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The Darkling Plain - Episode
If anyone noticed that Spike rarely left Angel's side that morning, no one commented on it. They accepted his silent presence next to Angel- just standing close enough to touch him. Angel found the morning totally… normal. He answered the telephone, which was just as easy to do human. He discussed cases with Wesley, even easier to do as a human than as a demon, because there was no voice inside him enjoying the pain and suffering. He was horrified by what he saw and wanted to help, and that pure feeling kept him on a high for the first few hours. A totally normal few hours- except, perhaps, for the copious amounts of coffee and the large box of doughnuts he devoured totally by himself.
Doughnuts were the undoing of this peaceful, normal time. Angel ate them all; Fred wanted more; Wesley volunteered to fetch some from the coffee shop and take the dog with him for some easy exercise and other dog-like necessities.
Angel looked up from his paperwork when he heard this and came out of his office. His constant shadow kept a pace behind, just making sure that he was safe.
Angel frowned and watched Wesley leaving, then said softly, 'I'll come too.'
Wesley turned, a delighted, surprised smile on his face. 'Of course! My God, I didn't think!'
Angel nodded and followed him down to the basement, his shadow a few steps behind.
Wesley opened up the garage doors and stepped out into some late November sunshine. Angel hesitated then stepped out, too.
Spike switched to his brave, amused expression, so that when Angel turned, guilty, they'd laugh it off together and share the complete understanding that Angel needed this.
Angel didn't turn.
He walked away with his face tipped up to the light, laughing with Wesley at the wondrous sunshine on his face.
Spike stood in the dark and watched their retreating backs, until with a curse, he pulled out his cell phone and angrily punched in a number.
'Jesus, Baby, you have no idea how much I like hearing that….'
'Yeah. So, like, maybe come over?'
'Uh huh. On your first day with broody-butt back?'
'Just get here, yeah?'
'Okay. I'm not doing ANY decorating.'
Spike grinned and began to jog back up the stairs to the offices, listening to Sam bitch. He ignored everyone else and went into the elevator. 'Okay, okay. No painting. But I'm thinking gettin' naked could be fun.'
There was a long pause, and then Sam said neutrally, 'I'll fetch J on the way.'
'Okay, Babe. Give us thirty.'
Spike hung up and stepped out into his own beautiful sunshine, humming quietly.
Jordan gave Sam small glances as they travelled over together. Eventually, he said pointedly, 'So, we're kinda glad that the beautiful one is all better now?'
'And that Angel is okay?'
Again, Sam nodded.
'Spike'll be totally wired about it… I mean, shit, raised from the dead. And if you fucking nod again, I'll….'
'Just get there and see for your… I mean…. Shit. I'd rather decorate.'
Jordan sighed and let him be. He'd find out for himself soon enough.
When the elevator doors slid back, Spike was lounging on the bed, flicking a pack of playing cards, one-by-one, to the floor. He grinned and sat up as they approached. 'Game?'
Sam nodded, but knew that Jordan was still watching him, so added an enthusiastic, 'Sure!'
They kicked off their shoes and climbed on, too. Jordan picked up a corner of the sheet and gave it a disgusted look, sighing theatrically as he let it drop. Spike ignored him and began to deal the first hand.
After they'd studied their hands for a moment, he lit a cigarette and said casually, 'So…. Here's a thing…. All that… stuff… when Angel was… gone. Yeah, gone. See, that was just a totally normal vampire ritual for the loss of a sire. You got that, yeah?'
Sam flicked a card out. 'Sure, Baby. Totally get that: demonic, warrior-like ritual.'
Jordan bit his lip and added, 'Totally Klingon. All souls in Sto-Vo-Kor trembling.'
Spike looked between them for a moment. 'Bastards.'
Sam chuckled, and Spike grabbed him by the front of his shirt. 'Bloody hell, Sam, just suck me or fuck me! I need something!'
Sam glanced at Jordan with an odd expression and, to his relief, saw it returned. He allowed Spike to kiss him, but then made an excuse that he had to pee. Spike pulled away, annoyed, and was about to suggest that they made that part of the foreplay, when he heard the soft whir of the elevator.
He moved- swiftly. Cards were dispatched to the nightstand; friends were removed from the bed to standing positions with shoes back on, and he was leaning casually on the bar when Angel entered.
Angel glanced between them all and said hesitantly, 'Where did you go?'
Spike looked around and smiled. 'Kinda here, Luv.'
'Oh. I thought we were gonna work… together… downstairs?'
'Yeah. Course. I thought you'd stay out in the sun longer.'
'And it started to rain.'
'So… are you coming?'
Spike didn't even turn to look at his friends, but followed Angel into the elevator.
Sam punched Jordan as soon as they were alone.
'Hey! Fucking hell! What was that for?'
'For not believing me!'
'Believing you about what? You've not said anything!'
'Do I need to say it! Jesus! After all we went through with him! All that damn grief- sorry… vampire grieving ritual! After all that, like a fucking miracle, Angel is back, and what does he do first thing?'
'I don't know, Sam. Why don't you stop ranting and swearing and tell me.'
'Call us. Fucking call us for some fucking fucking. That's what! Why isn't he fucking Angel? Come to that, why the fuck is Angel going out into the fucking sunshine without Spike?'
'Maybe because Spike is a vampire and would burst into flames?'
'Don't try to be funny with me, Demon. This is NOT funny. One damn day and they're screwing up already.'
'Angel came back for him- looked for him.'
Sam pouted and studied his feet. 'Yeah. I guess.'
'And you can't blame him for wanting to go outside for the first time in shit knows how long.'
'No. Guess not. Right. Then it's the blond fuck-up's fault. He should let Angel have his sunshine for a few fucking minutes without leaping to the conclusion that Angel doesn't love him! Why does he do this all the time?'
'Because he's basically very insecure and vulnerable?'
Sam glanced up and then sighed deeply. 'God, I love that damn vampire.'
'I know, Baby. Maybe you should say something.'
'Oh, good plan, Batman. And what grieving rituals do your tribe use? Because you're gonna need them for my funeral!'
Jordan suddenly looked away and went to the fridge, keeping his back to Sam. After a moment, he turned and said quietly, 'Let's give them some time, Sam. It's very new to both of them. I think they just need some adjustment time.'
'What if we'd gone along with his little fuck-me-a-substitute plan?'
'Are you more worried that Spike will break up with Angel, or that he's using us like something he's bought and paid for?'
Sam swallowed. 'To be truthful- he could use me to death, and I'd still love him.'
'Okay. Then we sit back and wait. We refuse to play his little game, and he'll be forced to talk this through with Angel.'
'If not, we do something else.'
'Talk to him?'
'Shit. Tell me you're not thinking we talk to Angel!'
'Angel doesn't scare me- now.'
'Huh. Angel's shadow scares me.'
'No, it doesn't. Nothing scares you, Sam. It just doesn't suit your image to admit it. Now, how about we go down and get that devious little vampire engaged in some work, instead of the other things he gets up to. The devil finds work for idle….'
Jordan chuckled and put an arm over Sam's shoulder, leading him to the elevator. 'That wasn't the part of his anatomy I was thinking of.'
Sam grinned, turned, and kissed him swiftly. Jordan gave him a look and kissed back for a moment, but then pulled away and punched angrily at the buttons. 'Don't do that. I've done my share of being paid for, Sam.'
Sam frowned and studied the closed-off expression for a while. He was about to comment on this odd remark when the doors slid open. Jordan stomped off and poured himself some coffee, then went into his office, shutting the door.
It was Wesley's suggestion.
Spike could have killed him.
They were finishing for the day, Angel looking tired. Wesley came out of his office with Lilah, looking thoughtful. She pouted and looked down- a fairly sure sign that something was up, but that she was waiting to see which way the wind was blowing before committing herself more.
Wesley poked his head around Angel's door. 'May we come in?'
Angel looked up, surprised. 'Of course.'
Wesley nodded and beckoned for Lilah to follow him. 'It appears that rumours of your death - your premature death, thank God - are doing the rounds in the demon world. It seems that something of a - have I mentioned that I hate vampires sometimes? - something of a celebration has been going on for the last few weeks. Ritual feeding. Balloons.'
'Oh. I'm… touched.'
'Yes, well. Lilah says it's giving them a sort of bravado they didn't have before- noticeable increase in rash killings, that sort of thing.'
'Nice to know I was missed.'
'I think we should go out and about tonight, and show them that the boy is back in town- so to speak.'
The three turned to look at Spike, leaning nonchalantly in the doorway. Wesley lifted an eyebrow and said softly, 'Angel can't stay out of….'
'I said no.'
Angel began to tap a pencil in an angry manner on the edge of the desk, and then he said in a low voice, without looking up, 'Can you give us a moment, Wes?'
'Of course.' Wesley backed out, and after a small glance between her sires, Lilah followed him.
'Don't ever do that again.'
Spike bent his head and lit a cigarette. 'I'll do what I want, Angel. I'll keep you safe.'
'I'm not some fragile thing that you have to….'
'Shut up, Angel. I saw you fucking dusted. I SAW it. I'm not going through that again.'
Angel leant back and said with a small edge to his voice, 'You won't have to. Human, remember? I actually take more to kill now. You're the one who would burst into dust if I… poked you with this pencil.'
Spike smiled, and his smile was just as unpleasant as Angel's tone. 'And you wanna try that, Human? Cus, ya know, that pencil wouldn't be seeing the light of day if you tried it….'
Angel repressed a smirk and murmured, 'Mmm. That sounds… threatening.'
Spike didn't even attempt to keep his grin hidden. 'Wanna try it out tonight? See who's stronger and better and how far pencils can be inserted?'
Angel pouted, and Spike immediately said, 'Sorry.'
Angel shrugged. 'It's true. You are.'
'I just couldn't lose you again, Angel.'
'You can't protect me forever, Spike. I have to do this thing. It's what I am- what I want to be.'
'Why? You're getting no damn reward now. Why not give up this bloody agency thing and… I don't know… become a soddin' porn star or something?'
Angel smiled broadly. 'Would you buy my movies?'
'Huh. I'd expect free copies. Now, stop this shit, and come upstairs. I'll make something….'
'You know I'm not going to do that.' He rose and shouted, 'Tool up. We're going.'
Spike pushed off the wall. 'Please, Angel. Don't.'
Angel came very close and looked into his eyes steadily. 'What would you do, if our positions were reversed- you human?'
Spike held his gaze and answered evenly, 'I think the real question is: what would you do- me human? You'd fucking protect me.'
'Okay. Touché. Then come and protect me. Only don't… smother me. In here….' He stabbed at his forehead viciously. 'I'm still your sire.'
He grabbed the axe Wesley held out for him, glanced at Fred and nodded toward the dog, then followed his team down to the car.
Tipping his head back in frustration, Spike jogged to catch them up.
It was a relatively simple plan: Angel would walk around and establish that he was back- in human form, albeit. If he got attacked, they would all fight as normal and prove that being human hadn't affected his mission.
Spike sat in the back of the car next to Gunn, desperately wishing he could point out that he'd seen a similar plan to this already, and that it hadn't worked all that well then. Not wanting to go too far with explanations of robots, however, he kept his own counsel. No one ever listened to him anyway.
He looked around at the other three in the car and had the strangest thought that they were all human except him. There had always been Angel- he'd never felt strange or different because Angel had always been there, too. Now, he felt his demonic status acutely. It gave him a slight kick- he had to admit that. He wondered if the humans were feeling fear at the coming fight, tried to imagine what Angel was thinking. This thought made him feel guilty, and he replayed their small confrontation in his mind, wishing he'd been less pointing-out-the-obvious, and more supportive for Angel's first airing as a human.
He winced at the way he must have made Angel feel. He felt so unhappy, that when they got to the warehouse district and climbed out of the car, he said swiftly, 'I'm going up top- the roofs. You guys do your walking about thing, yeah?'
Without waiting to see how Angel felt about being left to it, he ran to a dumpster, jumped up, scaled the walls, and found himself on the roof, out of sight of the alleyway. Suddenly, he cursed and wished he'd not climbed so swiftly or surely- he should have stumbled, fallen, been less damn powerful. Angrily lighting a cigarette, figuring that anything he did was wrong these days, he sat down to await some action.
Angel also wished he'd acted differently in the office. Spike had badly wrong-footed him when he'd pointed out that if their roles were reversed, he'd smother Spike with his dark protection. It didn't help that he still thought of Spike as… Spike- his childe, his fuck-up, adored childe. That Spike was now stronger and faster - oh, and he'd really enjoyed watching Spike scale a wall that he couldn't now climb even with a ladder - pissed him off to the extent that he started the patrol in a foul temper, which did nothing to aid his powers of observation.
The vampires were upon him before he had time to lift his axe.
Knocked to the ground, Angel climbed back to his feet, wincing at a pain in his arm and side. He heard Wesley and Gunn running to join the fray, and then heard Wesley say triumphantly, 'That's right! Contrary to popular rumour, Angel isn't dead!'
The lead vampire jerked his head back and regarded Angel.
'Well, what have we here boys?'
The other vampires came forward obediently to see, and their leader poked at Angel with the end of his makeshift sword. 'A littl' ole itsy-bitsy human man. Ain't he cute?'
They laughed nastily on cue.
Angel gritted his teeth and swung his axe around. 'Yeah? Well, you're not. Let's get it on, Demon.'
The vampire nodded and knocked Gunn unconscious with one swing of the sword. Wesley went down next, a bolt in his kneecap. Suddenly the only one left standing, faced with half-a-dozen vampires, Angel took a step back. It was a mistake. One by one, his assailants began to laugh. They laid up their weapons and began to surround him, still laughing.
'Hey, Angel-face, give us a kiss, Human.'
The leader puckered his lips - as best as his fangs would allow - and blew Angel a kiss. With a lunge, he stabbed him in the side, just enough to draw blood through his shirt. Angel gasped at the pain, and the laughing became slightly more demonic, the smell of his blood arousing them.
'What say we keep the Angel-man as a trophy, boys? On a leash….' He flicked his blade across Angel's throat, drawing a fine red line like an erotic collar on his pale flesh.
'Or maybe we should just eat him now, cus, damn but I'm hungry.'
There was a blur of black, like a falling dark angel, and Spike landed gracefully into the arc of vampires. 'Lads, I'm thinking we've all had our fun, and now it's time for tea and medals. What do you say?'
The leader squinted his eyes. 'What the fuck are you?'
'Me?' Spike changed. 'I'm like you, only prettier.'
'And you're - what - protecting him?'
Spike chuckled and turned to look at Angel. He ignored the look he got back and said in a low voice, 'Fuck no. He don't need it. I'm just giving them time to recover.' He stepped aside and raised an eyebrow at Wesley and Gunn. 'Meet Angel and his crew.'
Spike leant against the wall and lit another cigarette, promising himself that, whatever happened, he wouldn't intervene. In the end, he had to close his eyes as his body responded of its own accord to a desperate need to step in and help. Finally, he heard a triumphant shout and opened them again. A resounding slap rocked his head back against the brickwork. 'What the bloody hell were you doing just standing there, Spike? We rather needed you!'
Wesley poked him in the chest as well and then limped off to help Gunn to the car.
They stared at each other across the small gap.
Angel tipped his head to one side and said in a soft voice, 'Thank you.'
Spike rubbed his slapped cheek with a theatrically wounded pout. Angel came close. 'Does that hurt?'
Spike nodded sadly with a glint in his eye. Angel leant forward and kissed the slight flare of red. Spike sucked in his breath. 'You're bleeding.'
Angel nodded. 'I'm okay- it's nothing.'
'That's not what I meant….'
'God, Angel, you are… irresistible….' He nuzzled into the cut across Angel's neck, easing his tongue over the faint line of blood.
Angel tipped his head back. 'I'm sorry. I acted like a fool.'
'If I ever hurt you, Angel, by what I say or do, tell me, yeah? I'd never hurt you intentionally.'
'Okay. And next time… you can fight- okay! Killing vampires attacking your sire is always of the good.'
Spike kissed up his neck to his ear. 'Sire?'
'Always. Even death and rebirth can't change that.'
'I'm bleeding even worse from my belly…. Not here! Jesus.'
Spike flung his arm over Angel's shoulders, and if by this small gesture of affection he was helping Angel walk to the car, neither of them mentioned it. As the only uninjured member of the group, Spike drove home, ignoring Wesley's serious lecture on responsibilities, and listening instead to Angel's heartbeat.
to chapter 3
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