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The Darkling Plain

Episode 4

Chapter 3

It was a cool evening with the promise of rain, and walking along, coats swaying, they both felt a sense of deep peace with the world. They walked some way from the apartment, just for a change, and picked a bar at random. It was busy, and Angel chose a table where they could watch the rest of the room, yet have some privacy. Spike bought some drinks, and they sat opposite each other, people-watching for a while.

Spike suddenly remembered that he had not told Angel what Wesley had said about the agency, and was about to open his mouth when he heard the words in his head, so dried up. They were on holiday, and the name seemed to toll the end of this peaceful time. He frowned and finished his drink instead, waving it at Angel for another one.

Angel went to the bar and watched Spike from that small distance. He couldn't help smiling inwardly and turned away to regain some control. As he was carrying the drinks back, he remembered that he wanted to ask Spike about Lilah's turning - how he had retained the soul - but as he put the drinks down, the prospect of raking over that episode was suddenly not so attractive.

Spike thought about telling Angel about Sam and his discovery of the bizarre club - asking his advice - but, again, the words died in his mouth: Sam's name might only bring on another argument.

He sighed and drank his second beer down quickly as well.

Angel wanted to ask Spike, who else had had a hand in naming his dog, but suspected the culprit, and didn't want to push what seemed to be a slowly reforming relationship between them.

He sighed and drank his beer just as quickly.

Spike got up and frowned at Angel from the bar as he bought a third round. When he sat down, he said pointedly, 'This place is nice.'

Angel nodded eagerly and commented on the décor until that safe, neutral topic was exhausted. They both sighed simultaneously.

Suddenly, Spike gave Angel a small, shy smile. 'Wanna catch an earlier showing?'

Angel rose swiftly with a look of relief and they went back out into the night, walking quickly to the movie theatre. Neither cared too much what they saw and just bought tickets and sat in the relative safety of the dark: no need for talk in a place where that was frowned upon.

All too soon the movie ended. Spike stirred and realised he hadn't taken any of it in. He looked at Angel's face and saw the same distraction on his beautiful features.

It had rained heavily before they came out, and they heard the distant rumble of thunder.

They walked along in silence for some time, both deep in thought, until Spike said softly, 'We need to talk.'

Angel glanced over at him and then stopped. 'Yeah. We do. Everything I want to talk over with you seems like a minefield, and if I say the words, you're gonna explode.'

Spike smiled at the odd analogy but nodded. 'No point having a holiday, if we can't bleeding talk.'

He nudged Angel's arm and turned to head back to the apartment. Before they reached The Crypt though, he suddenly veered off and went into the coffee shop. Angel hesitated then followed him in.

It was busy too, and they sat at a table by the wall, opposite each other once more.

Spike squared his shoulders and said determinedly, 'Right.'

Angel gritted his teeth. 'Okay.' He hung his head and began to fiddle with things. Suddenly, he picked up the saltshaker and put it down firmly in the middle of the table. 'You.'

Spike raised his eyebrows, but before he could comment, Angel picked up the pepper and put that alongside the salt. 'Me.' He looked up and said lowly, 'In the middle, together.'

Spike rummaged for a cigarette and lit it, ignoring the disgusted expressions of the other customers. With a grin, Angel snatched the lighter from his hand and put it on his side of the table. 'Wesley.'

'Good choice of implement: incendiary device.'

Giving him a look, Angel reached behind him to another table and took off a knife. He placed it on Spike's side of the table. 'Jordan.'

Spike pursed his lips, not sure he liked that analogy, but he reached behind as well and chose a sachet of sugar. He dropped it next to Jordan and said pointedly, 'Sam.'

Angel chuckled. 'Yeah. Sickly sweet. Okay.' He plucked Spike's cigarette from his mouth and stubbed it onto the table next to Spike's other two combatants. 'Lilah.'

'She's burnt the table.'

'Seems appropriate.'

'Right then.' Spike picked up an empty box of matches and put them next to Wesley. 'The agency.' He opened the box and separated out the small drawer. 'The apartment.'

Angel nodded and they looked at the equal number of things that were keeping them separate.

Suddenly, Angel shifted a small ashtray over to Spike's collection and said softly, 'Giles.'

Spike pouted and appeared to be counting the number of things now weighing down his side.

Then, Angel reached over and flicked the cigarette to the floor. 'I over-reacted about her. I'm sorry. What you did was… dubious, but incredible in its own way. It's not a problem between us, Spike.'

Spike pouted at Lilah lying so discarded on the floor and then leaned over and crushed the drawer in his fingers. 'I'm moving back into OUR apartment, so that's no hindrance either.'

Angel shaded his eyes for a moment then shook his shoulders out and said softly, 'Good.'

Spike grinned and flicked the rest of the box off the table. 'We prefer classy offices, too. Scary Monsters remerges with Angel Investigations.'

Chuckling, Angel leant back in his chair.

They glanced down at the remaining issues. Before they could address them, they looked up to find Grant coming towards them with a small notepad. 'Sorry, Gents, busy tonight. What can I…? Oh, hello, it's… you.'

Spike grinned inwardly at the flush that suffused the young man's face at seeing Angel again. 'Hello, Grant.'

The man nodded at him, but didn't take his eyes off Angel. Not used to being so overlooked, Spike pouted and leant forward. 'Coffee. Two.'

Angel shook his head. 'Water for me. I'm feeling jittery enough as it is.'

'Bad day?'

Angel looked up at Grant at this eager question. He smiled, but Spike knew the smile was just for him. 'No. A good one.'

Grant hovered for a moment longer, could think of no excuse to stay, and so went off to fill the order.

'He fancies you.'

Angel looked around surprised. 'Who?'

Spike chuckled. 'I've really not got that much to worry about with you, have I?' As he said the words, he caught sight of his lighter, still sitting so provocatively on Angel's side of the equation. He pouted.

Angel saw his look and reached over to arrange Jordan and Sam into something resembling a neat line.

Spike chuckled and moved them back. 'They don't take orders well, Luv. So….'

'Yeah. Okay. Now it gets difficult.'

Spike took a small breath. 'Wesley saved your life when you were poisoned. He stays in the agency, Angel. NOTHING is worth the risk of losing you.'

Surprised at this early tactical advantage, Angel leant back and studied Spike's lowered face. After a long time, he said softly, 'You never met Wesley in the early days. He wasn't as you see him now.'

Spike glanced up and shrugged. He had made the concession - said the man's name - he didn't want the bugger's biography. Angel understood but ignored the shrug, and ploughed on. 'He reminded me of you when I first met you.'

At that, Spike looked up sharply, and Angel nodded. 'William.'

Spike moved Jordan in front of Sam, putting Sam in a position he thought he'd enjoy for a while then murmured, 'I think in nearly two hundred years, that's the first time you've ever talked to me about… then.'

Angel pursed his lips. 'He was you - William - but thrust into a modern world. He wore hand-kitted sweaters, for fuck's sake.' He glanced up. 'Then he came to work for me.'

'And your point in this fascinating story?'

'My point is that the Wesley you see now is what I've created. I know that. I'm not as stupid as you like to think, Spike. I know the effect I have on people. I know the effect I've had on him. But… he's changed me too. We've grown up together, if you like. It was just us. Then it was you. The other way around, how would you feel?'

'I've told you, I want him to stay working with you.' Spike was well aware that he'd deliberately misunderstood Angel's intent and twisted the words to suit himself.

Angel sighed and tried another tack. 'You wanted him more than I did, Spike. You were the one who started the whole fucking game.'

Spike pouted but didn't reply.

The drinks arrived, and they were forced to break off for a moment. Grant swept Wesley to the side of the table and put Angel's water down in his place. Spike began to chuckle until Jordan, Sam and Giles went the same way.

With matching frowns, the vampires replaced their tiny armies, subtly moving them closer to the two main protagonists. Spike nodded at the salt and pepper. 'At least we've not moved.'

Angel grinned. 'We're not going to either. In the middle and together?'

Spike nodded, pleased. 'In the middle and together. So, what are you saying about Wesley then? You still want to fuck him… notthatyouhaven'tbeenalready.'

'What was that mumble?'

'Not - that - you - haven't - been - already.'

Angel leant forward and put his hand over Spike's. 'I told you- there's been nothing. Not like you think, anyway.'

'You've… done stuff though.'

Angel frowned. 'I'm not going to draw you a freaking picture, Spike. We've not been fucking behind your back, okay? Why don't we talk about Sam now?'

Spike suddenly twisted his hand and grasped Angel's tightly. He held Angel's gaze. 'No arguing, Angel. We don't need it. Not now.'

Angel looked relieved, and before he could apologise, Spike said softly, 'You didn't mind about Sam or Jordan in the beginning. You say you did, but you didn't. I came in from fucking them, and you LIKED it. You smelt them on me, and it turned you on. Why did you change?'

Angel gently parted their hands and ran his fingers through his hair. 'I don't know.' He looked up and gave Spike a very intent look. 'I'm not sure that I have. Not really. It may have been a way of… hurting you. Making me feel less guilty for forgiving Wesley.'

'You felt guilty for that?'

Angel looked at him despairingly. 'Duh!'

'Oh. Okay. So… it's not really my friends then?' Checking that Angel approved, he swept Jordan and Sam into Giles and put them all on the floor.

That left one small satellite circling them all on its own.



Suddenly, Spike leant forward and said urgently, 'What do you want, Angel? Do you want him?'

Angel put a finger to Spike's cheek. 'I want you.'

He sensed a hand coming to his side of the table and looked down to see Spike moving Wesley into the centre with them.

He scowled for a moment. 'And that means…?'

'That means that we need to move on. He's back. We're together. Let's get on with our lives and see where things go, yeah? Let's stop fucking angsting over it.'

Angel was about to agree to this, but Spike suddenly grasped his wrist, digging his nails in painfully. 'But promise me one thing. We talk. We talk about everything. No secrets. If something more happens between you, you tell me. Everything, all the time - talking. We've never done that, Angel. I don't know why, maybe because we were still thinking of ourselves as vampires - as sire and childe. I don't bloody know. But this is new. You know it is. This is us without all that. This is us as men. And now we talk.'

'So… no fights to the death or torture? Cus, I'm gonna kinda miss the torture….'

Spike quirked his mouth up. 'Maybe in bed- if you're really good.'

Angel wrapped his hand around the three objects and placed Spike's over his. 'We talk. We work it through.'

They nodded and leant back, satisfied.

Spike lit another cigarette and retrieved his lighter. He gave it one thoughtful look and then dropped it in his pocket.

Angel drank his water and then said under his breath, 'Have I just agreed for you to fuck your friends whenever you like, but I have to check in for permission?'

Spike looked up, theatrically offended, then grinned and flicked up his eyebrow. 'So, tell me more about this torture fantasy then, Pet.'

Angel shook his head in despair and leant back happily. He slid his foot up Spike's leg. 'I've kept… things. I haven't told you. Behind the weapons.'

'Uh huh. I'm liking the sound of this. You finished here?'

'Are we?'

They gave each other a long, frank appraisal and then rose together, but before they moved off, Spike suddenly tipped the salt up and poured a small pile on the table. He did the same with the pepper and then stirred them together with his finger. 'Now no one's gonna be able to separate us.'

Angel draped his arm over Spike's shoulder, and they walked back out into the rain with suddenly a thousand things they wanted to say to each other.

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