Learning To Share - Chapter 18
Sometimes I lie awake at night trying to decide what it is about being with Spike that I love the most. I love lying alongside him in the dark pondering this while he sleeps. I love waking up besides him and watching him for a few precious minutes before he senses my habitual arousal and responds with his own, early morning urgency. I love having to get up in the night if I have to answer the phone, because I love coming back to bed knowing he is there, waiting for me.
When I awake this morning, after the intensity of our passion last night, I am still heavy and tired from the effects of his body on mine. I reach a lazy arm over to him to pull him back into my embrace. He is still asleep, but I sense him drifting up through the layers of some dream as he feels me against him. I rub my hand in slow circles over his hard belly and nuzzle into his neck, hoping to wake him in time for some fun before work. As I lick over his neck and down to his shoulder I am brought abruptly to a halt by a strange discoloured area on the back of his neck. I sit back to examine it more.
‘Spike, wake up. What’s this?’
Getting no coherent reply from my still sleeping Childe, I turn on the lamp above the bed so I can see the wound more closely. Over the century and a half I’ve known Spike, I’ve seen more bruises on him than I can count, but they fade quickly. Even the worst of them. He didn’t have this mark last night. Even if it was the result of some accidental injury from me, it would have healed by now. The mark is uneven, the size of a coin and strangely discoloured.
‘Spike. Please. Wake up and talk to me.’ I shake his shoulder, but there is still no response from him, other than a quiet groan. With Spike it’s often difficult to tell reluctance about getting up, from genuine incapacity. But this is worrying. I pull him onto his back and slap him on the chest, ‘Wake up. Now. Stop messing around, Spike.’ No response except for the slightest of flickers behind his closed eyelids. One more try, I scramble out of bed and fetch a glass of cold water and throw it on him. Again, his still form hardly reacts.
In total panic now, I scream his name and try shaking him awake. Nothing.
I’m totally helpless. I can’t think. I can’t act. Who the hell do you phone when you have a sick vampire?
I rush to the phone and dial his number. He’s sleepy and disjointed on the phone, but he hears my desperation and says he will be here in ten minutes. The longest ten minutes in two hundred and fifty years. I try repeatedly to wake Spike. The mark on his back is bigger now and seems…unearthly. It's the size of a baby’s handprint and that thought makes my panic worse. I start to imagine a small, demon baby laying the hand of death on my Childe. I start to imagine life without him again.
By the time Wesley arrives, I’m not really fit to be seen. But he’s good about it. He spends the first few minutes comforting me, getting me rational before he goes in to see Spike. He examines him closely. I hover. I want him to pull something out of a pocket and wave it over him and have him wake, laughing at me. But it doesn’t happen.
‘Well?’ I try to keep a note of desperation out of my voice.
‘Do you know, Angel, the closest thing I have ever seen to this is...and this is very odd...is a spectral mark.'
‘What? What’s that?’
‘On humans, Angel. Sometimes spectres or ghosts leave discoloured marks on their vic…err, contacts. I think someone, or something has put a spectral mark on Spike for some reason.’
‘Oh Christ, Wesley. When? He’s never left my side. You said so yourself yesterday when...’ we both have the same thought at the same time. ‘That client. The one he said was a waste of time. It must be. It’s the only time he’s been away from us.’ I cannot cope with this. This is too much for me. I can’t think straight. I don’t know whether to stay with Spike or rush off to track down this mysterious client. It’s too close to home and I can’t act.
But I don’t need to think. Wesley does it for me. He phones Cordelia, to ask her to sit with Spike. He traces the phonecall from the client. He phones Giles and asks him to come, in case his knowledge of the occult is needed. Everything is done for me. And what do I do? I sit uselessly with Spike’s head in my lap, just stroking his hair. In case, wherever he has been sent, he can feel it. When Wesley is not looking, I surreptitiously slice open my wrist and dribble some of my blood into Spike’s mouth. It dribbles out again. He can’t swallow. In an excuse not to see that pathetic sight, I bend my mouth to his, to lick away the blood. If I kiss him? Well, maybe he can feel that too. Maybe it will bring him back.
When I look up, Cordelia is here, watching me. If I could flush, I would. I turn my head away, embarrassed to be caught in what, for her, must be a strange embrace. But she smiles at me and comes over to sit next to me on the bed.
‘Angel. He’ll be OK. He’d never let us get away from him this easily. He'd never let me get all his desk space back. And no way is he gonna let Wesley escape his staff bonus perks. So don't worry. We're Angel Investigations, remember? We help the helpless,' and she leans in to embrace us both in a warm, feminine hug.
If I'm holding it together for Wesley, in that kind of brave, manly way males do, I lose it completely under the effects of Cordelia's soft words and Cordelia's tight embrace. She's seen me fight, kill, fall, heal. She's never seen me cry. And the object of all my pain? He lies deeply unconscious in my arms, unaware, helpless.
The phone call to Spike yesterday originated from an office downtown. Wesley agrees to come with me, Cordelia is happy to take over Spike watching duties.
'I don't have to kiss him do I, Angel?' she says with a smirk. I can't help a rueful grin back. She's got so much ammunition on me now, I doubt I will ever hear the end of it. Unless Spike dies. Then I won't be hearing anything again. But I don't tell them that.
When we get to the office it's still closed so we sit in the car, waiting and watching. It looks a perfectly ordinary, public office.
'I should have asked him about it, Wesley. Should have debriefed him.' If Wesley is about to make some snide comment about me, debriefing Spike, he refrains.
'Don't blame yourself, Angel. It's not your fault. Spike should have filled in the incident book. He knows the drill. He's not a child, Angel. Even if he is your Childe. He's a very old, very strong demon. Don't worry, we will find the cause of this.'
I allow myself to be convinced for a few minutes. If I don't, I think I will explode. I want to rip and tear and main. I want blood. I want pain. I want to do something. Angelus doesn't help. He's kicking around inside me, screaming to be let out. He knows he could get the answers from this man we've come to meet. If I'm tempted, I keep that temptation from Wesley.
At about nine o'clock, a small, shifty looking man enters the building. We look at each other and nod. That's got to be him. Wesley pulls up as close as he can to the entrance and I dash in under the cover of my coat. I hate entering like this. It's undignified and takes away that menacing demon look which can be so effective. Fortunately, this is just a lobby, so my indignity goes unnoticed.
I look at the list of addresses and follow the elevator up with my eyes. Ninth floor. Only two offices on that floor, a cleaning company and…interesting, a private investigations company. When Wesley joins me, we take a ride up to the ninth floor. The small, sad looking man is sitting in the lobby of the PI office. He appears to be a client himself, and we are starting to doubt our initial suspicion of him. Seems as though his furtiveness is a result of his own problems, not Spike's. I go up to the receptionist.
'I'm looking for a friend of mine who was here yesterday. He may have called himself William, or…Spike.' She has the thoroughly pissed off look which only receptionists in third-rate jobs can have.
'Nah, never came here. Sorry.' She's not, and she does a good job of letting me know that with her fake smile. I persevere.
'Young, about twenty-six, bleached blond hair. Black clothes. English.' Christ, shall I produce him in person. Could hardly mistake him with that description.
'I told ya already. I ain't seen 'im.' Wesley comes forward.
'Err…he had…black nail polish on.'
'Oh! HIM! Why didn't you say,' and she gives me a withering glare, 'oh yeah, he came in yesterday, asked where Clean & Steam was. So I told him.'
I look at Wesley for strength. 'And that is?'
'The cleaners next door!' and with that she takes out a magazine and effectively ends all further conversation.
We go out and into the office next door. Jesus, is this one of those awful science fiction programmes Spike likes watching so much? Because there is an almost identical looking receptionist in this one. Only this one looks up with a friendly smile on her face.
'Can I help you?' She's about fifty, slightly motherly looking, honest, homely. Not the castor-of-evil-spells-on-my-Childe type. But she could be. I've leant to be wary in this job.
'Yes, I'm looking for someone who was here yesterday. Young, blond, English, bla…'
Hah, I knew it…she immediately becomes shifty and loses her motherly look. 'You mean Mr Williams?'
'Yes, possibly, he goes by various names.'
'Well that doesn't surprise me at all. He was a most unpleasant, rude young man, if I may say so.' Uh oh, motherly is back. 'He made all sorts of outrageous demands and when I said I couldn't possibly satisfy him, he stormed out. Swearing!'
I have a sudden, and horrible picture of Spike, asking this woman for bizarre sexual favours of the motherly sort. Breastfeeding, changing stuff. I actually feel a shiver of revulsion trickle down my spine. I suppose it is fortunate that Wesley is with me. At least one of us is thinking with an organ that resides above the waist.
'I'm terribly sorry to hear our friend upset you. Could you possibly tell us what he wanted, and who else he spoke to?' I can see she has immediately taken to Wesley. Maybe it's the accent. Maybe it's the tweed jacket. Me, she has clearly put into the rude young man category.
'He came here in response to a call from me. One of our employees has been accused of stealing from a client, she says the house is haunted and things go…missing. The police detective we reported the incident to recommended your err…specialist services. So I called. When your colleague got here he seemed more interested in our line of work than his own. In fact he seemed utterly disinterested in my problem. He said he needed a cleaner and could we provide one. Well, I went though our list of services and nothing seemed to satisfy him. And when I pressed him I discovered why. He told me the most outrageous pack of lies. Said he was living with a Master Vampire who …I won't repeat his language…with very strange habits. Oh dear. I feel quite faint again. He said this awful monster liked…blood and…deviant sexual practices. So…special cleaning services would be needed. Well, as you can imagine, I told him to go away. And he did. After a comment about my…well, enough said.'
'And he spoke to no one else, no one…touched him?' Wesley is obviously floundering in the face of this irate female.
'Come on, this is a complete waste of time,' and I pull him towards the door. Spike had obviously come with the express intent of wasting everyone's time, having some perverse fun of his own whilst giving the impressing to the rest of us that he was working. I'm torn between being furious at him and desperate for him.
'Err, do either of you two gentlemen need the services of a cleaner…' her voice follows us down the corridor. In the elevator we are both silent. Both absorbing the import of this unfortunate turn of events. I don't want Wesley to say it. But he does, when we return to the apartment and stand looking at Spike, he says the words I am dreading.
'I'm at a complete loss now, Angel. I really don’t know where we can go from here,'