I'm not a jealous guy, Angel thinks. He's assessing himself the way a man would do in a mirror but without the mirror. Vampires get good at self-reflection when given enough time to practice, say a century or two. And he's not jealous. He knows what jealous feels like; jealous is when the girl you had once and can never have again starts seeing some overgrown wet-behind-the-ears Army pup who'd probably popped his cherry on the tailgate of a pickup during halftime and thought the Ring Cycle was a setting on his mother's rent-to-own Maytag, none of which matters because he has the one thing you don't. A pulse. This thing he's feeling now, however, looking across the Hyperion lobby, is not jealousy, because for one, Spike isn't the love of his life, and for another, slaves are passé.
Wes rests his arms on his knees and leans forward, listening intently to the client, a suck-junkie who'd gotten into the habit too deep and wanted temptation, by way of a blood-bar, cleared out of his neighborhood. Spike hangs off to the side several paces behind the couch where Wes sits. He's standing with his hands deep in his pockets, all bones and blond, slouching and still as a coat on a coat-rack. The client keeps shooting nervous looks his way, as if expecting him to manifest some kind of kindred solidarity and retaliation over the plan to roust the vamps. Eventually Wes takes note, directs a slight movement of his head back at him.
It's enough to bring Spike to heel, a flow around the couch and a smooth fold to the floor by Wes's knee. He leans back, a drape of dark linens against couch leather. He could be a model from one of Cordy's magazines. Stylish trash selling cologne. The loose shirt and trousers have obviously been picked out by Wes, since if given rein Spike dresses like a cross between a Santa Monica strip hustler and punk's oldest poster boy. Wes has taste, though.
Angel glances down at his own shirt, wonders if he needs to punch up his wardrobe, glances up again and wishes for the hundredth time Spike would put on some shoes. It's not professional. Then again that's the least of the younger vampire's problems.
"Is he," the client begins uncertainly. "How do you--"
"Please continue," Wes says, cutting him off. "You said the proprietor lives above the club?"
Spike inspects his fingernails and leans his blond-white head against Wes's knee, a pose of boredom and complete, unthinking affection.
So maybe Angel's a little jealous.
A hundred years ago he could make Spike heel. But never so easily, no matter how long and hard he trained him. He tells himself he doesn't care and that comparisons are pointless; he'd had a very different relationship with Spike. Angelus had liked the challenge, the resistance, the way Spike laughed and mocked, snarled and fought, the way he'd try to buck his grandsire off his backside, as if punishment were something he hated instead of something he courted.
Now Spike is all soul. Wes has the softer side of him, the quieter. The crazier, if you dismiss the relative insanity of vampires in general. But the quietness is the most different. He's quiet as a church mouse most days, on the days he's not banging his head against walls and kicking apart the furniture. Sometimes the quiet mouse act makes Angel want to stalk him, see which way he'll run, if he'll run. And sometimes he watches Spike, thinking those thoughts. He gets lost in muscle memory. Once or twice Spike has looked back over his shoulder and caught him at it.
He catches him at it now from across the lobby, tilts his head and smiles knowingly while Angel blinks back to life with what he hopes is an utter lack of expression.
Angel doesn't intend to get caught staring at Wes's property. It's not polite. He turns and goes into his office and concentrates on doing his job, whatever it is. Something about illegal chitin harvesting. I am a champion, he reminds himself, then wonders if there's any otter blood left in the fridge.
A few minutes later he comes back around the corner with a mug of blood raised to his lips and almost bumps into Spike leaning against the corridor wall with his shirt half unbuttoned, thighs apart. He's worrying his fingers across the skin of his throat just under his collar, pushing the links up and playing with them. His other hand is shoehorned into the top of his trousers, fingers hidden, palm flat against the lowest part of his belly. Not even moving, just teasing himself.
Angel stops, a sheaf of papers in one hand, mug in the other. Spike turns his head where it rests against the wall and stares heavy-liddedly at him.
"Something I can do for you?" Angel says.
The old Spike would have come back in a flash with a drawl of smarmy innuendo, arrowing in for whatever relevant weakness of Angel's he'd catalogued over the years. But this Spike smiles a little and says: "I've been told to wait here." It's not a mocking smile; it's kind of nice, actually, and Angel adjusts to the sudden display of fondness and--mild commiseration, maybe?--liking it even though he has no idea what's prompted it. Mercurial boy, Spike.
"Oh," he says and continues to pause, wondering if he should take this opportunity to make conversation. On any given day he see-saws between the impulses of the total bastard he once was and the decent guy he tries to be. "The client's gone?"
"To get a deposit."
Deposits make Angel happy, and he feels a momentary uplift of spirits, as if the world has brightened a few watts. "Good. Did Wes go with him?"
Spike shakes his head a titch, and his voice hits a lower note. "Master wants lunch."
"I thought he already--oh." It's an awkward moment, or could have been between two other people, but they're vampires and really quite jaded, so there's actually a strange camaraderie to it. They're both going about their respective jobs, passing in the hall the way people do.
A few weeks ago Angel had seen them at it as he was going downstairs to hit the tunnels; he'd walked by a supply closet door, not completely closed, and seen Wes leaning against the shelves with his legs braced apart, jeans unzipped with belt ends hanging loose. He'd had his head thrown back, eyes closed and face wrenched in an ecstasy Angel recognized from personal experience, while Spike knelt in front of him, sucking him to the root. Spike's jeans hadn't been undone. Angel doesn't need the full details of their private lives to know that Spike doesn't get to come every time, doesn't come until he's told to. Master-slave arrangements are like that.
Angel thinks of that scene now, and thinks with almost painful nostalgia of the good old days, and knows at that moment there is no way he is making it through *this* day without getting laid. Someone sleazy and unwashed, someone who would in no way give him happiness. A whore, possibly one with a wig. That's the ticket.
"Angel," Wes says, joining them in the hall with as little warning as a vampire. He looks composed, relaxed, and vaguely threatening. It's a familiar air about him, one Angel appreciates most of the time, useful for intimidating clients, targets, and Wolfram & Hart lawyers; an air he doesn't feel entirely comfortable about when they're alone as they are now.
He's not comfortable but he's resigned; it's the exercise of territoriality. Wes smiles and then looks at Spike, puts his hand on the back of the vampire's neck and eases him off the wall. "You ready?" he asks in a voice so intimate it nearly makes Angel flinch.
He wonders about the exact meaning of the question, the twist of Spike's hips in answer.
The two of them disappear up the stairs.