Whoa. So sorry for the long delay, guys, I had some beta'ing troubles. Anyway—thanks for all the reviews, everyone! I really appreciate them. Keep 'em coming. :)

Also much thanks to Angelique Blanchard for the beta job.

Here it is: Chapter Three at last!


Possibly my recent, unexplained dreams of Darla have put me on edge. Or perhaps I simply can't stand him sometimes—because let's face it, Spike could try the patience of an angel most times and I'm certainly no angel, my name be damned.

So we're yelling again. Or to be more specific, I'm yelling and he's yelling and smashing anything and everything he can get his hands on.

The only reason the window hasn't been broken yet is because I'd decided not to replace it anymore after the sixth time it shattered. I'm not quite sure that's such a good idea now, however—several expensive glass and ceramic ornaments have flown out the window and I can only hope that no unfortunate pedestrians have been hit.

Don't ask how this particular argument started. I have no idea whatsoever, though I do believe it might have had to do with him spilling nail polish on my bed…Yes, that must be it; I can still see the black stain from where I'm standing across the room.

It doesn't really matter anymore. It's long ceased to be about something as simple as that.

No, we've lapsed into the dredging-up-the-past phase, which often means Spike yelling about me and my crimes and while there is no question that I deserve it, I also really don't want to hear about it. I don't want to hear how I stole his destiny. I don't want to hear about how I left him to take care of both Drusilla and himself, how I left him to Darla.

How I left him.

So I shut him up the only way I know how: by kissing him. It is never Spike who makes the first move. Why should it be? I can give as good as I take when it comes to insults, but there is nothing for me to throw at him that he truly wouldn't want to hear. So I kiss him first. It's how our nights—or days—together always start. We fight and I kiss him and then somehow we end up on the floor or, if we're lucky, the bed.

And when I kiss him and he kisses me back, running his tongue along my teeth, it feels as though more than just the fight has been forgiven.

Surely it's wrong, yet—I can save the helpless girl in the dark alley, I can avert the apocalypse, I can do all that, and I will get my heartfelt thank-you's and I-owe-you-my-life's, but I will never get my forgiveness. What have they to forgive? I never hurt them. Those I did are long dead. The few who are still walking received but a taste of what I am capable of—or are too insane to distinguish between pain and pleasure.

With one exception.

So when he lets me hold him, kiss him, and make love to him, is it really so perverse of me to feel as though I have earned my forgiveness at long last?

No doubt. No doubt as well that Spike knows what I am doing. He doesn't ever state it blatantly, doesn't even hint of it, but it does not matter because I know he knows. I know he knows when he bucks beneath me and howls anything but Angel. Sire, sire, sire, and sometimes Angelus, that is all he will call me, and I feel like grabbing him by the shoulders and screaming, "Look at me!" Look at me, dammit, see me, Angel, because I don't want to be some kind of half-assed substitute for Angelus.

I don't do it, though. Because Spike doesn't want to be a substitute for my redemption any more than I want to be a masquerade for Angelus, and isn't that what I'm doing with him? Aren't I making him my forgiveness when I fuck him?

I am. I am, so what right have I to complain?

None.

Oh, but it hurts. Hurts when he closes his eyes and I know it's not me he's seeing behind those closed lids. Hurts when he whispers in the night when he thinks I'm asleep; whispers of think-you'll-ever-shag-me-when-we're-not-yelling and not-yours-Angel.

And I each time, I keep my eyelids shut tight and pretend I don't hear it, any of it, that it is all simply one of those half-asleep dreams, until I even convince myself.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

Night number forty-seven. I've given up calculating the hours.

And forty-seven out of those forty-seven nights, he's stayed rolled up or stretched out in a chair or the bed in various positions, watching TV—Westerns, dramas, action, soap operas (he appears to have a particular fondness for Passions)—it doesn't seem to matter what it is he watches. The program itself does not seem to be the point. Always beside him is a permanently overflowing ashtray.

He won't leave my room. No, that's not entirely accurate. He'll leave my room (or I suppose it's become his room now; I merely sleep in there) only to leave the hotel altogether in order to go out. Sometimes he comes back with a pack of smokes or a case of beer or various snacks (he consumes Twinkies religiously). Other times he comes back with cuts and bruises, and reeking of blood and, occasionally, sex, every inch of him daring me to question his state of being.

I've yet to take up on that particular challenge.

Not that I'd need to, not really. While I am not entirely sure if he purposely seeks the fights he gets into or if he is simply provoked, I know that when he goes out, most times he is intent on getting some blood, be it his own or someone else's. And always I want to lock him up, tell him to stay inside. Because I am seriously afraid that he will end up dusted or worse. I know what happened to him that night he appeared at my door and I know it's because of that godforsaken chip they shoved in his head.

But I quash the urge to restrict his going out. The only thing it'll result in is a contemptuous laugh, possibly a violent outburst, and him leaving anyway. Spike is a firm believer in the exact opposite of obeying your elders and years on his own—not to mention the eighties—has only strengthened that belief.

I swing open the door and, after peeking behind the contraptions that are now occupying the place (I once found him holed up between the television and a set of speakers staring off into space), conclude that he's disappeared yet again.

I sit down my side of the bed, on the left. For some reason, we can sleep in the same bed, stay in the same room, but we cannot talk to each other without ending up in a scream-fest and the occasional bloodied nose. I'm not sure why my side is on the left, either, or how it was decided. Perhaps because it's always been that way. Yes, that's it. Now that I think about it, I remember that he'd always claimed the right side of the bed the few times he was with me for the entire night. He used to sneak his left arm around me.

I pick up a random magazine and thumb through several of the thin pages before setting it down and eyeing the many changes in my surroundings.

Spike has gone through a remodeling phase since his arrival and there are now towering stacks of CDs (no doubt filled with the crashing metal trash cans and dying cats he calls music. I mean, I make better music than the stuff he listens to) and DVDs of various genres from chick flicks to horror to porn. Beside the television located opposite from the bed, there sit two DVD players and a stereo that can only be described as an absolute monstrosity. In the far corner are issues of Q, Hustler, Playboy, and an impressive collection of Rolling Stone, some dating back to as far as 1973—a mysterious occurrence. I know for a fact he's been collecting Rolling Stone since it debuted, but I also know for a fact that he arrived here with nothing more than a half pack of cigarettes and a lighter. Then again, he could've made trips back to Sunnydale.

I'm actually quite amazed that there is so much here, what with our—that is to say Spike's—destructive habits. And no, I didn't buy him everything. While I will admit to spoiling—fine, bribing—him somewhat, not everything is courtesy of my credit card; many of these items have been acquired by Spike of his own accord.

I continue to peruse the pile of magazines and as I do, what appears to be a large book catches my eye. It's leather-bound, old—ancient, actually—and it appears to be vaguely familiar…

I reach down to examine the item further, but am stopped by a bone-crushing grip on my arm.

"Get out of my fucking things!"

I stare into a pair of almost panicked blue eyes.

"Sorry," I murmur, bewildered. "I was…I was only looking…"

"Yeah, well, look the fuck elsewhere," Spike snaps, dropping down beside me on the mattress so hard the springs groan loudly. He snatches up the remote and begins clicking furiously.

"I'm sorry," I say again.

"You always are, Angelus," he replies, gaze fixed determinedly on the blurring images before him. "Especially when it comes to trivial things."

There is a bitterness in his words that makes me wince, but at the same time, I'm provoked by what he said.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

He gives a short, bark of a laugh that is devoid of any amusement. "You still don't get it, do you, peaches? After all this time, you don't get it."

"Don't get what, Spike?" I demand, frustrated by his cryptic answers.

His mouth opens, and then snaps shut again. "Bugger it."

"What is it?" I'm pushing the subject again, but the accusing tone of his voice as he made his earlier statement

(("especially when it comes to trivial things"))

is too much to ignore.

"Drop it, all right? Just drop it." I notice that the volume of the television has been getting consistently louder, as though he is trying to drown out my words.

"Will—"

There's a terrific crash when the remote control flies into the wall, narrowly missing my head and scattering bits of black plastic all over.

"Don't you 'Will' me!" Spike screams, inches from my face. I jerk back instinctively and nearly fall off the bed. "You don't deserve to. You don't have a fucking right to make me feel that way, to make me feel as though I'm still yours! I'm not yours, Angel!"

I blink, too dumbfounded to do much else. Only my eyelids seem capable of any movement.

In a way, he's right. I never did hold him as he died on the haystacks, never did taste his mortal blood. But

(("whose are you?"))

he has always been mine.

(("yours, sire." raspy, filled with lust. "always yours"))

Drusilla was too mad to properly care for him. Darla, of course, couldn't care less, though she did care enough to have her fun with him every so often.

And so that left me.

Always mine.

(("you knew. you knew she was mine"))

Until I tore him apart, threw him away, and came back a hundred years later to take the only thing he had left.

(("what with you being Special Needs Boy, i figure i should stick close to home. you and Dru can always use another pair of hands"))

He's watching me, waiting for a response I do not have.

The minutes go by, unnoticed by either of us.

"She loved me," he whispers at last, more to himself than me. As if he is trying to convince himself. "Even though she was always waiting for you. She loved me."

And of course it always comes back to her. When does it not? He loved her deeply and she did so back. There is no mistaking what she felt for him as anything other than love. But Drusilla is little more than a child and, like a child, she easily tired of one thing after a long while. Like a child, Daddy was the most important figure in her life.

I know Spike resents that. He resents being second best, the one she turned to merely when I had no time for her. When I disappeared after my soul. He lavished attention on her, and I know he cannot understand why all she wanted was me. I know he cannot understand why she could take all the times I abused her—not to mention him—in stride, how she could watch as I

(("get off me, you fucking bastard!" blood smeared face and useless legs, sprawled out underneath me on the floor and i can smell the arousal on him despite his words, though sheer rage overrides everything))

(("aw, come on, Spikey-boy. don't be that way. like old times, right? me…inside you…and on top, of course, but that's a given"))

(("GET THE FUCK OFF OF ME!"))

(("well, i'll get off from you. close enough, i suppose. now come on, be a good boy, huh?"))

took him right there in front of her, but couldn't stand to see him do nothing more than give me a good few whacks with a crowbar.

I take a deep breath.

"Do you remember," I begin slowly, "our first hunt together?"

His eyes flash in anger. "Stop it," he says harshly. "Shut the hell up."

"You stalked like you'd done it every night of your life," I continue, ignoring his interruption. "Seduced the hell out of those girls. And…and after I took you to the park and you watched the stars. You said they looked different from when you were human…brighter. I kissed you then—"

"Stop it!" He stands up and is at the door at the blink of an eye.

I don't stop. And he doesn't leave, just stands there with his hand resting on the doorframe, staring at his feet, his back to me.

I have no idea how long I spend talking. But something has changed by the time I have recounted every moment I can remember of us together, both of the good and ugly. By the time I've recited the speech I hadn't known I'd been preparing ever since Rumania until now. Something has changed. Though I don't quite know what.

My throat has long since gone dry.

He walks back to me, hesitant, appearing almost pensive, but there is not a trace of hesitation left by the time he is no more than a few inches away. And this time he is the one who kisses me, strong fingers winding through my hair, and he murmurs against my lips of, "You remember," and while I have no idea what he is talking about, I don't care.

He isn't mine. Not anymore. I understand that now.

(("you can take what you want, have what you want"))

But I can still have him.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

Today is probably the first time he's come downstairs and actually stayed downstairs.

It's a quiet day, though. No visions, no demon attacks. I'm sitting on the couch reading L'Être et le Néant while Spike sits with his back against my arm, head leaning on my shoulder, and his legs hanging over the arm of the couch. He's playing with a handheld game console—which I did not buy for him, by the way. I have no idea where it came from. It seemed to have just materialized into his hands one day.

It's likely he stole it.

The door opens and Cordelia steps inside the office. "Afternoon!" she greets brightly. Then she frowns and narrows her eyes.

It takes me several moments to understand why. When I do, I quickly get to my feet.

"Oi!" Spike yelps, falling flat on his back on the couch with the lack of support. He swings his legs over to the front and sits up properly. "Could bloody warn a bloke before you do something like that, pet. Hello, Cordelia."

Cordelia simply raises her eyebrows at me.

I shift nervously from one foot to the other and finally sit back down.

She opens her mouth, then closes it. Then: "Are you two—"

"No," I say the same time Spike interrupts with a, "Shagging? Sure."

Damn it.

I give a resigned sigh.

Cordelia just shakes her head. "Call me if you need me, boss." She makes a hasty escape.

"Is it just her you don't want to know, love?" Spike asks quietly when she's out of earshot. "Or do you just generally not want anyone to know?"

I lower my book slowly, a bit taken aback by his genuinely injured tone.

Despite having known the real William, I have to admit that his leather and black-painted nails and in-your-face attitude do fool me every so often—and I end up forgetting how sensitive my boy actually is.

"Spike, that's not it," I say. "It's—it was kind of a shock seeing Cordelia there like that and—I didn't…mean it that way."

He doesn't answer me, but he's looking at me out of the corner of his eyes. I can tell he's faltering.

I tilt his chin and press my lips lightly to his. If he's truly angry, he'll push me off.

He doesn't. Instead, his lips part to grant me entrance.

"Pillock," he states when I pull away.

"Yeah."

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

Full moon outside. The light casts a shadow over the sharp planes of his body, making it seem more angular than it is. As though he is made out of nothing but triangular blocks.

I prop myself up on one elbow to watch him, as I so frequently do. There is still a part of me which needs convincing that he is here, that this is not merely some blissful delusion.

He's quiet tonight, no dreams and no nightmares. Tonight he is actually still. He's not even breathing, as he often does.

Which is why I know he's not really asleep. He's thinking about something. A rare occurrence, considering he typically passes out after sex.

One set of eyelashes flutter, revealing a single blue iris. "Quit staring at me, ya prick."

I smile. "Thought you were sleeping."

He gives me a playful whack on the shoulder. "Can't sleep if you're bloody looking at me like that." His one eye closes, but they both open a second later. "Angel?"

"Yeah, Spike?"

"What is this?"

"What do you mean?" I know what he means.

"What is this that we have?"

I don't respond. I don't have a response. It seems to be the case lately.

"I don't know," I reply, cautious. "But…it's nice," I add tentatively.

It's not what he wants to hear. It's not the answer to his question. He wants to know if this is a lie, a sprinkle of rose-scented perfume on a barren rosebush. If there is something dark beneath the calm surface that will cause the eventual tsunami. Because it's nice now. But now is just that: now.

And a part of me cannot stop from wondering what would happen if Drusilla came knock-knocking. Because I doubt he'd be here if Dru hadn't left him.

I brush back his hair at last and kiss his forehead, the best I can offer. "Go to sleep, Spike."

He rolls over, seemingly doing what I asked him to. But he continues to remain completely motionless for near the rest of the night.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

For a second there, when I first woke up, I could've sworn we were in London and the year was 1880. Angel is wrapped protectively around me, a dopey smile on his face.

Then a car alarm goes off in the distance and I'm in L.A., 2000.

Angel is still holding me, though. I scoot closer, wanting to make the most of this before he wakes up. Because I'm damn scared that the last few nights never really happened and we'll just lapse back into our old routine of saying nothing or yelling everything. And fuck all, but I want this. I don't care if I sound like the sodding pouf himself. I'd sell the best inch of my dick just to have him holding me like this forever…

Angel stirs. "Darla, what's that noise?"

I jerk out from underneath him. Darla?

He did not just call me Darla. He did not just fucking do that. He was not thinking of that stupid bitch. He did not have the goddamned audacity to fucking think I was her after everything.

Just…just no. No.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

Hmm…this is a bit odd. I don't remember ever having bought lawn chairs, but I seem to be lying on one of them. And Darla is in the other.

She smiles at me and slides an ice cube down my chest.

I laugh. "Mmm…" This is nice. I'm quite sure I killed her, but well, I'm not complaining. It's refreshing to be content for once without the hazard of being handed a one-way ticket to Hell. Almost feels like a dream.

I turn to her. "Is someone else supposed to be here?"

"No, of course not," she replies. "Why do you ask?"

That's a good question. Why did I ask?

I shrug. "I don't—" An awfully shrill screaming in the background cuts me off. It sounds like a siren of some sort.

I frown. It's damn annoying. "Darla, what's that's noise?"

"Darla?" a familiar voice spits out with unconcealed distaste.

I snap open my eyes. Spike is staring down at me with an expression of sheer disbelief and outraged.

Oh. Oh shit.

"I—I was just dreaming…" I stutter. Who the hell invented that whole speaking in your sleep thing anyway?

"Like that makes it any better?" His eyes are taking on a not-so-sane expression again. "That you were dreaming of her right after sleeping with me? Bloody hell, Angelus."

"I wasn't—"

"The hell you weren't!" He snatches up his duster violently. He's fully dressed. When did he get dressed? I don't remember seeing him get dressed.

I grab his arm. "Dammit, will you just listen for a minute?" I take a deep breath and barrel on, not waiting for his answer. "I had a dream about Darla. It doesn't mean anything, all right? It doesn't…change anything."

A derisive laugh. "Bollocks. Did you wish I was her while you were fucking me? You did, didn't you?"

"That's not fair, Spike."

He shoves me against the wall with an animalistic snarl, one hand curled painfully around my throat. "Fair? Fair?" He starts to chuckle, and it quickly escalates into hysterical giggles. "Since when do you care about what's fair? When you fucked her while I was in that bloody, goddamned chair, did you think that was fair? Getting your due after ten decades of celibacy? Or how about all those little stupid games you always played?"

I know he's not talking about Darla anymore when he says "her".

"You're right, Angel." His arm drops down to his side. "It doesn't change anything. There's nothing to change." He laughs. "You know, I actually thought that something had? That even though we couldn't have a normal conversation without ripping into each other five bloody minutes into it, that you couldn't fuck me without us fighting first, it was still good somehow?"

I ignore his last statement, not willing to get into that particular topic right now, and seize his shoulders instead, desperate to knock some sense into him. "Spike, you're being unreasonable. I had one dream. One. About Darla. Don't tell me you don't dream about Dru."

His fist makes harsh contact with my jaw. I automatically punch him right back.

"It's not the same bloody thing!" he yells.

I swipe irritably at the blood trickling from the corner of my mouth. "Oh, and why the hell not?" And now I'm being unreasonable too. I know it's not the same thing. But fuck it, I'm way beyond the point of clear-headedness right now.

"She loves you! She never even bloody looked at me in bed after you left, you know that? She'd always close her eyes while we made love and when she came, she either screamed your name or nothing." A barrage of items, from empty cigarette cartons to magazines to priceless ornaments go flying at my head as he rants. "It was always you, Angel! It always is you, goddamn it, even for me, you and your stupid pine tree hair and that godforsaken soul, so what the hell do you have to be so damned insecure about?"

My mouth hangs open in utter disbelief. Not from the stuff about Dru, because that's nothing new…but those three words

(("even for me"))

squeezed in between everything.

I know he doesn't realize that I truly worry about him. I know he thinks he hasn't been tossed out yet because that would violate my whole quest for redemption. And of course I knew he was afraid of going on unloved. Spike is love; it defines his whole life.

But I'd never considered that he would even think of me as a possible candidate, much less a winner—not now, not after everything I'd done to him. I'd always thought…everything we had from the day he showed up here, that, for him, it was simply a sort of comfort since he no longer had Dru.

I'd never considered that he in fact did…that I was the one he…

Oh, God. Maybe Cordelia is right. Maybe I am hopelessly dense.

I shake my head slowly. "You didn't…I never—"

"'Course not." His lips curve into a sardonic smile. "Never could see anything, Angelus, 'cept yourself. Which makes me wonder why it is that, when I slept in your arms for the first time, it actually felt like someone cared. Did you ever care? Did you, Sire? 'Cause if I think back real hard, sometimes I can remember that you did, once upon a time. But then I also remember when you broke my arms after you saw me give her a hug. When you fucked her in front of me."

I wince and he laughs, a harsh, bitter sound. "Yeah, and you want to know the best part, Angel, the absolute punch line? None of that even bloody matters because I cannot stop loving once I start. I can't do it. I've tried, I've spent a whole fucking century trying, and I still love you, you sod-all, fucking bastard!" He swipes furiously at his eyes with the sleeve of his duster.

I take a tentative step forward.

"Get out," he whispers. He sinks to the floor and pulls his knees up against his chest and buries his face in his arms, shaking shoulders.

"William…"

"Get out! Get out, get out, get out—"

Startled, I flee the room before my mind has a chance to catch up. I don't need to return ten minutes later to know that he has gone, but I do it anyway, peering cautiously into the junk-filled, yet empty room.

And I realize that I've just been deposited on my ass right back where I began the night he showed up at my door.


tbc...Any and all feedback will bemuch appreciated.