Exaggeration and Blank Verse
A Memory Of Spain
Battlestar Galactica
Horatio Hornblower
Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel the Series

The budget sat on his desk like a Skench demon. He stared at it wearily, waiting for an attack of phlegm. It couldn't be any worse than the actual numbers.

He'd been taught enough math to run a small family company at the dawn of the industrial revolution, not a branch of a multidimensional corporation in the information age. And without Eve to walk him through the numbers, he was even more at sea.

"Dammit," he muttered, running his fingers through his hair. "I hate this..." His nostrils flared at a sudden drift of scent and he sighed. Just what I don't need...aggravation and insults. He looked up and glared at the vampire in the doorway, opening his mouth to tell him to get out, then stopped. Spike wasn't grinning or swaggering. He was hesitating in the doorway, face troubled, eyes flicking around the room like he was searching for something he'd lost. When he finally looked at Angel and spoke, his voice was soft and uncertain.

"Do you remember the castle in Spain?"

Angle blinked and leaned back in his chair, pen falling from his fingers. This wasn't the usual brassy, come-to-pick-a-fight Spike. Never in a million years would he have expected the Spike he knew to mention Spain.

But since he had, he was owed an honest answer. "Yes."

Their next stop after they left Rome after the disaster with the Immortal. He hadn't been able to stop sniping at Darla about it, all the way up over the Pyrenees and across the south of France, down into the Iberian peninsula, until she was fed up with it and stormed off into the night, dragging Dru along behind her by the hand because she didn't want Angelus to have any sort of reward for his bad behavior. Enraged and embarrassed, the men had swept into the next village down the road and moved into one of the King of Spain's smaller palaces, set back in the fields beyond the village wall.

He cleared his throat and shifted in the chair uncomfortably. "What brought that to mind, anyway?"

Spike slumped down onto his couch, looking off over his shoulder at the nighttime city. "Fred invited me round. We were watching TV in that lounge down by the lab- that bloody stupid E! network. A special on the royal families of Europe and their houses." He rested his elbows on his knees, clasped his hands, and looked down through them at the floor. "Grand flats, brand-new suburban McMansions...but nobody lives in castles anymore."

No one was living in the castle in Spain when they arrived, either. The King and his family were far off in Madrid, and only a few servants came from the village to the castle to look after things. Shortly after Angelus and Spike arrived, no one came at all.

"Drafty," Angel said vaguely, staring at the budget and not seeing it at all. "Cold."

"Didn't bother us."

Determined to have a good time, refusing to miss their women, they had a grand feast that first night. No food, of course; what would they need with that? But two bottles of red wine and a serving wench apiece.

Angelus was content simply to eat his, alternating liesurely sips of her throat with glasses of wine, but Spike was in search of conquest, bending his girl over the table and ripping her skirts away, thrusting into her with his head curved down over her own and lips moving constantly in either a litany of curses aimed at Drusilla or a spontaneous epic poem.

"First time it was just the two of us, I think, without the girls around."

"Yeah." Spike snorted. "They set us at each other like dogs, Darla and Dru did. We never did catch on. Stupid."

Drusilla played them both like a master violinist, using a sigh or a tear or a giggle to send them pounding each other senseless for the prize of her bed. Darla was more subtle, the piano accompaniament to Dru's concerto, interested only in twisting Angelus's guts. But oh, how she knew just when to turn her scorn for her great-grandchild to affection, just how to laugh and run a hand through his curls, then let it drop to her bosom while she looked at him starry-eyed and then cast a sly sidelong glance at her boy. It never failed to send him up in flames. She knew it wouldn't.

"Sires know that sort of thing, I guess," Angel said, turning his chair to stare at the city himself. "Or maybe it's a woman thing."

"More likely the latter, mate," Spike replied with the ghost of his usual mocking smile. "Because I never once saw you properly run any game past Dru."

Angel glanced at him, a matching weary grin tugging at his own lips. "You don't remember a single time that I used seduction to get something of hers?"

The real way soulless meant evil was that when you had an impulse, you acted on it, without any care in the world for right or wrong. And thank goodness for it, because if they'd been souled they never would've done what they did in that castle, because by the mores of both their times it was several leagues beyond wrong.

Spike actually blushed. "Ah, well, maybe the once. But it wasn't really a game on Dru, because she wasn't there to see it."

Just the two of them in the ancient dignity of the royal house, kissing and biting and groping each other in the rooms graced by queens and princes, falling snarling tonighter into the king's own majestic bed.

"You bit me," Angel said, mildly resentful after so many years. "I remember that. Can't live on demon blood, you know."

"Knew perfectly well," Spike retorted. "Didn't care. You tasted like something sweet and aged and bitter. Blackberries and brandy."

Angel felt his lips twist again, but this time the smile was wider and genuine. "Poet."

It couldn't be called making love, what vampires did, but being soulless didn't mean you couldn't do something for another just because they'd like it- why else the stream of little blonde-haired girls delivered at Drusilla's feet by her faithful knight? Why else the dresses and jewels and upper-class playtimes lavished on Darla by her stallion? Why else, in due time, a Gypsy girl for Angelus's birthday?

So the night was sharp-edged and pain-tinged, but pleasure was given and taken by each in turn.

Spike glanced up at him with a quick smile, then turned his gaze back to the floor. "Tell you what, when I woke up that evening and looked at you lying there, I wished I had your way with a bit of paper and charcoal. Would've given anything to be able to take that sight down to hold."

"You fell asleep before me," Angel said softly, watching the lights of an airplane drifting downwards towards LAX in the distance. "And I looked at you all tangled up in the sheets and wished I had your way with words, so I could tell Drusilla what a picture out of a Greek story her boy was. Narcissus, I think, or maybe Adonis."

"Hair was all wrong for either of those, mate, but I thank you for the compliment..." Spike leaned back against the couch and closed his eyes, still smiling, but there was still a troubled air lurking around his mouth and eyes.

"Hold on..." Angel flipped the top sheet of the budget over and picked up his pen, dancing it over the blank surface. "Not charcoal, but it'll do..." He sketched quickly and then held it out over the desk. Spike opened his eyes and leaned forward to look.

He saw himself- identical, of course, since he was frozen in death, and yet not, because for all his lack of soul the figure dozing in tangled sheets had a more innocent cast to his face than the battle-weary champion in Los Angeles. "From memory..." Spike breathed, staring at the way a single curl fell down over the twist of line that suggested his brow. "God, was I ever that young?"

"Haven't aged a day since the one you died," Angel pointed out, gently settling the paper on the desk. "It's not very good...can't do much with this sort of pen..." He busied himself with papers on the desktop, suddenly embarrassed and uncertain. What was this?

"Is it still there, do you think?" Spike said wistfully. "The castle, I mean? Do you suppose it's still..." He trailed off as Angel shook his head.

"Torn down under Franco," he said, not looking at the blond man. "I, um, kept an eye out for news of some places, like that one...places that, you know, meant something."

Spike leaned forward again, burying his face in his hands as if all the exhaustion of all the souls in the world had hit him. "You were the proper sire to me, looking back. Father figure and all that. All that hell I gave you...not just being evil, but not knowing how to treat a father, I suppose."

"You didn't know yours?" He wondered why Harmony, who was always patching calls through at all hours of the day and night, seemed suddenly to have vanished now.

"Died when I was small." Spike tapped his toes against the floor in a random rhythm, held very still, and then beat it out again. "Don't remember much about him. Just an image, like- sitting next to him on the couch in the evening, him looking through a book or the newssheet. I'd look over his arm, trying to figure out the words, and I'd fall asleep with my head all pressed against his shoulder." He hesitated for a second, then took his face out of his hands and looked at Angel directly. "How do you stand it?" he asked in an anguished whisper. His eyes were raw and sparkling, and Angel saw a wildness in them that was as familiar as the silence when he couldn't sleep. To have a soul was to always dance on the edge of madness.

He knew what Spike was asking, but he wanted to hear the way a poet's tongue would cast it. "What?"

"Being around them every day, knowing." Spike's hands twisted together in his lap, knuckles flexing, nails scraping against each other. "Knowing exactly how to destroy them, to make them bleed and beg and scream. Wanting to do it. You've got the soul, so you don't, but you want to, and you hate yourself for wanting to, but you can't help it..."

"...because you know how to do it right," Angel finished, nodding slowly, staring at his own hands on the polished mahogany. "They might have the impulse, the urges, but they can ignore it with a clear conscience, because they have never and will never do those things. Theoretical guilt can be ignored..." He chuckled bitterly. "Nothing theoretical for us. It's all been done before."

"The worst is when I'm alone," Spike said numbly, staring down at the carpet again. "When I've got a mission to worry at, or when I'm fighting, it backs off for a while. But when I'm just sitting, thinking...it's too much, in my head..."

"When you just sit and brood on it?" Angel nodded again. "Yeah. That's the worst."

Spike threw his hands in the air and laughed caustically. "And you made an art of it, you love it, you masochistic bastard..." The last word turned to a sob. "But I...but I..."

Angel was on his feet and around the desk before his thoughts caught up with him. When they did, he shoved them aside. Forget history and enmity, rivalry and anger. This was a soul rapidly sliding towards hopeless. And whatever he was now, his life signed away to Wolfram & Hart, he still had a mission to remember.

He sat down next to Spike on the couch and carefully, awkwardly slipped his arm around the other man's thin shoulders. Spike was crying now, aching broken sobs that sounded like they were being ripped from his chest against his will. "It's all right, now, Spike," he said softly, gently guiding the smaller man around until the tears were soaking into his shoulder. "Let it out now, little one. Just let it go..."

The moon would set and the sun would rise and they would never speak of this again, another moment locked away in a castle that only existed in a memory of Spain.

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