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The Darkling Plain
Wesley was pouring coffee when the vampires emerged the next day. He exchanged a brief, cool look with Angel, and then sat on one of the couches, picking up a newspaper.
Angel ignored everyone else and went into his office.
Spike raised an eyebrow at this small exchange, poured himself some coffee, and sat next to Wesley.
A few minutes later, Angel looked up to find Spike perching himself on the edge of his desk.
'Uh huh. So, when were you gonna tell me bout this Shanshu thing then, Lover?'
Angel pushed his chair back angrily and went to the door, glaring furiously at Wesley. Wesley shrugged and went back to his paper.
Angel shut the door. 'What did the dead man tell you?'
'That you're going to become human. It would have been nice to have heard it from you.'
'Sit down.' Angel sat in one of his more comfortable chairs and indicated the opposite one to Spike.
He ran his fingers distractedly through his hair. 'I swear, I hadn't thought about it until last night. I mean… it's not something you just remember to remember to tell someone, is it? It just never came up.'
Spike looked down at his coffee for a moment then said softly, 'But I'm thinking you were giving it some considerable thought when other things… came up… last night.'
'Look, Pet.' Spike put his mug down on the table carefully. 'I have Sam- you know that works for me, and he's human.'
Angel gave him a slightly incredulous look. 'By the time you finish that coffee, Sam will be thirty. Before you decide what colour you want your hair next, he'll be forty. Will you still want to fuck him when he's fifty? Maybe you'll help him to get on his hands and knees for you when he's….'
'Okay, Angel, you've made your point.'
Angel got up to pace, saw Wesley watching them, and snapped the blind closed. 'No, I don't think I have. He told me to grow up.' He ignored Spike's smirk. 'He's kinda missed the point. I'm more freaking grown up than any other fucker I know: two hundred and fifty years, and counting! Only, I'm in THIS body- permanently twenty-seven. Always the desires and needs of a twenty-seven year old. I can't… grow up.'
Spike frowned and picked up his coffee, silenced by Angel's passion.
Angel nodded, 'And then there's you.'
Spike flicked his eyes up at that.
'Perfect in every way. Old too- seen it all, done it all. But so young- always so hard and ready and….' He snatched Spike's coffee and took a long swallow. 'What was I saying?'
'How hard I am?'
'Oh, yeah, there you go. Perfect. But not if I become fucking human.'
'Wesley said you wanted it once.'
'Well, DUH! I wanted a fifteen-year-old girl once! Things change.'
Spike sat back and crossed one ankle over his other leg and lit a cigarette. 'Maybe it's not you becoming human, Luv. Kinda nihilistic of you to think it was, maybe?'
Spike frowned. 'Hedonistic?'
'Altruistic? Oh, fuck it… self bloody centred?'
'There ya go! Exactly. One of those.'
'What are you…?'
'Maybe it's… me.'
A brief but very odd look crossed Angel's face, and Spike chuckled inwardly as he saw Angel's fury at having a prize he didn't want stolen from him by his childe. 'You?'
'Well… duh… souled vampire here- and one who actually asked and was given it. Lots ask, 'pparently.'
Spike just shrugged.
'And that makes this better?' Angel began pacing furiously once more.
'You sayin' you wouldn't want me if I was human?'
Angel suddenly leant wearily on the window and peered out between the blinds. 'He dies slowly.'
'Cus avoiding these pleasant little chats is so much healthier?'
'And I have noticed you've just avoided my question.'
'Spike, I'd want you if you were a dream-sucking maggot. Get real. Now, go somewhere and annoy someone else. I want to brood.'
'Luv, it's a very long way away, yeah? Save the brooding 'bout it 'til it's needed.' Spike trailed his finger over Angel's backside as he went past and heard a low chuckle of gratitude.
He went out, waited until he knew he wasn't being watched anymore, then went over to Wesley and hissed, 'Your apartment. Soon as it's dark.'
Wesley's eyebrows rose non-committally.
Spike hesitated as he went past the door of his old apartment. So many memories, it was like another lifetime.
Frowning slightly, already in a bad mood, he rode the elevator to Wesley's floor and hammered on the door. Wesley opened it, then leant to one side, letting him in.
Spike pushed past and helped himself to a drink. 'I want to know everything you know about Shanshu. Every fucking detail.'
'Because. Because I'm gonna stop it.'
'My God! The arrogance of you vampires!'
'No! Don't you pull that superior human crap with me! It intimidates the poof, but I KNOW you now, remember?'
'It's a prophesy, Spike. A future event that will happen.'
'I know what the fucking word means. But things change: I'm a souled vampire now, too.'
Wesley took a breath and said more calmly, 'Yes, that did occur to me when I heard what you'd done. However, the prophecy says the souled vampire will gain Shanshu through his great deeds: his fight.'
'Okay, firstly, wipe that smirk off your face, and then… well?'
'Have you actually done a single stroke of work since you came to L.A? When was the last time you actually did fight a demon?'
'In England. Irritating git I know needed saving.'
'Oh. Yes. Well, I still think it highly unlikely that the prophecy points to you. Angel was driven to pick up the Scroll of Aberjian, and that….'
'Look, I think….'
'No! You don't think, Wesley. You do. You do what I say. You tell me everything you know; you fetch every single scroll or reference book you have, and then you can be quiet.'
Wesley narrowed his eyes and said pointedly, 'Wolfram and Hart have….'
'Fucking hell.' He spun on his heel and went toward the door. Before he left, he said pointedly over his shoulder, 'I want that stuff by tonight.'
Spike didn't wait to be invited in; he just pushed past Lilah and helped himself to a cigarette from her vast supply.
She watched him for a moment. 'So… hello. I recognise the blond hair… can't quite place the face.'
'Yeah, yeah, been busy. There is nothing worse than a clingy childe, CHILDE! Just bear that in mind, yeah?'
'To what do I owe this pleasure?'
'Jeez, girl, what have you been doing with this great life I gave you?' Spike peered in disgust at the slovenly mess in the room, and the evidence of heavy smoking and drinking.
'What do you WANT, Spike?'
'Hey! Less cheek, Bint. I want to know about the Scroll of Aberjian, the Shanshu prophesies, and everything relevant about Wolfram and Hart's interest in Angel.'
Lilah tried to light another cigarette, but her hand began to shake too badly, and suddenly, she started to laugh: hysterical choking that made Spike frown. She saw his expression, and the laughter only got worse. She sat on the couch and tried to catch her breath, seemed to realise she didn't need to, but only dissolved once more at this thought.
Finally, she managed to say, 'At last. At last someone realises that all the secrets of Angel's greatest enemies have… changed sides.'
Spike sat down alongside her, and she said more calmly, 'I'm kind of a powerful ally to have, Spike.'
'But still evil.'
She nodded gratefully. 'Given.'
He smirked at her. 'Okay, new ally, I need a bit of… allying.'
When Spike went into his office later that evening, every surface was covered with books. He stood and looked at them, then felt a presence at his side.
'They look a tad worse for wear, Mate.'
Wesley nodded and toed one of them. 'Explosion. Fire. That kind of thing doesn't do ancient, priceless books much good. Some of them are replacements. Some I've just procured for you.'
Spike nodded. 'Okay.'
'Are you going to tell Angel what you're doing?'
Without looking at him, Spike replied softly, 'What do you think?'
Wesley gave him a furious look, misunderstanding the intensity of Spike's reply. Spike let him go on misunderstanding; it only convinced him more that a human could never comprehend the kind of love he now shared with Angel.
When Angel came up to the apartment that night, he walked in and skidded to a halt. Spike was sitting at the computer, books open all around him on the desk and on the floor. He looked up, got up to turn off the music that was playing loudly, and came over to Angel.
'I'm going to stop Shanshu, Angel. Me, you- seems to me that don't really matter. Either way, there's no us.'
Angel frowned and went over to the table, picking up one of the ancient texts. He frowned even more at the arcane language on the page. 'You? I kinda wanted Wesley on this.'
Spike nodded. 'I know you did, but see… here's the thing… Wesley doesn't care. Oh, don't get me wrong; he loves you; he kinda likes me sometimes, and he loves what we all have here, but he doesn't LOVE you, Angel. There's the difference. He thinks with his head. This needs blood and heart and guts.'
'Good research tools.'
Spike came over and tapped the book. 'Angel.' He pouted for a moment then looked him squarely in the eye. 'I know we never talk about the time when you first met me. I'm glad we don't. I don't wanna remember it, and I'm sure as hell you don't. But just this once, Angel, think about it. Think about me. All this….' He waved a hand over his body, slim in the black jeans and T-shirt. He pointed to his hair and face. 'All this is one persona. I have others- I just don't show them very often. Well, now I'm going to. I know more about stuff than I let on. I'm so much cleverer than Wesley he'd wet himself if he knew. I will translate this thing properly, and I will stop it.'
Angel laid the book very carefully on the table. 'Okay. I'll… shower, maybe? Then make you something to eat?' He cast a surreptitious look at Spike's scary new persona and murmured, 'Jeez.'
Spike looked down shyly. 'You could kiss me instead, maybe?'
Angel grunted softly and pulled him into a hug, dipping his head to find Spike's mouth. After a moment, he held Spike away. 'It's not you I don't like thinking about, Spike- not William. It's me- Angelus. I wanted you, even then; you know that.'
'Angel. I'll stop Shanshu- you don't have to keep trying to make me feel better about possibly becoming human.'
'Okay. I prefer Spike.'
'I know, Pet. Go shower and make me something to eat then.'
By the time Angel had some food cooked for Spike and some blood poured for himself, Spike had taken some of the texts to study in front of the fire. He was sitting crossed-legged on the rug, smoking into the fireplace and balancing a glass of whisky on one knee. The loud music was back on, and with a wince, Angel turned it off. 'How can you work with this racket?'
'Oh, I don't hear it.'
'Why have it on then?'
'Helps me concentrate.'
Angel sensed he wasn't going to get anywhere with this and handed Spike his plate. He watched Spike return to his studying and then fetched a book. He couldn't remember the last time he'd actually read a book, and had the worrying thought that it might have been just before Spike exploded back into his life.
With a grin, he sat on the couch and opened the old favourite.
Droichead jumped up next to him and began the necessary grinding down of wild grass to make a nest. Angel tipped him onto his back and spread his ears out in an embarrassing fashion. The puppy didn't seem to object to the indignity, and closed its eyes with a sigh of pleasure.
Angel read, but he didn't take anything in. He was watching Spike's bent back, counting the discs in his spine, picturing where the spine went after the small gap he could see between T-shirt and waistband.
With a soft smile, he got up and went to the opposite corner of the room, under the stairs. When he sat back down, he balanced his sketchpad on his knees and began to draw the still figure.
He couldn't remember the last time Spike had been still enough to draw when he was awake.
It became very quiet in the room, just the sound of the fire crackling and soft snoring from Droichead, until Angel rolled him to his side. If he stretched carefully, Angel discovered he could touch Spike with his toes, and he did this every so often, his toes then being caught and idly held for a moment, until Spike needed to turn a page or smoke.
Angel stopped sketching for a moment and rubbed his eyes. He tipped his head back on the couch and thought about his destiny- or Spike's. Suddenly, he said softly, 'I was human for day a couple of years ago.'
Spike flicked his head around and raised one eyebrow, quizzically. Angel looked down and swirled his glass. 'Just after you got your chip. Some demon blood turned me back- human.'
'Uh huh. And that was…?'
Angel pouted. 'I was a different person then. It was all I wanted. I had… Buffy- for the day.'
'Uh huh. Had, as in…?'
'Are you trying to tell me something here, Pet? Like… you don't want me to stop this thing.'
'I think I'm trying to tell you how different things are now. Having Buffy - for a day, a year, or even a lifetime - is not something I want anymore.'
'Remembering, of course, that the Buffy you had then is not the same Buffy you would have… this time.'
'Well, I'm thinking Buffy was very… human… in her… ways?'
Angel frowned. 'Well, yeah.'
Spike turned back to his books and murmured more to himself than Angel, 'She's learnt a thing or two about demon sex since then, Luv.'
This silenced Angel for a while, until Spike felt the toes pushing against his backside once more. 'Did you do that to spite me in some way?'
Spike didn't turn around. 'What do you think?' He reached around and captured Angel's toes again. 'I find it difficult to separate love and hate, Angel.'
'Look. It's you.'
Spike twisted around once more and looked at the picture Angel had done of him. He blinked and smiled. 'I look intelligent.'
'Yeah. The lighting's not good in here.'
'You finished for tonight?'
'Did you have something else in mind?'
Angel slid to the floor alongside him. 'I was thinking you could teach me some things.'
'Uh huh.' Spike snatched him close, and Angel moaned as he nuzzled into his neck. 'What could I teach you, Angel? You're my everything.'
Angel swept the research under the couch and laid Spike down, rising over him.
'You may not be able to stop this thing happening, Spike.'
'No, I will.'
'One of us could be human.'
'No, I'll stop it.'
'What if you can't? Will we still have… this?'
Spike took a small breath. 'Yes. Even then, Angel, nothing will change. Nothing will separate us.'
Angel bent to kiss him, and they both knew he was hiding his disbelief of Spike's lies deep in this joining of their preternatural flesh.
The End of Episode 6
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