Angel stood on the roof of an abandoned skyscraper, looking up at the stars but not really seeing them as he considered everything that had happened recently. Doyle was gone, heroically sacrificing himself for the greater good. And Cordelia, the woman who had inherited his visions, was slowly dying because she lacked the demon blood to ease the pain of the visions. Wesley had withdrawn into a former shell of himself, stuck perpetually in a book and only venturing out to share information about a case. Gunn was anyone’s guess, these days. He was almost always gone, unless they were hunting, and he seemed haunted. And by the heavy smell of alcohol, drinking was his comfort of choice.
Angel sighed as he thought about all of it. Some days he missed his past life, soulless and carefree. He missed his blood family, too, because humans didn’t always cut it. Doyle had been his closest friend because the man had understood both the good and the bad of having a human side—or in Angel’s case, a soul that forced him to embrace humanity or suffer the consequences. Guilt wasn’t unfamiliar territory, and he blamed himself harshly for allowing Doyle to come to harm. And for Cordelia, who was dying, despite their best efforts to prevent it. For all of his human family, really, because they were falling apart and he didn’t know how to keep them together. Not really. Not the way he’d known how to keep a vampire family from falling apart, that’s for sure. When he’d been Angelus, he’d ruled with an iron fist and things weren’t allowed to go wrong. That wouldn’t work with humans; they required a softer touch.
He sighed again, shifting his weight and lifting his face up to the sky. A light breeze greeted him and he closed his eyes in pleasure, wishing he had more time to spend with himself. By nature, he was a solitary creature, and the hours of enforced company were nearly painful for him. It wasn’t that he didn’t love his humans—he did, a lot—but he enjoyed being alone with his own thoughts. Something his humans ridiculed him for, but they just didn’t understand the appeal. After centuries of living, a little reflection time wasn’t that much to ask.
Inevitably, his mind turned to his blood family. Angel loved his humans, but he missed his true family, the one that would embrace him in all his moods and aspects and not assume he was going crazy for smiling. Darla would’ve loved the city. She was cruel, probably the cruelest vampire he’d ever known, but she was his sire. She taught him everything and sometimes he missed her guidance. She would’ve known how to keep the humans together, been able to patch everything he’d messed up, even if his mistakes were well-intentioned. And Drusilla—Dru to all of them—her playful nature and mysterious abilities always astounded him. A lot of people thought she was insane, even Darla occasionally believed that, but Angel knew better. Her crazy was just an act she put on to keep people at a distance. But she’d let him close. And she’d let William closer. Spike. Thinking about him sent a pang through Angel, though he wasn’t sure whether it was guilt or pain. William was the most precious of his Childer, always endearing and eager to please. And then Spike had taken over when Angelus disappeared. Spike, all edges and rough talk and it pained Angel to know that he had put that there. But the one thing about William—Spike—that stayed consistent was his desire to please, to be loved, which was why he stayed with Dru until she left him behind, and even why he’d sought Angel out to demonstrate his capabilities as a vampire.
Angel closed his eyes hard, trying to hold the memories at bay. He didn’t want to remember all the good things about Spike. The last time Spike and Angel met, the blonde had driven a hot poker through Angel’s side. An offense, in the vampire community, that demanded a punishment as close to death as possible, if not death outright. That was one thing Angel couldn’t do though. Killing Spike was never—and would never be—an option. Despite the blonde’s punk bravado, there was still a lost Childe in there, wishing desperately for his Sire’s approval. And he was still Angel’s favored; that fact couldn’t be avoided. Angel could never harm him. He loved him. The closet he’d come to punishing Spike was ordering him out of L.A., never allowed to return. In fact, he’d given him that order earlier that night. So it wasn’t too surprising that Angel couldn’t get the blonde out of his thoughts.
A noise, one he almost dismissed as wind, came from a few feet behind him. Angel turned, expecting to see a bird or a cat or nothing at all, and came face to face with the man of his thoughts. “Spike.”
The blonde shifted from foot to foot, obviously uncomfortable. He took a cigarette out of his leather duster and lit up, walking over to the edge of the balcony beside Angel. He took a long drag and turned to face the older vampire. “Peaches.”
That nickname. He loved it, but only secretly. Openly, he seethed at being called such a thing by a man who used to jump to do his biding. “I thought I told you to leave the city.”
Spike shrugged his shoulders. “Aye.”
“So why are you still here?”
The blonde blinked, and then flicked his ashes over the side of the roof. “I didn’t know you meant immediately. No harm in me being here one more night, is there, Peaches?”
“You really like to push your limits with me, don’t you, Spike?”
“Used to be a time you pushed them for me.”
Angel blinked at that. Spike never brought up the past. Never. Unless it was the bad parts and then he only ever brought it up to rub it in Angel’s face. “That was then. This is now.” His tone was harsh, harder than he’d intended.
Spike, as usual, didn’t notice or didn’t care. “Aye.”
“Give me one good reason I shouldn’t force you out of my city.”
The blonde paused at that, and it took Angel a full minute to realize Spike’s hand was trembling. At first, he thought it was due to anger, but since his Childe made no move to fight, he gradually came to the understanding that it was fear.
“Well? You’ve got about two minutes before I use it anyway, just to get you out of my hair.”
Spike took a deep breath at that. “I just want one last night, Sire. To etch this city and you in my mind, since you’re banning me from it. Please.”
It wasn’t so much the please as Spike’s use of his title that decided him. Spike hadn’t called him Sire in nearly a century—not him as Angel, anyway. If he was using the title now, then he was being truly sincere. “All right,” he said after a moment. “I’ll give you your last night, Spike. But then I don’t want to see you in my city again.”
“Aye. Ta’ Peaches.”
And then the sincere Spike just disappeared. He was back to the English phrases and name calling that irritated and amused Angel on a level he himself didn’t understand. Part of him itched to take the younger vampire to task, but part of him itched for something else. Something darker—something forbidden him.
“Don’t stay out here much longer,” Angel said as he turned to leave. “Sun will be up in an hour.”
Spike smiled bitterly. “Aye. That’s what I’m counting on.”
Angel frowned. Surely, Spike wasn’t going to… “You’re not thinking of doing something stupid, are you Spike?”
The blonde laughed. “Always thinking of doing something stupid, Angel. You should know that by now.”
Angel snorted. That was certainly true of Spike, but—“Okay. Then come down with me. We can hole up in this building for the day.”
“Thought you wanted me out of your city, out of your life.”
“What does that have to do with waiting out the day in a dark building?”
“Everything, actually,” Spike said, tired of hiding. He’d been hiding himself ever since Angelus had become Angel and he was tired of it all. His Sire was here, now, and Spike had a chance to tell him the truth, and the words came spilling out of him. “I’m tired of this, Angel. I’m tired of having every person I love break me in two. I’m done with it. First Drusilla, then Buffy. And you, of course. You have the market cornered on that one, but that doesn’t matter much. I can’t stop loving you even though I’ve done my best to forget it. So I’m forgetting it the only way I can—permanently.”
Angel’s head was sent reeling. Spike was going to kill himself? Spike? The man who had driven a hot poker into his side to get the gem of amara? The man who had no qualms going after his leftovers? The man who everyone hated because he was such an ass to all of them? And then clarity struck. Spike was a persona; a mask. The man who was going to commit suicide was William. The man who had followed Drusilla despite all her cruelties and petty games; the man who tried to teach Buffy to cope with the darkness that came back with her when she came back to life; the man who used sarcasm as a defense mechanism, because he was too sensitive to be open.
“No,” he said simply.
“What?” Spike said, his head whipping around, the look on his face only describable as stunned.
“No,” Angel repeated. “You are not killing yourself.”
Spike snorted. “Yeah? You gonna stop me?”
“That’s the plan.”
“Why do you even care?”
It was Angel’s turn to be stunned. “What do you mean, why do I care? You’re my Childe, William. I will always care.”
“It’s Spike.” His tone was petulant, childish, like he was trying to cling to something and even he didn’t understand what it was.
“If I want to call you William, Childe, I will. You have no say over me. Understand?” Angel closed the distance between the two of them quickly, grabbing Spike by the shoulders and gripping hard. He didn’t shake, not yet.
Spike hated that he loved the feeling of the man holding his shoulders and anger coursed through him. Angel had no right to address him like that. The man had given up his claim on Spike nearly a century ago when he’d walked away. Spike grabbed Angel’s wrists and forced the other man away from him. He would fight this out, like he’d fought it out with Angel every other time. And he’d win, because—
And then, Angel did something he hadn’t done in nearly a century. “William, you will obey me. Stop struggling.”
The tone; the insufferable tone that made it impossible for Spike to do anything but obey. Spike could be angry, was angry, but he couldn’t disobey that tone. Sire’s Voice. It was deceptively quiet, but incredibly powerful. His arms stopped moving of their own accord and he glared at his Sire for all he was worth.
“I’m tired of fighting you, Spike. No matter where I go, you always find me. No matter what you do, somehow you manage to make it seem less than it is. I’m tired of running from you. And I do not want you to kill yourself. Not because of me. Not because of anyone. So we’re going to go into this building and wait out the day, and you’re going to talk to me properly. Not like a renegade vampire, but as a Childe speaks to his Sire. And then, after that, if you still want to greet the sun, I’ll allow it.”
Spike scowled. “And since when do you give a damn about me anyway? I might be tied to you by blood, but you never once came and helped me when I was in trouble. You never once congratulated me on a job well done. And now, here we are, and you’re telling me to talk to you. Like it all never happened?” He scoffed. “I refuse.”
Angel smiled a slow, feral smile. “Let me tell you a little something, Spike. I may have a soul now and have a human family, but that does not make me soft. You will not refuse me my rights as your Sire. I’m sure you remember better than me my methods.”
“Like you’d use them now,” Spike said, but it was tempered with uncertainty. “Why the sudden change of heart? Used to, you’d never embrace any part of your vampire half.”
“Because, Spike, I understand the curse better now. And the soul is permanent; it’s no longer a curse. And I have to embrace both halves of who I am to do the most good. Any more questions?”
Angel arched an eyebrow.
“How exactly are you planning to get me off this roof?”
“Oh, that’s easy. I’m going to tell you to follow me. And you’re going to follow me. Because, if you don’t, I’ll resort to Sire’s Voice, and if I have to do that, well. I’m sure you remember how that goes.”
Spike swallowed hard, sweat breaking out on his forehead. Oh yeah, he definitely remembered. And suddenly, he really didn’t want to be here, on this roof, about to commit suicide. He just wanted to be what he’d always been—a scared and confused English gentleman who fell in love with the vampire that turned him. Somehow, being William again didn’t seem so bad.
“Follow me,” Angel said.
To no one’s surprise, Spike did just that.
They walked into the building and rode the elevator all the way down to the basement level, an area completely devoid of windows and sunlight.
Angel stared at the man standing in front of him, wondering what had happened in the years since he’d last seen him to make him so bitter. But that wasn’t what worried him. He was surprised that he hadn’t hesitated before slipping into full Sire mode. That wasn’t normal behavior for him, as Spike himself had indicated, but Angel was starting to learn that some instincts went deeper than his human soul. And one of those instincts was to dominate, to claim, to mark William—Spike—as his own the way he had so many years ago. Especially since the vampire was considering meeting the sun, a pretty horrible way to go about it when he could just ask a slayer or her friends to stake him. Meeting the sun was a punishment only given to the vampires who somehow managed to kill their Sires—a punishment Angel was exempt from only because Darla had come back to life and she’d forbidden it.
“Explain why you thought death was your only option.”
“That one’s easy. The Slayerettes don’t want anything to do with me, you sent me away, and Dru is somewhere she doesn’t want to be found. And I don’t do being alone well. So death seemed like a good idea.”
“You could have told me.”
Spike snorted. “Oh yeah, pull the other leg, mate. You don’t tell someone whose told you to get out, ‘Oh and by the way I’m going to off myself,’ because then they feel pity and take you in or guilt when you do it that they didn’t. I’m not stupid. I didn’t even expect you to be up on the roof. This building just has the best view of the city and I wanted one last perfect picture in my head before I went.”
“What are the rules about suicide, William?”
Spike winced. That was Angel’s ‘don’t make me repeat myself’ tone. “If I want to die, I have to ask my Sire’s permission first. I didn’t honestly think you’d say no, though.”
“So, even though I beat the rules into you day and night for nearly a century, you were planning on disobeying one of them.”
Something in Spike’s belly flip-flopped. “Well, when you put it like that, it seems a bit ridiculous.”
“Yeah, it does. First time I’ve ever been able to say truthfully that I’m disappointed in you.”
Spike laughed hollowly, but inside he felt like he’d been punched in the gut. While Angel had never said he was proud of him, his Sire had never been disappointed before. “Well, if the shoe fits,” he said, the words ringing hollowly in his own ears.
“You think you’re a disappointment to me, William? Why?”
“Why? Did you really just ask me why?”
“Yes, I did. Are you going to make me repeat the question?”
“No, Sire.” The idea terrified him. “I spent years following you, after you left us; after you were cursed. I didn’t realize you’d been cursed at first, and I kept trying to do things to impress you, to get you to let me join you. But nothing worked. And every time I tried, I saw revulsion in your eyes. Revulsion for the skills and the arts you taught me. But you never explained anything to me. I would’ve followed you to the ends of the earth—hell, I have—and you never stopped to think how much it was hurting me to be shut out of your life.”
“Could you have stopped killing, Spike? Could you have done without the carnage, the bloodlust?”
Spike laughed bitterly. “You’re forgetting something, Sire. It wasn’t me who needed a soul to stop killing. I was never really all that evil to begin with. You had to beat it into me. A way to live without killing—at that point, I would have jumped at it—but all you saw was what you made me: a cold-blooded killer carving his name onto the history pages.”
“So,” Angel said. “The gist of it is that if you can’t have me, you don’t want to live.”
Spike wanted to retort, to tell his Sire not to be so full of himself. But he couldn’t, because it was the truth. It was all he’d ever wanted. Being by his Sire’s side, no matter what it meant, would mean everything to him. “Aye,” he said, softly.
“I said, okay. You can stay in the city. You will live in the hotel with me and will go nowhere without my express permission. Consider yourself a fledgling; because in this kind of life, a life with humans and rules and structure—this is new territory for you.”
“And when I screw up?”
Angel shrugged. “You’re my Childe. I’ll deal with it.”
“I don’t like the sound of that.”
Angel smiled. “These are your choices, Spike. You can leave the city and go back to the Slayer and her friends and help them in Sunnydale. Or you can stay in L.A. with me and abide by my rules. Maybe even help solve cases, if you can prove yourself to me.”
Spike blinked at that. “You’re giving me a chance to prove my worth?”
“And in a way I’ll appreciate. I’m not running away from you anymore. You want to be part of my world. Fine. Prove to me you can handle it.”
“And if I can?”
Angel grinned. “If you can, well, we’ll see.”
That decided Spike. His Sire was giving him another chance; a true chance. Despite all the pain and heartache he’d felt chasing after a shadow, here was the chance to make it all right; to prove for once and for all why he had been the favored. “Okay,” he said. “I’ll stay.”