Exhausted, stressed out, Spike nevertheless fought sleep all day. He lay in Angel's possessive hold and refused to give the nightmares the opportunity to come calling. He lay still and silent and thought about the future. He had thought the early dreams had unnerved him - they were nothing more than childish fears compared to the one he had dreamt that morning. Spike wasn't a fool; he knew the dreams were just that: dreams. He'd commissioned a robot, not cast a spell. This was just in his over-active, unruly mind. He knew that. That was the problem, for he seemed to be telling himself that there was no future in this, as if a rational part of his brain were attempting to put a modicum of common sense into these senseless proceedings. No future. He'd thought about the past, he'd captured the present. Why hadn't he added the future? It seemed a careless, stupid omission and one he regretted now. No future.
Spike wanted to turn over and try thinking on his other side, but he didn't want to disturb Angel. He shifted imperceptibly, but even that caused Angel to stir fractionally and reform the tight hold he had around Spike's chest. Spike closed his eyes to the inevitability of the next thought, for it had been circling around for some time, demanding entry. He had the distinct feeling that Angel felt the impermanence of this odd liaison too. Why the diffidence otherwise? They were two ancient demons that had fucked and sucked their combined way through three centuries of bodies, but here they were, yet to touch each other naked.
Spike sensed the moment when Angel woke, although there was no movement from the other side of the bed. He sensed he was being watched and turned his head. He was right, Angel was giving him an intense look, which was quickly whipped away. Spike frowned in slight annoyance. 'What?'
Angel looked down and played with a small section of sheet. 'I'm thinking your bruises are gone.'
'Uh huh.' A frisson of fear, heavily laced with anticipation, trickled down Spike's spine. Given the content of his sad musings all day, there was a sense of profound relief that Angel now wanted more from him. He turned over completely and slightly anxiously joined Angel in his re-arrangement of the shape of the sheet. 'You've done this before like?' Ever hopeful, he looked at his sire's lowered brow.
Angel flashed one quick look up, saw he was being scrutinised and looked quickly back down. 'No.'
Spike winced with a 'depends on how you look at it' expression. Angel narrowed his eyes. 'The bruises?'
'So… not an experience you'd care to draw on here?'
Spike shook his head slowly. 'No.'
Angel sighed and tried to look brave. 'Just go for it then?'
'You or me?'
Angel frowned deeply, and Spike saw with another huge surge of affection for him that this had not occurred to Angel at all. He rolled on his back and began to chuckle at Angel's expression, until Angel slapped him playfully, trying not to encourage the amusement. 'You've blown it now. Spontaneous moment kinda gone.'
Spike looked sharply at him. 'You want a rain check?'
Angel nodded, not catching Spike's eye, until there was a small sigh of relief from Spike's half of the bed. Angel slapped him again. 'I heard that!'
Spike caught at the hand and seemed to be considering a rejoinder but, instead, pulled Angel to his mouth. The relief at deciding to postpone any more challenging activities seemed only to give renewed passion to the kissing. They rose to kneeling, both trying to find sufficient purchase in short, unfamiliar hair to keep their mouths locked together. Angel's hands flew down to Spike's silk-clad buttocks and clamped them tightly together; the feel of their erections rubbing turned kissing into biting and tearing with need. Angel pushed Spike onto his back and lay on him, dipping and rising slightly to increase the friction, his hands braced almost painfully on Spike's shoulders. Then one hand was removed, and Spike felt it slide onto his thigh. The hand slipped higher, under the loose leg of his boxers. Angel closed his eyes and murmured his pleasure when the tips of his fingers connected with Spike's erection. He ran his palm over the hard shaft then suddenly ripped at the waistband. Spike breathed a soft sound of encouragement and lifted his hips to be stripped.
When the shorts were off, Angel pushed his hand under Spike and lifted his thigh. He rained kissed down over Spike's face and into his hair, as his hand stroked repetitively up and down the smooth skin. Inevitably, the hand dipped into the shallow crevice at the top of the muscled leg, and as Angel opened his mouth wide to Spike's and clashed their tongues, biting slightly at the slippery sliver of flesh, his finger found the small indentation he sought. He pressed on the soft, puckered flesh. Spike rose off the bed, his teeth clashing painfully into Angel's. Angel pulled his face away and watched Spike's eyes dilating with wonder. He pressed again, harder this time.
Angel flung his head back in dismay and fury.
He put his face down to Spike's and rested his forehead on the rumpled blond strands.
Angel's voice was ragged. 'I can't. She'll come up for me.'
'Shit. Shit. Shit. Fuck.'
'Yeah.' He lifted his face and said almost shyly, 'Later?'
Spike grabbed him around the back of the neck and gave him one hard kiss. 'Yeah.'
They came downstairs together, still buttoning and tucking in shirts. No one noticed or commented, as they were gathered around Cordelia who was lying on one of the couches. Angel knelt alongside her and gently took her hand. 'Bad one?'
She only nodded with an arm flung over her eyes. Fred brought her some water, and gradually she was able to sit up, tears in her eyes. 'It's bad Angel. I saw a school and blood on the walls. I'm sorry. It's confused.'
Angel nodded at the others to gather weapons, waited patiently for a moment then said, 'Where?'
She outlined as best she could where she thought the vision had directed her then rose as if to accompany them. Angel held her still. 'No. Stay here.'
'Angel! I don't want to stay here while you're all….'
'Spike will stay with you.' Angel didn't even glance up at Spike, and something twisted with pleasure deep in Spike's gut at this implicit, yet emphatic trust.
He put a tentative hand on Cordelia's bare shoulder and said softly, 'Hey, we can catch up, ya know? I'll smash some dolls to pieces, and you can fall dramatically on some stakes, what d'ya reckon?' Angel tried not to smile, but to his relief, Cordelia managed a small punch at Spike and allowed her four friends to leave without her.
Dark enough for Angel to travel above ground, they took the car and headed out in the direction of the vision. They arrived at the school and circled it warily. Fred gave a puzzled look to its dark windows. 'Bit late for school, isn't it?'
Angel frowned. 'Night school maybe?'
'Looks all dark, man.'
'Let's try around the back.' Wesley indicated a small path, and they went around the silent school together.
At last, Angel got bored and broke in, and they clambered through a window in one of the science labs. They wandered morosely together through the empty, silent hallways, not hoping to find massacres and blood, but feeling rather stupid with their huge axes and swords if they didn't. Angel stopped when the reached the front door and hung his head for a moment. Almost at the same time, he and Wesley said together. 'Cordelia!'
They began to run back the way they had come, Gunn and Fred following with puzzled looks at each other. When they were in the car and breaking all city limits, Angel spat out from between ground teeth, 'They were drawing us away from the hotel.'
Gunn still looked puzzled. 'Who? The Powers?'
Wesley twisted around to the back. 'I don't think that vision came from the Powers.'
Angel sped up at this, and they all sat, silently worried, until the hotel loomed into view. Angel flew in through the front door, slipped on blood, and crashed down the stairs and onto the floor. Following closely behind, Gunn grabbed Fred to steady her, and Wesley crashed into them both.
Angel picked himself up and shouted for Cordelia and then Spike. He whirled around on the pool of blood, sensed its source and vaulted the counter. Spike was lying half hidden by a desk. By the time the others saw him, Angel had him cradled in his lap. He looked up, and as one the three humans stepped back from the demonic face that greeted them. Angel ignored their reaction and hissed. 'Find her.' Gunn and Wesley peeled off grimly and obeyed him. Fred came tentatively forward.
'You'll have a better chance than me, Angel. I'll stay with him.' Angel seemed about to refuse to hand him over, but Fred knelt in the blood and tried to take the unrecognisable form from him.
Angel looked down at the nearly severed arm, the half-missing abdomen and the slash across the pale neck, and shook his head fractionally. 'Guess they didn't know he was a vampire. Human? He'd have died hours ago.'
Fred nodded grimly and took her charge with firm hands.
'Keep him still. He needs to feed, but I need to find Cordy first.' With one last despairing look, Angel left the two bloodied figures.
It took them half an hour to search the entire hotel before they confirmed that Cordelia was no longer there. Angel had felt it when he'd seen the blood.
They gathered once more in the small outer office, and Angel bent to take Spike from Fred. 'He's the only one who can tell us what happened.'
The men nodded and watched almost paralysed as Angel carried his deeply unconscious childe upstairs. 'Blood! Now!' They turned at Fred's sharp command, astounded by the amount of blood coating her. 'Angel's gonna give Spike his blood. He'll need to top off. Human blood. Lots of it. Now. Go!'
As one, the men laid down their weapons and went back out into the night. Fred gritted her teeth and went to fetch a mop and bucket.
Angel laid Spike on his bed. He ripped the top sheet into strips, then went into the bathroom and soaked a couple of towels. He gently mopped the blood off the unwounded areas then tightly bound up Spike's belly and torn arm. The wound on his neck froze Angel with an anger he had not felt for a very long time. Another half inch and Spike's head would have parted from his neck. Glad that Spike did not need to breathe, he bound the neck carefully then pulled the swathed figure onto his lap. Making himself comfortable against the headboard, he neatly and cleanly opened up an artery in one wrist. He parted Spike's lips, tipped his head back slightly off his thigh and allowed the blood to pool in Spike's mouth. When the mouth was full, he gently stroked the bandaged front until the throat opened and the blood went lower. He repeated this simple operation time and time again until he felt the room dimming and his view of Spike greying out slightly. He didn't hear Wesley come into the room. The first he knew of his presence was a mug held to his lips. He snatched at it and poured it down his own throat, the first human blood he'd tasted in years. Another mug was handed to him then another, and as many as he wanted until he felt the room right and Wesley come into focus alongside him. He didn't pause but, ignoring any embarrassment, reopened the wound in his wrist and began to pool his blood once more into his childe. Wesley did not leave but sat by the two vampires throughout the entire operation, feeding Angel whenever he seemed to loose focus on Spike for a second.
It took five hours, but eventually Spike stopped bleeding out, and Angel's blood began to stay in his body. Once this began to happen, he regained consciousness. He blinked unfocusedly up at Angel then looked away. Angel bent low over him. 'You did what you could, Spike. No one could have done more.'
Spike made to shake his head but winced at the pain in his throat. He turned back to Angel and croaked, 'Human.'
Angel made to reply but felt a warm hand on his arm. He looked up at Wesley's calm face. 'Let it be, Angel. Let him recover enough to tell us about Cordy.'
Angel nodded and put his wrist to his mouth to reopen the wound. Suddenly, his wrist was seized in Spike's good hand and dragged urgently to awaiting fangs. Wesley looked away for a moment then back at the feeding vampire. Angel tipped his head back and slid seamlessly back into human form. Wesley held another mug out to him, and the exchange of blood continued.
Eventually, Wesley tapped Angel lightly on the arm and indicated that he thought Spike should talk more and feed less. Angel nodded and eased his wrist away. Spike resisted for a moment, then sighed and gave up his prize, also slipping back into human form.
Angel eased Spike off his lap and stretched. He propped Spike up against the headboard and began to peel the bandages off his belly. He glanced up at the pain he was causing and said softly, 'Can you tell us?'
Spike nodded and with a hand to his throat, as if this helped talking he said, 'Ten or so of 'em. Thought I was human and did me in like this. Bitch leading 'em.'
He saw Angel and Wesley exchange a quick look. 'It was those fucking holiday in the sun gits, wasn't it?'
Angel nodded and continued to remove the soiled wraps. Wesley put a hand on Spike's undamaged arm. 'Did they say anything? They've taken Cordelia; what did they say?'
'Bitch said to tell you she was needed for the feast of Ramone, or some shit.'
Wesley looked away quickly. 'Oh. That's not good then.'
Angel paused with the last layer in his hand. 'What?'
'Rather nasty ritual, I'm afraid. Opens a portal.'
'Portal to what?'
Wesley pouted for a moment, watching Angel's bloodied hands. 'From what is rather more to the point. It allows hell dimensions to open and… disgorge into this one.'
Angel turned back to Spike and took off the last layer. They all tried not to comment on the severity of the wound, and Angel began meticulously re-bandaging him. 'Why Cordelia? Is this just to piss me off?'
Wesley seemed extremely reluctant to reply to this and hesitated so long even Spike looked up from his pain and guilt-induced silence at the dark face. 'The portal can only be opened by someone who has a link to the Powers.'
Spike sensed something pass between the two men, for they looked at each other strangely. He couldn't decipher the look, and before he could get either of them to elaborate, he passed out and fell into merciful unconsciousness.
Angel eased his childe onto the bed.
'Will he recover, Angel?'
'Of course. In time.' Angel's simple words did not hide his fury from Wesley.
Instead of commenting on this, however, Wesley said conversationally, 'You know I won't allow you to do it.'
Equally calmly, and as if they were discussing tea, Angel replied, 'You know, of course, that you can't stop me.'
'You have a mission, Angel.'
'I have squat without Cordelia.'
'We'll find another way.'
'When is the feast?'
'I'm not sure exactly, but it's related to Spring rites. I'd say - at a rough estimate - about two weeks.'
'Then you'd better get to the books.'
Wesley rose from the bed. 'Do you need more blood?'
Angel shook his head without looking around, and Wesley left the two vampires on the bed. If he had found anything strange in Angel's obsessive care of Spike, or if he noticed that throughout their conversation Angel's hand had been rubbing unconsciously up and down Spike's thigh, he did not dwell on any of that now. He had two weeks to save Angel's life, and that suddenly seemed a great deal more important than what Angel was doing recreationally with Spike in his spare time.
Spike woke with no ability to tell whether it was day or night. He could not focus on anything but the pain in his belly and neck. There was a dull ache from one arm as well, but this paled into insignificance to the stabbing agony in other places. He couldn't work out why he couldn't see, though, for he did not remember being blind as he'd fed from Angel. He put his good hand to his face and discovered a washcloth over his eyes. He chuckled, despite his pain and pulled it off. Angel's face was inches from his, and he was smiling. Spike blinked and smiled back.
'Welcome to the almost living.'
'Nice to be back. And ow!'
'I know. You'll heal. Be patient.'
'I'm sorry, Angel. I'm so sorry. You shouldn't have left her with….'
'Shh. If they'd been demons, I'd still be picking demon shit off the tiles.'
Spike nodded gratefully. 'Got her back yet?'
Spike felt in too much pain to call Angel on this blatant lie so merely said, 'How long I've been out?'
'A day or two.'
'I wanna come downstairs - help with the research shit. Good at that now.'
'You're not well enough.'
'And you're lying, Angel.'
Angel pouted for a moment. 'It's still no.'
Spike sat up with a mutinous look, unsuccessfully trying to clamp down on any sign of pain. He swung his legs off the bed. He stood up. Leaning on the wall, he made his way slowly to the door. He turned. 'Okay. I'm not gonna manage the stairs. Help me, or I'll just throw meself down.'
Angel stood up and came toward him. 'When the fuck did you get to be this stubborn?'
Spike tried to smile, but couldn't, and just stood there until Angel took his arm. He smiled and turned to the door, and that was the last thing he remembered, until he woke in the bed with a headache to add to his other aches and pains.
Spike gritted his teeth in outrage and once more got off the bed. He had no idea how much time had passed since Angel had hit him, but he felt better, stronger. He walked to the door without help of the wall and made to open it. It was locked. He pulled in fury on the handle. He tried to shoulder it open, but wasn't strong enough.
He shouted until he was hoarse. Nothing. Spike sat back down on the bed, now convinced that something very bad was happening - something Angel did not want him to know about. He was also sure that acknowledgement of this had passed between Angel and the watcher in the odd look that he had not been well enough to interpret.
Spike recalled the look; he studied it in his mind; he pondered it in relation to Angel. Suddenly, Spike flew up and grabbed a chair. He battered it against the door and shouted once more, colourful language that relieved his fury if not actually contributed to getting out.
Finally, he heard a bolt slide on the other side and wrenched it open to find Fred - eyes wide, face pale, but very, very determined. Spike nodded his thanks then sank exhausted against the doorframe. She put out a hand. 'Lean on me.'
Feeling ridiculous, Spike allowed Fred to help him down the stairs. 'Where's the bastard?'
'Not here, or I wouldn't have let you out.' Fred smiled faintly, and Spike stopped her. He eased himself down onto a stair and patted the space next to him. She sighed but sat.
'Tell me what's going on.'
She didn't hesitate. She looked squarely at him and said, 'They are going to sacrifice Cordelia next Sunday for the feast of Ramone. She will open a portal to all the hell dimensions. She has a link to the Powers, and her death will be a portent for the end - or so Wesley's books say.'
'And Angel has a link too.'
Spike was silent for a very brief moment then he just said, 'No.'
She raised an eyebrow. 'It's what we've all been sayin'. But he's not listening.'
'There must be another way.'
'Find it then. It's why I let you out. He's going to exchange himself on Saturday if we can't find another way.'
She looked angry for the first time. 'Do you think he means more to you than to us?'
Fred paused at this and tipped her head on one side. She looked almost relieved and nodded grimly. 'All right then. Get up. Get working. We don't find another way? Angel's dust is going to end this damn world.'
She helped Spike to stand, and together they went into the lobby and on into Angel's office. Wesley and Gunn looked up from where they were crouched on the floor surrounded by papers, books and laptops. Wesley nodded a curt greeting. Gunn looked at Fred. 'You are so gonna cop it girl when he gets back.'
She looked grimly at him. 'I'm not gonna let him do it.'
Spike lowered himself painfully to the floor and looked at the papers with a deep sense of unease. 'What's all this shit?'
'This shit - as you so helpfully put it - is all the known research we have on the feast and the portal. Oh, and the Powers - although I'm afraid that is just that small piece of paper over there.'
Spike picked something up and looked at it for a while before chucking it down. 'I can't read it.'
Wesley looked up, as if annoyed. 'Find something you know how to then. You can read, I take it?'
Spike gave him a look and picked something else up. 'Okay. This is good.'
Wesley glanced at the paper and looked surprised for a moment. 'Classical Greek?'
Spike didn't dignify his surprise with a reply and began to translate the document. It was useless, meaningless garbage. He screwed it up and threw it angrily across the room. He watched the earnest lowered heads for a long time and felt dark despair washing over him.
He didn't want to do it.
He rose painfully and went into the kitchen.
He didn't want to do it.
Angel arrived back and stormed in fury into the kitchen when he sensed Spike's presence downstairs. Spike kept his back to the approaching footsteps.
He didn't want to do it.
Angel crashed into the kitchen and turned Spike by his shoulders none too gently. 'Don't try and stop me, Spike.'
Spike gritted his teeth.
He didn't want to do it.
'There's another way.'
Angel wasn't listening and began to lead Spike out of the door. Spike suddenly summoned a small reserve of strength and punched him as hard as he could in the face. Angel reeled, and Spike shouted. 'I'm not going to let you do it!'
'You don't have any choice, Spike. It's Cordelia.'
'There's another way, Fucker. You ain't listening to me.'
'We've been looking for another way for days, and all the time the fucking sacrifice gets closer. How do you think Cordy's feeling? I should do the exchange now, but I promised Fred she'd have until Saturday.'
'Angel!' Spike swung out again, but the movement tore at the wound on his stomach, and it suddenly burst forth once more, a bright stain of red on the white bandages. Angel grimaced and lowered him to a chair. He ripped into the fridge and brought out a number of blood bags, handing them wordlessly to Spike. Spike took one, then took a deep breath and said all in rush, 'It wasn't a ghost I summoned. I had a robot you made. It was so like you, it fooled the slayer, the idiot and the watcher. I still have it. Exchange Cordelia for the robot, Angel. They'll never know until it's too late.'
The silence that greeted this declaration was as painful as Spike thought it would be. It was as long as it had been in every confession to Angel that he'd made in his head.
Spike looked up at the lowered head and, with a stab of dismay, saw that in this short recitation, he had as effectively lost Angel as if he had actually allowed him to sacrifice himself for the girl.