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Past Tense of Loving
Will Caruthers might have believed his wife when he saw how quickly and easily the bigger of the two visitors carried her up to her room, how carefully he laid her in the bed, how concerned they both were.
As the three of them sat around her bed, lit by the soft light from a single bedside lamp, Angel said urgently, ‘Tell me what’s happened.’
‘My grandson, God damn him, wouldn’t go with the men to the rodeo. He said it was cruel or some damn vegetable nonsense. Anyways, he up and takes out his horse last night; said he was going camping for a few days—commune with nature, more likely. Damn fool. Always finding some lame or sick animal to bring home and tend. Studying flowers when he should be studying running this ranch.’ Once more, real love and pride shone from the old man’s face as he recited this list of his grandson’s faults. ‘Damn horse has thrown him and skittered off.’
Spike frowned. ‘You have a link with him? You felt this?’
Will scratched his whiskers. ‘Well, we call them cell phones, Sonny, but I guess in heaven you angel types call it a link.’
Spike leant back, his face burning, and refused to contribute again. Angel, suppressing the urge to laugh (something he never thought he’d do again), said, ‘How long will it take for the sheriff to find him?’
‘Well, they’d have to call out that danged helio thingy of theirs. No one seems to have heard of a good sturdy horse these days. Damn technology. Was a time when you could…. Dang whirly bird won’t fly at night, I reckon.’
‘Is he hurt?’
‘Says he’s okay, but he’s a cussed ‘ornery critter when he’s hurt. Even as a young colt—never complained.’
‘We’ll go for him.’
Spike came back into the light, but Angel only repeated, ‘We’ll go.’
There was a soft voice from the bed. ‘Told you so, you old fool.’
It took an hour for Will Caruthers to fit them up with horses, a spare one for the casualty, some guns in case of snakes, a map, and general camping equipment, which they loaded onto the spare horse. Angel skirted around the issue of the daylight, but advised the old man to call the helicopter in as soon it got light. It might well find the boy during the day while they couldn’t. If so, good. He could see Caruther’s relief that they were still riding out, however.
The whole time, Spike hung in the darkest shadows just watching, not commenting on the proceedings.
Angel couldn’t tell, despite his very strong connection to Spike’s moods, what he was thinking.
He wasn’t sure why he’d volunteered them for this. None of the alternatives were very attractive: that he was trying to recapture something; that he was trying to prove it was all changed and that they needed to move on; that he fell naturally into the role of the champion, because that’s what he was at heart, and thus he was validating his rejection of Spike’s love.
He concentrated on straps and instructions, listened to directions, and refused to consider any of these alternatives.
Spike continued to make no contribution as they rode out of the light from the homestead, but his angry silence was the loudest thing in the desert that night. Angel listened to it for a little while then took a breath to try and explain what he had no explanation for. Before he could speak, he stopped, his horse responding to the lightest of touches on the reins.
Spike glanced over, anticipating Angel speaking, readying his angry defences, to find his sire staring up at the sky. For the first time, Spike surfaced from his misery long enough to realise that suddenly, everything was exactly as it had been. All around them was soft darkness, illuminated by unobstructed starlight. A full moon loomed over the land, sending cold glints into Angel’s hair. Here, on the ranch, technology had been halted, and sitting together on their horses, they were overwhelmed by the sense of familiarity.
For one moment, Spike felt the jog of a horse beneath the two of them and the feeling of Angel’s arm holding him as he slept. On the long ride to Molena, sharing a horse, he’d dreamt about the stars but, on waking, had been unable to remember the dream. Now he did. He remembered it quite well. He’d dreamt this. He’d dreamt of them—unchanging under the unchanging stars. They had been born, died, brought back to life and the stars had not changed. It seemed to him that this continuity could continue, if they wanted it to.
Angel turned, smiling shyly. ‘I was gonna try and explain why I wanted to do this. Do I need to now?’
Spike sighed, shook his head resignedly, but asked in a low voice, ‘What does this mean for us now though?’
Angel nudged his horse into a slow walk, silent and thoughtful.
After a moment, Spike allowed his horse to follow.
Nothing was solved, but he had the distinct impression that they’d at least come to the right place to attempt that solution.
When the dawn began to challenge the light from the stars for dominance, they stopped and unpacked the small tent that Angel had insisted Will Caruthers give them. Draped with blankets, it proved almost luxurious compared to some of their previous sanctuaries in this vampire-hostile land.
They shared their rations; more for something to do that didn’t require much speech than for sustenance. Neither having fed their way for over seventy-two hours and with some considerable physical exertion in those hours, they knew chocolate and biscuits would not suffice.
They sucked in their hunger and chewed slowly, trying not to catch the other’s eye. In a five by seven tent, this didn’t prove easy.
As ever in the desert, it began to get hot, especially under the canvass and they soon shed coats. Spike lay down on his side, facing away from Angel. After a moment’s hesitation, Angel lay down on his back, making sure they didn’t touch.
It was oppressive in the tent, the atmosphere almost as bad as the heat.
Suddenly, Angel’s cell phone buzzed, and he answered it with relief, his face quickly falling, however. He snapped it off. ‘Chopper’s been called to another job. It’s just us, after all.’
When there was no response, he said with a hint of petulance in his voice, ‘I’m sorry. Maybe this was all a mistake—me coming with you, this damn….’
‘Do you trust me?’
The question, coming out of nowhere, caught Angel unprepared. He answered unguardedly. ‘Yes. I do now.’
The qualification didn’t faze Spike; it only made the avowal more genuine. Angel wasn’t claiming he’d always trusted him—they both knew this would be a lie. He was saying he trusted him now: a huge difference that Spike was willing to believe.
He rolled over, facing Angel, propped up on one hand.
‘Do you trust me enough to leave this to me? If I said I’d thought of a way we can work this out.’
Angel frowned, his earlier certainty clearly wavering.
Spike pressed on regardless. ‘Do you trust me that much? To let me decide what we do?’
‘Tell me how you think we can….’
‘No. You just have to trust me.’
‘I can’t. I—.’ Angel flung an arm over his eyes. ‘All right. Yes. I do. I trust you that much.’
‘Then I need for you to prove it to me.’
Spike snapped the loop of Angel’s belt out of its buckle.
Angel lowered his arm.
Spike held his gaze. ‘I told you: you can’t trust anyone enough to give them your body.
If you trust me now, then you will. I want you to give your body to me.’
He unbuttoned Angel’s jeans and unzipped them. ‘Do you trust me?’
Angel lifted his hips, and all other trust followed from this tiny gesture. He trusted Spike as his clothes were slowly removed. He trusted Spike as he was pushed over onto his belly. He trusted enough to lift a leg, exposing himself for the first time in his life to anyone’s gaze. He trusted as he heard a zipper, felt a cold push, felt stretch and burn and pain. The trust never wavered and was rewarded by surge after surge of pleasure of a type he’d never felt before. It was as if with every hot thrust into his body, Spike drove out the things Angel had held dear for so long. His body melted under Spike’s, became softer, pliant, receiving. His trust never faltered, even as he sensed these profound changes happening. He was giving his body to Spike like a woman, and yet still, he trusted.
At the peak of the pleasure, they both lost any sense of import in what they were doing. They forgot to think of trust or betrayal or any of the other big issues they wrestled with every day. There was only slap of sweating flesh on flesh, only grunting and panting, only two men taking pleasure from a sexual act.
When the peak was over, once Spike had come noisily and messily deep inside Angel, only then did remembrance of what they were doing return. But by then, Spike didn’t need to repeat do you trust me. He’d had his answer in Angel’s long drawn out moan of pleasure as he’d been filled. He had it now in the way Angel spread wantonly and begged for more. He reached around the perfect body and took Angel’s unsatisfied cock in his hand. With gentle stroking of that, he brought his own back to life deep inside the sopping channel. Gently now, he eased and probed Angel’s spread slickness until with a grunt Angel released, his cum wetting Spike’s fist, staining the canvass floor and filling the tent with the smell of an ocean in this desert of sand.
When they were both recovered, they went at it again, this time with Angel on his back, his legs in the air and Spike’s eyes fixed on him. They were pushing the limits of his trust; they knew this, but they held secure, and when Spike jerked and writhed his orgasm into Angel’s body, this time, Angel’s was in concert. They rocked loudly together in the stifling heat of the tent, pumping fluid into the otherwise arid atmosphere.
They weren’t sated for long. Spike took Angel again as soon as he’d recovered, just entering from behind as they lay curled together.
By the time the sun dipped toward the horizon, he’d taken Angel more times than he had Buffy in that first violent outpouring of passion. Not that he’d been comparing.
The final time, before the darkness came and they had no further excuse for remaining in the tent, he straddled Angel’s chest. He’d intended to take him again, sliding down seductively, grinding them together, but as he began to move, Angel made an odd sound. Spike hesitated and dug his knee in again. Angel hissed his breath in, and for the first time, tried to push him off. Spike’s eyes widened, and he said incredulously, ‘You’re ticklish!’
With a sense of wonder, everything they once had been and now were came together. They wrestled like enemies; they kissed like lovers, but more importantly, they laughed and played as old friends.
It wasn’t hard for Spike to wrestle Angel down and straddle him again: Angel let him. They stopped laughing long enough for Spike to wipe a trickle of sweat from Angel’s forehead—just a quick sweep of the pad of his thumb over the small glistening trail. It should have been an insignificant moment, given all that had gone before, but as he touched Angel’s skin, Spike reeled. All the different definitions of love that were inside his complex brain—love for his mother, gentle and affectionate; love for Drusilla, terrifying in its dark intensity; love for Buffy, painful in its unrequited power—merged. In this integration, something new was born, something far more powerful than any of them had been separately. As he looked down into Angel’s eyes, he knew for the first time that this, for him, was the real thing. This was the one love that he would never grow out of, never forget to want, never want to forget, never be able to survive if it was lost.
He wasn’t sure if Angel divined some of this, but he was caught unprepared by a soft, ‘Tell me how we are going to keep hold of this, Spike, because I can’t let it go now.’
Spike swallowed but shook his head in a silent refusal.
Angel pouted fractionally, which didn’t help Spike recover from the shock of finding himself so deeply in love.
Seeing the effect of his pout, Angel changed the mood by returning to the wrestling and tickling, which only worked because Spike let it.
He could sense darkness claiming the land and with persistent determination, took Angel one last time. He took him on his back, legs in the air, no pride or false modesty left, just a man begging for the pleasure that another man could give him.
He rolled Angel into a ball so the powerful knees pressed into the canvass either side of Angel’s head. When Angel was positioned just so, he stretched out over him like a man in training, press-ups flexed into the positioned hole. He dipped and rose, rose and dipped and at each withdrawal allowed his cock to leave the hole entirely, watching as the pink glistening closed, then dipped to open it once more. Each time, Angel’s sphincter was teased and tickled, stretched and put through its own miniature workout, his prostate throbbing like an over-used muscle, twitching with the strain, swelling with the friction.
Curled so tightly, Angel’s cock brushed his lips. With each dip, Spike grunted with pleasure to watch it slip into the eager mouth. He was jealous, and the jealousy amused him. They’d become so physically close he could almost taste what Angel was tasting and licked his lips seductively, making Angel’s mouth stretch into a smile around the cockhead he was licking and sucking. Spike grunted in annoyance and sped up, pummelling into Angel until the supine body arched and uncurled and screamed its pleasure.
Spike felt his orgasm rushing toward him, and a great collision hit him. It went dark; sounds were muffled; they seemed to be bound together in bindings more powerful than any he’d experienced in an orgasm before. When it was over, he dropped like a stone onto Angel’s chest and groaned. Angel laughed. ‘That good?’
Spike nodded and said weakly, ‘I’m blind.’
Angel poked him. ‘The tent fell down.’
Spike lifted his head and realised they were tangled in the heavy canvass, ropes around their wrists and necks. ‘Oh.’
They crawled out cautiously and discovered it was dark.
Spike waited for a moment to see if things returned to how they had been, to see if inside the tent had been an aberration that Angel would now deny. Moments of crisis—he’d suffered that excuse before.
He glanced over.
They were both naked in the faint starlight.
Angel came closer, handing him some clothes, but snatched them away just before fingers touched them. Off balance, Spike was an easy target. Angel caught him around the waist and kissed him. It was slow, wet and deep. Spike could taste no crisis at all. Angel smiled into the kiss as if reading Spike’s mind and then he slapped him hard on the backside and began to dress.
Spike watched him, and with a stab of utter terror, he saw that Angel now trusted him entirely. The weight seemed off the broad shoulders. Angel stood taller, was smiling and joking about the journey, and he trusted him. Angel trusted him to find a solution. Angel trusted him to solve the immense problems that lay ahead of them.
In a startling flash of insight, Spike’s dream came back to him. He had never doubted that it was a dream, but now he did—doubt. He doubted it a lot. It seemed to him now that it had been a message. It seemed to him that it was a solution of sorts: a way to end this for them both. He could find a way for them to go out together in a blaze of glory, burning far brighter than the sum of their dead parts. He didn’t really know how to solve their problems. Sure, he had a plan. It had seemed like a great plan before he’d taken Angel, before Angel had changed. Before Angel had become this—the one he finally loved with all his great capacity to love. All of Angel’s weight shifted to his shoulders. The burden of finding a solution to their problems was too much for him. He wasn’t the champion; he wasn’t the great hero. All he wanted to do was find a hole and push them both in: freefalling into hell, where the devil could have their souls. They’d go together, and that was all he cared about.
What was the alternative? Failing Angel’s trust. Hell was a far better alternative.
He couldn’t shake the introspective mood that enveloped him on leaving the tent. He knew it was partially due to fatigue and lack of food, so tried to raise a smile at Angel’s expression when his sire climbed unthinkingly into his saddle. It was a picture, and Spike’s smile was half-genuine, remembering the provenance of Angel’s pain, but it didn’t make an inroad on his dark mood. Angel trusted him. It seemed yet another example of being wary what you ask for.
Concerned that the boy had been alone and waiting for them all day while they had their sport, Angel pushed hard to reach the bluff.
If he noticed Spike’s increasingly dark mood, despite what had happened between them in the tent, he ignored it. He had some inkling of its cause. For once, though, he didn’t worry about it. He trusted Spike—what else was trust, if not that? Besides, he was in so much discomfort he really didn’t have time to think about redemption or saving the world or the apocalypse. He wouldn’t have publicly espoused anal sex as a cure for brooding, but it was working for him. Trying to find one comfortable way to sit on the hard saddle—one place that didn’t connect it with something that had been sucked raw, chewed on, stretched, split, thumped, and generally buggered all day—wasn’t proving easy. He ended up dismounting and walking. After his initial tentative smile, Spike had been oblivious to anything he did. Angel let him be. He had a lot on his shoulders, and he needed some space.
Trusting Spike was almost as good as loving him.
They saw the light from the campfire long before they saw the boy.
For a moment, Angel looked anxiously around, considering the danger from Indians. Then, with an internal blush, he cursed and pushed on harder through the scrub.
When they came into the light of the fire, a young man peered at them over some glasses, which had slipped to the end of his nose. He laid down a book and said cheerfully, ‘Hullo! I guess you’re the posse.’
Angel smiled. He felt like smiling at the whole world. It was quite novel, so he did it again. It seemed to take some the boy’s cheerfulness away, and he repeated more nervously, ‘Hullo?’
Angel gave up his attempts to smile (these things took practice) and squatted down alongside the seated figure. ‘You hurt?’
The boy shook his head. ‘Well, maybe my leg.’
Angel pulled it closer then winced and held it more carefully as he saw the bone protruding from the torn jeans. ‘Shit!’
The boy only pouted slightly. ‘I’ve been reading about the history of the bluffs. It’s really cool. Did you know that…?’
‘Spike.’ Angel nodded Spike closer and they inspected the wound together, ignoring the constant chatter. In a low voice, Angel said, ‘Set it?’
Spike nodded, glanced up to the boy, then replied equally quietly, ‘He’ll pass out. With any luck he’ll stay that way till we get back….’
Angel smiled softly at him, and something in Spike’s anxious expression drained away, leaving a rueful look of self-deprecation. He sighed. ‘I’m not made to be a hero. You know that.’
Angel let his hand brush over Spike’s arm. ‘No. I don’t know that. You’re the only one of us who’s saved the world so far. Remember that.’
‘I put on a silly shiny thing like a damn monkey.’
Angel didn’t bother to reply. He took a firm hold the boy’s ankle, nodded for Spike to take the thigh, and then he pulled. Hard.
It was peaceful. Unconscious, the boy made an excellent companion. They fixed a stretcher between two of the horses and strapped him safely on, then doubled up on the remaining one.
They made slow progress.
The boy woke after a few hours and wasn’t so cheerful. He made no complaint, but he was silent, his face extremely pale in the faint starlight.
When they stopped to pitch the tent, he complained for the first time, confused why they were stopped, wanting to press on to somewhere more comfortable.
Spike glanced at Angel then leant close to the boy’s ear as they carried him into the tiny tent. ‘We’re vampires, Mate. Can’t go out in the sun.’
The boy stared at them wildly. ‘Are you good vampires then?’
Spike jerked his head back. ‘It was a joke! I tell everyone I can’t go out in the sun cus I’ve got rare skin, and they say: oh! Vampire! So, I thought…. Never, bloody mind!’
Angel was laughing quietly, squeezed against one side of the tent. He deliberately eased away from the boy, making it very clear where he wanted Spike. Taking the hint, Spike slipped in next to him.
It was peaceful for a few minutes. Angel immediately pushed his hand into the back of Spike’s pants, and Spike responded by pressing back against a growing hardness. It was all they could safely do.
Before they could tip into well-deserved sleep, an animated voice said, ‘Because there could be good vampires. If they had lots of free blood, maybe they’d give up killing people.’
Spike didn’t want to.
He wanted to sleep.
He wanted to concentrate on Angel’s finger, which had just found him and was stroking delightfully. He couldn’t resist, though; it wasn’t in his nature. ‘Suppose they liked killing, Pet. Killing is fun.’
The boy turned wide eyes on him. ‘Have you ever killed anyone?’
Angel growled a low warning, but Spike ignored him. ‘I tried to work it out once. Didn’t get past eight thousand.’
He lost his audience. He got a contemptuous look for his efforts and silence for a few moments. Once more, he closed his eyes.
‘What are you doing?’
Angel eased his hand away. Spike opened his eyes.
The boy was staring at them. ‘You touched him back at the camp, too.’
Spike raised an eyebrow. ‘Tent’s kinda small, Luv. Hard not to touch.’
‘You’re not touching me.’
‘I don’t like you.’
That gained them some peace for another minute. Angel replaced his hand and then his finger.
‘I suppose you eat meat, too.’
Suddenly, Angel spoke for the first time. In a deceptively pleasant voice, he said, ‘Go - to - sleep.’
Spike felt a shiver course down his spine. He gave the boy a complicit wink and closed his eyes. Under the influence of that commanding voice, Spike forgot to think about the burden of his responsibility. With all his worrying, he’d overlooked something very important.
He trusted Angel, too.
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