Disclaimer: Don't own, etc

Disclaimer: Don't own, etc., etc. Joss Whedon rules supreme and retains pretty much everything. Only written for personal enjoyment and because this plot bunny just wouldn't die, even after some serious staking…

Summary: Sequel to The Vampire in My Living Room. Occurs around from You're Welcome to Why We Fight, but not down to the minute… Wherein things go from bad to worse, which doesn't really surprise us, does it? Rating T- M.

VAMPIRUS (NON) DOMESTICUS

Chapter 3 – With Guilt, To Go

Contrary to his normal stoicism, Angel had opened up like a blossoming flower under Wesley's gentle questions, actually jumping up from behind his desk and pacing with agitation and distress…

"Spike's more deserving of being the Shanshu Champion that I am."

"And you came by this epiphany how?"

But Angel wasn't listening, "Spike was right, I told him he wasn't but he was…and we both know it. I did make him a monster. That's why I can't stand having him around…Spike's my real son…Connor…"

"What happened?" Wesley brought him back, pretending not to hear that final mumbled name.

"When Spike got made corporeal and everything went crazy. I didn't want to hear, I didn't want to listen to Eve, but she was right. She said that the problem was we were both heroes…She's right, Wes, the key word is 'Champion'. Eve said, "' Spike gave his life to save the world, so he has the cred'…"

"But he was killed, and as a ghost he couldn't effect any sort of outcome on the physical world, so reboot with one champion again." Wesley ascertained. "But then he was made corporeal again…so now all bets are off and we're back to square one."

"That's what Eve said, and that's why we needed you there." Angel gave a weak laugh, "It's taken you what –" he checked his watch – "all of thirty seconds. We took an hour and a half and three dead bodies to connect the dots. Spike came running out of this office saying that Harmony had gone crazy so he'd knocked her unconscious. I jeered at him, something like 'yeah, you're a real hero!' Of course like Eve came straight back at me with, that's our problem."

"Then dear old Rutherford Sirk entered the mix." Wesley's voice was almost an Angelesque growl as he named the ex-Watcher who, prior to Rupert Giles and then Wesley himself, had been regarded as the greatest traitor to the Watchers Council ever; Sirk's perfidy in choosing to reign in hell by deserting the Council for Wolfram & Hart had sent shock-waves through the organisation that it hadn't still recovered from when Caleb blew it up – mostly because of the several priceless and irreplaceable scrolls that Sirk had stolen when he went, including the Shanshu Prophecy itself, before Angel had liberated it from the firm's vaults. Wesley hadn't been able to bring himself to sack the man because of guilt – firing Sirk for betraying the Watchers Council and joining Wolfram & Hart was just a bit too much pot & kettle when Wesley had just accepted the position of Head of Sirk's Department at the same firm!

"Yeah." Angel's tone carried much sheepishness at this point.

"Sirk comes up with this Cup of Torment explanation from some conveniently just-translated passages of the Shanshu, and off you two hare in a race to be the first to drink it and prove which one of you is the real Champion of Light. I'd venture that Lindsay and Eve were probably counting on the fact that with me not around, nobody in the room had the knowledge to recognise the language in the book Sirk used to pull his little scam; it was probably a demon recipe book." He looked at Angel steadily, a definite hint of chilliness entering his tone. "For future reference: a) I don't relegate anything that relates to the Shanshu to my subordinates, I handle it all personally, and b) in the event that I had come across anything in the Shanshu that was of major import regarding your destiny, you would have known about it ten seconds after me. I certainly wouldn't have translated enough to wallpaper a cathedral and then not bothered to mention it while I went on vacation for a week!"

"Sorry…" Angel mumbled, "I wasn't thinking…we weren't thinking. Spike and me – we're like nitro and glycerine."

"So..?" Wesley prompted him, though in truth he was more worried about other possible consequences that he had no intention of flagging up to a clearly upset Angel, Spike, Gunn, Lorne, Fred and even Harmony. Like how the 'Cup of Torment' had cleverly removed both Champions from Wolfram & Hart for some considerable time; easily long enough for someone or something to get inside during the mayhem and work some bad mojo? For instance, managing, even if only temporarily, to disconnect the conduit to the Senior Partners as Eve must have done to ensure Gunn couldn't consult the Big Cat and blow her and Lindsay's plan out of the water. What other ticking time bombs and primed booby traps could and probably had been left once the two people most likely to thwart them had been gotten out of the way?

Angel stared down at the polished surface of his desk, rubbing his fingers absently into the smooth surface where his reflection should have been, but wasn't. "The thing about Spike…he drives you crazy, but he…sees…you know. That's his gift - he's got perfect clarity. Maybe it's the poet in him – he's never gonna be the IQ King, but he cuts right through the bull and the fancy words and the sophistry we try and swaddle ourselves in to make us feel better. He rips it all away and tells us: these are the home truths, people, now deal."

"And you think he was right about some of the things you two argued about before you got to the hair-pulling and handbags at ten paces?" Wesley had little compunction about revealing his view of the two Champions of Light beating the shit out of each other.

"Spike was so angry…he taunted me about thinking: 'you're the big saviour', when I still can't 'lay flesh on a cross without smelling like bacon'. I told him he was no different…"

Wesley knew what was coming next, because Spike was different, but before he could make some remark, Angel revealed that difference between the two ensoulled-vampires that Wesley had always been careful never to draw attention to.

"It's just like Spike said: "'You had a soul forced on you as a curse…but me, I fought for my soul. I went through the demon trials, almost did me in a dozen times over, but I kept fighting, 'cause I knew it was the right thing to do.'" He's right, Wes. I was an unapologetic monster – Angelus – I revelled in what I was. Spike knew he was about to endure unimaginable pain and torture, but he did it anyway, and he did for the greatest and most powerful and most wonderful and terrible of all things -"

"- love." Wesley laid a hand on Angel's arm, feeling the muscles bunch and flex like tensile steel.

"Yeah…and that's not all…Spike believes I've sold out, Wesley…and what scares me most is that…I agree with him."

"Sold out?"

"This!" Angel waved a hand around his well-appointed office with the real leather and rare wood and priceless mystical ornaments. "The Shanshu mentions the vampire with a soul who will play a pivotal role in The Apocalypse – either for Good or Evil. He'll either save creation or destroy it; the kicker is nobody knows which side he'll be on till the deal goes down. Spike said everyone knows what side I'm on because I've made my choice – 'you traded in your cape and tights for a nice comfy chair at Wolfram & Hart.' Is that what I've done Wesley, sold my soul to the Big Bad for no better reason than I was tired of always being David to Evil's Goliath? 'If you can't beat them, join them?'"

"No."

"How can you be sure of that?"

"Because if I believed that, I wouldn't be standing here… and on my way out to LAX, I would have left a little pile of Angel-dust on the carpet."

The vampire looked at him sharply, but seemed strangely reassured by Wesley's willingness to kill him for the greater good. "Thanks…I think. But what your…cyborg Roger said, about me being a puppet, and then Spike saying I'd sold out…I know, I shouldn't let it get to me. I really wish you'd been here, Wes."

"And what else?"

"Eh?"

"Angel, this is me, Swami to the Stars. What else happened between you two that's got you imitating a pretzel?"

"That wasn't enough?…Okay, okay…have you got any Rottweiller in you by any chance?" Angel stood up and stared out of the window, his face tightening until it seemed dangerously on the verge of going vamp. "Then Spike…"

Wesley listened, impressed in spite of himself as the tale unfolded; Spike was a formidable enough opponent in physical battle. He had killed two Slayers, and in their initial encounter Buffy would have been three for three had the late Joyce Summers not smashed Spike over the head with a fire extinguisher. From the look on Angel's face it was clear that when words were the weapons of choice, Spike rocked. But then, Spike could quote Pope at breakfast before a man had time to kick-start his brain with a decent Earl Grey.

"I know I haven't been…very nice…to Spike since he's been here-"

"No? Really?" Wesley coughed. "Sorry, couldn't resist."

"Try. We were going at it, really kicking the hell out of each other…I taught him everything he knows…" For an instant Angel drifted with almost a sort of pride, then brought himself back from the Angelus moment when he saw the unsubtle expression on Wesley's face. "He was…in such pain. You know, when you're in so much emotional agony that it has to become rage because nothing else can bear it without burning you up from the inside…" Angel's voice trailed off introspectively

Wesley carefully dropped his gaze so Angel couldn't see the look in his eyes; the two vampires understood that pain, but so did he, just another thing to thank dear old dad for. But neither Angel nor the others needed to know about the core of black ugliness than ran through 'good old Wes' like a vein of corrupting iron pyrite through gold.

"'I'll tell you why you can't stand the bloody sight of me, 'cause every time you look at me, you see all the dirty little things I've done, all the lives I've taken…because of you.Drusilla sired me, but you made me a monster.'" Angel quoted his grandson.

"What did you say?" Wesley asked.

"I told him: 'I didn't make you, I just opened up the door and let the real you out.' Spike said, "'You never knew the real me; you were too busy trying to see your own reflection. I'm nothing like you.'" I said right, he was less than me…that's why Buffy couldn't really love him…then things got really ungentlemanly."

"Of course, sound notion, really piss off the super-human homicidal maniac who's already kicking your ass."

Angel snorted. "I wasn't any better – believe me, at that moment, I was really channelling Angelus. But he was right, Wes, and we both know it, for all I denied it. Like Buffy once said to me: "'I can fool my friends, but I can't fool myself, or Spike, for some reason'". I told you – our blond bombshell has perfect clarity. Drusilla was psychic – in fact that helped me to drive her insane before I Sired her. She's lethal but limited; half the time she could only just feed herself and remember to stay out of sunlight. I was Spike's Sire in all the ways that really mattered. A lot of the atrocities…he only thought of doing them in the first place because he knew I wanted to share my world with…a brother…a son…"

"How can you know that he was only trying to make you happy, instead of merely following his appetites?" Wesley challenged.

"Because I told him so. The night Dru' Sired him, she brought him back to the Ambassador's suite where we were staying. The Master had summoned Darla and she'd gone to him in a snap. I was jealous so I'd tried to stop her going…big mistake…when Dru came back I looked like I'd gone ten rounds with a Bengal tiger and was feeling just about as sorry for myself. Then this nerdy kid with bad hair is standing behind her, looked like the lovechild of Queen Vic and Byron at his licentious worst. He had no idea what was going on…but I looked into his eyes…and I knew…I'd killed dozens of males, sired a couple…I Sired both James and Elizabeth, you know that?"

"Yes." Wesley had no interest in the dead vampires who had re-emerged in a most painful period of Angel's life, after Buffy had died to stop Glory, and before her resurrection at Willow's hand.

"But none of them had that spark I saw in William." Angel seemed not to notice his use of Spike's archaic human name. "None of them had that… 'je ne sais quoi'…except him. I didn't really realise until I hooked up with the Scoobies, after Buffy came to Sunnydale, just how rare that fire is. Buffy has it, so does Faith, but Kendra didn't, nor does Crazy Dana for all she's a Slayer. Giles has it, but none of the others – not Willow or Xander, not Oz, not even Cordelia; certainly not that Andrew geek who came to collect Dana. Lindsay didn't have it, nor did Doyle, not even Gunn…only you."

"I'd say thank-you but I don't think I should." Wesley retorted flippantly, to cover how easily Angel had pierced his protective layers and glimpsed that cold, dark river than ran through his heart, an icy, lifeless, utterly black and empty flow. Wesley knew all to well what the demons inside men – and women – like Angel and Spike and Darla, were tapping into and drawing strength from. Few had it, which was why the late, unlamented Holtz had been able to exterminate 378 vampires in nine years during his vengeance hunt for Angel and Darla, yet not be able to kill them.

"The fire burns within," Angel said with a shrug. "It has no conscience or sentience or joy or remorse, it simply is. Whether you use the fire to increase the brightness of the Light or to stoke the fires of Evil is up to you…"

"But you told Spike..?" Wesley prompted when it seemed Angel was going to drift off into another reverie.

"He was uncertain…looking at Dru for a lead, which, as I could have told him…I grabbed his hand and held it out into the sunlight, burned him. He wrenched it away and his eyes went all sapphire and hot, like they do when he's mad, or really, really overjoyed. I said that having nothing but two women as travelling companions every night was getting a bit monotonous and though I liked the ladies…I said: 'Just lately, I've been wondering, what it'd be like…to share the slaughter of innocents…with another man. Don't think that makes me some kind of deviant, do you?'" Angel shook his head, "I was holding my hand out into the sun in some sort of macho posturing thing – it was killing me, I was just so pissed off about Darla leaving but the minute I looked into his eyes…He did no more and shoved his hand back into the sun like I was doing…I know it was a stupid macho thing -"

"I can still smell the testosterone." Wesley muttered sotto voce, momentarily forgetting the supernaturally enhanced hearing of vampires.

"I laughed and clapped him on the shoulder or something, and I remember I said, 'You and me, we're going to be the best of friends'…and we were. I mean, it was me and Darla and then us two with Dru. Darla and Dru were…great…but - I don't know how to explain the way the four of us were together… I didn't need to talk to Spike. We'd do something or I'd say something and he…"

"Just understood." Wesley interposed quietly.

"Exactly. I never needed to explain to him. There were things he just got; things he just knew, things that we shared in a way that Darla, as a woman, could never really share or even truly understand."

Despite being aware that there was still something else Angel wasn't sharing, Wesley had left well enough alone at that point and gone looking for the English vampire. After an extensive search he had discovered him in a small, obviously forgotten office on the third floor, near Fred's lab. Considering how the Beast had slaughtered the entire former staff complement of Wolfram & Hart – with the exception of Lilah and Lindsay – there were still one or two vacant rooms. The office had clearly been that of some minor flunky because of its small size. There were still dusty spots but the bottle of Jack Daniels, small row of what seemed to be English Literature classics and tiny mini-bar type fridge showed that Spike had made it his own.

However, considering that he had won Spike had been in a worse 'place' than Angel. Whereas the dark vampire had been despondently introspective, Spike had taken it to the next level. He had been in so complete an idiotropic state, Wesley had felt the first twinges of alarm as he saw how deeply turned in on himself Spike actually was. He made Angel's usual monosyllabic attitude seem positively garrulous. The fact that he had beaten Angel to the Cup of Perpetual Torment seemed to be the depths of failure, not the height of triumph to him. Wesley had probed but Spike had not reciprocated. However, what little he had admitted was telling:

"So I'm standing there, and I've won, and Angel's saying to me about how the Cup's not a prize but a burden…and then he says: "'Do you really want it? Or is it that you want to take something away from me?'"

"What did you say?"

"'Bit of both'. Then I drank." Spike seemed to sink down into himself.

"But you won…"

"No, I didn't. What I did was prove conclusively that Angel is the Champion of the Shanshu Prophecy, not me."

"Not quite seeing that…?" Wesley found some irony in the fact that he'd just come from Angel's office where the older vampire had expressed the same sentiments about Spike.

Spike sighed. "Look, when I fought to get my soul back, I did it because I genuinely wanted the chance at redemption. I did it because I wanted to be worthy of Buffy's love, and because I really wanted to atone for all I'd done. And I did – I got fried saving the world, but when I was in that amulet…I wasn't aware…I was just…not. But I'd done it – I was a Champion of the Light. I was Buffy's Champion, and that was enough. This…I beat Angel to a bloody pulp, came within an inch of staking him, for God's sake, and for why…? What was my noble goal? My righteous reason? Angel was spot on – I didn't drink because I wanted another chance to be the Big Redeemed Hero, I did it because I wanted to take that chance away from Angel – in short I was a spoilt brat having a tantrum who takes his ball home out of spite so nobody else can play. Real noble, hero attitude, huh? I was redeemed – I saved the world, I passed go and collected two hundred dollars, even though it left me a ghost tied to haunting this heap. Angel's not yet had that opportunity, and Pouting Spiteful Me was determined not to give it to him."

Ah…major, major guilt-trip. "I think you're being too hard on yourself." Wesley opined cautiously.

"Really? I'd have thought you'd be outraged on behalf of your supposed best friend."

"Oh, what you did was certainly far from a penitent seeking redemption, definitely petulant, but Spike… if you'd really been that vindictively determined to ruin Angel's hope of redemption, you'd have condemned his soul to eternal suffering by staking him when you had the chance – but you didn't." Spike merely shrugged and Wesley went on, "You and Angel…it's complex and there are no easy answers. One thing I am sure of –" courtesy of the Scroll of Niamh – "is that you are both Champions of the Light."

"Yeah, right."

"Yes, right. Redemption is not an exclusive country club that you have to be a super-rich, White Anglo-Saxon Protestant male to join, or a lottery than millions enter but only one person wins. Redemption is possible for anyone who really wants it, Spike, anyone who is remorseful enough and repentant enough to stay the distance through the not-very-fun period of usually painful atonement. Even if you aren't the vampire with the soul that the Shanshu Prophecy talks about, you have just as much chance of salvation as Angel has, even if he turns out not to be the vampire with the soul spoken of in Shanshu. Though the notion of a third vampire with a soul makes me break out in a cold sweat."

Wesley had left Spike to chew on that while he went and found some pills for his nicely brewing migraine – note to self, never take a vacation again – but found the most illuminating conversation he had over the whole Cup of Perpetual Torment debacle came from none other than Charles Gunn, who sought him out as he was in his office. The black man had revealed what was still bothering Angel about the whole thing and rounded off what had happened for Wesley:

"…So Angel's just sitting here, all beat up, with this biiig black cloud of gloom sat over his head, yah know?" Unconsciously Gunn dropped back into his previous speech rhythms, a sure sign of his agitation, "An' he says to me: " 'He beat me, Gunn. He beat me to the cup.'" I know Angel's been disconnected a little since we set up shop here, but…I admit it…I'm starting to worry. He was so cut up about what happened, even though the Cup was fake – but that wasn't the point, was it?"

"How so?"

Gunn scowled, "Angel said that Spike won their fight, it was the first time they'd had an actual physical fight that Spike had beaten Angel, but that wasn't the issue. Like Angel told me, " 'It doesn't matter if the cup was real or not…'cause in the end, Spike won 'cause he wanted it more. I gotta tell you, bro', the idea that we might've been riding the range with the wrong vamp-with-a-soul for the past five years is giving me the big wig-out, and I'll tell you why – if Spike is destined to be the Champion of Light vampire-with-a-soul who kicks ass for flowers and puppies and all things cute, does that mean that Angelus will be joining the other team for the next Apocalypse Nowish?"

"They're both the right vampire with a soul, Gunn." Wesley had corrected him. "The Shanshu is only one prophecy, and I wouldn't get too hung up on what it says."

"Seriously?" Gunn asked, surprised at this declaration from Wesley of all people .

"Seriously. Even the best prophecies tend to be only generally reliable, not Gospel. Both Angel and Spike are Champions of Light, and both have an equal chance at redemption, even though that may be achieved in a different way for each of them."

Now as he sat in his own kitchen, feeling as helpless as kitten, Wesley drew together the disparate strands of events and consequences in his mind. Angel and Spike couldn't be truly at ease together, as Spike had so aptly pointed out during his cathartic slug-fest with Angel - at the sight of the other, each one's soul smote him with shame and remorse over the terrible crimes they had inflicted upon the innocent, many times in companionship and/or competition with the other.

But Spike's too-feeling heart was pierced by Angel's brutal verbal rejections and obvious resentment of his presence, and also without Buffy here to inspire him and to motivate him to aspire with his soul, Spike was, just like Angel, battered by a crisis of faith in himself and any real purpose to striving for redemption. If it was all a fake fairy story what was the point of enduring all the hassle and pain? Spike had gone from terror-inspiring Big Bad to Slayer's plaything, and done so willingly.

It wasn't that Buffy didn't love Spike; she did love him, she was in love with him, but not to the same depth that Angel was the One, and right here, right now, the fact that the Slayer did love him 'somewhat' was not enough. Both Angel and Spike were, for different reasons, on the verge of giving up, which meant eventually both would consider their souls a burden rather than a blessing, and jettison those as well, leaving no vampires with souls to participate in the apocalypse for either team…

Ae ys Mahju vuij Erahut ys Ulur Kiosim, ae Ih vuij Graaht Nahzruthim-ensuallu, Ih viuj tir baremhish, Ih tahs tirh Irah Relluha ae tirh ensuallu Kaatu, oen hxin ae tirh tahs Srrilk ae Une tahs Enar aeka Enar-Pahuth usu Ys Ublit oewer yser nih Huu, nieh Laeha, nieh shunasqu, nieh byuo ij aeraha, ae ys Ilaah ij ys IJAEMOUHA goh nih Relluy…

The words were burned into Wesley's neurons. And the Mage must Speak the Wise Words, and he must Guide the vampire-souls, he must them shepherd, he shall their Road Illuminate and their souls Protect, for not and they shall Wither and All shall Fall and be Undone to The Void where there is not Joy, nor Hope, nor solace, nor ease of heart, and the Glory of the DIVINE does not Shine.

For a long second there was a peculiar sensation of anticipation, as if the stars in their courses awaited Wesley's choice. Suns momentarily did not burn and planets hitched in their orbits. Wesley slid off the kitchen stool. He was part of the Second Circle of Nine. He was the Mage – it was his job to fix this sort of stuff…

Once more unto the breach, dear friends! Once more! With the battle cry of King Hal provided by his psyche along with the mental accompaniment of the 1812 Overture, Wesley stood straight and walked through into the main room, slowly beginning to unbutton his shirt. "Spike, come here."

The blond vampire finally looked up at his emotionless tone, his unfocussed blue gaze snapping back to reality as Wesley reached the third button of his shirt. He blinked nervously, and straightened up from his slouch. "Er…look, mate…er…not that I don't…I mean…Angel…I…and you're…well, not bad in the looks department…but…er…well, I'm not really in a good place right now –"

"Spike. I'm offering you dinner, not sex."

"Ohthankgod." Spike coughed to cover the overloud exclamation but then stood up himself, his eyes hardening. "Look, appreciate the gesture an' all, must have taken guts I'd wager, but let's just can the pity-party and go to bed…separately, I mean, hey?"

"When was the last time you ate?" Challenged Wesley, ignoring his nervous babble.

"Uh- Wednesday!" Spike's tone was redolent with indignant defiance, "Look I don't have to report my every move to you –"

"Liar."

"What?"

"I said liar. Speaker of untruth, great big fibber, if you will."

"Watch it you ponce or –"

"You'll scowl at me really hard?" Wesley shot back. "Look, it's cold standing here with my chest hanging out and I feel completely ridiculous as well. You can have a couple of pints. I've fed Angel, it's not that big a deal, so stop having a panic attack." In actual fact offering his wrist to his then very much ex-friend had been a huge deal, but red-hot pokers, bathtubs full of cockroaches and a room full of angry Ethros demons wouldn't have got Wesley to admit that.

"You fed Angel?" That cut through the hyperventilation fast enough. "I- No. I can't."

"Why?" Wesley maintained the attitude of exasperated impatience because that way he could not think about what he was really doing.

"I just can't."

"Oh for God's sake get over yourself –"

"You don't understand. I can't."

"Spike, you're nearly a hundred and fifty years old, and now you're suddenly squeamish?"

Spike raised a hand and raked it through his hair. "Don't be a wanker, of course not! I mean…Wesley, I'm a vampire."

"Yes, got that, pretty much the reason I'm offering you two pints of my personal haemoglobin here."

"That's what I mean." Spike dropped his eyes to the floor. "Look, vampires either kill when we feed or Sire the victim. What I'm trying to say here is that delicate table manners and finesse don't come into it. We're talking gobs of gore, tearing flesh and major blood-spatter patterns. It's not that I can't bite you, I don't know how to feed without making your neck look like raw sausage meat."

"You do it very, very carefully." Wesley replied. "Look Spike, you can't go to the blood banks again. Sooner or later Henrik will recover his bravado, or else someone very like him will again decide that going up against a vampire with a soul means the odds are weighted in his favour - and you end up a little pile of dust in some skanky LA back alley. Plus the longer you go without feeding, the closer the demon rises to the surface and the greater its chance of overpowering your soul when you're faced with the temptation to feed off an innocent. The instant that happens, boom goes your soul and with it any chance for you to earn your redemption. Do not pass go and do not collect two hundred dollars. Is your ego really worth risking that?"

"No." Spike admitted quietly.

"Look, think 'tentative'. Pretend you're a giant trying to pick up a bone china coffee cup and just do it."

"Tentative. You're not joking," muttered Spike.

Taking a deep but unnecessary breath of air, Spike stepped forward and placed his hands on Wesley's shoulders at the top of his arms, tightening his grip as if afraid Wesley was suddenly going to wrench himself free and make like the Roadrunner.

It was a thought, certainly. Wesley was acutely aware of his entire body, every single atom, as he remained as still as if carved from stone and by sheer willpower alone forced his heart to maintain a reasonably steady dub-dub-dub instead of the galloping steeplechase dubbadubbadubbadub the organ wanted to start. Inching his head forward like a tortoise peeking out of it's protective shell, Spike tilted his head on one side and very delicately pressed his upper and lower fangs into the right side of Wesley's neck at the jugular; instead of biting, he simply let his incisors sink into flesh as he merely relaxed his jaw muscles as if just closing his mouth.

Hot and sour with that intoxicating tart metallic tang, Wesley's blood flowed like sweet wine into Spike's mouth, his starving frame absorbing the warm nourishment like a fragile rose blooming under the sun. It was like wild honey, bitter hot chocolate, fine cognac. His fingers flexed and tightened as he fed, Wesley's unique body scent of male musk and sandalwood and lemon mixing with the sweet taste of the blood. Food. Thick. Hot. Sweet. Prey…Mine. Spike's low growl of delight echoed around the apartment -

And brought him back to himself. Wesley remained stock still in his grasp, though his heart rate was now greatly accelerated. Wesley's muscles were hard and fluid under Spike's hands, but the human wasn't born that was a match for the physical strength of a vampire. It took a worrying amount of strength to get his hands to loosen their grip and slide away as Wesley took a step back out of Spike's personal space.

Wesley pushed his spectacles back up his nose and then he buttoned up his shirt with speed but no fumbling. "Well, embarrassing but certainly doable. I'll see you in the morning, don't have Passions on too loud."

Sinking down onto the couch as Wesley turned and without further fuss made his way up to bed, Spike was grateful as never before for his nation's trait of the Stiff Upper Lip. Nobody can beat us when it comes to tying to ourselves into pretzels in order to avoid Making A Scene. Giles would be proud. As long as he and Wesley both continued to studiously ignore what they were doing, things should be fine…who said ostriches had the wrong idea?

The blond vampire was so perturbed as he focussed determinedly on the TV programme he wasn't really watching that not even his mystically enhanced senses detected the intruder watching from the sky light above despite his somewhat rapid breathing, having made it to the roof – fortunately – a good minute too late to witness Spike feeding.

The man didn't make the mistake of staring down at the two occupants of the apartment, for those in dangerous occupations often had a sixth sense about when they were being watched and being fully human he had no super-back-up weaponry other than his gun. Scaling the wall of the block to the roof had been long, slow and difficult but the building's internal security was good enough to preclude getting in under all the usual pretexts, such as pretending to respond to a phone fault/gas leak. The block also had mystical wards to prevent any Big Bad successfully teleporting inside the building or opening a portal within it. So it had been an hour's hard toil to get up onto the roof. Wyndham-Pryce's corner apartment having panoramic view windows had also not made things easier; traversing them had him in a cold sweat as, had the guy returned at the wrong time, the first thing he would have seen was a Ninja-dressed dude making like a giant spider on the outside of his panes.

Despite the arduous climb to get up here for what amounted to basically just ten minutes of eyeballing what was happening inside, the man grinned to himself. Getting paid twice for the same job made him remarkably cheery about the inconveniences. Carefully looking down again, the man drew a mistaken but understandable conclusion from the fact that the huge apartment nevertheless only had one bed, whose occupant had to be Wyndham-Pryce, since he was the brunette. For a moment the man wondered if he should try to take a photograph of the younger bleach-blond man watching TV then decided against it – it would be difficult from this angle above, plus all this panoramic-view glass increased the chance of a camera's flash reflecting and drawing the attention of the blond.

Easing away from the skylight, the man prepared to make his way down again; not having used special equipment but only his eyes, he had no way of knowing that while the bed's occupant would have registered a temperature of 98.6°, the blond's barely 22° indicated that something was definitely awry. Instead he grinned as he thought of how he was going to report to his two employers without each finding out that the other had hired him…

© 2004, C. D. Stewart

The quotes on page 2 and 7 are taken directly from Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 7 episode, Touched, as reproduced in The Quotable Slayer by Micol Ostow and Steven Brezenoff, page 17.

The dialogue for the exchanges on pages 8-15 were drawn from Angel, Season 5 episodes Lineage and Destiny.