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The Darkling Plain - Episode
Spike's friends continued their vigil: Sam dozing on the couch, Jordan sitting out on the balcony where the cold made him feel something.
Days merged into one another: long periods of silent inactivity, punctuated by intense, manic activity from Spike. It wore his friends down, frayed their nerves, but they stayed, waiting for the time when he would need them.
On the eighth day since Angel's death, they woke to find Spike sitting on the edge of the bed, staring at the closet.
Sam glanced at Jordan and then tentatively sat next to the apparently calm figure. 'Hi.'
Spike didn't turn his head and continued to stare at the closet. Suddenly, he got up and ripped open the door. He tipped his head to one side and brushed his hand over the hanging clothes. Systematically, one by one, he took them off the hangers and piled them into Sam's lap. When he'd done all the suits, he began on the folded sweaters. When Sam put the growing pile down on the bed, Spike turned and patiently stacked them up in his arms again.
Wanting to avoid an outburst from either of them, Jordan came over and took some of the clothes from Sam. Spike didn't seem to mind them sharing. He crouched and fished out all the shoes and began to add them as well.
Sam didn't look at Jordan. They both knew that only Angel's clothes were being removed.
When he'd finished, when only his few things were left, Spike sat back down and contemplated his handiwork. He nodded, pleased, and then went back under the covers.
Sam stood, dropping half the things. He bit his lip once more and stamped his foot, looking in complete despair to Jordan. The demon just squared his shoulders and began to stack all the things in the elevator.
They'd only just got them all in when the pile of bedclothes was flung back once more, and Spike went back to stand in front of the closet. He methodically spread all his clothes out, so they filled the whole space: evenly, neatly- a single person's closet.
Once more he retreated.
The despondent pair rode down with the clothes, piled them into Angel's office, and then went back up, neither willing to express why they felt afraid to leave Spike alone for any length of time.
When they got back, Spike was pulling all his newly arranged clothes out and throwing them out of sight under the bed, until the closet was completely empty. At last, this seemed to please him, and with a small nod, he climbed back under the covers.
Later that evening, Sam stood contemplating the lump on the bed. When he felt the other's presence at his side, he said determinedly, 'This has to end.'
Jordan pouted. 'He sure needs to wash.'
Sam glanced at the bathroom. 'Okay, I might as well be bitten for a sheep as a lamb.' He ripped the covers off Spike and pulled him to sitting. Surprisingly, Spike was unresisting. He sat meekly with his eyes downcast, and Sam had the disturbing thought that somehow his Spike had not returned with them in that last, hideous car journey.
He pulled Spike to his feet and marched him into the bathroom, easing down the jeans, which were badly stuck to the body with blood. Wincing, he unwound the bandage and let the fresh water get to the wound.
Spike stayed like a dead man for several minutes, but eventually, Sam sensed that he was standing unassisted. Then the vampire began to turn his head to the water, letting it run over his face. Finally, he turned and braced his hands on the wall, the water cascading over his whole body. He turned and gave Sam a look, and Sam retreated, knowing he was no longer wanted or needed.
Spike waited until the human was out of sight then turned to lean his back on the wall.
This was perfect.
This was just what he needed.
Slowly, he let his knees give way, collapsing to the floor. Then he let the tears come. In this private world where they couldn't hear him, he cried for the first time: bitter tears of loneliness and fear. The crying tore him apart, ripped open his soul, let the anguish out, but more only formed in its place. It didn't seem to matter how much he cried, he couldn't get to the bottom of his grief. It was only when he heard murmurs in the doorway that he pushed to his feet and rinsed his face, going out before he was recaptured.
The bed was freshly made and some clean clothes were lying on it for him.
He shuddered. He'd never sleep in that bed again.
He pulled on the clothes because it was something to do.
He turned to look at his friends and tipped his head to one side, regarding them. They looked back at him, and he saw that they wanted and needed nothing from him, that they didn't expect him to give them anything, and this was okay- he had nothing to give to anyone.
He still hadn't moved from the spot when an hour later, the elevator doors slid open, and Wesley came in hesitantly with Cordelia and Fred.
Jordan frowned, looking at the faces of the three humans, seeing their need. He went to intercept them. 'Later, maybe?'
'How is he?'
Jordan felt like laughing, but replied conventionally, 'As well as can be expected.'
'He looks better.'
'He looks clean.'
Cordelia licked her lips and said hesitantly, 'Why's he just standing there.'
'I think because he has nowhere to go.'
'Well… we've come to tell you about the… funeral.'
At that, Jordan did laugh: a short painful snort that made Sam leave his post and join them. 'What's up?'
Jordan said softly, 'The humans are having a funeral.'
Sam frowned and looked at the other three. 'With what? I mean, for what? He's a pile of fucking dust.'
Fred began to dab her eyes with a tissue, and Cordelia looked furiously at him. 'It's important to have something, okay? We all want to say things. Remember him.'
'And you need some freaking ceremony…?'
Jordan laid his hand warningly on Sam's arm. 'Sure. Funeral. When?'
Wesley spoke softly, his eyes fixed on Spike. 'Tomorrow evening. We wanted him to be able to come.' He looked back at Jordan and said very pointedly, 'We realise that Angel was already dead; so, don't patronise us. We also know they'll be nothing there- no body. But he's in our hearts, and we want to say goodbye. We want to talk of him and remember him. That's what we all are in the end- the memories we leave behind us. I would like Spike to be there. He hasn't let go, and he needs to.'
Suddenly, he took a step back. Animated from his apparent trance, Spike had suddenly marched over to him, standing close- too close, intimidating. He looked deep into Wesley's eyes and said his first words in eight days. 'Can you let go your blood?'
Wesley swallowed and glanced between Sam and Jordan, feeling suddenly out of his depth. They just stood behind their friend and kept silent.
Wesley turned to face Spike. 'Let go the grief, Spike, not the memories. You'll always have them- we all will.'
'Can you go on when you're dead?'
Wesley blinked. 'I'm not sure what you….'
Spike thumped on his chest, making the human wince at the power of the blow. 'Dead. In here. He was my illusion of life.'
'This is just….' Wesley looked down and suddenly put a hand over his eyes. 'I can't do this just now- sorry. I only wanted to tell you what we're going to do. I hope you come.'
He turned and went swiftly down the stairs. Cordelia and Fred smiled sadly at Spike, and Fred whispered, 'Please come,' then they followed Wesley down.
Spike swallowed and said raggedly, 'I need a shower.' He stripped off his clothes and went back under the water, the crying so painful this time that he felt his throat bleeding from the inside.
The rest of that night and through most of the day, Spike either wandered ceaselessly around the apartment, or crouched under the water, letting his grief wash around his huddled form. After a while, he couldn't even work out what he was crying for. Sometimes it was the loneliness- the knowledge that he'd never have Angel again. His body ached for Angel, but not for the sex or the passion - he couldn't remember that - but as a child needing his mother: the one who took fear away. Sometimes, though, it was anger: bitter fury at Angel for leaving him, for breaking his promise that they would always be together. These were bad tears, for they made others come: guilty ones for being so angry with Angel; pitiful ones for Angel because he wasn't there to defend himself against these accusations, and then furious ones at the world that had taken Angel from him. Sometimes - and these were very hot, evil tears - they were hateful ones for his friends who were still there when Angel wasn't. He wanted to sacrifice them all to his bonfire of need for Angel. He would, if he could, all of them: dead- if only that would restore Angel to him. Then tears of self-recrimination would leave him shaking. He knew they'd been there all this time. He felt their undemanding love for him, yet he offered them as a silent sacrifice on the altar of some universal balance: their lives for Angel's.
Every time he came out of the shower, he gave the illusion of calm again, the shivering and tears gone. He dressed and went back to his silent pacing. Having decided there was nowhere to go, it didn't matter where he went.
On one of his restless, endless walks, he found Sam standing listlessly in the training room, his forehead resting against the wall. Spike could hardly avoid looking at him. He did and frowned. He flung the man around and ran his hands over the familiar face. 'You've been crying!'
Sam screwed up his face but couldn't help the tears that welled and spilled over his cheeks. Spike narrowed his eyes and said curiously, 'Does it look like I've been crying, too?'
Sam had no idea what reply was wanted, so just told the truth, nodding sadly.
Spike smiled for the first time since his world ended. 'Huh.' He went back into the main room and sat at the table. He felt around his face, absurdly pleased. Angel's death marked his skin, reddened and swelled his eyes. He had finally found some evidence of Angel's life: the physical marks left behind on his face.
He was still sitting at the table when Jordan came out of the elevator, wearing a dark suit and carrying another for Sam.
Sam changed, watching Spike warily. 'I don't think we should leave him.'
'Whatever he does, Baby, he'll do it whether we're here or not. We're merely witnesses to all this.'
'Still, it seems wrong to leave him alone.'
'He's not alone. Someone else has been watching it all, remember?'
They glanced sadly at the bed then went to sit down either side of Spike.
Sam took his hand. 'We're going to Angel's funeral, Babe. Will you come? We'll stay with you….'
Spike pursed his lips. 'No.'
They were both surprised to hear him speak, and relatively rationally, so pressed their advantage, Jordan saying softly, 'I was wrong, Sweetie; I think it will help.'
Spike twitched up an eyebrow. 'Maybe it's what Angel would have wanted.'
Jordan kicked Sam hard under the table to prevent him falling for the trap and said sharply, 'Don't fucking patronise us, Spike. We're not gonna try and get you to do things you don't want by pretending Angel would have. You know best what he'd have wanted.'
'He'd have wanted to stay with me and not die, really.'
Sam began to cry again and slammed his fist into the table with fury at his inability to stop the endless tears. Jordan patted Spike's arm. 'We'll be back in a couple of hours.'
Spike nodded, desperate for them to go. 'I'm okay. You go.'
Jordan gave him a suspicious look, but stuck to his belief that Spike would do whatever he wanted, regardless of whether he was alone or not.
Reluctantly, they jogged down the stairs.
Spike tipped his head back and felt a sense of relief. Now he could cry if he wanted in any room, and no one would know.
He heard a noise, frowned, and then looked across the room to see the dog emerging from under the bed. The puppy came and lay down under the table at Spike's feet. Spike didn't want to lose the very thin veneer of his sanity again, so rewound the small scene and had the dog not emerging from under the bed. That was better. Therefore, when a small, nails-on-wood, tap-tapping sound began to follow him wherever he went in the apartment, he ignored it.
He had things to do and could afford no distractions.
He shrugged on his coat and went up to the roof, avoiding going down through the offices for many reasons.
It felt good to be out in the fresh air again, and he dropped off the side of The Crypt and made his way back to Babel.
It wasn't hard to follow their route that night and find the door that Angel had kicked in.
He stepped inside the warehouse and stood with his back to the wall, looking around the place where Angel had left him.
It was dark. It was cold.
He shivered and hugged himself tighter into his coat then walked slowly over the floor, trying to recreate the fight. He found a small patch of dried blood on the floor: the girl. Using that, he worked out the place.
Suddenly, fury overcame him, and he fell to the floor, scrabbling, desperately trying to find some dust: something, anything, to show that this was the place where Angel had passed.
There was nothing- or what there was could have been just dirt. He spread himself face down on the floor and lay on the cold cement.
Nothing. There was still nothing. However hard he tried to will him back, Angel was gone. He could not understand how something that had given him life had gone. Where was the unbroken continuity, the promise of eternity, on this cold, dirty floor? The sound of Spike's sobbing echoed around the uncaring space, but he couldn't even cry as he needed now- it gave him no relief.
He lay for what seemed a very long time on the floor, becoming part of the stillness and the silence, which was nice- comforting.
A beam of moonlight streaked in front of his face, illuminating a patch of floor in an unearthly, blue-black pool. He sat up. All around the room, moonlight flooded in through cracks in broken windows, dust motes circling in them like small, trapped spirits.
It was stunningly beautiful- a Cathedral of the night.
He stood up and turned slowly, his face tipped up to the dark light.
It was fitting, for it was Angel's resting place now.
He stretched out his arms and soaked in Angel's presence.
It was the start of his recovery.
He knew the time for mourning was done.
It was time to move on.
Reluctantly, giving the beautiful resting place one last look, Spike stepped out into the cold night and began to walk toward home.
He felt a sense of great purpose. He'd not been well enough before, but now he was. Coming to this place had given him the strength he needed.
Angel was alone.
Angel needed him, and it was time to go- time for them to be together again.
New journeys- he'd never been afraid of them.
This would be the best one of all.
He began to run.
There were no preparations to make, nothing he wanted to take with him.
He went up onto the roof and looked toward the east- not long to wait.
Suddenly, he remembered the imminent return of his friends, and frowned at the open hatch. Pursing his lips, he went back down, rammed the bolt home and twisted it beyond human strength to open, then went out onto the balcony and scaled the side of the wall back up to the roof.
He smiled and stretched, then made himself comfortable with his back to a vent, just thinking and waiting.
Somewhere in his mind, he registered that a car pulled into the garage. He heard voices, shouting from the apartment below, but ignored it all. They were looking for him, but they'd not find him up here. There was no other access- Angel had seen to that.
He'd forgotten how beautiful November mornings could be. The day awoke with a still mist hanging low over the streets and buildings. It was as if the city had sensed what was to pass and had sighed out its pity for the creature starting this great journey.
He stood to greet the dawn.
The mist became white, illuminated by the first streaks of the sunrise. A warm glow spread up the side of The Crypt, bringing Angel closer with every shadow it dispersed.
Spike heard a noise, but ignored it. He knew what it was- he'd successfully ignored the dog's existence up to now, another few minutes wouldn't matter. If he'd known it had crept up the stairs after him, he'd have taken it down before locking himself out.
He saw the light creep over the edge of the roof and watched it, fascinated. The puppy wandered into its warmth and sat studying Spike, his fur catching the soft rays and shinning like liquid gold.
Spike clenched his jaw and ignored the steadfast gaze on him.
The dog looked up.
Spike couldn't help himself, and looked up too.
A beautiful white feather was drifting lazily down toward the puppy. Spike frowned as a small memory sparked, but it eluded him.
The puppy gave a small, gleeful bark, only inflaming the elusive memory more. Then, with one last, steadfast look at Spike, the dog leapt for the feather, falling in a graceful arc off the edge of the building.
Spike was rooted to the spot once more. There was nothing he could do. The bolt had hit Angel, and he couldn't stop it. No matter how many times he rewound the scene in his mind, he wasn't quick enough or strong enough or clever enough to save him. Angel crumpled to dust and there was nothing left. Except, this time, he fell, not crumpled.
Spike let out a howl and dived for the edge of the building. The light pricked his skin, but he ignored it.
Droc lay on the balcony, only a few feet down. Spike leapt of the edge and landed gracefully alongside the small figure. He picked the dog up carefully, cradling its limp body in his arms.
And it became HIS body- the one he'd not been able to hold and, therefore, believe was truly gone.
All his desperate need to save Angel, to have him back, transferred to that smaller, warmer body.
Wrapping him securely in a blanket, he frantically called Sam's cell phone.
Ignoring the hysterical shouting from his friend, he said hoarsely, 'Come and get me.'
Spike refused to stay behind and huddled under a blanket on the back seat of Sam's car as they rushed the dog to a vet. He stroked the still form and spoke quietly to him, ignoring Sam's urgent questioning.
It was nothing more than a fracture of his back leg- a small cast and some pills. Spike looked at the dog with astonishment when it limped out of the operating theatre. The puppy squatted down in front of him and returned to an old favourite: trying to lick his balls. He couldn't navigate the cast and began to worry at the edge of it, instead.
Sam laughed, but there was a breaking edge to the sound.
Spike lifted the dog up, and they made the journey back to the apartment in silence. Spike, under the blanket, sensed that Sam stopped somewhere on the journey, but he was too busy staring suspiciously at the puppy to comment on it.
As they crossed the empty offices, Sam said in a low voice, 'Jordan's still out looking- where did you go?'
Spike ran his fingers through his hair and replied softy, 'Nowhere. I didn't have time.' Once more, he gave the dog a thoughtful look, and they rode in silence.
The doors slid open and Spike reeled. He couldn't believe the state of the place.
In wonder, he put the dog down and walked slowly around. Clothes were strewn everywhere; books were all over the floor; the kitchen was a wreck. The flooring was badly stained and scratched; the air smelt stale and musty. He was about to comment on all this, but shut his mouth with a snap. No point saying that Angel would be pissed at the state of his apartment- Angel would never see it again.
Suddenly, he heard an odd sound and turned. The on-route stop was now explained. Sam had fixed a small, pink doll's roller-skate to the bottom of the puppy's cast. Freed from the restrictions of the injury, the puppy now skated himself with glee over the vast expanse of wood floor.
Spike laughed, and the world stopped still to listen.
He held out a hand, and with a small sound, Sam came into his familiar embrace.
They stood for a while, until Spike eased him away and, still holding him tightly, gave him a penetrating look. When he was sure his friend was ready, he said softly, 'You know where I went, Sam. You knew all along where I'd want to go. I got interrupted though. I'll stay for a few days- until I'm sure he's well. But I still have to go.'
Sam's face crumpled. 'We need you here, Baby. I need you.'
Spike hugged him back in tightly. 'He needs me more.' He smiled softly into the man's shoulder. 'Who's gonna tell 'im what a poof he is, if I'm not there, hey? Who's gonna make him so mad he forgets to brood? Hey! Come on…. Enough tears, all ready. We've all shed enough. I wanna leave you happy…. Oh, God, come here….' He held the sobbing man even tighter and ran his fingers through the thick, dark hair that reminded him so much of Angel's. 'Don't, Sam. Please. I can't leave the little saboteur to you if you're gonna blub all over 'im!'
Sam stood straighter, wiping his face with his sleeve. 'Droc?'
'Yeah. He'll be our bridge now- so you don't forget me. Oh, Jesus, sorry…. Hey, shhh….'
He heard the soft whir of the elevator and whispered, 'Stop crying; the ignorant armies are upon us.' He smiled and stood Sam straighter, dusting him down playfully. Slowly, lovingly, he leant forward and kissed the tear-streaked cheeks. 'There.'
He turned, expecting Wesley, but frowned when Lilah stepped out.
Her face showed signs of extreme stress, and with a jolt, Spike suddenly remembered that she would feel the loss of the blood link to some extent, too.
Despite her strained look, she came toward them. 'I went to the funeral.'
Spike turned away. He hadn't wanted to know when they'd told him, and he sure as hell didn't want to hear this now. Funerals were for dead people.
She caught at his arm, however, and made him turn back. 'It was wrong.'
Sam cried out softly, 'I told him it was! Stupid thing to have!'
'No.' She didn't take her gaze off Spike. 'Not that. His… death. It wasn't his time, Spike.'
Spike wrenched his arm away and walked toward the kitchen. If he didn't listen, maybe he wouldn't hear.
'Spike. I know how to bring him back.'
to chapter 4
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