Angel was on the roof, gazing out over the tableau of L.A. at midnight. His ‘kingdom’. The bright lights and harsh corners. A city that reeked of pain. Of loss, and gain, of love and hatred. A city that was his, no matter how often he actually wished it wasn’t. But after the bringing down of Iliria, Angel had begun to consider where his real focus should be.
They were in the middle of an apocalypse, for God’s sake. And he was worried about… what? Now that Gunn had been rescued, no matter how unconventional the means were, his focus tended to be on…. Well, not on what it should be, as far as he was concerned.
He found himself thinking about Spike, a lot more than it should’ve been. It was unhealthy. Really. And seriously disturbing. But… God. He’d come close to losing the younger vampire. He’d taken a stake to save Spike’s life. A stake that, had he been about three inches shorter, would’ve taken HIS life instead. And he mentally poked himself, repeatedly, trying to figure out why he’d been willing to take that risk for Spike. Because he knew. He had KNOWN that pushing Spike away at that moment possibly meant the stake would hit him, instead. And he’d taken that risk.
And it had actually hurt more than the bullets he’d taken when they tried to rescue Lindsey. Wood starts a reaction in vampires… A very painful reaction. Even if it doesn’t HIT the heart. The wound was still throbbing, and refusing to close. The bandage that was over the spot on his belly was slowly getting soaked with his blood again. It was rather like vampire diabetes, in a way. Wounds made with wood are extremely slow to close, and painful for weeks afterwards. And, on top of that, they can cause serious weakening in the vampire’s general constitution, along with a reluctance to eat. Angel knew all of that.
And he had still taken the stake for Spike.
So now, as he stared blankly out over the L.A. night, he was contemplating why, exactly, he’d done that.
It was one thing if he’d taken a bullet, or a sword, or any other weapon for Gunn, Lorne, or Wesley. That he could explain. They were all that he had left of his little family, and if he could stop it, there was no WAY he was letting another of them die. Not if he could possibly save them. Even if it meant giving his own life in the process.
But he’d never really felt that way about Spike. Had he?
At least, not until very recently. And that’s what the older vampire was considering, as he gazed blankly out over the city, so lost in his own thoughts that he didn’t even hear the stairwell door open.
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Spike licked his lips, gently closing the door so that he wouldn’t disturb the older vampire’s musing. Angel hadn’t been in his office, and his scent had slowly but surely lead Spike up to the roof. Why he’d had this sudden urge to find his Sire, he didn’t really know. But since receiving his soul, he was more inclined to follow these soft, emotional urgings. Even when they meant saying ‘thank you’ to Angel.
He knew Angel had to be in severe pain from that wood-induced wound. A wound he’d received saving his Childe’s life. Something Spike hadn’t even thanked him for, when it happened. Of course, there were other things to consider. There’d been a homicidal Old One bent on killing all of them to save herself, most notably. But now… Now there was nothing standing between him and his Sire. Literally. Just a blank, empty rooftop.
God, it was cold up there, too. Spike pulled his jacket tighter around himself, and wrapped his arms around his chest to hold it in place. The gesture of holding onto himself had become something like a second nature ever since he found himself in the Wolfram & Hart offices after being spit out of the amulet. He did it when he was nervous, or unsure.
But he wasn’t scared of Angel… Of course he wasn’t. He’d already proven during that ‘Cup of Eternal Torment’ debacle that he could beat his Sire in a one-on-one fight. So what was there to be afraid of? Nothing, he thought to himself. Nothing, that is, except the emotional pain that would come if Angel rejected his thanks. Or waved him off with a ‘don’t mention it’, or something of the sort. That would hurt. Angel had to know how hard it would be for Spike to come to him like this. And he had to be aware of how much he meant to Spike, if Spike would DO this. Right?
But how could he be aware of it, if Spike himself wasn’t even sure how much the older vampire meant to him? He knew he cared about Angel. His internal worry over his Sire’s stake wound was enough to prove that to him, even if he hadn’t wanted to see it before. But what confused him was just how strong the feelings were.
He was getting used to Angel. Used to being a ‘part of the team’, so to speak. It was a nice sentiment, to feel needed. But he knew full well that Angel was giving him the grunt assignments. Babysitting Iliria… Or, rather, acting as a punching bag for the pissed off Old One who considered him her pet. Yeah, he was learning, and the training was actually good for him. It would make him a far more formidable opponent the next time a real fight with something of similar strength showed up. But when it came down to it, it was just a candy assignment. Angel didn’t have anything better for him to do, or didn’t trust him with anything else, so he gave him an assignment that was sure to keep him busy for weeks.
But then again, Angel was the one who had come to him the day before and pulled him out of a session with Iliria. And there had been worry in his Sire’s tone when the older vampire had asked him to stop. Of course, that worry could’ve just been wishful thinking on Spike’s part. Angel had never seemed worried about him before. In fact, he seemed to go out of his way TO put Spike in positions where he was likely to get hurt. And yet, when his life had been at stake… literally, Angel had taken that stake for him. Which brought the younger vampire back to the reason that he was on the rooftop in the first place.
Swallowing, he slowly moved toward where his Sire was leaning against the railing surrounding the edge of the roof. He opened his mouth to say something, then stopped when Angel winced suddenly and wrapped his arm around his stomach, pressing against the bandage. The wound was hurting Angel again. And bad, this time. “Angel?”
Angel winced and growled at the pain in his stomach, then blinked when he heard his name. The voice was so quiet and soft that he didn’t even recognize it as Spike at first. He turned to look at his Childe, then blinked slowly at him. “What do you want, Spike?” The question came out harsher than he’d intended, the tone of his voice influenced by the pain he was in. And he felt his face soften a bit when Spike actually winced imperceptibly at the tone in his Sire’s voice. “Is everything okay?”, Angel asked, softer this time, trying again.
Spike swallowed, but seemed frozen in his tracks now, his arms still wrapped tightly around his chest. Angel was in a bad mood. And it wasn’t really surprising. After all, the older vampire was in a lot of pain. “I just wanted to… to thank-” Spike was cut off, though, when Angel suddenly doubled over in pain. Without thinking, Spike was at his side, gripping his Sire’s arm and steadying Angel so the pain coursing through him wouldn’t knock him off his feet. “Whoa, mate… Careful. You shouldn’t be up here, Peaches. You need to rest so that’ll be getting better.”
Angel felt like growling, but didn’t. He couldn’t exactly wave Spike away in his condition, so he just nodded, muttering under his breath. “Help me get down to my suite?” He didn’t like asking his Childe for help. It showed weakness that the younger vampire could very well exploit later. But he needed the help, now, and Spike was the only one on the roof.
Spike, for his part, just nodded and let Angel loop an arm around his shoulders so he could better support his Sire. Together, they headed back to the stairwell, and Spike helped Angel down the first two sets of stairs before they could get to an elevator. Once in the elevator, Spike refused to even let Angel press the button for his suite, the younger vampire doing it instead. Spike could smell Angel’s blood, and was almost able to see it start soaking through the bandage and into his shirt. Angel needed his help. And Spike wasn’t about to let him get away with dressing the wound himself this time.
Angel leaned on Spike a bit more as they got down to the suite, and Spike lead him into his bedroom, helping him sit on the bed. But he swatted Spike’s hands away when the younger vampire tried to unbutton his shirt. “I can do that myself, you know.”
Spike raised an eyebrow, but shrugged, letting the topic drop as he turned to head into Angel’s kitchen. Some habits never change, and he knew that he would find his Sire’s vampire-tailored first aid kit somewhere around the kitchen sink.
Angel sighed and watched his Childe retreat into the kitchen. He didn’t mean to snap at him like that, but he was NOT an invalid. He was hurt… But he was far from unable to get his own shirt off. Or, at least, he thought he was. As he got the buttons undone and started trying to shrug the shirt off, he found that any rotation of his shoulders beyond a certain spot caused excruciating pain to shoot through the wound in his belly. He growled, then pushed through the pain and forced the shirt from his shoulders… And winced, badly, when he felt something gush under the bandage in response to the motion. Looking down, he sighed, and touched gingerly at the once white bandage, that was now soaked through with blood… and something yellow/green as well. Perfect. The wound was infected. That would make it take twice as long to heal. Though it did explain why the pain was more than the usual searing ache that accompanied a healing wood-induced wound. He blinked up from considering the wound when he heard his microwave beep.
Spike came out of the kitchen a moment later, with a mug of blood in one hand, and the first aid kit he’d known he’d find in there in the other. Wordlessly, he offered the mug to Angel, who took it, but didn’t drink right away. Spike raised an eyebrow at his Sire, then pointedly touched the mug with one finger. The unspoken message was rather clear. ‘Eat, you stupid ponce.’ But Angel wasn’t exactly in the mood to take orders from Spike. Especially since his stomach was churning painfully, and he was certain that, if he ate, he’d just throw up later.
Sighing, Spike crouched in front of Angel and started removing the old bandage, as gently as possible. Angel blinked down at his Childe, since it was rare that Spike would be quiet for this long… Or at all, for that matter. But the younger vampire showed no signs of speaking as he tended to his Sire’s wound. Once he’d gotten the old bandage off, Spike made a face at the wound… Which was understandable, as an infected, wood-induced wound on a vampire was NOT a pretty sight. But the younger vampire didn’t hesitate. Instead, he quickly opened the first aid kit, and removed a small jar of purple goo. The substance was a rather rare salve meant to draw out infections in wounds like this… And this was one of the reasons that Spike knew he needed Angel’s special first aid kit. None of the ‘standard’ first aid kits in the building would have the salve he needed. But Angel always had some on hand, and Spike knew it.
Holding the tip of his tongue between his front teeth in concentration, Spike began carefully covering the edges of the wound with the purple goo, coating all the sensitive nerve endings that had been severed by the wood’s unwelcome intrusion into Angel’s body. He placed his free hand on Angel’s knee soothingly, because he knew from personal experience that this first step caused a very strange combination of itching, burning, and irresistible tickling that could be quite maddening if one wasn’t prepared for it. But Angel’s back was rigid, and his teeth were clenched against the sensations that assaulted the nerve endings of his sensitive stomach. He’d known it was coming, too. The salve was designed to go through every sensation the nerves could feel, find the one that was the most soothing, and start projecting that. But in the process of finding the pleasant one, it would always go through a bunch of unpleasant ones first. Though the ultimate outcome was that the wound would feel nice during the rest of the treatment, the salve masking most pain while the rest of the wound was tended to, it was a quite annoying, and mostly painful way to get there.
Though it wasn’t ALL painful. Angel happened to have a quite ticklish stomach, especially when touched right. It was something only about four people in history actually knew about. Buffy, who’d discovered it quite by accident one night, then proceeded to have a lot of fun with him for awhile. Cordy, who’d actually read something about vampires tending to be ticklish once and had decided to attack Angel to test if it was true. She’d also teased him for quite some time afterwards, saying that now she KNEW how to make him laugh, so he’d better smile more, or she was going to do it again. Darla, who’d used it as a means of persuasion on more than one occasion, as Angelus shared the same body, and therefore the same sensitivities… He’d been ‘convinced’ to do several things that he NEVER would’ve wanted to do on his own through that particular means of torture… And Spike, who’d walked in one of those times Darla had been ‘convincing’ him to do something. Wisely, the younger vampire had never mentioned it, but Angel knew that he knew. And that was why, when he started choking quietly to hold in the snickering that was threatening him as the salve did it’s work, Spike just gave him a sympathetic smile and kept working on the wound.
Internally, though, Spike chuckled to himself, with the relaxation of one who’s insanely glad that this isn’t happening to him. The last time HE had used the salve, the wound had been right in-between two of his ribs. And he hadn’t been able to contain himself when the salve got to this point in it’s ‘testing’. Angel was actually doing amazingly well, just the corners of his lips twitching and quite choked sounds getting past him. Spike had needed to be held DOWN by both Dru and Darla when they’d done this to him, as he’d been shaking with laughter and very close to undermining their efforts to help him by rolling over ONTO the wound in a reflex to try and stop the maddening sensations.
Carefully, while Angel was distracted by the salve’s tickling touch, Spike started packing some packed special herbs… another thing that wasn’t exactly ‘standard’ in a first aid kit… into the wound to absorb and flush out the infection. He felt Angel’s body relax as the salve finally settled on something the older vampire found soothing. He was a bit curious as to what the sensation might be, as, when it had been him, the salve had found that a sensation of light scratching… Very, VERY close to the feeling of being tickled, actually, was soothing to Spike when applied to his ribs in that certain spot. It made Spike wonder what Angel was feeling now, though, even as he continued putting the herbs in, then carefully scooping them out when they became saturated with blood and puss from the infection.
Angel, for his part, now had his eyes closed, oblivious to the fact that Spike was working him like a stuffed turkey. The sensation that the salve had decided to use was a personal favorite, and something he hadn’t felt in a LONG time. The feeling of a gentle hand rubbing soft circles on his stomach. A tummy rub. Buffy had done that for him a few times, and so had Cordelia, once she’d discovered how relaxing it was to Angel. In fact, both of them had actually put him to sleep more than once with that particular sensation. He couldn’t help the soft purr that began to rumble in his chest after a few moments, and he didn’t have his eyes open to see the odd look that Spike gave him.
Spike cocked his head and raised an eyebrow at his apparently half-dozing Sire, then chuckled quietly. Whatever the salve was doing, Angel obviously liked it. That was a pleasure purr. Something he hadn’t heard from Angel in a LONG time. And it was a nice sound. Spike smiled to himself as he pulled the latest herb pack back out of the wound… and found that all that was on it was blood. The infection was finally gone. Maybe NOW the irritated wound would heal a little faster. The younger vampire reached into the first aid kit again, and pulled out some gauze packing, that he soaked in a warm, clear liquid, meant to soothe the irritation that the wood had caused in the wound, then carefully pushed it inside the wound. He’d have to be careful and unwrap the wound again before it completely sealed the gauze inside, but it would help the internal injuries to heal better and faster once it was taken out. And the best time to do that would be the next day, after the wound… and the wounded vampire… had rested for at least six to eight hours.
Once he had the wound packed with the gauze, he carefully smoothed a bit more of the salve around the wound edges, as the old application was beginning to wear off with exposure to blood and air. The new salve would automatically set itself to the same sensation the previous salve had, so it wouldn’t have to go through the process of finding that soothing sensation again. And, with a bandage over it, the feelings would last until the bandage was removed the next time. Spike grinned a bit as he heard Angel’s purr get louder when the tummy rub sensation got stronger again. Once the bandage was in place, Spike began carefully putting the first aid kit away, while gathering up the bloody herb packets and sealing them in one of the airtight bags that was in the kit for just such an occasion. Once he’d cleaned up, he put the first aid kit next to the bed, and carried the trash into the kitchen to throw away, before returning to stand in front of his Sire. Angel was still holding the mug of blood that Spike had given him, but he had yet to take a sip… and his eyes were still closed.
Spike sighed, then cleared his throat loudly to get Angel’s attention. “You need to eat, mate,” he almost whispered when his Sire’s eyes focused on him. At Angel’s confused look, Spike motioned to the mug in his hands. “Food. There. Remember?”
Angel blinked, then nodded and raised the mug, deciding for the moment that listening to Spike would be a good thing… No one else ever had to know about it, and he was feeling too good from the constant tummy rub sensations to argue with his Childe. He downed the mug within a few seconds, then surprised himself by yawning hugely.
Spike laughed softly, and took the empty mug, placing it carefully on the bedside table, then wordlessly helped his Sire slide up the bed and relax against the pillows. Stretching absently himself, the younger vampire then went over and dragged a comfy looking chair over to the bedside, which he flopped into and curled up comfortably. He smiled to himself when Angel just glanced at him, then relaxed and closed his eyes again, giving himself over to the sensations that were still emanating from the salve under the bandage on his stomach. Spike smiled at the realization that he wasn’t being thrown out… Possibly because Angel knew that he would need Spike to re-bandage the wound in the morning… But Spike liked to think it was more because Angel was starting to like his company.
Yawning quietly, Spike snuggled down into the chair, purring contentedly to himself. Angel really did have some VERY nice things in his suite… And Spike felt as if the chair was the most comfortable bed he’d had in months. Stretching, he tugged an extra pillow from next to his Sire, and pulled it over to his chair, curling around it and burrowing against it comfortably, using his jacket as a blanket. Angel opened one eye to regard his dozing Childe, and smiled a bit, then licked his lips.
“Spike?”, he whispered, not wanting to wake the younger vampire up if he’d just dozed off.
“Mm?”, Spike responded sleepily, and blinked at Angel with one blue eye. “Yeah?”
“Thank you,” Angel said quietly, offering his Childe a small smile. He didn’t have to specify what for… They both knew it was for more than just help taking care of an annoying wound.
Spike nodded, and returned his Sire’s small smile. “Let’s just call it even, mate.”
The two vampires regarded each other for a few more moments, before their comfortable positions and exhausted bodies lulled them into a companionable silence, that shortly turned to a soothing, dreamless sleep.
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