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Wesley gave the door a small push to confirm that it was open and then stepped cautiously inside. He wasn't that sure of his welcome, or of Spike's habits, to risk anything bolder.
It had taken him a long time to decide to come over, but his increasing pain and confusion drove him constantly to seek this person who seemed to him to hold all the answers. It was an intellect thing: knowing there was something he didn't know was intolerable. Everything he didn't know, however, told him that Spike was key to the blanks in his memory. Everything screamed Angel. Everything screamed child. Everything, therefore, pointed to Spike. The dreams were increasingly vivid, and in every one, he was hurting Angel, or Angel was hurting him. The only problem was, he could not get the sequence of this hurt sorted. Blame, it all seemed to come down to blame, but he could not decide where that lay.
The ghosts that he could only sense at the periphery of his vision seemed restless, and he wondered if Spike was absent. He murmured his name softly.
A small movement caught his eye out in the courtyard.
Spike was standing on the small wall that surrounded the pond, dressed only in a pair of jeans, trailing one naked foot in the water. His head was lowered, and he seemed intent only on the bottle of whisky in one hand and the cigarette in his other- those and his thoughts, which seemed to engross him. Wesley was acutely conscious that the vampire was utterly unaware of his presence, despite the danger this represented.
Wesley stood in the shadows of the room and took the opportunity to study the complex figure for a while. It was like a game. He could look at him, and his brain told him it was Spike. Look again, and his heart began to ache because it was… Spike: the one he had adored. The one he had lost his sanity over. Flip, flop, brain, heart. If he did it fast enough, like a child's stick-figure drawing, the images merged together, and then other parts of his body ached at what he saw. However hard he tried, he could not separate his brain from his body; he could not just rationalise and see Spike how he had seen him before the spell. Always, when he looked at him now, the ghosts of his passion hung about the slim, blond vampire. His eyes were still just as blue; his hair was still like spun gold, and Wesley's body ached to have him, despite his brain coolly processing all these thoughts and telling him it was an illusion, a delusion.
Then the shortness of breath began: this maddening reaction he had whenever he thought about possessing Spike's body. It was as if something pressed down on his face, something fearful behind it in the shadows. Just as he almost had the shadowy, lurking thing in his vision, it shifted into Angel's face, and the sense of relief was so palpable that the air returned, and he could breathe once more. He had the absurd thought then that he wanted to give Angel a present, something to thank him, something that he had once desperately wanted to give him, but had lost.
His brain ached to try and remember what it was that Angel wanted and where he had hidden it, but he couldn't, and then the thought always came to him: ask Spike. Spike would know what it was that he had to give Angel.
So he continued to come and seek the vampire's presence, despite the pain and confusion the pale, smooth flesh gave him. He did it for Angel, the one who stopped the bad dreams and given him back his air.
Wesley could not believe Spike had not sensed him. He coughed softly and stepped out. 'Spike.'
Spike still made no indication that he heard, but continued stirring the moonlight that streaked through the cool, green water of the pond.
'Are you… quite well?'
Spike took a long swallow from his bottle, lost his balance and stepped heavily off the wall.
Wesley stepped forward instinctively and offered his arm, but Spike snatched his out of reach, slopping the alcohol, and walked unsteadily into the apartment.
Wesley followed and perched on the arm of a chair. 'Is something wrong?'
Spike took a drag of his cigarette, and then suddenly, he was standing in front of Wesley- close, pressing the human's knees with his. He tipped his head to one side, regarding him closely. He took a swig of whisky and swallowed it slowly, his eyes creasing up in humour. In a very low voice, he said amused, 'You're hard.'
Wesley felt his heart rate increase slightly, but he said calmly enough, 'Spells are powerful things, Spike. You know that. One keeps you animated and walking around in the body of man.'
Spike lifted one eyebrow and took a long drag of his cigarette, tendrils of smoke escaping as he spoke. 'Maybe you need a little exorcism, Wes. Suck that bloody spell right out of you.' He moved forward, forcing Wesley's legs to open and stood between his thighs, staring down at him with an expression that was far harder to fathom than the meaning apparent in his words and actions.
Wesley breathed deeply and leant back slightly, away from the intimidating presence. 'And, what, you're offering to play priest with me?'
Spike smirked unpleasantly. 'Well, now, I didn't have anything holy in mind, exactly.'
Wesley stared at the blue eyes. Had he once thought they resembled some innocent childhood pleasure? They were totally demonic now, and he felt a shiver of fear down his spine. He had come a long way from his Watcher heritage, but he had the sense to know when the devil was present. He licked his lips slightly and said evenly, 'I came to talk, Spike. I rather hoped we could sit and talk- about Angel.'
A smile split Spike's face like a gash. 'Well, see? Great minds do think alike. I was thinking of conjuring Angel here, too. Yeah, Angel's been on my mind all day.'
'I'm not sure I follow your logic, Spike.' He looked reluctantly into Spike's eyes once more and then ducked his head in acknowledgement of something he saw there. 'I'm sorry. I'm missing the point, aren't I? This has nothing to do with logic.'
Spike moved his arm slightly and rested the bottom of his whisky bottle on Wesley's zipper. 'I wouldn't go as far as to say that, Wes. You're hard. I'm hard. We're both adults. You've gotta admit, there's some logic to that.'
Wesley glanced down at the phallic rising of glass from his groin. 'Have you lost your soul, Spike? Have we been guarding and caring for the wrong vampire, always assuming it would be Angel to turn again?'
Spike began to twist the bottle around on the hardness beneath it. 'I'm getting bored talking, Watcher.'
'This is the one thing Angel seems to become incandescent with rage about, isn't it? Me. You.'
Spike stopped moving the bottle around and took another long lungful of smoke. He looked at Wesley thoughtfully through the increasingly thick air between them. 'Not the only thing, no. But you don't remember the other thing.'
Wesley's eyes suddenly flashed, and Spike smirked, raising one eyebrow meaningfully.
'You do know: what it is I need to know; what I'm missing; what it is I dream about until I'm half mad for knowing!'
Taking a long drink, Spike nodded slowly. 'Yeah, I do.'
Wesley saw the offer as clearly as if Spike had it written in large letters on his forehead. He shook his head. 'No.'
Spike raised an eyebrow again. 'It'll drive you mad, Wes…. You know it will…. What did you do? What did Angel do, maybe? Why it's all about me- if it is…. Jeez, what a puzzle….'
'Tell me. Please.'
Spike chuckled and mimicked his tone. 'Fuck me. Please.'
'Spike!' Wesley stood up and pushed him away, hearing the actual offer was so much worse than hearing the implied one. 'What is all this about? Angel doesn't even like you sitting on my desk let along on my….' Suddenly, he jerked around and stared at the vampire. He began to laugh. 'Oh, I am dense tonight. Of course. That is exactly what this is all about: making Angel jealous. My God, you want to use me to exact some kind of revenge on Angel.'
Spike flicked up both eyebrows with a pleased grin. 'Who better? It's so bloody ironically perfect. Steal me away from him, too….' He began to laugh, took a swig of whisky, realised the bottle was empty and swore, walking unsteadily to the kitchen to fetch another.
'What do you mean?'
Spike took his new treasure to the bed and sat on the edge, patting the space next to him, shaking his head. 'You don't get squat from me until I get what I want from you.'
'You know that isn't going to happen- and for many more reasons than I would never do anything to hurt Angel. I have an irrational desire for you, Spike, which is merely the phantom of a spell. And I'll live with that. I'll exorcise you in my own way. But lie with you? That's never going to happen. I'm sorry.'
Spike looked up and straight into his eyes. 'I could force you.'
Something in the way the moonlight struck the vampire's eyes, suddenly made Wesley's brain clear, made it focus for the first time on the purely rational. All fear and chaotic desire left him, and connections sparked with their usual quickness in his brain.
With a deep breath of relief, he nodded. 'You could. But then I have the distinct impression that that would defeat the very object you are trying - in that very warped and almost endearing way of yours - to achieve here. You want Angel to know that someone else finds you attractive…. You want him to see what he's missing. Forcing me is not going to achieve that, is it?'
Wesley saw the change with wonder. One minute, he was reasoning with the devil for his life, the next, he was seeing a reflection of himself as a child: realising that the ones he most loved did not love him.
Spike began to shake so badly that when he tried - in defence - to smoke his cigarette, he could not coordinate it to his lips. This only seemed to turn the shaking into uncontrollable laughter, but there was no humour in it; it was painful to Wesley's ears, and he wanted it to stop.
With a slightly shaky step himself, he went and sat next to Spike on the bed.
Spike's extreme anguish sparked something deep in his memory: pain so bright that it flared, making him wince.
When he put a hand out to Spike's head and pulled him onto his shoulder, he felt he was somehow offering comfort that had once been denied to him.
Stroking Spike's hair rhythmically as the vampire cried gave him something he had once been desperate to have.
When the worst of the storm was over, Spike pulled his knees up to chest, letting his drink and cigarette fall unheeded to the floor. He put his face down and folded his arms over his head. 'Go away.'
'I do know what it's like to be in such a dark place, Spike- I can't actually remember why I was there, but the darkness is a very vivid memory.'
'Please, just go away.'
'What are you ashamed of? That you tried to get me to fuck you or that you cried? Jesus. I think I did fuck my way through my darkness, and I cried me that proverbial river. I sometimes think I still am….'
Spike turned his head and laid his wet cheek on his forearm, gazing unsighted at a streak of moonlight on the cover between them. 'I hate him so much I'm trying to decide whether it would hurt him more to tell you or not to tell you.'
Wesley frowned. 'I thought you two were getting along better since the spell.'
Spike's face crumpled once more, but he clamped his jaw tightly before replying, 'Appearances can be deceptive, it seems.'
Hesitantly, Wesley stretched out his hand and brushed Spike's hair with the pad of his thumb. 'Tell me. Tell me what I need to know.'
'What if telling you destroyed the world?'
Spike shrugged. 'It's such a fucking balancing act, isn't it? Worlds saved by sucking out knowledge, as if it was pus in a wound. Should I infect you again? So sterile…. He's so sterile now.'
'I'm not following you, Spike.'
'I can't tell you.'
Wesley rose angrily. 'Yes, you can.'
Spike shook his head. 'I saved the world, Wesley. I'm a fucking hero.' His jaw trembled, and large tears rolled from his eyes, and he repeated softly, 'I'm a fucking hero.'
Something in the vampire's intense sadness made a small piece of Wesley's resistance crumble, and he felt a matching sadness well up like dark oil, erupting from a darkness he knew was ever present. He sat back on the bed and hung his head, fearing that if he let the tears come, he would cry more than a river: it would be a flood that would wash him entirely away. He bent and picked up the discarded bottle, swilling it around to check its contents and then put it to his lips. He swallowed and swallowed and then handed it to Spike.
With a slight hesitation, Spike took it. He nodded his thanks to something they both knew was not the offer for his own alcohol, and then he drank deeply, too. They glanced over at the other full bottles on the counter and then got down to some serious drinking, each plunging the darkness for their own separate escape.
Spike was back in his bed at home, ill with fever. He knew it must be the past, for he'd been sick in the night, and he could smell the unmistakable smell of human vomit on his skin, in his hair.
Wesley was at school, being beaten by his fagmaster, and every land of the cane was on his temples: thwack, thwack, until he vomited.
Spike sensed there was something he was trying to forget and blessed the unbearable pain in his head.
Wesley sensed there was something he was trying to remember and cursed the unbearable pain in head.
Spike wondered why he was lying on prickly straw.
Wesley wondered why he was lying on silk.
Spike cocked an eye open and saw a pulse beat in front of him, stubbled but a pulse nevertheless. He bit.
Wesley rose, howling. Spike shouted. Wesley cried out at the noise, holding his head. Spike discovered he was dripping in vomit that wasn't his, and vomited at the smell. Wesley reared back and vomited in reaction to this, tumbling off the side of the bed and hitting his head on the floor.
Spike surveyed the scene and retreated into unconsciousness when his memory threatened to return.
Soap seemed essential, and he scrubbed it over his body and hair, puzzling how he came to be in the shower. The journey from unconsciousness to soap was a mystery, but he did not let it ruin the pleasure of the hot water. Everything was out-of-focus and lurching, but if he braced carefully enough, he could stand and lather without falling. He heard the door slide open, and something that still stank of vomit entered his clean place. Silently, he passed the soap over, but the other one seemed incapable of moving at all, so he washed him, systematically scrubbing the soap into the sticky dark hair and rasping it over the rough cheeks. Without his careful bracing, the swell beneath the shower stall caught him out, and he fell against the other. They both collapsed and lay in the pooling water. It was warm and did not lurch so much, so they made no effort to leave.
He was cold. Wet and naked. Shivering.
The bed was not an option, so he lit the fire, the scratch of the match splitting through his head as loud as a rifle retort.
The flames were so good he huddled in front of them, wondering what they made him think of. Water. Thirst that made him shudder with its intensity forced him to the sink, and he drank from the tap, pints until his belly swelled. He frowned and thought of the other, weaker one, and filled a glass, looking for him. A blurry dark figure was blocking the flames, so he swayed over and handed him the fluid. The man seemed to realise his thirst at the sight and drank it, pushing past him for more.
Nakedness occurred to them and became important, so Spike found towels.
More water was shared and consumed.
One slept on the couch, one on the floor in front of the flames.
Spike woke to sound of Wesley's voice and turned over to watch him on his cellphone. His voice was ragged, his throat swollen, but the man barked his orders smartly nonetheless.
It was too much to process, so Spike curled up and went back to unconsciousness for a while.
When he woke the next time, four men were struggling to put his bed in a bag. He tried to focus and watched, bemused, as they left with his mattress. They returned with another, new one. He watched them leave then crawled over and heaved himself up, curling up on its great softness. It depressed next to him, a blanket came over his shoulders, and he curled into something warm that embraced him.
A day later, Spike was woken by a disembodied voice. 'Are we still alive?'
He chuckled and stretched, not disturbing the tight, hot entanglement. 'Well, you might be.'
Wesley shook his head. 'Do you know how long we've been here?'
Spike shook his head. 'Could be weeks.'
Wesley rubbed his hand over his chin. 'Four days, I'd say.'
Spike stretched again and looked down at the dark, rumpled head on his chest.
Wesley sat up at an odd noise. He saw Spike's expression and began to laugh too, uncontrollable, youthful laughter that rang around the apartment. He flung himself back onto the pillow and folded his arms under his head. 'I've survived death. I feel a sense of inappropriate euphoria.'
Spike mirrored his position, his laughter fading as memory returned. 'Yeah.'
Wesley turned his head to look at the thoughtful profile. 'I think I trust you enough now to leave the decision up to you: whether it's best for me to know what it is that eludes my memory.'
Spike flicked his eyes over and frowned slightly. He went back to staring at the ceiling, and then said quietly, 'If there was any point you knowing, I'd tell you. If you ever need to know, I'll tell you, 'k?'
Wesley made a sound of deep relief. 'I feel as if I've been let out of prison. The weight is off my shoulders. I'm sorry. Is that very selfish of me? Putting it on you?'
Once more, Spike shrugged. 'I've got strong shoulders, Pet. Had the weight of the world on them for a long time now.'
'I've never had a conversation with another naked man in bed before. It's rather novel.'
'Yeah. Focuses the mind.'
'I'm thinking off offering you something. I wonder what you'll say.'
Spike lifted his eyebrows and said cautiously, 'Ask me, Pet; then you'll know.'
'Pizzas. I was thinking six or seven….'
They sat in front of the fire, Spike in jeans and Wesley in a towel, consuming the large, hot pizzas. They watched each other negotiating dripping cheese and oil, laughing when it fell onto naked flesh. When they were done, they sat side-by-side aimlessly tearing up the boxes and feeding them to the greedy flames, enjoying the peace and the general lack of lurching.
Eventually, Wesley said evenly, 'I think I'm a little cross about this spell thing. It seems to have messed everyone up rather.' He glanced over at Spike. 'What do you say you and I find that creature and end its games once and for all.'
Spike nodded, still staring at the flames. 'Pay-back.'
'Exactly.' He smiled across at Spike and saw a small, conspiratorial look back.
Wesley murmured, 'Do you know, against all odds, I think we've managed to achieve the one thing I was trying to avoid.'
Spike flicked another strip of cardboard onto the fire and glanced over at him. 'What's that then, Mate?'
'You wanted to make Angel jealous with some utterly false, utterly unlikely sex act, but somehow, somewhere in these hideous last four days, I think something else has happened that would have made that jealousy seem… rational.'
Wesley cuffed him, and Spike moved his head slightly to the affectionate chastisement. He laughed then said, amused, 'I've never had a single soddin' friend before. What do they do then: friends…?'
Wesley shrugged. 'I'm hardly the best person to ask; never in with the in-crowd; never the one who got a seat saved on the bus, you know?'
'Thought you were Head Boy….'
'Teachers' vote. Not a single other boy voted for me.'
'Huh. I'd 'ave.'
'Thank you. I'm not sure a vampire's vote would have actually helped my popularity at the Watchers' Academy, but the thought is appreciated. So, what are we going to do about Angel then?'
Wesley cast him a small look and held a piece of burning cardboard close to Spike's face, waving it to and fro, intoning, 'I seek your inner truth, Vampire.'
Spike huffed and banged his arm away. 'Ponce.'
'I take it you're not leaving L.A? At least, I hope you're not.'
Spike smiled, trying to turn it into a serious pout, unwilling to let the human see his pleasure at the small amendment. 'Nah. I'm not. I like this place too much. I feel… right here.'
'Except when you're not….'
'Well, eight bottles of whisky will do that to you.'
Wesley belched discretely behind his hand and paled. 'Eight?'
Spike glanced over at him and chuckled at something, then rubbed his own chin. Wesley's fingers flew to his neck, and he combed them through the considerable beard he discovered. 'Damn!'
'Yeah, you've lost that sexy stubble effect, Pet. Idyll is over.'
Wesley's eyes widened. 'I haven't even called in sick! They'll be going frantic. Angel will be worried.'
'Oh, and that was said in a mature and responsible way.'
Spike shrugged. 'Yeah. Well.' He watched Wesley get to his feet. 'Thanks for the new mattress, Luv. Appreciated.'
'I think I got off rather lightly, Spike, only having my miscellaneous projects' budget stretched, don't you?'
Spike rose too and brushed one finger over Wesley's chest. 'But I know where you live now, Watcher. Remember that.'
Wesley grinned, uncharacteristically, and grabbed Spike's finger. 'Likewise. Now, what the hell am I going to wear home?'
Angel had enjoyed the most meticulous, precise four days as CEO since he had agreed to take the job. He'd taken a minute interest in everything, kept busy every minute of the day, justifying in his mind his momentous decision to sacrifice everything to the Wolfram and Hart altar.
Being conscientious in response to this new and improved Angel, Harmony decided to get his counter-signature for the odd purchase from the Research Department. Angel signed it readily enough, his new persona not extending as far as actually taking in anything he concentrated on so closely. It would have escaped his notice entirely had Harmony not swung back from leaving and said peeved, 'I never knew, ya know…? But it all makes sense, doesn't it?' She stamped her foot. 'He always had that….' Totally lost for words to describe anything about Spike, she added lamely, 'Thin thing.'
Angel looked up, annoyed. 'What? Get out, Harmony. I'm busy.'
'But Wesley…. Go figure there. I always thought he had the hots for Fred. Oh my God! It was the thinness! Spike… Fred…. All those bones….'
Angel laid down his pen and said casually, 'Spike?'
'Oh! You already knew then? Childe an' all. Guess you would.'
'Speak slowly and in a logical order maybe?'
'Oh. Well… the new bed. Okay, mattress, jeez, picky, or what? You've just bought it for them. I mean, well, it's Wesley budget, although not his personal one…. Hey! Has he just committed some kind of fraud? I think omphhh….'
Angel tightened his grip around her throat and said softly, 'One word at a time. Can you manage that?'
She nodded. 'Wesley is moving in with Spike. They're having some kinda… thing, and if you ask me omphhh….'
'Why are you saying this?'
'Omphhh? Throat? Jeez, boss! Pete from maintenance delivered it, and I really think you ought to tell…. Wait! They were naked and all over each other he said…. I mean, am I the only one who thinks ewwww?'
Go to Chapter 9
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