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They're not boyfriends.

They're not even friends. They don't have sickeningly cute nicknames for each other, they never call each other sweetheart or honey or baby. They never hold hands, lace their fingers together, just to feel the other's skin. They don't kiss tenderly, or call each other just to hear the other's voice, or miss each other when they're apart. They never speak about it.

They come together with unvoiced, silent cries, with anger and with a thousand words unspoken, and it never changes. Kisses harsh and touches raw, undercurrents of pain that never quite reaches the surface, and maybe it's how it's supposed to be?

Spike made the first move. Fighting and fucking, maybe both, but Spike made the first move, coming to Angel one night, and shouting harsh words and juvenile insults, and Angel did his duty; he insulted him back, he told him all the things he usually says, because that's how it is between them, and it continued until they both ran out of words. Until they reached that place where words were usually replaced by fists, and Spike once again would eventually walk away, having picked a fight he knew he wasn't going to win.

Except--it was different. It was all different. It was Spike falling to his knees, and Spike putting his face against Angel's crotch, and Spike pulling out Angel's cock and putting it into his mouth, and Angel--not denying him. Then there was pleasure, body unable to hold it back no matter how much the mind wanted to, and afterwards, Spike got up and walked out without looking back. He never let Angel touch him.

After that, it was Angel waiting, waiting--waiting for someone to look at him oddly, waiting for Fred or Gunn to look at him funny, waiting for Spike to have told the entire office, and twist the tale in the process. Except it never came.

Instead, Spike kept showing up, and Angel kept letting him.

Eleven days passed before Spike let Angel touch him. Fighting, and coming to blows this time, before Angel, mouth swollen from Spike's fist and blood surging from the anger in him, grabbed the other vampire and pushed him up against the wall.

"What do you want from me?" he demanded, and Spike, stubbornly, refused to answer.

The arousal was coming off him in waves, tinged with something Angel was yet refusing to recognize. It wasn't supposed to be like this, and Spike was never supposed to be here. Annoyed and frustrated with the entire situation, Angel fumbled open Spike's jeans, jerked him off with harsh moves, one hand moving like a blur on his cock, and the other firmly gripping his throat.

"I hate you," Spike spat as he came, and there were tears on his voice, but not in his eyes. "I soddin' hate you."

"The feeling's mutual," Angel replied darkly, letting Spike go and wiping the come off his hand.

They're not boyfriends.

Angel watches Spike across the office as usual, and they snipe at each other like usual, and they go about their business as usual. Except there's nothing usual about this.

There was nothing usual about the way he first entered Spike, impossible heat surrounding him, and Spike groaning in his ear, egging him on through clenched teeth, with faster, harder, is that the best you can do, and what seemed to be his mantra, I hate you. Angel clenched his teeth right back and did his best to fuck Spike through the bed.

Sometimes they don't make it to the bed. Sometimes they have to interrupt their fucking to fight. Once they did both. A few times, Angel goes into work and curses his lack of reflection, because he doesn't know if he has bruises on his face, or scratches on his neck. He took Spike up against the window once, before the sun had fully set.

"I could break this fancy glass o' yours," Spike panted. "I should. Let the sunlight in, burn us both to ashes, right now."

Angel thrust in to the hilt, fisted Spike's cock and squeezed it, slid the foreskin back and forth and leaned into his ear. "You won't."

Spike didn't reply, but instead came completely silently, spurting milky white fluid onto the glass and then let Angel shove him forward and into the mess. Angel counted fifteen more thrusts before he followed Spike over the edge, falling into ecstasy and hiding himself in Spike's body like eternal suffering eating away at his flesh.

It's not something he's proud of. It's not something he's ashamed of either. He's not really sure how he feels about it, because Angelus trained Spike too well. He trained Spike too well. And he refuses to acknowledge this, because--he can't. There's nothing usual about this, and there's more to it, but they're not boyfriends.

Sometimes he comes across Spike hovering around Fred in the lab, and they both stop talking the moment Spike realizes Angel's within earshot. Then he turns the corner, and see them both standing there, looking innocent as children, and Fred is all business. Then Angel's all business, because he has to be, after all. And he goes out, and he fights evil, and sometimes Spike comes with him, and if Spike is extra violent with the demon of the moment, or if there is more behind his swings than adrenaline and anger, he doesn't say anything, and Angel doesn't say anything either.

"You're a fucking hypocrite," Spike told Angel a few weeks ago. "You think you're so high and mighty, yet you're rolling around in the dirt with me. You're no better than me. You're worse, because you think you're better."

Angel looked at Spike, at the tense jaw and hard look, and wondered why the younger vampire wasn't feeling smug about this at all. Angel thought he would be. Spike never got smug, though, he only got angry, angry and--something else. And as blue eyes regarded him across the bed, staring at him through a curl of smoke rising towards the bedroom ceiling, Angel tried to speak, but found it unnaturally hard.

"I don't think I'm better," he eventually got out. "I belong in hell, Spike."

Hundreds of faces screaming behind his eyelids if he closed his eyes, children's voices begging him to stop with teary words. One young man, practically fresh out of the ground, and still clinging, consciously or unconsciously, to every last human whisper in him--broken and beaten and getting back up, and Angelus roaring with joy, because getting back up meant one more chance to beat him back down.

Sometimes he thinks he snarks with Spike out of habit. Sometimes he thinks he does it to be cruel.

"We both belong in hell," Spike said casually, sniffing once and stubbing his cigarette out on Angel's nightstand. The burn mark would never go away.

"I want Buffy's phone number," Spike said four days later.

They fought about that too, and Angel won the fight. He always wins the fights. He pushed Spike down, held him there and made him actually say the word uncle, because there's something about Spike's juvenile behavior that drags Angel down as well. Afterwards, he let Spike up, tore the corner off a piece of paper lying on his desk, and scribbled Buffy's number on it.

The next morning, a lawyer came to Angel and told him Spike had kicked him out of his office. Angel listened by the door while Spike talked to Buffy, and ignored the funny feeling in his chest the entire time.

"I'm okay," Spike said, in hushed and subdued tones. "I'm--okay."

He didn't say much. Buffy probably did most of the talking. "Well, you heard right," he said, and after a pause, snorted. "Yeah, real well." Another pause, a real long one this time. "I miss you. Sometimes--I miss you."

Angel misses Buffy sometimes, too. He misses a lot of people sometimes, thinks about Doyle and Cordelia and Darla. Hell, sometimes he thinks about Lindsey, because nobody has ever been such an amusing pain in his ass like that guy. But when he misses people, he misses Buffy the most. Misses her life, the way she moves, the way she talks. He doesn't constantly miss these people. But he will always remember how she was the first person in a century, to make him feel alive. In that very moment, he missed her.

Spike finished his conversation with, "It's probably for the best, Slayer. I'll see you sometime."

Angel's still not sure if Spike ever knew he was listening outside the door.

They're not boyfriends, but Angel's not sure what they are. They're not enemies. They're not friends. They're a lot more than acquaintances, but they're less than lovers. Angel doesn't hate Spike, not really. He's pretty sure Spike hates him.

Wesley figured it out a week ago.

Came to him with a somber look on his face, late one night, and they stood together in silence for a long while, looking out at the city.

"Are you sure this is wise?" he asked, "Are you sure you know what you're doing?"

"No," Angel replied honestly, because Wesley's his oldest friend, and he deserved nothing less than the truth. Too many lies told, but this he deserved the truth about.

"I'm not sure about anything. Not about coming here, not about myself, and least of all about--him."

Wesley nodded thoughtfully, but never once took his eyes off the city moving about, on the other side of the glass. Nighttime was no excuse to stand still for Los Angeles. The windows in the building across from Wolfram & Hart were still lit, and below them on the street, cars were moving and traffic lights were flashing. A city alive, half of them never aware of the evil that moved around them every day, or the heroes that walked among them to keep them all from going under.

"I don't like this," Wesley said after a long while. "But I know you can handle yourself and will ultimately make the right decision. If that decision involves Spike, I will not lie and say it's what I'd hoped for. But I won't hold it against you, and I won't turn my back on you."

Angel looked at Wesley then, and swallowed hard. I'm gonna kill you. Words ringing in his head, words Wesley didn't remember, and hopefully never would. Down that road was too much pain, and Angel was still angry with him, but he had long since forgiven the man. Long since learnt that turning your back was never the solution, even though the anger and the pain never went away.

"I will never turn my back on you," he replied honestly, then added silently, again.

They stood in silence for a long while, watching the world as it moved around them, and Wesley never said a word to anyone else about what he'd learned, or their conversation.

Spike drinks a lot. He always used to drink a lot, but now he gets drunk a lot. Angel can track him solely based on the scent of alcohol, almost completely burying the scent that is pure Spike. His lips are always cool, and taste like whiskey or beer or tequila, harsh and bitter on Angel's tongue. Spike's drunk a lot. Angel's not even sure if anyone else notices it, because he doesn't really act drunk, even despite the smell of liquor coming off him in what seems to Angel like big waves. Fred never chides Spike, never throws him out of the lab. Gunn looks at him oddly when he makes a crude joke or gesture, but never wrinkles his nose at the smell of the alcohol, in that way people do when they know the person they're talking to is drunk. Lorne never ever comments on it, the way he usually comments on such things, in a soft voice with a gesture of his hand and a sweetums at the end.

Spike acts completely sober. Annoying and loud and tossing insults left and right like candy, half-hearted ones to Wesley, Gunn and Lorne, and whole-hearted ones to Angel. He strolls and struts around and flirts with Harmony and snarls and punches Angel, but he never stumbles or walks in curved lines or speaks with slurred words. Spike sucks cock like a sober man, and he moans like a sober man, and he hates like a sober man.

Last night, Spike came in, and Angel knew he was drunk. He could see it in his eyes, smell it on his breath and taste it on his skin. But Spike sucked his cock and rode him like a sober man, holding Angel's eyes the entire time, glaring angrily at him through a haze of lust and pleasure and pain and that last indescribable thing that Angel still refused to name. Angel thrust hard into Spike, making him growl, then flipped them both over without ever slipping out of his body, and the blue eyes wavered a little, surprised. Drunk.

"Why do you drink so much?" he asked, dragging his cock across Spike's prostate.

"Why do you ask?" Spike questioned back, challenging and hateful. "It's none of your bloody business, poof!"

You're a lowlife, was on the tip of his tongue, but his throat closed up as his orgasm overtook him, and he emptied himself deep with Spike. As he came down from his high, softening cock slipping out alongside traces of dead semen, he shifted off Spike's chest and lifted one hand to the hard cock between their bodies.

"Why are you always drunk?"

Spike's eyes closed, then, and his jawline moved. Teeth clenched hard together, grinding against each other, and his head moved back into the cushions, but he didn't reply.

"Spike?" Angel asked, jerking Spike, roughly and angry and what the hell was the matter with his idiot grandchilde?

Spike was off the couch in a flash, and his kick spun Angel down onto the floor, his head colliding with the coffee table on the way.

"I hate you," Spike said, words tight and clipped. He lifted one pale finger and pointed it accusingly at Angel. "I hate you."

Angel closed his eyes for a second, wincing at the pain from the kick and the coffee table, and when he opened them again, Spike was in his jeans and t-shirt again, erection visible through the fabric, but fading. Seems he was always fading, to Angel.

"You don't have a fucking say in this," Spike spat out, then grabbed his boots and coat and was gone. Angel never once let himself recognize the feeling in the other vampire's eyes, the one beneath all the hate and anger and rapidly fading lust.

They're not boyfriends. Angel looks at the pack of cigarettes sitting on his coffee table and thinks about having one. The nicotine is an addiction, but nothing compared to that of blood. He used to smoke, but found it was no problem quitting when he wanted to. The pack is Lucky Strikes, because they were out of Marlboros.

The first time he saw Spike again after he left Darla, Spike smelled of tobacco. Nicotine and alcohol and blood. Always Lucky Strikes, wouldn't have it any other way.

Years later, in the high school and factory and mansion, Spike had smelled like Marlboros, and Angel doesn't know which decade he switched brands. Angel wonders when he picked up the habit. He wasn't around when that happened.

He can still remember Angelus--him--teaching Spike how to kill. He can remember teaching him to rape. How to hold a girl just so, so she can't struggle or call for help or get away. How to torture a man to the highest peak of pain, and yet keep him alive until his body yields from hunger, not from his injuries. How to be a monster. A thousand times, he has exchanged blows with Spike, a thousand times, he has beaten him. Only once, has he ever lost. Not before, and not since. And it's fairly ironic that it should only be after Spike got his soul, after he was supposed to have become less of a demon--more human--that Spike finally beat him.

Angel hates him a little for that, for real hate. Not almost hate, but real hate.

He's never been better than Spike. At least he doesn't think so. Part of him hopes not, because it just means--means Spike really has his soul, Spike really is on his way to something better, something Angel's not. And part of him hopes he is, because--he has to be.

Angel thinks about Spike's soul a lot, but doesn't really want to. Spike shouldn't have a soul. Doesn't deserve a soul. Deserves it more than Angel. Shouldn't, and definitely should, live through the hell Angel is, and sometimes he wakes up from nightmares, screams of victims long gone echoing through his mind. Angel sometimes thinks about greeting the sunrise without the protection of necro-tempered glass, wonders if it wasn't the right thing to do, after all and the snow was the real a mistake? And if he were to name that feeling he sees in Spike's eyes when they're fucking, when they're fighting, when they're hissing venomous words at each other, it would be--


Spike's here, and looking at Angel, and Angel steels himself. Sets his jaw in preparation for a fight, or sex, or blood, whichever comes first tonight. All three will probably happen, and he's already practising insults and comebacks in his head.

Except this is different. And this is unusual, and maybe what they've been doing these past months have been usual, because this is most definitely--not.

"Came for your cigarettes?" Angel tries, but that's not it either.

The other vampire remains silent, walking over to Angel, slowly, as if each step could set off a trap that would send them both plummeting into the depths of hell. Neither of them is ready for that, and Spike comes closer still, closer, until he's right in front of Angel, so close Angel's entire vision is of his face, his eyes, blue like ice and clouded like mist.

And Spike's eyes holds no signs of anger, and his scent holds no trace of alcohol, and his lips hold no taste of ashes as he leans forwards, and then they're kissing, kissing deep, and there is no hateful blows exchanged this time.

Angel's still waiting for the punchline, for the joke, for the hate and spite and fighting and fucking and it's so dizzying he could lose his head and this is not usual what is going on he knows but he won't say it won't say it refuses to know it because it's all really

--guilt. And pain. And self-loathing.

A death wish, incomplete but growing, and so full of grief that he can taste the salt of Spike's tears on his tongue. There are no words for this, because it is too deep to be named. Too hard to sustain, and much too important to not. There are no words for this, because this kind of pain only exists for demons like them, for the damned and condemned and the unjust, struggling on for impossible forgiveness, in the futile hope that someday a spark of hope might be given.

And Spike finally looks at him, looks at him as Angel names that emotion he sees, that he has seen every time he's seen Spike, and Angel recognizes it and knows it by heart, and God how he wishes he didn't. Except he does.

Spike quietly says, "Help me."

A prayer, a plead, a cry for help and for mercy. Ask and ye shall receive, except Angel's no God. He's not even an angel, and definitely no God, not even Spike's. Especially not Spike's. But this isn't about that, and Wesley was completely right the entire time.

In Spike's eyes, his soul is reflected.

They're not boyfriends, and they never will be. They don't hold hands. They don't bring each other hot blood fresh from the microwave, or call each other cutesy stuff, they don't change the channel or sit through long movies one of them hates but know the other one loves, or snuggle up tight when they go to sleep at night. They don't even spend all that much time together. They fight and fuck and snarl and hate, and sometimes--sometimes they love. They will never be boyfriends. Spike's right. They both belong in hell.

Angel lifts one hand and holds it to the place where Spike's jaw meets his neck, half cupping his face, half squeezing a little. It's all he can offer for now.

They'll both get there eventually.