Title: The Babysitter

Author: Azure K Mello

Part: 36/36

Pairing: Angel/Spike

Rated: Adult

Type: AU

Summery: An Art Show.

Disclaimer: I don't own BtVS

He was scared. He had grown up on the Hellmouth; had slain a vampire when he was thirteen. The fear of Darkness had never been a problem for Angel. Even as a child he had owned the night. Now he was terrified while alone in the alley behind a gallery. He stood smoking a cigarillo in the cold air. The door opened with a clang behind him and he didn't turn.

"There are so many people in there and they all want to see the artist," said Will leaning against the door lighting a cigarette.

"I can't do it. I take it back. I don't want the show."

"If you don't get in there soon there'll be a riot. They'll be throwing their brie and red wine at each other."

"Oh God."

"This sort of buyers, they need to see the artist. They want the complete picture of the piece. When it's an unknown they want to meet you so they can back up their piece with a story of knowing you."

"Dear lord."

"Calm down. Come in and just have fun with it. You can pontificate for hours on art. It doesn't even need to be true. Make stuff up, enjoy it." Angel gave him a tight smile. "Liam, it will all be fine."

Angel sighed, shook out his limbs, threw his cigarette and said, "Okay." Inside Will grabbed a glass of wine off a waiter and handed it to him, "Thank you."

Quickly grabbed by Joyce, Angel was introduced to around the room. Will backed off towards the store rooms. He heard one man talking about how bleak one oil painting was. The canvas portrayed a stone bench in an over grown thicket in the dark, the pale light came from a crescent moon glinting off the snow. Angel approached the man, "Really?" he asked, "I never thought of it that way."

"How do you see it?" Will smirked at the tone. It was pure pander, a newborn sycophant in the presence of a sudden Adonis.

"Well, the stone is being taken back. But at the same time, it's winter, the thicket isn't growing, it's just stasis. It's a respite for the bench. Though it is winter, the thicket has patches of green, it's going to grow the minute that snow thaws. And the light was stark but… The axiom says that it is darkest before the dawn but that scientifically and logically incorrect. I think it's more that there could not be a dawn without the darkness. Without darkness morning would mean nothing. And this, to me at least, shows the quiet and the calm. So while the palette is quite dark I think it's warm in a way. But," he shrugged with a smile, "that's just me." He laughed, "I think the funny thing about that painting is that I nearly received frost bite while taking pictures and sketching it. I was in the Colorado Mountains hiking and I had to stop and get it down. But after sitting in the snow for seven hours I realized I couldn't feel my thighs or my face. So I called the ranger station and they came and got me and my legs were a funny color. They were asking me if I was injured, unconscious, what had happened to get me to a stage they were calling 'frost nip'. I felt so embarrassed saying that I was drawing a decrepit bench. It was a weird night."

People were asking questions about other paintings. Pictures were already being taken off walls and replaced. Will saw Liz carrying a large one and walked over quickly. "That's not for sale. It has a red post-it." Having grown up in galleries they both knew that the moment something was wasn't for sale hit the showroom everyone wanted it. She tried to pick it up but, now stressed, the cumbersome glass framed picture slipped from her hands and hit her foot. She hissed and Will said, "Okay, on three." He grabbed one end, "One, two-"

"That is amazing. Don't even put it on the wall," said a woman behind them.

Angel saw what was happening and came over, "Madame, I'm sorry. That's not for sale."

"Well what would it take for it to be for sale?" she asked with a derisive smile.

Angel glanced between the watercolor and Will and the woman finally realized why it wasn't available. The long thin picture showed Will asleep on a couch. His eyeliner was smeared and softened by sweat and wear. He was completely relaxed, one leg curled under him without a shoe, the other hung off the end with a shoe in place, a pen was held loosely in one hand that hung close to the floor while a book was about to topple off his waist where it was resting, and his thumb was caught between his teeth. Angel smiled while looking at it and said, "Not for a million dollars."

She smiled tightly and said, "What about four hundred thousand?"

Angel blinked and then said, "You want to pay me four hundred thousand dollars for a watercolor? You want to pay four hundred thousand dollars for a piece by an unknown artist?"

"I'm a private collector. I don't intend to sell it. I want to buy the emotion." Angel's face instantly shut down and the woman realized her large mistake. Pissing off the man who had all the art she wanted wasn't a good idea. "That came out very poorly."

"The emotion isn't for sale," he said coldly and grabbed the top of the frame. Will and Liz boosted the sides.

In the back room Liz said, "I'm so sorry, I didn't see the post-it!"

"Breathe," instructed Angel, "breathe. It's over now, she didn't buy it."

Will studied the picture and said, "I don't suck my thumb."

"Yes you do," said Angel and Liz in sync and then laughed.

Shaking his head he smiled, "Go back out there and having sharing amusing anecdotes. Liz and I will move these into the storeroom." He kissed Angel's cheek and lingered for a moment, smelling Angel's skin.

This was something Will and Liz were used to, moving things in the back rooms of their mother's gallery. Back in London they had spent long afternoons mucking about while Joyce did paperwork. Now they worked quickly and quietly. Once finished Liz said, "These parties are so boring."

"Want to steal food and sit in the storeroom?"

"This is his big night. Don't you want to be there?" said Liz. She was trying to be supportive of her brother.

"It will be his night for hours. We can skive off for a while. Come on." They moved in tandem with one another, sliding unobtrusively across the main rooms to get to the office where the caters were set up. They were arranging plates of hors d'oeuvres but the siblings quickly made plates of their own. In the storeroom they sat cross legged on a big crate sharing the soy sauce for their pot stickers between them. The storeroom was never well lit, not even with all the light on, it was almost like a small warehouse. But Liz and Will knew where everything was and had no problem negotiating their positions.

After eating in silence for a while Will said, "Buff?"

"Yeah?" she never reacted to the nickname when not in front of people. It had never bothered her until Will had started imbuing the name with scorn.

"I'm sorry I made you move to America."

She was thinking for a while and then said, "She lived for a little over a year with us. Which isn't a bad amount of time for a slayer that young. The Council couldn't blame Dad but they couldn't have been very happy. I think they would have found some other reason to send us here, where they don't have to look at us everyday. They would have sent us away with or without the drugs. It's not that bad here it's just," she trailed off.

"It's just not home," he finished.

"It's really not. I used to be a cool girl."

"I used to be cool too."

"Yeah, but you dress like a freak now."

"You set light to a bathroom."

"Yeah well… you have Angel."

"Sorry about that too."

She shrugged, "He's kind of too old for me."

"Yeah, well, Bill Nighy is too old for me."

"Just say Bill Nighy turns out to be a cradle robber," she started.

"You can have Angel, in a heartbeat." He laughed falling backwards to lie on the crate.

Liz moved to rest her head on his abdomen. Together they lay in the quiet space. Through the darkness they saw specks of dust floating by the rafters in unfelt wind. The patterns of the dust were meaningless but noted. An unknowable amount of time later Will said, "It's a new year soon, and it's all going to be different."

The End

I like that this ends with Spike and Buffy because really this was a story about how relationships change people. I could have shown Angel and Spike at midnight but really they're both in their element here, Angel's believing in his art and Spike is getting back to being a brother to Buffy. So, yeah, that's the end even though it lacks the swell of music you might have expected. I like it, even with the very heavy handed parallel of dust and human lives. Yeah.