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The Darkling Plain
Spike found a place to be dead in by the simple expedient of buying a paper and taking the first one he saw advertised. It was awful and perfect. It was a place to be still, to let the darkness overtake him, to give him some respite from the act he put on the rest of the time.
The room was so foul his friends did not want to leave him there, but he kept the performance up just long enough to persuade them that this was a temporary thing until the agency picked up.
When they left, he went to the grime-encrusted window and sat on the sill staring down into the alley below.
When the dawn came, he got off the sill, shrugged on his almost-living face and went out to meet the day.
It was hard to decide what to do when he just wanted to be still somewhere and lose himself, but he needed to get his small group working and coping on their own without him, so he headed to the one who needed him the most.
He knocked on the door, and she opened it cautiously. Without waiting for an invite, he took sire's privilege and pushed past her.
Angel looked up from the couch then down at the book he was holding.
Spike felt his whole act crumbling away from him, peeling off and leaving him raw and exposed. He shored it up by bending to light a cigarette and said quietly, not directly at either of them, 'What's going on?'
Angel stood up. 'I should go. I brought Lilah some books. History. Lore. Things she'll need to know and might find interesting.'
Spike hadn't looked at him as he spoke, but he glanced at Lilah to confirm this story. She shrugged. 'It'll all be very useful when I finally stake both of you.'
He blinked slowly as if not able to cope with humour of any kind and stood to one side to let Angel pass.
When he got level with Spike, Angel said neutrally, 'Your things are boxed and ready for you if you'd like them. Send Jordan over this morning.'
Spike's eyes darted anxiously over the tiny space of floor he was concentrating on. Without waiting for a reply, Angel left.
He whirled on Lilah. 'What the fuck are you doing?'
'Consorting with the enemy.'
Spike looked confused and went to the table to check the books, as if he didn't trust Angel's version of events.
She came up and stood close behind him. 'It's why I wanted it to be him.'
'Why I wanted Angel to turn me… I wanted the knowledge he had. I could have had any old vampire do it for the right fee, but I wanted Angel. He is the most powerful vampire ever sired, and I wanted to be part of that power.'
'Sorry to ruin your little plan.'
'You didn't. I have it, and I've your uniqueness as well.'
Spike turned and looked at her. 'You've got squat from me, Luv. I'm dead now; what you see is a reanimated corpse.'
She put a hand on his arm, peering at him from lowered lids. 'I could help animate it some more.'
Spike looked down thoughtfully at the hand on his arm. He understood what being dead really meant now. There was nothing: no stir, no spark of interest. His body was as profoundly dead as his emotions, and he gently removed the hand.
She gave him a curious look then turned away and said casually, 'We have offices.'
She shrugged. 'Call it a retirement gift from the firm? I had… other plans for them when I accepted them, but now? Sam and J are meeting us there.'
Spike heard the evidence of the growing intimacy between the small group and nodded to himself. It wouldn't be long now: soon, he'd be able to leave them.
The offices were plain and serviceable in an old block filled with a similar assortment of small firms. No one was particularly excited or interested, as they could never compare to what they had lost, but it was somewhere.
It was a slow day, and Spike spent it all pacing; the constant, restless movement just about keeping him sane. He didn't want to tell Jordan of Angel's offer, because he didn't want to speak Angel's name, but equally, he didn't like the thought of him coming over to offer again.
Eventually, he said curtly, 'Can you get my stuff tonight and bring it over? It's… been packed up.'
Sam and Jordan exchanged looks, and Jordan nodded. 'Sure, Boss.'
Spike went back to pacing, and the other three went back to watching him.
As soon as Spike got into his room, he shrugged off his coat. It had seemed so heavy all day: a burden he didn't want.
In jeans and a T-shirt, he went to sit on his sill again, almost glad his other clothes would be arriving soon.
After an hour, there was a knock, and he opened it to let Jordan in. He staggered under a large box, but before Spike could point out that he'd didn't own that much stuff, Angel appeared in the door with an equally large second one.
Jordan said innocently, 'I was lucky Angel was there. Heavy damn shit you've got!'
Angel looked at Spike and then at the doorway. He pouted and said under his breath, 'Maybe I still don't need one.' He tested his theory and, with a small, sly grin, stepped across the threshold uninvited.
Jordan nodded, impressed. Angel chuckled. 'It's because I have a permanent pass to his….'
'It's because I'm dead. Put the box over there and just go, will you?'
Angel nodded and didn't seem to take offence. He put the box down as requested then straightened and looked around for the first time. He scratched his head and pursed his lips, but kept his own counsel.
He nodded at Jordan, slid past Spike, and left.
Left alone with the two boxes that now represented his entire existence, Spike went back to his contemplation of the alley.
The next day, he went to the only place he could be sure Angel would not go. He didn't even bother to knock, but used his own key and let himself into Sam's apartment.
Angel and Sam were sitting side by side on the couch, bent over a huge pile of paperwork. For the first time since he had suffered this second death, Spike felt a spark of something that felt like an emotion. He stared at their beautiful faces as they looked up together, and instead of spinning on his heel and leaving to get away from Angel, that small flicker of emotion made him stay.
He went to the fridge and helped himself to some beer. Angel stood up. 'I should go.'
He glanced at Spike. 'Sam will fill you in on the financial details.'
'It doesn't interest me.'
Angel came closer. 'It kinda does. You owe almost eight thousand in rent - offices and apartment.'
Spike looked at Sam, and the human tilted his hand. 'We're negotiating discounts for breech of contract by Angel Investigations, but essentially? Yeah. You're screwed.'
Angel went toward the door and then said casually to Sam, 'Let me know if you want to accept my offer.'
Sam nodded and Angel left.
Sam shrugged. 'You aren't gonna go for it, so I'm not gonna bother to tell you.'
'Shut the fuck up and tell me.'
Sam kept his grin inside and said seriously, 'He's offered to let us help on some cases to pay off the….'
'You pay the money.'
'Noooo… that's not an option.'
'Why the fuck not? You gave it to me last time!'
'Noooo… last time you earned it, and I don't think you're gonna do that now, are you?'
Spike turned away and said petulantly, 'I'm not working with him.'
Tipping his head back in delight at hearing petulance, hearing emotion of any kind, Sam said carefully, 'He said he'd stay out of the way. It would be just us, Spike. Easy money and then we're clear. If you don't do this, you'll owe him and never be free of him.'
Spike turned back with a look on his face that made Sam pale and didn't bother to point out that he would never be free anyway.
He nodded. 'Get the details. Take the deal.'
Spike sat in the deserted warehouse, smoking quietly.
It was easy money, just as Angel had said. Portal opened up; he killed what came out. Three nights over the full moon, and then it would be gone. He was on the second night, and if he hadn't already been dead, the boredom would have killed him.
The portal was late opening. He lit another cigarette, heard a noise and saw Angel coming toward him. Incredulously, Spike climbed off his stack of old boxes and faced him.
'What is this? Everyday since I've left, I've seen you!'
Angel frowned. 'No, you haven't.'
'Yes. Yes, I have. Everywhere I go, there you are!'
'Well, it's kinda my city too.'
'My Grandchilde, my financial advisor.'
'My ex-lover. I thought he'd want his clothes.'
Spike looked down, but before he could frame a reply to this, the portal opened. Angel gave Spike a look and slowly withdrew a sword from behind his back. Spike stared at him, unsure what message Angel was trying to send him with this small, familiar gesture, and then all hell broke loose. The demons were numerous, vicious, and very pissed off that their package holidays were being cut so short.
If it crossed Spike's mind that without Angel he'd have been outnumbered, he didn't let the thought show. Gradually, fighting side by side, they drove the demons back, killing those that refused to re-enter the portal.
Panting, bleeding, sweating, Angel leant his hands on his thighs when they'd finished. He looked over at Spike. 'You've not been feeding.'
Spike didn't bother to deny it.
Angel straightened. 'Bring reinforcements tomorrow, or you'll be killed.'
Spike looked at where the last vestiges of the portal glowed and thought about his team. He shook his head.
Angel pouted. 'Then I'll come.'
'I only agreed to take these jobs because….'
'Do you want to be killed?' Spike only gave him a long look. 'We don't need to speak. We don't even need to look at each other. I'll help you kill the demons, and then I'll leave.'
Spike put his hand to his head as if it hurt, turned away, and stalked out towards the empty docks.
The next night, he felt another tiny sliver of emotion as he waited and wasn't sure what he was most waiting for.
Angel appeared long before it was time for the portal to appear, and with a small show of not looking at his childe, sat down on the boxes, and pulled a book out of his coat pocket.
Spike looked down at his nails and asked softly, 'What are you trying to do with this, Angel?'
Angel didn't look up, but he didn't hesitate. 'I love you. When I love someone, I want to be with them all the time, ya know? I think about you all the time - relate everything to you: 'wonder if Spike will like this', 'Spike will know what that means'. All the time. Everything. So I'm finding excuses to see you.'
'You're killing me.'
Angel glanced across. 'You killed me, so it's only fair.'
Once more, before they could examine their feelings further, the dimension opened. More demons flooded out than before, and this time, they were better armed. Spike went down, but struggled to his feet and dispatched his attacker. Angel backed into the stack of boxes, fighting off two of them. Spike heard a gasp and flicked a glance over to see Angel pulling a bolt out of his shoulder. An inch or two further over and he'd have been fighting alone.
Angel gave Spike a nod and continued the battle, but Spike felt the attempts were half-hearted. Angel clearly favoured his left arm, and kept his right - where the blood dripped down his sleeve - pinned tightly to his side.
They fought long and hard until the portal closed. A few demons got away, running into the dark beyond the warehouse, and Angel took after them.
He didn't get far before he bent and put his hands on his thighs, doubling over.
Spike came to a halt next to him.
Angel didn't reply.
Angel straightened and grimaced, nodding his head. 'Let's go.'
Spike hesitated but put a hand on his arm, withdrawing it as soon as Angel had stopped moving. 'You're a liability like that. Go home.' The word hurt his mouth as he said it, and he looked down, confused that he could feel physical pain once more.
Angel nodded. 'Okay. Be careful.'
Spike frowned. 'You can't say that. You have no right.'
Angel turned. 'No right? I love you more than anyone has ever loved you. I love you as your sire, your friend, your lover, your confidant, and your soulmate. You are my entire life, and I can't ask you to be careful?'
'NO! You aren't getting this! I'm NOTHING to you.'
'Wanting it, doesn't make it true. Do you really think you can make yourself nothing to me by doing this? You are my sunshine, Spike. Can you make the sun go away?' With that, Angel turned slowly, and with a hand over his wound, left once more.
Spike watched his retreating back and, for a tiny moment, had to force the hollowness back into his body.
Spike went into his new offices early the next evening to find Sam, Lilah and Jordan already there… decorating. Paint had been splashed around on some walls, and now they were sitting around eating doughnuts and watching a small TV someone had brought in.
Spike looked around and said ironically, 'Where's Angel?'
He sat in the inner office on his own, shutting down until someone needed him again.
After an hour, he heard a small commotion and looked up. His whole body tensed, and he felt a very unhollow jolt in his gut. He stormed into the main office. 'Get the fuck out.'
Wesley held his hands out in a peaceable gesture and said hurriedly, 'I'm not here to upset you, Spike. I need Jordan.'
'I don't care what you fucking need! Get out, or I swear I'll come back to some sort of life long enough to kill you.'
Jordan stood up and tipped his head. 'What do you want, traitor?'
Wesley narrowed his eyes. 'Angel's sick….'
'This is another pathetic trick; vampires don't get sick.' Spike moved to the door and held it for him icily. 'Get out.'
Wesley gritted his teeth. 'He was injured last night….'
'A bolt through the shoulder. Yeah. So what?'
'Oh, you know. You were there?'
'We're NOT HAVING A FUCKING CONVERSTAION HERE! Fuck OFF!'
'The bolt appears to have been poisoned by something. He's very poorly.'
Spike frowned and glanced at his friends. 'And you need Jordan because…?'
Wesley took a breath as if he realised he'd not even reached the hard part of his mission. 'I don't. Angel is delirious, and he won't let anyone near him but… well… you. In your very noticeable absence, I thought… being delirious… being sick… that he… err, wouldn't notice the substitution.'
Spike swallowed deeply and ran a hand over his eyes tiredly. 'All right. Let's go.'
Wesley raised an eyebrow and followed Spike through the door. They went in silence to the car, and Spike slid into the passenger seat. Wesley swung out into the traffic, and they drove in total silence for a while. The traffic began to build, and when a glimpse of flashing lights came into view, they halted completely. Wesley cursed and twisted in his seat to see if he could reverse and then banged the wheel impatiently.
'Why do you need me there?'
'I need Angel restrained while I administer an antidote. As I said, he won't let anyone else come near him.'
Spike leant back and closed his eyes, returning to his dark, safe place.
Wesley glanced at him out of the corner of his eye and said very softly, 'I am sorry, by the way. It's the first chance I've had to say it.'
'Surely I at least have the right to apologise?'
'You have no fucking rights with me. Leave me be.'
'It wasn't all my fault.'
Spike's eyes flew open, and he glared at the man's profile. Wesley felt the look and gritted his teeth. 'When you told me what Angel had done to me… lied about what Angel had done to….'
'I'D LOST MY FUCKING SOUL!' Spike lowered his voice and, in keeping with being nothing but a hollow man, said stonily, 'You can't put any blame on me for that, I'd lost….'
Wesley turned, and his eyes flashed for a moment. 'And you don't think humans can lose their souls occasionally? I think I did, Spike. I think I lost my soul, and all I could think about was hurting Angel, hurting you, tearing you both apart, hurting everyone but, most of all, hurting myself. I was… back there… in the….' He trailed off, bit his lip, and looked down briefly, finishing very quietly, 'It was like I was ten again. I couldn't control what I was thinking or doing. And I'm sorry. I just wanted to say I'm sorry.'
Spike turned back and said icily, 'Road's clear.'
Wesley jerked his head up, clenched his jaw, and began to drive.
Feeling as if he'd lost vital ground in some battle he didn't have enough energy to fight, Spike said petulantly, 'You've been fucking him behind my back.'
Wesley suddenly swung the car over and screeched it to a halt. He turned in his seat and took his turn to glare. 'I was leaving - going home to England. Angel came over, and we met in the elevator. He attacked me - broke three ribs, my cheekbone and two fingers. Then he raped me. When he'd finished - not in me, he hated me too much for that - he left me bleeding on the floor. So, no, we've not been fucking behind your back. We've been trying to forgive each other, and I think we've done that. I love him- that's no secret any more. But Angel love me? Yeah.' With that, he pulled back out and drove with a dark, stormy expression, his hands clenched tightly on the wheel.
Spike found an interesting bit of grit under one nail and worked at it silently for the rest of the journey.
They pulled into the underground garage. Without looking at Spike, Wesley went up the stairs. He burst into the offices and found Gunn and Cordelia looking anxiously at the elevator. They appeared relieved to see him. 'We couldn't keep him here. He's gone up. Got kinda… angsty.'
Wesley nodded and still without looking at Spike, punched the button.
When the elevator arrived, they stepped in, the confined space seeming very small for two people who would have preferred more distance between them. Spike pushed his hands deep into his pocket and hunched his shoulders.
They stepped out, and Wesley stopped, his eyes widening. 'My God! This place is… incredible.'
Spike tipped his head on one side, looking at the surprised expression. 'You haven't been here before?'
Wesley shook his head.
Spike turned away, confused: Angel had not taken the opportunity to fill the empty half of the bed.
He didn't have long to ponder this, for Angel came out of his room. He stopped short when he saw them. 'What are you doing here? I'm not due my report.'
Spike couldn't help a small glance at Wesley. 'He seems to have got over his "I need Spike" phase?'
Wesley didn't give a flicker of guilt and just nodded. 'Sorry. You can still help though. The antidote smells foul - he won't take it voluntarily.'
'I got hurt, see?' They looked back at Angel as he peered sadly at his infected wound. 'I cried, cus it really, really hurts.'
Spike repressed the amused smile that crept treacherously around his defences. He said softly, 'Got the stuff ready?'
Wesley patted his pocked. 'Get him on the bed, maybe?'
Trying not to see irony in anything that was happening, Spike went casually over to Angel. 'Come and sit down, Pet.'
'I'm not a dog….'
'Are you going to make it all better?'
Spike almost wished he could but, gritting his teeth, took Angel's arm and led him slowly toward the bed. When they got close enough, he leapt on him and pressed him down. Wesley crawled on alongside him and tipped the contents of a small flask down Angel's throat. Angel tried to spit it out, but Spike clamped his hand over his mouth until he swallowed. He slowly released Angel, and they stood back.
Spike couldn't hide his smile that time, so he turned away and went toward the elevator.
Reluctantly, he turned back.
Wesley nodded at Angel's shoulder. 'That's twice the size it was earlier.'
'Well, you've only just given him the damn stuff!'
Wesley looked at the small bottle. 'How much does Angel weigh?'
'How the fuck should I know? Twenty eight stone?'
Wesley chuckled. 'I'll tell him you said that when he's better.'
'Twelve? Thirteen? Vampire's flesh is dense, ya know?'
'Maybe I should give him more?'
'Well, okay, do it then.'
'It takes a while to distil.'
Spike turned and faced the human. 'Well, you'd best get going then.'
Gritting his teeth to the unbelievable fact that he was somewhere he'd vowed never to be again, he sat down alongside the doped-up vampire and went back to the inspection of his bitten nails.
Go To Chapter 4
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