The Longest Distance Between Two Points - Chapter 5
By the time Willow was finished,
she was talking to an empty space. Angel had left the room with a vampiric speed
he usually kept for saving himself from death. Perhaps he felt as though he
was doing that now.
He didn’t have far to go. Spike was leaning with one hand on his lurking tree, vomiting an evening's alcohol onto the grass. The first thing he knew about being seen and followed was when he felt a cold hand laid lightly on the back of his neck.
Spike wished he could vomit up all the hate he had for Angel in a huge catharsis of vomit.
He was sick of hating Angel, it was so all-consuming. But he knew he couldn’t. His hatred was embedded in his being now; he was stuck with it. He didn’t ask himself why Angel's denial of him had affected him so much. Just as he never thought about Angel. When Spike felt Angel's hand on his neck he stood up and leant his aching forehead against the smooth trunk of the tree. Angel removed his hand from the soft skin on Spike’s neck and stood to one side, watching him. They were both silent until Angel spoke and broke the ice that was forming in this silence.
'You didn't hear what I said. You ran out before I finished.'
Spike didn’t want to talk to Angel but he was too tired, too depressed and too nauseous to make the effort it would take not to talk to him.
'What?' was his half-hearted, weak reply.
'I said I regretted you, Spike, because I regretted not claiming you as my Childe from the beginning and that I've regretted not having you with me all these years.'
'If you drank, Angel, I'd say that was just the drink talking. You're good at spouting bullshit when you're drunk.'
'Why do you think I don't ever drink now?'
'Well, I had put it down to the fact that you're an anally retentive kill-joy.' Spike was amazed to see Angel smile at this. 'Huh, you've changed you know. I hardly recognize you these days. Was a time you’d have knocked me senseless for a comment like that. That soul of yours growing or something?'
Angel chose not to comment on the latter half of this speech but surprised Spike by saying, 'you've changed too. A lot. And not just the hair, which I hate by the way.'
'Yeah? Well, at least I've still got some, mate.'
Angel's hand flew up automatically at this and Spike smiled an evil smile to himself, oh yeah, he still had it.
'What do you mean?'
'Well, you're getting a bit thin on top I notice, a bit of a pathway here and there.' Angel's face made Spike laugh and he stood up feeling much better. He looked ruefully down at the puddle of vomit in the grass. Angel was still panicking about Spike's baldness comment. They were silent for a while until it occurred to both of them, at the same time, that after one hundred years of estrangement, they had been standing under this tree discussing banal inanities.
Spike cast a shy look up at Angel and Angel tipped his head on one side, studying Spike. 'I never thought I'd see you attending a Birthday party and bringing thoughtful presents, Spike.'
'Yeah, well, like you said, things change.'
Angel seemed about to comment on this but apparently changed his mind and asked Spike what he was planning to do now.
'Dunno, go home I guess. I'm not really up to party games and shit now.'
'I'll walk with you.'
'Why do you have to question everything, Spike?'
'Seems to me, I remember you doing the questioning.'
If Angel understood this he didn’t say, so Spike pushed himself off the tree and started walking slowly towards the cemetery. The pace he set made it clear that he didn't mind if Angel tagged along. So the two estranged vampires walked silently together through the warm summer night, neither one brave enough to attempt conversation with the other. As they came into town, Angel suggested coffee and Spike agreed. It was exactly what his stomach needed. Well, that and a bacon butty, but he'd given up the hope of ever getting a decent one of those in this country.
They sat at a small table in the coffee shop not talking and not looking at each other for a while until Spike broke the awkward silence.
'So, what was the not drinking comment really about then?'
'You know what it was about. I hurt you that night, Spike. I got drunk and I destroyed us both but you ended up getting more hurt than I did, I think.'
Spike studied Angel, surprised Angel had remembered that night, surprised Angel had admitted it so readily and surprised at himself that he did not agree with Angel's assessment of the outcome. 'Looking at us now, mate, I'm not so sure that's the case.'
Angel was clearly puzzled. 'What do you mean?'
'Well…' Spike paused, not sure how to phrase this, '…look at us both now. I'm real peachy an' everything, but you, you're all…angsty and lonely and sad.'
Spike wasn’t sure whom he had surprised more by his observation, he had never put that thought into words before, but now he had said it he saw just how true it was. Perhaps he was seeing Angel through William's eyes again. If he was, Angel had never looked so damn miserable.
Angel didn’t seem to see it this way though. 'I'm fine. I'm going to earn my forgiveness, Spike. I've been promised I can be human again one day.'
'Uh huh. And that's good, is it?'
'Well, yes. And what have you got? You live in a damp, hideous crypt, you are an outcast in the demon community, you can't feed anymore and you work for the Slayer. That's peachy, is it?'
'You seem to know an awful lot about me.' Spike stirred his coffee, not looking up.
'I asked Buffy, before you got there tonight.'
'You asked about me?'
'Yes. I did.'
'Will, stop with the questions.' It was said and he couldn't take it back. Spike's head snapped up at his old, hated name. Angel blinked once, slowly. And both knew. They both knew they were back in that room with Angel's own, 'why?' between them. Spike saw soft moonlight illuminating Angel's hair. Angel felt Spike's hard knee under his hand. It was too much for Spike. He had put up a dam to keep contained the volume of hatred he had for Angel and he didn’t want those walls to crack now. He feared the flood that would ensue if small cracks from the memories opened up into fissures of need. He feared that flood would wash him away entirely. He felt lost enough as it was.
He stood up, looked down once more at Angel and started to leave. But Angel's hand shot rapidly out and caught Spike's, preventing him leaving. He said just the one word, 'please', but his eyes said volumes. Spike could not pull away without making a scene in the crowded coffee shop, so he sat back down.
Pleased that Spike had remained, Angel pressed his advantage. He had not yet let go of Spike's hand, something neither of them commented on. 'You haven't said anything about what I said…about regretting not having you all these years. As my Childe.'
'So, you really think we'd have made it. Together. Given our recent history?' Spike felt he was voicing the obvious. Had Angel really forgotten the denials, the tortures, Dru? He removed his hand from Angel’s, picked up his coffee and took a sip at the rapidly cooling liquid.
Angel pushed out his lower lip and fiddled with his cup. 'Well…we couldn’t have done any worse.'
Spike spluttered into his drink and looked at Angel. Angel looked at him and smiled and the smile was a recognition of all the pain he had given his Childe over the last few years and perhaps a request for forgiveness for the past. Spike leaned back in his chair and studied Angel for a few moments. When he spoke it was with the knowledge between them that he had understood the meaning of that smile.
'Yeah. Well, I was no saint either.'
Angel almost breathed a sigh of relief. The tension between them was noticeably less. Angel waved the waitress over and ordered more coffee for both of them, reluctant to lose the moment. Spike took out a cigarette, lit it and leant back in his seat again.
'So, when do you return to LA?' Safe question. No history.
'I'm not tonight; I've got a hotel room. Cordelia's let me off the leash for a night.' Spike wished he hadn't asked. Just as with the sight of Angel's finger running up and down that stake, Spike hardened to the thought that Angel would be sleeping so close to him tonight. Again he was furious with himself for such weakness. He looked up to the ceiling briefly and prayed to the human God that Angel could not smell his arousal. He tried to will his cock down again, but the more he concentrated on the thought of his swelling shaft, the more it seemed to press against the seam in his jeans. His next question shot from his mouth before he had a chance to stop it.
'What's with the leather look then, mate? Not your style I'd have thought.' Spike inwardly cursed himself. That's all he needed, a conversation with his Sire who was already making him hard, about leather. But Angel only gave the tiniest of self-depreciating smiles and didn't reply. It appeared he too was thinking about his hotel room because he suddenly put down his cup and asked Spike if he wanted to come back for a drink.
Spike heard again that thought in his head that this was a weak chat up line. That, 'come back to my hotel room for a drink', usually meant, 'come back and let me fuck you'. He gave a snort of derision at Angel's suggestion.
'Well, as I've clearly had enough tonight and you apparently don’t drink, oh and did I forget to add we hate each other, I think that's a bit of a strange invitation. Don’t you?'
'I don't hate you, Spike.'
'Yes, you do. You didn't once, I'll grant you that, but you have since I came to Sunnydale. I've reminded you of a past you don't want to remember and a soulless demon you try so hard not to be. I remind you of passion you've lost and love you can't have anymore. Am I getting this right?'
'Alright, I admit it. You did. When I was here, you did remind me of all that, and I did hate you. You tried to kill Buffy, Spike. How could I not hate you? But I don't now…and don't contradict me. You don’t know what I think and feel now. I don’t hate you anymore. You are my only link to my past and I've been reassessing the past recently.'
'Forever with the questions, Childe. Because. Because Penn came to me and I…and he was…'
'I know, you prick. Everyone knows. It's hardly a demon secret. How many Childer and Sires have you staked now?'
'Shut up, Spike. I only mentioned that to try to explain why I don't hate you. I've come to terms with the past now. I've accepted it as part of me and I want to move on.'
'So, Prom Queen lets you read her Cosmo does she?'
'Spike, try to be serious…'
'Oh, I am, mate. I'm so glad you've come to terms with your past. Cus I bleeding well haven't. Yes, I'll admit it; you did fuck up my entire unlife, Angelus. You made me listen to you fucking Darla, you made Dru nothing but second best to me, you made me confused between love and pain, you made me hate myself for loving you so much that I became your love-sick pussy, you made me weak. But I persevered in my endless loving of you until I thought…now, now she's dead, now he'll want me…so I came to this sodding country to find you and you lied to me, tried to kill me, rejected me and then finished off any chance I had with Dru. And then…and then…' Spike could hardly speak of this final injustice, '…then you stole and destroyed my bloody ring, Angelus. The one thing I'd have been able to overcome unlife with and you, the demon who took my human life, took it from me. So no, I've not quite come to terms with my past and I don't really want to move on! Oh, and don’t give me that wounded puppy look, save it for your fan club. You’ve already used that on me once…are you going to produce two huge tears too, cus that really gets me right here, every time. Oh yeah that's the part where I turn over and say, ‘fuck me Angelus, give me your throbbing shaft cus I'm your fucking pussy’. Yeah, love the tears.'
As he said it he knew it was the wrong thing to say. He really should have ended his justified rant on a high. He had made a huge error mentioning Angel's effect on him because immediately he said the words both of them had the graphic picture in their minds of Spike turning over and Spike opening himself up for, ‘Angel's throbbing shaft’. Both of them then thought of Angel's hotel room. Both of them looked down at their newly refilled coffee cups, both of them thought, 'fuck the coffee'. Both of them stood up.
Only Angel made a move to pay, but he accepted that role graciously, he was the Sire after all and both of them left the coffee shop in silence, Spike following Angel.
When they got out onto the pavement, Angel turned back towards the Summers' house without a word. Spike started to trail after him and with a huge effort summoned up enough voice to ask why they were going there. His speech was low and rushed and indicated, more than his walk, which he was trying to keep nonchalant, just how keyed up he was at the thought of what he was finally going to do with Angel when they got to his hotel.
'My car is still there, all my stuff is in my car.'
Spike was on the point of asking, 'what stuff?' but the vague thought of lubricants crossed his mind and he was too embarrassed to ask more. He shouldn’t have worried, Angel only meant his hair gel and toothbrush, neither of which he could face a night without. So they walked increasingly rapidly back to Angel's car. When they got to their destination, Spike said he wanted his duster. Angel wanted to thank Joyce for the invitation to the party and apologise for leaving so early. Spike didn’t particularly want to see anyone, but to keep the peace and get the shafting he was hoping for he'd have crawled in on his knees if that was what Angel wanted.
Angel knocked on the door but the party was quite loud by this time and no one came to answer. Spike just shrugged and got his key out of his jeans, opened the door himself and went in to find his coat. Angel followed and both were surprised by Buffy who was in the hall, telephone in hand. She turned as they came in.
'Oh, wait a moment, Cordelia, he's here now. I'll pass you over.' She held out the phone to Angel. 'Cordelia says to tell you that if you are going to own a cell phone, could you please remember to charge it up occasionally. She's been trying to reach you for ages.'
Angel immediately took the phone from her and started a low conversation, Buffy shrugged and went to get Spike’s coat. Spike hovered in the hallway. He did not like the way this was going. He was so painfully erect now he thought if he didn’t get some relief soon he'd have to undo his jeans to ease the pressure. Angel's brow was becoming increasingly furrowed and when he put the phone down he took a very human breath before turning to Spike.
'I have to go. Now. I'm sorry.'
'What!' Spike was almost too incensed to speak. Almost. 'Why for fucks sake? What's so urgent that it's more urgent than this?' He sort of indicated his visible bulge and knew that Angel knew exactly what he was talking about.
'It's complicated.' If it was on the tip of Angel's tongue to say, 'you wouldn’t understand', he found a tiny spark of tact and added instead, 'you can't help with this, Spike.' But he needn't have bothered, Spike 'heard' the less tactful version anyway.
He was about to protest that he should go with Angel and maybe they could shag in the car on the way to Angel's apartment where they could shag some more before doing whatever it was that Angel needed to do, when Buffy came back with his coat. Well, he was about to volunteer to accompany Angel, the rest he only added in his head, hopefully. As Buffy passed the coat over to Spike she turned to Angel.
'You didn’t tell me that Darla was back. Cordelia said she was…what? Angel, what?'
She had seen Angel's frantic gesture to be quiet, seen him glance at Spike who was shrugging on his coat. She turned to look at Spike and for the second time that night his eyes widened in shock and he ran from the house. This time he came straight back, walked up to Angel and punched him viciously in the face. Then he left again, slowly and with a dignified air. Angel doubled over in pain for a moment, holding his nose. But the last thing he wanted was a pile of questions from Buffy that he couldn’t answer, so he straightened up, kissed her briefly and promised to contact her when things were sorted out. When he got outside he found Spike leaning against the car.
'Yes, Spike. Darla.'
'Just say it, mate. Just say it for me, cus I really want to hear this. You are actually going to leave me again, for her.'
'It's not like…'
'Oh yes it bleeding is like that. You can wrap it up in any fancy talk you want, Angel, but you are leaving me again, for her. Just out of interest then, poof, what happened to the, 'wait for me, William'?’ He did a very passable impression of a drunken Angelus and Angel knew it. 'What happened to the, 'one day I'll be free, little one, wait for me’?’
Angel had no answers for Spike. He had none for himself, so how could he defend himself against these accusations? He stood for a moment hesitantly, clearly trying to make a decision and then he went around to the driver's side.
'Get off the car, Spike. I have to go.' He got in, pulled out of the drive and started down the road. He only got about five hundred feet when he stopped, put the car into reverse and came skidding back to where Spike was still standing, disbelievingly watching him leave. Angel flew out of the car, crashed into Spike driving him back into the wall of the house. He pinned him there painfully by his shoulders. He took a very human breath and spoke furiously to Spike. ‘Do you know, Will, the reason why I never claimed you? Why I fucked it all up? You! You are totally self-absorbed. You were a spoilt brat then and you are still one now. Everyone was telling me how you'd changed, how the chip had made you half decent, so I came here tonight to maybe put right what I had done and what do you think I found? Spike, as usual, totally up his own back passage about himself. So that's why you're fucked up, Will, you did it to yourself by never being able to love rationally or calmly. You are too all-consuming for anyone to cope with. If only you'd been more normal I'd have made Darla accept you, but you'd never have shared me with her, would you? Well I can't love like that, Spike. I have other people in my life that matter to me and they need me tonight, so, so sorry, Brat, I'm going to help them. Now.' He removed his hands from the lapels of Spike’s coat, turned to go but threw one last parting blow at him. 'Spike, when you've grown up a bit, why not look me up, hey?' And with that, he shoved Spike hard against the wall and walked back to his car, this time driving away without stopping.
How many of us have the emotional maturity to see through the pain and hurt that may have led others to use words they neither believe, nor want to say? Spike certainly didn't have as he stood pressed against the Summers' wall. To him, this was just a fucked-up replay of events over a hundred years ago that still had the power to make him cry when he woke from dreams of them. He hadn't had any experience of the sort of love that lets you grow. He'd only experienced incestuous, tortured, insane love and therefore did not have the emotional map with which to immediately navigate successfully through Angel's words. He did not find his way to the center of the maze that was Angel and find there a tortured soul who had perhaps spoken out of jealously for the attraction he had seen between his Childe and his ex-lover. He did not have the ability to understand that perhaps Angel had just wanted to lash out at him, because really Angel wanted to lash out at himself. If Spike could have unraveled Angel's speech thus, he might have seen that Angel could indeed love totally, but that he felt punished and angry because the two people he had loved like that he had lost. Maybe Angel was just angry because it seemed to him that twice that night he had told Spike he wanted him back desperately, but that Spike had effectively ignored the offer.
Being an emotional, fucked-up sort of demon, Spike was also unable to see for himself just how untrue Angel's words had been. Perhaps for all his faults…(and he was the first to admit he had one or two)…for all those faults, Spike was not self-absorbed. Indeed, his whole existence had been based around what went in the demon community, for selfless love. He had loved Angelus through all the horror and all the pain it caused him and he had loved Drucilla when her love really gave him very little reward. So Angel's words were not true and possibly not even what Angel really thought. But Spike did not see this. And he did not give himself time to work it all out, which if he had taken that time he may well have done, being intuitive and thoughtful by nature.
As he felt the brickwork pressing into his back, he felt Angel's words like daggers pressing into his cold heart. So instead of taking a metaphorical step back, or counting to ten, he used Angel's words to fuel the flames of his, by now, obsessive hatred for his Sire. He fanned these flames for days until they threatened to become a conflagration that would consume him.
Therefore, when on patrol with Buffy three nights later, she initiated a strange conversation about Angel, he gave answers that given a few more days to calm down and think rationally about things he probably would not have given. She had been looking sideward at him for some time, casting little glances every now and again, clearly wanting to speak.
'What?' Spike was in no mood to talk, he was thinking happily about the sound of Angel's screams as the hot pokers had gone through his smooth, sleek, skin…no, fuck it, his cold, dead skin.
'What Slayer? Can't you stop yammering for a bleeding second!'
'Spike, what happened when you both left my party? Why did Angel follow you and why did you come back together?'
'None of your business.' It was on the tip of his tongue to say, 'because we were going to shag like rabbits till you bloody gave him the phone', but remembered in the nick of time that he loved Buffy and, therefore, didn’t want to hurt her. And so who was fucking not self-absorbed now!
'So, you still hate Angel?'
'But, I mean…if you heard that he'd been staked, you'd be upset wouldn’t you?'
'Slayer, it's something I dream about every night. I'd hold the stake if I could.' Did that sound a bit poofy? Spike didn’t want to admit he dreamt of Angel, for any reason. But he'd made his point.
'What if it was Darla that staked him?'
'What a bleeding stupid question. I don’t know. Guess I'd have to stake her.'
'Cus he's my Sire, can't have her doing that and…' Spike audibly heard his own flawed logic groaning in dismay. 'I just would, that's all. I can't stand the bitch. What's with questions about the Poof?'
'Oh, nothing. Hey! Look, that crypt door's been torn off…' and so they got down to the business of slaying.
And maybe Spike was too self-absorbed just this once, as Angel had accused him of, because he didn’t think about this strange conversation at all over the next few days when he was drinking, fighting, tearing and bleeding in an attempt to try and stop other thinking. He didn’t even think about it when summoned by Giles to the Magic Shop for an urgent conference. And most importantly, he didn’t think about it when Giles told him that Angel had been staked by Darla and that she and Drucilla were reunited and on a killing spree in Los Angeles.
Only Giles and Buffy were there when they told Spike the news. They both watched his face intently, hoping to see what they had planned and plotted to see.
But for once, Spike became unreadable to then. His normally mobile, heart-on-his-sleeve expressions just closed down. His body language told them more, or at least it did to Giles who was a far better study of human and vampire nature than Buffy. Spike's knees seemed to go from under him. He staggered slightly and put one hand out to the counter before collecting himself and making it look as though he was merely going for a cigarette. He couldn’t get his lighter to work and hoped the humans watching blamed frustration at that for his shaking hands.
Without a word he turned and left.
Buffy and Giles looked at each other.
'Do you think it worked?'
'I don't know, frankly, Buffy. Spike's a bit of a loose canon, who knows how much it'll take for him to go off, or what the collateral damage will be when he does.'
They sadly closed the shop and made their way back to Buffy's house to tell Joyce the outcome of the first stage in this dangerous plan of theirs.