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Spike spun out of the nightclub with a whoop of delight, half high from various fumes given off by his fellow concert-goers, and more than a little drunk. In hindsight, nothing would have gone as badly if he’d stayed sober, but who does THAT at a concert?

He was high on the music – it was a good band he’d been wanting to catch and worth the trip to LA. Worth forgetting about Buffy and her world for a solid evening of auditory mayhem.

Perhaps not worth forgetting about ANGEL and his sodding world, because the next thing he knew, Spike had stumbled right into the poof himself.

“Oh come on!” Spike backed up. “Do you have to be in EVERY dark alleyway?”

Angel frowned, then turned to talk to the woman behind him – no doubt another melodramatic rescue – but the woman said, “You are FREAKS,” and ran.

Angel sighed. “That hurts my feelings.” He looked at Spike. “Did that hurt your feelings, too?”

It was probably the set up to a witless one-liner, Spike assumed. He WAS a bit drunk. He held up his hands. “Look, you know I’m not snacking on the locals so how about you bugger off your way and I bugger off mine and we both pretend this never happened?”

To Spike’s horror, Angel stepped closer, a great crease forming in his large brow. “I haven’t thought about how hard it is for you, with the chip. Not even WANTING to be good, but having to, against your will. Do you want to talk about it?”

Spike tripped over a garbage can backing away and sprawled in the filthy alleyway.

Angel reached for him. Spike flinched out of the way, but then saw Angel was just holding his hand out, offering to help him up.

“Who are you and what have you done with Peaches?”

Angel smiled. “Come on, Spike, you know I don’t like that name.”

Spike squinted. “That’s why I use it.”

Angel bobbed his hand a little, reminding Spike of its presence, and said, “It’s okay to admit you need help now and then.”

Spike crab-walked backward away from Angel. “No it isn’t. Only sissies and poofs need help.”

Angel sighed. “You don’t have to try so hard to BE so hard.”

At that point, Spike got onto his feet and ran like hell.

***

Curiosity ate at Spike. He spent the morning in an abandoned gas station halfway back to Sunnydale, caught out by the sun and too hungover to push through the glare. When he woke up, he wasn’t entirely sure he hadn’t dreamed the whole thing.

Angel was… acting nice? To him? On purpose. “Has to be a trap,” Spike said. Then stopped, a slow smile coming onto his face. “Or the git got a spell cast on him! He could be helpless!”

This idea… needed to be investigated. So, after counting his dosh and hitting a butchers for a little breakfast, Spike went in search of Angel’s secret lair. He had to have a secret lair – went with the brooding and swooping into alleyways.

Didn’t even take two demon bars to find it. Apparently Angel was not going ‘secret’ so much these days and had holed up in a giant pile of abandoned hotel.

Spike tried spying around the perimeter, identifying entrances and such, but he got bored and his leg started cramping, so he just walked in the front door.

Cordelia Chase stepped from behind a reception desk with a crossbow in her hands.

Spike spread his arms. “Cordelia! You’re looking buxom as always.”

“Not another step, evil dead guy.”

“Came to visit the old grand-sire. Ran into each other last night. He seems… different.”

The point of Cordy’s crossbow sank just an inch as she said, “You have NO idea.”

Angel himself wandered in from a side door. He glanced up, “Hi Cordy,” then followed the crossbow to Spike. “We have a guest!”

“We have a pest,” Cordy said.

“Now Cordy, remember what I said about negative energy?”

Spike’s grin was wide enough to strain his cheeks. “Hello, Peaches! I’m just BRIMMING with positive energy over here!”

“Oh god,” said Cordy, and lowered her crossbow. “I can’t deal with this in stereo.”

As Cordelia retreated behind the reception desk, Angel came forward. “Spike, I see you, and I acknowledge your right to be in this space, but I am wondering why you’re here.”

“Can’t a bloke just pop in to see his old grandsire?”

“Now you’re deflecting. It’s okay, be honest. This is a safe space. Are you here to fight? On another quest to get that chip removed?”

Spike looked at Cordelia. “How long has he been like this?”

She looked traumatized. “Over a YEAR. There was an enchanted stick.”

“And I’m just learning of this? I’m hurt.” Spike licked his lips and sauntered up to Angel. “So if I were to do something like… oh… THIS,” he punched Angel in the gut.

Angel responded with an uppercut that sent Spike sprawling. “You need to learn to use your WORDS, Spike.”

Spike, sprawled on the floor in comical confusion, said, “Oy! That wasn’t turning the other bloody cheek!”

“Didn’t say I would. Sometimes aggression only responds to aggression. But I’m open to talk about things if you are…”

He didn’t finish his statement as Spike barreled shoulder-first into him.

Cordelia set down her crossbow and picked up a magazine. “I know I should help,” she said, “But I just can’t seem to care.”

Spike and Angel tussled and rolled, trading blows and temporary advantage as they cleared a path through the hotel lobby, finally crashing through the doors to the old ballroom.

Angel, temporarily able to pin Spike with a hand on his throat, said, “You have a lot of issues to let go of, Spike. Punching isn’t the answer. You have to open your hand to let go.”

Spike bucked Angel off of him with a sharp lift of his hips. As soon as they were both on their feet again, he stepped forward, paused, and slapped Angel open-handed across the face. “How’s that?”

Angel returned the slap. Spike gaped a second, and slapped again. For a few seconds it was a flurry of slaps, then they both stopped and looked guiltily back toward the lobby to make sure Cordy hadn’t seen the slap-fight.

Angel stepped back. “This isn’t moving the dialog forward, Spike. You need to share.”

“Bollocks to that,” Spike said. “Never was good at sharing.” He spun into a roundhouse kick, which Angel blocked and countered.

After a few passes of punches and kicks, Angel, breathless, said, “I care about this process, Spike. And I care about you.”

Spike stopped mid-swing, gaping at Angel. “That spell went more to your head than usual.”

“I’m emotionally open now. It’s not a bad thing, you should try it.”

“This…” Spike backed up, lowering his fists. “This isn’t right. You’re supposed to be repressed and emotionally constipated.”

Angel spread his arms. “Would you like a hug?”

Spike’s eyes got wide. “SOD THAT.”

Angel caught him as he ran for the door, blocked an elbow jab, and said, “Why are you so afraid of closeness?”

“Because ‘closeness’ with you usually involves hot pokers and chains.”

“You know there’s nothing wrong with intimacy between men.”

Spike struggled, arms pinwheeling, to get out of Angel’s hug. “Mate, I won’t begin to answer that.”

Angel sighed, looked to the ceiling, and then planted a fat kiss on Spike’s lips.

***

Cordelia finished her magazine article and noticed that the sounds of struggle had been quiet for some time, but Angel hadn’t come out of the ballroom as expected, brushing dust from his hands.

She should probably check on that.

She picked up her crossbow with a long-suffering sigh and angled her way across the lobby, trying to see through the shattered doors without being seen.

And stopped in her tracks. Angel and Spike were making out like teenagers under the ancient chandelier. Cordelia dropped her crossbow.

At its loud clatter, Spike sprang back from Angel like he was scalded and tried very unsuccessfully to look like he’d been examining the drapery.

Angel smiled broadly. “Spike and I are finally working out our feelings! Isn’t it great how an open dialog works?”

Spike hurried past Cordelia, shading his eyes, and muttered, “This never happened.”

Cordy blinked, picked up her crossbow, and said, “That’s, um, great.”

She wasn’t surprised when she saw Spike sneaking back into the building an hour later. She even made sure to leave a window unlatched.

It kept Angel away from psychoanalyzing HER for a change. She texted Buffy asking if she wanted pictures. Cordy was considerate like that.