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The Darkling Plain - Episode
There was a very tense atmosphere in Giles' apartment when they got back. The men appeared to be deep in the middle of a furious argument. Lilah was sitting on the couch stroking Droc, seemingly oblivious to the angry discussion about her.
Droc struggled to his feet when they came in and went up to Angel, fawning around his legs and beating his tail on the ground. Spike looked down, amused. 'He's knows you're coming back into the fold.'
Angel squatted down and played with him for a while, clearly unwilling to face the more intense, adult discussion raging over his head.
Spike looked over at Giles and interpreted, 'Okay if Angel takes a shower?'
Giles nodded, distracted, and then went back to listening to Wesley rant. Spike toed Angel. 'Go, Pet. You need to shower and rest up now.'
'Nooo…. You need to rest.'
'Long ride ahead, Angel. I want you healed and rested before….'
Angel touched his bruised face lightly, caught Lilah watching him thoughtfully, and went without further argument to shower.
Spike gave Lilah a small, conspiratorial smile, and then said to Wesley, 'Take Lilah back now. She needs to put her affairs in order.'
Wesley came up very close to Spike, his face dark with anger. 'You think….'
'Shut up, Human. This has very little to do with you. I put up with you; I pander to you; hell, I even love you. But I'll be fucked if I'm gonna let you tell me ANYTHING about being a vampire. I HEAR her, Wes. She's in my blood, calling to me, talking through me. I MADE her. I gave her my demon. It's in her, driving her, bringing her endlessly back to ME. And I've failed her at every step of the way. But no more. Now I'm gonna do this thing she wants, because she wants it, and because I can. If you want to help, if you want to be noble and self-sacrificing, then take her now and help her prepare. If you want to be a stupid prick, then get out of our way and leave this to us. We don't need you. Lines in the sand, Wesley. Choose which side of the line you want to be on.'
Wesley looked deeply into Spike's eyes and held his gaze, as the world seemed to still around them for a moment. Then he nodded once and, without looking back, held out his hand to Lilah. Still looking at Spike, he said softly to her, 'I think I'd like us to spend this short time together without fighting. That would be rather nice.'
Spike dipped his head and said softly, 'We'll come back before dawn. We will all need some time to… prepare.'
Swallowing, Wesley led Lilah back out into the dark.
Spike immediately shook off his mood, focusing once more, and went up to Giles. He poked him in the chest, hard. 'You've got some fucking explaining to do, scary human.'
Giles manoeuvred away and went to pour them both a drink. 'Scary? Hardly the….'
'Were you testing us, Giles? Was this your way of seeing just how real our souls were? Did you want to see if we'd really kill a child to be together? There's no way you could possibly have known what Lilah would do.'
Giles chuckled and downed his drink in one. 'I'm actually rather flattered that you think I'm so Machiavellian. I knew exactly what Lilah would do.'
At Spike's mystified look, he laughed more openly. 'I did someone a very small favour once. It seems he did me a bigger one back.'
At Spike's look of slowly dawning comprehension, Giles nodded and said softly, 'The priest.'
'When he was inside me…. Did I actually just say that? When he borrowed my body, I heard… echoes. I knew that some great decision was coming, and that when it did, I needed to follow my heart. I thought I'd discharged my duty by dragging you to that ghastly party, but when you came in tonight, I knew. My God, Spike, you almost glowed…. You've become a champion - all right, a rather short, unnaturally blond one, but a champion, nevertheless.'
'No more sad songs….'
'Nothing- just something he said. I thought he meant about missing him. But maybe it was missing Ang…. Jesus. Maybe we can actually do this thing.'
Giles handed him another drink, and they sat side by side on the couch. Spike turned to him and smiled fondly. 'I didn't mean to need you tonight. I mean… I wanted to see you when things weren't dire…. No badly narrated stories. But here we are again- me needing you, you getting nothing in return.'
Giles dipped his head to his chest with a small smile. He took off his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose. 'I think I shall assist Wesley. I'd rather like to see this play out.'
'See Angel restored.'
Giles looked up and gave him an intense look. 'See you happy.'
Spike cupped him around the back of the neck and pulled them together, resting his forehead on the warmer one.
He sensed Angel come back into the room, but did not pull away. The couch depressed behind him, and then a low voice said, 'Thank you, Giles, for this. I know you don't like me.'
Spike and Giles pulled apart slowly, and Giles replaced his glasses. He looked at Angel thoughtfully. 'Spike likes you.'
Angel smiled shyly. He lowered his eyes and opened his mouth to speak, but nothing but a small, choked sound came out.
Spike frowned, and his hand crept to Angel's thigh, squeezing it slightly. 'Come on, Pet. Maybe we'll just go now.' He glanced at Giles. 'Coming?'
Giles rose and collected a few clothes and a large stack of books. 'I'll drive. You two look rather done in.'
Spike nodded, and he slid into the back seat of the rental car with Angel and Droc.
Almost immediately, Angel fell into a light, stress-induced doze, his head lolling until Spike pulled it down onto his lap. Freshly washed, Angel's hair was soft and very, very tempting to touch. Spike ran his fingers through it and stared out at the dark night.
Suddenly, his reverie was broken by a very quiet observation. 'You know you'll have to be prepared for this to go wrong.'
Spike blinked and took a while to reply. When he did, his voice was deceptively casual. 'Yeah. Bin thinking 'bout that.'
'You can't allow him to rise if there's the slightest doubt that he's not souled. Spike?'
'I heard you.'
Spike's silence gave Giles the reply he needed, and he drove without further conversation for the rest of the trip, just allowing Spike the privacy he needed to think about this unthinkable act.
Once more, Angel viewed the apartment from outside The Crypt with a look of apprehension that he couldn't hide. Giles patted him on the shoulder. 'She's back in Sunnydale, Angel. She came back yesterday.'
'Oh. Did she say…?' He glanced anxiously at Spike.
Giles looked down at the wheel for a moment, and then said quietly, 'Whisper in a dead man's ear.'
Giles pursed his lip at Angel's small, puzzled comment. 'I'm not sure that understand it anymore than you. She said that you were whispering in a dead man's ear, and that she… got it.'
Spike's eyebrow rose a fraction, and then he put his hand on Angel's arm. 'Come inside, Pet. You need to tend those cuts and bruises. You want a couch for a few nights, Watcher?'
Giles laughed out loud. 'Can I say not in this lifetime without either offending you, or bringing bad luck on this extremely odd endeavour? I shall find a rather nice hotel somewhere and leave you two alone to… get ready.'
Spike and Angel, with Droc at their heels, swept through the deserted agency and into the elevator. They leant on the wall, arms folded, watching the numbers change.
Spike flicked his eyes over. 'We're going to do this thing properly. You tell me what you'd like.'
Angel smiled. 'Just you.'
Spike sighed. 'Okay. Take that as a given- for eternity.'
'Not anything with the word fuck in it either.'
'On the bed?'
'In front of the fire…?'
The doors slid open, and they went in, parting, going about the domestic routines of lighting a fire, showering, feeding. They talked, but both skirted around the main subject that consumed them. Eventually, yawning badly, Angel nodded toward the bed. 'If I don't get some sleep, I'll spend eternity tired.'
Spike nodded. 'It's nearly dawn. I'll call Wes and Giles and set up a meeting here for tomorrow. We need to talk things through before we… do this thing.'
Angel wandered into the bathroom to get ready for bed, and Spike made the calls. There was nothing he could say to Wesley to make things any easier, so he kept it short and simple, and both men agreed to come to the apartment the next day.
Frowning, wondering what was keeping Angel, Spike went into the bathroom. He leant in the doorway, smiling in wonder at what he saw. He coughed lightly to announce his presence, but without turning around, Angel said determinedly, 'I'm not going into my eternity with them.'
Spike came closer and slipped his arms around Angel's waist and watched him obsessively plucking out the few silver strands he had discovered in his hair. They stood together and looked at the single reflection in the mirror. Angel blinked and tipped his head to one side a little. 'I'm glad I did the picture for you.'
'Come to bed, Luv. You need to sleep and be well-rested.'
Angel tightened his hold on Spike's arms. 'Summon Lilah, and do it now… please.'
'Shhh, Angel. Let her have her time with Wes.'
'How can we steal our time from hers?'
'We're not. We're giving her inevitable death some meaning.'
'I think you want this too much; you're not seeing the….'
'Angel. Come and rest. You're strung out.'
Angel nodded and allowed himself to be led to the bed.
They stood and looked at Droc, stretched out upside down in the middle of their bed, and Angel frowned. 'When did we get a fully grown wolfhound?'
Spike took a corner of the mattress and lifted it, slowly rolling and tipping the dog until he could hold on no longer. With a half growl-yawn, Droc rose to his full height and trotted nonchalantly to the fire.
They climbed in between the rumpled covers and lay for a moment, Spike debating whether to mention that the sheets smelt of Buffy, and Angel wondering if they did.
Eventually, Angel rolled onto his side and slid his arms around Spike's waist. 'I don't think I've ever wanted to fuck you more than I do at this very minute.'
'Should vampires be superstitious? We can't. I'm afraid, Angel. I'm afraid if we do then it won't be true- true that you're coming back to me.'
Angel nodded and sighed. Spike felt a slight readjustment of something behind his back and rolled over fully to see that Angel had taken his penis in a loosely curled fist.
Spike's eyes widened. This was something they'd almost never done - never needing to - as they'd always had each other's body to relieve the almost permanent arousals.
Spike propped himself up on his elbow and slid one hand onto the smooth, warm chest. He laid it over Angel's heart, wanting to hear this orgasm as well as watch and smell it.
Angel turned his head and smiled, understanding this. 'You'll miss it beating.'
Spike nodded. 'It's comforting to listen to at night when you're asleep.' He could hear it speeding up now, responding to an increased rhythm below.
Angel reached out with his other hand and cupped the back of Spike's neck, pulling him closer, so he lay over his heart, his face only inches from the hot, wet tip of the beaten penis.
Angel's hand was lubricated with precum, and as he worked himself, it made a soft, slap, slap sound. Each time he reached the tip, he cupped his hand and ran the palm around over the sensitive tip, groaning softly and arching his back at the delightful sensations. His heart began to beat with the rhythm of a man whose body was coalescing toward release: strong pumps of blood being pushed out to the extremities to harden the shaft, contracting the testicles and propelling the essence of life deep into a body where it could fertilize and maintain the species. The pleasure Angel got from his orgasm - this reward to ensure that he would continue to maintain his species - was evident in his whole body: his heart chorusing its delight in fearfully strong beats, his back bowed and tight, his neck stretched and corded. When Angel came down from the incredible place his orgasm had taken him, Spike turned away and curled slightly, as if preparing for sleep, his back tense, his whole posture resistant. The enormity of their separation was never more apparent to him than in the differences between their ejaculate, and he felt more isolated and confused about what they were going to do than when Giles had made his startling interjection in the cemetery.
Angel rolled him back and straddled him. Slowly and surely, he fed Spike his dripping cum, laughing at the faces he made, teasing the sticky drips over his lips, pushing them in between his cool lips with eager, wet fingers. When he was done with his game, he leant down close and whispered in Spike's ear, proving that the absence of the blood link had not left him entirely deaf to Spike's moods, 'That's the last time I ever want to come outside of you. I was made to fuck you. It's my destiny.'
Spike held him lightly by both ears and pulled him in for a long kiss, letting him taste his own warm fluid for the last time.
With a deep sigh, Angel scooted his legs down and lay on top of Spike, his head on Spike's chest. 'Am I too heavy?'
He felt a shake, couldn't determine if it had been affirmative or not, and decided he didn't really care- he wanted to lie there.
They slept long into the next morning, through lunch, and only woke when Spike heard faint voices from below and sat up. He prodded Angel awake, and they dressed quickly. By the time their friends arrived, they were having their respective food at the table.
It was a grim meeting for a while. Some of the initial wonder and enthusiasm that had driven them the previous day had dissipated in the cold light of this day. Spike chose to sit next to Lilah, and they began their own conversation separate to the three humans. Seeing this, Wesley murmured quietly, 'Angel, could I have a word?'
Giles tactfully said he would make some tea, and Wesley and Angel wandered into the living room together.
Wesley shut the door purposefully and then went to the patio doors, opening them and stepping out onto the small balcony, now drenched in winter-soft sunshine.
'Why don't you join me, Angel? It might be your last chance.'
Not at all sure whether this had been meant ironically, Angel nevertheless stepped out with him.'
Wesley took a deep breath and tipped his head back to the weak sunshine. 'It's dark by half three at home now. Incredible.'
'What happened to us, Wesley?'
Wesley smiled, as if to himself. 'I think I discovered that I wasn't gay.'
Not having really expected, or wanted, a response to what he had intended to be a vague, wistful, rhetorical question, Angel was somewhat thrown by this. He flicked his gaze over to the man and then said, 'Oh,' in a slightly puzzled voice.
'Wanting you as a vampire - wanting Spike - is entirely different to wanting you now. Strange, isn't it?'
'You don't want me?'
Wesley put a friendly hand on his arm. 'Admit it, Angel, even if Spike would tolerate his most precious straying, do you want me?'
'You know I can't let Lilah do this, however much I want back what I once had.'
Wesley smiled fondly at Angel's characteristic avoidance of any topic he didn't feel comfortable discussing, but turned to face him and said seriously, 'No, Angel, you can. You have to.'
'What? I thought that's what you wanted to talk about! I thought you were going to….'
'Last night was something of a revelation for me. For her, too, I think. Spike gave her a soul, but it was like giving her… a nuclear submarine: she'd seen the movie, but had no idea how to actually make any use of the bloody thing. Now, she's discovered she can sail it anywhere she wants, and the power of that captaincy has made her heady. She wants this desperately- this ultimate sacrifice, this ultimate gesture that she is worth something. I want her to have that.'
'Now, that's all I wanted to say. Shall we go back and discuss detail?'
Giles was studying something intently in one of his books when they came back in, and he casually covered the book with another and said, 'Where do you and Spike intend to do this thing?'
'Right. Well, we need a cemetery for the ritual. I've been doing some extremely interesting research. The ritual demands that the innocent soul is sacrificed at the exact moment that the other soul is lost. At what point would you say that the soul goes, Angel?'
'When you sire someone, when does their soul depart?'
Giles rolled his eyes, and Angel murmured petulantly, 'I don't know! You're kinda in the moment, yeah? Not really analysing it?'
Spike regarded the watcher and said, obviously guessing, 'When they start to drink?'
Giles looked pleased. 'That's what I thought, but it seems it's when all the blood has been taken- when the entire demon has been transferred. When the human dies and is full of the new blood, then the soul begins to be pushed out. So, that's when we do it. You must drain Angel, let him feed, then, at the very moment he falls from you, call us.'
He suddenly looked around, hearing the silence around the table. Spike cleared his throat. 'You are a cold-blooded bastard sometimes, Watcher; did you know that? Let's give this a little awe and reverence, maybe?'
'I'm reminded of the old John Wayne joke, but I'll refrain. This is not something we should be in awe of at all. If we are, its import will completely overwhelm us. I suggest you stop taking yourselves so seriously and just go with the flow.'
'I want candles and music.' Angel blushed. 'It was kinda squalid first time around.'
Giles took his glasses off and pinched the bridge of his nose, smiling fondly. 'Are you clear about the timing, Spike?'
Spike nodded. 'I wish we had some guide to all this- wish it had been done before.'
'Ah, yes. Well, it has- in a way.' Giles replaced his glasses. At the slightly stunned silence from Spike, he gritted his teeth and uncovered the book he had hidden. 'There are accounts of a woman in the thirteenth century - a noble lady - who was versed in the black arts. She was in love with a prince from a neighbouring land- Acquitaine, I believe. He was fatally wounded in battle, and she forced a very powerful vampire to turn him, whilst she sacrificed souls of the innocent.'
Suddenly, Droc gave one of his explosive yawn-growls, and everyone around the table jumped. Angel gave a nervous giggle and ran his fingers through his hair. Without trying to sound too eager, Spike said, 'Souls… plural?'
Giles smiled sadly. 'She demanded all the children in the surrounding villages were brought to her castle, and she had them impaled, draining their innocence one by one as her lover was drained.'
'Fucking hell, Giles!'
'Quite. And it didn't work, of course. As Wesley so rightly pointed out, nothing good could come of something so inherently evil. And yet according to all the research, the theory was basically sound.'
Angel turned to Wesley and put a hand on his arm. 'This is why you didn't tell us?'
Wesley flicked an eyebrow up. 'No one knows if the story is true, but every watcher has heard it.'
'What happened to the Bitch?'
'When the slaughter was done, she went to be with her eternal lover, only to discover that for every innocent life they had taken in such pain, his evil had been added to, layer upon layer, until he hardly resembled a human at all. All the accounts record that he was… beyond demonic. He was the most powerful vampire ever to have been sired. She was his first victim, of course.'
Spike glanced anxiously at Angel. 'That was a long time ago, Pet. Everything about this is different. That's just a bloody fairy tale.'
Giles looked unconcerned. 'Possibly. Only, when I was researching this last night, I found a drawing done of him- late in the following century.'
He slid the book across to Angel. Angel took a small breath, looked at Spike, and then looked down.
He hissed. 'The Master?'
'It does resemble him, doesn't it? It may be a total coincidence, of course.'
Angel got up and began to pace. Spike gave Giles a particularly pointed look and got up too, going to the fridge and fetching Angel some water. Angel took the bottle and then snagged Spike's arm, taking him out of earshot. 'I'm two generations away from that.'
'Was. Will be four.'
'Jesus, Spike. So much fucking evil, and it's in our blood.'
'Just my blood at the moment- or are you trying to tell me something here?' Spike could not keep the note of panic out of his voice, the thought of not getting Angel back now, almost too much to bear.
Angel nodded and looked down shyly. 'Yes, I am. It's as if this is fate. So much evil, but we can stop it by the conscious exercise of our combined will, Spike. You and me. We'll do this thing, and we will do it right, and then we will have all the power. I intend to use it well.'
Spike leant forward and kissed him lightly. 'You and me.'
They went back and joined the others. Angel pushed the picture of the ancient vampire dismissively to one side. 'So, how does the ritual work?'
Giles nodded, pleased and opened another book. 'We need holy ground- I suppose a cemetery in L.A. counts? Yes, well…. Lilah will lie in a coffin, and we will be chanting and doing the usual waving of things around….' He saw Spike's amused look and said sharply, 'Ancient, magical things, Spike.' The smirking continued, so with a small tut, Giles stood up and continued, 'When we get your call, we will stake her.'
Now standing, he was conveniently close enough to lay a hand on Wesley's shoulder, and he gave it a small, reassuring squeeze.
'As soon as she is staked, her soul will be released to the universe, and the demon in Angel won't be able to displace his. He will rise… souled, as he was before.'
'I'm sorry to make it sound so prosaic, Angel, but as I said….'
'No, I mean, I have to…. Sorry.'
Angel frowned and went into the bathroom. Spike ran his fingers through his hair, and then said softly, 'What aren't you telling me?'
'Do you really want me to tell you?'
'Yes. No. Yes. I'm not sure. Yes, cus I'm going to do this, whatever you say.'
'Lilah is a vampire. We have no idea how that will affect the ritual or the sacrifice. It's supposed to be a child- an unsullied soul.'
'She is pure….'
'But she's dead. She's a demon. She's a grown woman. These are all indisputable facts, Spike.'
'Did I miss anything?' Angel slid in next to Spike. Spike turned to him with a cheerful look. 'Nothing. We're doing it tonight- soon as it gets dark.'
Wesley lifted his eyes from a deep contemplation of his nails. 'There's a small mission behind the coffee shop. I'd feel happier if we were… close.'
Giles nodded, pleased. 'Perfect- we can get some tea, if it gets chilly.'
He rose and beamed around at the assembled group. 'Cheer up; it's New Year's Eve tomorrow. Rather appropriate, don't you think?'
to chapter 7
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