The cuffs imprisoning his ankles fell to the ground, but Spike remained frozen to the spot.

One of Lisandra's boys nudged him forward none too gently, a stake ostensibly displayed in its right hand. The bastards had hoped that their mistress would let them have a go at Angel despite her earlier words.

The vamp smirked.

And then, it talked.

"Stretch him out for us."

It leered at him.

His face expressionless, Spike shot his arm out, fingers spread in a V, and perforated the vampire's eyeballs before any of its buddies could react.

< Wrong thing to say, pillock. >

The injured vampire dropped to the ground, screaming, holding its hand where its eyes used to be.

< Thanks for the tip, Dru. >

Those bastards would fuck his Sire over his dusted body.

The three remaining vampires rushed to subdue him, but Lisandra stopped them with a shake of the head and a smile. "Don't bother. Valentin asked for it. It's fair game."

The vampiress' words didn't make any sense, but Spike refused to devote any attention to her ramblings.

She threw a stake at the fallen underling's heart and he exploded into ashes.

"Please, Spike. Angel's waiting for you."

The blonde ignored Lisandra altogether as he approached his Sire. He sent one last glance the Slayer's way, smiling softly for her. And she smiled back - a small, aching smile.

Then he tuned everyone out but Angel.

His Sire opened pain-filled eyes and Spike wanted to rage.


"Shh. Don't talk."

Angel quieted, going limp in the chains holding him up.

Spike spread his abandoned leather duster at his Sire's feet then brought his hands up to Angel's abused wrists. He unlocked the manacles. Angel went down with a grunt as blood began to flow back in his aching arms and his knees gave way.

Spike caught him in a strong embrace before he hit the ground. Cautiously, the younger vampire lowered his Sire on the duster covering the cold, hard floor. Angel hissed when the leather rubbed against his wounds. Which was inevitable. He was hurt so badly.

Spike's lips tightened as he surveyed the damage Lisandra had inflicted on his Sire.

The cross-shaped burns left by the branding irons were the slowest to heal, but the vampiress had pretty much used everything at hand after that. Holy water, cat-o'-nine-tails, horse whip, pliers, even screwdrivers.

But worst of all were the bites. Lisandra had been messy, slashing the skin apart deeply. Blood still flowed freely down Angel's arms and neck.

The heady smell of his Sire's blood, so close, was getting to Spike, but he held onto his human composure.

Angel's proximity pulled at him, like it always did, and he wanted to take him then and there, roughly, without foreplay - a basic, overwhelming response to his Sire's presence. Being around Angel always triggered his arousal. In the past, Spike had buried the feelings behind displays of unreasoning anger - incapable of reconciling his torrid history with Angelus and his blind, lustful hatred for Angel. But not now.

Not ever again.

Spike had wanted to make love to Angel for a long time. Before and after Morghane and the gais came along. Torturing him during the whole Gem of Amara business had been a poor attempt at exorcising this unhealthy obsession.

And now, despite circumstances only some psychotic imagination could have dredged up, Spike intended to make good on his silent promise to the Slayer. He would please Angel, and himself too - the audience be damned.

He had Buffy's blessing.

Now all he needed was Angel's.

Spike didn't have it in him to take his pleasure against Angel's will. Not anymore.

Cautious, he went down on his knees and leaned over his Sire's wretched form.

He licked the sharp angle of Angel's jaw, knowing how sensitive that particular spot was, coaxing the dark-haired vampire to attention.

Angel's long, elegant lashes fluttered against the fair skin of his cheeks. Chocolate brown irises filtered under heavy lids.

Spike struggled to push the words past the lump in his throat.

"I'm sorry, Sire. I'm sorry."

Angel smiled. A closed, bittersweet smile which reflected more in his eyes than it did on his lips. "Don't... don't be. I'm... I'm glad it's... you, Will. My favorite Childe."

Spike swallowed down the moisture gathering at the back of his throat. He heard Lisandra snicker in the background, but it failed to register. He murmured wetly against his Sire's lips.

"Thank you, Angel."

And then Spike had to stop as realization set in. Had to gather his wits.

He looked at his Sire sprawled under him, defenseless, quivering - like some precious, sacrificial offering - and felt a sharp pang deep in his chest, where his heart used to beat.

For the first time ever, he would be the one in control. His mind shied away from the memory of forcefully going down on Angel two weeks earlier. A fledgling or even a Childe was very rarely allowed to sexually dominate their Sire - if ever. Angelus had never conferred such a privilege on Spike.

And now, he was being _allowed_ to make love to Angel.

He kissed his Sire with a respect and awe bordering on the religious.

Angel parted his lips, gifting Spike's questing tongue with the cool, velvety recesses of his mouth. The blonde vampire moaned at the coppery taste of his Sire's blood, lingering in Angel's throat. At some point, Lisandra's boys had broken a few ribs and punctured a lung.

Spike felt his fangs lengthen.

No. However strong the compulsion was, he couldn't drink from his Sire. Angel had lost too much blood already.

He threaded his fingers through the dark mane of silken hair, plunged his tongue deeply inside his Sire's mouth, comforting the older man with soft touches and gentle strokes. Angel hissed, and Spike steered his hand away from a painful nipple, apology written in the cerulean abysses of his eyes. He had to keep reminding himself that his Sire was injured, and that this could no be the wild, violent reunion he had pictured in his mind a thousand times.

Not to mention the small matter of a sadistic vampiress, an unconscious Guardian, three Nehemia vampires and a Vampire Slayer, all in attendance. Their stares driving holes in his back.

Shaking his head, focusing on Angel once more, Spike swooped his hands down the older man's sides, soothing tense muscles and fevered skin.

He resisted the impulse to drape himself over his Sire's powerful body.

Spike missed Angel's physical presence - the full, rounded curves of his shoulders, the decadent, reassuring expense of his chest, the richness of his marble, aristocratic skin, the safe, protective hold of his arms. His intrinsically sensual nature.

As far as Spike was concerned, the Romani happiness clause was a blasphemy. Angel was born to be worshipped and pleasured and sated. To be adored, indulged and revered, like some long-lost Babylonian deity - impersonating the noble, exalted delights of the flesh.

Spike savagely squashed down a wave of jealousy.

For a hundred years, he had been the one satisfying Angel - Angelus - sharing his bed, coaxing him to new heights of rapture and ecstasy. His Sire had preferred William to Drusilla then, allowing his newest Childe to fulfill and attend to his every needs. William had been eager to serve and please.

Then had come the curse. And then, the Slayer.

Angel's soulmate.

She should have been the one licking her way down Angel's chest, threading her fingers with his, swallowing his involuntary sighs of relief. But she could not be, all because of a vengeful curse.

Spike did not know if he should rejoice or weep.

And then, unexpectedly, it did not matter anymore.