Angel quietly emerged from the shower, drying his hair with a towel. He stopped, looking over to the bed. All he could see of Spike was his hair and part of his back, the rest turned away and thoroughly hunkered down into the sheets. Angel already knew that Spike wouldn't come to the office until at least noontime, and nothing short of dragging him out of bed for a blood and bourbon would wake him up sooner.
"What do I tell him?" Angel muttered to himself in the elevator. "Oh, hey, last night was a big mistake?" he spat out, rolling his eyes at himself. The elevator stopped. He stepped into his office, just managing to shut the door before Harmony could assail him.
I shouldn't have even touched him, Angel thought to himself. Every night since day one was a mistake. No matter how drunk he had been the first time, or every time. He knew from the start that it would probably lead to something more than just exchanging punches and orgasms. He didn't expect that Spike would just kiss him goodnight, and everything would be ruined.
Just a kiss.
He couldn't sleep.
Had that really happened? Angel agonized over whether it did, and what it would mean. If it hadn't, would it anyway? Was he supposed to avoid it? Shove Spike away, never let him close again? That would certainly put a permanent end to their relationship. Spike was an emotional creature, and this would ruin him. Angel put his fingers to his lips for the thousandth time, trying to remember exactly what he'd felt when Spike kissed him. He could never quite remember, but he knew he had felt it.
Fuck. What now?
Angel wasted the hours pretending to shuffle through paperwork, or signing a few forms that were brought in. He made sure he was alone near lunch, and Spike came downstairs finally, fully clothed. The blonde plopped into a chair, as if he hadn't just spent the whole morning sleeping in. His hair was still messy from bed.
It was lucky that they never touched outside of the penthouse. What would Angel even do if they did? Try to keep Spike away? The damage had already been done.
"I hate your bloody brooding," Spike interrupted. He gave Angel a sort of seething glare, one that came more from the joy of a hangover than of actual hatred. "You're more pleasant when you're smashed." There was a pause, a sort of flicker of a smile. Spike was reminiscing. Fondly. Fuck.
Tonight. Angel would find a way to tell him tonight. Figure out what it meant. What the hell they were going to do about it.
"Boss?" Harmony interrupted, peering hesitantly around the door. "Fred like, really wants you to come down to the lab. No clue why but it's super important or whatever. Are you going?"
"What is this?" Angel questioned, staring at the green rock sitting in the middle of the vacated laboratory. He, Spike, Fred, and Wesley stood behind protective glass, the strange crystalline rock on the other side.
"That's the million dollar question," Fred said, writing on a clip board. She was wearing part of some sort of hazmat suit, as was Wesley.
"Looks radioactive," Spike said, internally wondering if vampires would die from radiation.
"Hence the suits," Fred said. "It does have elevated levels of radiation."
Angel looked concerned. "How elevated?"
"Well you could handle it without your skin melting off," Fred said, "but if you held it in your hands for about ten years you'd probably get cancer."
"Why's it lit up like a glow worm, then?" Spike asked.
"Analysis shows that it's close to mystical," Wesley said.
"It's like some element science has never seen before," Fred added. "And frankly, one that shouldn't possibly exist in this universe."
"So it's equal parts magic and cancer," Angel concluded. He didn't need to hear anything more to know it was bad news. "Box it up, whatever, and get rid of it."
"I'm not discussing this. I don't like it. Do whatever it takes to destroy it, or seal it off forever."
"But..." Fred trailed off, unable to bring about their other dillemna before Angel left the area.
Like an angry puff of smoke, Spike thought. That was the sure sign that what had been too good to be true had finally collapsed back into reality. Quite a lot like St. Petersburg, but this one lasted twice as long. Last night brought it to a halt, he suspected. It was pure Angelus logic. Sex was understandable. But just spending the night in the same bed? The poof was probably caught up in a full-blown identity crisis.
Fred sighed. "What now?"
"We'll retrieve what we can and do as he says," Wesley answered, grim.
"Retrieve?" Spike cut in. "As in there's more of these glowy rocks?"
Wesley snorted slightly at Spike's terminology. "Glowy rocks, yes. This is only onesample, as we would have told Angel. It was discovered underneath an abandoned bridge. We had to put a team on the location to secure it."
"Sounds serious. I guess a bunch of cancer rocks is a big deal," Spike shrugged.
"That's just a side effect," Fred said. "It's not even important, really - that probably sounds bad to say, I know, but I wouldn't have even started talking about it if you hadn't brought up radioactivity. What's bad is that the rocks cause temporal erosion."
"Or in other words, they are eating away at the fabric between our world and another," Wesley said. "Our instruments show that this rock is starting to eat through here, but very slowly."
"You'd have cancer by the time you could see through to the other side," Fred explained.
"But the place where this sample was recovered... well, you can certainly see through," Wesley said.
Spike frowned slightly, intrigued. "And what's on the other side?"
"Hard to say," Fred shrugged. "Electronics get scrambled. The only man who went through was too disoriented to continue. But from the looks of things, it's similar to our world. Certainly not a hell dimension, thank goodness. We'll have to figure out how to remove the rocks, if that's even possible."
"Alright, I'll do it," Spike said.
"Um..." Fred frowned. "Do it?"
"You know. Explore the other side. I'll be your Neil Armstrong. That's what you were going to ask Angel to do."
"Okay, maybe we were, but Angel already said it's too dangerous. I think he's right."
"Pish. It'll be fun. Err, I mean, for the sake of science and all that. Come on, I'm bored to death doing nothing but running to Angel's... stupid reconnaissance missions. Well, this calls for reconnaissance more than anything. Something is melting through the universe. Sounds like the world is in danger. That's sort of my thing these days."
"You have a point," Fred said, turning to Wesley for advice.
The man shrugged. "Angel did brush it off too lightly."
"But listen to me," Fred said while she scribbled directions onto a piece of paper for Spike. "The other side is slightly out of sync with ours. From observation, I'd say their day is four hours ahead of ours. And four hours is the difference between a lovely starry night walk and a fiery sunrise of death. Got it?"
"I'd take notes, but you've got them for me," Spike said, snatching up the paper and scanning it briefly. "I'll head out early tonight, yeah? Don't wait up for me. Though, if it's boring I'll be back straightaway."
"May your adventure be full of excitement, Spike," Wesley said in a dry tone.
"Wes," Fred admonished. She turned back to Spike. "Be careful."
"Safe as houses," Spike promised.