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Past Tense of Loving
It had all happened so quickly he didn’t take it in until he got back to his apartment. In one day, he’d gone from intense excitement and hope, to something so painful he drew breaths in short, ragged gasps when he thought about it.
Right up until the very end, as he’d walked out of the door, he’d expected Angel to break. He’d expected Angel to change his mind. When he hadn’t, when he’d stood there with his arms holding his emotions in check, he’d had to continue walking, although it was the most difficult thing he’d ever done. He couldn’t stay there, as much as he wanted to see Angel. He couldn’t hang around, hoping for one kind word or look. He’d done that with Buffy: been her puppy, fawning around her ankles for each tiny crumb of affection. Not with Angel. He didn’t want that with him.
He stuffed a few clothes into a bag and retrieved the keys to his bike. The days of travelling around in the heat of the day were over. This life was over.
He’d start again. He’d done it so many times he couldn’t understand why it seemed so difficult now.
There was a hesitant knock on the door. It wasn’t Angel’s, so he wasn’t really interested who it was. He opened it.
Wesley gave him a half-smile. ‘May I come in for a moment?’
Spike stepped to one side.
Wesley glanced around, took in the bag and used it as his cue. ‘I’ve come to ask you not to go, Spike.’
The irony of hearing the words out of the wrong mouth made him bitter, and he opened the door once more without speaking.
Wesley frowned. ‘Look, no argument is worth leaving over. Whatever it was, and I’m sure it was nothing more than your usual spat over….’
‘We didn’t argue.’
‘Oh.’ Relationships weren’t Wesley’s strong point, but his immense brain began to make connections: click, click, details falling into place. He blinked at the implications of his discovery.
‘Right. Well. I suppose you know best. Look, I was going to give you this….’ He withdrew a large envelope from inside his jacket.
‘What is it?’
‘Something I was going to show you tomorrow….’ He faltered. ‘Gosh. I’m rather…. I wish you weren’t going.’
The human’s simple, heartfelt declaration almost undid Spike. He took the envelope, just to hasten the man’s departure, and held the door once more. He said roughly, but honestly, ‘I need to get going ,Wes. Dawn’s not far off, and I wanna get out of this city.’
‘Yes. Of course. I’m sorry. I won’t delay you any more.’ Immediately negating his own words, he reached into his coat once more and pulled out his wallet. ‘Take this.’
Spike looked down at the bankcard. ‘You know I can’t.’
‘I don’t know anything of the sort. It’s not mine; it’s my account for books with the firm. There’s only a couple of thousand in it, but it will be a cushion should you ever need it.’ He told him the code and thrust the card on him.
Spike pocketed it, as with the envelope, just to get rid of him.
Wesley gave him an awkward hug then left.
He retrieved his bike from storage, kicked it to life and sniffed the air. North, south, east, or west? For old time’s sake, he took south. How he wished Angel were trailing after him miserably this time.
He left the city and headed for the coast highway.
He was so angry he couldn’t think straight, and getting out of the city was all that drove him. Anger, and all of it directed at himself…. Angel, because he had done what he’d swore he’d never do again: fall for someone who had higher priorities than love. Anger, because he understood why Angel had done what he’d done. Anger, because he knew it was right. Anger, because he could do nothing about it.
He stopped for gas, filling up carelessly, paying for it with the small amount of cash he had on him, remembering Wesley’s parting gift and thinking how much he would miss the friends he’d made in L.A. All of them.
He climbed back on and turned his head, twisting out the kinks.
A clear reflection of the bike greeted him in the window of a small bar across the street. Just the bike.
It was too much.
It only confirmed the fact that he didn’t exist anywhere—not here in the street, not in Angel’s heart.
He drove across the street, parked up and went in.
If he drank enough, experience told him that he would stop existing in his head, too—that his perception of reality would match everyone else’s.
Angel didn’t go back up to Nina. He had no more excuses for not sleeping with her, and his body ached for physical contact—an ache that he now feared. It was so all-encompassing that he feared where it would take him.
He went out into the night and tried to assuage it elsewhere and in pursuits that would drain his energy and his strength if not his sexual desires. Two out of three would have to do.
The bar was quiet, which exactly suited Spike’s mood, so he bought a pitcher of beer and took it to a table in the corner. He had a lot of thinking to avoid.
He ignored the argument when it started—it wasn’t his business, and he wasn’t in the mood for other people’s problems.
When his table was bumped and his beer split, he took it personally however, and suddenly found that he was in exactly the right mood for other people’s pain.
He waded into the fight, not too sure (and caring less) who was fighting for what. He landed punches, kicked and spun, and even bit once or twice, but only with blunt, human teeth.
And then, there were just two of them. He stared at the young man, who was wiping a trail of blood off his face, and decided he’d probably been on the right side after all.
The boy gave him a curt nod as if he’d not really needed the help, which was endearing, but Spike wasn’t in the mood for endearments of any kind, unless they were directed at him, which they hadn’t been so far that night. Almost no endearments at all. Just arguments and pain.
He sat down and began to resume his own business once more when a bottle of malt was plonked on the table in front of him. ‘Thanks.’
Spike looked up. ‘No need.’ He pushed it back towards its owner, not needing the alcohol or the company.
The boy sat down.
Spike reared back and said sharply, ‘Sod off.’
There was a nervous flick of a tongue over soft, red lips, and the boy glanced at the men now rising from the floor.
Spike got it.
He felt a stab of sympathy for the boy and pleasure that at least someone needed him, and allowed the boy to stay until his attackers left.
Only when he saw the last jeans-clad backside exit did the boy let the tension drain from his face.
In spite of his better intentions, Spike was curious enough to ask, ‘What was it about?’
The boy fiddled with his glass. ‘Nothing.’
Spike gave a small bitter snort. ‘Yeah.’
‘I’m Jacob, by the way.’
‘I don’t need company.’
‘What do you need…?’
The offer was explicit. Spike was taken aback. He wondered if something about him had changed recently, or whether the boy chanced his arm with all solitary men in bars. It might explain the fight. He leant forward and said precisely, ‘You’re playing with fire, Mate. I said sod off, and I meant it.’
The boy glanced toward the exit. ‘I don’t want to leave on my own.’
‘You’ve played that card. It’s wearing kinda thin.’
‘This isn’t a game! Do you think I’m playing games here?’
Spike saw that he wasn’t and calmed him by pouring him a drink. The boy took it with shaking hands. ‘They’ll be waiting for me.’
‘What’s their beef with you?’
‘What do you fucking think?’
‘Well, the fact that you’re pushy and rude comes to mind.’
For the first time, the boy grinned, and it changed his features from surly to beautiful. Spike caught his breath and took a long drink.
‘Please. Just come with me. You can leave then—if you want.’
‘I’ll tell you what: I’ll give you a ride home; then I’m outta here.’
Jacob nodded, the confidence of youth and experience telling him that once he got this beautiful stranger into his bed, he wouldn’t be leaving in a hurry.
Spike couldn’t help but admire the way the boy held himself as he walked. It was cocky, nonchalant and graceful all at the same time. It reminded him of someone.
Jacob swung his leg over the leather of the bike with an expression that made Spike swear softly under his breath. He climbed on and kicked the bike to life. ‘Okay, which way?’
Jacob opened the door of his trailer and jumped in, practically pulling Spike in with him, babbling about coffee. Spike didn’t resist too much. He hadn’t thought once about Angel since this annoying boy had sat down with him. He been careful to note this, counting the number of times he’d not thought about Angel. He accepted some lukewarm coffee, but made no attempt to drink it.
Jacob sat opposite him, still talking.
‘Don’t you ever shut up?’
Jacob frowned and smiled at the same time. ‘Not when I’m nervous.’
‘You’re nervous—what? Of me?’
‘No. Of me.’
The boy looked down shyly. ‘I’m gonna fuck this up, and I don’t want to. I want you to….’
Spike leant back, waiting. The boy looked up then suddenly stood and unbuttoned his jeans.
Spike held out his hand to stop him, but the boy leant in close, pressing his lips to Spike’s, sliding his hands into Spike’s lap.
Spike was impressed with himself that even while kissing this pretty boy he was able to notice that he wasn’t thinking about Angel. ‘What’s this?’
Spike was about to tell him when he realised the boy was talking about something under his jacket. He let him pull out a large envelope, and at the sight of it, his last meeting with Wesley flooded into his mind and with it, the memory of his parting with Angel, and then he was entirely unable to pretend anymore that he wasn’t thinking about him every second of every minute of every hour that they’d been apart.
He stood up, running his fingers through his hair. ‘I’m sorry, Pet. You’ve picked the wrong person tonight for whatever it was you wanted.’
He stumbled out of the trailer and caught the tail end of a whispered, ‘…wanted you to take me with you.’
He rode out of the park and headed back to the highway, then pulled over under the lights of a storefront. He pulled out the envelope and ripped it open.
It was a photocopy of a newspaper clipping, apparently an obituary. Wesley had written a website address in hand on the top. His curiosity was peeked, and despite his preoccupation, he read it.
If Spike had not expected Angel to actually let him go, equally, Angel had not really expected Spike to leave. All the following morning he expected to see the familiar blond figure striding into his office. He missed the sight of black leather; he missed the smell of nicotine; he missed the arguing; he missed the intense, flaring of passion behind the pretence of arguing. He just missed him, and he could not accept that he was really gone.
On the second day, tension between himself and Nina added to his misery. She had accepted that he wouldn’t have sex with her, and blamed it on temporary trauma from the odd adventure. When he intimated that he wanted to sleep alone as well, she renewed her efforts to discover the real truth. She suspected some of it—that he had fallen for someone else while he’d been away—but her natural assumption that it was a woman infuriated and embarrassed Angel in equal measure. It only seemed to reinforce his own view that he wasn’t normal, natural, which he knew anyway, being a vampire. He’d always managed to work around it in his own mind though, walking and talking like a real man. He felt the act wasn’t working so well over this. He felt everyone must be able to look at him and tell what he wanted to do in bed.
He wasn’t in the mood, therefore, for a heart-to-heart with Wesley, and when the man came in, balancing two cups of coffee, he rose and said curtly, ‘I have to go out.’
‘I went to see him—before he left.’
Angel sat down again.
Wesley perched on the couch and put one coffee on the floor. He leant back with his and waited. Sometimes, he could play the same games Angel did.
Eventually, sensing that he was beaten, Angel asked, ‘Did he tell you why he was leaving?’
Wesley shook his head. ‘It’s not a good time to lose your strongest ally.’
Angel pouted, other, better descriptions than ally flitting through his mind.
‘I think you should try to reconcile, or whatever, and ask him to come back.’
Angel rose deceptively casually and went to look at something interesting out of the window. ‘I have no way of contacting him. Despite what he said, he won’t be in touch. He’s too proud for that. We probably won’t meet for another hundred years.’
Wesley heard repressed pain in Angel’s voice and said, very pleased with himself, ‘Do you want his address or his telephone number—or both?’ He smiled into his coffee. He liked giving Angel pleasure.
Spike peered at the tiny green letters spilling over the screen. He punched a few keys, but the scrolling didn’t slow down. He cursed. There was a soft chuckle at his side, and a young man said, ‘Would you like some help?’
Spike gritted his teeth, unwilling to admit he couldn’t use the computer. ‘What happened to bloody books? Time was, libraries went in for ‘em, ya know?’
‘We still have books; this just makes it easier to find what you want in them. What do you want?’
Spike leant back and looked at the young librarian. With a nod, he fished out the photocopied obituary Wesley had given him. ‘I’m looking for history of this town.’
The man looked surprised. ‘Of Molena?’
Spike smiled softly, staring at the article. ‘Yeah.’ The picture of the sheriff was fuzzy, but it was unmistakeably him. He’d died in nineteen twenty from the flu epidemic. The boy took it up and studied it.
‘This is from the Chronicle.’
‘I want to trace a family that lived here at the end of the nineteenth century. The Devants.’
‘Well, The History of Stubbs County is probably your best bet. I’ll go get it for you.’
Spike nodded and leant back in his chair, rubbing his hand tiredly over his face. He’d always done things on a whim, but this was unexpected, even for him. He’d seen the obituary, and suddenly, there was only one place he wanted to be. He’d flown in, which had probably been the first mistake. If he’d been trying to recreate something he’d had in this place, some spirit of place, then the technology of the arrival had destroyed it. He’d stepped out of the concourse and hailed a cab and been driven along a modern highway through the desert. He’d asked the driver to stop, and they’d come to a halt alongside oilrigs, nodding their endless dance against the horizon in every direction. When they’d come into the city limits of Molena, his senses had reeled. He’d not expected a salon or a jail—he hadn’t—but he’d expected some trace of what had been, not this, this place of light and movement and high buildings that took away his view of the stars.
He’d spent that first night wandering around, trying to find the old part of town, and at last he’d found a couple of pre-war buildings. One of them was a small hotel, so he’d checked in, made good use of Wesley’s card and then lain on the wide, comfortable bed, trying to recapture a mood. He couldn’t. Spirit of place…it never was that with him—one place being much as another. For him, places needed people to bring them alive.
Without Angel, there was no spirit of anything.
The library had seemed a good place to escape the daylight. He wasn’t even sure what he expected to find here.
Proof that it had all existed?
He sensed movement and shifted some papers to make way for the book.
A dark presence stood silent at his side.
Spike then knew who it was. With startling clarity, he realised that his parting words still held true: he had absolutely no idea what to say.
He looked up, and with a frisson of pleasure, saw that Angel clearly had no idea either. He was there, but other than that, his sire seemed at a complete loss.
Spike scooted his chair slightly to one side, and Angel drew up another, sitting alongside him.
He shuffled the papers slightly. ‘What are you doing?’
Spike smiled in recognition of the great effort Angel had just made and replied in kind. ‘Wesley gave me this.’ He slid the obituary over. ‘It kinda got me to thinking—about what happened to them all.’ Were they real? Had it been real? Could it be real for us again?
Angel read the article, his face neutral, then said conversationally, ‘I wonder why he gave it to you.’
Spike let his eyes scan the paper and felt a tremor run through his body. Where would he be now if the envelope hadn’t been in his pocket? Take me with you. He thought he would have done: taken the boy Jacob on the back of his bike—taken him in other ways, too.
‘Okay, here’s History of… Oh, sorry.’ The boy faltered as he caught a look from Angel.
Spike looked between the two of them and something hot and urgent flared when he divined Angel’s jealousy. He took the book and nodded his thanks.
Angel kept his eyes on the boy’s retreat then turned back, ostensibly to look at the book. He caught a look from Spike and pouted. Spike put a hand on his arm briefly, and Angel looked more closely into his eyes. He saw that Spike was anything but annoyed with his small flare of jealousy and looked down with a smile of amusement on his lips.
‘How did you find me?’
‘I’m a detective….’
‘Wesley’s card—you withdrew some money.’
‘Uh huh.’ Spike wanted to ask something about eternity and love, but instead, he said as casually as he could, ‘Nina with you?’
‘What do you think?’ When no reply was forthcoming, Angel turned and said urgently, ‘No! Of course not! I thought you’d got that!’
Spike tried not to let his relief show, but said sadly, ‘So you are lying to her now.’
Angel put his hand on Spike’s arm. ‘We broke up.’
He said no more, and Spike didn’t ask.
Angel read the book for a while, even managing to remember to turn the pages a couple of times. Spike didn’t realise he was watching him until he was startled by Angel saying quietly, apropos nothing in particular, ‘I’m trying not to lie to anyone now—myself included.’
Spike fidgeted with the mouse, scrolling the page up and down. ‘So… why are you here?’
‘I wanted to see why you were.’
Angel rubbed his palms over his thighs. ‘I hardly recognised the place.’
‘You think it’s all changed?’ The tense challenge was pretty clear in Spike’s voice. It was also pretty clear he wasn’t talking about Molena.’
Angel looked at him, his face a mask of misery. ‘I don’t know. It’s why I came, I guess. To see if it was….’
‘Still the same.’
‘Is there anything else I can get you gents? Have you found who you’re looking for?’
Spike jumped slightly. Angel rose and went toward a stack of books, ostensibly searching earnestly.
Spike stood and picked up the book and the various clippings, handing them back to the boy. ‘No. It’s useless. I don’t think any of it was real.’
He could see that Angel was listening intently.
The boy took the papers, balancing them carefully in his arms. ‘Devant’s not a name I know round these parts. Sounds French.’
Suddenly, Angel turned and said softly, ‘How about Caruthers?’
Spike caught his eye.
The boy looked surprised. ‘Well, sure. Their place is about twenty miles….’
Spike grinned, a look that made Angel’s face light up. ‘We know where it is.’
The exited together, talking rapidly, their earlier awkwardness forgotten. ‘I never thought….’
‘She must have married….’
‘But what about…?’
‘Do you think it’ll be…?’
Spike was dismayed to discover that Angel had come without the sun-proofed assets of Wolfram and Hart.
He led the way back to the small hotel, fuming at the delay to his plans.
They were in his room before the significance of it hit them.
Angel stared anxiously at the big bed then went to the window to escape its implications, but he couldn’t go far, only standing to one side as the streaks of light reached into the room. After a few minutes of tense silence, he said in a low tone that only just reached Spike, ‘Fuck this.’ Before Spike could say anything to stop it, they were kissing.
It was hard and painful, but the pressure on his lips, more than anything else, told Spike that this wasn’t the kiss that solved everything. He looked into Angel’s lust-deadened eyes as their lips clashed and sought and found and tasted, and knew that nothing had been resolved at all. Nina was no longer in the picture, but nothing else had changed. Angel’s confusion was as plain as his need, and both these—urgent need and painful confusion—were met and matched on Spike’s fevered kisses.
Before they knew it, hands had taken over the giving of pleasure. Angel’s roamed up inside Spike’s shirt, tweaking his nipples; Spike’s played in the loose waistband at the back of Angel’s pants, dipping down to stroke fingertips over hard, smooth cheeks.
The desire to enjoy skin overwhelmed them, and their clothes were shed with abandon, falling around them like discarded morals.
Naked, fully aroused, some of the confusion left; there was only so much room for emotion, and need swelled, gorged on the sight of such beauty. For the few moments that they gazed on the other’s body, perfectly realised in the soft light for the first time, they weren’t confused at all. They banished thoughts of the past or the future. After all, these things were fluid, one had become the other, and thus distinctions were blurred. They left them blurred. For this moment in time, they had each other, their magical bodies, and all the love that would ever be needed between two people.
It was a meeting of perfectly matched bodies. It seemed incredible to Angel as he finally embraced Spike’s lean, hard form that he had ever thought the smaller, softer variety of this enough. This flesh he could not hug too hard; this body took his power and reflected it back to him, buoying him up, not making him feel large and heavy and awkward. Spike’s restless energy and love of physicality found its match in Angel’s strong arms. He writhed and bucked but was restrained, and the restraint spiralled him to new peaks of need.
They didn’t even make it to the bed. Frantic caresses and kisses, which rubbed their bodies together; hands groping and stroking, which pleasured every inch of their sensitive skin; moans and murmurs of delight, which sent tingles of pleasure to their balls; took away their rational thought. They came where they stood: long repressed, powerful spurts of milky essence hitting their chests and chins, and bone-shaking orgasms that held them insensible in their all-encompassing power.
Only slowly did blood return to starved brain cells. Only then did awareness of place hit them. Only then did they fall leaden and empty to the bed, curling tightly together.
Only then did the confusion return, bearing in its wake far more powerful destructive emotions.
Angel felt Spike shudder, thought it was an aftershock, then realised he was repressing tears. He made a small horrified sound and pushed him away so he could see his face, pulled him back in close, tried to resist when Spike pulled away.
Spike sat up and fumbled for his cigarettes, cursing as much for his pathetic display—borne more on the intense emotions of the preceding few minutes than any coherent sense of grief—as for the lack of nicotine. Eventually, he had a cigarette lit and smoke in his lungs, and to complete the pleasure, Angel’s head in his damp sticky lap. At Angel’s soft, prompting sound of encouragement, he took another lungful of smoke and on its release said jerkily, ‘I had ‘nough trouble leaving you the first time, Angel. I just can’t do it again.’
Angel had no response. The main reason for the impossibility of their relationship was still there; the menacing presence of Wolfram and Hart—with which he’d dealt for his son’s life and won—hovered around them. He could not do this thing with Spike and be what he needed to be there.
For a brief moment, he considered abandoning it all: Wesley, Gunn, Lorne, all the humans in the world who needed his vigil against the forces of evil. It was a very brief moment. He knew that even if he did, if he let it all go on an orgy of need for Spike that that need would soon fizzle out. They were what they were to each other precisely because of the circumstances that surrounded them. They loved the hero in the demon, the demon in the man, the man in the shell. Like this, sated and wet in Spike’s lap, considering abandoning his mission, he was something quite other from any of those—something that Spike would not want for long.
The sad inevitability of their plight took speech away for some time. Spike smoked down his cigarette then shifted lower in the bed, wrapping Angel in his arms, stroking sadly up and down the smooth skin on his arm.
After a few minutes, Angel said hesitantly, ‘There is another way—maybe.’
Angel twisted around, his face showing his scepticism that Spike was that far ahead of him. Spike sighed. ‘You’re gonna suggest that we shack up together away from the office. That you keep me your little secret. That you go to work all menacy and heterosexual as you say you need to be, then come creeping back to my arsehole at night.’
Angel turned away, mutinous.
Spike rubbed his back. ‘It’s what Buffy did to me, Luv. I can’t do that again. I want to look at someone in the broad light of day and ‘ave them looking back at me. I’ve done shag in secret. Not doing it again.’
He felt Angel’s severe pain at having his best hopes dashed and added, ‘’Sides, you need me at your side in the fight, Pet. Once Buffy and I started… ya know… she didn’t rely on me as much. She had so much disgust for what we were doing she couldn’t trust herself to trust me. It wore her out—trying to balance the things we were doing with the things she needed to be doing.’
Angel’s only reply was to say petulantly, ‘You say I need you, but you leave me anyway.’
Spike made a small sound that he meant to be humorous. ‘An’ I can just see this happening first time we get together in a conference. You’re haranguing some big nasty….’
‘I don’t harangue; I put my case….’
‘And you look across at me. Our eyes meet….’
Angel turned over to face him, his curiosity, and other things, clearly peaked.
‘I stand up, the chair tipping over, and everyone in the room stops talking. I stride to you, but you’re already halfway to me….’
‘Who’s at this meeting?’
‘Huh? What the bloody hell does that matter?’
‘I want to know who we’re going do it in front of… Wesley—as an example.’
‘Uh huh. Now the evil little worms of your desires are wriggling out, aren’t they?’
‘Don’t be dumb, Spike.’ Angel tried to turn away, but Spike reared up and straddled him, keeping him flat.
‘There’s nothing to tell! Stop being so….’
‘You’ve tasted him.’
‘I fed from him!’
‘Oh, Mr Pedantic all of a sudden. And in most civilised countries, sucking dick would be more happily admitted to than drinking someone’s blood!’
‘Are we arguing again?’
Spike grinned. ‘Yeah, good isn’t it?’
They lost time after that. No awareness of the minutes passing intruded on the kissing and rolling and urgent rubbing. It was only when Angel’s large hand sought and found and grasped that awareness returned. He looked down. For the first time, he had the leisure and the desire to slow things down, to explore and discover. He hefted the heavy cock in his hand, marvelling that it got heavier from his touch. He felt its life, the way it rose stiff and twitched responsively when stroked. Most intently though, he studied its textures: the incredible smoothness of the tip—that needed tongue to fully appreciate—the velvety skin, stretched tight over prominent veins, the stretch exposing heavy balls and damp, sensitive perineum.
For the first time, he began to question, under this assault of pleasure, why his sudden passion for Spike’s cock threatened what he was—what he needed to be. Slowed down and enjoyed like this, being with Spike became even more attractive, and he could not help but picture them together: Spike at his side in the fight, Spike at his side in bed.
He had no answers, so his conviction that it was wrong did not waver. He accepted, therefore, that it was the very worst thing he could do but took Spike to the back of his throat anyway.
Spike arched as if he’d been electrocuted, his whole body shivering with pleasure. Angel let his mouth wetly bathe the stiffness that intruded in its warm cavern, slurping around the tip, drawing away and watching, fascinated, as tendrils of spit decorated the glistening tip. He probed with his tongue, then sucked in great greedy mouthfuls of cock, all the while stretching and teasing Spike’s balls.
With a cry, digging his fingers into Angel’s hair and pulling on strands as if they were reins, Spike released. It didn’t have the force of his first orgasm, but salty thickness, like spume, bubbled over into Angel’s mouth. He milked it with tongue and lips, swallowing eagerly. When Spike made to ease his tender cock away, Angel pressed his mouth further on and stayed there, gently swilling the softened penis around and sucking it like a comforter.
Spike stretched back on the bed, his arms folded under his head, wishing he had a cigarette, but so comfortable that, for the first time in his life, he didn’t bother to follow up on this remembrance of his addiction.
He felt eviscerated: all his secrets laid out and displayed to Angel’s ardent admiration. He wasn’t sure whether this was good or not. He’d not meant to let Angel know how much he wanted him—for both their sakes. He’d not meant to fall as hard into his physical trap as he had to his emotional one. When his feelings were the only things threatened, that he could handle, that he could survive. Now he was so physically embroiled with this other, powerful body, he couldn’t extract himself without leaving some of his essence behind. He didn’t fancy surviving eternity only partially intact.
As Angel suckled and played his intimate game with Spike’s cock, the shadows lengthened in the room. Spike knew that if he stayed any longer things would develop that in their remembrance, when this idyll was over, would hurt them both. Best to part before that level of damage was done.
With difficulty, he extricated himself from Angel’s hold and sat up. They didn’t need to speak. Angel had clearly been thinking similar things. By mutual, silent agreement, they took separate showers, almost reluctant to wash off this final trace of something they now craved more than blood.
The weight of the inevitable bore down on them, depressing their spirits. Angel returned to the room, rubbing his hair with a towel and said in a controlled voice, ‘Where are you going to go?’
Spike was watching the water glistening on Angel’s hair, thinking about running his hand through the strands and spiking them up. He started from his reverie and said without thinking, ‘I’m going out to the Caruthers place. Then? I don’t know.’
Angel sat down to pull on his pants. In a casual voice, he asked, ‘Like some company?’
Spike’s head jerked up. Company? Would he like some company? Yes, Angel, I’d like it for eternity. You, my company, for eternity.
Angel shrugged. ‘I flew in on the company jet. I can come and go as I please.’ They both knew this wasn’t true—this boast that Angel was master of his own destiny—but Spike didn’t call him on it. They needed all the fictions they could muster.
Spike mirrored Angel’s shrug. ‘Okay then.’
Angel suppressed his smile and began to tie his laces with careful precision.
When he was finished, he stood up, and just before Spike put his hand on the door to open it, said in low voice, ‘Does it make this worse to tell you again that I love you?’
A shudder went through Spike’s body, and he replied bitterly, ‘I don’t know. Does it help you if I tell you properly for the first time that I love you?’
Angel’s brow clouded. He pushed past Spike with a brusque, ‘No,’ and went out into the hallway.
They took Angel’s rental car, driving out of a town that neither of them now recognised but that had made such a huge impact on their lives. It was no longer town/desert: an abrupt ending of one and start of the other. Now, suburbs stretched out, encroaching on the calm and dangerous beauty of the land. When they finished, evidence of human habitation still dominated the scenery: fast-food places, modern highways, indication of the endless search for oil.
At one point, they came across a vast reservoir, and Angel pulled over so they could walk out onto the dam. It seemed inconceivable that the place they had known could produce so much water, and Spike stared into its depths, wondering whether somewhere in that inky blackness lay the stream in which they had once bathed and frolicked in that other, better lifetime.
Nothing could have convinced them more that what they had found in this place once was merely spirit of time and place and could not, perhaps should not, be recreated here.
Mutually depressed, they pushed on toward their destination. Although they had claimed to know the way, they had not taken account of all these changes and had to stop many times before they reached a fence and modest gate that announced the Big T.
At the sight of them, Spike felt a stab of melancholy for all the things he had lost in his life. As it seemed to him that he’d lost everything, the emotion threatened to overwhelm him.
Angel sensed his mood and pulled the car over before they went through the gate. ‘Okay?’
Spike lit a cigarette from the glowing tip of a previous one and nodded. He would not cry again. He was too empty for that now.
Angel sighed and began to drive up the long approach to the house.
By this stage in their journey, it didn’t surprise them that the house they remembered no longer stood. In its place was a low, rambling building that had clearly been built with the strong winds in mind.
They climbed out of the car and went up onto the covered porch. Both so intent on their own private misery, neither had thought what they were going to say when they got there.
When the door opened to Angel’s knock and an elderly man said, ‘Yes?’ in a slightly surprised tone, Angel therefore said abruptly, ‘We’ve come to see a Mr Caruthers.’
The old man smiled. ‘Well, now, I’m thinking you mean my young un, but he’s taken all the men down to the rodeo for the week. But I guess I still answer to that name, too. Can I help you young folks?’
Angel glanced at Spike. ‘We….’
Spike visibly sloughed off his darkness and said, ‘We’re kinda historians. We’re looking into the history of the ranch.’
The old man suddenly stood to one side, making sweeping movements with his arm. ‘Come along in, come along in. It’s my Martha you’ll be wanting to talk to—all those damn scribbles and jottings of hers—drives everyone crazy.’ The deep river of affection in his voice swept them into the well-lit, welcoming house.
The man took their coats without being asked and shepherded them into a large room, filled with the detritus of family life. If it mocked the lonely vampires, they ignored its provocation and went toward the couch.
‘Who is it, William?’
At the remote voice from another room, both vampires turned to stare at the man. Spike cleared his throat and said, ‘Your name is William?’
The man laughed, easing himself down into a chair with some considerable difficulty. ‘Well, you could say it’s a family name.’
At that moment a figure appeared in the doorway and a soft, ‘It was given to the family by God,’ added to his blunter explanation.
The man stood again and was clearly pleased when both vampires followed his lead. ‘May I present my wife, Martha.’
Clearly once beautiful, she still radiated elegance, and she smiled at her guests and eased herself into a chair next to her husband.
Spike pouted and studied his nails as he asked, ‘From God?’
The old man groaned. ‘Now, don’t you be listening to all Martha’s foolishness. She’ll tell anyone that listens this old family nonsense. Tell them, Mother.’ The pride in his voice almost outweighed the affection and both belied completely his words. He put a hand on her arm and patted her lightly. ‘I’ll go make us all some drinks. Once you get started on your stories….’
She smiled fondly. ‘How did you come to want to hear about our family?’
‘They’re learned professors from the university, Mother. Don’t be asking them foolish questions.’
Angel ran his fingers through his hair and tried to look scholarly.
Martha Caruthers leant back in her chair. ‘Well, the story really begins with William’s Grandmother, Katherine.’
‘Katherine?’ Spike’s voice was so unnatural, not even knowing his more normal tone, both humans turned to him.
‘Sounds like you be needing that drink, Sonny. You wait right there.’
Angel leant forward. ‘Katherine Caruthers? It can’t be…. Do you know when she was born?’
‘Well, she was born in England, we believe in eighteen sixty two, but sometimes she told me she was younger and had….’
‘She told you?’
William Caruthers returned and gave a strong whisky to Spike, which he took and drank quickly, repeating in a more normal voice, ‘She told you?’
Martha nodded. ‘She died in nineteen forty—two years after William brought me here.’
Spike, clearly still agitated, said raggedly, ‘And her brother, did you know him? Was he…?’
She frowned and looked uncertainly at her husband. ‘She didn’t have a brother.’
‘She did. Tom. He came from England, too.’
She shook her head. ‘I’m sorry, I think you have things mixed up. It’s easy to do, you know, when you only have paper to work with.’
The old man was sipping his whisky, looking thoughtful. Sensing Spike’s increasingly despondent mood, Angel said, ‘You were going to tell us about the name?’
Martha smiled. ‘She was happiest woman I ever knew, even though she suffered from her joints like the rest of us. She said God had sent an angel to her, and told her she was special—that the fruit of her loins was blessed and all the generations to come. And she was to call him Will. That’s what she always said: fruit of my loins and all the generations to come, and I’m to call him Will. I can still hear her voice say it.’
Spike resisted the urge to look at Angel.
The old man looked up. ‘It was just a man like any other and she got muddled in her head, Mother. He was probably the local quack of the day. You know that’s the truth really.’
‘No, I don’t. And I’d thank you not to put words into my mouth. Besides, there was the other one, the one who actually told her he was an angel and brought Granddaddy Grant to her.’
Angel resisted the urge to look at Spike.
‘Stuff and nonsense.’ The old man rose and went to pour them all another drink.
Spike stood up and went to the fireplace, standing with his back to the room. Angel divined his mood and asked the old woman softly, ‘Are you sure you can’t remember Tom? He was a little older than Katherine, I think. He was there when…. I mean, he knew Grant, too.’
Suddenly, Will Caruthers turned and said, ‘Course, there was Tom Caruthers, one of Grant’s brothers. That’s who you must mean.’
The vampires turned to him as one.
He nodded, sagely. ‘Died in the thirties, Mother, before I met you. Never married; lived with his brother, Pete. When Pete died he seemed to sort of… wither. Missed his brother something terrible and followed ‘im soon after.’
A smile crept around Spike’s face, and he lifted his eyes to Angel. ‘He made it work.’
Angel heard and understood everything Spike meant by this. He put his glass down and rose. ‘You’ve been very kind, but it’s time we went.’
The couple came toward him, smiling and leading the way to the door. Just as they were crossing the threshold, Will Caruthers said, ‘I never did catch your name, Sonny—just so I can tell my Will.’
A phone began to ring in the house, and he turned back to answer it. Martha, leaning heavily on a stick, looked at them expectantly. Angel said, distracted by his desire to leave, ‘I’m Angel, and this is Spike.’
Her eyes widened, and she staggered slightly, both vampires catching her arms and leading her to a porch swing.
Will Caruthers returned, his face a mask of anxiety. He went up to Martha and said in a low, private voice that would have not have been overheard by humans, ‘Young Will’s horse has thrown him out by Big Bluff. I’d best call the sheriff, seeing as all the men are gone.’
She looked up and said with tears in her eyes, ‘It’s all right, William. God has sent them again.’
He turned with the look of a man whose hair was slowly rising on his neck. She grabbed his hand. ‘I knew. In my heart, I knew. She said he had hair that must have been touched by God’s light it was so unnaturally bright, and he wore a black coat that swayed even when there wasn’t any wind. And he was English, like her—an English angel sent just for her. And the other one had the face of an angel and was quiet and sad. She said he carried God’s grief for the world on his shoulders. They’re here, William, they’ve come back to help us….’ She could say no more, and fell in a faint against her husband’s arm.
Go to chapter 13
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