by Raksha



“Shut up, Spike.”


Gunn threw the contemptuous words out automatically as he walked past, the way people do with phrases that have become part of the routine: “Honey, I’m home” or “Have a nice day”  or “Good dog!”  or  "Thank you for shopping K-Mart."


Or  “Shut up, Spike.” 


Spike—who had learned his dreary part of this particular routine about the time Gunn’s great-great-grandparents were courting—played out his role with the ease of long practice, whirling and stalking away in an elegant display of smirk and rolling eyes, swirling leather and graceful gait, a song and dance designed to distract, to lure the predator away.


As though his heart—his sodding soft heart (which had always been as much of a curse as Peaches’ famous soul, thank you very much, only he didn’t go on about it, did he?)—was a bloody nest of helpless baby birds on the ground.


After two deaths and three or four broken hearts, a bloke learned that self-awareness was a dangerous habit, but it was one of many bad habits he couldn’t break, and the soul just made it that much worse.  Add in the bad poet’s tendency to analogy, and here he was, comparing his heart to bloody baby birds in a world of big lumbering feet….


Disgusted, the vampire sank effortlessly into self-loathing (Oh, you’re a bird, alright, you great soddin’ fairy,) growling so suddenly that one of the firm’s famously unflappable secretaries squealed and dropped her coffee right there in the corridor.


Now in a snit and looking to share the gift, Spike pivoted on his heel and changed course, heading for the one place where he knew he’d always be as welcome as a temperance worker at an Irish wake.


Outside Angel’s office door, Harmony, Fred and Wesley huddled in a little knot, whispering.  Fred was the first to see Spike approaching.


“S-s-spike, he’s got someone in there with him….”  She tried to stop him.


So where in the hell was his famous perception then?  He’d find himself wondering about it later.  So maybe the scent in the air was so vivid in his memory, so much a part of his grieving and longing, that his subconscious hadn’t even bothered sending it up through channels.  Even so, you’d think that the sight of those three with their heads together like a knot of old gossips would have given him a clue…


…but no, he flings open the door and barrels into the Pouf’s piss-elegant office just like he does at least twice a day, on a mission to indulge in the one comfort left to him.  It was almost too easy these days, getting a rise out of the old bog-trotter.  And, it was the least he could do, considering that, just like always, Angel was getting to play big shot for the admiring sheep while he, Spike, was yet AGAIN stuck in the role of the despised comic-relief-providing second banana and if that wasn’t injustice he’d….


Oh. Bloody. Hell.  Perception, when it returned, hit like a ton of bricks and Spike froze just inside the office door. 


The atmosphere inside the room was tense, almost electrified, and Spike heard Angel choosing his words carefully—“We’re not exactly sure how it happened, or why…”—before he broke off to scowl at the intruder.


Said intruder stood mute for once, staring.


The visitor’s chair was angled slightly away from Angel’s desk; from the door, Spike could glimpse the left profile.  But when the chair’s occupant stood and turned, it was to the right, a full 180 and then some, the habitual movement of someone who saw things a little differently.  Goodbye, peripheral vision; it’s been grand.


Face to face, and Spike standing there like a great git and couldn’t come up with a single word to say while the other’s expression went from shock and to what, directed at anyone but him, Spike would have sworn was gratitude, or maybe even....joy. 


Then that mile-wide grin was flashing, and Spike was being enfolded into a rough bear-hug that would have passed for manly man-to-man if the hands attached to those beefy arms weren’t touching him like he was something fragile and precious.  And if no-one were whispering tearfully, again and again, “You’re alive! I can’t believe you’re really alive!” into a bloke’s hair.


It wasn't just the shock of unexpected meeting, either.  It was more the reaction, as though the world was suddenly being directed by his, Spikes' dreams, instead of actual events. Made no sense, but, not complaining.  Not one bloody peep out of him, if the world wanted to jump its track. Might not last though, best enjoy it; so, still speechless, Spike closed his eyes and pressed his face into the sweat-damp neck, for all the world like he had the right, breathing in the sweet scent of a vulnerable boy turned into a confident man.  Then, trembling and moving like the old, old sod he sometimes remembered he was, Spike slowly lifted his arms and returned the embrace, holding tight, twisting cold hands in sun-warm cotton shirt.


“Dammit, Spike!”  Angel was predictably peeved at having lost control of the situation, especially since Wesley, Fred and Harmony were observing with avid fascination through the open office door.  “When are you going to learn that….”


At the sound of Angel's voice, Xander pulled reluctantly away from Spike, but kept his gaze fixed on the younger vampire's face, and Spike saw in that one beautiful eye that he wasn't the only one that made wishes.  Spike smiled, a real smile, like sun coming out, and when Xander spoke, he sounded dazzled, almost dreamy.


“Shut up, Angel.”





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