Disclaimer: Not mine. You know this.

A/N: Takes place after "After the Fall" but all you really need to know is that all of L.A. went to Hell. Literally.

Why is my Spangel always in past tense, when nothing else is? (No, seriously, if you can tell me, I'd really appreciate it.)


"Tell me," persisted Connor.

Spike shook his head and glowered, an expression that would often send children and adults alike rushing in the opposite direction, but the boy was nothing if not persistent.

"Dude, I already know, okay?" The teen trailed after the vampire. "It's 2003, and I already know, and it totally won't kill you or anything to just fill me in."

Angel had the astuteness of a blind, brain-dead brick. How the hell did he end up with a kid as perceptive as Connor?

Then again, it was entirely possible that his grandsire's massive forehead limited his vision and doomed him to a life free of insight.

Connor gave the long-suffering sigh of a teenager faced with the horrible possibility of momentary defeat. He clomped along after his… whatever Spike was to him—uncle, nephew, cousin, something and allowed the relative quiet between them to settle for the time being.

Spike strode on ahead, coat swirling around his legs and sword hanging lightly from his hand.

No one stopped him. His face, and Connor's, might not have been as readily recognisable as Angel's, or even Gunn's for that matter, but since LA's little staycation in Hell, most of the citizens were soothed by the presence of two weapon-wielding men wandering the streets in the wee hours of the morning.

Humans were strange that way.

They swing into Forest Lawn, hopping easily over the fence and landing lightly on the grass inside. Los Angeles may not have anything close to Sunnydale's human to vampire turnover, but cemeteries are still among the most popular go-to haunts among the demonic, undead, and generally otherworldly demographic.

As they headed deeper into the cemetery, Connor picked at the dying conversation once more, unwilling to let it slip away entirely.

"We're studying C.S. Lewis in class," he offered with the bare minimum of tact.

"Are you now?" Spike twirled his sword and did his best to look distracted, but Connor was the only thing in sight. Not even a gathering of vampire mooks to stab at.

"Just saying."

Spike shook his head and looked around some more as they walked.

All quiet.

No baby vampire clawing its way from its grave; no giant slimy beasts mingling; no cackling evil sorcerers converging under the half-moon, cooking up some evil plans of necromancy and grave robbing.

Spike growled at the silence the dark offered him. "Come on, people!" he hollered into the night. "Some of us need this!"

There was no response.

Connor tipped his head back, light brown hair slipping over his shoulders, and scented at the air, nostrils flaring and mouth just so slightly open.

Spike quirked his scarred eyebrow and waited.

Connor shook his head. "C'mon, dude. This place is dead. Permanently dead."

Spike disguised his sigh in a grumble. He needed that fight. Connor's questions were poking him right in the places they shouldn't and if they couldn't find something to hack and slice soon he was going to go mad. Or, worse yet, broody.

They started their trek towards the gate.

"Did you love him?" asked Connor.

" 'course I bleeding did." Spike scowled at him. "Dunno what kind of person you think I am."

"Well," said Connor, "Harmony."

It was a good argument and they both knew it.

Spike did not stifle the growl that rumbled from his throat. "Harmony was something else."

Connor shrugged and watched as Spike pounced to the top of the wall, then leaped up after him. He balanced there at the top for a moment, looking down at Spike and the street below, before landing on the pavement beside the bleached vampire.

"Do you love him? Now, I mean. Do you love him now?"

Spike sighed and leaned the back of his head against the wall. It seemed answer enough for Connor.

"How?"

Spike remained quiet, though he did give Connor a look that, under the veil of annoyance, contained the slightest touch of inquiry.

"Four types of love, man. Pick one."

Spike did not pick one, instead he drew away from the wall, straightened his shoulders, and headed off down the sidewalk, back in the direction of waiting red convertible with its clawed up trunk and 'Thanks for saving the city!' card stuck to corner of the windshield.

Connor followed behind. "You're in love with my dad," he said.

Spike did not argue.

A few feet from the car and Connor found himself finally unable to tamp down his final question. The big one.

"Does he love you?"

Spike stopped walking.

Slowly, he turned his head around and, without talking, Connor understood. And he saw there, in the deep blue of Spike's eyes, the most profound sadness. A sadness that seemed horribly, terribly contradictory to the loud, aggressive, and often overly-excited Spike he knew.

They stood there, in the dark of the early morning on the side of the street on Glendale Avenue and Connor understood. And he understood that the sadness did not come from the answer being 'no.'

That would be too simple.

The sadness was there because the answer was 'yes.' Because whatever love Angel felt towards Spike would never, could never, be the love that Spike felt towards Angel. Because the love Angel had for Spike was not special, not individual, not distinct. The love Angel felt for Spike was the same non-discriminatory love that Angel had for the distressed damsel of the week, for the population he kept safe, and for the little dog he rescued when it cowered before the approaching wheels of a car.

When Spike loved Angel, it was about Angel. It was about a person he cared for, it was about someone who had proved themselves worthy of his affection. It was about Angel being someone Spike wanted to be near. Someone he trusted, someone he cared for. When Spike loved Angel, it was for the things that Spike had seen in Angel, the qualities he found dear and the ones he did not but understood anyway.

When Angel loved Spike, it was also about Angel. It was about doing the right thing, as the hero. Heroes don't kick other heroes don't kick other heroes out on the street. It was about what was expected of him, of their relationship. It was about Angel being good and just. It was never about Spike.

Being unloved was an awful fate, but it brought with it a definitiveness that Angel's feelings for Spike lacked. By loving him in such a small way, such an insignificant way, Angel had doomed Spike to an existence just on the outside. Just that much out of reach of what he wanted.

Being unloved would, at least in its way, be unique. It would take effort. Angel had looked upon Spike and deemed him unworthy of the extra attention that not loving someone entailed.

Connor nodded with his understanding and lowered his head ever so. "Sorry, dude."

Spike shrugged because, really, the hat he donned was older than he. "Not your fault you got stuck with that entitled tosser for your father." He stayed still a moment longer to perform the dramatic lighting of a cigarette—Connor could literally see the transition from Humphrey Bogart to James Dean occurring in real time—then turned and headed on in the direction of the hotel.

"Um, yeah." Connor twisted at the grip on his axe as they walked and did not attempt to defend his father, which was somewhat of a lost cause, in as far as Spike was concerned. He also didn't ask what a 'tosser' was. "Just, you know, that sucks."

"Always someone thinks you're beneath them, kid." Unwilling to allow the sorrow to settle, Big Bad squared his shoulders and the swagger in his steps became more pronounced. Things like these wouldn't stop him. Wouldn't keep him down.

All bloody hail.