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The dreams had become more vivid; the sword in his hand ached and leaked clear fluid; Spike's blood drew him ever closer to the thin red line that held such destruction in its power. Every time he woke, he wet the sheet with seed spilling from a twitching, aching cock. Every time, his cry of release was raw, and there was no pleasure from the orgasm, just the smell of a tree and the memory of a person he had been, under its soft, green safety.
Wesley tried to stop Spike's spiralling descent, tried to curb his zealous enthusiasm for helping others, but he could only watch, helpless, as Spike returned blooded, then left again before he was healed. He stayed in the background, though, helping where he could.
Every day, he longed to tell Angel what was happening, but he had the odd feeling that, somehow, Angel knew, for every day, the vampire looked more and more on the edge of something he could no longer control.
One day, Wesley visited Spike before work and patched him up as usual and made him feed as usual, but unusually, he did to return home to shower and change. He went into the office with Spike's blood on his shirt, under his jacket; Spike's blood under his nails; and Spike's blood on his mind.
Angel did not appear until late into the morning. If he'd been human, Wesley would have said he looked very sick. He just looked defeated. His head snapped up though, when he entered Wesley's office, like a man who emerges from a dream to find it true.
He came close to Wesley, clearly scenting him. Wesley tried to continue with his work, fairly sure Angel would not make a scene with the research assistants hovering so near. He rose and went to the bookcase, Angel a dark shadow at his side. Then a hissed voice brushed over his ear, 'Tell me….'
Suddenly, Wesley jerked his head around and caught Angel's expression before the vampire could veil it. It seemed to Wesley then that he stood on a great divide, a decision needed from him, which had consequences beyond this intense moment. He had no idea what to do for the best, until a small, niggling thought returned to him that he owed Angel something- something he had been trying to give him for a long time. So, he made his decision and told Angel the truth. 'He's killing himself- oh, perhaps not as a human would, but that will be the outcome eventually. He'll be too hurt and too tired one day, and some demon will take him away from us. He doesn't care, do you see? He's empty, drained. You've drained him.'
Angel's hand went to Wesley's throat, and he spread his huge fingers around the stubbled column. Wesley swallowed, and the contact of his Adam's apple on Angel's hard palm sparked confusing memories in his mind. He'd been here before, and always, Angel had been the face behind the pillow, the one who saved him…. As he looked into eyes that were in hell, it occurred to him for the first time that Angel might have been behind the pillow for another reason.
'I've drained you all.'
Wesley could only nod, not just because he didn't understand the comment, but also because Angel's hold prevented him speaking.
There was a small commotion, and Wesley could see Harmony hovering in the doorway with two security guards, his assistants behind them. He flicked his eyes over at them, and Angel turned. Pushing Wesley back against the books, he went out, ignoring everyone, heading for his own, empty office.
He was losing it, and he knew it. Promises had been made to keep Spike safe, to keep him from all this shit that he lived in, the evil he wallowed in, but it wasn't working. His childe had found his own evil, and it was taking him down.
Sometimes, she fell asleep where she sat, her face serene and strangely unlined. Spike would cover her with a blanket and sit quietly alongside her until she woke once more. It was silent, and easy, and he could let his defences drop for a while. His mind roamed over his long life. It all seemed very distant as if he was travelling into a great darkness, and his past was just a photograph, torn into tiny fragments spiralling down like snow in summer. Sometimes he held her papery-thin hand in his, her bones fragile like one of Dru's birds, with almost no more life than those poor creatures had been granted. His dark princess. He wanted to be like Innocence: at the end. He thought he'd had that once, that promise of it ending, but it hadn't, and he remained.
This time, the dream began in Spike's apartment. Once more, Angel rose from the bed and went out into the courtyard. Wesley was there, but he was strangely pale. Angel frowned, and Wesley turned around slowly, like a marionette. Where his spine should have been was a gaping hole. Angel could see right into his body, the cavity totally empty and drained. He sucked in a sharp breath, and Wesley turned back. 'You've drained us all.'
Angel wanted to hide his eyes, but the sword was very heavy in his hands, leaden, swollen and aching to be used. He walked of his own volition to the bed and looked down at Spike. He sensed Wesley at his side, and as ever, Wesley murmured that he needed to push into Spike's heart. Angel cried out in fury, screaming into the dream that he couldn't, that something still had to be released, but then he felt a light hand on his arm and turned.
He jerked back in surprise.
There was never any innocence in his dreams- ever.
She stood there now though, smiling at him.
'Wesley is right.'
'No. I don't trust him. Or you. I trust her.'
They turned together to look at Cordy, but Innocence tutted and looked sternly at him. 'You need to look in the mirror, Angel. He gave it back to you so you could.'
Very gently, she took the sword from him and turned him round. On the wall was a large mirror. It was the one Spike had given back to him- shard, full-length; he suddenly realised that it just a matter of perspective. Like life, it depended on how you looked at it. He was there, Innocence at his side. He cried out and went closer, feeling over his face, disbelieving. She smiled at his reflection and said softly, 'Cordelia?'
Angel looked, but could not see her in the mirror, yet she was there when he turned around.
He turned back and stared more intently at the reflections. Wesley joined them, and he said sadly, 'Can you trust me now?'
Angel turned back, and it wasn't Cordelia; it had never been Cordelia, but it had taken the mirror to show it to him. It was Darla, and she winked at him. 'Hello, darling boy. Miss me?'
He saw that it had been her all the time, all the times he stabbed the sword into Spike's belly and killed him. With a roar, he snatched the sword from Innocence and drove it through Darla. She looked down, fingered the small seed pearls for a moment and then fell to dust.
The frail hand was on his arm once more. 'You must do as Wesley says and penetrate his heart.'
Angel dropped the sword and cried out. 'No! I can't! I can't! I love him!'
She laughed, a delicate, tinkering, delighted laugh. 'Silly boy. Not with the sword. With just that…. With the strength of your love. You have to tell him. Then you can give him your….' She winked disconcertingly, 'Sword.'
Angel woke calm.
He had not spilt into his sheets. He was not confused.
Somehow, his sleeping mind had cut through his tangled web and set him free.
He showered slowly, enjoying it for the first time in weeks. He dressed in leather and silk and went down to the office, striding out to Harmony. 'Call a conference. I want everyone here: Wesley, Gunn, Fred, Lorne, and Spike. Everyone. No exceptions. Got it?'
He went back to his office and stood looking out over his city.
He wasn't a God, and he had to stop trying to be one.
It was time to tell them.
Tell them all. Everything.
He felt a shudder of anticipation at the thought of Spike's face when he told him.
They began to arrive, anxious, concerned, nonchalant: each according to his nature. He wondered how they would leave. Hating him? Whatever. It would be a genuine emotion at last.
Wesley was the last to arrive, and he looked ill, too much worry and strain for the one who was not there yet. He was about to take his place, glancing at the empty seat as if doubtful that it would be filled, when his cellphone rang.
He rummaged in his pocket and pulled it out, answering it in a low voice.
When the call finished, his hand fell to his side, and he put the other over his face for a moment. Angel came over. 'Wes?'
Wesley sat down heavily. 'That was Spike.' He looked up at Angel but saw none of the pain and confusion in the deep, brown eyes that had haunted them for weeks. They were calm, strong- eyes he knew intimately. With a deep sigh of relief, he said, 'He's been arrested. For murder.'
They arrived at the house and found it illuminated by flashing blue lights, incongruous on its ancient façade.
As soon as Angel stepped over the threshold uninvited, he knew what had happened, and the events of his dream flooded back to him. He ran across the vast hallway and jogged up the stairs, following the sound of voices.
A policeman stopped their entry, but Wesley showed him a card and they were waved through.
'What was that?'
Wesley smiled bitterly. 'The power of evil.'
Spike was sitting on a chaise lounge, his hands hanging loosely between his thighs, studying some pattern on the faded carpet with great interest. People were milling around him, but he seemed oblivious to it all.
Dominating the elegant room, despite its relative insignificance to the impressive proportions, was a black bag. It seemed much too big for its contents.
Wesley glanced at Angel and went over to Spike, sitting alongside him. 'What happened?'
Spike smiled bitterly. 'I called nine-one-one. That's what bloody happened. Just for a minute there, I guess I forgot I was dead. No ID, ya know?'
'She died of natural causes?'
Spike turned his head slowly to look at Angel, and his face was full of hatred. 'What did you think? That I killed her?'
Angel frowned. He hadn't thought that at all. Before he could explain, Wesley took his arm and murmured, 'Get Gunn down here. I think more than anything, Spike needs a good lawyer.'
Spike straightened. 'No. I don't want anything from that shitting place. Go away and leave me alone. I should never have called you.'
Angel came up close, angry for having to continue this pretence. Angry for starting it in the first place, wanting nothing more than to kiss Spike's hatred away. 'Fine. You go to some maximum-security facility. I'd love to see your fucking arse in a few years time.' He turned back to Wesley. 'Call Gunn. I'll talk to the police.'
Spike realised he had little choice, or he was too defeated to care. He leant back and closed his eyes, removing himself from the decision-making process going on around him.
Angel nodded and began to exercise his power.
He hadn't expected anyone else to be at the funeral and wasn't surprised to find himself alone at the graveside. He'd wanted to go- affinity with the dead. He felt quite at home. He was surprised when he sensed a presence behind him and turned to find Angel, dressed in a full-length black coat, walking slowly toward him.
'Don't pretend you care about this, Angel. This is nothing to do with you.'
Angel came to his side, pursing his lips, staring at the fresh flowers on the damp earth. 'She came to me, Spike, before she left.'
'I thought it was a dream, like all the others: you, Wesley… Connor. But it wasn't.' He turned his dark, pained expression on Spike. 'Did she leave here just to help me?'
'I….' Spike didn't know what to say. He stared down at the mud, too. 'What did she say?'
Angel sighed. 'What are you doing tomorrow?'
'Come in to the office. I want to talk to everyone.'
'I don't want to….'
'Please, Spike. I'm asking you. Please.'
Spike faltered and then nodded slightly. ''K.'
They turned together from the grave and began to walk toward Angel's car. 'I'll drive you home.'
Spike shook his head. 'No. I have things to do.'
'You're hurt. I want this to end, Spike. I want….'
Spike knew the tiny, infinitesimally small respite from his war with Angel was over once more. He turned, weary of it all. 'Someone has to fight the good fight, Angel. When's the last time you went out on the streets and helped anyone?'
'Huh?' Spike didn't like being wrong-footed when in full flow of righteous indignation with Angel.
'I went out last night. I've missed it. I've been away too long. You're right. There's a lot for us to do, but not like this: injured, half-cocked, dangerous.'
Spike wanted to echo us, but something in all this was too familiar. He suddenly had a vision of himself patrolling with Buffy. She'd still needed him too, but not as he needed to be needed. He'd begged her to turn back to him, to love him again; he'd debased himself, but she'd refused. She only wanted his strength. She'd only wanted him as a champion to her cause, but love him? That she would not do.
He wasn't going to do that again. Not with Angel. There was nothing brotherly or chaste about the way Angel made him feel. Even now, even injured, sad, and tired, he was aroused. Arguing with Angel, fucking with Angel, it seemed to make no difference. Angel aroused him.
'I'm not falling for your bullshit, too, Angel. I'm not your sidekick in some third-rate TV show. Go find a new Robin.'
Spike turned away and began to walk off through the early-evening dew. He felt a hand on his back, quickly removed. 'Come to the meeting. At least do that.'
Spike nodded. 'I said I would.'
Spike turned, his face speaking his disdain.
'If I said please again, would you stay in tonight?'
Angel was too confusing to deal with sometimes. Sometimes, it was better just to give in. He nodded and shrugged as if it was no big deal.
Angel seemed relieved, and he nodded to himself as if something were falling into place, slowly but surely. 'Okay then. Tomorrow.'
Spike turned slowly and walked home, but he kept his promise and spent the evening wandering through the empty house, making sure it was still safe and secure, just in case its owner came back and needed him.
He'd liked being needed.
He didn't want to go downstairs to his own apartment. He didn't want to face the prospect that he was going to lose it. He knew he'd lose more than that perfect, delicious living space. This time, he would leave L.A. He should have gone before- gone out on a high. He was like some aging actor, dragged back for another season of a hit show that should have been cancelled long ago. Burning up for the entire world. How the fuck could you top that?
He did go down eventually and began to pack in a desultory sort of way. He thought he might go back to the old country. Plenty of evil there as well. He had an idea that he might try to find Dru. He was willing to go through the trials again… for her. Then the thought of Dru coping with her soul hit him, and he frowned deeply as his plan fell to ashes in his head. He'd only just survived his soul, and he was the sanest person he knew.
On this thought, he decided not to pack anything. A totally new start was needed. Again.
Suddenly, he flung himself on his bed and felt a deep shuddering in his body. What was the point of it all? Going on, immortal- dying, human and alone. Both were so pointless. At least she hadn't been alone at the end. One last, enigmatic smile, and she'd just… gone. He mulled over Angel's strange words about the dream. It amused him to think of Innocence visiting Angel in his dreams.
Had she wanted to die? Had she wanted him to turn her? Is that why she'd befriended him? He remembered another elderly woman, turned, coming toward him, offering him something he had never asked for.
All he ever wanted was for someone to want him back, but the harder he pushed people, the more they withdrew from him.
He rolled onto his back and stared up at the high-corniced ceiling. You shouldn't get fond of people or places when you were immortal. Who wants to live forever…? He cursed and knew he wouldn't get that song out of his head now. He'd been fond of her though. Had anyone thought about that with their lawyers'-speak and formalities-we-have-to-go-through…. He was sad because he'd liked her, and she'd died in his arms. No one seemed to have thought about that.
That's what came of being a fuck-up. Unlovable. He was. He couldn't keep people, couldn't make them love him.
He wondered what Angel wanted to call a meeting for.
He had another sharp vision of Angel standing in his office now, looking out over his incredible view of the city. A fallen angel arisen to lofty heights.
Once more the thought of leaving his little safe, green hole in the earth frightened him. He wondered what they'd do if he stayed. Could the dead squat? What would happen to the ghosts if they came in with machines and money to renovate and bring this place into the glare of the twenty-first century? Clear the trees, dig up the pond, and turn his apartment into tiny, boxed-in rooms: modern day living in an expensive city.
He knew he was going to cry. It had been coming on for days, before the death, but he'd put it off, afraid to go down that river again.
In his mind, Angel was crying too, his face pressed against the magical glass of his window. The thought startled him enough to stop the frightening rise of emotion in his own body.
He climbed off the bed and began to pace. Eighty feet. It hadn't changed from when he'd paced it waiting for Angel to come, drunk, scared.
Not sure why he did it, or what he expected, he picked up his cellphone and punched a number.
It was answered after a few rings as if it's owner had had to search for it, remember how to work it perhaps.
'Yeah.' Incredulous, Spike heard the tears in Angel's voice that he had pictured there.
'Why does something have to be wrong?'
'Because you're calling me?'
'Oh, yeah, well, there is that.'
There was a silence, neither knowing quite what to say. Eventually, Angel ventured, 'You are coming tomorrow?'
'I said I would. Why all the secrecy?'
'I'm a taciturn, brooding kinda guy. It suits my image.'
'I'm sorry about Innocence. I know you'll miss her. She had a long life, though. Longer than most.'
'Why did you call, Spike?'
'I wanted to…. When the meeting is over, I'm leaving. L.A. America probably.'
'Hear what I have to say first.'
'Where are you?'
'Still in the office, why?'
'Are you by the window, looking out over the city?'
There was a pause as if Angel was looking around suspiciously. 'Yeah, I am.'
Spike breathed softly. 'Night. I'll see you tomorrow.' He clicked off his phone and tapped it thoughtfully against his lips for a while as he paced. It rang again, and he answered it with a smile.
Angel clicked off, too.
Spike didn't feel so much like crying now, which was always of the good, being essentially evil and cool, so he went out and smoked a slow cigarette for the last time under the beautiful canopy of green, thinking about Angel, as ever, and knowing, with a pleased sense of calm, that Angel was thinking about him, too.
Go to Chapter 11
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