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and it must follow (as the night the day)

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“Drink this, he said. It’ll be good for you, he said. Bottoms up, mate!” Spike gnashed his teeth, muttering darkly to himself as he stalked through the corridors of Angel Investigations.

The door to Angel’s office banged most satisfactorily as he kicked it in, entering with a snarl. “Where’s that green-skinned bastard?” he demanded the room at large, interrupting what looked like a serious conversation between the people in it. “He’s not at Caritas and I have a sudden and urgent need to pull his entrails out through his fucking nostrils.”

From behind the desk Angel frowned at him disapprovingly, somehow managing to look devastatingly attractive whilst doing it. Spike growled low and chose to believe it was because he was angry.

“What’s Lorne done now?” Wesley asked, sounding so genuinely concerned and earnest that for a while there Spike forgot to loathe his tweeded existence and instead found himself feeling something dangerously close to grateful. He shook it off.

“He’s poisoned me!” he declared. “And I need to rattle him good and proper until an antidote falls out of his bedazzled suit.”

“What?!” Angel was on his feet, already striding from around the desk, coat flaring dramatically behind him, and god dammit but Spike hated the world and everyone in it with the intensity of a thousand suns. Not that it did anything to stop him from appreciating the fine figure of his grand-sire, the sudden memory of what it felt like to have all that strength and ferocity pressed against him flooding his mind.

“Are you in pain?” Gunn asked, and Spike was momentarily distracted by the shift of his muscles under the shirt. Curse Lorne and the hell that spawned him. “What symptoms do you have?”

“I…” Spike faltered. He couldn’t bring himself to say it loud, partly because doing so would make it somehow more real, and partly because Angel was right there, staring at him a way that seemed to see right into his still newly raw soul. “I don’t… feel quite like myself,” he finished lamely. He crossed his fingers in the relative safety of his coat pocket.

The other three stared at him silently. Spike fought the urge to hunch in on himself.

Finally, Wesley scoffed, rolling his eyes. “Well, if you develop any other ‘deadly symptoms’ be sure to find me. But for now we’ve got better things to do than listen your hungover ravings. C’mon,” he added to Gunn, dragging the other man out of the door behind him.

Gunn shrugged at Spike half-apologetically, half-amusedly as they walked past. Spike chose not to acknowledge either the insult, or the sympathy, though both stung more than usual. Which was to say, they actually registered.

Once it was just the two of them, Angel sighed, waving at the chair. Spike let himself slump into it, fuming resignedly.

“So,” Angel said. “How committed are you to eviscerating Lorne?”

Spike shrugged, a lot of his initial anger having burned out. “Eh, fifty-fifty.” He tilted the flat of his palm back and forth a couple of times illustratively. “Provided he coughs up the cure.”

“And what is that he’s curing you from, William?” Angel asked, and Spike had to look away, the sound of his name like a nail through the heart.

Silently, he reached into his coat, pulling out a glass bottle – now empty – and tossing it at Angel who caught it one-handedly. He tilted it to the light to read the label and Spike could tell the exact moment he got it; the sharp, if entirely unnecessary, inhale of breath, the way Angel suddenly seemed to loom closer though he hadn’t actually moved at all.

“Well, shit,” Angel said.

“Yeah,” Spike sneered self-deprecatingly, “you could say that again.”

On the label of the bottle, written in beautifully flowing cursive, were six short words: To Thine Own Self Be True.

Spike couldn’t think anything worse than that.