A/N - I big time ship these two, and this takes place some ambiguous, slightly AU period after the show where they are in a relationship and have moved in together

Angel stared at the note Spike had left him, and wished that he was a little less drunk. This was not how the night was supposed to go. This was not what he had planned on. And now he was not happy at all.

Helping Wes with a project. Back by ten. I'll bring blood, luv. See you then.

It was all very Spike. The fact that it was about a last minute plan that Angel hadn't known about until he walked in the door. The fact that it was in Spike's loopy, strangely fine handwriting. The fact that it was only four sentences, and each was less than five words, and it left Angel with more questions than answers. The fact that Spike knew Angel wouldn't have had time to eat, what with all the running around he'd been doing, and had already made a plan to make sure he got some food in him. The fact that he was late. The fact that he had called Angel luv.

Angel had already read the note about fifty times since he had arrived home to the apartment that had been empty when it was supposed to contain Spike. He didn't know why it had upset him, exactly. He wasn't mad, and he wasn't even just saying that. But something about the note hurt him, just the simplicity and the sweetness of it. If Spike had been there, Angel could have ignored the weird hollowness in his chest. Spike would have talked it away; he would have pushed it out simply with the force of his presence.

But Spike wasn't here, so Angel had tried to use bourbon to force the hollowness out instead. And now he was reading the note for the fifty-first time with blurring eyes, swallowing back the sour taste in his mouth.

He looked up at the clock. He still had twenty minutes until ten. And even then, Spike could be late. Angel didn't know what he was doing, he hadn't the faintest sense how long it might take.

He wondered idly if Spike was going to be mad that he was drunk. That hadn't been part of the plan. Well, maybe they'd been planning on drinking a little. But the plan certainly hadn't been "Spike walks into Angel's apartment and Angel is already slammed." And Angel didn't like deviating from plans. He knew Spike wouldn't mind so much, he was much better at Angel than curveballs. Angel liked that about him. But still….

Angel took another swig, and then he heard the sound of the key in the door.

Spike walked into Angel's apartment, knocking softly on the doorjamb as he entered. The situation with Wes had been urgent (a prophecy that needed stopping, a demon that needed killing, the usual Friday night nonsense), but it was resolved now, and he was even a few minutes early.

"Angel?" Spike walked into the kitchen, where he'd left the note, and found Angel sitting slumped at the table. Spike placed the blood he'd brought home on the counter. As he did so, he noted that there was a bottle next to Angel, the bourbon that Spike had bought for him. It was mostly empty.

Spike smiled slightly. Angel was never one for adapting to change - he'd probably just carried out their plans on his own.

"Started without me, luv?" Spike wrapped his arms around Angel, placing his chin on Angel's shoulder. Angel stirred, turning his head slightly, until his cheek touched Spike's.

"Spike?" Angel asked, a little uncertain.

"Sorry I'm late," Spike answered. "Get my note?"

Angel unclenched his left hand, revealing the note clutched in his fist. Spike smiled and tucked his head into Angel's neck, kissing it gently.

"Let's get the night started, yeah? Or I will...looks like I got some catching up to do."

Angel ducked his head, as though the weight was too much for him to handle. "You aren't really here, are you?"

Spike chuckled, and he felt Angel tense slightly beneath him. "Course I'm here. You can feel me, can't you?" He punctuated his words with more kisses, moving up Angel's neck.

But something was different, and it wasn't the alcohol. Angel should have been responding by now, he should be returning the touch, Spike should be able to feel him tremble. And then, Angel turned his head away from Spike, shaking off his embrace.

Spike let him go, nonplussed. "What's wrong, luv?" he asked, moving around the table to get a better look at Angel's face. "I'm here. Look at me."

Angel shook his head, looking distressed. "That's not what I meant," he said, and Spike realized with a small jolt of worry that his words were slurring together slightly. "I mean...I mean you can't be here. You can't be real."

Spike blinked at Angel as he stared fixedly down at the table, seemingly fascinated by the shine of the varnish. Angel seemed to be completely disjointed with reality, and while Spike was firmly in support of that feeling, he'd never gotten there with just bourbon.

"Pretty sure I'm real," Spike finally told him, in the most reassuring tone he had. "If I'm not, that'll be a bloody embarrassing mixup." He laughed, hoping he could get Angel to laugh with him, even just flash his quick smile that crinkled his eyes at the corners and made him look young and vulnerable, the smile Spike loved.

But Angel just stared at the table, shaking his head slowly.

Why didn't Spike understand? Spike...Spike didn't understand anything, and Angel was too drunk and sick and exhausted to try to explain it to him. Spike seemed to think that this was a joke, that Angel was being stupid. Angel didn't think Spike was a ghost, or a hallucination, or anything like that. Angel could still feel the heat on his neck where Spike had touched him, and Spike had brought him blood, that was a concrete thing that hadn't been there before. Angel could see his shadow, for god's sake. He knew Spike was physically present, that wasn't the problem.

The problem was...that Angel didn't know how to explain what the problem was. He couldn't even fully articulate to himself, let alone try to get Spike to understand. All he knew was that he was upset, because something was wrong, and he wanted it to be Spike's fault but he thought it might be his own.

"Hey," Spike said, and his voice was softer now, concerned. "What's wrong? This isn't like you."

Angel swayed unsteadily on the chair, and put his hands flat on the table. He didn't look up at Spike, instead he studied the whorls in the wood that made up his tabletop. He didn't realize until it was too late that he hadn't even bothered to respond.

"Angel?" Spike said worriedly. He put one of his smaller hands on top of Angel's, and Angel yanked his hand away.

"You're not...not supposed to be part of my life," Angel said distractedly, already convinced he'd never be able to make Spike understand. "My life isn't this way."

"What does that mean?" Spike asked desperately. He did not try to touch Angel again. "You're scarin' me."

And then all of a sudden, in a blinding flash, Angel understood.

"You're going to leave," Angel said.

He looked up in time to see Spike stiffen in horror.

"What? Oh, god, I'm not going to leave…."

"You are," Angel mumbled, still staring at his hands. "This...isn't the way my life is. I don't deserve you." Angel broke off, and hiccuped slightly, the taste of alcohol stinging the back of his throat. "I don't deserve to be happy. And you...you make me happy now, but you're going to leave."

Spike felt the bottom drop out of his stomach, and for a second, all he could do was stare. Angel thought that Spike was going to leave? Spike had never been happier in his long life than these past few years, why would he ever leave?

And worse than that was Angel sitting there at the table, staring calmly at the wood as he insisted he didn't deserve happiness. How was Spike supposed to change his mind?

Spike stepped forward, taking Angel's hands in his own. Angel didn't pull away this time, instead looking at Spike with a kind of desperation in his eyes.

Spike leaned forward, catching Angel's gaze with his own and holding it. "Listen to me, Angel. I love you, and I am not leaving, okay?"

For a moment, Spike felt Angel relax into the touch, felt some of his tension drain away. And then something flickered in Angel's eyes, and the wall went back up. Angel pulled his hands away from Spike, lurching unsteadily to his feet. He shook his head.

"I-I want to- but…." Angel trailed off, and Spike stood uselessly in front of him, feeling utterly helpless. Angel shook his head again, like he was trying to clear it. "It...this…it can't last much longer, it never does, I don't deserve it, I don't deserve you…."

Spike realized with a wrench that Angel's voice was cracking, like he was close to tears. Spike didn't know where this was coming from, but he was horribly aware that it had to be coming from somewhere. Had Angel...how long had Angel been feeling like this? How long had he been scared that he'd come home and Spike wouldn't be there?

The note. Spike felt like crying himself, now. Angel had come home and Spike hadn't been there. If he'd been carrying this for a while, it was no wonder he'd ended up here. If only Spike had left a longer note, or gotten everything done a little quicker, or just told Wes to fuck off in the first place.

But there was nothing Spike could do to change the past. All he could do was make Angel understand that the only place Spike wanted to be was by his side.

"Angel," Spike said softly, and Angel looked up warily. "I'm not going anywhere. Promise."

He knew Angel wasn't going to believe him, not yet, but Angel was beginning to sway where he stood. Spike wanted to move him out of the kitchen, away from the bourbon, into his bed. Maybe then, Angel would let Spike hold him and Spike could make all of Angel's demons go away.

"Come on," Spike said, taking Angel's hand again. Angel looked at it blankly, as though he didn't realize it belonged to him. "Let's get to bed, yeah?"

Angel didn't resist, and Spike tugged on his hand gently. Angel took a stumbling step forward and there was a horrible moment where Spike thought he would fall, but then Spike'shis arm was around Angel's waist, taking his weight.

"I've got you," Spike told him, wishing Angel realized that that was never going to change.

Angel's body felt heavy and strange. He knew Spike's hands were on him, and he thought that should be comforting, but it wasn't. He wasn't sure if he wanted to pull away or not. He thought he might. He didn't want Spike...holding him up like this. He didn't want to need Spike. If he needed Spike, that meant he was going to suffer if Spike was taken away. When Spike was taken away.

When Spike left.

Spike lead Angel carefully through the door to his bedroom. Angel was a bit alarmed at how tilty the ground seemed now. He hadn't meant to drink so much. It just hadn't felt so bad at first, and then when it had started to feel worse, it had been too late….

Now he felt very sad, quite dizzy, and a little queasy, and the worst thing was that he knew that it was all entirely his fault. Just like everything else was. He blinked at his stumbling feet, and wondered if he could catch his balance enough to get away from Spike.

"Here you are, luv," Spike said softly. "Just sit down, you're alright, yeah?"

Angel managed to nod very slightly, and felt Spike settle him down on the bed.

"Feet up," Spike was saying, and then Angel felt his legs being lifted. Simultaneously, there was rustling behind him, and then Spike was pushing on his shoulder gently. He leaned backwards into pillows. "Just lie back now, and you can tell me what's wrong…."

"No," Angel said, coming into himself slightly more. He twisted out from underneath Spike's hand and dragged himself into a sitting position. "Don't touch me."

Immediately, Spike froze. "Angel, I…."

"Stop it," Angel said, not even exactly sure what he was asking Spike to stop.

"Tell me what's going on," Spike said, and his voice was gentle, which made it worse. Angel could hardly stand to look at him. Spike was sitting on the end of the bed, but Angel wished he would leave, he wanted him to leave. "Please talk to me…."

Angel was almost crying now, he was completely miserable and felt sick with embarrassment on top of it. "I just...I don't deserve to be happy, okay? I've done too many things wrong. I...I don't get that anymore."

He trailed off. He didn't think he was explaining it right. Probably Spike was judging him. Spike might even be mad.

"And all my friends always die, all the...all the things that make me happy, the universe will always make them leave. I...I don't deserve them, that's why…." Angel hiccuped slightly.

"I won't leave," Spike said firmly. Angel ignored this.

"Like...like Buffy left…like Cordelia left..."

"Technically, you left Buffy," Spike said with a small smile. "And anyways, happiness is overrated, yeah? At least it is when the universe doles it out. None of us deserve anything, okay? Sometimes we just get a good turn of hand. You got lucky. Well, I got lucky. And I'm not planning on ever letting you go."

Spike moved in close to Angel again, and Angel wasn't sure what he meant to do, whether put his arm around him or grab his hand or anything like that. But Angel knew he didn't want it. Couldn't handle it. He tried to scrunch his legs up, pulling himself into the corner of the bed and hoping everything would go away.

Spike sat on the edge of the bed, watching helplessly as Angel tried to get as far away from him as possible. By now, Angel was crouched against the pillows, arms wrapped tightly around his knees, looking anywhere but at Spike. All Spike wanted to do was reach for him, hold him and kiss him until he could prove once and for all that there was nothing for Angel to worry about.

But Angel wouldn't even let Spike touch him, would barely let Spike talk to him. Spike had never seen Angel this bad, certainly not over Spike. He would do anything to stop it.

"Angel," Spike began again, completely unsure of what to say, but knowing he had to come up with something. Angel looked up, then stared back down at his knees. Spike was searching for a new way to say "I love you" when there was a knock at the door.

He ignored it. Whoever it was, they could wait. There was no way Spike would leave Angel here alone.

There was another knock, this one a little louder.

"Spike?" Wesley's voice. "Are you there?"

Spike dropped his head and swore. Wes - and Angel, for that matter - were both severely unclear on the concept of "work-life balance."

"We'll ignore it," Spike told Angel. "Maybe he'll go away."

Wes knocked again. "Spike? Angel?" Sounding worried, he continued. "Are you alright? Shall I break the door down?"

"Useless wanker," Spike hissed venomously in the general direction of the door. Angel watched, dull-eyed and listless.

"You should get it," he finally said, his inflection almost toneless. "Just go ahead, go with him."

"I'm not walkin' out that door," Spike told Angel firmly. "No way."

"I'm going to break the door down," Wes called. Spike cursed again, then looked at Angel, still huddled as small as he could make himself in the corner of the bed. He wouldn't want anyone to see him like that.

"I'll be right back," Spike promised. Quickly, before Angel could pull away, he kissed the top of Angel's head and scrambled off the bed.

He managed to make it to the door before Wes kicked it in. Spike pulled the door open to reveal Wes, who looked instantly relieved.

"Leave," Spike said shortly. He didn't have time to be nice, not when Angel was back in the bedroom, terrified of Spike walking away.

Wes blinked, then looked as though he'd decided he hadn't heard properly. "Spike, you told me to drop by if I couldn't find the widow, remember?"

Spike hadn't. Everything had fled his mind when he found Angel at the kitchen table. "Not tonight. Go home."

Spike shut the door, then failed to hear the clatter of retreating footsteps. He pulled it open again, and Wes was still standing there shell-shocked.

"Are you fucking deaf?" Spike hissed. "I told you to leave, so fuck off! NOW!" He slammed the door, and as the frame shook, he heard Wes's steps as he turned and walked away.

Spike rubbed his temples with his fingers, aware that he'd probably just ruined whatever friendship he had with the ex-Watcher. Oh well, he'd find him in the morning and tell him...that he'd been sick, or high, or in the middle of Game of Thrones. Anything but the truth.

Spike took a deep breath and headed back to Angel.

Angel was a little confused, but he wasn't complaining. He had expected Spike to leave, but instead Spike was back in bed, not quite touching him but closer than Angel wanted. And Angel was allowing him to stay there, because Wes had come asking for help and Spike had slammed the door in his face.

Because of Angel. Because he had wanted to stay with Angel.

Angel was sure whatever Wes had wanted Spike for was more important than what Spike was doing now, which was just sitting on the bed not quite touching Angel. Angel had thought Spike was going to leave to go with Wes. But Spike hadn't, he was still here. He was still looking at Angel with concern and love in his eyes, and he hadn't left.

He hadn't left, but that didn't mean he wasn't going to. Angel looked down.

"See?" Spike said softly. "I'm not going to leave you, I'm not ever going to leave you."

"Wes is going to be so mad…."

"I don't give a fuck about Wes, luv," Spike said. "Wes isn't my boyfriend."

Angel laughed once, very softly. Spike moved a few inches closer to him on the bed. Angel thought about retreating, but he didn't.

"But-" Angel started to say.

"Fine," Spike said, cutting him off with a hand on his shoulder. "I'll talk to Wes in the morning, alright?"

"But you won't tell him-"

"I'll tell him something really embarrassing, alright? I'll tell him I had food poisoning, or...or that I was too horny to function, or that I accidentally did heroin. But if anything he'll think worse of me, yeah? Never of you."

Angel nodded, still looking down.

"Now, I want you to try one more time to explain to me what's wrong, so I can figure out how to fix it."

"I don't know," Angel mumbled. Spike waited patiently for him to say more. Angel didn't.

"Oh Angel," Spike said. "I'm never going to leave you, alright? I was stupid when I left you that short note, but even when I do stupid things I still love you. Even if I'm yelling mad I still love you. I love you too much to ever leave. Do you believe me?"

Angel nodded slightly, and to his horror he felt his throat starting to close up, and suddenly he was blinking back tears.

"Come here," Spike whispered. Angel was trying to work up the strength to move, to tell his alcohol-soaked limbs and hopeless brain that it was time to get nearer to Spike, when suddenly Spike's arms were around him. He turned Angel towards him, so Angel's face was pressed into his chest, and Angel could feel Spike's chin bumping gently against the top of his head. Angel started to struggle, very slightly, but Spike's arms tightened, not so he was pinned in place but so he was reminded once again that Spike wasn't going to leave.

Angel relaxed a little against Spike's chest. One of his arms snaked around Spike's waist. He felt Spike's hand move up to cup the back of Angel's head, his fingers gently twining in Angel's hair. Angel closed his eyes.

Spike nuzzled the top of Angel's head, thrilled that Angel was letting him close at long last. He could still feel the tension in every one of Angel's muscles, but at least he was letting Spike hold him, at least he was holding onto Spike.

"I love you," Spike whispered into Angel's hair, and he could tell that Angel had heard him by the way he moved and tensed.

"Promise?" Angel whispered back, voice shaky. It broke Spike's heart to hear, but it still was nothing compared to the lifeless way he'd spoken earlier, which had truly frightened Spike. "You're not leaving?"

"I'm not leaving," Spike answered. "I love you, Angel. I love the way...you alphabetize all the weapons in the cabinet and make them impossible to find."

Spike didn't hear so much as feel Angel laugh, and he relaxed into Spike a little more. Spike smiled softly.

"I love the face you make at me when I interrupt you in a meeting. I...I love the way you smile when I make you laugh."

Angel sighed, and Spike felt him shift closer. He tightened his grip on Angel, ever so slightly, and kissed his head again.

"I love how when you look at me, I know you're not pickin' out bits you want to change. I love that you're the best listener that I've ever met."

Angel's breathing deepened for the first time since Spike had walked in the door. Gone was the quivering exhale as Angel tried and failed to hold himself together. This, Angel falling softly asleep in Spike's arms, was how it was supposed to be.

"I love how strong you are," Spike told him quietly. "The strongest person I know."

Angel hummed, a soft sound he made when he was just about to sleep, but still trying to talk. Spike stroked Angel's head and continued.

"I love your hair and eyes and your horrible overly complex plans and the eleven languages you speak and the way you fight and the way you look at me and I love that you're mine."

This time, Angel didn't even twitch. He was finally asleep. Spike laid his cheek on Angel's head. Angel was asleep, but Spike hadn't finished.

"You're mine. I've done plenty of bloody stupid things in my time, but I'm never gonna do something so dumb as to let go of you."

Angel didn't so much as flutter his eyelids. Spike ran his hand down Angel's cheek, as tenderly as he could.

"Mine," he whispered, and Angel slept.