"Do you ever find that whole relationship a bit..." Cordelia searched for a word, staring off into space on her arrested thought, lips quirked open.
"Unsettling?" Wes filled in.
"Oh, profoundly. I mean, don't get me wrong. Vampires in love. It's sweet, in a sick-puppy, hearts-and-wilted-flowers kind of way."
"In love?" Wes paused and lifted his head from what he'd been reading. "You think they're in love?" He seemed to find the idea vaguely distasteful or intrusive, like a seed you can't tongue loose from your teeth.
Fred watched him consider this. "Why wouldn't they be in love?" she asked with a mix of puzzlement and defensiveness on behalf of the vampires. The other two looked at her, at each other, then back at her, something unspoken in their body language establishing her as the outsider she thought she'd grown out of being.
"Well, Spike and Angel," Wes began hesitantly, tilting his head just a skedge to convey his dubiousness. "They have a long and antagonistic history. I'm not sure that a few months of soul-sharing will change that." He frowned. "Or soul-baring, rather."
"They're not baring just their souls," Fred said, gaze lowering automatically to her own book. Old habit, back from when saying such things actually made her blush. She'd become so jaded though.
"What," Cordy said, "you think they weren't sharing their bareness back in the day? Because let me tell you--vamps? Total pervs."
"I know that." Fred was squeaky and miffed. As if she didn't know from vamps. Okay, maybe she hadn't been fighting them as long as Cordelia, but she'd earned her street cred. "But it's different now."
"Oh, I agree." Cordy raised a hand, and proclaimed allegiance with an expressive raise of brows. "I'm on your side. Lovey-dovey goopiness is *highly* in evidence as far as I'm concerned." She leaned forward confidingly. "The other day Angel asked me to look at *swatches*."
Fred wasn't sure she understood the word in this context. "Swatches?"
"And he wanted to know my thoughts on damask! He's never asked me that!"
"Do you...have thoughts on damask?"
"Of course!" Cordy gave her a look as if she was bone-crazy. "That's not the point. The man's gone so *completely* gay over Spike he's picking out new bedspreads and trying to color-match his walls."
Wes looked up again. "Didn't he do that before?"
Cordy huffed a sigh, then seemed to reconsider her comments. "Actually, you're right. God. He's always been gay."
"I'm not sure that such designations can be applied to vampires." Wes leaned back in his chair, thoughtful. "Though observation suggests they're inclined to maintain the attitudes and characteristics they held when turned, at least for a time. Angel of course is well past the fledgling stage, and over two hundred years of age--"
"There you go," Cordelia broke in easily, as if the matter had been settled. "He's old. He's probably having some kind of third-century vampire identity crisis."
"Does that mean he's coming out?" Fred asked, trying to wrap her mind around the thought.
Wes rolled his eyes in an exasperated, schoolmasterish way as if he wanted to give them both a little shake. "The point *I* was trying to make is that Angel was born in an age long before our own modern sexual labels came to have meaning. I doubt that he thinks of himself as 'gay.'"
"Well, I've never been a particularly happy guy," came a familiar voice from behind Fred. Her heart skittered into her throat and clung there like a tiny, embarrassed spider. "But I think we'd all agree that's for the best."
Wes seemed to be groping for a smooth segue away from the conversational topic, but all he came up with was, "Angel."
Hands in pockets, Angel strolled up to the table the way a mannequin might move if it could, his expression nearly as blank as one's. He looked a bit forbidding--he almost always looked forbidding--but his voice was calm, mild even. "Have we identified the demon yet?"
Head shakes around the table answered him.
"I'd hate for our research to interfere with a discussion of my sex life. Our client now--he's more demanding. But hey. Not like he's paying us, so to hell with him. Literally!" His faux good cheer faded almost at once, smile flattening as irritation finally surfaced. "Get me something to work with." He walked to the door, then turned on the threshold. "I never thought I'd say this--but you people really need to get laid."
They glanced at each other after he left, then reabsorbed themselves in their books with renewed dedication and careful silence.
Spike slouched in five minutes later from down the back stairs, jean-clad and shirtless, his upper body covered in a cross-hatch of scars from the previous night's slay, eyes slitted and tired. One was blacker than the other. He rubbed his head, limped to a stop, and peered at them.
"You're a well-whipped band of swots," he remarked.
"We've been rebuked," Wes said after it was clear no one else would speak. "We're not to gossip until we've identified Sharaf's attacker. Or, perhaps, ever." He managed to get across a dry irony while still sounding genuinely penitent.
Cordelia shrugged one shoulder. "And with us, no gossip...pretty much means no speaking."
"Yeahhhh." Spike worked at one of the slashes across his stomach with light, absent-minded fingers as he looked through the door toward the front offices. "And what's his highness doing?"
"Calling warehouses, I believe." Wes bent back over his book, dropped his voice to a murmur. "Or perhaps stripping paint off the walls with his tongue."
Spike wandered out of the kitchen one painful limp at a time and went in search of the big man himself. Angel was behind his desk and looked up, phone in hand, when Spike appeared in the doorway. His lips were compressed down to nothing and he was tapping his pencil on his blotter at a dizzying tempo that conveyed his utter pissed-off majesty. Spike kicked the door shut behind him, casually tweaked the blinds flat as he passed, and moved across the room. Angel showed no further signs of interest in him but slammed the phone down as Spike reached the desk.
"Why don't people answer their phones anymore?" he asked, like some frustrated pundit picking away at the state of civilization. "It's all answering machines and voice mail and those stupid menus where you're supposed to press one if you want two and two if you want three, and then they put you on hold for thirty minutes or, if you're lucky, route you into the pits of hell and disconnect you."
He threw the pencil across the room, suddenly and with such force that it lodged point-first in a globe of the world, half its length embedded in Greenland. Spike gazed at it, then cocked his head at Angel.
"Someone hasn't taken his daily dose," Spike said, in the same tone his mother used to reprimand him with when he hadn't eaten his carrots.
"Don't push me right now."
"How 'bout I give you a pull instead? That settle your temper?"
Angel glared up at him, anger snapping in his eyes. "My temper doesn't need settling, my temperature doesn't need lowering, and I don't need you yanking my chain--or anything else, Spike. If you're up now, go help the others. They need it. I don't."
"Yeah. Heard you got your rips in back there."
"This whole place is getting slack."
"Oh, sure it is." Spike's agreeable tone couldn't be faulted. "They've only been up, what--thirty-six hours? And that Gunn's not even bothered to drag himself out of bed yet. Loafer's only got a head wound. Whole lot of them ought to be doing handstands and flippin' over backwards when you bark."
"Are you here for some purpose other than annoying me?"
With an obvious grind of molars, Angel shut him out and went back to what he'd been doing. He found a new pencil, crossed a number off his list, and started dialing a new one. It didn't escape Spike's notice that as soon as Angel had the number dialed, he slouched in his chair, swiveled away from his desk, and spread his legs. His whole attitude projected concentration, impatience, and zero interest in his visitor.
"Well," Spike said, putting on a sigh of resignation. "Suppose I ought to make myself useful." He went down to his knees with no grace whatsoever, hiding a wince when he turned his ankle.
"What are you doing?" Angel said. It was Spike's turn to ignore him, and he managed to get Angel's belt and fly undone before a hand shoved into his hair and forced his head up. "I said: what are you doing?"
"My job," Spike drawled. "Or so I thought. You gonna let me get on with it, or are you planning to stew in your own juices like the dreary, tiresome plonker you are until your friends get up the collective nerve to off you?"
Angel stared at him for several seconds, then released his hair. His prick was thickening and ruddy and pointing at Spike's face. Spike smiled, rolled a few more words around his tongue and decided not to say them, then lowered his head and took the other vampire in his mouth. He heard the phone receiver clatter back into place.
In less than a minute, Angel was fisting his hair, dragging Spike's mouth onto his cock with a rough, urgent rhythm, forcing him all the way open. Skill wasn't needed; all Spike had to do was relax and let Angel bludgeon deep into his throat. He thought it'd be over soon, like this, but as the flesh reached its swell, Angel pulled out and lifted him up and turned him over the desk. Spike shoved the blotter off and everything on the desk went smashing, but Angel's handling was weirdly gentle until he got Spike's jeans down, and then he thrust in with no restraint, slick head hardly enough of a greeting to smooth entry for the rest of him.
Spike trembled and braced himself and bit back a cry that would have been humiliating because Angel would have known immediately how good it was for him. He was taking brutal command, pinning Spike's upper body into immobility with one hand in the middle of his back but forcing Spike's hips to roll and pump back to meet his needs.
"Keep your hands on the desk," he said when Spike began to move one.
"Give us a reach-around then."
It was wrong how much his thwarted prick stiffened at the order, stretching, the tip just coming to rest against the desk drawer and drawing slick hieroglyphs there on the wood. It was nearly enough friction and then Angel yanked him back an inch, leaving his own wood in thin air.
"Son of a *bitch*," Spike snarled, but his complaint turned into a groan when Angel's prick leapt in him, thrusting harder and deeper. It was so fucking good, so maddeningly fucking good. The scars on his chest itched and burned and he could feel Angel getting closer, galloping against him, rising to frenzy. His last half dozen thrusts were wild and terrible, splitting Spike in two, and Spike's vision faded at the edges and he sobbed and came a hair's breadth before Angel did.
Neither of them should have been breathing heavily, but muscles kept old habits and it was a long minute of mutual dissolution before Angel steadied and straightened and withdrew. "You're right," he said. "I needed that." The brisk lift of a zipper punctuated his thanks, if you could call it that. He sounded as sated as Spike felt. "Get off my desk."
"Give us a tick."
Angel's hands slid under him with a return of gentleness, startling Spike into a boneless surrender as he felt himself pulled back against the other man's body. One arm banded his chest, a big hand eased his jeans up, and then both arms wrapped around him. Lips touched his ear.
"I hate when you interrupt me," he murmured, but his voice was so soft that Spike melted and curved his head into those breathless words.
"I'll be sure to do it again then."