Final Score


Author's Notes: Heartfelt thanks to my three beta readers, Appomattoxo, Carolyn Claire and Romanyg, who helped so much when I really needed it.



Spike glanced around the Cat and Fiddle, still decked out in dusty tinsel midway through January, trying to imagine that he was in an English pub, as the owners obviously wanted him to do. He started to count up what they’d got wrong, starting with waitresses bringing drinks, and lost interest when he spotted a dart board and had to cross one off his list.

Ready to scream from boredom and unaccustomed loneliness, and keenly aware that he had no money for another drink, he felt nothing but pleasure when Wesley and Gunn walked in, looking tired and in dire need of something to lift their spirits. “Hey! Over here!” Spike stopped himself from whistling and settled for an imperious wave of his hand. They hesitated and then changed direction and joined him.

“I’m sorry,” Spike said coldly, their reluctance not lost on him. “Did I interfere with your plans to ignore me? Going to get in trouble with the big boss if you’re caught fraternising or something?”

“I think you over-estimate your significance,” Wesley said mildly. “Or Angel’s animosity.”

“Besides,” Gunn said, “for some reason, this is the only table with empty seats.”

Spike pushed aside the sad fact that no one had even tried to join him, and smiled. “Like my space. Didn’t need to show my fangs to get it either. Still; could do with some company. Cheer me up after all I’ve been through and this bloody rain, rain, rain’s getting me down. Might as well be back in England.”

“It’s winter,” Gunn said with a shrug. “Not like you’d be out sun bathing anyway.”

“Doesn’t mean I want a gallon of water tipped over me every time I step outside.”

“You could use an umbrella,” Wesley said, trying - and failing - to keep his face straight at the image of Spike with a brolly.

Gunn burst out laughing and Spike huffed indignantly. “If you’re quite done taking the piss, Wesley, mine’s a beer. Or you could just stick the empty glass out of the window for a minute; doubt I’d notice the difference.”

“You can’t resist, can you?” Gunn said. “Always with the digs at American beer.” He shook his head sadly. “If you didn’t drink so much of it, you might sound more convincing.”

The waitress arrived and saved Spike from coming up with a convincing rebuttal. A slightly sticky silence fell over the group and Spike rolled his eyes impatiently and began to watch the television over the bar. Just having someone sitting with him had lifted his spirits a little; the pub was filled with couples and groups of friends and he’d been feeling an unaccustomed loneliness. Gunn and Wes weren’t exactly close, but they were better than nothing.

“Look at that,” he said a moment later. “Election’s months off and all your bloody telly shows is a bunch of politicians every time I look at it. By voting night, I’m surprised anyone cares enough to toddle off and put their crosses in the boxes.”

“They don’t do it like that here,” Wesley said hastily, seeing Gunn suck in a breath and prepare to begin a stultifyingly dull lecture on the American political process.

“Don’t know, don’t care,” Spike said. He gave Howard Dean’s speech three seconds of his undivided attention and then yawned. “Suppose you lot have all the big names signed up with you? Ideal clients, right?”

“At the branch offices, probably, but here in L.A, no,” Gunn replied. “Angel hadn’t been in charge a month when he told us to get rid of every politician on our books. Said he’d done a lot in his time, but helping them get elected wasn’t going to be on his conscience.”

Spike took a long drink and studied the screen again. “He’s getting soft in his old age. Won’t make a blind bit of difference. All a bunch of wankers, in it for themselves.” The television switched to a football game and Spike turned back to the table. “Not that it’s anything new. Wasn’t any different way back when.” He pursed his lips, remembering. “Year I was turned was an election year, come to think of it. Not that I bothered to vote, being dead and all.”

Wesley’s brow creased in thought. “1880 wasn’t it? Gladstone beat Disraeli?” he hazarded.

Spike gave him an approving nod and a speculative glance, wondering if Wesley would carry on buying him drinks in return for a few tales of Angel in his glory days. “Glad you know your history. Yeah; he got in and it cost me. Tell you about it, if you like. Might explain why Angel’s got a down on the politicians too; we had this wager, you see.”

“I thought you said you weren’t interested in politics,” Gunn objected. “But go ahead. Got nothing better to do than listen to you, and believe me, that’s worrying. What bet?”

Spike shook his head. “I wasn’t interested; bored me stiff. Angelus was like me; didn’t give a toss beyond the next throat to rip out, the next ...” Spike’s voice trailed off. “God, we were a nasty pair. So when he started ranting one day about how Gladstone was the man, I thought he was winding me up.”

Wesley looked up. “He approved of Gladstone’s plans for Ireland, I take it. Home Rule, the Irish Land Act with the guarantee of -”

“Wesley, put a sock in it before Gunn falls asleep over his empty glass.”

“I can take a hint,” Wesley said, gesturing to the waitress for more drinks, before adding defensively, “not that your story’s any more enthralling. I suppose you’ll get to the point eventually? Or are you trying to keep us from noticing that you’re drinking a lot and we’re going to end up paying for it?”

That stung. Spike wasn’t denying it was true, but it still stung that Wes could spot that motive and not the fact that he also wanted to keep them with him for the company. “Just getting to the good bits,” he said. “So there we were; him on one side, me on the other. Wasn’t the first time, even that early on, and it sure as hell wasn’t the last.”

“I’m having real trouble picturing you and Angelus chatting away about politics,” Gunn said, laughing.

“Not surprised. Never happened. He came in bawling away about it being a disgrace, so it was to be sure, or something similar, with his brogue as thick as his head, and I made a comment about how he sounded with his Irish up and –”

“And what?” Wesley said, as Spike’s eyes went distant and a smile began to curve his lips.

“We fought,” Spike said simply, taking his glass from the waitress and giving her a charming smile.

“Go on then,” Gunn prompted. “I’ve seen him and I’m guessing you’re not bad yourself. What happened?”

Spike’s eyes shifted. “Hundred and twenty odd years and you expect me to remember a punch up? We fought, he hammered me into the ground, the way he always bloody did and it ended up the way all our fights did.”

“How?” Wesley asked, giving Spike a curious look.

Spike pursed his lips, studied Wesley’s face and then shrugged, seeing a chance to get a small revenge for being accused of mooching drinks. Wesley probably knew a lot about Angelus in theory but he was willing to bet the Council didn’t write everything down in those books of theirs. “Kissed and made up, didn’t we?” he said blandly.

“We’re talking figure of speech here, right?” Gunn said. Wesley was silent, staring down at the table.

“We’re not, but moving on...”

“Yes, do move on, Spike,” Wesley said, his voice tight. “Either finish this bloody story or leave us in peace.”

“I was here first,” Spike reminded him, letting his eyes linger on the faint flush on Wesley’s face. Shocked? Or jealous? Hard to say. Having gained the small victory, he didn’t comment on it. “When the dust settled, we made a bet on the election result. Couldn’t kill each other over it; Dru and Darla were having fits over us fighting all the time, so we did the gentlemanly thing and wagered on it.”

“What were the stakes?” Gunn asked, not even trying to hide his smile.

“You’re so sharp, you’ll cut yourself, aren’t you?” Spike said tolerantly. “Bloody comedian. Stakes? Not money; that never counted for much with us. Not like we ever paid for anything we took.”

“So what did you use?” Wesley asked, leaning back in his chair and watching Spike through narrowed eyes, his composure restored.

“Blood.”

Gunn and Wesley glanced at each other. Spike had said it without emotion but it opened up a world of images and all of them were scarlet-tinged, with screams as the background music.

“Whose blood?” Wesley said carefully, tentatively, as though he knew he wasn’t going to like the answer.

“Ours, of course, you soft head. Who else’s? I’d never tasted him you see; never tasted any vampire back then, apart from Dru when she turned me, and that was different. Got me curious. He’d tried to drink from me before when – oh, look, this is bloody daft. Sick of arsing around trying to protect his reputation. You both know what he was like. He’d fuck me and want to finish up with drinking, yes? Can’t live on our blood but it’s like blood from a Slayer; special. Sign of trust, in one way, or that you’re in charge; plus it’s something to do to just make it all that much better at the end there; nice flash of pain to send you over -” He looked at their stunned faces and sighed impatiently. “You can’t tell me you didn’t know we’d –”

Wesley’s eyes were fixed on Spike’s face, an intrigued look on his face. “I...guessed,” he said finally. “From hints in the data we – that is, the Council – have, it seemed clear that you shared –”

“We shared nothing,” Spike said harshly. “Anything of mine he wanted, he took – and he never gave anything back. No sharing. Which is why I wanted to taste him. Knew it’d make a difference. And he wanted me to hold still and let him, instead of struggling and screaming so he couldn’t enjoy it properly. Real romantic, wasn’t he?”

“But Gladstone won,” Gunn said, looking as if he was determined to ignore everything Spike had just said.

“That he did.” Spike agreed.

“So I don’t get why it put Angel off politics. He won the bet, didn’t he?”

“In a way,” Spike said. “That’s your lot.”

“ Huh? You’ve sat here, drinking on our tab, promising us a story and that’s the best you can do? Tell us Angel and you had a thing, and don’t think that’s not going to give me nightmares, drop a shitload of hints and that’s it?” Gunn shook his head. “Man, that was lame.”

“All I’ve got,” Spike said, with a finality that drew a thick black line under the conversation. He wasn’t surprised to see them both prepare to leave. Always the way; people got what they wanted from him and then left.

Gunn rolled his eyes in disgust and stood up. “I’m out of here,” he announced, taking out some money and tossing it on the table. “Got a busy day tomorrow. Wes? You done?”

“In a moment,” Wesley said, indicating his half –full glass. Gunn shrugged and left, moving away through the crowd and not looking back.

“You can push off, too, Wes,” Spike said, the words sounding harsher than he’d intended. “Not like we’ve got much to say to each other, now is it?”

“I can stay if you want some company,” Wes said. “And if you need money –”

“Do I look like a sodding charity case?” Spike demanded. He snatched the glass out of Wesley’s hands, drained it and slammed it back on the table. “There. You’re done. Now piss off.”

Wesley stood, opened his mouth and then closed it without speaking. He took out some cash and placed it beside the money Gunn had left and then walked away. He didn’t look back either.

Spike finished his drink without rushing, trying to ignore the memory of Wesley’s concerned, mildly annoyed face, and left, pocketing some of the money after making sure there was enough on the table to allow for a decent tip when the bill was handed to him. He didn’t mind the place, for all its shortcomings, and it paid to keep in good with the staff. He emerged into the night, noticing with distant approval that it had stopped raining, let the fumes that passed for fresh air enter his body as he inhaled in an automatic check for lurking danger, and began to walk home.

He wasn’t sure what had kept him from telling the story properly. Some lingering sense of loyalty? Vamps against humans, rah, rah, rah? Angelus would have laughed himself sick at that.

<i> We fought, he hammered me into the ground, the way he always bloody did...</i>

Spike’s thoughts slipped back through the years to that first winter as a vampire and he shivered reflexively, remembering the things Angelus had done to him. He’d learned to deal with him eventually; got the knack of dodging the sledgehammer blows, come to anticipate the moves he made when he was fighting; worked out when falling to his knees, smiling lips parted and ready, would be a wise move, not the prelude to worse pain than the beating Angelus had been primed for...

The fight over the election – God, had it really been that long ago? Spike’s hand came up and touched his mouth, running his fingers over his lower lip. Angel’s knuckles had split it open with his first punch and Spike had spent the rest of the fight with his own blood thick and heavy in his mouth. Angelus had looked down at his hand and grinned, raising it up and licking the smeared blood from it with his eyes gleaming.

“First blood to me, Spike,” he’d said. “But you know that’s not the sweetest. You taste best when you’re under me, begging and mewling. Makes your blood fizz like champagne, so it does.”

Spike closed his eyes for a second. He wasn’t sure if it was the soul that made that memory sting, but it did.

“Didn’t beg,” he muttered, his steps quickening, kicking up sprays of water from the puddles on the sidewalk. “Never begged –”

He’d come to crave it though, those moments when Angelus’ attention was on him to the exclusion of all else, when their bodies were joined and he came, sobbing or screaming a word that was never a name, never...because he knew enough to hold something back, even as green as he’d been back then, he knew that much. Drusilla’s soft, cruel hands, soothing away the pain she’d inflicted as she giggled and sighed, had teased and tormented him and he’d loved every minute, but she’d never come close to Angelus’ strength of body or will. Drusilla would show him mercy; Angelus had none. It’d made beating him, just once, an obsession with Spike, and that, rather than the knowledge that Drusilla would choose Angelus over him in a showdown, had kept him from leaving.

Never did know when to back down from a fight, he thought, rounding a corner and resisting the urge to slam his fist against a wall just to feel the bones splinter and the pain wash away the humiliation.

That fight had ended fast enough though; they’d knocked over a table, sending wine splashing and spilling over Darla’s new dress, draped across a chair while she fussed with her hair before a mirror, dressed in her shift. Spike had never worked out why she and Dru did that; primped and preened before an empty, silvered pane of glass, as though it would throw back a reflection if she got each curl perfectly placed. She’d leapt up, lips tight with anger and jerked her head at Dru who was sitting wide-eyed and whispering, watching them fight as though it was a show put on to amuse her.

“Drusilla,” she’d hissed, “tame your pet, before I geld him. And you, Angelus, you clumsy brute –” He’d swung around to her and got a crack across the face from a hand heavy with rings. “Resolve this in some other fashion before all I have to wear is rags.”

He’d bowed low to her and apologised in three different languages, swearing to have her decked out in the finest silk, soothed her ill –temper and petted her into smiling – then turned on Spike.

“You heard the lady; there’s to be an end to this unseemly brawling –”

“But I like it!” Drusilla had pouted. “Like to see my men fight and bleed. Makes me feel – oh, all warm and tingly.” She’d pirouetted around the room, giggling as she got dizzy, and collapsing into a chair.

Spike had looked at Angelus and wondered if he was even meant to believe Angelus would give up the pleasure of fighting, hurting and winning, no matter how much Darla sulked. Angelus had frowned and then spread his hands wide.

“We’ll not argue any more about who’s best fitted to rule this land, Spike my boy. Let the electors fight for us, eh? We’ll sit back and wait, like true gentlemen, and place a wager on the outcome. What do you say?”

“What would you wager?” he’d asked, caution and curiosity warring. Darla and Drusilla had lost interest in them and were sighing over the ruined dress. Angelus had drawn him to one side, forcing Spike to back up until the wall was cool against his shoulders, leaning over him and smiling. “I have some money...”

“You’ve only one thing I wish for,” Angelus had whispered, bending his head and kissing the corner of Spike’s mouth swift and hard, his teeth tearing open the half-healed cut and his tongue darting out to taste the fresh blood that welled up. “And I know it’s all you dream of taking from me.”

“You’d let me feed from you?” Spike had asked. It wouldn’t be the same as forcing Angelus to bare his neck after winning a fight but it would be something to savour.

Angelus had widened his eyes, grinning. “More than that, my boy. You can fuck me too, if you’ve a mind to it. I’ll send the girls away and we’ll have a night of it and I’ll refuse you nothing.”

Spike’s cock had hardened at the thought of it, but he’d learned caution early on. Angelus loved tricking him, leading him on. “What if I lose?” he’d asked, pushing Angelus away and wiping an angry hand across his bleeding mouth.

Angelus’ smile had never looked friendlier. “You give me what I’m tired of demanding.” He’d let one hand trail down Spike’s neck, letting his fingers rest where his fangs would pierce if he fed. “You let me take you, own you, feed from you without struggling. You give me a night where I don’t have to hurt you to get you to obey.” For a moment, his eyes had filled with appeal but then it flickered and died. “Because, to tell you the truth, boy, you’re starting to bore me –” Spike had snarled then, wordless defiance and Angelus had nodded slowly. “It’s true. And tell me –” he’d leaned in and spoke the words in Spike’s ear, so they rang in his head, clanging and loud, for all that they were whispered so soft, “you know what I do to you when you’re bad; don’t you wonder what you’ll get when you’re on your best behaviour?”

He’d moved off then, swinging around without another glance at Spike, leaving him against the wall, hard and aching and hungry for a fruit he knew was rotten, a sweet he knew would set his teeth on edge.

And he’d lost the bet three weeks later, going out into the frost-sharp air to feed, letting the hot blood warm him and hearing the newspaper sellers proclaiming victory for Gladstone on every corner, tainting each swallow he took until he thrust the woman he’d hunted and caught from him and let her die alone, not bothering to feel her heart stutter and stop under his splayed fingers. He’d returned to their house to find Angelus waiting in the silence, smiling and sleek with satisfaction.

Spike stared up at the Wolfram and Hart building, trying to convince himself he’d walked there aimlessly, knowing it had been deliberate. He sat down on the low boundary wall, ignoring the rain that began to patter down, and turning his back on Angel’s own private kingdom.

Losing the bet had stripped away the last illusion that he’d ever get the better of Angelus. He’d spent three weeks dreaming of Angelus beneath him, on his knees, tamed and tortured, taught respect. If it had been a choice between the stake and relating even one of the scenarios he’d spun out of air and weighed down with hope, he’d have gone for the stake and thanked the person wielding it as they struck. But he wouldn’t have to, he’d realised, looking into eyes filled with darkly knowing merriment. Angelus already knew.

“Going to make good on your debt?” Angelus had said, standing up and walking towards him with silent steps, his hair loose around his face.

“Of course,” he’d replied haughtily, slipping back unconsciously into his old way of speech. “A gambling debt is something no gentleman would ever renege upon.”

The words had merely broadened Angelus’ smile, but even as he spoke them, Spike found an answer. No gentleman would fail to pay a debt of honour...but he was no longer of that class, no longer bound to obey any rules. He’d lowered his eyes to hide the triumph he was sure must be clear on his face and waited.

Angelus had prowled around him as he stood and then sighed. “Come with me.”

The bed in the room Angelus shared with Darla was huge, heaped high with soft sheets and thick blankets, the thick posts marred by grooves where chains had bit deeply into the wood. Spike had lain spread out on that bed more than once, tugging at fetters and ropes until the blood had trickled down his wrists in cool rivulets, and knelt beside it, his tongue busy between Drusilla’s thighs as Angel stole the cries of pleasure from her lips with bruising, brutal kisses. If anything was heaven and hell in one place, it was that bed.

Angelus had laughed softly and urged him forward. “Nothing to fear tonight, Spike,” he’d said. “Because you’re going to give in, aren’t you? Going to submit without even trying to fight.”

“Yes, Angelus,” Spike had said, his voice flat and dull.

Angelus had frowned, suspicion rising and Spike had met his gaze without flinching. Through the hours that followed, he’d obeyed every command, every order, passive and listless, refusing to respond, and cheating Angelus of his victory without ever breaking his word. Angelus’ anger had risen, a cold, icy anger Spike had never seen before. He’d waited for the ice to crack and the rage to erupt, bracing himself for pain beyond anything he’d had to endure, and knowing there was one command Angelus had yet to give.

When it came, he tilted his head, eyes blank and empty, waiting for the fangs to slice through flesh and the hungry mouth to drain him. Could be killed that way? He didn’t know. He thought not...but it would hurt.

Angelus had run his hand over the exposed curve of his neck and let his hand curl around it possessively. “You’re proud of yourself, I’ve no doubt,” he’d said, his voice as cool as snow-melt. “Cleverly done and a fine revenge. Except – will you tell me now, what I did to deserve this treatment?”

Spike had twisted free of his grasp, anger and disbelief animating his face for the first time that night. “You won!” he’d said, spitting the words out. “You always win...”

Angelus had looked at him with contempt. “Get out of here, Spike. You sicken me. I’d sooner drink from a rat as taste your blood tonight.”

And he’d gone, dressing with trembling fingers under Angelus’ stare, stumbling out into streets white with the first snowfall, the bitter chill striking through his thin shirt, avoiding the stares from the passers by, muffled with furs, their breath puffing out into the winter air. He’d ducked his head, slunk down an alleyway and stayed there until Drusilla found him, a bare half hour before sunrise and persuaded him to return.

Spike stood and smoothed back his rain-drenched hair. Right. Angel would moan about his carpet getting wet, but it didn’t matter. He headed toward the building and Angel’s apartment, drumming impatient fingers as he waited for the elevator, cursing it as it crawled upwards. The doors opened and he took two steps forward before the impetus that had brought him this far died away.

“What the fuck am I doing?” he muttered.

Angel appeared out of the shadows. “Good question, Spike. I’d say you were intruding, getting the carpet wet and generally doing what you always do; piss me off.”

“Angel,” Spike said. “This is important so stop being so bloody minded.”

Angel raised his eyebrows, studied Spike for a moment and walked away, returning with a towel. “Here. Dry off and try not to move much.”

Spike scrubbed the towel over his head, patted at his hair gingerly and glared as Angel began to laugh. “What?”

“It’s gone all...fluffy,” Angel said.

“Pot, kettle, mate, O.K? And I didn’t come here to get hair care advice.”

“I’m sure you didn’t. Mind telling me why you did come here?”

Spike shrugged out of his coat and, after looking at the expanse of pale carpet, his boots. Angel sighed, but didn’t try to stop him. “I suppose you want a drink,” he said.

“Wouldn’t say anything but ‘yes’ to that,” Spike said.

Angel poured him a whisky and watched Spike swallow it at a gulp. “Now I’m starting to get worried. Did you wreck another car? Kill someone who owes us money? What?”

Spike walked over to Angel and stood in front of him. Angel didn’t step back, but he folded his arms across his chest, his face unsmiling.

“Angel, I owe you something.”

“Well, the company picks up the tab on the car so strictly speaking –”

“You stupid, thick headed git, I’m not talking about now! I’m talking about –”

“The bet we had over the election, “Angel interrupted. He smiled slightly. “Well, that’s shut you up. Didn’t think it was possible.”

“How did you know?” Spike said tightly. “Reading my mind now?”

“Oh, Spike, “Angel said, “you’re a fucking open book and always have been. Wes called me; told me what you’d been saying, wanting to know what it was all about.”

“Did, did he? Charming.”

“He’s loyal to me, Spike,” Angel said. “You’d do well to remember that. He’s also inclined to like you for some strange reason, not unconnected with you saving Fred’s life, and he thought you were acting a little weird and I should know about it.”

“Yeah, because you’re so keen on helping me out when I’m in trouble,” Spike said bitterly.

“It’s true I think you’re capable of looking after yourself; does that bother you?”

“No.”

“You always did want it all handed to you, didn’t you, Spike?” Angel’s face was calm, his voice reflective. “You wanted Dru’s love, my respect, a name for yourself to equal or better mine...and you wanted it all right away. No patience, no sense of your own limitations, no caution. I liked that about you, even though you used to drive me mad, until I itched to stake you and be done with you.”

“I was younger then,” Spike said. “I’ve changed – look, never mind all that. I’m here to pay up. A century and change late, but I’m here.”

Angel stared at him. “You really mean it, don’t you? Thousands of deaths and you’re guilty over a bet you welshed on? Got to love your sense of priorities, Spike. Anyway, forget it; I’m not interested. And by the way, thanks for telling Wes and Gunn I used to have worse taste in lovers than Harmony has in clothes.”

“You condescending bastard,” Spike said. “I don’t need this. I’ve beaten you once, over that fucking cup and I’ve proved –”

“One fight,” Angel scoffed. “Proves nothing.”

Spike’s fist sent Angel staggering. “You <i>will</i> bloody well let me pay this debt, Angel,” he said, punctuating each word with a blow.

Angel rode out each punch and waited for Spike to leave himself open before grabbing his wrists and squeezing them so tightly that Spike heard his bones begin to splinter. Angel eased off and raised his eyebrows. “Going to behave now?” he asked. Spike nodded sullenly. “Glad to hear it.” He hesitated. “I’m sorry, Spike. I can’t do it. I release you from it, O.K? It was a stupid idea anyway.”

“What was?” Spike said rubbing his wrists as Angel released them.

“The bet. You must have figured out what I was after.”

“You wanted to break me,” Spike said. “If I’d done what you wanted, that would have been it. You’d have got rid of me; wouldn’t have been a challenge anymore, would I?”

Angel frowned. “That – that really wasn’t what I had in mind. You thought – Spike, either you’re the fool or I am.”

“What, then?” Spike said. “Going to tell me you really wanted one night when we could just – oh God.”

“One night where we could just have fun, yes. No struggling, no competition. I – well, I liked you. You, Darla, Dru; you were family. I got a kick out of hurting you, sure, but don’t ever tell me you didn’t get off on it. I used to watch your face when you came and you looked like you’d seen heaven some nights. Envied you that joy. I could only find it through the kill and sometimes that got a little old.” Angel looked thoughtful. “Only sometimes, though.”

“So why didn’t you just say that?”

Angel smiled. “Yeah, right. You’d have seen it as a weakness – not sure it wasn’t – and you’d have been so full of yourself I probably would have had to stake you just let the hot air out.”

Spike looked at him. “So, what now?”

Angel shrugged. “Can’t go back, Spike. Angelus and his boy don’t exist.”

“You know better than that,” Spike said.

“Maybe. Doesn’t matter. You, me; never going to happen.”

Spike pursed his lips. “Want to bet on that?”

Angel shook his head. “Don’t you ever take ‘no’ for an answer?”

Spike walked over to the remote and flipped on the television. “Hockey game. Right. Which team do you fancy to win? I’ll have the buggers in the blue shirts; they look a lively bunch.”

“They’re also leading, three - nil,” Angel pointed out dryly.

“So? Get me another drink and let’s watch the game. Same stakes as before; I win, I get you, you win, you get me – and this time, no arsing around. One night only, no kiss and telling, and no one the wiser.”

Angel shrugged. “If it’ll really make you feel better,” he murmured, getting them drinks and settling down to watch the game he’d watched earlier that was being repeated - the game where the Blues lost four – three.

Spike might not have had any patience but Angel had. Lots of it.





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