2001 - Spring
Angel thought he was a pretty reasonable guy.
"I'm a reasonable guy!" He looked beseechingly at Anya. "Right?"
"Right," Anya agreed loyally and turned the page in her magazine with fingertips adorned by Fresh Tangerine fingernails. "You're very reasonable. Except when someone makes fun of your hair, threatens your masculinity, implies you're not very bright... Aside from all of that, you are very reasonable."
Silence descended and Anya went back to turning glossy pages.
"You're supposed to ask 'why'," Angel eventually pointed out.
"Because Spike and Lindsey are - "
Anya held up a hand. "I mean why am I supposed to ask why? It would imply that I care, which I don't. Are you going to order another drink? That one has been empty for twelve minutes."
Angel looked around the nearly-empty club, the depressingly empty stage. There wasn't anything else to do. "Yeah."
Anya left her magazine and popped the cap off another bottle of Corona, sliding it down the bar top to Angel's outstretched hand. Another perfect slide for Anya Jenkins. "Now I care more. Why are you a reasonable man, Angel?"
"I'm a reasonable man," Angel started again because this was his seventh beer and he was feeling them, "and an open-minded man. I accept that two consenting adults can do whatever they fucking want to do to each other in their own home."
"Not in Texas or a few other states but you are mostly correct."
"And I accept that I am a complete asshole to Spike."
"If I agree with you, will you keep buying beer?"
"Yes, you are a complete asshole."
Anya smiled politely at him.
"I wouldn't know that, Angel. I don't know Spike." Anya flashed him a pretty grin and turned to the dark-haired young man trotting toward the bar. "Xander, you're late! If you're late, the schedule won't work and if the schedule doesn't work, we'll lose our regulars who come here to see you dance on their lunch hour because you are a very big draw and it's because of your fans I had to add buffalo wings to the menu."
"I don't want wasted buffalo wings, Xander. I'm vegetarian."
"I won't be late on stage. I promise." He hefted himself over the bar and kissed her cheek. "Make sure Mac doesn't play Macho Man again. I hate that song."
"I thought your dance to it was very sexy."
"I still bear the emotional scars." Xander batted wide brown eyes at Anya as he helped himself to a glass of soda water from the tap then hurried back stage.
"You usually come in after his shift is finished. You're drinking very early today. Why are you drinking very early today?" Anya frowned.
"I am drinking early today because I am a reasonable man who doesn't want to hear his ex-fling going at it hammer, tongs and a few kitchen implements I do not want to think about with my annoying next door neighbor who took him in like a puppy. And then had sex with him."
"I don't think sex with puppies is legal in California."
They pondered this together for a few minutes until the music started up and a few of the lunchtime regulars began to wander in for their beer and wings and Anya left to serve them.
"You? Are really cute but really stupid." Cordelia ruffled Angel's hair and perched on the bar stool next to him. "Keys."
Cordelia raised well-plucked eyebrows and held out her hand. "Keys."
Angel sighed and rummaged in his pocket, pulled out his car keys and dropped them into Cordelia's hand. "Don't you have somewhere else to be?"
"Not when my big brother's brooding over his eighth beer at the bar and it's not even one in the afternoon."
"You've been counting?"
"Anya has. I pay her extra to count your beers." Cordelia flashed Angel her biggest, sunniest smile.
"I'm not back sliding."
"Of course you're not. And I'm here to make sure of that." Cordelia patted Angel's arm.
"Are you sure you don't have an audition? I'm pretty sure you said you have an audition this afternoon."
"This morning. And your manager said they need you on set tonight but for some reason, he hasn't been able to get through to you because your cell phone was off. I thought I'd make myself useful."
Cordelia tapped Angel's beer. "Drink up, big boy. Last call."
"It's about Spike, huh?"
"Why does everyone assume my bad moods are about Spike?"
"Oh." Angel drained his beer and pushed the empty bottle away from him.
"It's your fault, you know."
"Are you sure you only had eight beers? Usually, it takes at least ten before you admit you're a complete dick."
"Not in the mood, Cordy."
"Why don't you just call Spike? Do you really think he'd be sticking around if he didn't still want you?"
Angel flagged down Anya. "Gimme a coke. I can't just call Spike because I don't want him. There is nothing between me and Spike. There will be nothing between me and Spike. And there can be nothing between me and Spike. There is no me and Spike and sooner or later, he has got to realize it's for his own good."
"Wow. You really are delusional." Cordelia propped her cheek on her hand and stared at Angel. "Whether you want it or not there's something between you and Spike so big and so obvious even Anya could see it."
"See what?" Anya returned with Angel's coke.
"That this big lug is mooning after someone he won't let himself have but obviously wants."
"Of course he is."
"She's only agreeing with you because you pay her salary."
Cordelia stared at Angel until he squirmed in his seat.
"Look. Spike brings out the part of me I can't let out."
"Yeah. The dumb part."
"I can't do this again."
"So don't." Cordelia shrugged and pulled out a powder compact, began touching up her nose.
"Not like that. It's easy. You go to Spike, apologize for being a jerk. Getting on your knees might help there but you're pretty much on your own after that. Tell him why you're being a jerk."
"He wouldn't want me then."
"So you've got nothing to lose. Tell him you don't want to be the big bad party guy again and I'll bet you Spike will take the alcohol out of your hands himself. And beat some sense into you if he catches you trying anything harder."
"I can't do that to him."
"Make him my keeper."
"God." Cordelia hit Angel in the arm hard enough to rock him on his bar stool. "Did I get all of the looks and all of the brains in this family?"
"Good thing you didn't get all the muscle."
"Uh huh. So what are you going to do when you get home?"
"Headphones and a beer."
"Men! I give up." Cordelia dropped her compact back into her purse and pushed away from the bar. "I have a date tonight so if you want to call me at home to sob on my shoulder, make sure it's before eight."
2003 - Winter
Angel was still a reasonable guy.
He was so reasonable, he knew Spike was doing it on purpose.
Grinding against Lindsey's ass the way William ground against Lindsey's front, the irresistible twin sandwich with white bread filling.
Angel snorted into his beer.
He was also rational enough to know that Spike wasn't doing it on purpose for his benefit.
Spike's audience of one had one dark eye, darker hair and a boner he was trying to keep hidden under the table.
Angel should be glad Spike moved on.
He should be breathing a sigh of relief that he only had to listen to Lindsey and William fucking on the other side of his wall because it didn't get under his skin the way Spike did.
The way Spike and Lindsey did.
The way Spike did.
Listening to William and Lindsey fuck, suck and whisper endearments didn't do anything but make Angel lonely and Angel was used to lonely.
He took a long drink of his coke and watched Spike watch Xander, watched Xander turn pale, then red, then a pretty swollen pink and he was not thinking about how Spike and Xander might look together fucking.
Angel pretended Xander wasn't turning toward him with a speculative expression.
God. How had Spike gone from fucking white trash to fucking the creepiest guy in LA?
Angel shifted further away from Xander on the bench.
He was a nice enough guy. But creepy. Angel remembered him working for Cordelia and Anya before whatever happened to him happened.
Xander didn't say what happened to his eye and Angel didn't ask. Didn't want to ask.
Didn't want to know.
There were a lot of things Angel was happier not knowing and he wanted to keep it that way.
Xander opened his mouth.
Xander shut his mouth.
Angel went back to staring at Spike, uncomfortably aware that the young man across the table was also staring at Spike but listening to him thinking about Spike.
"You're going to get him back."
Damn. Angel had been staring so hard at Spike, he hadn't seen Xander open his mouth in time to get him to shut it before something disturbing came out. Right on cue: more disturbing.
"Pretty soon, too." Xander traced shapes in spilled beer on the table with one fingertip.
"How many times do I have to tell you there is nothing left between me and Spike?" Xander was silent and Angel had an ugly crawling feeling across his shoulders that said Xander was about to give him a definite answer. "Don't answer that."
"Okay then answer me this. If there's nothing between you and Spike, why are you still hanging out with him more than a year since he came to this country? He's been with Lindsey. He's been with me. You make sure you tell him you don't want him at least twice a week but you're still here. Why?"
Angel put his head in his hands, didn't look at the dance floor but he could still feel Spike out there. Still knew what that lean body felt like against his. Still knew what he smelled like, sounded like laughing and looked like coming. "He won't leave me alone."
"I hate to tell you this, big guy but you're not leaving him alone either." Xander looked up - caught Spike's eye across the dance floor and sucked in his breath. Spike's sex now look did that to a guy. "I on the other hand, am leaving you alone. Right now. To get some nookie from my boyfriend while I've still got him."
Xander got up from the table, tossed down a few bills to pay the tab.
Angel grabbed Xander's wrist, stopping him. "There is nothing between me and Spike."
Xander licked his lips, looked from Spike stalking toward him to the miserably stubborn expression on Angel's face and smiled sadly. "Three more times. You're only gonna tell me three more times." Xander pulled his wrist free and headed for Spike.
"This tosser bothering you, pet?"
Xander glanced back at Angel then forced a smile for Spike, put his lips up against his ear and spoke just loud enough for Angel to hear it too. "Nah. I'm bothering him. He hates it when I'm right."