla. Well, then. You're all there, aren't you? Come on. Into the bath with you."

Turning slowly, Angel slipped his feet into the water and just sat there for a moment. "Buffy?" he said.

"You know her, too," Spike said. "She's the slayer. And she's your lover, 'cause you're twisted like that. Or she was. I don't know where you'll end up with her now."

"She . . ." He frowned again, then seemed to cast that thought away. Moving gingerly, Angel sat down in the tub, sighing from the delicious warmth.

Spike leaned over the edge of the tub with his fingers dangling in the water, waiting for Angel to get comfortable.

"You," Angel said, fixing Spike's gaze intently.

"What about me, luv?"

"You are my lover. Or were. I remember."

Spike sighed. "Yeah. I am. I was. I will be. It's complicated, us. We've got this yen for hurting each other. We like to beat each other up-in lots of ways. Do you remember that bit about us?"

Angel looked down for a moment, then his eyes clouded with sadness. "Why do we do that?"

"Dunno, really," Spike said, reaching for the bar of lavender soap. He dipped it into the water and started a nice fragrant lather. "We're bloody stupid, I reckon. No other reason makes much sense, to tell you the truth."

"Before I left . . ." The brunette's eyes followed Spike's hands as he began to gently soap up his right arm.

"Yeah?"

"I was . . . empty. Something missing . . . inside."

"Your soul," Spike told him. "It's back now, though. Not sure how that happened. We just got rid of the sodding thing and it found its way back like an abandoned dog. Do you remember how?"

While Spike worked the lavender scented lather over the skin of Angel's arms, the brunette scowled in thought. "I think . . . it was just before . . . in the last minute before. I felt it and I was . . . confused. I don't know how it happened. I just know it was there. Still there." He brightened a little and looked up. "I think Buffy did it."

"Well, at that moment, she was defending herself and trying to stick something sharp and pointy through your tender bits, mate. She was in no mood for doing any tricky soul-retrieving ceremonies. It must have been someone else. Maybe, somehow, it was Acathla."

Angel flinched suddenly in the bathtub and drew his legs up against his chest like a frightened child. Spike froze, holding his hands up, trying to get Angel to look at him again.

"Whoa . . . what happened there? What'd I do?"

Angel shook his head, but he wouldn't look up.

"What did I say?" Spike's mind raced, retracing the exchange they had been having. "Was it . . . the demon?" he said, taking care not to say Acathla's name again, just in case. "Is that it?"

Angel stopped shaking his head by way of affirmation. His lips were pressed to his wet knees and his soapy arms were wrapped tightly around his legs. He looked at Spike imploringly. "Please . . . I don't want to think about that now, all right? Just don't . . . say it again."

"You got it, luv. Just relax, now . . . We don't have to talk at all, if you don't want to."

After a moment, Angel composed himself and relaxed into the water again. When Spike touched his arms with the soft lather, his beautiful sire was still trembling.

"Just sit back," he said soothingly. "Let me bathe you. Take a little nap, if you like."

Angel slumped down into the water and Spike shifted around the tub so he could reach in easier. He generated more lather and then went to work on Angel's torso. With great care, he scrubbed with his hands until all the smudges were gone and nothing was left but that smooth alabaster skin and a few tiny scratches near the right side of Angel's ribs. When he looked up, Angel's eyes were closed and his full lips were parted slightly. Spike wanted to kiss him so bad, he had to look away. He'd just got the lad calm, no sense sending him off into a panic attack again.

More lather, and he began working on those lovely legs, trying not to focus on Angel's thick, heavy cock. If he didn't look at it, he wouldn't crave it-or at least that was the plan. He was quickly distracted by a long ugly cut running the length of Angel's right thigh and Spike took care to clean the dirt and bits of gravel out of it. Angel winced slightly at one point, but he didn't pull away. He watched the younger vampire's ministrations through heavy-lidded eyes, clearly enjoying the kind attention.

Working his fingers gently into the tender flesh behind the knees, Spike smiled when he heard Angel sigh with pleasure. That part of his body had always been sensitive. Back in the old days, Spike used to love to tie Angel up and lick and bite him there until he begged to be fucked. That and the kissing were always sure triggers. It made Spike happy that Angel had returned from wherever he was with his erogenous zones intact.

"Sing . . ." Angel whispered and Spike looked up inquisitively.

"What's that?"

"Sing for me. Like last night."

Chuckling softly, Spike shook his head. "You're lovin' this, aren't you? Acting all broken and fragile. It's a load of shit, innit? You've got me catering and lookin' after you. You're lappin' it up. And now you want to make me bleedin' sing."

For the first time since he'd been back, Angel breathed a quiet laugh. Spike watched his handsome face for a long time, reveling in the sparkle of that tiny laugh. Still stroking the skin behind Angel's knees, he stretched his fingers and caressed the inside of those smooth thighs.

In response, Angel let out a soft, breathy moan.

"Yeah, you've always liked that," Spike purred and then he let himself have a look at that delectable cock. It was swelling quickly, reaching up Angel's belly as it engorged with blood. Spike's mouth watered.

With his soap slicked hands, he gently pushed Angel's thighs apart, stroking them and cleaning them as he went. His goal was the tender flesh at the very top of the legs, right where they met the curve of the buttocks. Angel was ticklish there-ticklish in a good way-and Spike wanted to see if that juicy spot still caused the same reaction it used to.

He was so focused on what his hands were doing, he hadn't noticed Angel lifting his arm until his wet fingers slid behind Spike's neck. He shivered with pleasure and looked up at the brunette seductively. "Cheeky bugger. You remember that spot, do you?"

Angel tickled the fine hairs at the nape of Spike's neck very gently with his ragged nails. The broken edges were sharp and created a delicious contrasting sensation with his silky fingertips. Spike sighed and licked his lips.

"Now, now, peaches. You'd best be a might careful. I haven't had you in a long time . . . and you look . . . so lovely right now. All vulnerable and wet."

"I don't remember . . . about peaches," Angel said, his brow creasing. "Why . . . do you call me that?"

"No?" Spike said, smirking but disappointed. "Aw. Really? Maybe it'll come back to you." He reached for the soap again and worked up some more lather. Then he ran his soapy hands down the center of Angel's hard belly until he made contact with his then fully erect cock. Half expecting Angel to flinch away again, Spike froze for a second, waiting to see how this new and daring touch would be received.

Angel tensed all over and instantly began to pant, his fingers gripping the sides of the tub. He watched Spike's eyes with fierce intensity. Spike felt that beautiful cock grow to its thickest circumference right there in his hand and he smiled at Angel, sweetly, obligingly, mischievously.

"This is good, then?"

Angel licked his lips, trembling all over.

"'Cause I don't think I can keep my hands off it . . . not lookin' all ravenous and hard and lovely like it is. Needing relief as bad it does and everything."

Angel's chest lifted and fell in short, gasping breaths and he licked his lips again. "Please . . ." he murmured. "I . . . please . . . rub it . . . or let go of it . . ."

Grinning with pleasure, Spike curled his soapy fingers around the stiff shaft of Angel's cock and pulled it gently from root to tip. He'd never seen Angel so hard before, never felt such sudden tension in his body. As many times as they'd been together sexually, Spike had never once felt Angel lose control. He was there now. He was nearly hysterical with need. This desire was more chemical than emotional and that somehow made it even more powerful. Naked, raw need in its truest form.

Instantly wanton and completely abandoned, Angel let his head drop back over the edge of the tub as he moaned outloud. His thighs opened wide and his hips raised up to meet Spike's stroking hand in quick jabs, increasing the pressure and friction as much as he could in a reclined position. Spike bit his bottom lip in concentration and held on, taking care not to lose his grip.

Angel's moans were the most raw thing he had ever heard. Spike was almost afraid of the sound, but not quite. It wasn't pain, it was the sound of a dire, unspeakable deprivation finally being quenched. The sound made his heart ache and made him want to keep giving Angel pleasure for as long as he could stand it. Spike wanted to make up for what his mentor had lost, even if he had no way of knowing what that entailed.

When the contractions hit, Angel's entire body shook and those moans became guttural, agonized growls. Spike was so gentle with the pulsating erection in his hand, so careful not to overstimulate and ruin the pleasure-even if he wasn't sure there was a great deal of pleasure at hand. The ejaculate was thick and clotted, dark with blood and there was so much of it. He could see Angel's balls tightening and lifting with each spasm, forcing the dense, pent-up fluid out. His nipples hardened and his eyes squeezed shut and then finally those moans became whimpering, spent gasps.

The onslaught subsided and Angel slouched into the warm water again. Still panting, it took a moment before he opened his eyes. Spike had never let go of that beautiful, tortured cock. He held onto it protectively, lovingly. And when it stopped quivering in his hand, he slipped his fingers down around Angel's still full balls and massaged them deeply. This brought another volley of moans, but their quality was very different. This was a grateful sound of pleasure.

"Ooooh . . . that's nice . . ." Angel sighed. "That's just what I need . . ."

"I see that." Spike rested his head on his other hand on the edge of the tub and continued his gentle massage. Angel's legs relaxed but stayed open and his taut belly glistened with soap, semen, sweat and water.

"I gather it's been awhile."

Angel looked at him through slitted eyes. "You have no idea."

Smiling sympathetically, Spike said, "I don't want to know, either. But . . . you know I'll look after you. Especially that way. I'll sort you out before the night's through, if you'll let me."

Wearily, Angel said, "I remember . . . I could always count on you for as many orgasms as I could stand."

"And then some," Spike grinned proudly. "I recall a few times I had you begging me to stop." He rinsed the soap off his hands then reached for the faucet handles. "Now is probably a good time to wash your hair. Will you sit up for me?"

"In a minute," Angel said with another deep, contented sigh. "My legs don't work right now."

Spike chuckled. "I'm just getting started, pet. You'd better keep up your strength." He touched the wound Angel made on his neck the night before. "Fancy a little taste?"

When the brunette focused on the deep abrasion, he frowned. "Jesus . . . I did that?"

"You were a bit ravenous," Spike reminded him. "And not quite as much yourself as you are tonight. It's no bother, it'll heal. But since it's there, you might as well use it. I mean," he lowered his voice to a deep, seductive purr. "If you're feelin' peckish."

Slowly, Angel shifted under the murky water and sat himself up. He reached down and felt for the chain attached to the drain plug, then pulled it letting the bath water out. Diluted dirt slid toward the drain and finally disappeared into it. Then he plugged the drain again and turned on the taps to refill the tub with clean water. Spike noted that the temperature of the new water was much hotter than it was originally-a sure sign that Angel was feeling chilled and hadn't fed enough.

"Do you want me to get you someone?" Spike asked.

"No," Angel said tersely. "And stop asking me that."

"But, you'll drink from me?"

His dark eyes fluttered a bit sheepishly. "Yes. But," he offered a tiny almost playful smile. "I like this hair washing idea. Do that first."

Sighing, Spike breathed a laugh. "Oh, that's right," he teased. "Be all bossy. That's the Angel I know and love." He moved around the tub until he was sitting near the top of it, then he had to think for a minute. Spike remembered using a china pitcher when he'd washed Drusilla's hair in that tub. Where the hell was that thing? Before he could begin looking, Angel slid down into the fresh bath water and submerged himself until only his nose was above the surface.

Spike shrugged. "Well, that'll work, too." Reaching for the little shampoo bottle, he poured the fragrant liquid into his hand and lathered it up while he waited for Angel to surface again.

When the brunette resumed his seated position, his hair was soaked and clinging to his head. Spike slid his fingers into that thick, straight hair, working the shampoo into rich suds. He took his time, enjoying the sensation. Angel rarely let anyone touch his hair since he started wearing it short and it had always been something Spike missed from the old days. He could feel as well as see the bits of gravel, dried blood and dirt coming up in the lather as he scrubbed and the sight of it upset him deeply. Where had Angel been and how long was he there? Time was always different in demon dimensions and Spike had a good idea that his sire had grown considerably older wherever he'd been held captive.

He couldn't ask, though. Angel had made it clear he didn't want to talk about his little trip to Club Med in Hell. Not yet, anyway.

Sighing, Angel relaxed against the side of the tub and let Spike massage his head with the soap. "That's great," he murmured, dark eyes sliding closed.

Leaning forward, Spike put two soft kisses on Angel's smooth, wet shoulder, just below the neck. He wished he could offer more affection, but didn't think Angel was ready for that. Sexual release, yes-emotional connection, well . . . not just yet. Maybe after the bath.

For a long time, Spike went on with his soft scrubbing, taking care to use long, smooth strokes to increase the pleasure. After a while, Angel cleared his throat a bit and spoke again.

"I remember seeing you . . ." he said softly. "At Buffy's school . . ."

Spike remembered that, too. Not happily, but he remembered. "Yeah? That was a while ago. About a year. Well, here it was a year."

Apparently not wanting to deal with the time issue, he went on. "I was . . . actually . . . really happy to see you then," Angel said, his words slow from relaxation. Suds floated on the clean, steaming water, framing his naked body like greedy little clouds. "I missed you. I bet you don't believe that."

Pursing his lips, Spike's brow knit. "I'd missed you, too. But I could tell . . . there was something off about you. You were lying to me-right into my eyes. Bastard."

"You were being really . . . naughty."

"Peaches, naughty is what I do. It's my M.O. I'm really bleedin' good at it, too, in case you don't recall that." Very carefully, he used the lather to clean some dried blood off Angel's earlobe. The small bit of flesh was so silky, Spike wanted to suck on it. Angel had lots of suckable, silky parts. "I learned all the finer points of naughty from you, Angelus. My wicked, wonderful Yoda. I was so bloody pissed off at you that day. So unbelievably disappointed." Spike frowned intensely, then shook his head to clear it. "Why did you mention that, anyway? Was ages ago."

"Why did we . . ." the brunette began and already Spike didn't like the direction his tone indicated. "Why did the four of us split up . . . in the first place?"

"The curse, Angel. Your soul," he said. "You ran off because you were feeling all guilty and didn't want to play with us lot anymore. Darla was a wreck for months."

Angel was quiet for a long time and then he went on. "When did you and Dru leave her?"

"She left us. When we got to New York. We had no idea where she'd gone-she was just . . . one day, she was just gone." He stroked Angel's soapy head again with both hands, feeling for any dirt remaining in that lush dark hair. "She was gone, that is, until she showed up here in beautiful, downtown Sunny D. I heard about all that from some vamps in a pub in London. The way you offed her. The way you dusted her for the favor of the slayer."

"That's not why," Angel growled and then he slipped out of Spike's grasp and down into the water. He shook his head back and forth to rinse out the soap, then he sat up again, pulling himself out of the bath with his hands on the sides of the tub.

"Oh come on, now. Don't go off in a huff," Spike said, keeping his tone gentle, patient. "I told you we don't have to talk if you don't want to. No sense gettin' all upset."

Glistening with water, Angel grabbed for a towel hanging on the wall. He shook the dust out of it then pressed it to his face, standing there in the center of the bathroom for a long time. Spike stood up and pulled the drain plug, then he approached Angel cautiously. He tugged gently at the towel.

"Come on," he said. "Give it here." He tugged a bit harder and Angel let the towel go.

"That's not why," the brunette said again, but his tone was considerably calmer. "I killed Darla because of . . . reasons that had nothing to do with Buffy." He sighed heavily and brought his hands to his face, speaking through his wet fingers. "You weren't there, Spike. You don't know what happened. I wish I didn't remember."

"No," Spike said quietly, taking the towel and rubbing it lightly across Angel's wet neck and shoulders. "I wasn't there. And, no-I don't know what all I'm on about. So, let's not talk about it. I don't want to upset you, Angel. For once, that's not why I'm here."

Angel sighed and lowered his hands, visibly relaxing as Spike carefully dried his back and shoulders and squeezed the water out of his hair. Moving around the front, the younger vampire spread his fingers wide under the soft terry cloth and stroked it over Angel's broad chest to collect the drops of water. When he brushed the towel over Angel's nipples, they hardened instantly.

Spike lifted his eyebrows with an impish grin. "So sensitive, peaches," he whispered, leaning forward with the tip of his pink tongue outstretched just enough to cover Angel's left nipple. He licked the tight bit of flesh in slow, teasing circles before taking it into his mouth and sucking on it. Angel's skin tasted sweet from the bath and Spike closed his eyes.

Knowing his cantankerous mentor loved the sound of sucking, Spike played it up intentionally by keeping his lips loose and his mouth nice and wet. Still rubbing Angel's wet tummy with the towel, he curled his fingers around the outside of the fabric so his skin touched Angel's right below his navel and then he switched sides and went to work sucking the right nipple.

Angel whispered an irresolute protest. "I shouldn't do this."

Still circling that tight nipple with his tongue, Spike looked up into those half-mast dark eyes. "Why is that?" he murmured.

"Because . . . you're gonna get me in trouble, Spike. You always do. If Buffy finds you . . . " He trailed off with a deep sigh as Spike chuckled and continued his wet pleasure attack on that nummy nipple.

He knew it would work. It always did. As long as Spike made it perfectly clear that he was there to please the grouchy bastard, he always managed to get Angel on his back eventually. His recent arrival from Hell aside, Angel had clearly returned with all his sensual human weaknesses unscathed.

"She'll kill you," he said almost under his breath.

"No, she won't," Spike told him. "You shouldn't let that worry you, luv. The little girl isn't gonna find me here."

Angel looked in his eyes a bit coolly. "Believe me when I tell you it isn't wise to underestimate her. She hates you and if she finds you here-anywhere near ME, especially-she'll dust you, Spike. I promise."

He took Angel's still damp hand and guided him out of the bathroom. "Oh, I have no doubt of that, mate. But the difference here, is that I do not choose to be found. Not this time. So, let's just forget about her for a bit, all right?" He winked over his shoulder as he lead Angel across the hall.

Sighing, Angel said, "you're still a whole fuck of a lot of trouble."

Spike only chuckled.

Once in his old bedroom, Angel relaxed somewhat. The familiar surroundings seemed to have a much needed calming effect. He went to the bed and stretched across it, moving the slightly dusty covers aside so he could get under them. Spike leaned against the mattress and smiled down at the brunette as he fluffed the pillows and made himself comfortable.

"So?" Spike said. "Are you inviting trouble into your bed, or not?"

Rolling onto his back under the soft red velvet blankets, Angel reached his arms up until he touched the brass headboard. Wrapping his long fingers around the bars, he looked at Spike with an odd mixture of resignation and desire. "Only if trouble can make himself useful."

By way of an answer, Spike slipped off his t-shirt, then unbuckled his belt and wriggled quickly out of his black jeans. He was good at getting naked in seconds flat. In fact, that was one of many skills he'd learned years ago from Angel.

Crawling over the mattress like a big cat, Spike straddled Angel and grinned hungrily down at him. "Why don't you have a taste? Warm you up a bit." He lowered his body until their chests touched, then wiggled his hips until their cocks touched, then slid his legs down until the hairs on their thighs flirted and intermingled. His neck stretched out gracefully right in front of Angel's pretty mouth and Spike presented the wounded spot like a fancy entree. "Go on, then. Have a bite."

"You can't wait for me to bite you," Angle growled, but his tone was playful. "You're absolutely DYING for me to bite you."

Spike chuckled, inwardly terribly happy to have Angel teasing him again. "So, do it, daddy . . . don't make me wait . . ." He stretched his neck out even more, trying to make the ragged wound irresistible. For encouragement, he rubbed his stiffening cock against Angel's and grinned when the brunette sighed with pleasure.

With no further ado, Angel raised up just a bit and exposed his fangs over the wound he'd already made the night before. That time, the puncture was quick and sharp-clean, like the old days-like the old Angel. The teeth were in, the blood began to run and then Angel was suckling like a baby. Spike's cock leaked.

Tickling fingers of sensation stroked every inch of Spike's skin as Angel's throat worked noisily to swallow the mouthfuls of blood. He was taking a lot, but Spike didn't care. It felt too wonderful, too familiar and safe, for him to complain. Instead, he braced his weight on his knees and elbows and began to slowly pump his hips, rubbing their swollen cocks together. They seemed to reach for each other in the tight space between their bellies-hard, moist organs full of nerve endings, sparking and tingling, growing and needing.

Abruptly, Angel stopped sucking and laid his head down on the pillows again. Spike looked at him with slightly blurry eyes, then blinked curiously.

"You can have more, if you want."

Angel shook his head, licking Spike's dark, glistening blood from his lips. "You know what I want," he whispered.

Grinning, Spike brushed his nose against Angel's a few times, nuzzling him like a puppy. Then he wet his lips and covered Angel's mouth with his own, slowly slipping his tongue into a welcoming kiss. They both sighed from the contact and it was only then that Spike realized that was the first time they'd kissed since Angel had been back.

With that knowledge in mind, Spike made it last, savoring the sweet stroking of tongues and pressing of lips until the pleasure of it drove them both to panting.

"Please . . ." Angel breathed, eyes closed, chest heaving. "Please, William . . . I need to feel you . . ."

Moving back on the bed, Spike rested on his bent knees and began stroking Angel's naked thighs very softly. The fine hairs felt like kitten fur to the touch and he couldn't wait to feel them against his face. Leaning forward, he puckered his lips loosely then began a slow trail of kisses down the inside of Angel's right thigh.

Those long legs parted wantonly and Angel's fingers gripped the bed posts. He tensed all over and the muscles in his lean, flat belly came into lovely relief. Biting his bottom lip, he closed his eyes. Angel's toes curled.

Spike watched all this with a great deal of pleasure and pride, knowing he had always been the only one capable of making Angel's toes do that. He'd witnessed his sire in hundreds of sexual conquests, but the curling toes belonged solely to him. Spike had the devilish, magic touch.

Continuing his kisses, he switched to the other thigh, taking time to rub his nose into the fluffy hairs that still smelled of the lavender bath soap. He could feel Angel trembling as though he were being tickled, but Spike knew better. He was trembling from need and this was no time to prolong the foreplay.

He spread his hands gently on Angel's hips, stroking his thumbs down beneath the brunette's full, tight balls. Looking up into Angel's desperate eyes, he whispered, "open for me . . . all the way . . ." and pressed those tense thighs flat against the mattress.

Wiggling down further, Spike laid on his belly between Angel's open legs. With his fingertips, he lightly stroked the feathery hairs on Angel's balls and just below. This was the yummy spot-Spike's favorite spot. He put soft kisses on the silky curves of flesh that protected the most secret part of Angel's body and then he slipped his tongue between those delectable cheeks. His nose nudged Angel's balls gently as he carefully licked the satiny crevice leading to the anus. A few laps was all he could get in before the big Irish lad began to whine.

"Please . . . I can't . . . please . . . I'm too close . . . too full . . . just . . . get IN there . . ."

Trying to contain his obvious enjoyment of torturing Angel with pleasure, Spike put one more affectionate, appreciative kiss on those soft, peachy cheeks and then he sat back up on his knees. "I know, baby . . . I'm here for ya." He reached into a drawer in the night table and felt inside with his fingers, knowing he would find what he was after in there. A little more searching and his fingers landed on the little bottle of lube Angel always kept there. Spike took it out, flipped the lid and dripped a generous amount down over those luscious balls. He watched with boyish fascination as the slick liquid followed the contours of Angel's body and lubricated the soft pink crack and that almost virginal looking hole. Oh my-the boy was going to tight. Spike licked his lips, then squeezed a few drops of lube on to the tip of his jutting erection. Again, he watched the liquid slide down the engorged member, mix with his pre-ejaculate and land in glittering little pools in his curly pubic hair.

Setting the bottle aside, but still within reach just in case, he hooked Angel's legs behind the knees with his hands and pushed up until the brunette's hips lifted off the mattress.

"You ready, pet?"

Angel only nodded, his chest rising and falling rapidly. Again, his toes crunched up on either side of Spike's ears.

Up on his knees, hips flat and forward, Spike watched with rapt attention as Angel reached down between his legs and guided Spike's straining erection to its mark. All that lubrication had them connected in no time, even though Spike had wanted to savor the penetration just a little. Angel had other plans. His desire was far too great for any delicate techniques that night.

Gripping the rumpled blankets with his long fingers, Angel's body clenched around Spike's cock, squeezing it, rubbing it, holding it greedily and not letting go. That was all fine with Spike. As soon as he was inside, he was instantly awash with pleasure. He sighed and groaned deep in his gut, keeping a tight hold on Angel's legs as they began to ride each other.

Memories crashed all around him as the sensations gathered rapidly-memories not of the four of them back when times were good, but of him and Angel when they had been alone together. Spike recalled a thousand times he and his beautiful sire had gone hunting together and ended up shagging like rabbits in a dark alley somewhere, the intensity of the given kill enflaming their hunger for each other. He remembered the sounds Angel always made right before he came. His moans would deepen to growls and then rise and rise until their sound was almost feminine, and then he would hold his breath at the moment itself. He would freeze and hold big lungfuls of breath his vampire body didn't need while the contractions racked his body like a storm.

The crescendo of those pleasure sounds was so fresh in his memory, so close to him then, that he barely realized he was hearing it in reality. Spike had nearly been in a trance as he continued to drive his cock into Angel's starving hole and then he was brought suddenly back to the moment by his partner's vehemence. He looked down just in time to see Angel's back arch and all the muscles in his torso contract. That big, swollen cock convulsed and erupted blood-creamy seed in long blasts across Angel's belly, over and over and over. It seemed impossible that so much fluid could be coming out of him, but there it was. Spike's own orgasm, although keening and deep, clearly paled by comparison.

As the contractions melted away, Spike moved to pull out, but Angel stopped him with a hand on his belly.

"No," he said, still gasping. "Just . . . stay there. I need you to do it again."

Spike smiled and tilted forward for some more kissing, taking care not to sever their tight, hard-earned bond.

Angel:

There had been so much pleasure. Everything was a pleasure. After such a long period of agony and deprivation, even the deep, raw soreness in his anus was a pleasure.

He'd begged Spike to fuck him four times in a row and the lithe blonde had obliged with great enthusiasm. So willing to please, he was. He'd always been like that when the two of them were alone. The memories he had of being with Spike were the clearest of all-the most complete of all his recollections. He knew he should share that with the boy, tell him how much he appreciated all his efforts to bring Angel back to full strength, but he was unlikely to do so. In among all those other memories of Spike, Angel also remembered how much the young one wanted them to be together. He wanted it more than anything-had said as much many times. His body said it every time they touched. His eyes said it with every glance.

But being together was impossible. No sense making it harder on him. That didn't mean they couldn't enjoy what time they had now. However long that may be.

With his body aching all over from sexual exertion, Angel still couldn't sleep. Spike lay beside him on his belly, his pale skin almost translucent in the lamplight. He was motionless as stone because he wasn't breathing, but he still looked like a fresh teenage boy when he slept. Thick lashes, lush lips parted softly in relaxation. Beautiful.

Glancing out the bedroom door into the hallway, Angel could see the faint gray of the dawn spilling in through the mansion's high windows. Buffy would be back soon. That meant Spike had to get out of sight.

Shifting on the bed just enough to rouse the sleeping blond boy, Angel waited until those blue eyes focused on him. Groggily, Spike rolled closer to him, snuggling and attempting to go back to sleep. Angel kissed his forehead and Spike looked at him again.

"Wha'?"

"She'll be here soon. You did say you weren't going be found."

Spike groaned and turned over on his back. "Oh, right. The girl with the pointy sticks. Forgot about her, I did." He forced himself to sit up and then walked across the room to grab his clothes. As he headed for the bedroom door, he glanced back over his shoulder. "Don't forget to make your hair stick up like you do. I'm sure you left some of that nancy-boy hair gel around here somewhere. She likes you all ponced up like you just walked out of a sodding magazine." He chuckled. "See you later, peaches. Oh, and make sure you eat what she brings you. She needs to feel like she's the one brought you back to thriving unlife."

Angel frowned as he listened to Spike open that secret door and slip down the stairs into the converted wine cellar. He knew the young one was right about most of that. Buffy did need to believe she saved him. It was the only way she could forgive herself for killing him.

Buffy:

He's dressed when I get there. Bathed, coifed and dressed. Crisp khaki pants, a soft caramel sweater, comfy looking brown suede shoes. He actually did his hair. He looks beautiful. He looks like Angel.

"Wow," I say, smiling. I sit down across from him on the couch. "I guess the shower works."

He smiles back, but weakly. "Yeah," he says. "But I had a bath instead. How are you?"

I shrug, thinking how bad could I be, really? I'm not the one who just came back from Hell. "Good," is all I say, though.

I'm holding a bag with another cup of pig's blood in it. The guy at the butcher's is so used to me, he's started to have the blood waiting for me when I come by after school. "The usual?" he snarks. Everyone's a comedian.

I hand it to him and he takes the cup out, looking at it for a moment like he might drink it then and there. But he doesn't. Maybe he thinks it'll gross me out or something, which-by now, he should know better. For whatever reason, he sets it aside on the table.

Now that he seems himself, I don't know what to say. I want to tell him about Scott but I don't know if it's the best moment. I want to tell him that my life is going fine. I want to tell him I'm being careful when I patrol. I want to tell him that I love him but I can't be with him because being with him drives me completely insane-and because I'm with Scott. I want to tell him everything I've rehearsed for the last few months, because somehow . . . I knew I'd see him again and get to speak to him again and . . . I want-

--to stop the hamster wheel in my brain for two seconds. Jeeze.

I notice a book on the couch beside him. It's a nice book, old and leather bound. Pretty gold spine. From where I'm sitting, I can see the embossed letters: The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe.

"Poe, no less," I say. "How very goth of you."

This would have made him laugh before, but today . . . he barely smiles. He looks so much better, but he seems . . . so incredibly sad.

There's a marker sticking out of the book and I reach for it, opening to the page. It's a poem-one I remember reading in grade school. "Anabel Lee". When I look up, his beautiful eyes are all cloudy with nostalgia. His body is there, but his mind is far, far away.

"Is this one of your favorites?" I ask softly, hoping to bring him back.

He blinks, sitting forward on the couch so he can take the book. He holds it open in his right hand and I see that his nails have been cut and cleaned. Seeing that makes me feel sad because I wish I could have been the one to do it. I love Angel's hands.

"I met him once," he tells me.

My turn to blink. "Edgar Allan Poe?" I say, all incredulous. "Wow. What was he like?"

He breathes a laugh. "Like a drunken poet spouting tall tales in a bar. I only spoke to him because I knew who he was. I wanted to hear the story of this poem."

"Did he tell you?"

Angel shakes his head. "No, he was too drunk. Absinthe was his poison, like many other writers of that time. But he did recite it for me, from memory. That was pretty cool."

"Yeah," I say, finally realizing how cool it really was.

Angel looks down at the book again then, just like I hoped he would, he starts reading the poem outloud. Not the whole thing, just the second stanza. I figure that must be his favorite part.

"I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea:
But we loved with a love that was more than love--
I and my Annabel Lee . . ."

Again, his eyes cloud over and for a minute I'm afraid he might cry. He looks that sad. He closes the book and puts it on the couch beside him again, sitting back with his arms crossed over his chest. It's not a defensive posture, just a closed one. I start to think now might be a really good time to tell him about Scott, but then he starts talking again.

"An old friend made up a little tune to that verse," he says. "I always think of it whenever I even hear Poe's name."

"Can I hear it?" I say optimistically, knowing full well he won't sing for me.

He just smiles and shakes his head. "Trust me, it sounds much better in my head."

We both laugh a little.

Angel looks at me after a minute and it seems like he's going to say something-tell me something. But, then he just turns away. Suddenly, I feel like I should leave. Suddenly, I feel like my being there is making him sadder and that if I tell him about Scott right now, it will just devastate him. Suddenly, I'm afraid to be alone with him because I don't trust . . . myself.

I stand up and he looks at me curiously. "You just got here," he says.

"I know. But, I have . . . to be somewhere." It's not entirely a lie. Scott and I do have a date tonight-two hours from now. "Besides, you . . . seem like you want to be alone."

"I do?" he says, then he shakes his head. "No, I . . . I guess I'm just a little tired. I don't want you to go, Buffy."

Just hearing him say that makes me KNOW I have to get outta there. If he keeps looking at me like that, I'm gonna crawl right into his lap and never stop kissing him. That wouldn't be good. Not at all appropriate behavior for another guy's girlfriend.

Instead, I just smile and look at my watch. "I'll come back tomorrow. I promise." I take a chance and bend over him cautiously, putting a little kiss on his smooth, cold cheek.

He touches my hand softly and gives me a small sad smile. "I'll see you later, then," he says. "Thanks for coming."

Feeling the tears well up, I give his hand a little squeeze then I get my tail out of there. I make it all the way to the street before I start running my eye make-up.

Spike:

He found Angel sitting on the hearth in front of a big roaring blaze, a book open in his hand. That jumper was nice on him. The color reminded Spike of creamy, sticky confections.

"Top o' the evening, peaches," he said, patting his pockets for his smokes.

Angel looked up with a little smirk. "I still don't remember why you call me that. Just tell me."

Spike snickered as he poked a Morley between his lips. "Oh, all right, then. If you really don't remember."

"I really don't. And it's bugging me."

Snapping the big silver Zippo closed against his leg, Spike reached out and took the book out of Angel's hand. Poe, it was. He flipped open to the page his sire had been reading.

"Anabel Lee," Spike said wistfully. "I remember that. Darla made up that little tune . . . how was it . . ." He tilted his head and tried to hear their matriarch's bell-like soprano in his memory. She used to sing that poem all the time. It got stuck in Spike's head back then, just like those blighting fast food jingles did now. Suddenly, it was there-it just popped in-and he started singing.

"I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea:
But we loved with a love that was more than love--
I and my Annabel Lee."

When he looked down, Angel was staring into the fire and he realized he very much should NOT have done that. The brunette's expression was stricken with grief.

Spike sighed. "I'm sorry, luv. I wasn't thinking." He closed the book and set it on the hearth, then he sat down beside Angel and tried to get him to look up. After a long moment, he lifted Angel's chin on the end of his finger. "Come on, then. Stop brooding."

They looked at each other as the irony of the comment settled in and then they both laughed.

"That's better," Spike said, very relieved. He glanced out the window at the fresh night, thinking he should really get on the road if he was going to make any distance before dawn.

"Peaches?" Angel said, reminding him of their previous topic.

"Oh, right." Lowering his chin, Spike fluttered his eyebrows lasciviously. "You know how much I love licking you . . . all over, right?"

Angel nodded.

"Well . . ." He scooted so close that their legs and shoulders pressed together, then he reached gently down between the brunette's thighs and softly cupped his balls through his trousers. "Right back here," he said and he wiggled his fingertips so they brushed the spot in question. "Right where your lovely ass cheeks meet your lovelier balls, you are so . . . incredibly . . . soft. You've got this down of silky hair there . . . just like a peach, baby." He touched his lips to Angel's in a tender kiss that made them both shiver, then he smiled sweetly. "Hence, my little nickname for you."

Shaking his head, Angel said, "why don't I remember that?"

Crushing out his cigarette in a dusty ashtray on the sofa table, Spike chuckled. "Probably because the first time I called you that, you were drunk as a bleedin' whore. Now that I think about it, I'd bet you don't remember anything about that particular night. But I do. And I'll never tell."

They were both laughing then and Spike thought that was as good a time as any to take his leave.

"Well, I'm off, then," he said.

Angel blinked. "You're kidding."

He waved his hand dismissively. "You're doing fine, luv. The little girl can look after you from here. When you're feeling a hundred percent, come and visit Dru and me. It's nice down there in Brazil. You'll love it. Lots of evil varmints to chase."

The brunette was still just looking at him, but his expression was crumpling slowly.

"Angel, you don't need me anymore."

"I don't?" he said and his tone made Spike want to scream. But he had to stick to his plan. Angel would only get back on his feet if he was left to fend for himself. That's how they always cared for each other. That's just the way it was.

"You don't," he concluded. Taking a reflexive deep breath, he walked back over to where Angel sat and leaned down to kiss that luscious mouth again. That time, he lingered and savored the familiar texture and scent of his sire's skin.

Standing up, he winked playfully. "Come see us soon, all right. Drusilla'll bake a cake. As long as you don't mind a few flies and frog eyes in it, that is. Never been much of a baker, that girl." He turned on his heel, knowing he had to leave right then or he might never leave at all.

At the door, he glanced back and found Angel still sitting on the hearth. But those dark golden eyes were fixed on him-fixed and penetrating, seeming to try to nail him to the floor so he couldn't go.

"I told you to stop brooding, didn't I?" Spike teased gently.

After a long moment, Angel's lips tilted in a faint, reluctant smile. "Sure," he said. "I'll get right on that."

With one more wink, Spike slipped out the door and into that sweet jasmine-scented evening, wondering if he could make it back to Dru in three night's time. Shouldn't leave her alone too long. Her being so naughty and all.

The End.

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