now could I drink hot blood
And do such bitter business as the day
Would quake to look on.
— Hamlet, Act III, Scene 2
After Spike burns up in the Hellmouth, Angel can’t stop thinking about Drusilla. He finds out where she is and arranges for Wolfram & Hart to have her followed. She eats the first snitch Angel sets on her, so he sends another. Then another. Finally sends a vampire who falls in with her and becomes one of her most trusted allies. He still sends reports back to Angel every week. Once, the message read, “Dru says hello, Daddy.”
Angel never sends anyone to follow Connor. When he wants to check in on him, he does it himself. Connor spots him, once or twice, and stares as if he sort of recognizes Angel’s face. But he doesn’t know his father anymore, so he never tries to kill him.
Angel kind of misses it.
Within two days of re-appearing in Angel’s life, Spike haunts Angel in his bedroom, hits him in the face wearing someone else’s body and makes Angel groan his name three times.
This can’t possibly end well.
Nina appears in Angel’s life about a week after Spike re-appears. She makes a standing date with a Wolfram & Hart holding cell every month. Angel always escorts her to the basement personally. The first month, he finds Spike there, tilting his head at her as Angel locks her in the cage.
“She’s a bit of alright.” Spike has his ghostly feet sprawled on Angel’s coffee table when he gets back to his office. Angel rubs his forehead with his hand.
“Don’t talk about her like that,” he says without heat.
“Just your type, too.” Spike yammers on as if Angel hasn’t spoken. “Blonde. Tiny. Sharp white teeth. Could give you a nasty bite with those, I’d wager.”
“She’s human, Spike.”
“On a part-time basis,” Spike says. “Try wrestling her under a full moon. You’d get a run for it.”
The annoying familiar has a point. But whenever Angel stands close to her and inhales, all he smells is blue sky.
The next month, he takes her out to breakfast. They go to a coffee shop and sit in a booth. Angel is in shadow but the sun shines golden in Nina’s hair (the sun always shines, in Los Angeles). Her smile is even and toothy and strangely like Darla’s. But Angel never saw Darla in sunlight, so it’s hard to compare.
Nina digs into her bacon with gusto. “I was never a big meat-eater. Before,” she says. She leans back in her seat, and a frown wrinkles her pretty brow. “Can you smell that?” she asks.
Angel nods. “Blood. It’s coming from the kitchen.”
It’s also running between her thighs, but he doesn’t mention that.
She lifts her palm up to his nose. Holds his eyes, and he watches her pupils dilate. “What does my blood smell like?”
Angel inhales the swirling raw scent of her. “Life,” he says, and licks her wrist.
They two-step for a while, Nina stepping forward, Angel stepping back. Then Cordelia wakes up. And then vanishes.
Spike finds him. Alone, in his penthouse, in the dark. “You never showed,” he drawls, and Angel can smell beer on his breath. Not a lot, just two or three. He smells of feathers, too. Must have been playing darts with Wes.
He has to tell Wes about Cordy. He doesn’t know how to do that.
“Cordelia never showed, either.” Spike looks around the dark room, and Angel can hear him inhale. “Wasn’t she just—”
The room doesn’t smell like her anymore. Angel’s noticed it, too.
“Fucking hell,” Spike says, and sits abruptly. “She was never even—?”
Angel shakes his head. His throat feels like a dried-up walnut.
“I’m sorry, mate,” Spike says at length, and it sounds strange coming from his mouth. One of the unspoken truths of their relationship is that neither of them ever apologizes for anything.
Then Angel’s swooping down on Spike’s throat like a hawk from on high. His teeth land in Spike’s neck and his fingers in the lapels of his coat, and Angel’s stripping the leather off him as Spike shouts and bucks. Angel tumbles off him and lands hard on the floor, flat on his ass, stunned. Spike grabs him by his forearms and hauls him to his feet. Punches him in the face. Angel’s head spins sideways and he spits blood.
There’s a long silence, where neither vampire moves. Spike holds his eyes. Angel watches his pupils dilate.
Then Spike’s hands wrap around the back of Angel’s head and yank him down, and their mouths crash together like waves on rocks. Like deadwood being swept out to sea.
Spike tastes like salt and drowning. Angel realizes he’s missed it.
When William was new, he used to breathe in his sleep. Breathe, and snore, and kick and toss, and Darla threw him out of their bed more times than Angel can remember. The same manic motion that drove him during his waking hours followed him into sleep, his jaws snapping, swallowing great gulps of the new life thrust upon him.
Since coming back from the grave, Spike sleeps like the dead. Angel finds that soothing.
Nina’s class has an exhibit in a small gallery downtown. Angel escorts her and admires her creations. There’s one vase in particular, with graceful proportions and curves, and it feels smooth and warm under his hands. He offers to buy it, but she offers it as a gift.
They walk back to his apartment, and the night is balmy. There are never any stars in the L.A. sky but the twinkle of lights in the hills give an imitation of life. He holds the vase in one hand and Nina’s arm in the other.
She finds the perfect place for it in his apartment. When he walks her to the door, she wraps her fingers around the back of his neck and pulls him down for a long kiss.
“I don’t have to go,” she murmurs.
Angel kisses her again and says goodnight. The elevator doors close on her confused expression.
Later, he heads out to kill things. He rounds the corner from his office and finds Spike leaning against the side of a building. He has one foot down on the sidewalk and the other crooked up against the wall behind him. His hands are shoved deep in his pockets. There’s a cigarette dangling from one corner of his mouth.
A nearby streetlamp completes the cliché.
Spike tosses the cigarette to the pavement. Grinds it out with the heel of his boot.
“Nice date?” he drawls.
Angel’s sword is resting on his shoulder. “Very nice,” he shrugs.
Spike chuckles, low and dirty. “No nookie for you, huh? Poor daddy.” He flutters his eyelashes, and it’s ridiculous that a killer could look so coy. He saunters towards Angel, slow and watchful. “Used to be better at getting into a lady’s knickers, as I recall.”
Angel lowers his head. Lets his weapon clatter to the ground. “You’re no lady,” he growls, and shoves Spike up hard against the wall.
Human necks are so fragile. That’s what he thinks, when Sam Lawson strings up his team in his office. Fred, with her neck so slender and pale. Wes, who used to have a scar across his. Even Gunn, the best non-super-powered fighter Angel’s ever seen, and Angel can’t even imagine how Lawson got the jump on him.
Then he remembers: Spike found Sam when they washed ashore. Taught him how to hunt and kill. Knowledge handed down through the generations.
“I’m nothing, because of you,” Lawson spits at him, and Angel’s played this scene before and before, and his existence is one big loop that just won’t fucking end.
He shoves the stake through Lawson’s heart, and eyes the dust on his carpet wistfully. He wishes he’d been able to saw Sam’s head off, but vamp necks are tougher than human.
“Fuck, yes. Christ, right there.” Spike is thrashing beneath him, eyes closed, head thrown back. His neck is corded and Angel licks the blue vein that stands out in relief against white skin. Sculpted from marble, his boy.
“Harder, you bastard,” Spike gasps, and Angel thrusts and shoves until Spike’s head thumps and the headboard splinters. His fingers dig into Spike’s ribs until one of them cracks. Spike shouts in glee and comes, hard and long.
Afterward they share a cigarette. They spent all day making each other livid, Angel yelling at him not to spill whiskey on the rug and Spike walking all over his furniture. Now there’s blood staining his clean white sheets, and he keeps seeking Spike out again and again.
He doesn’t know what’s wrong with him.
After Fred, Nina sends flowers. Spike ties Angel to his bed and whips his back with his own belt until it’s a mass of red.
The flowers die before Angel’s wounds heal. Nothing alive ever thrives in this place.
He watches Nina in the cage, and wishes he could let her run free. Set her loose in the woods and see her race beneath the moon. The leaves would crunch under her bare paws and the trees would snap at her as she rushed by, twigs and pine needles and the smell of fresh spruce sticking to her nose. She would catch rabbits in her teeth and chase humans and do such bitter business as the day would quake to look on.
But Angel knows his part in this tragedy. They built this cage for him.
He never tells her that.
The day Connor shows up inside the walls of Wolfram & Hart, Angel nearly swallows his tongue in terror.
He kills Vail’s henchmen with a rage reserved for friends lying in a hospital bed with their throats cut. He ushers his son around the building with a fear he hasn’t felt since Holtz jumped through the portal.
And yet, when Spike drops to the floor at Connor’s feet, Angel’s shoulders relax, just a fraction of an inch. Spike springs back up like a rubber ball, barges through the swinging doors bellowing obscenities. He yells at Illyria that he’ll rip her neck out, even though Illyria just beat the snot out of him and will do it again in seconds.
And Angel suddenly gets it. Spike is the one creature for whom he doesn’t live in constant fear. He doesn’t need protecting and he doesn’t need saving. Spike is loud and obnoxious and fucking restful.
And that’s just so ludicrous it makes Angel smile.
“You wanna meet some of my colleagues?” he asks Connor. And when they enter the training room, with Spike eyeing the boy curiously and Illyria looking disdainful, Angel has a moment – just one moment – where he feels like he can breathe.
Later, Connor remembers. Angel’s never been one to share his secrets, but the next night, he takes Spike to his bed. And when the biting and scratching is done and they’re sitting up against the pillows, smoking Spike’s cigarettes and staring out the window, Angel says,
“There’s something I want to tell you.”
There’s plenty he doesn’t tell Spike. The Black Thorn. Drogyn. He tries to convince them all he’s been corrupted, and he makes love to Nina knowing that he can never be saved.
It’s daylight and glorious and Angel is oh-so-careful with her. The sun shines in on the bed. The sheets are white and her skin gleams like California. She smells like sand and surf and coconut oil.
Later, Angel tries to send her away. She doesn’t go. She doesn’t cry, though, and Angel’s relieved, because he knows he wouldn’t be able to respond in kind. He hasn’t cried since Connor. Too much of water hast thou, poor Ophelia, and therefore I forbid my tears.
When Connor comes to his rescue the next night, Angel sends him away, too.
He doesn’t kiss either of them goodbye.
In the alley, just before the dragon incinerates them both, Angel drops his sword and kisses Spike.
Spike pulls back and searches his face. “Now cracks a noble heart,” he quips.
Angel smiles, real and wide.
His eyes go up in flames just as Spike’s face crumbles to ash in his hands. The rest is silence.