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The Darkling Plain - Episode
It was surprisingly easy for Spike to persuade his friends to leave the following night.
Sam had some scheme rolling around in his mind, some excitement about getting back to the city. Jordan seemed jittery and ill at ease in the cabin now and readily acquiesced to the three of them driving back that night.
Angel watched Spike packing his small holdall with ill-feigned nonchalance. He hovered and made useless suggestions, until with a small growl, Spike turned and seized his arms. 'I'll be one hundred and thirty soon, Angel. I can survive a road trip to L.A. with one drugged-up homo and a suspicious demon.'
'What if he's…?'
'I'll handle Jordan. Okay? Now, enjoy your last day here, look after the mutt, and I'll see you tomorrow night.'
Angel nodded. He began to twist his bracelet around on his wrist.
With a sigh, Spike sat on the edge of the bed and patted the space next to him. He put a hand softly to Angel's cheek. 'Don't take any notice of the shit I say, Angel.'
'You said something was coming. You said….'
'I think I was being a drama-queen, Luv. Hey! I'm learning something from me old sire at last. Come on, cheer up.'
Angel made a brave attempt at a smile, and Spike nodded approvingly.
He rose, grabbed his bag, and left.
The trip back was uneventful. They took turns driving. Sam was in a great mood. Jordan was quieter, but he didn't behave oddly- despite how closely Spike watched him. Only once did his calm façade crack a little. Sam suggested they all take a stop for coffee. Spike, who was driving, glanced into the mirror. Jordan was staring out of the back window. Apparently studying the dark road behind them, he said in a low voice, 'Those places are all shit. Let's press on.'
He turned back and realised Spike was watching him, and although he couldn't see Spike's expression in the mirror, he smiled, nonetheless.
'You okay there, Mate?'
'Sure, Babe. I just don't like truck stops. Too many… truckers.'
Spike twisted around and looked at him over his shoulder. Jordan returned his look calmly. 'Eyes on road, maybe, Vampire?'
Spike turned back, and for the rest of the trip they didn't speak. Sam slept; Jordan appeared to.
When they got back to the city, it was damp and cold. Everyone's spirits seemed to plummet a little.
Spike waited at Sam's apartment until Jordan left. The human was throwing clothes into the wash and generally sorting bags. He said casually, 'Wanna stay?'
Spike shook his head, staring at the door where Jordan had left. 'How tired are you, Pet?'
Sam stopped loading machines and came over with a slow grin spreading on his face. 'Never too tired for some fun. What's on the menu?'
Spike handed him his jacket. 'I'm thinking we give it a few more minutes, then pay J a surprise visit.'
Sam moaned appreciatively, but as he slipped his arms around Spike's waist, he asked, curious, 'Why not just fuck with him here? Seems kinda….'
'Nah- his place. Much more informative.'
'Okay.' They jogged together back out into the cold. Sam thrust his hands deep into the pockets of his jacket and hopped between feet to keep warm. 'Lead on, McDuff.'
Spike gave him a small look. 'I'm kinda waiting for you….'
Sam frowned. 'You don't know where he…?'
Spike tipped his head a little to one side. 'You tellin' me you don't either?'
'I was gonna say embarrassing. But, yeah, odd too, if you think about it. It's fucking freezing out here, by the way.'
Spike nodded, and they went back to Sam's apartment. The human poured them both a drink and handed one over. 'How long have you known him?'
'Bit longer than you. I picked him up in a bar in Sunnydale, just before I came here. Course, he wasn't a bloke then. I mean….'
Sam chuckled. 'Don't worry; it doesn't disgust me. I have friends who are het. I'm open-minded.'
Sam sat on the edge of the bed. 'Kinda what I'm planning on, Spike.'
Spike ignored him and sat down, too. 'So… all this time and you've never been to his place?'
Sam pouted. 'Jeez. I guess he does HAVE a place. I mean… maybe he doesn't need one.'
'Well… I dunno. Maybe.'
They were silent for a while as they both ran their acquaintance with the demon through their minds. Sam swirled his finger around the rim of his glass thoughtfully and then said, 'Why the sudden interest in J?'
Spike flicked his eyes over. 'That wasn't him in the bar- when you were tryin' to trap off with the guitarist.'
Sam blinked then suddenly stood up and dragged Spike to his feet. 'And you let him go off alone!'
'Hey!' Spike knocked his hands away, but Sam pushed at him, shoving him back into one of the pillars.
'Shit, Spike! He's alone out there with another one of him who's obviously following him! Trying to find him!'
'Okay. I'm thinking….'
'No! You didn't think! You are so up your arse about Angel, you didn't think!'
Spike hit him away again. 'I was thinking of you! Why do you think I wanted to get you out of there? Why did I LEAVE Angel and come back with you?'
'Why didn't you tell J? Why not ask him?'
'Because…. I can't think of a good because, at this very…. OH! Yes, I can. Because maybe it was him, but he pretended not to know me.'
'You don't trust him?' Sam suddenly seemed to have the stuffing taken out of him, and he backed away. 'You don't trust him. Or me then. Oh, God, Spike. After all the things we've done together. Things we've done for you.'
'No, Sam. It's not like that. I DO trust him, but….'
'No. No buts. And jeez, did I really just say that? There are no BUT'S here, Spike. You either trust me and J with your life, or you don't.'
'Don't be so fucking naïve, so black and white, Sam. We know nothing about him.'
'You know all you need to know! The rest is totally immaterial.'
'What? What he is? Where he comes from? Who he is? Who the other one is?'
'Yeah. That's all just the shit shallow people need. I didn't think we needed that.'
Spike suddenly sat down and ran his fingers through his hair. 'I'm sorry.'
'I think you need to say that to J.'
Spike looked up with a bright, fake smile. 'Pretty damn lucky I didn't tell 'im me suspicions then! No need to apologise, is there?'
Sam gave him a glance of disapproval then, with a chuckle, sat down again. 'It's Angel.'
Spike jerked his head back, and at his mystified look, Sam added sadly, 'Since he's become so… weak, you've become weak for him. It's like he's so… vulnerable, you've lost something vital to keep up with him. You know? Sometimes, I wonder if throwing yourself into that freaking maelstrom took more from you than a little temporary consciousness. You're not my champion any more, Spike.'
Spike's face crumpled, and suddenly Sam leaned over and kissed him. 'He's still in there. He's just taken a little holiday, that's all.'
'Never bloody set out to be anyone's bloody champion, you git.'
Sam grinned. 'Nah. We chose you. Now, let's get our sorry butts into bed? And tomorrow, we get J over here and TALK to him.'
Spike's eyebrow twitched up. 'Thought you said no buts….'
'Mmm, interesting… not an automatic no.' He slid his hand onto Spike's lap. 'Even more interesting.'
Spike looked down at the hand. 'I can't do this.'
'Because of Angel?'
'Because of me. I love him. I don't wanna hurt him.' Suddenly, he looked up at the human. 'If you loved someone enough, could you give up fucking other people? If I asked you to, for example, would you?'
Sam took his hand off and looked back at him thoughtfully. 'I don't know. It's not something you can know until someone asks. Has Angel asked you?'
Spike pouted. 'No. But I think he would if he had more self-confidence.'
'He thinks he'll lose you if he asks you to stop fucking me?'
'Yeah. He doesn't want to risk making me choose.'
Sam's eyebrows raised a fraction. 'Has there ever been any doubt which of us you'd choose?'
Spike held his gaze. 'Just once. Yes.'
'You know that your Christmas present was J's idea, Spike, not mine. Perhaps I should have kept you in my bed on Christmas Eve and not let J give it to you.'
Spike suddenly chuckled and put a hand to the smooth cheek. 'Then I'd definitely not be your bleedin' champion. I'm not easy to live with, Mate. Ask… well, ask anyone I actually have lived with.' He looked wistfully around Sam's apartment. 'Just imagine how much destruction I could wreak on this place, when I was in one of my rants.'
Sam smiled. 'I think I'd cope. So, you're turning me down because you don't want to fuck around?'
'No. I'm giving Angel the benefit of the doubt that he'd ask me if he could. He'll be up in that bloody cabin, thinking about us now. Wondering what we're doing.'
'That'd be a kinda boring thought then. Maybe he's found something more interesting to do with Wesley….'
Spike didn't rise to it. He just mimed pulling a knife out of his back and said jokingly, 'I'm beginning to think old Wes isn't into warm, human flesh, ya know?'
Sam stretched his arms up and pulled off his T-shirt. 'Not like you then.'
'Jesus, Sam. You are the fucking devil himself sometimes.'
'You've fucked with the devil before, I'm thinking.'
'Once or twice. Once or twice.'
Sam suddenly patted him on the arm and stood. 'I'm going for a shower. Stay, go. You decide. Hell, Spike, if you want, just stay for the company. Your apartment's gonna seem kinda big and lonely.'
Spike watched him go toward the bathroom and then went to the phone. He punched in the number for Angel's cell phone.
'It's me. We're back.'
''S okay. What are you doing?'
'I was watching TV- hockey. With Gunn.'
'Okay. Now I'm happy.'
'What are you doing?'
'Deciding whether to fuck Sam.'
'What do you think I should do, Angel?'
'Are you at our place?'
Spike held the handset away from him and stared at it in disbelief for a moment. 'And that's real relevant- NOT! No, we're at his place! Happy?'
'Not really. Why are you asking me, Spike? Jesus. What a fucking stupid question.'
'For fuck's sake. Just once. Say it? Tell me you don't me to fuck anyone but you.'
'I told my father once that I loved him.'
Once more, Spike looked at the handset as if the odd words were sitting on it, mocking him. He heard Angel speaking again so put it back to his ear.
'He told me I was a scoundrel to mock him so.'
'He didn't believe you?'
'It was the last time I made any effort to connect with him- until I killed him, of course. That was a much better connection, if I recall.'
'You think that if you ask me, it would be our… last chance?'
'Yes. If I ask you, that would be it. If you ever fucked with him again, there're be nothing left. So, I don't ask you; you fuck him; and we're both happy.'
'And you've just classed my love with the kind you got from your father.'
'Shall I ask you then?'
There was a long silence, and then Angel said plaintively, 'Please, just go home to our place.'
Spike's smile was so foolish he wished he could wipe it off and tried desperately to slide into demon form. He heard Angel chuckle. 'What are you laughing at, you poof?'
He stabbed the phone off and turned to find Sam watching him, leaning on the counter. The human laughed, too, and mock punched him. 'Angel's going to make a good man, Spike. It's taken time, but he's getting there.'
Spike nodded, a smile still playing around the corner of his lips. 'Sorry 'bout….' He flicked his head toward the bed.
Sam shrugged. 'I need my sleep anyway. Tomorrow's "Pull a Cracker Night" at the club.'
Spike went to the door and yanked it open. He jerked back in surprise. 'J? Huh. We were just talkin' 'bout you.'
The figure tipped his head to one side a little and said softly, 'Ah. I assumed he'd be here. My mistake. Again.'
Spike woke up slowly, consciousness returning so slowly that he was on his feet before he remembered the events that had knocked him off them.
He saw Sam lying unconscious a few feet away and began to move toward him, but tipped over. His feet wouldn't move. There was nothing holding them; they just wouldn't move.
He cursed and shouted at Sam, who began to stir.
Spike looked around and saw the one who looked like his friend sitting on the bed. 'You.'
The man nodded. 'Me.'
'What's happening here?'
'We're waiting for him to come. I assume he will come here- eventually.'
'Who are you?'
Spike turned to Sam and said quietly, 'Try to move, Mate. He's got me in some kinda hold.'
Sam got to his feet and came toward Spike. 'I'm okay. Hey! You're not Jordan!'
The figure smiled. 'Apparently not. Call him. Ask him to come over.'
'Yeah. Okay. I'll do that. NOT.'
The figure shrugged, rose in Sam's form and went toward the telephone. Sam shouted, but then seemed to find his feet as stuck as Spike's were.
Suddenly, Spike put a hand to his temple and rubbed it. 'This isn't right.'
'Oh! That's observant of you, Vampire!'
'No, Sam, this… place. It looks like your place, but it's not. It's… Jesus… it's giving me a headache. It's all out of kilter.'
'I don't see it.'
'Nah. It's deeper than the surface. It's the thingies.'
'Yeah, inside things.'
'That's the little buggers.'
Sam looked down. 'We're not… stuck?'
'Nah. We're merged. Feet are, anyway.'
'I'm thinking it could get VERY ow, if we fuck this up.'
'He's calling J over.'
'Fucker. He does a good you though.'
'Nah. No way's my butt that fat.'
The look-alike put the phone down and changed back, the change making the entire apartment waver slightly. Sam glanced at Spike. 'I saw it that time.'
'You think he's controlling this place somehow? Hey, you, what's this all about, Mate?'
'How long will it take him to get here?'
The figure raised an eyebrow at Sam's assessment but sat back down on the bed. 'Would you like to sit down, too? I'll release you to get to a chair, if you'd like.'
Spike's shoulders sagged in capitulation. 'Yeah. Thanks.'
He felt his feet freed and immediately lunged at the figure. He hung, suspended mid-lunge, the air around him opaque and quivering.
Sam began to laugh, a nervous edge to his voice. 'Looks like you dived into KY, Babe.'
'Fucking put me down!'
'And you'll walk calmly to a chair and sit down?'
It was said between very gritted teeth, but it was said. 'Yesss.'
Spike fell with a thump to the floor, and he glared at the demon, but stood up, shook himself like a dog sloughing off water, and went to sit very close to Sam on the couch. Quietly, he said, 'I'm thinking this is good- in a way. He's not killed us….'
'Deep joy. Maybe he needs us for some diabolical, torturous plan later?'
Spike flicked his eyes over. 'Thanks for sharing that.'
'You were the one who sensed the end of the fucking world coming.'
'Oh. Yeah. Sorry 'bout that.'
They heard footsteps, and Spike opened his mouth to shout, but it stayed open, no sound emerging.
He made faces; he hit himself, but he couldn't make a sound.
Jordan burst in. 'What's so…?' He skidded to a halt. 'No.'
Jordan began to lunge at the figure that was more similar to him than an identical twin, but suddenly, Sam began to clutch at his throat, making choking sounds.
Jordan stood still, and Sam sucked in a deep, heaving breath.
'I've come to bring you home.'
'Yes. You cannot live in this realm.'
'I've been living just fine for centuries.'
'A blink in our eye, Brother. You left so recently there is still a hollow that you need to fill.'
'Okay, cryptic much? Can anyone tell me…?'
'Hey! Jordan's a friend of ours, and we want him to stay here!'
The stranger turned to Spike and looked at him quizzically. 'You cannot understand what we are, or where we come from.'
'I've been around a bit. Why don't you try and explain?'
'It is a place of… what you would call light- wet light. Fluid light. Yes, fluid light. We wash against each other for eternity. No shape or form, only beautiful light.'
Spike looked at him for a moment. 'Fuck that then. He's stayin' here!'
The stranger looked down for a moment. 'He cannot stay here. He has no anchor to this realm. It's why I came- how I knew it was time for him to return. How I found him.'
'Anchor?' Spike glanced at Jordan, but the demon was staring at his feet, deep in his own thoughts.
The other one replied sadly, 'He has begun to lose form- will be unable to hold form. He must return.'
Spike watched the lowered head for a moment and then said quietly, 'What's one of these bloody anchors then? Where can I find one?'
Jordan suddenly jerked his head up. 'Okay. I'm coming back.'
Spike stood up and wasn't prevented from taking a step forward. 'You know what one of these anchors is, don't you?'
Jordan ignored him and went toward the other. 'Take me back, now.'
'NO! I'll find this anchor. What is it?'
The stranger turned to him. 'It has never been done. No anchor has ever come forward.'
'It's a person? The anchor is a person?'
'A champion, yes. Someone willing to be his anchor to this world.'
Everyone ignored Jordan, Spike's eyes locked with those of the stranger. 'A champion in what way? There some kind of battle to be fought with you shiny, wet fuckers then?'
'The champion must be willing to bind the fluid one to him.'
Spike flicked his eyes over to Jordan at the anguished cry, and he said cheekily, 'Okay. Then I'll do it. We've binded once or twice very pleasantly, I do recall. Always up for a little binding, J, what d'ya say?'
'You are not of this world, either. You cannot be his champion.'
'Hey! Born and bred in bloody Blighty here, Mate!'
'Your flesh is not human. You cannot be his human anchor. Prepare yourself, Brother- we return.'
Suddenly, Spike felt a presence stand at his side. 'I'll do it.'
The room became silent, and all three of them looked at Sam, until Jordan ran at the stranger and caught at his arm. 'Now. Take me now. I want to go home.'
Spike looked at his face and turned slowly to the stranger. 'I've never heard Jordan afraid of anything before. So… I'm thinking this binding isn't an exchange of rings and vows of devotion ever after?'
'The fluid one will be bound to his champion forever, yes.'
Sam shrugged and cast Jordan a look. 'He can be a real pain in the arse most of the time, but I guess I could get used to having him around some more.'
'You will be bound to him, too- forsaking all others.'
Sam paled and swallowed. 'Oh. Fuck…. Or not.'
The stranger smiled unpleasantly and turned to Jordan. 'You were right. It is time for us to go.'
'No. Wait. Okay. I agree.' Sam shrugged and made a face at Jordan. 'You and me, Baby.'
Jordan opened his mouth, but as with Spike earlier, no sound came out. Spike took hold of Sam's arm and, looking at Jordan, said in a low voice to the stranger. 'What are you keeping back? What's J trying to tell us?'
The stranger continued to look at Sam. 'The fluid one will be able to choose any form he wishes- once only. That will then be his form forever.'
Sam flicked up an eyebrow. 'Wow. BIG decisions. What d'ya reckon, J? I'm going for Ralph Fiennes just now….'
Jordan became frantic, tearing at his throat to try and make sound come out. Sam leant toward Spike. 'He does get that's Ralph, not Ranulf, yeah?'
Spike tightened his hold on Sam's arm. 'Stop fucking around, Tosser.' He turned to the stranger. 'You're not telling us everything.'
The stranger shrugged. 'It's immaterial to the champion what form the fluid one takes. He will be blind to it.'
Sam looked puzzled. 'So, everyone else will be able to see his new face, but I'll see…?'
Jordan's eyes began to run with tears, and Spike dragged his gaze away from him to look at Sam, as the stranger said softly, 'You will be blind.' He held up one hand and a poker began to slowly form in it.
Sam swallowed automatically and winced as Spike's grip on his arm became painful.
Spike released Sam's arm and murmured, 'I'm getting why you buggers don't have many champions coming forward.' He looked at Jordan. 'I'm so sorry, Babe.'
Jordan gave them both a wan smile, tears streaming down his face, and then he turned to the stranger and nodded.
The other held out his hand, his fingers glowing slightly.
Spike turned incredulously to Sam. 'No!'
'Yes. Just fucking do it, yeah? You're not taking him back. I want… I want him here. I mean… I want him to stay. And maybe not Ralph Feinnes then? Because, I'm thinking, if I can't see you, I'd better go for the body, not the face. Hmm… shit, BIG decision again.' He turned cheekily to Spike. 'Can I have Angel's body on him?'
'You agree to be his champion still?' The stranger sounded perplexed, and Sam just shrugged.
Suddenly, with a huge gasp of air, Jordan seemed to find his voice. He tried to move toward Sam, but was as stuck as his friends. He looked at the human and said very slowly and very clearly, 'I have the right to deny him. I want to go home.'
Sam pouted at him, theatrically wounded. 'Just because you're gonna have to lead me around… wait on me - hand and foot, of course - fetch and carry… relieve my every little… whim….'
'Sam. No. Don't do this. Please.'
The stranger suddenly shook himself and began to move toward Sam. 'He has volunteered. He is your champion. What is now decided cannot be changed.'
'Chose a form, Brother.'
Sam turned to Jordan. 'Okay, you did get that I was kidding about another face, yeah? Stay like that, Babe, because that's the face I want to remember you having when I can't… when I'm…. Anyway, that's the face I wanna remember.'
Spike glared at the advancing demon. 'You lay one hand on him, and I'll fucking….'
He looked down to find Sam's hand on his arm. 'Spike. I'm answering that question you asked me. In my own way… hell, theatrical and over the top, maybe, but that's just me, yeah? Now, let me be a fucking champion, and maybe shut the fuck up? Oh, and I want some damn cool shades, yeah? Cover up my…. Damn cool. Remember that.'
The stranger led Sam to the centre of the room, and neither Spike's preternatural strength, nor Jordan's frantic struggling and shouting could prevent this small drama unfolding around them.
The stranger indicated that Sam should sit on the bed, which he did. He frowned when he couldn't lift his arms, and for the first time, his cheerful demeanour slipped a little, but suddenly, he tipped his head back and laughed. 'Hey! Last thing I'll see will be the ceiling over my bed. Now, how fucking ironic is THAT?'
The poker in the stranger's hand began to glow- red to white hot.
He held the glowing tip to Sam's right eye and then, without any hesitation, rammed it home.
All of them- landing with a thump on the floor of Sam's apartment.
Spike and Jordan screamed- the screams they'd begun in the other apartment, which had seemed so real. The screams they'd begun as Sam's eyes had burnt out.
Suddenly, Sam murmured, 'Huh,' in an awed voice.
They struggled over to him, holding him in wonder. He looked back at them from perfect, undamaged brown eyes. They all sensed a shadow in the corner and looked over, but it shifted as they looked at it. 'He passed the test. He is indeed your champion, Jordan-of-the-human-name.'
'Test! Test! Fucking test!' Spike furiously climbed to his feet, lunging at the shadow uselessly.
'Did you think we could cause such pain? What sort of world is this that you could believe in such evil?'
'So, you saying he's…?'
'He is neither bound nor blind- but he was willing to be both. Our brother is in safe hands. He has the anchor he needs to stay, and that is all we wished for him.' The voice softened and seemed to be directed at where Jordan sat on the floor. 'Have a good life. Make use of it. It seems as if this world you have chosen needs your… uniqueness. And you have a champion- the first who has ever been. He is… remarkable.'
The room brightened. Spike looked incredulously at the window and then glanced at the clock. 'Sunset? A whole day's gone. Fuck. Angel will be home.'
Sam began to laugh, and stretched. 'Oh, yeah… not b….'
'Bound. Good.' Jordan looked down, as he finished for Sam.
Sam chuckled. 'I was gonna say blind.' He leaned over and kissed Jordan playfully.
The playful kiss deepened.
They rose to their knees, hands becoming frantic.
Spike said teasingly, 'You two need a room or something?'
Sam rose, pulling Jordan to his feet and replied without any humour at all, 'Yes. We do. Bound. Fuck. Bye, Spike.' He pulled Jordan toward the bed.
Spike's mouth fell open, but he suddenly grinned and spun on his heel, wrenching open the door and beginning to run.
He'd finally got it. It wasn't about demon or human or incompatibility or sunshine or blood or fragility or eternity or death. It was just about love. It was just about commitment and the willingness to sacrifice what was valued for what was valued more.
He pictured Angel waiting for him in the apartment: warm, human, frail, mortal.
What he felt when he pictured him was the definition of love.
He flew through the streets, feeling a slight tingling on his skin from the last rays of a weak winter sun.
It had been him all along- he was the one who hadn't adapted and changed. He'd expected Angel to be his demonic lover, but in a human body. Angel couldn't be HIS Angel. He was a new Angel, a different Angel: a man.
They had to start again: falling in love.
It was all about love.
He crashed in through the basement and jogged up the stairs, his dead heart full of this revelation.
He grinned and ran into the apartment.
It was dark, but his eyes didn't need to adjust to darkness. He saw quite well- he just didn't believe what he was seeing.
It appeared as if Angel had gone through something of a revelation of his own. He also seemed to be discovering that he was a man now, and that he needed to learn about human commitment and love.
The only trouble was, he appeared to be learning about this with Buffy.
to chapter 2
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