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The Darkling Plain - Episode
The hours until darkness suddenly seemed endless. Spike watched Angel pottering around for a while, and then said softly, 'Why don't you take Droc out for a long walk, Luv. Your last chance.'
Angel looked up from where he was flicking through the books Giles had left and lifted his eyes to the glass roof. He frowned. 'Nah.'
Spike looked at him carefully. He heard and saw nothing but sincerity in Angel's dismissal of the sunshine, of his wish to stay in with him. He smiled, secretly pleased, but went over and wrapped his arms around Angel's waist. 'Soon, Pet- I'll have you all to myself soon. But the dog needs a walk, and I want you to go out. I need some… space….'
Angel twisted his head around, anxiety creasing his brow. 'You okay?'
Spike took a small breath and rubbed his cheek against Angel's warm back. 'I'm gonna kill you tonight. So, no, not totally peachy, if you get what I mean.'
Angel turned in Spike's hold. Perched on the edge of the table, they were at the same height, and he brushed one finger over Spike's prominent cheekbone. 'You're going to bring me back to life, Childe.'
Spike understood the naming. Angel was as scared as he was and finding reassurance in the familiar. He forced a grin. 'Take the mutt out. Walk in the sun. Be a man for a few hours more. I'm going to give Sam a call, potter, paint my nails… get ready. But, Angel….'
Angel was kissing lightly into Spike's neck, knowing he couldn't initiate sex, but being hopeful just the same. 'Hmm…?'
'Come back, yeah? I'll be waiting.'
He watched Angel jog over the road to the small park and then called Sam. The phone was answered on the first ring. 'Did he find you?'
Spike held the handset away, staring at it furiously, and then he laughed and said pointedly, 'You are gonna suffer for that.'
'Good, he did. And…?'
Suddenly, the prospect of explaining to his friend what they were going to attempt was completely beyond Spike. 'Come over? Bring J.'
They arrived and parted, one going to the fridge for a beer, one to the fire. Spike watched them and smirked slightly as he followed Jordan into the living room.
Sam clapped him on the back, walking with him. Sam sat on the couch; Jordan made a point of going to the bookshelves as if looking for a book. Spike looked between them again, still smirking. Sam frowned. 'You making a point, Vampire?'
Spike nodded. 'You both look….'
'Fucked out, that's all.'
Spike leant back and stared into the flames. 'We're turning Angel back tonight, and with Lilah's help, retaining his soul.' He hunched forward on his knees, not wanting to hear the anger.
'Well, about freaking time. Damn, but I've missed that broody guy.'
Spike twisted his head to stare at the human and saw nothing on the beautiful face than the sincerity he'd heard in the reply. 'You… approve?'
Sam suddenly dug into the pocket of his pants and pulled out a photograph. Glancing at Jordan, he handed it to Spike. Jordan came over and perched on the arm of the couch. Spike watched Sam's hand move unconsciously, and possessively to Jordan's thigh with a stab of excitement for what was to return to him that night. Sam waved at the photograph, and Spike looked down at it. He pouted. 'Angel in the snow?'
'I took it at Christmas. Got it done today. Good, isn't it?'
It was. Spike looked greedily on the beautiful face, illuminated by the intense sunlight, set into perfect relief against the white purity of the snow. 'This is bloody helpful! This is just what I need to be reminded of! You fucking taking the piss here?'
Sam clenched his jaw and murmured, 'Fuckwit,' then added more gently, 'look in the background.'
'In that window.'
Spike saw only the dog and gave Sam a puzzled glance.
The human sighed. 'Droc's staring at something behind the drapes, Spike. I wonder what that was, hey? You stupid vampire. That's a picture of you, watching what you can't have- what you want. That's a picture of the most important thing in your world being kept from you. Tonight- we want to help. What can we do? Hey, does this ritual involve wanking and doughnuts, because I'm kinda getting into the whole magic….'
Spike silenced him with a kiss then jerked his mouth away and held his hands up in mock surrender. He glanced slyly at Jordan. 'Sorry. Touched your precious.'
Jordan laughed and raised one eyebrow. 'We've already discussed you, Spike. You're the only one… allowed.'
Sam leant back against Jordan's thigh. 'What does the ritual involve? What does Lilah have to do exactly?' He saw Spike's expression and pursed his lips. Spike tried to put on a calm, reasonable voice, but couldn't find the words to say what he wanted anyway.
'She kind of… it's about souls, see? One goes; one comes. Balance.'
'Uh huh. What does so-tight-a-cricket-bat-wouldn't-fit-up-my-ass Wesley think about that?'
'He… she's in pain, Sam. He understands that she wants this.'
'You and Angel want it, you mean.'
'You think that's clouding his motives and her judgement?'
'I think it's possible she wants to give you what you want, yes.'
Jordan suddenly stirred from his intense contemplation of the fire and shook his head. 'She's not right. There's no… balance in her. In the small things that go to make up the whole. I see it.' He frowned deeply and added, 'She can't carry the demon like we can, Spike.'
'I think she'd like you both there. Can you do that? God knows, you don't want to be here.'
'Oh, I don't know… I'd kinda like to watch… do you get to bite him really hard? Will it hurt?'
Spike laughed. 'Yeah, I'll bite extra hard for you.'
Sam suddenly grinned, and giving Jordan a sly look, he said to Spike, 'I'll tell you what we'll do, Baby: we'll arrange the best fucking party you've ever been to for when it's all over. Kinda… welcome-home-Angel party, yeah?'
When Angel stepped out of the elevator, once more, the soft, flickering light of dozens of candles wavered his vision.
They'd done it as vampires- revelled in that demonic licence. They'd done it as humans- celebrated the romance in their lives. Now they would do it to blend these two, returning to something they'd lost, starting on a new journey.
Spike stood by the bed, his arms folded lightly across his chest. He was dressed in leather and silk, and he'd left his hair wet and tousled from a shower.
Angel came close, and Spike put a finger to his lips, silencing any comment he might have made. Slowly, he took Angel's shirt off and let it drop to the floor. Then he unbuckled his pants and let them drop too.
Angel nodded and went to the bathroom, cleansing himself as if preparing for a lover.
When he returned, Spike handed him a pair of black leather pants and a blood red leather shirt. Obediently, Angel dressed for his death.
When they were both happy with his outer covering, they lay side by side on the bed. Spike picked up a remote control and music filled the apartment. Angel blinked. 'Bach after all?'
Spike nodded. 'This is your rebirth, Angel. For you.'
Angel lay back, staring up at the faint stars above his head. He heard Spike speaking a few words on his cell phone, and then all went quiet. Into the silence, he murmured, 'Make the stars bright for me again.'
There was pain: sharp and short in duration. There was a sense that it was wrong, fundamentally- something you should not allow another to do to your body. So swiftly, though, it was glorious in its rightness. There was a familiar snuffling at his neck; a scent that was as potent as a lingering scent from childhood; blood being stolen from his body; deep sucking, drawing other fluids through his veins- a tidal pull into his groin and his prick, hardening his testicles. Then his vision greyed; his ears rang - church bells calling the faithful to worship - and then he bowed down and worshiped the demon taking his life. With every suck, he venerated him, required him, and so went into his eternity needing him more than he had needed his life. Yet still, the demon took from him, further than they had ever gone in their games, into a place where all was darkness. He could hear his heart, pumping desperately in its death throes, clinging to life as if assuming this clinging would be valued.
It wouldn't give up; it made something of every blood drop, keeping the automatic responses going, even when there was nothing more than air left, but Angel knew nothing of this. What had made him a unique human, what had given him the chance for resurrection at the final call, had departed.
Spike already had an artery in his neck open, sliced with a sharp blade while he'd taken Angel's life. He poured his demon into the waiting mouth, forced it down at first, but then felt it moving into the carcass he'd cleansed of life for it. The demon reanimated Angel's body enough to reach the wound unaided and latched it on, Angel's dead lips taking back blood, feasting on the power of Spike's unnatural life force.
It was so quiet. All Spike could hear was the crackling of the fire, the occasional spit of a sap-heavy log, and the suckling: Angel's lips nuzzling wet against his skin; Angel's tongue probing, trying to seduce more blood from the oozing wound- these sounds seemed very loud in the reverent silence that seemed to have settled on the world.
When he'd passed on all his evil, Spike sat back on his heels, holding the wound in his neck. He felt light-headed, unable to make any decisions, needing to feed, needing to do something else that he couldn't now remember.
He laid Angel back and folded the lifeless arms on the broad chest, trying not to look at the extreme waxy paleness of his skin.
Then he remembered. He picked up the cell phone and made the call.
'All right. Good. Did it… go well?'
'Is she… ready?'
'Yes. She's saying farewell to Wesley. I'll call you when it's done. The chanting has gone very well, so far.'
Spike clicked it off and lay down beside Angel's body, stroking through his hair.
He heard a faint sound by the bed and patted the space next to him. Droc climbed on, towering over Angel for a moment. Very deliberately, he lay down next to him and rested his head over Angel's non-beating heart. He fastened his amber-flecked eyes onto the pale face and did not move again, except for an almost imperceptible twitch of the tip of his tail on the sheets.
Spike smiled inwardly- if he'd had a tail, he reckoned he'd be flicking it just like that too. He tried not to- to think, to hope, to want, to need, to do anything that would give away his total, paralysing need for this to work.
He'd been given Angel back- it was what he'd wanted more than his own life. In that one fateful moment when he'd thrown himself into the maelstrom, he'd wanted Angel in the world again more than his own life. He'd been given him back, but he'd made nothing of it. He'd lied to himself and everyone. He hadn't wanted any-old Angel back; he'd wanted his sire, his demonic lover, his best friend.
Spike cupped his hand over Angel's cold cheek and lifted himself up on one elbow. He lowered his face to the bloodless lips.
This is what had been missing. This is where the swelling music and the slow motion replaying of their lives were supposed to be. A painful encounter in the grimy basement wasn't them. They defined magnificence, and it was here, now. The achingly beautiful Bach played on, the soft moonlight filtered down, bathing them in its blue-black light, and their lives began to play and dance in his head.
Such passion between them, always defined by need so aching that it was like an endless hunger that could never be assuaged. He could hardly remember how it had all begun; perhaps it never had; perhaps it had been there all the time, driving them.
The ringing of the cell phone cut through his thoughts like a blade.
He snatched it up and said wildly, 'Okay? Did it…?'
He didn't get to finish. He heard a terrible sound like thunder and a shout. He shouted back into the handset, setting the dog off in a volley of anxious barking. He heard Giles, tried to speak to him, heard the thunder again and then a scream- a male scream of fear and fury.
'Spike! You need to come here.'
'What's happened? I can't leave him!'
'He won't rise for hours. You…. Just get here.'
The phone was stabbed off.
Spike stared at it in disbelief. For one second, he had the delirious thought that he should take Angel's body and just run somewhere with it, run as far and as fast as he could to keep him safe and keep him his. It was like a darkness rushing upon him: this fear that he could not now keep Angel.
With startling clarity, Spike saw that his fearful approaching apocalypse had never been Buffy's arrival. This is what had been coming, and now it was here.
With a cry of anguish, he flung himself off the bed, grabbed his coat, and tore down the stairs and out into the night.
He ran to the coffee shop and then on into the small side street.
He climbed the mission gates in one massive leap, landing softly on the other side. He could see lights, flashlights being waved around and hear loud, angry voices.
He arrived in a blur of black, skidding to a halt in front of the small crypt, entering cautiously.
Giles whirled around. 'Thank God. Help us lift this.'
Wesley rounded on him. 'Just fucking help!'
Spike took an edge of the lid of a tomb and heaved with the two men. It moved not an inch.
Wesley continued to pull uselessly at the tomb, so Giles put a hand on Spike's shoulder and led him over to a small lantern.
'She climbed in. You called. It was all going to plan. I finished the ritual, and Wesley lifted the stake….'
'The lid suddenly crashed down. Before we'd….'
'I have no idea what she is. Possibly just lying in there….'
'Well, in her own version of that, yes.'
'Why? I mean….'
Giles took his glasses off, and for some reason, put them in his pocket. He peered at Spike and hunched his shoulders, hands plunged deeply into his pockets. 'I think it was because she wasn't human. Something took umbrage to what we were attempting.'
'Giles! What the fuck does this mean for Angel…. No.'
Giles looked down at his feet. 'I'm sorry.'
'No. I won't do it.'
Giles didn't bother to reply, and Spike returned to the tomb, struggling with the lid just as frantically as Wesley was. Giles put a hand on his shoulder again. 'Even if you do manage to get it off now, it's too late. The demon will be forcing his soul out even as we speak. Soon, it will be strong enough to raise the body, and there will be nothing left of the Angel we knew.'
Spike looked around despairingly for a weapon and picked up an axe, trying to lever up the lid.
Even Wesley gave up before Spike did. With his hands over his face, pale and shaking, he stepped back from the tomb.
Spike continued to try and break in until his nails tore from their beds and his blood smeared the lid in steaks of red.
He sank to his knees and put his forehead to the floor. 'I can't.'
Giles squatted alongside him. 'Perhaps this is why I'm here- what my role is. I will, if you need me to.'
Spike sat back on his heels.
He looked between the two men and shook his head. He rose and squared his shoulders, twisting his head slightly as if to relieve some physical tension.
With a small nod, he went back out into the dark.
He walked slowly this time; there didn't seem much point hurrying.
He was glad he'd had that sense of their lives playing out in his head. They hadn't had long together- this time together since discovering what they'd been missing up to then. It had been a wild ride, though. He'd didn't regret a moment of it.
Angel lay bathed in the candlelight, just as he'd left him.
There was serenity about his face that was never there in life. It was as if in this death, he was free from all his doubts and fears.
It seemed a kindness to leave him in that place of peace.
Spike turned the music up to its full volume. He didn't want to hear anything else, have any space left for thinking.
He clicked his fingers at the dog to move. He didn't want him witnessing this.
Droc refused to move and growled menacingly at Spike when he tried to make him.
Spike sensed the humans had followed him; he felt them hovering in the offices downstairs.
Once more, he had the absurd thought that he could snatch Angel up and run away with him somewhere, somewhere where they could find a cure for his… demon.
He sat alongside the body and held the lifeless hand in his. He could wait. He could wait until Angel rose, and then he could see if he was… if… Angelus.
Could he sacrifice them all to appease Angelus? If he offered them all to him, perhaps his sire would want him. He'd wanted him enough when he'd turned him. Take the humans, Angelus, only be to me what Angel was.
Spike chuckled, and the frightening sound made the dog whine.
He would wait, though. He had to see the eyes- just to be sure. Perhaps wanting this enough had made it true, had made it happen. Perhaps if he prayed enough now, it would happen; perhaps if he cut himself and bled his own souled blood over Angel, it would happen.
With a small blink, Spike decided to kill himself instead. He'd just go and not have to do this thing, which he couldn't do, which he could never do. How could anyone ask him to do this? Once again, he tried to laugh, but his throat was raw from the tension of clenching it and holding back the flood of tears that would take away his power to do anything.
He'd just go and leave them all to Angelus.
No, he'd take them all out first, and then take himself, and then leave Angelus in the world.
With a start, he realised that it was getting light, faint streaks of dawn creeping into the room.
The warm glow only emphasised the extreme pallor of Angel's skin. Even now, a powerful demon was creeping through the arteries and veins, easing himself into the shape of the skin, revelling in the dead organs, licking them and finding them good. Spike wondered if it had found the soul yet, whether it was eating it or pushing it out or tormenting it for a while before it drove it forever from its rightful place. He wanted to reach into Angel's body and hold his heart in his hands, try to squeeze the soul and keep it safe. Or Angel's brain- push his hands into that mushy greyness and prevent the inexorable progress of the demon through his personality.
He stroked the side of Angel's face and, for a moment, thought he saw a tic flare in the cheek, thought he sensed a stir in the air, as if some great creature had passed by. A tingle of fear traced slowly down Spike's spine.
Angelus was coming home.
Spike tipped his head back to the sunlight now flooding in through the glass and made his decision.
He was a champion, after all. It was what he did now.
He curled up alongside the dead body and pulled it into an all-encompassing embrace.
He had one more day, and he was going to make the most of it.
As the long day wore on, he felt Angel's presence with him. If nothing else convinced him that Angelus had displaced Angel's soul, it was this sense that he was there in the apartment with him. He couldn't actually see him - not as he had with Nate - but then he didn't really need to see Angel to sense him just as clearly. They were too close to need conventional vision.
If he closed his eyes, he could almost hear the faint rustle of his clothing as he stirred on the bed. If he listened very closely, he could hear his thoughts, hear that Angel wanted him to do this impossible thing, hear that Angel didn't want Angelus back. Angel feared for them all. In his last, passing thought, Angel was afraid for all of them.
He understood his childe so well, though. He knew that Spike wasn't really a champion, understood that this was too much for him, too much to ask him to do.
Spike had never really loved or appreciated Buffy as much as he did at this moment. He didn't think he could be that self-sacrificing. He'd let Angelus come back to him.
The air around him stirred at this treacherous thought, and he opened his eyes, so sure that he would see Angel- that Angel's annoyance at his weakness would make him visible.
Nothing… just the dust motes drifting in the sunlight. It was getting late; the light streaked in from the west now. Evening was nearly upon them, and it was time.
With a sigh, Spike rose and went into the training room. He chose a very sharp sword, one of Angel's finest.
He tested the blade against his own skin and saw that it was good, that it cut cleanly without tearing.
He returned to the bed and put some pillows under Angel's shoulders to tip his head back, expose his throat.
He was tired of Bach now and switched it off. The silence was better. It was as if the whole world had stilled to witness this passing.
He stood alongside the helpless body.
He'd known all along he'd do it before the eyes opened. He'd never been able to resist those seductive pools. They'd drawn him to his own death and had held him in their thrall for two lifetimes.
The last rays of light departed, leaving the apartment a place of shadows and pain.
He lifted the sword above his head, focusing on nothing but the pale, stretched neck.
His muscles tensed, ready to make the final step on this incredible journey.
His cell phone rang.
Spike's arms juddered. He caught his swing, snatching it back at the last moment from the soft skin.
Incredulous, he picked up the small device from the bed and held it to his ear.
Spike made a small sound of pain and fear, and dropped the instrument. He backed off, colliding with one of the screens, knocking it over.
Droc jumped off the bed and snarled at an enemy he couldn't identify.
Spike heard the voice again from the phone and picked it up. He cleared his throat and said in a slightly high-pitched voice, 'Lilah?'
Spike felt he needed to catch his breath- a disturbing moment for a vampire. 'Are you calling from? I mean…. Oh, my God, you're in hell? No, they wouldn't have phones there. Jesus, are you in…?'
'Spike. Shut the fuck up. I'm in this damn tomb. Come get me.'
'I can't leave…. I mean….'
'Now. I… I can't breathe, Spike. Please. Come get me.'
Spike dropped the handset as if it burnt him.
He stared wildly at the bed. There was no sign of rising yet, the body still calm in death.
He turned and ran down the steps, out in the night once more.
The cemetery was dark, the crypt empty except for the large tomb.
He put his hands to the lid, despairing of being able to lift it. He heard voices behind him. Wesley and Giles rushed in, shouting, confused.
Together they heaved at one side, and this time, without too much effort, the lid flung back and crashed to the ground.
Lilah took a huge breath of the relatively fresh air and sat up. 'You took your damn time.'
Wesley made a small noise in the back of this throat. 'You're so… are you glowing? I mean, you're alive. I mean…..'
Giles put a hand to her face. 'My God.'
Spike grabbed her arm, crushing it until she made a small sound of pain. 'You're human.'
She nodded. 'I'm….' A deep smile transformed her features. Wesley cupped her face in his hands, and she tipped toward him. 'I've been restored.'
Giles took another look at the beautiful, calm face and said wonderingly, 'You've kept the powerful soul you had as a demon.'
He'd not thought of the effect this simple observation would have on Spike. The vampire backed away from the woman, then watched, immobile, as the men helped her climb from her temporary coffin.
Only then did the three humans turn to look at him. Giles frowned. 'We have no idea what this means, Spike. This doesn't necessarily mean that Angel's soul has been lost. Although….'
Spike turned and looked in the direction of The Crypt.
Then he began the slow walk back. Again.
As he walked through the offices, he suddenly heard a thump from above, then another. Terrifyingly, he heard the dog begin to howl. The hairs on the back of Spike's neck stood up, and he knew without a shadow of a doubt that the sound was one of deep distress, that someone or something was torturing his dog.
He flew up the stairs, hearing increasing smashing and howling.
He skidded into a scene of total confusion, and his hands flew to his ears to block the sound.
to chapter 8
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