Spike lay stretched on the rack like a painter’s canvas on a frame.
“Keep this up, I’m gonna be two inches taller,” he tossed off.
“Hurts, boy?” Angel’s hand traced the tendons, tight with strain and vibrating slightly.
“No, it bloody tickles. Of course it hurts, moron, it’s a genuine Torquemada special. That Wolfram & Hart slush fund is going to your head.”
Angel had stopped listening. “Good.”
“Angel?” Fred hovered in the door he was sure he’d locked. “I really don’t think... I mean, when you gave me that extra funding and had my department develop the ghost restraints, you said it was in case something tried to take Spike again... company resources... didn’t mean to... are you sure this is the right thing to do?”
“It’s fine, Fred,” Angel said, and turned his back. Conversation over.
She didn’t leave. Angel searched his stock for more polite words and came up empty. All he’d got was something about getting out of his apartment and doing her job while she still had one.
But Fred didn’t get pissed. She got worried, which was worse. Even Angel could see how that would end up in a meeting with Wesley, Gunn, Lorne, and more talking. So he tried to be patient. It was good that Fred was so concerned about the right thing to do. Really. If only she could understand that in Spike’s case it was also irrelevant. Or if she didn't understand, if only she would shut up.
“It’s all right, love,” Spike voice was irritatingly insouciant, and his posture said he’d just happened to lie down for a bit of a kip ‘cause the rack looked so comfortable. Even his expression was insolent, with a hint of that never-still-tongue in cheek. Angel itched to slap it off Spike’s face. Still, he was helping.
“Just a bit of quality time, vampire style, and a...” Angel could see Spike wracking his what-passed-for-a-brain for proper science-type words, “test of the equipment into the bargain. Nothing to worry your pretty little genius head over.”
Fred blushed, and fluttered. “If you’re sure...”
Spike cocked his head and gave her The Look, the one that made Dru kill pretty maids for his tea and Angelus refrain from dusting him more times than he’d admit. “I’m sure, pet. Go play with your boytoy.”
“He’s not my toy! He’s my boy-employee!” Fred blushed deeper and, mercifully, fled before Angel’s own mercy was exhausted.
The “I meant to do that” expression slid off of Spike’s face as soon as the door shut, but Angel clouted him one anyway for good measure.
“You can still talk,” he observed, “it’s obviously not tight enough.”
“Angel,” Spike breathed. Angel noticed how that did not contain the word “no”.
He turned the crank a few more times. Spike hissed in pain.
“Where was I?”
“Blah blah blah Borneo,” Spike supplied.
“Right. Learned it there.” Angel laid out a stick with pins in the end, a small mallet, and a pot of soot ink on Spike’s stomach as if it were a table. It was taut enough, but trembling slightly. Angel pretended to ignore the hard cock that curled just a whisper below his hand.
“ 'Cause God forbid you embrace modern technology. There’ve been tattoo guns around since before you le— got the soul, for fuck’s sake.”
Angel rolled his eyes. “Over too quick,” he explained for what was easily the thousandth time. Two souls, one death, a hundred years, and he was still having this conversation. Maybe Mathers was right: this really was hell.
Angel consulted the sketch he’d made and pinned up out of sight above Spike’s head. It would be amusing to prop it up against Spike’s chest, but Angel didn’t want him seeing or feeling the design he had in mind just yet. “Do it in Japan too.”
Spike raised his eyebrow inquiringly, since it was about all he could move. “Why didn’t ya learn it there?”
Angel smiled. “Liked it better with the hammer.” He picked up the mallet, tossed it in the air and casually caught it, and then just as casually smashed Spike in the balls. Spike automatically tried to double over, increasing the stress on his arms as he failed.
“You would,” Spike said when he could talk again. Angel didn’t dignify the obvious with an answer.
Angel started the painstaking process at the base of Spike’s cock, careful not to touch the flesh with anything except the needle, moving in the slow spirals of Celtic knotwork. The form he’d chosen was perfect for what he had in mind, and created by an Irishman far from home. Angel smiled. It was only appropriate that this particular pattern was from Cairn Engeli, the Mount of Angels.
Spike’s hands had long since curled into fists, and he was panting, though whether from pure habit or as a place to channel the pain without screaming, Angel couldn’t have said. Not that he’d forbidden screaming. He liked screaming. But Spike, stubborn idiot that he was, would take that as giving Angel the victory, and he'd die all over again first. Angel would win, of course. But Spike would make him fight for every inch of the way.
He’d never admit it, but it was possible that Angel had missed Spike just a tiny bit.
The shaft was finally finished. Angel sat back and admired the glistening effect of wet black ink in intricate patterns against pale flesh. He poured a glass of scotch and sipped, slowly, then gave in to temptation and lit a cigarette. He didn’t normally allow smoking up here: wouldn’t want the smell to seep into the expensive curtains and carpets. But he couldn’t deny himself the pleasure of watching Spike writhe with jealousy. Spike could manage to hold a cigarette now, and even light it, but he couldn’t take a drag: the smoke was too diffuse for him to hold. The fact that Spike couldn’t move didn’t get in the way of writhing as much as you’d think. Spike’s whole body rippled with hatred.
“Fuck you. Bastard. Asshole. Prick,” he growled.
Angel raised his glass to return the salute.
Angel smoked the cigarette down to the filter before grinding it out, and took a last lingering gulp of Scotch before checking his watch. Almost ready for the next part. Spike had remained hard for hours. No real trick, for vampire stamina. But that he’d remained corporeal for hours, that was a first. And far exceeded the duration Fred had promised for the manacles’ trial run.
Either her work had out-performed all expectations or – Angel made carrying his glass into the kitchen his excuse to check the indicator on the device under the table. Kind of a supernatural battery, Fred had explained. Sure enough, the light was red. Probably had been for a while. No wonder Spike was shaking with the effort it took to stay physical. He must want this pretty bad. And he would purely hate for Angel to know any such thing.
Angel filed the information away for future reference.
He came back and cupped Spike’s cheek in one hand. “Wake up, boy,” he said.
Spike’s eyes, which had drifted closed around the time his jaw set, snapped open. “If you weren’t so bloody boring...” he trailed off as Angel delicately pulled back his foreskin, roughly wiped off a trail of ghostly pre-come that left no mark on the silk of his sleeve, and positioned the needle precisely. This was the part that mattered.
Fortunately the wheel design was the same front and back. Angel closed the last corner and raised his gaze to Spike’s face.
“You finally done... arrgh! What the hell did you do to me? It burns!”
Some of the tension left Angel’s shoulders. He hadn’t been sure it would still work on a not-exactly ghost, even with ink made from the charred remains of some special and unbelievably expensive ingredient from one of Wesley’s South American contacts.
Angel trailed his ink-spotted fingers over Spike’s lips and Spike automatically sucked them clean.
“Tattooed a Welsh pillar cross on your prick,” he explained smugly. “Looks like your cock is gonna burn forever. Unless of course you find a way to get it off.”
It went without saying that no laser removal specialist was going to work on the cock of a man who might disappear at any moment, unless he was in chains. Especially not in this town, where damned near everyone owed Wolfram & Hart a favor or was courting one of Lorne’s celebrity clients. If Spike was gonna take all the skin off his dick, he was gonna have to do it the old fashioned way. Angel grinned.
“You stupid bastard, it’s gonna burn you too, whenever you touch -- oh.” Angel’s grin broadened at Spike’s crestfallen expression. Apparently in Spike’s worldview, Angel not touching his cock was a bigger deal than eternal torment. Angel made another mental note.
Actually Angel figured he could probably put up with a little pain in a good cause, once in a while. But there was no reason to tell Spike that just yet.
“I hate you,” said Spike.
“Hate you too,” said Angel. He flicked open the latches that would free Spike from his high-tech cuffs and watching him groan and try to move his arms. “It’s all right, boy. You can let go now.”
Instantly the rest of his tools fell through Spike’s chest, but the now-insubstantial naked form lingered.
Angel shifted from foot to foot. He had a question, but he was damned if he was gonna ask it. If it was all about the will, Spike could undo everything he'd just done just by thinking about it.
Spike caught his eye. “Yeah, I can still feel it. Wanker.”
Angel was starting to see through Spike in more than the usual sense. He reminded himself that with Pavane out of the picture, Spike fading out didn’t mean anyone was trying to take him away. And frankly if hurting Spike for a while made him disappear for a while afterwards, as far as Angel was concerned that was all to the good.
Just as Spike faded out completely, Angel felt a pair of surprisingly solid lips brush the bulge in his own trousers. He jumped and cursed. If Spike had figured out how to be corporeal but invisible, they were all in deep, deep trouble. He should tell the others. But on the other hand, there were all those long boring meetings, and Spike had said he liked Angel’s desk.