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The Darkling Plain
The first day at the cottage was a disaster.
Wanting to avoid seeing Angel as much as possible, Spike went straight out to the garage when he got there, and after turning on the CD in the car so he could enjoy some Bach, he began to chop the wood they would need for the week. He always enjoyed this physical, repetitive task, and reasoned that when Susan and her guest arrived, they would go inside and talk to Amanda or play with the baby.
He was extremely annoyed, therefore, to hear a small, embarrassed cough behind him when he was no more than a third of the way through chopping.
'I've been sent out to say that we're here.'
Spike didn't turn around but put a particularly vicious swipe through one innocent log. 'Deep joy.'
'I didn't want to come. I told her I didn't want to come.'
Spike turned angrily. 'Why come then?'
Angel came further into the gloom of the garage.
Spike twitched his shoulder against his ear and swore softly.
'Nothin'. Dog again.'
Angel licked his lips and said softly, 'I can hear it too here.'
Spike shook his head. 'No. It's my madness; get your own.'
'I wanna fuck you like an animal.'
'What! Bloody hell, what?'
Angel jerked his head back and looked at the car. 'That's what the music just said.'
'Bach? I don't think so….' Spike rubbed his hand over his sweating neck. 'Fuck, I've got such a headache now. Thump, bloody thump. Just go away and leave me be, yeah?'
He swung back, missed the stroke, and left the axe embedded. Swearing, trying to pull it out, he caught the palm of his hand on a long shard of wood and pulled off, bleeding.
Angel came forward with a small sound of distress and picked up Spike's discarded shirt, handing it to him to wrap the wound.
Before he actually released the shirt though, he looked down at the bleeding palm. He hissed, and his eyes dilated. He caught Spike's wrist and put his finger to the blood, stroking over the cut. Spike twitched his hand to the touch, but then pulled it away. They turned as one as they sensed they were being watched, and Amanda came slowly toward them. 'What happened?'
Spike held up his hand as an answer. She barely glanced at it. 'You're babysitting tonight. Suzi and I are going out.'
She turned and left, slightly icily. Angel watched her retreating back. 'Was that me or you?'
Spike pursed his lips. 'Me.' He seemed to thaw slightly and added, 'She's pissed that I didn't want you to come here.'
Angel pouted. 'You don't like me.'
Spike gave him a frank look and laughed unpleasantly. He retrieved his shirt from Angel's hand and said under his breath, 'Yeah, that's the reason.'
Spike went up to dress his hand, and the small distance now between them made his headache recede.
He went back downstairs, determined to be more sanguine about the situation. He walked into the living room to find a roaring fire, no women, and Angel lounging on the couch, sipping red wine.
Wesley worked frantically at his books as the other two completed their own, separate arrangements privately next door.
When the dog began to bark once more, they appeared, looking flushed, pleased with themselves, but also focused. They came over to the bed and knelt by Spike's face. Glancing at Jordan, Sam stroked over the still vampire's cheek, then down his nose and across his lips, parting them slightly and easing his finger into his mouth.
Wesley looked away, and then looked back, fascinated and revolted in equal measure. Suddenly, the revulsion seemed to dissipate. Determinedly, he rummaged in the nightstand and produced a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. Jordan nodded, impressed, and Wesley lit one, blowing the smoke in Spike's face.
The floor lurched beneath him as he looked at the small scene.
Angel looked up from contemplation of the blood-red wine and gave Spike a small nod. 'They've gone.'
Spike swallowed and came closer. It was like walking along a beach at high tide with the surf crashing in on the shore. The smell nearly overpowered him. It was salty, earthy; he could taste it on his tongue. A great hunger for something addictive welled up in him. His flaccid penis swelled, and he licked his lips. 'I need a drink.'
'I helped myself. Sorry.'
Spike poured one for himself then, after a slight hesitation, went over to Angel and topped him up too.
He sat down on the other end of the couch, wishing he could adjust himself without it looking too obvious.
'How's the hand?'
They were quiet for a while, staring into the fire. Eventually, Angel glanced around. 'This place is great. Do you get to come here often?'
'I have no idea.'
Angel glanced over at Spike's resigned tone. 'Why didn't you want me here?'
'Because of this. I can't even remember her name now.'
'There you go.'
Angel twisted around on the couch, facing Spike, who had his head tipped back, as if he was too tired to attempt holding it up.
Spike sensed the scrutiny and let his head loll over so he was looking at Angel. 'I wanna feel you from the inside.'
Angel only nodded. 'I hear it too.'
For the first time, Angel smiled. 'No, I'm thinking not Bach. But I like Bach.'
'I know you do.'
'And I know you don't.'
'I had it on earlier.'
'But you hate it.'
'Yeah, I do.'
He captured Spike's hand, ripped off the band-aid, and began to lick like a cat: long, sensuous licks through the blood. Spike turned his face back to the fire.
When the earth had made one more revolution, he looked up. 'Baby.'
Angel shook his head.
'I hear baby.'
'No, you don't, Baby. You're confused.'
'Not about this, I'm not. She needs me.' He pulled his hand away and stood up. Squaring his shoulders to the almost overpowering tide pulling him back to the salty ocean depths, he went toward the irresistible noise.
The trio cursed when the puppy stopped barking and sank dejected to the floor. Wesley was the first to rise. He went back to the table without a word and slammed another book down to be read.
Jordan glanced at Sam and said tiredly, 'We'd better feed Mutt-face.'
Sam nodded. 'I'll see what they've got.'
At first, the dog refused to eat anything and would not take his eyes off the bed, but the smell of the food overcame him, and he ate furiously before returning stubbornly to his post.
Slightly unnerved at this, Sam rose and joined Jordan in the kitchen. He glanced at Wesley's lowered head, and then said softly, 'I say fuck this shit. Let's take the fucking knife and cut them free.'
Jordan pouted for a moment then nodded, but flicked his eyes toward Angel's room. 'Something better than a knife, I'm thinking.'
Keeping their gaze on Wesley, they went quietly over the floor.
Suddenly, they jumped as Wesley leapt to his feet. 'I've got it! My God! A Kiwnd demon!'
Diverted, the other two joined him to peer at the reference. Wesley ran his finger quickly over the words. 'Blood… touching it acts as an invite. Feeds off strong life forces… latches on… induces dream states… sucks dry… oh… this isn't good…..'
Wesley sat down heavily and took his glasses off tiredly. He turned to look at the large maggot creature and murmured, more to himself than his anxious audience, 'I wonder….'
He looked at them, and at his expression, they sank into chairs.
'I think it's made a rather bad mistake. I think it sensed something from them…. My God! It was probably watching them….' His eyes rose to the glass with a revolted look. 'Yes, spying on them. They give a rather good illusion of life - I would think - when they're… well, you get the picture, I'm sure.'
'It was watching them fuck?'
'Thank you, once again, for that unnecessary translation of my perfectly succinct explanation. Yes. That's exactly what I think it was doing. It gets in somehow and then does its trick of subduing its victims by giving them powerful, borrowed dreams- taken from its last victim, it seems. In normal cases, perfectly good for repressing the mind long enough for it to feed off the life force. But in this case….'
'Human dreams not going to work all that well….'
'No. I should imagine not. I think Spike and Angel are fighting this somehow, and that resistance is preventing the creature feeding or leaving.'
'Are you saying they're trapped together like that until…?'
'Even vampires have to feed to stay… alive.'
'Fuck this.' Jordan got to his feet and stormed into Angel's room, returning with a sword.
Wesley picked up the book tiredly and just pointed to a passage. Reluctantly, Sam read it. He turned and shook his head at Jordan. 'The only cases where they've been separated physically have ended… badly.'
'They're vampires. They could survive.'
'Do you want to risk it?'
'Fucking hell!' He sank back into his chair. 'What are we going to do?'
Wesley looked very tired and drawn all of a sudden. 'At the moment? I have absolutely no idea.' He turned to the scene on the bed. 'I think it's rather up to them.'
The next day, Spike got up early and went out. He took some food and left a note to say he'd gone for walk.
He knew he'd be in trouble big time when he got back, but felt better as soon as he got away from the house.
He planned to walk around the lake, a walk that, once he got away from the house, he remembered he'd taken many times before.
The woods calmed him. The mountain in the distance made him remember who he was. The lake seemed pure and good in the sunlight.
He returned to the cabin looking forward to seeing his little family.
As he rounded the last turn before the cabin came into view, Angel emerged naked from the water, shaking his head and sending tiny droplets of crystal into the air.
He saw Spike and just stood in the sunlight, watching him.
He was between Spike and the cabin, between what Spike was and what he wanted- except that now, he didn't want it all that much. Now he wanted to catch one of those small crystal beads and taste it on his tongue. Now he wanted to touch Angel's skin to see if the lake had made that pure and good, too.
He shrugged his bag off his shoulders and went closer.
Angel stood his ground, seemingly unembarrassed about being naked.
Spike came to a halt in front of him. 'I didn't want you here, because when I'm around you, I can't think of anything else. Literally.'
Angel put a hand to his cheek. 'Swim with me.'
He began to unbutton Spike's shirt slowly. Spike just looked down and watched him. He didn't even object when Angel began to undo his pants, sliding the zipper down slowly, easing them off his hips.
'We've done this so many times before.'
Spike jerked awake slightly at Angel's words: the hypnotic undressing putting him into a kind of trance. He looked up at the so-familiar stranger's face.
His pants fell to the sand, and he kicked them off with his shoes, and then together, they entered the deep, cold water and swam strongly toward the centre of the lake.
The cabin looked very far away and small from there.
Spike stopped swimming. 'If I could drown, I'd let myself. Now. Here.'
Angel paddled around him. 'We could swim to the other side and not come back.'
Spike turned to float on his back. 'Together?' He turned to look at the other side of the lake. It looked a long way away, too. He saw a movement on the shore. 'There's a dog.'
Angel began to tread water, but was looking the other way- back to the cabin. 'Susan. And Amanda.'
Spike didn't want to turn his head and look.
Angel touched him lightly on the shoulder. 'Time to go back. I don't think humans can swim in these temperatures.'
Spike shrugged off the touch. 'Then let's swim to the dog, and we won't feel the cold.'
'The fire will be lit.'
'It'll be lit over there, too.'
'They are waiting for us.'
'He's gone. They've driven him away again.'
It seemed to seal their fate somehow, and sadly, they swam back to the shore they had left from- the other side of the lake now seeming so far away and dangerous to attempt to reach.
Both women were incandescent with rage when they got to the small beach. Suddenly, the October temperature seemed to hit them. They began to shake badly and accepted the offered blankets. Stumbling on frozen bare feet over rough stones, shivering, the sense of euphoria they'd felt swimming in the pure water left them. They separated and went to their own rooms to shower and warm up, Angel being joined by his girlfriend, Spike receiving a stony silence from his wife now that she was not required to make the effort for her sister.
Wesley woke from a doze, his head pillowed on folded arms and checked to see if he'd drooled on his book. He looked around, alarmed for a moment, and then saw Sam kneeling by the bed. He felt tears prick his eyes and looked away for a moment to gain some control. Sam was stroking slowly and repetitively through Spike's hair, whispering meaningless nothings to him.
Wesley went over and awkwardly sat next to the man on the floor. Sam didn't seem to mind the company and shifted over slightly to make room. Wesley took hold of Spike's hand absentmindedly.
Sam smiled, but it was slightly shaky. 'Fetching something.'
The elevator hummed, and Sam added, 'That's him now.'
Jordan came in with coffee and a large box of doughnuts. Wesley sighed with relief. 'Good idea. I'm famished.'
Sam suddenly reanimated. 'It's not for us.' He gave Wesley a pointed look. 'Get ready. Next time Furball barks, we go all out. Everything, anything.' He put a hand to his zipper. 'You got any objections?'
Wesley suddenly took off his glasses and stowed them safely in his pocket. He sat back on his heels and said grimly, 'None whatsoever. In fact….' He looked over at Angel.
Sam grinned. 'Now you're getting it.'
Wesley ignored him and rose to his feet, fetching the sword that lay on the table. 'I think Angel might appreciate some more potent fluid than sperm.'
Sam went back into Spike's room.
When Droichead began to whine pitifully - as if his throat was now too painful to bark - Sam reappeared and joined the other two by the bed.
Giving each other small, grim looks, they went to work once more. Sam knelt and ran his wet hand around Spike's face. Jordan opened the slack mouth and put the sugary doughnuts to the soft tongue, waving the strong, freshly brewed coffee under the pale nose.
With no hesitation whatsoever, Wesley put the sword to his wrist and drew the blade across his skin.
When a bright crimson flow began to drip to the bed, he sat alongside Angel and prised open his mouth. He dripped himself in, stroking the beloved throat.
Wagging his tail, whining, turning in small circles, the puppy tried to join in with strained, furious barks.
Spike stayed a long time under the shower, warming himself. He dressed and went downstairs, trying to remember what he had seen on the other side of the lake, but not quite being able to reach the memory.
The room glowed with firelight and candles. The table had been set with beautiful china, and the cutlery sparkled in the candlelight. The other three were gathered by the fire, drinking wine. Susan turned and said excitedly, 'Happy Anniversary, you naughty thing! You should have reminded me!'
Spike blinked and looked at Amanda. She turned away and busied herself with the fire. Angel looked between them and pursed his lips.
They sat down to eat, and the wine flowed freely. Wanting to sit next to her sister, or perhaps away from her husband, Amanda had sat Spike next to Angel at one end of the table. They picked at the food and didn't speak.
Halfway through the main course, Angel frowned and held up a Brussels sprout on his fork. He stared at it for a while and then hid it under a pile of mashed potato with an amused smile.
Spike frowned. 'And?'
Angel shook his head. 'I'm not sure. It seemed funny at the time.'
Deciding to ignore him, Spike ploughed on with his meal, chewing as if he had cardboard in his mouth.
Angel hid another vegetable and then said softly, 'So, you forgot the anniversary.'
Spike swallowed and nodded miserably.
'How long have you been married?'
'Since I fell asleep.'
'I don't remember.'
'Will you check on the dessert, please Darling?' Spike winced at his wife's tone; it could have cut flesh until it bled.
He looked at her contritely, and she added, 'It's in the oven- it may need a few minutes more. Whip some cream while you're waiting.'
Not sure that he understood what that last meant, confusing images in his mind, Spike stood uncertainly and went into the kitchen.
He had no idea what he was supposed to do and stared bleakly at the table.
There were brownies on a plate, and he picked one up, biting into it absentmindedly. It was incredibly sweet, and he closed his eyes to enjoy it. He sensed someone come in and stuffed it hastily back on the plate, trying to cover it up with the others.
Angel smiled and came closer. 'I think she'll notice the teeth marks in that one.'
He chuckled and then put his hand toward Spike's mouth. 'You've got a crumb….' Instead of flicking it off, he pushed it hard into Spike's mouth. Spike groaned as Angel's rough fingers entered. Angel frowned deeply and pressed his thumb to Spike's lips so hard that the pressure point went white. When he released it, the blood rushed back in, flushing the lips a deep red.
They bruised each other they came together so hard.
Angel crushed Spike back against the table, trying to eat out his mouth: furious, inexperienced, desperate, male kissing. Spike groaned and came up to meet Angel, propelling them back against the stove, but there was no heat; there was no hard surface to meet them. They were kissing in a dark place without form or substance- except them; they had enough substance to make up for the lack of it around them.
Angel held him off by the tops of his arms and said huskily, 'Spike?'
Spike nodded and opened his mouth to reply, but a buzzing distracted him. He glanced around urgently, felt the floor beneath his feet, felt something very hot, and pulled away with a cry.
'What the hell's been going on out here?' From his wife's tone, Spike gathered that she was referring to the burning meringue in the oven, and not that she had just witnessed her husband snogging her sister's boyfriend. She turned the timer off with another small curse and pulled out the burnt offering. 'What were you doing? I could hear the bell from in there! Look at it! It's ruined!'
'There's still brownies.'
She turned and looked at them. 'It looks as if someone's sat in them.'
Angel bit his lip and looked away. Susan came into the room to see what the commotion was and came over to him, tucking her arm into his possessively.
He stared down at the possession, frowning.
Spike pushed past his wife and went out, climbing the stairs two at a time.
Jordan and Sam had to pull Wesley away from Angel. He couldn't stand and needed to be helped to the couch. They covered him in a warm rug and set about lighting the fire. As Sam was making faces at the old ashes, Jordan said in a low voice, 'I say if they aren't free by nightfall, we cut it off.'
Sam nodded. 'Let him feed Angel again. He'll go too far again, and we'll do it while he's like this.'
'I can hear you, by the way. Stop plotting.'
Rather guiltily, Sam said petulantly, 'Soon, we'll have nothing to lose.'
Wesley got up sadly and went to lean in the doorway, where he could see the bed. Suddenly, he shouted, 'Angel!' and staggered closer. Sam caught him as he fell, but they ended up all staring down at the vampire.
Angel's eyes were open.
Wesley fell to his knees and began ceaseless chatter, until Sam put a hand on his arm. 'The puppy's not bothered. Look.'
Wesley didn't want a puppy to know more than him so only gave him a brief glance. Then he looked again. The dog was watching Angel's eyes, but more as if he was waiting for the next sign than being pleased with this one.
He shook himself lightly and looked back at Angel. He'd never seen a more blank expression in the dark depths he knew so well. He clenched his jaw and contorted his face for a while, until Sam chuckled softly, 'Good effort, Englishman, but stiff uppers aren't needed here, Wesley. I feel like crying too.'
'But they're open. That's good. That's got to be good.'
'It's your doing, Wes. It's your blood that's done that- well done.'
Wesley stood, more determined. 'Right.' He looked at the dog. 'Let us know when we're needed.' He got a few steps before he put his hand to his head and murmured faintly, 'Have I just consulted with a puppy?'
They led him back to the fire, and they sat together on the couch.
Sam rubbed the inside of his wrist for a while. 'Next time, Spike's getting blood as well.'
Wesley looked at him. 'Then I guess Angel better have some of the… other.'
He stared at the flames, unwilling to think this through any further, hoping that when the time came, his body had recovered enough blood.
As if reading his mind, Jordan rose and went toward the fridge. 'I can't help with O-Neg production, but I can keep up the strength of those that can. I'm gonna cook something for you both.'
Wesley and Sam sat together and listened exhausted to the sound of frying. After a while, Wesley said evenly, 'If they aren't back with us by nightfall, I'll help you cut it off them.'
to chapter 4
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