Ways of Life

By

Anessa Ramsey

(Disclaimer, Rating, and Summary in Part One)

Four days after her conversation with Dawn, Cordelia knocked gently on Spike's door.  Her nerves were jangling.  Half of her wanted to get it over with, the other half wanted to run out the front door and hide forever in her apartment to avoid the issue.  Losing her nerve, she was about to turn and walk away when the door swung open.  Spike stood there wearing nothing but a pair of blue jeans that she purchased for him.  His hair was damp and unruly.  He'd just showered and the fresh, clean smell of soap and shampoo lingered in the air around him.  "What do you want, cheerleader?"

         Okay, so he wasn't in a good mood.  She'd learned in the past few days that he would only called her cheerleader when he was upset.  Standing up regally she gave her best impression of Queen C.  "We need to talk.  Alone."

         He sighed and let her into the room.  "What about, luv?" he asked, shutting the door behind her.

         There were two ways she could do this.  She could stand there and try to explain her feelings or she could just show him.  She opted for the latter.  It had worked with Xander so it should work with Spike too.  "This," she said, walking toward him.  She stood right in front of him and grabbed the back of his neck in her hand and pulled him against her, planting her lips on his, kissing him voraciously.  For several seconds he was stiff in her arms and she was about to pull away, thinking that she'd made a huge mistake, when his arms wrapped around her waist, pulling her even tighter against him as he deepened the kiss.  All thoughts she had of leaving flew right out the window.

         She felt like she was drowning in him.  She felt everything, the feel of his cool body under her hands as they played over his taut skin, the taste of his mouth, like peppermint candies.  She wanted to crawl into him.  No one had ever made her feel this way before.  Shivers ran down her spine as his hands ran down her back coming to rest on her hips.  He pulled her closer, letting her feel how much he wanted her.  Little moans were coming from her mouth and he was taking them into his with a slight smile on his lips.  They were so caught up in each other that they never heard the door open quietly.  They didn't see Angel and Buffy standing in the hallway, frozen.  They didn't see Dawn come out of her room and stand beside Buffy.  They only broke apart when Dawn said, "Go Cordy!"

         They sprang apart with the realization that they had an audience.  Buffy's was watching them wide eyed as if unable to believe that Spike wanted Cordelia.   Angel on the other hand was growling and had a very possessive glint in his eye.  It was just like when Dru had been the one they were fighting over and it shook Spike to the core.  The last thing he needed was the appearance of Angelus.

         "Oops," said Cordelia softly, before Spike lunged forward and slammed the door in three very surprised faces.  He locked it then turned to her and before she could say a word he was kissing her again, putting everything he had into it.   She whimpered softly as he stole her breath and suddenly it didn't matter that Angel, Buffy and Dawn were still on the other side of the door.  It didn't matter that this was the vampire that had terrorized her boss and her friends.  All that mattered was the way his cool hands were sliding under the edge of her shirt, tracing soft patterns over the smooth skin of her stomach and sides.  She couldn't help the giggle that escaped into his mouth when he hit a ticklish spot. 

         Wrapping her arms around his neck, she gave into the desire to have him.  Everything in her seemed to be calling out to him.  The ache in her kept growing larger and was knawing at her.  She arched into him, her body humming with desire.  If anyone had told her a few years ago that Spike could invoke these kind of feelings in her she would have thought they were crazy.  Now though, it seemed almost natural, as if she was supposed to be in his arms. 

         He was devouring her just as possessively.  His cool lips were placing soft, open-mouthed kisses against her neck, sucking some of the skin into his mouth, biting it gently.  How they made it to the bed, neither of them knew, but she found herself pressed back against the mattress the soft cotton of the duvet beneath her.  He was lying atop her, his length pressed to hers, their legs entwined.  His fingers began to deftly unbutton the front of her shirt and she longed to feel his fingers on her bare flesh, when the door burst open and Angel strode in. 

         He hauled Spike off of her, throwing him against a wall and holding him there by his throat.  Buffy wasn't far behind him.  She pegged Cordelia with a glare that told her if the Slayer got any angrier she'd be dead.

         "You stay away from her, Spike," Angel growled at his childe.

         She sat up on the bed, her hands shakily rebuttoning the two buttons he'd gotten undone.  Anger filled her upon hearing Angel's words.  She stood and marched over to Angel, yanking his hand from Spike's throat and stepping in front of him.  "He can come as close to me as he wants Angel.  You didn't exactly see me fighting to get away.  I'm a big girl and can make my own decisions and sleep with whoever I want.  I don't answer to you when it comes to my sex life.  But then you wouldn't know anything about that, seeing as you don't have one," she snapped, her eyes blazing with fury.

         "And you," she yelled, turning on Buffy.  "You have no say in anything he does anymore.  You used him then tossed him aside.  He's not your toy, Buffy."  She sighed and her voice took on a tired tone.  "Angel, I know that you think you're protecting me but it's not necessary.  Really."  She looked at Spike then back to Angel.  This was so not going the way she wanted it to.  She was supposed to talk to them first, not make out with Spike and leave Angel wondering what the hell was going on.  "We need to talk…all three of us." 

         Buffy knew that she wasn't included in that last little statement.  Something was going on here that she knew she wasn't supposed to see.  And if she was supposed to she wasn't sure she'd want to.  Turning away, she went toward the door, but Spike stayed her momentarily with a hand on her arm.  She looked at him and didn't know what to say.  His eyes held none of the love or passion for her they once had.  It made her ache a little inside, one of the first real feelings she'd had since being back, but she knew that he was moving on.  "We'll talk, you and I," he said softly.  She just nodded, knowing that it would be a while.  He had to clear things up with Angel and Cordelia first.  Even as she thought about the three of them, she cringed inwardly.  Who would have thought Angel, Spike and Cordelia would ever be involved in some weird lust triangle.  She shuddered and then glanced back up at Spike.  She had no right to judge after her escapades lately.  "Okay," she said.  He smiled slightly and in that second she knew that things would eventually be okay between them.  It would take time and it wouldn't be easy but she knew that one day they'd actually be able to be friends…like before.  She walked away, closing the door behind her, leaving three very confused people in the room.

         Cordelia didn't know what to do or say.  Angel was glaring at her and Spike from where he leaned against the wall in the corner of the room.  God, he looked angry.  "Angel," she began to say, as Spike sat down in the chair by her desk.  She sat on the bed, her legs pulled under her.

         "Don't even start, Cordy.  What were you thinking?"

         She looked down and Spike spoke up.  "Leave off with the righteous anger, Peaches.  It's not as if you've never felt lust before.  Don't go gettin' your knickers all in a twist.  It was just a bit of hormones actin' up.  She's still in love with you…wanker."  Cordelia's eyes shot to Spike.  She couldn't believe he thought that she didn't care about him.  This was so hard.   She had feelings for them both, but she knew how hard it would be to make it work.  Spike had spent his entire relationship with Drusilla trying to earn her love away from Angelus, but she always loved her sire more.  Nothing changed that, no matter how hard he'd tried.  She didn't want to put him through that again.  But her feelings for Angel wouldn't go away, even if she couldn't act on them.

         "Shut up Spike.  She wouldn't have touched you if you hadn't done something to her.  What did you do?"

Spike growled and Cordelia glared at him warningly before glaring at Angel.  "He didn't do anything, Angel.  You're not blind.  You had to see

it." 

Angel sighed.  She was right, he had seen how she acted around Spike.  It was like her whole body tensed with arousal every time he went near her. "So you want him?"

         "Yes," she said honestly, hating the look of hurt that came over Angel's face.  "Doesn't mean I don't want you too."  Spike's head came up at that and he snapped, "What?"

         "I want both of you."  Time to be completely honest.  "For the past three weeks I've done nothing but worry every time one of you came near me.  It's strange and I'm not completely sure that I'm comfortable with it yet, but I can't help it.  Spike, you're full of such passion and love it's almost scary.  And I'd be scared to death if you loved me, cause with you I'd know it's forever.  And Angel…you make me feel safe and protected in a way I've never been.  The way you each are, the way you make me feel…it's like if I could take all those feelings that you each inspire and mesh them, I'd have the perfect guy.  Instead, I have two and I don't know what to do about it.  I mean, I can't have you Angel…not the way I want, and I can have Spike, but I'd feel horrible because you would be left out," she said, a blush staining her cheeks as she said it.

         "So where does that leave us?"  Spike was not happy.  He wanted the cheerleader, but didn't know if he could handle sharing her feelings with the one person who held the hearts of the only two women he'd ever loved. 

         Angel could see the hurt in Spike's eyes and knew that it couldn't be easy for him to be hearing what Cordelia was saying.  Never having Drusilla's heart had done a number on him.  Especially when Angelus made an appearance a few years ago.  He looked at his childe.  There was nothing left of the young lad he'd fallen in love with.  No hope of solving this the way he'd like.  An image of his childe and his seer wrapped around him, naked, panting, and sheened with sweat flashed through his mind.  It was hard for him to admit that Spike still affected him so acutely.  He always managed to hide it in Sunnydale, certain that Buffy would reject him if she knew how much he desired his childe's body. 

         Spike watched Angel carefully, seeing the beginnings of desire start to flare and whirl in those chocolate orbs that had once held so much love for him.  He knew what his sire was thinking, reliving the past in his mind, substituting Cordelia for Dru.  Except that would never happen.  Not with the curse.  And he was pretty sure Angel thought he wouldn't touch him with a ten foot pole.  If only that were true.  If only he could stop the feelings that his Sire evoked in him.  It was impossible though.  His groin tightened and Angel's eyes fell to the taut fabric of Spike's jeans, the bulge encased in denim quite prominent. 

         Cordelia was breathing hard just watching them.  They didn't seem to realize just what they were doing.  Their gaze was on each other, not moving.  Both of them were aroused, and she knew that they were dying to touch each other, but it would never happen.  Neither of them wanted to make the first move.  And she did not want Angel to lose his soul.  She stepped between them, ready to put an end to their lust filled gaze.  She didn't even have time to say a word before she was trapped between them, her breasts pressed to Angel's chest.  She could feel him pressed against her, his erection pressed right against the apex of her body, tantalizing her through their cumbersome clothing.  Spike was pressed to her back, his arousal cradled by the sweet curve of her butt.  This was insane, but all she could do was moan and rock her hips between them when their lips met over her shoulder.  Oh God!  It was such an erotic sight.  Light and dark, small and large, meeting in a melding of mouths, their tongues probing and stroking, rekindling long buried feelings and desires. 

         Angel groaned into Spike's mouth when he felt Cordelia's head drop against his shoulder.  She was rocking her hips back and forth between them, driving their arousal to a higher pitch.  Angel knew that he should stop.  He was damn near close to perfect happiness and he wasn't even undressed.  But having his childe, his lover of so many years, and his seer, the woman he'd been lusting after for several months, was threatening the bonds of his soul.  He had them both in his arms and he knew that if they didn't stop he was going to revert back to the form he hated and that's the last thing he wanted to happen.  Angelus would kill them.

         Ripping his mouth from Spike's, he backed away, his eyes wide.  "I'm sorry," was all he could say before fleeing the room, leaving Cordelia and Spike staring at the spot he vacated, bewildered, wondering how things had gotten so complicated so fast…for all three of them.

         Spike was pacing.  He couldn't help it.  Things were out of control.  He wanted the cheerleader.  Who wouldn't?  She had a body made for sin.  It was the fact that he wanted Angel that was bothering him.  He thought he put his feelings behind him years ago.  Now though, all of them were bubbling to the surface, as if they'd not been forgotten, just tucked away waiting to be released. 

         Cordelia watched him for several minutes from the doorway.  He'd hidden himself in his room for the past twenty-four hours.  It wasn't a healthy thing to do.  He wasn't facing what was bothering him.  Neither was Angel, who was burying himself in paperwork and new cases.  She marched down to the office and flung open his door.  It hit the wall forcefully, bouncing off it and slamming shut behind her.  Angel didn't even look up.  Dawn was glad that Buffy had gone home two days ago.  She wouldn't have wanted to witness this.  Dawn didn't particularly want to see it either so she beat a hasty retreat to her room to give them privacy.

         "I don't know what your problem is, but would it kill you to go up there and talk to him.  He's pacing.  I know that this isn't easy for any of us and we're no where near figuring out what all these hormones are, but he's your childe and whether you like it or not you both still care about each other.  It's driving all of us crazy.  Just admit it and get over yourself.  He's not going to make the first move.  He's been hurt enough recently that he's scared to say anything.  He's hiding in his room hoping that he won't have to face it.  So do us all a favor and talk to him."

         He looked up at her then, taking in the flush to her cheeks.  She had her hands on her hips and looked like an avenging angel.  He stood quickly and she found herself pinned to the desk so quickly there was no time for her to react at all.  His face was looming above hers and her eyes slipped closed.  She was expecting a gentle kiss, the type of kiss she expected to come from Angel.  Instead it was fierce and fiery, possessive.  She moaned under him.  Finally though, the possessiveness of it registered and she pulled away.  She couldn't let him think that she belonged to him alone.  Spike would kill them both.  And some part of her didn't want to belong to just him.  It was screaming for Spike.  "Go talk to him," she whispered, running her thumb under her lip, making sure that her lipstick wasn't smeared.  Angel nodded and soon she was alone in the office.  "Damn, we've got to do something."  Her body was on fire and she could feel the wetness between her legs, seeping into her underwear.  "Gotta do something or I'm going to die of lust."

Angel watched his childe with a smirk.  He was walking back and forth across his room, muttering nonsensical phrases.  It was odd to see Spike so disturbed by anything.  Then he remembered…Buffy.  She had really hurt him.  "Spike?"  Angel asked, hesitantly, knowing that he was most likely going to be ordered out of his childe's room. 

"What do you want Peaches?"

Angel wasn't quite sure how to answer that.  He knew what he wanted but having it was a different story.  He could tell Spike the truth or he could lie.  The second option wasn't that appealing to him.  All he'd ever done was lie to Spike.  It was time to change that.  "You and Cordelia.  We both know that's never going to happen though.  I can't have either of you…and it isn't just because of the curse." 

         Spike didn't know what to say.  He wasn't quite sure what Angel was trying to put into words.  "Then what is it, cause you haven't ever been really clear on what it is about me that you find so revolting?  You used to love touching me.  Then you turned me and Dru came along and everything changed.  You couldn't even stand to be around me and only used me when Darla and Dru were occupied with something else.  William was your lover, I was just your toy.  Still am.  It's amazing how after over a hundred years that's all I'm worth to anyone.  Just ask Buffy.  She'll tell you.  I'm just an evil disgusting thing…can't feel anything real.  So why don't you toddle off and play with your pet humans some more.  I really don't feel like hearing your brooding bullshit."  He turned his back and Angel knew that there would be no more talking done.  There were just certain things he couldn't make up for and his treatment of his once lover was one of them.  He closed his eyes, their kiss replaying in his mind.  He cherished it and thought about it until his gut was tied in knots.  It was the last time he was ever going to have any of his childe.  He staggered away, the thought breaking his heart.  His childe was lost to him.

         She was tired and upset.  Things had become very strained between herself, Spike, and Angel.  They weren't even speaking to each other.  Angel was brooding constantly, when he wasn't glancing at Spike when the younger vampire wasn't paying attention.  They were both idiots.  All three of them were.  She knew she was included in the idiot category.  There had to be something she could do.  All that was standing in the way was Angel's happiness clause…and Spike's stubborn attitude, but if she could get past those maybe they'd actually stand a chance of making this weird-threeway-lust thing work.

         Dawn, Gunn, Wesley, and Fred were all on their guard, afraid that saying anything to them would result in them being fired, killed, or thrown out so not only was she tense but even those that weren't involved were nervous.  Fred refused to come out of her room when the three of them were in the office together.  She claimed it was safer there.  It probably was.   Dawn was busy getting her emancipation finalized with Wesley's help and making new friends at school.  Gunn was spending as much time as he could with his old crew or hunting demons on his own and Wes was hiding out in his apartment most of the time, burying himself in books and calling to report any knew information on pending cases.

         Spike could feel his sire's eyes follow his movements through the lobby.  Angel hadn't taken his eyes off him since that failed attempt at a conversation the day before.  He'd been wrong not to let Angel say what he wanted.  There was no way that he was going to let Angel know that though.  Cordelia was angry with both of them, and he didn't like that.  He didn't know what was happening any more than they did.  He didn't like what he was feeling.  Sure he'd loved Buffy, but his sire and the ex-cheerleader were bringing new meaning to the phrase 'insane with lust'.  It was driving him insane.  Every night he dreamt of them…Cordelia's golden flesh beneath him, shimmering with a light sheen of sweat, her hips rising to meet his as he thrust in and out of her tight, hot snatch, and Angel behind him, taking him, whispering words of love and forgiveness in his ear, Angel's fangs descending into the pale flesh of his neck as cold seed spilled into the depths of his bowels.  He'd wake up panting, his erection straining and he'd have no choice but to relieve the pressure with his hand, even though he'd much rather run down the hall to Cordelia's room, wake her, and plunge into her steaming core.  That wasn't an option though.  Not with the way things were.  He knew that they had to change before they all went mad.  He knew of a way that he might be able to take care of Angel's clause.  It would take time and he wouldn't be able to tell them where he was going, but it would be worth it if it could take away some of this tension.  He knew they'd still have a lot to talk about but if he could get rid of the clause in the curse then it would be a start to apologies and forgiveness.  He stood suddenly, ignoring both Angel and Cordelia's looks of confusion, and went up to his room.   

         Later, when the office was finally empty and Angel and Cordelia were finally asleep, he gave the office one last cursory glance then strode out the door.  They'd be hurt that he left without saying good-bye or leaving a note, but he didn't plan on being gone forever.  He couldn't tell them though.  He needed to do this without their knowledge of what he planned.  

         It wasn't hard to find the Oracles.  Angel had told him where they were located and how many times he'd consulted them for help.  He had his gift for them all ready.  Angel said that the Oracles loved anything human or out of the ordinary as long as there was some beauty or usefulness to it.   The book under his arm was heavy, it's leather bound cover worn soft with age.  The pages were yellowed and brittle, but he knew that wouldn't matter to the Oracles.  This book had been missing for centuries and had fallen into his lap ten years ago.  He'd had the sense of mind to preserve it, knowing that it would be useful one day.  He was right.  He just hoped that the Oracles knew the importance of what he was giving them.

         He was in the post office and before the door.  With an angry shove he pushed his way through the magical door and was standing before two figures who looked like they came out of a science fiction novel. 

         "Lower being, you have disturbed a sanctuary of the Powers that Be.  Why do you desecrate their sacred space with your dirty presence?"

         Spike was glowering at them.  He hated being called dirty.  It reminded him too much of Buffy.  Taking this bullshit from two beings that were supposed to be on the side of good was not what he'd planned.  "I have a request."

         "You dare to come to the Oracles, Emissaries of the Powers, to ask us for a favor?"

         "Yes."  There was no hesitancy in his voice and he knew it was probably the only thing that was keeping them from damning him to hell right that minute.

         The beings whispered amongst themselves for a few moments before turning to face him in tandem.  "What did you bring in supplication?'

         Spike placed the book in front of them and the male retrieved it, floating it to himself.  "We have been searching for this for some time.  You chose wisely.  We shall grant you whatever it is within our power to grant.  That does not include removing the chip from your brain.  We can modify it if you like, so that you may be able to defend yourself only.

         "Bloody nice of you to offer, but I'd rather have the poof's soul anchored."

         The entities said nothing for a moment, their eyes closed.  Finally they spoke.  "You wish this for selfish reasons, yet the Powers have decided that you deserve a chance to earn your request.  You will be tested.  Should you succeed your request will be granted.  Should you fail, the vampire Angelus will remain as he is, your existence on the other hand will be at an end."

         "So what's this bloody test then?"

         "We cannot reveal that to you.  Do you agree to this arrangement?"

         "Yes, now can we just get on with it!"

         "As you wish." 

         There was a bright flash of light and the next thing he knew he was standing in the middle of a cave.  "What the bloody hell?" 

         A young man came walking of the darkness and it took him several seconds to recognize him.  "You."  There was weariness in his voice.

         "Yes."

         "You're my test?"

         "I am your guide."

         "You couldn't guide anyone to the nearest newsstand."

         "One would think that someone would see through that façade of yours eventually Spike.  Where you are I am.  I am more than equipped to be your guide.  After all, I've seen what you've become…and everything you've done."

         "Where I am, you are?  Not bloody likely.  I managed to rid myself of you long ago."

         "Believe what you wish.  Drusilla was right when she told Angelus that I walk in worlds that others cannot imagine.  I always have.  What would Angelus say if he knew that his William had been trapped in the body of Spike for all this time.  I was never gone.  You just chose to ignore me.  You sought his love in ways that William never would have, and he resented the loss of his love.  He came to hate your face…your voice.  You were just a reminder that I was no longer with him.  He thought by turning me he'd preserve me forever.  Instead he created a monster with my face.  He'll never want or love you the way he loved me.  Not as long as you keep me buried inside."

         "Let's just get on with it, mate," Spike growled.  William led the way through a door that appeared in the wall.  Spike followed and found himself standing in what looked to be an arena. 

         "All you must do is win," William said quietly.

         "Win what?  I'm fighting?"

         "Yes."

         "Oh bloody hell.  You couldn't have made it something easy, could you?"  He removed his shirt and stood there loosening his muscles as he waited for his first opponent to step through the door on the opposite side of the arena.    When the demon came through, Spike took a deep, unnecessary breath.  Time to fight.  "Bring it on you wanker," he called, stepping up to the challenge ahead of him.

         Five fights later, he staggered out of the ring, bleeding and bruised, and walked to where William was waiting.  "I did it.  Won the soddin' fights.  Now give me what I asked for.

         "All you must do is ask for it.  That is the final test.  Just ask them to bring forth William."  Spike cringed and imagined this pathetic nonce taking over his body.  Just as he was about to give his answer, William said soflty, "You can always say no.  You'll forfeit your existence.  I'll go to heaven and rid myself of you, and Angelus will go on as he has.  Just say yes…or no.  The Powers will react swiftly."

         He closed his eyes.  It would have been easier if he'd had to fight someone else or survive some endurance test.  Could he really choose his own soul?  Could he go back to who he was?  He'd been no one.  A young whore with a love of poetry and books.  He focused on what Angel would receive if he did.  His soul would be permanent.  "Will I have the memories?"

         "You'll feel all the guilt that years of murder and torture have afforded you."

         "Will it be permanent?"

         "As you would be choosing it, yes.  You'll not be able to bury it so easily as Angelus was able to lose his."

         Angel's face flashed through his mind.  "I'll do it."

         "Done."

         There was another flash of white light and he was once again before the Oracles once more.  "You have passed the tests, lower being.  Leave this place and do not return."

         Another flash and he found himself outside the door and collapsed, the memories flooding him the second he left the Oracles realm.  Tears flowed freely down his face and he began to retch, the blood he'd consumed before leaving the hotel being rejected from his body.  He managed to get out of the Post Office only to end up curled up in the alley, unable to move.  Visions of the people who'd died by his hand kept him frozen, their images being all that he could see.

         Angel had been searching for two day to no avail.  His childe was missing.  Cordelia was worried and hadn't received any visions about him or anyone else.  Dawn was hysterical most of the time and Fred was calling all of Angel's contacts hoping that one of them had seen Spike.  Lorne was doing the same with his own contacts.  He'd taken to the streets each night with Gunn and Wesley, hoping to find him.  It was going on seventy-two hours that he'd been gone and Angel was beginning to wonder if Spike had just up and left.  His clothes and few belongings were still in his room but that didn't mean that he was still in the city.  He pulled his coat on, readying himself for another night of searching when Gunn stumbled through the door.  His arm was around a pale figure that Angel could barely make out as Spike. 

         "Found him.  Not quite sure if he's okay, but at least he's not dust.  He was at Anne's.  Apparently a couple of her crew found him curled up outside the Post Office two nights ago.  He was delusional, muttering to himself and talking to people that weren't there.  They managed to get him back to the shelter.  Anne knew who he was.  Apparently they ran into each other a few years ago on the Hellmouth.  Not that bleach boy here remembered meeting her.  She took him in anyways.  He's no harm to anyone.  My girl said that he was this way the whole time he was there."

         Angel looked down at the creature that was his childe.  He was curled up on the floor where Gunn had set him, his head buried against his knees.  There was a low keening sound coming from him.  Dawn wanted to help but had no idea what to do.  Angel stepped in though and took care of it.  Without looking at anyone he picked Spike up gently, cradling him against his chest.  He was up the stairs before anyone could think to say a word.  Cordelia was right behind him, heading for the bathroom to get a washcloth.  She had grabbed a bowl from the kitchen and was filling it with warm water.  She took up residence on the left side of the bed, watching as Angel gently ran his fingers over Spike's face before beginning the tedious project of removing his clothes.  She looked away while he did that, turning back around when Angel gave the okay.  She rang the washcloth out and wiped his face softly, removing all traces of dirt and grime from his beautiful features.  His hair, thankfully was not that dirty so they were in no hurry to get him in a bath.  He needed to rest for at least one night before they attempted that feat.  Angel wasn't saying a word and she wanted to know what happened to Spike for him to end up like this.  He was a survivor but this was not surviving.  He'd given up.

         She set the bowl aside and Angel gestured for her to lie down on Spike's other side.  Together they blanketed him, trying to keep the nightmares that were making him toss and turn at bay.  Hopefully with a decent night's sleep he'd be sane enough to tell them what happened.

         The next evening they woke to an empty bed.  Spike was huddled in the corner tears running down his cheeks.  Angel was crouching in front of him in seconds.  "Spike, what happened?  What's wrong?"

         Watery blue eyes stared up at him, mixed emotions swirling turbulently in their depths.  "Angelus?"  It came out whisper soft and there was no hint of the cockney accent that Spike had picked up over the years.  He sounded cultured, kind of like Wesley.

         It hit Angel with the force of a wrecking ball.  There was no way…Spike would never….  "William?" he asked, incredulously. 

         "Angel?"  Cordelia was hesitant to approach them.  She didn't know what to think of the Spike crouching before her.

         He practically leapt away from where Spike was huddled.  "I need you to watch him for a few hours.  There's something I have to do."

         She nodded.  "What's wrong with him?"

         "I'm not certain, but I think he might have gotten his soul."

         She stared at the bleach blonde vampire with a mixture of wonder and sorrow.  "How?"

         "I intend to find out." 

         "I need a gift for the Oracles." 

         Lorne stared at Angel.  "Why would you want to go see them sweet-cheeks.  Rumor has it that these two are a lot tougher than the last ones."

         "It's important and I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't have a good reason.  I need a gift."  Lorne handed him a bag full of different chocolate candies. 

         "They love chocolate."

         Ten minutes later he was facing the Oracles.  "Your gift?" They said, their voices mingling, eerily in tandem.  He threw the chocolate at them.  "You may proceed," the brother said, his eyes on the succulent treat that his sister was devouring hungrily. 

         "What was done to Spike?"

         The sister smiled.  "Your William came here to make a deal.  He passed the test and the deal was honored.  If he does not like it as such, only he may refuse it."

         "What was his wish?  What tests did he have to pass?"

         "Why you don't know Angelus?  He endured several trials to make your soul permanent.  He succeeded."

         "At what price to himself?"

         "The Powers made him as he was.  They have brought out William.  He was never missing, just forgotten.  We thought you would be pleased.  He was told that you would never love him if William remained buried inside.  Was that not the truth?" 

         Angel sighed, thinking about the young man he had loved so many years ago.  It had been a different time and they were different people.  William would never be able to survive in the modern world.  He didn't want him to try.  He wanted the man he'd been falling in love with.  He wanted Spike.  They were equals.  It was no longer about being dominant and having a lover who was submissive to him.  There wasn't room in their lives for those games and that's all William had known with Angelus, even though they'd been in love.

         "You are taking quite a bit of time to consider this question.  Mayhap we were mistaken in believing your desire for William was more than what you feel for the creature named Spike."

         "You were wrong.  I want him the way he was.  William is my past and though I will always have feelings for the man Spike was, I don't love him like that anymore.  My request is that I have Spike back."

         "He became William to anchor your soul.  You must give up something in exchange.  We can always undo what was done to both of you.  Or you could provide us with something else."

         Angel was sick of this. He didn't want to play their games.  "How about this?  I work for the Powers.  Make him as he was and leave my soul anchored or you can tell them that they're down one champion and I can convince a whole hell of a lot of their other warriors to forget the fight as well.  They'd have to find new champions to spend every night fighting evil.  I'm sure Buffy would give up her role as the Slayer in a heartbeat.  We have sacrificed much for them and their whims.  They can undo this one thing."

         The brother looked furious but it was the sister who stood still for several moments unmoving.  "The Powers have agreed.  It is done.  He is as he was.  Your soul is still anchored.  Be gone from this place and do not think to return.  They have granted much for you this night."

         Cordelia was sitting with Spike when he suddenly looked up at her, the haze that had been clouding his eyes gone.  "Cheerleader?"

         "Spike?"

         "What the hell…" he began to ask what was going on when he remembered what he'd done.  "Oh god," he murmered over and over incoherently for several minutes.  Cordelia just let him after trying to talk to him and getting no response.  When he finally looked up at her she saw nothing but pain swirling in the depths of his eyes. 

         "What happened to you?  Did you really get your soul?"

         He shook his head.  "No.  They said I always had it.  It was just buried beneath the demon.  I agreed to let William out in exchange…"  He trailed off, his eyes widening.  William was buried again.  Which meant that Angel had gone to the Oracles.  "NO!  Damn it, he wasn't supposed to undo it!"  He raged for several minutes and Cordelia couldn't figure out what was going on. 

         Finally she grabbed his arm.  "Okay.  I'm kind of lost.  Would you mind filling me in on what's going on?"

         Spike sagged back against the pillows.  "I went to the Oracles."  Cordelia's mouth dropped open.  "Close your mouth pet.  I knew what I was doing."  He looked down, picking nervously at the black polish on his nails.  "I wanted them to make his soul permanent.  And they agreed."

         She knew that the Oracles would never just make Angel's soul permanent, and they were probably even more opposed to the idea because it had been Spike asking.  "What did they make you do?"

         "I had to pass their soddin' tests.  I did it and they brought William out."

         "And now Angel's had them undo it.  Which means his soul probably isn't permanent anymore."  Neither of them missed the sigh in her voice as she said it. 

         "Sorry, luv.  I tried to make it all okay for you.  The poof just can't let anything be, can he?"

         Cordelia shook her head.  This sucked.  Angel's soul had been permanent for a total of about thirty minutes before he found a way to undo it.  As disappointed she was about Angel's soul, she was glad that Spike was no longer cowering and crying.  She liked him like he was and hadn't really known what to do with the pathetic creature that he'd been that short time William had reign over his body.  "Whatever happens with Angel, I want you to know that I'm glad you're back."  She crawled onto bed and lay down next to him.  He ran his hand over her hair as she rested her cheek against his chest.  Her eyes closed gently and she was breathing softly.  "I think I could easily fall in love with you, Spike," she murmured, her voice soft and husky. 

         Angel threw open the doors to the Hyperion and practically flew up the stairs, taking them two at a time.  He was anxious to see his childe and Cordelia.  His soul was permanent.  Spike was back…or should be.  He approached the room at a slow pace, nerves causing him to tremble.  He was about to have everything he wanted.  He paused when he saw the door open a crack.  He pushed it open wider to see Spike and Cordelia laying against each other on the bed.  She was curled into him and he was spooning against her, his hand wrapped around her waist.  He shucked his coat, making sure to set it down gently so as not to wake either of the occupants of the bed.  Carefully he eased onto the bed behind Spike, spooning himself against his childe.  He draped his arm around both of them, entwining his fingers with Spike's.  He smiled contentedly when Spike pushed against him, unconsciously trying to get more contact with his Sire's body.  He squeezed Spike's fingers then closed his eyes, letting himself fall into slumber, at peace with himself for the first time in one hundred years.

         Cordelia's head was whirling with confusion.  She was having trouble waking up, that much she knew.  Her eyes were struggling to lift and she was hearing voices in her head.  They sounded suspiciously like Angel and Spike.  "Do you think she's awake yet?" she heard Spike say.  Her eyes opened. 

         "Aye, she's awake."  Angel's voice never had an accent, yet he had just sounded distinctly Irish.  She tried to gauge her surroundings when she realized that she was lying on her back in the middle of Spike's California King bed and she was completely naked except for her favorite cobalt blue thong, which was on it's way to joining her other clothes that she could see were haphazardly thrown around the room.  She also quickly realized that she wasn't the only one naked. 

         She shivered as Spike's fingers crept toward the elastic band on her hip.  Her eyes drifted to Angel who was lowering his mouth to her breast.  She could see the anticipation in his eyes as he glanced at her before turning to the task at hand.  Every inch of her skin was waiting for his mouth and she couldn't help but gasp when his cool lips settled on her.  He placed open-mouth kisses on every inch of her breast, but never once did he touch the hard, aching nipple that was demanding attention. 

         Spike's fingers had gripped the elastic and he was slowly working her underwear down her legs when Angel's mouth finally captured that oh so sensitive bud between his lips.  He chuckled when she cried out and gripped his hair.  Her back arched and it gave Spike the opportunity he needed to remove her underwear completely and spread her legs wide.  He settled between them and she glanced down.  They were going to make a feast out of her.  Remotely she thought about the fact that she didn't know if Angel's soul was permanent anymore, but she was pretty sure that Spike wouldn't be actively participating in this debauchery if it wasn't.

         All of her thoughts ceased, her mind shutting down completely, when she felt Spike's fingers part the soft folds of her femininity.  She knew she was wet, could feel it leaking from her.  She shivered and gasped when she felt Spike breath unneeded breath on her.  When he settled his mouth on her, she cried out, clutching Angel's hair harder, pulling him to her mouth, needing to kiss someone. 

         Angel mauled her mouth with his tongue, entwining it with hers, mating with hers.  His eyes were open, gazing into hers as she writhed under Spike's mouth.  She moaned into his mouth even as she looked back into his chocolate gaze.  Silently she let him know that she knew what she was doing and she wanted it.

         Her mouth broke away from his as she threw her head back, a long, low, lusty moan escaping her lips.  Angel glanced at Spike who was running his tongue over her clit as his fingers pushed deep, hitting that perfect spot.  He could see her juices glistening on his childe's lips and he had to resist pulling Spike to him for a kiss.  Instead he straddle Cordelia's chest and he could see in her eyes that she knew what he had in mind.  Her mouth was almost on his hard aching cock when the door to the bedroom swung open.  Wesley walked in, his eyes on the book he was holding.  He didn't even notice the scene in front of him until Fred, who was next to him, screeched and clutched his arm, simultaneously covering her eyes.

         "Oh dear," Wesley stuttered turning away as well.  He knew he was turning red and that Fred was too.  "Terribly sorry…I-I-I w-wasn't aware that y-y-you were busy.  We'll b-be going now."  He and Fred left shutting the door behind them.  Angel got off of Cordelia and Spike had lifted his head from between her legs.  Nothing like an interruption to ruin the mood.  Normally, he wouldn't have minded and just kept going, but Cordelia was turning an interesting shade of pink that he was sure she'd never been before and he could see that she was grasping for the sheet, trying desperately to cover herself.  The door opened again and Gunn walked in, already talking.

         "Yo, man.  What happened?  Wes can't talk and Fred's nothing but red…." He trailed off when she saw the sheet covering Cordelia.  Angel was in the process of pulling on a pair of pants and Spike was lounging comfortably naked in a chair.  "Never mind."  He turned and left, muttering softly.  "Man some weird shit goes on in this place."  Spike couldn't help but laugh at that statement as the door closed.

         "Get dressed Spike," Angel snapped, tossing Spike's jeans to him, his mood deteriorating rapidly.  He was aroused and trying to get into his pants with a very prominent erection.  He was trying to will it away with his mind, but having Cordelia naked under the sheet on his bed and Spike sitting naked in the chair was playing havoc with his mind.  Spike pulled on his jeans and a t-shirt of Angel's that was much too large.  He noticed that Cordelia wasn't coming out from under the sheet.  She was completely covered by it. 

         He sat down on one side of her and Angel sat on the other.  Together they pulled the sheet down, revealing her face.  Tears were on the verge of falling from her eyes, making her lashes dark and spiky.  Spike ran his thumb across one soft cheek and then the other, wiping away the tears that slipped down her face. "It's okay, luv," he whispered softly, trying to soothe her.  He knew that this was hard for her.  She was only human, and very young in comparison to them.  He knew that she didn't have a lot of experience and having just been caught with two men by her best friends was humiliating.  She hadn't just been getting it on with two normal men though.  They were vampires and as tolerant as her friends were, he knew there would be some lectures and discussions, mostly from the Watcher.  It shouldn't have been this way.  It would have been beautiful if they hadn't been interrupted.  He would have to remember to always lock the door. 

         Angel ran his hands over her hair as Spike rose and walked to the closet.  He pulled out a pair of his jeans and a dress shirt that Cordelia bought for him.  He handed them to her along with her underwear that he retrieved from the floor.  They both turned their backs, giving her a moment of privacy to put them on.  They'd already seen it all, but she'd just been horribly embarrassed so they tried to let her retain some dignity.  "Okay," she whispered quietly.  They turned and saw that she'd had to roll up the sleeves on the shirt and the jeans were slightly baggy but they stayed up. 

         "Are you really okay?" Angel asked, concerned.  She nodded.  He'd never seen Cordelia so quiet.  It was worrying him.  He continued.  "You know they would have had to know eventually right?"  Another nod.  "I just wish they didn't find out like that.  I'm sorry Cordelia."

         "It's okay, really," she whispered.  "I was…am…just embarrassed.  It's different and I don't want them to think I'm a freak," she confessed, turning away from them. 

         Angel gripped her in a hug from behind.  "You are not a freak.  There's nothing wrong with wanting more than one person.  They'll understand.  They won't look down on you or think badly of you.  It'll be fine.  I promise."

         He released her and she turned around again, looking back and forth between them.  "What if it's more than just wanting you both?"  They just watched her, trying to read the emotion in her eyes.  "Somehow I managed to fall in love with both of you."

         Spike reached out his arm and cradled her cheek in his hand.  He glanced from her to Angel, who tilted his head and stared into his childe's eyes wondering what he was going to say.  "I love you both too." 

         He couldn't believe Spike was opening himself up and saying the words.  "Spike…"  He couldn't put what he felt at that moment into words.  Instead he leaned over and brushed his lips softly against his childe's.  "I love you too," he whispered against the soft flesh, making sure that Spike felt every vibration of the words against his mouth.  The kiss deepened for a moment as they reaffirmed their bond.  When they broke apart, Spike couldn't help but lick his lips.  He'd forgotten how good his Sire tasted.  Angel stepped up behind Spike and wrapped his arms around him, pulling him into his body.  He was still aroused and Spike wanted nothing more than for Angel to claim him again.  He knew though, that they still had to face the others so he pulled Cordelia into his embrace and kissed her cheek.  Angel whispered his love for her as well and they knew in that instant that no matter what they would work hard to make this last.

         "You're sure they'll understand?" Cordelia whispered softly, burying her face into Spike's shoulder, content to be held by them.

         "Positive, luv.  And if they say anything to hurt you, I'll pound them into the ground."

         Cordelia couldn't help but smile at the comment.  It was typical Spike, showing he cares by threatening anyone who might hurt those he loves.  "Thank you Spike," she said, kissing him on the lips quickly.  When she pulled back she was swept off her feet by Angel, who planted his lips on hers, his tongue invading her mouth.  It was hungry and desperate.  She moaned into his mouth even as the thought that things would always be like this between Angel and Spike flitted through her mind.  There would be challenges.  Spike and Angel had a lot to work out.  Spike wouldn't stand for always being the submissive one and Angel would have to learn that Spike was a Master vampire in his own right and not just Angel's childe.  The old ways were over and they would have to learn to adapt to the way they were now.  There would be fights and times when they would think that it would never last but she knew that she could diffuse any situations that arose.  She was Queen C. 

         She broke the kiss and Angel set her on the floor.  She was Queen C.  The thought echoed in her mind.  She was Queen C, once the biggest bitch Sunnydale had ever seen.  She should not be weeping and embarrassed over taking what she wanted and being caught at it.  She never would have reacted like that in high school.  The 'bitch' would have defended herself with sarcasm and wit.  She never would have crawled into a corner.  Not even the episode with Xander Harris had cowed her.  She survived being impaled on rebar and being scorned by her old friends.  She could certainly survive being caught in a compromising situation by her friends.  She was just relieved that Dawn was at school and hadn't witnessed this.  She smiled, a wide, practiced, pageant-winning smile.  Angel and Spike both stepped back a bit, disturbed by the wicked gleam in her eyes that accompanied her smile.  "You're right.  It will be fine."  She grabbed their hands in hers and pulled them behind her as she walked out of the room.  "Now's as good a time as any to get this over with."

         They were dragged along behind her, both slightly confused at the sudden change in attitude.  Angel was a little more familiar with the Cordelia he was seeing now.  She was not going to let this get her down.  He knew she had a name for this…Queen C.  Regal and commanding, that was Cordelia in a nutshell. 

         Wesley, Fred, and Gunn were all at the counter discussing the possibility of Angel losing his soul with Cordelia.  Not to mention the fact that it hadn't been just the two of them, but Spike as well.  Cordelia was involved in some three-way sex triangle with two vampires.  She was either possessed or crazy and they were discussing what should be done when they heard the trio coming down the stairs.  They stopped talking and looked up at them. 

         Wesley began to speak but was quickly cut off by Cordelia who placed her hands on her hips and stared at them intently.  Angel and Spike made an imposing picture, flanking her on the left and right, but still slightly behind her.  She was obviously in control of this discussion.  "Can it Wes, I know what you're going to say and it won't work.  First of all, what I do in my spare time is my business.  As is what Angel and Spike do.  It won't do you any good to try and talk me out of this so you may as well save your speeches, lectures, and sarcastic comments."  She looked at Fred.  "And no questions in the name of scientific curiousity either."  Fred blushed and Wesley noted that Cordelia's voice was hard and determined.  Gunn and Fred had never witnessed Cordelia in Queen C mode and it was a sight to behold.  "Second, there's nothing to worry about with Angel.  The Powers anchored his soul.  No more perfect happiness."  Eyes widened over that bit of information, but no one was given a chance to speak or ask questions.  "Lastly," she said, her voice softening, "I love them.  They love me…and they love each other."  She turned as she said it, smiling when she saw Angel and Spike glance at each other longingly.  Oh yeah, lots of love going on there, she thought before turning back to her friends and continuing.  "We're happy and we want this.  You can either accept it and still work with us, or you can go and we'll look for other people to help us fight the fight.  It's your choice.  Why don't you think about it for a while?  We're going back up to the room.  You can go home.  Fred, you don't mind staying with Wes tonight do you?  We're going to need a little privacy."

         Fred just nodded and Gunn said he'd pick up Dawn from school and take her to Anne's for the night.  Wesley had turned a bright scarlet color and his Adam's apple kept bobbing lightly as his throat worked.  He was near gasping over how bluntly Cordelia had described her new 'relationship' with Angel and Spike.  The three employees of Angel Investigations who were not currently involved in a threesome just watched silently as Cordelia led her vampires back up the stairs, obviously intent on picking up where they'd left off upon being interrupted.  Once they were out of sight, Gunn burst out laughing, letting out all the humor he'd found in the situation.  "What was that?"

         Wesley just shook his head sadly.  This was going to complicate everything.  "I believe Queen C just appeared and apparently she has decreed that this new development is not for discussion."

         "Queen C?" Fred asked softly.

         Wesley gathered his jacket from the office and shut out the lights.  "I'll explain in detail if you'd both like to join me for a drink.  I suddenly feel the dire need to get astonishingly drunk and pass out.  Maybe then I'll wake up and this will all have been a nightmare."

         Gunn glanced over his shoulder at the stairs leading to the upper level of the hotel when he heard Cordelia's laughter drift down the stairs followed by a long, lusty, obviously male moan.  "I don't know man.  I don't think any amount of alcohol will make this go away.  Like I said before, nothing but weird shit happens in this place."  The door closed behind him, shutting out the sounds of a new and interesting relationship being consummated.