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Learning To Share - Chapter 10

I turn away from his side of the bed, now sickeningly empty, and lie on my back, thinking. How many times over the last six months have I awoken to find his hands on my body, childish tickling, greedy sucking, painful biting? How many times have I pushed him away, annoyed at being woken? Annoyed at his thoughtlessness. Annoyed that I have been made to face the long, wearying day ahead earlier than I needed to. How many times have I woken over the last six months to be faced with a barrage of irritating questions, a relentless thumping from his music, loud raucous noise from the television set? It may be trite, but it's true nevertheless, you don't know what you have, until you lose it. How much would I sacrifice now to have him here with me? But it's all gone. I have nothing. He is gone.

But there are some compensations to being alone. You get to cry when you want to. When you need to.

It is the smell that first breaks though the barrier of my tears. Vampires have to be ultra sensitive to fire and I smell burning.

I leap out of bed and run into the living room, grabbing the blanket as I go. Ready to throw it on flames, I almost throw it on Spike who, fully dressed, is in the kitchen. Cooking.

I am stunned. Frozen to the spot.

'Evenin', pet. Eggs?'

I swear my refusal had nothing to do with the glutinous, burnt offerings he pushed in my direction.

'I don't eat.'

'Suit yerself,' and he plonks himself backwards on a chair and proceeds to fork the…food into his mouth.

I sit down opposite him and stare. I am entranced by this ever-surprising Childe of mine.

'Sorry 'bout last night, mate.'

Alright, I know what has happened. Of course. I should have thought of this. There must have been some magic dust left in the bed. And it got on me. Because this is a parallel universe. This is not Spike. He is dressed in a clean shirt. Alright, it is my clean shirt and two sizes too big for him. But it is still bizarre. He has made us both a meal. Alright, even picking at these eggs doesn't make them any more appealing or recognisable as food. But he did make them for us. But he's just said sorry. And that has no codicil attached to it at all. He did. And he seems to mean it.

'I had a…err, bad dream, mate. It seemed real. Very real. Very bad. I was a bit shook up. So sorry 'bout being all weepy and pathetic. But thanks. For being there.'

Oh God. I don't want to ask. Does he really believe it was only a dream?

'What was the…dream about?' I dread his reply. But he looks up and catches my eye and holds my gaze with his.

'About you.'

Oh. 'Me?'

'Yeah.' He looks down again and fidgets nervously with his fork. 'You got killed.'

'Oh. Hope you got the git who did it?' Good one, Angel, try your first bit of humour in two hundred and fifty years now. He looks up again.

'Yeah. I did, pet.' He pauses, clearly trying to frame his words carefully. 'I'm sorry 'bout all the other stuff too, luv.' He hasn't called me that in so long it's like an echo reverberating down the decades. I'm so nervous, I start to eat the, by now, cold eggs, just to give me something to do with my hands.

'What? What stuff?'

'You know Angel. All the shit I've been giving you. I came to LA to get you back, you know. But you didn't seem to want me much. So I kinda panicked. I knew you'd never refuse a Childe of yours though. So I kinda just played at being yer Childe again. But I don't wanna do it any more, Angel. I ain't just a Childe, mate. I've had…err…I've been a Master Vampire meself, remember? I've killed two Slayers and the Anointed One. So I'm sick of all this shit, Angel. So…what's it to be? Do you want me, or not? Make yer mind up and when you have, you let me know.'

Before I can reply to this extraordinary outburst he angrily pushes his chair back and storms out of the apartment. The air and light seem to leave with him.

Jesus, did I say Powerful Magic already? Who was that? Was that my Childe, my Spike?

And have I really been so stupid. He came for me? He wanted me? All those times he turned up and hung around…he wanted me? And all this…all the needy, clingy, weak, bimbo blond behaviour has been an act? To ensure my continual acceptance of him?

Oh…bloody hell!

He's sitting in the office with Cordelia and Wesley when I finally pluck up the courage to go upstairs. Even though it's late evening by now, my friends were clearly worried about me. They haven't seen me for over twenty-four hours.

As usual when he is worried, Wesley starts on me.

'Really, Angel. This is too bad. You cannot just swan off for two days and leave…'

'Shut up.'

Two human heads turn in astonishment to the blond figure sitting nonchalantly on the couch. I am so used to being lectured and chastised by my humans, I'm already in my defensive, hang-dog look. But I let it drop and look fully at Spike.

'Err…I don't think I quite like your…' Wesley is clearly at a loss, too. 'What did you say Spike?'

'I said, shut up. He's not your bloody apprentice. He's your boss. It's his office. His apartment. His agency. And he can fuckin' do what he likes.'

'Angel, are you going to let him speak to me like…'

'Angel don't say what I do, mate. Or what I say. But from where I've been sittin' these last six months, seems to me you need him. He don't need you.'

He's gone too far now. Wesley's face is starting to revert to the lost expression he had when he first arrived in LA. I'm about to intervene, when incredibly, Spike seems to notice this, too.

'I said he don't need you, pet, not that he don't want you. He wants all of us. But yer gotta stop givin' him such a hard time.' He has the grace to look slightly abashed at this total hypocrisy and he casts me a shy grin of apology. 'We all gotta stop givin' yer a hard time, luv.'

Wesley looks over at me. I resume my whipping boy stance, just in case. ‘I'm sorry, Angel. Spike's quite right. Though it does rather pain me to say so. It's none of our business. If you choose to spend time away from the office, that's entirely your prerogative.'

I can see Spike smirking out of the corner of my eye.

'Thank you, Wes. In that case, I'm going to exercise my prerogative right now,' and with that I spin on my heel and start towards the stairs. I cast a look at Spike over my shoulder. 'Coming?'

He knows.

With a grin at me, he gets up and together we descend the stairs.

I start to explain. About Buffy, about lying, but he pushes me against the stairwell and silences my mouth with a deep affectionate kiss.

'You shut up too. Tosser. I worked that out for meself,' and he slaps me playfully on the back of the head. He pushes me towards the bedroom, practically tearing at my clothes. I would try to fight him off, just to retain some dignity, and preserve my clothes, but I've started laughing. And it's been so long, it's so unusual for me, I can't control it. It erupts from deep within my body where the fear was. Where the anguish was. Where the need for Spike was. I have experienced the loss of him. So I do know what I've got now. And I do intend to appreciate it. I intend to appreciate it a lot.

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