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The Darkling Plain
On a damp, miserable day in England, a man uncharacteristically lay late in his hotel bed. He'd done a lot of uncharacteristic things lately: fleeing back to his home country; taking this strange, lonely holiday; leaving his friends when they needed him. He lay in the exact centre of the bed, his arms stretched loose at his side and his fingers lightly curled - details were important now; they kept him sane. When he was just as he wanted to be - when his controls were all in place - he let himself think about the kiss. He'd been one person; now he was another, and in that separation, there had been a kiss: violent, passionate, and utterly unexpected.
He closed his eyes for a moment to taste it again: nicotine foremost, then the shock, then the fury and the desperate struggle. He opened his eyes, began to breath evenly and deeply, and when he was calm enough, thought about the arousal. Hot, urgent, exciting; his penis had risen and sought the other out, stretched to find him, touch him. He didn't move his hand and touch himself now - that was not allowed - but he let his mind wander over a delicious memory of the hard body pressed to his, the feel of that slim form: the muscles, the reciprocal arousal.
It was done now; he'd managed to think through the whole kiss without allowing his hands to move or his body to respond to such erotic thoughts. Now, though, there was the most difficult part to remember - the end. He ground his teeth slightly as he remembered his own part - how he'd taken the lead, betrayed his need, handed over his power, and lost his calm detachment. His fingers began to rip at the sheet until he stilled them with the force of his will. He would remember. What had he thought: that it was the start of something? That the other had come for him? That the cold body had missed him and wanted him?
He didn't even allow his hands to move when hot tears tickled his face. He would remember. For, in that brief moment when he'd had the body beneath him, he had thought all that - and more. A bright vista had stretched in front of him. Like piercingly beautiful light, streaking from a dark sky, the kiss had illuminated the dark, lonely land that had been his life. Then it was over, but the sun had not just gone in. It had turned on him, mocking him - punishing him.
So, he lay in the centre of the bed, surrounded by the only security he could find these days - an even space of mattress and an ocean between them - and thought about a kiss.
The other side of that ocean, another man lay in bed, thinking about a kiss. Although he was thinking about a kiss that he couldn't remember. He wanted to remember it. He wanted that desperately. He wanted the memory of cool lips seeking his in need. He wanted to be able to remember responding to that kiss. Had he been scared, pleased, eager, nonchalant and desirable? He didn't know. He'd not been allowed to remember. He'd done uncharacteristic things since the unremembered kiss too, but he couldn't think about them. When he did, fingers began to tear at cuticles, dig into his skin and rip it off, this blood and pain subduing the memory of a pale expression of betrayal. Traitor. He was, and he knew it.
In the same city, two vampires lay on their bed, sated. They'd made love for hours - pleasuring each other, taking turns, passing a long day, uncaring that the night had finally arrived. Now they lay aching and tired, surrounded by property details, studying them intently.
'This one's okay.'
Angel took it and wrinkled his nose. 'Too modern. I want something with character.'
Spike hid his 'old and decrepit' comment behind an unrealistic cough and picked up another.
Smiling in fond tolerance, Angel suddenly cleared a space and turned onto his side, propped up, watching the other. 'We'll drive around later. See what we can find.' He stretched a hand out and brushed his finger down Spike's cheek lovingly.
Spike tried to hide his smile of pleasure and said softly, with no attempt to cover it, 'Poof.'
He continued to study the properties as Angel played with him: snagging his fingers in tangled blond strands, swirling a fingertip around soft curves of an ear, tracing a pale vein into the hollow of a taut neck.
He pushed another brochure over. 'This one's good.'
Angel glanced down. 'Too small.'
Spike frowned. 'How much room do we need? Couple of offices, some….'
'Offices. I want at least eight offices downstairs.'
Spike pulled the details back and appeared to be studying them. After a moment, he said deceptively casually, 'Why?'
Angel didn't rise to the bait of an argument. 'One each.'
'Uh huh. You, me, the bint, the hood, and the stick insect. I was good at arithmetic at school, Angel.'
Angel sighed and rolled onto his belly once more, pulling a different property over and looking it through. He cast a quick glance at Spike. 'There's going to be a lot of money left over, Spike. I need someone to manage it for me.'
Spike tipped his head over to one side slightly and said with a pleased, puzzled frown, 'Sam…?'
Angel smiled. 'Someone I can trust, I was thinking - trust with my life.'
Spike grinned openly and punched him slightly. 'You sneaky bastard. Okay, that's six.'
Angel shrugged. 'They're all humans. We need a stronger hitter if we're going to….'
'Someone else I can trust - someone I trusted with your life, Spike.'
Spike rolled onto his back and stretched delightedly. 'The magnificent seven - but you said….' Suddenly, he swung his legs off the bed and sat up. 'No.'
Angel frowned. 'I was thinking of taking on a clerk or something - for filing….'
'No you weren't.' Spike swept his jeans off the floor, tugged them on, and stomped out of the room.
Angel sighed once more and lay slowly back onto the paper.
It didn't get any easier.
He showered, dressed and went downstairs, dreading the moment when he had to go into his empty office. He sat at his desk and shut his ears to the silence: no cheery greeting, no soft chatter while they caught up on the night's events. He heard some noise in the lobby and leant on the doorframe, watching Spike getting weapons out. He could feel the bitter, silent recriminations being cast in his direction.
'I thought you wanted to go and look for property.'
Spike didn't turn. 'No, that's what you wanted to do. Go ahead, Angel. You always end up getting what you want in the long run.'
'So, we stay here. No move. Good. I like this old place. Lots of fond memories, ya know?'
Spike whirled around but bit back what he'd been going to say. He came toward Angel purposely. 'Do you want me to tell you some more, Angel? Shall I tell you what I did to a pregnant woman I met? Want me to remind you what a foetus tastes like?'
A tic flared in Angel's check, but he murmured softly, 'That wasn't his fault. He never meant for….'
'NO! Stop making excuses! He let me go! He knew what I was, and he let me go! Now it's all in here.' Spike stabbed at his head. 'You know it is… sleeping, awake… even when we're fucking… always going around in my head, the screams….'
Angel reared off the wall and grabbed him by the arms. 'Do you think I don't know? You never understood, Spike - well, welcome to the world of being me. I KNOW! But blaming….'
'Shut up. Shut up! You go fuck him if that's what you want! I DON'T CARE!'
'I don't want to fuck him! You bring everything back to freaking sex, and it's not….'
'Oh, Angel. Wise up. Everything is always about sex.' He gave Angel another bitter look and then shrugged. 'Speaking of which…. I'm going to fuck Sam. See ya.'
With a look that he knew would drive a shard of jealously into Angel's heart, he strode toward the door and went out in a stomp of black.
Angel went into the kitchen and listened to the silence. It was just as loud in the lobby and seemed almost deafening in his office. He sat at his desk and tapped a pencil in a complex rhythm on the edge for a while. When his pout threatened to wobble slightly, he put his head down on folded arms to keep the emotions private.
A hand rested lightly on the nape of his neck. Fingers began to run through his hair, caressing him. He held the wrist lightly and lifted his head. They stared at each other for a long time, and then Angel just nodded, stroking a finger over the inside of Spike's wrist.
'I know you're hurting. I wish I could take it away for you.'
Spike blinked slowly. 'And carry more yourself? Nah. I'm all grown up now, Luv. I'll carry my own pain.'
Angel glanced down and wondered whether to risk speaking but took the plunge. 'It's easier if you can forgive people, Spike. You'll carry an eternity of bitterness along with that pain otherwise.'
Spike screwed his face up slightly then tilted it up to the ceiling to regain control. 'He told me I was perfect, Angel. I know it was just his way, but I kinda fell for it, yeah? Thought he liked me - and not many people have ever done that. I piss people off usually, but he really liked me. Why did he do it? Why didn't he help me?'
An expression of deep anguish flickered over Angel's face, and he murmured, 'He must have been in so much pain.'
'I don't CARE about his pain!'
Angel looked up sharply. 'No, we didn't. Either of us. We pissed around and made him our sport. Jesus, Spike, we hunted him and fucked him over….' Suddenly he stopped and stood up, pulling Spike into his arms. 'Whatever you want. I don't care either. I wanted you, and now I have you back. That's all I care about.'
Spike let himself be hugged for a moment but pulled back, studying the dark face. He knew Angel was lying and that Angel knew he knew this. With a soft shrug he kissed him. 'Come on. I wanna go find a new place for us to live. I hate it here now.'
Angel nodded. 'Somewhere big enough for… seven offices.'
Spike hesitated then pulled Angel back into a tight hug. 'Tell me you still love me.'
Angel laughed. 'I still loved you when you lost your soul, Childe. Being a revengeful fuck all of a sudden isn't even going to made a dent.'
Spike held him away with a look, then had to grace to look slightly abashed and headed for the car.
They kept up a pointed silence in the car until Spike suddenly laughed and punched Angel, handing him a cigarette. 'Wanker.'
Angel took the cigarette and bent to have it lit. 'Fucker.'
They gave each other a wry look. Enjoying the freedom of being able to argue without once threatening what they had together, Spike repeated, 'Wanker,' and Angel caught at a lock of blond hair, tugging it painfully.
Feeling much happier, they drove to an area of town they'd not explored before and went slowly around the streets, assessing possibilities.
It was an older section of town, imposing, but now mostly run down, with crumbling villas on large, overgrown lots. There were small, private parks, hidden behind fences, and everywhere had the air of seedy respectability. Spike chuckled. 'Your kinda place.'
Angel chose not to hear the irony and replied softly, 'Yeah. Let's get out and walk.'
They wandered around for a while until Spike got bored and suggested stopping for coffee. The café was small and surprisingly attractive inside, and they slid into a booth and waited, smoking quietly.
After a moment, a man came over. 'What can I get you?'
Spike cast a glance at Angel and replied evenly, 'Coffee. Two.'
The man looked at Angel, and as he tore off the order, said, 'The Crypt's closed down.'
Angel frowned and was about to comment on the odd remark, when the man added, 'I hear the club across town is good though - Babel.'
Spike bit his lip to suppress a grin. 'So… the Crypt was a….' He glanced significantly at Angel. 'Gay dance club?'
The man followed his look. 'Well, yeah, I assumed.' He paused and appeared to taking in the hair and leather. 'That's what you were looking for. Sorry.'
Angel gritted his teeth. 'How about you just bring the coffee?'
Spike waited until the waiter left then stroked his boot up Angel's leg softly. 'Don't take it to heart, Luv. It's a compliment really.'
Angel rose and went back out into the night. Spike watched him go, amused and stretched out to wait for his coffee.
When he got out into the soft night air, there was no sign of Angel, but he followed his trail around a small park and found him standing in the middle of a quiet road, staring at a building.
Spike went up and stood next to him, and they stared together. After a moment, Angel put his arm lightly around Spike's shoulders. 'This is it.'
Spike looked at the old, gothic façade: the fake gargoyles on the corners and the high, arched windows.
'You've gotta be fucking kidding.'
'This is the one I want.'
'You want us to live in… a crypt?'
'The Crypt. It's perfect. It's a sign.'
'You've had too much nicotine.'
Angel broke in and stood, staring in increasing wonder at the space in front of him. The lower floor was mostly the remains of a dance floor; there was a bar on one side and some closed rooms around the other three. It was totally dilapidated and smelt as if there had been a fire at some time. Angel headed toward the central stairs and jogged up.
Spike watched him go uneasily as large parts of the stairs crumbled beneath him but, with a curse, followed him up. The upper floor was a warren of small rooms. They'd been vandalised, and syringes and other detritus of the streets littered the floor.
Relieved that it was so hideous, Spike went up to Angel and put a hand on his back. 'Sorry, Luv, I know you liked….'
'Angel! You can't buy this place! I'd rather live in the Hyperion! Hell, I'd rather live in my own crypt!'
Angel kept repeating this quietly to himself all the way back to the hotel. He had a rare animation about him, and Spike twisted around in his seat and watched him closely. It was good to see him happy. It was good to see him excited about something.
Spike shook his head. 'Bags I get the drug-ridden hellhole room on the left then.'
Angel tipped his head back and laughed. 'It'll be perfect; just you wait and see.'
Everyday from that night, Angel went to progress his obsession with The Crypt.
Spike waited until he was sure Angel wouldn't be there one night, rounded up his small gang, and marched them over.
Sam stood in the middle of the wrecked dance floor and tried a few moves. 'I can still smell cum. That's nice.'
Spike narrowed his eyes. 'You could have their backroom as your office.'
Sam suddenly grinned. 'Ah, the evil dead's told you….'
'Thought you were gonna retire.'
'I am. From tax. I'm going to be a super hero now.'
Spike only smiled and turned to Jordan. 'What do you think?'
Jordan shivered. 'It's probably haunted by dead sodomites.'
Sam murmured, 'Seems appropriate then.'
Spike shouted in outrage and chased him up the stairs, and laughing, they inspected the equally dismal top floor.
In the last, tiny room, Spike flung himself down on an old bed and then jumped up, wrinkling his nose. 'Bloody hell!' He inspected something on his jeans and tipped his head back. 'I don't want to live here.'
Spike glanced at Jordan. 'I can't. He needs something. He's missing….'
He frowned and didn't continue.
Sam gave him a look, as if there was something on his mind that he'd wanted to say for a while. 'I understand why he did it, Spike.'
Spike stomped over, but Sam stood his ground and said calmly, 'You do too. You understand the power of obsession more than anyone I've ever met. We'd all have done exactly the same thing, given the same circumstances.'
Floored by Sam's calm manner, Spike backed off a little and looked helplessly at Jordan. The demon shrugged his shoulders. 'I don't know, Spike. We have you; so, it's hard for us to say. Wesley didn't….'
'Don't say his name!'
'Stop being a melodramatic prick, Spike.' Sam turned, put an arm around Jordan's shoulders, and led him downstairs.
Outraged, Spike followed them and shouted, 'You don't know what it was like to….'
Sam spun around and came back to him. 'No. I don't. I can't imagine, and I don't want to. But I know we have you back now. I know we've all got a new start. I know I love you. But he has nothing, and I feel sorry for him, and I don't give a shit what you think about that! Now, get over yourself; let's go to my place, and I'll fuck you both 'til you beg me to stop.'
He watched expressions flit over Spike's face, sighed and cupped him around the back of the neck, pulling him in for a kiss. 'Love is all we have in the end, Babe. I've got you back, and that's all that matters.'
Spike relaxed and let the human embrace him. 'Jesus, I'm spending my life saying sorry to everyone.'
Sam bit back the obvious response to this and, catching Jordan with his other arm, led both smaller men back through the gloomy, ruined building.
Go To Chapter 2
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