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Balancing Act

Chapter 9

Wesley brought a stack of books over the following night. He'd wanted Spike to come into the office with him, so they had access to all his texts, but Spike refused, and Wesley didn't push it. Instead, he gathered up the ones most likely to be of use and made his way over there after work.

It appeared Spike had just got up; he looked rumpled, slopping around in old jeans, with bare feet and chest. Wesley felt the familiar pang of desire, which he squashed determinedly, and put the books down on the floor in front of the fire. 'Tonight we find it.'

'Tomorrow we kill it.'

'Yes. If it's still in the city.'

''Spect it will be. Where else would you go if you wanted to get poor saps to fall in love with you but a big city full of lonely people?'


Wesley watched as Spike turned away to make them both some tea. He could sense the vampire was in low spirits and suspected the cause. He wasn't surprised when Spike asked in a deceptively casual voice, 'How's work?'

Wesley knew what he really wanted to ask, so replied gently, 'He seemed very distracted.' Thinking it would cheer Spike up, be amusing to him, he added, 'Everyone seems to think we're having an affair. The veracity of the gossip considerably helped by Harmony's outrage.'

Spike did not seem quite as amused as he'd hoped. The vampire snatched up his cigarettes and went out into the dark to smoke. Wesley followed him out and leant on the wall, pulling petals off one of the exotic flowers. 'I thought it was what you wanted: for real, not just inaccurate rumour.'

'Yeah. Guess I did. Lucky me then. Did Angel refer to it? Directly?'

'I hardly expected him to. It's not his style, is it?'

Spike shrugged as if denying any knowledge of Angel or his habits.

'Shall we hit the books?'

Spike nodded but made no move to follow him in. Wesley went in alone and began to work steadily through his books. After a while, Spike came in and toed one of them, pursing his lips. 'We know what species it is. These books are too old to tell us its habits in a city like this.'

Wesley sighed and pushed his book away. 'Maybe we're going about this in the wrong way. Maybe we could find a pattern.'

'Other incidents of weird behaviour?'

'Well, possibly. If other men or demons have been forced to love this creature - and I am using that in the most euphemistic way - then we may be able to pick up reports of… unexplained madness?'


'Yes, possibly.' Wesley suddenly got up, animated. 'Computer. We need a computer.'

Spike shrugged. 'Almost got bought one of those once.'

'Wolfram and Hart.'

Spike immediately refused, but Wesley added, 'He'll be out. Dinner and conference.'


Looking anything but convinced, Spike pulled on his boots and shirt, and followed Wesley out.

When they got to Wesley's office, Spike hung around as the human used the computer. He looked out of the window for a while then wandered out into the main lobby. The light was on in Angel's office: a soft desk one. It drew him like a moth to its familiar flame, and he felt an almost overwhelming stab of regret that he could no longer go in there and spar with Angel, that they had lost that bitter, familiar, twisted friendship. He cursed and pushed open the doors, remembering how he had fled in here from Wesley's sudden weirdness, how Angel had growled and possessed him. He shut the doors softly behind him and trailed his hand over the chair, brushed his fingers across the desk, sat for a while in Angel's chair, trying to see things as he saw them. The office looked very big and intimidating from Angel's side of the desk. Finally, he went to the window and looked out over Angel's city, wondering what he was doing, whether he was thinking of him, wishing he were, even if it was only bad thoughts; they were better than cold neutrality. He sent out a small prayer that somewhere Angel was hating him, then closed his eyes, trying to feel that powerful emotion so it would fill the huge space inside him that had opened up to absorb Angel's love.

'What the hell are you doing in here?'

Spike spun around, all his normal cool nonchalance gone for a moment. He couldn't even summon some snark and just whispered, 'You're at a dinner.'

Angel grimaced and walked very slowly toward his elevator. 'Get out.' He stopped at his desk, leant on it, and then sat heavily, hanging his head.

'What's wrong?'

'Nothing. Get out of my office. I can't do this tonight. Not tonight.'

'Do what? And… bloody hell… is that blood?' Spike's eyes widened as the smell of blood suddenly hit him.

Angel didn't lift his head. 'Just go.'

'It's human! All over you….'

'I need for you not to be here.'

'Wesley said….' Spike didn't even see him move. Despite his obvious exhaustion, Angel pinned him against the glass and pressed his face in close.

'You know what? I'm really not interested in anything Wesley and you talk about.'

Spike felt a tingle run down his spine. He'd felt something like it before, and he flicked back in his memory to locate it. Café… in the mall… Angel jealous.

He didn't know whether to feel intensely pleased, or furious. He opted for furious and pushed him off, walking toward the door. Suddenly he turned back and reversed their earlier position: pinning Angel against the glass. 'You piss me off, Angel. I seem to remember you telling me to go find some new playmates. Well, you know what? I didn't have to look too far.'

Angel's eyes darkened. 'I don't believe it, Spike. It's a pathetic attempt to make me jealous because you still believe, somewhere in that dense cranium of yours, that I'm pretending to loath you, that somehow I have some secret agenda, and if you get me jealous enough, I'll break down and sob and tell you I love you and that I want you….'

'Methinks he doth protest too much….' Spike twitched up an eyebrow and grinned.

Angel pushed him off and paced slowly back to his desk, sitting down on it with a wince.

He looked so desolate, so empty, that Spike hesitated over leaving and instead came closer. He stood next to the silent, dark figure and said softly, 'Human?'

Angel didn't look at him but replied equally quietly, 'They said they always arranged it for Wolfram and Hart: special clients… they said. She was served to us as an aperitif. A child. They'd drained her already. There was nothing I could do….' This final comment was ragged and cut off before more emotion could betray him.

'Jesus.' Without thinking too much what he did, Spike pulled the dark, seated figure into his arms. 'Don't. It's not your fault, Angel. You made your decision for the right reasons.'

Something in Angel seemed to break at this. He lifted his head and stared into the deep blue eyes, and it seemed to Spike as if he was about to tell him something momentous, something about choices and why he made them, but then Angel glanced down at the hands that held him.

With a shudder, Angel jerked away from Spike, and his confession died at the sight of the blood on Spike's hands. Spike was contaminated just from being in his presence. Everyone he touched… all signed up under this contract of evil.

He would not extend the contract to Spike. He would keep him safe.

'Get out of my office. And don't come in here again.'

Spike let his hands drop to his side. He'd seen it: a rapid switch in Angel's expression. He didn't know exactly what it meant, but he did know that whatever Angel was telling him was not the truth. Instead of a furious, bitter retort, therefore, he just nodded and stepped around him toward the door.

He walked back to Wesley, feeling Angel's cold gaze penetrating his skin with every step.

Wesley seemed not to have noticed Spike's absence particularly, but he looked up and frowned, 'What's wrong?'

Spike lit a cigarette and ignored the question. 'What have you found?'

Wesley smiled and pointed to a map on his desk. Spike came over and looked at the pattern of dots he'd plotted. In the middle was a cluster of buildings. 'Let's go.'

Wesley nodded grimly. 'Large axe, I'm thinking.'

'I did that before… didn't work.'

'Not its head. You need to dissect its body into four parts and scatter them: north, south, east, and west. It's a ritualistic thing.'



'Sword then. Easier for slicing and dicing.'

'Have I ever told you how much I hate this job sometimes?'

Spike took the weapon he wanted from Wesley's selection. Wesley took a weapon and a compass, and they went toward the elevator.

Spike cast a small, perturbed look behind him at the only lighted office left on that floor. A dark figure leant in the doorway, watching them leave, his features thrown completely into shadow and unreadable.

He desperately wanted to walk back and say it's just gossip, Angel; it's not true, but he couldn't and didn't. He got into the elevator with Wesley, and the doors closed on their small intimacy.

The building was dark and deserted: a warehouse of some kind, a storage facility for the undefined, human necessities of life. They entered warily, and moved to a place where they could scan the empty spaces. Wesley was about to speak when he saw Spike's eyes flick to the right, so he murmured, 'What?'

Spike nodded in the direction of the sound he'd heard. 'Over there.'

He made to move off, but Wesley laid a hand on his arm. 'Be… careful?'

Spike frowned. 'Vampire? Been 'round for over a century?'

Wesley frowned, just as deeply as Spike. 'I know. Only you're… off-balance.'


'He was there tonight, wasn't he?'

Spike pulled his arm away. 'Let's just go kill something, Mate. I'm really in need of some dicing and splicing, yeah?'

'That's what I mean. You're…. All right. Let's go. Just be careful.'

Spike nodded but murmured, 'Wanker,' under his breath, making Wesley smile faintly. He nodded, and they parted, coming at the sound from opposite sides.

Spike came into a space between some stacked boxes and had an immediate flash back to another time and place. The child was there again, and once again, Spike's rational mind told him to intervene; his soul screamed at him to save the small, helpless creature. He knew better this time though and watched, instead, the face of the vampire who thrust and panted and sweated in his enslavement behind. He didn't like what he saw and looked away quickly, fearing to see another, dark expression overlaid.

He stepped out into the light. 'We'll have to stop meeting like this.'

The small demon pushed his victim away and stood up, narrowing his eyes. 'You.'


'Are you arrogant or just stupid? I can't decide.'

Spike nodded to Wesley, coming in behind the demon. 'Neither.'

The child didn't seem fazed. He shrugged and turned, smiling broadly at the man. Wesley stopped his advance and stared back, then a slow, lazy smile spread across his features. 'Hello. We've not met, have we?'

The demon then ignored him and turned back to Spike. Spike felt a chill run down his spine as the implications of their plight hit him. He glanced at the victim, now lying stunned looking on the ground and dismissed him for any help.

Slowly and surely, the small demon advanced on him, and when he was close, he turned up his startlingly dark eyes and smiled, a broad, possessive smile. Spike stared into the dilated eyes, and then he took his first quarter off, his sword slicing smoothly through the thin neck. Without hesitating, he split the torso down the middle, hacking when his blade caught on spine. Shouting at Wesley, he dropped his sword and dragged his pieces apart, blood pooling around his feet.

Wesley shook himself and came forward. 'It felt like….'

'It's over, Wesley. Find the right places.'

Wesley got the compass out and worked out where they should align the pieces of the body and they stood in the middle of the gory mess, panting, more through shock than any particular exertion.

'Damn!' Wesley ran his fingers through his hair. 'It never occurred to me that it would put the whammy on us like that. Well, me…. Why weren't you affected? I know what Fred surmised about most likely, but I hardly think….'

Spike shook his head and toed one of the pieces thoughtfully. 'Nah. It's not that. I've got nothing left, Pet; that's all. Dead inside as well now. Come on… ugh.'

The sword emerged through his belly, at least two feet of the blade clear, and then it wiggled around a little, opening him up, ripping him apart from the inside.

He fell to his knees looking helplessly up at Wesley. Wesley ignored the look long enough to stake the vampire and then fell to his knees beside Spike. 'Christ!' He caught Spike as he toppled over, wincing as the sword caught at an awkward angle on the floor, only doing more damage.

He cradled Spike in his arms, then with his eyes closed and silently begging for forgiveness, he pulled the sword out. Spike's scream rang around the empty building, but free of the constriction, Wesley could pick him up and carry him to the car. He was astounded how light Spike seemed, how thin he was in his arms and tried to ignore the thought that he was getting lighter with every step, his blood pouring out onto the warehouse floor.

By the time he pulled up outside the old house, Spike was conscious once more. He was sitting very quietly, staring up at the roof of the car, his eyes strangely dilated.

'Can you walk?'

Spike nodded but made no attempt to move.

Wesley came around and helped him out, half carrying him until they got into the apartment, where he eased him down onto the couch. 'What have you got?'

Spike nodded toward the bathroom, and Wesley found some towels, pressing them to the entry and exit wounds, hardly any actual vampire between them. 'Blood?'

Once more Spike nodded, and Wesley went to the fridge and pulled out a number of blood bags.

As he fed them slowly to Spike, he murmured, 'I think it thought we'd killed its lover. I think perhaps I would have killed someone for you when I was under its influence.'

Spike rolled his head over and looked at the watcher thoughtfully.

Wesley put a hand to his eyes for a moment. 'I was so careless, so stupid. I should have anticipated all of this.'

Spike lifted his hand away from his wound and put it to Wesley's cheek, caressing the dark stubble for a moment.

'What the fuck is this?'

Wesley jerked his head away from Spike's embrace, and then backed off the couch at Angel's approach. Spike seemed about to intervene, but the effort of trying to stand sent him into a coughing fit, and blood seeped bright and shiny through the towel held to his belly.

'Jesus!' Angel squatted down in front of Spike, removing the towel. 'Fucking hell. Get me a sheet!' He shouted at Wesley, the brewing argument seemingly forgotten. Wesley went numbly to the bed and stripped off the covering as ordered, handing it silently to Angel. Angel tore it into strips and began to bind the wounds tightly, too tightly, making Spike wince and cry out, ignoring him, his head lowered, his expression hooded, his whole body tense.

Spike flicked his eyes to Wesley and, over Angel's head, made a small gesture toward the door. Wesley silently asked him if he was going to be okay, and Spike nodded in response.

Very quietly, Wesley slid behind Angel's back and left.

In the middle of fastening the last bandage, Angel suddenly rose and went out into the courtyard. Spike heard something break and a harsh shout of anger. 'I made a fucking bargain!' He tried to turn his head and see Angel, but everything was greying out around him. As he slid into very welcome unconsciousness, he thought he heard Angel say raggedly, 'Safe. He was supposed to be safe,' but the roaring in his ears made it muffled and too indistinct to bother to try and recall.

It had been too sudden to hurt to its full extent at the time. It hurt enough when he came round though. It was like a burning all over his body, centred in the small of his back, as if his spine had been severed. Suddenly, panicking, he tried to move his legs and toes, but it hurt too much so he stopped with a small whimper.

He felt something being pressed to his mouth and opened his eyes in surprise to find Angel's flesh against his lips. Blood dripped out of a deep wound in the strong wrist, such a strong easy flow that he hardly had to suck, just lie there and lick and mouth at the food, feeling it roll like desire down his throat.

He took only what he needed though and then let the wrist fall from his mouth. 'Go away.'

Angel pressed one finger over the wound to stop it bleeding and regarded him evenly. Spike repeated his command then curled into a ball away from him, with some considerable difficultly, and slid back into unconsciousness.

When he came around again, the pain was only worse, as if the blood had animated him enough to really feel it. He sat up and hunched over, unable to lie or sit comfortably. Slowly he swung his legs off the bed and stood up. That hurt even more, but at least it gave him the illusion of being whole.

With a small grimace of puzzlement, he saw that the fire was lit, and as he walked slowly toward it, a low voice said from outside, 'You shouldn't be up.'

Spike turned to the voice. 'I told you to fuck off.'

Angel came into the light. 'How did it happen?'

'I'm not having a cosy chat with you, Angel. I feel like shit, and the very last person I want here is you. This is my place, and you're not welcome here any more. You lost that privilege.' He eased himself down onto the couch, very impressed that he'd made it from the bed without falling.

'When is he moving in?'

Spike jerked himself back from a slump of pain and tried to turn around. 'Why are you still here, and what?'

'Wesley. There's nothing of his here… yet.'

'Wesley? Oh, fuck off, Angel. I don't have to tell you jack-shit about my life. You opted out of it. So, go opt off.'

Angel sat down on the arm of the chair, but Spike resisted looking at him; his resistance wasn't that good. The thought that he couldn't resist, immediately prompted thoughts in his mind of what it was he needed to resist, and his hand crept unconsciously to the front of his jeans. Suddenly, he frowned and scented the air.

That made him turn and look at Angel. Angel seemed to sense his scrutiny, for he rose swiftly, turning his back, going to the kitchen area, looking in the fridge, and tossing Spike a couple of blood bags. 'Feed.'

Spike kept his eyes fixed on the dark form, his whole body yearning toward the musky scent of arousal that oozed off him.

Angel hung his head for a moment then began to walk toward the door. Just before he reached it, Spike bit his lip and said softly, 'Angel…?'

Angel didn't turn around, but he stopped, listening.

'Don't believe everything you hear in the office, yeah? Gossip. It's not… true.'

Angel jerked his head round, and for a moment, their eyes met. So much emotion poured off Angel in that one look that Spike's senses were flooded.

When Angel left, he slammed the door so hard that, once more, a small snowstorm trickled down from the ceiling plaster.

This time, Wesley was sitting alongside Angel in the bed. Angel grunted a small hello, but other than that, he was not surprised that Wesley was there. Every night, he'd had the same dream. Sure, the details varied slightly, the stage on which they strutted their small drama changed, but the players were always the same: Wesley, Spike and Cordelia. Then Connor, the destroyer. Always Connor, and the bargain he had made. This time, Wesley tried to force Angel's hand, tried to make him thrust into Spike's heart, but Cordelia held Wesley's arm and directed the thrust into Spike's belly. Then it was always the same: the corridor stretching to infinite madness and Connor.

He woke sweating slightly, still smelling Spike's blood on his hands. He'd not showered, did not ever want to shower again.

Three nights later, Spike returned to the warehouse to check that the demon had not reassembled once more. It hadn't, and the pieces still lay there, obscenely small and sad looking.

He stepped carefully over them and went out into the night, and although he was not to know it at the time, that was when the madness started, the spiralling void, which began to drag him down. From that moment on, his world became one of pain, and hurt that would not heal on his body, matching the pain of that already in his heart.

He heard the muffled cry, one he knew only too well, one he had brought forth from helpless victims enough times. He ran to the sound and found a woman pinned down in the grimy alleyway, a demon tearing at her clothes, seeking something warmer: her flesh.

Without thinking, Spike attacked, there was nothing as good as the sound of a blade crunching someone else's flesh to make him forget that he was lonely and that he ached for Angel.

Sore from his wound, however, he was slower than usual, and the demon raked a claw across his face, opening up a flap of skin. His shoulder caught a heavy, spinning blow and dislocated.

It was like that every night then, each new injury compounding the ones he'd suffered before. Eventually, he killed them all, but each time, new injuries added to the toll on his body, taking away its ability to heal itself, until bruises and cuts merged with deep penetrating wounds, and he became walking pain.

He found some respite though, someone who took away the pain for a while as he slowly healed. That first night, dragging himself up into the old house to check around, hand held to his cheek to seal the flap of skin, he'd found her still up, looking through old photographs of people long dead. It seemed so fitting to join her- the living dead. She'd welcomed him, and he'd sat alongside her for hours, feeling happier than he had for many weeks. He knew why; he wasn't stupid, but if he took comfort in a life he had once known, before Angel had taken it from him forever, who was there to deny him?

Innocence never seemed to question why her young visitor seemed to relax so in her company, why his face lost its careworn aspect, why his harsh edges dissolved and left someone far softer and sweeter. She accepted these things as she accepted his knowledge of events far distant, and they worked their way through her memories and conjured in their minds a time that had been happier for both of them.

Go to Chapter 10


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