Breakdowns and Beginnings

It starts off with something simple, as often things do. They're about to go on a group outing, gearing up with weapons and bravado as they prepare to go to a deserted warehouse to stop a demon clan bent on world domination, because isn't it always these two things that go hand in hand. And Wesley straps on a frightening number of guns to various limbs as if to attempt to set off metal detectors from a mile away. Fred slips a device in her pocket that barely creates a bulge in her streamlined pants but that can take out an entire city block. Gunn gets an axe, a really big axe, because he's a fan of the classics, like the suits that he's now decked out in during working hours and the show tunes that he secretly sings in the shower.

Angel however decides to go for a new ceremonial blade that hangs up behind his desk, the edge finally balanced, sharp enough to cut through a ginsu knife, a masterpiece of deadly steel. Plus with the gem inlayed handle it's kind of pretty.

He reaches out and grabs the long handle, but then there's another hand that also reaches out just as he goes to pull it off the wall. An annoying hand attached to an irritating black leather sleeve attached to a petulant frown of a child that has been told that it has to share its toys. Angel briefly wonders whether that description could be applied to both of them, but quickly shelves it and goes for righteous indignation instead.

There is a brief tussle, and that is to be expected. What is not is when during one of their silent battles that take place with narrowed lips and narrowed eyes, Spike's face suddenly relaxes, his head tips towards the blade, an eyebrow raised in question and before Angel realises it he's let go of the handle.

As Angel blinks a lot, Spike nods his thanks, gives a wide smile and walks out with the others to hover by the lifts and distract Harmony. Angel's left frowning and feeling somewhat shaken, his hands pressed against the desk as if this small unspoken conversation, as if the act of letting something go was somehow a new and profound moment in the shifting tectonic plates that is their relationship.

He feels out of sorts and as Wesley walks back to see what the delay is he grabs the first weapon at hand and stalks out, alpha male armour nailed back on, barks out to the others that they were going to get down there and kick some demon butt. The other's stare, Angel feels vaguely embarrassed. And there's a nervousness when he looks over at Spike, so he doesn't look and makes Gunn sit up front with him in the car.

He drives too fast, and hits too hard, and his voice sounds just that bit too loud and unnatural. He refuses to look at Spike, looks instead at the blade as it gracefully arcs through the air, creating a sway of carnage that's almost an art form. Drives the others back in sullen humour and there's silence in the car. He's given up on talking with the side order of stupidity that's attached to it, and the feeling of victory in the others is therefore muted. They pour out of the car at the first opportunity, making excuses and fleeing the scene. Angel sits there and wonders what's happening to him. Feels the steering wheel under his hands, feels the gas pedal under his foot, and next minute there's street lights streaking over his windshield and he feels free for the first time in a long while.

He stays in motels and pays with cash. Sits about on scratchy sheets and stares for hours at stained walls and tries to untangle the thoughts that he is unable to articulate. Wonders vaguely if vampires can have nervous breakdowns and realises that this may not be the first time. Thumbs the buttons on his mobile phone but then sets it down inside the bedside table drawer, singeing his fingers slightly as he does so.

For some reason it is the moment that his hand opened on the handle on the blade, the moment that he let Spike take it from him, the moment where someone looked him straight in the eyes and smiled that replays in his head. And it's not until the moment that he picks up an off-white towel as he steps out of the shower that it hits him with what it almost physical pain as he realises that what he was feeling is bone deep loneliness that was appeased for a brief instant by a feeling of connection with the only other being on the planet that he could have that with.

He sits on the edge of the bath and feels very, very old.

Getting up he slips on clothes that he realises may not be as fresh as what he would like, suddenly feels the need to know what day it is and skims through the flickering TV set that teeters on a wall bracket to realise when it settles on a news programme that it is Tuesday. Which means he has been here for five days. With a jolt he wonders if Harmony has thought to reschedule his meetings and knows then that he's ready to go back.

He wonders if it took him that five days or that brief second where he handed over the sword to know what he felt for Spike. Thinks that he may now just be over thinking, and then thinks further about this. Wonders if that counts?

The extent of his packing involves recovering his cellphone from the dresser drawer and he opens the drawer almost petulantly, hissing again as he touches the small bible that it lies next to. Flipping it open he suddenly realises that at some point he had accidentally turned it off and with his metaphorical heart in mouth he turns it on and finds that there are 27 messages waiting for him. He almost feels giddy from the feeling. Then feels sheepish, but realising that he is alone goes back to feeling giddy and lets out a small laugh of delight. His eyes dart around to make sure that he is unwatched.

He scrolls through them all, messages of worry and concern. Even Spike has texted, a litany of swearwords and jargon. He's a stupid git, an idiot, a complete tossing wanker, and also apparently a funking moron, but Angel thinks that may just be misspelt. His thumb brushes over the screen and his face softens in thanks.

He drives back the same way he drove there, but this time it's different, the street lights keep the shadows at bay instead of casting eerie figures, the people on the streets he decides look happy and he switches on the radio, briefly joining in before scaring a car load of college kids when he's stops at the traffic lights.

Between the laundromat at the outskirts of town and Al's All Night Butchers, he suffers an attack of guilt as he thinks of the people who were worried about him. But then remembers that people were worried about him, and the thought of 27 messages means that his heart presses against his chest in uncharacteristic lightness.

Realising he feels too happy he decides that a tortured yet noble look would be more fitting for his entrance and steps out of the lifts.

And standing in the lobby is Spike.

His brain temporarily seizes up, for even though he now knows that the nature of their relationship has been broken up and refitted to become this new creation of depth, passion and spiritual connection, Spike wasn't actually there when this all occurred and is therefore somewhat on the back foot. So sweeping him into his arms would possibly be inappropriate. He gets out the first part of Spike's name but before he can say more he finds himself back in the elevator, lip stinging and sprawled out in an undignified heap.

He picks himself up, wiping his lip as Spike begins yelling, feeling somewhat deflated as Harmony starts up in the background as she decides to convey how inconsiderate is was to leave her with hundreds of meetings to reschedule and clients to appease. Apparently they have also run out of organic cola. The lift doors begin to close again and he's almost grateful for it, trying to remember if his keys are still in the car so he can go escape to a bar. Motels he's over.

A hand slams on to one of the lift doors, halting its progress and Spike steps in, angry and almost flustered. Spike rapidly hits the garage floor button and stands next to Angel without a word, follows him out to the car and seats himself in the passenger side.

"That was stupid."


"You going to take off every time things get tough then?"

Angel turns in his seat and holds his eye contact. "No."

"You going to kiss me then?"

Angel's eyebrows make a run for his hairline and he makes a creaking sound in the back of his throat in shock. With a click his mouth closes and he realises somewhat in annoyance that Spike apparently has already skimmed a chapter ahead. He notices that said vampire is now leaning over, voice lowering in amusement.

"Well that's what the whole running away bit was about, yes? You having an existential crisis after making goo goo eyes at me and giving me your phallic symbol to go fight with." Spike almost looked unbearably smug, but there was a softness to his eyes that…no, Angel realises. He really had gone nuts again.

"There was no goo goo eyes. I do not make goo goo eyes."

"Yeah, whatever mate. Anyway, this is the bit, yeah? Where we suddenly declare vampire soul matey love, gaze into each others eyes and go into the proverbial, but non-dusty sunset together?" Spike snorted with amusement. "Okay, maybe not." Spike, the poster boy for emotional flux, suddenly jumps tracks, amusement leeching out as he gives a tired shrug. " I don't want to be alone either, Angel."

Angel is startled by this confession, didn't even think that the feeling and burden might be shared, and feels this sudden flood of overwhelming tenderness to the man who's sitting next to him. That with all the people that they've saved maybe it's time they saved one another. He wonders if that's incredibly lame and trite, but then realises he's over thinking again. Damn.

Almost as if hearing Angel's thought processes Spike gives him an indulgent smirk.

"See, this is the bit where, after you've apologised for being a prat and running off like a sissy girl, where you lean over, like this, pucker up, and then you kiss me." Spike slid over so that their noses where almost touching, his breath stroking his cheek as Angel stares back, big eyed and lust dumb. Spike's voice lowers further until it's gravel as he eyes Angel's mouth, tongue darting out to lick his own. "Yes?"

Having gone nuts there was only way for Angel to answer that. And it isn't with words.