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Distressed by his easy surrender of Spike’s coat to Wesley, Angel went slowly back up to his apartment, guilt making his steps heavy. He felt guilty about Fred—about not wanting Spike to do this to save her. He felt guilty about Spike—thinking of the huge betrayal Wesley was engineering below. He was guilty for his treatment of Wesley, who had no memory of his own betrayals. Mixed in with his guilt about Wesley was a large slice of confusion over the man’s reaction to the deal: minor concession.
Once again, Angel felt out of time—a relic from another age where these things were very different. That casual acceptance of the thing Spike was to do separated him from Wesley. They may look the same age, seem outwardly similar men, but they weren’t.
Angel lay down on the bed and closed his eyes to the unwelcome memories his reverie had sparked.
His father’s shoulders had been bony and hard to sit on, but he’d been boosted up to get a better view of what he had been told was a sodomite dying, this new word puzzling him.
They had gagged the man, and some of the women watching alongside them had cackled that this was so he could not scream out his filthy perversions. His father had refused to explain the word perversion, so to six year old Liam, it became versions, and he wondered for many weeks—still traumatised by what he had seen—what version of all this the man would have cried out, if he could.
He had not been able to see what was being done, except that the men holding the man down had been pouring something from a pot kettle like the one his mother used to boil rags. When he had asked, his father had told him they were filling him up where he liked it, and a woman had laughed.
The smell of burning flesh had reached him even though they stood thirty feet from the platform. After a while, he had closed his eyes and put his face into his father’s hair. He had no understanding of what was happening, except they had held the man up, and he was naked, and the shy boy in him had felt sad for this friendless man.
Where he was not red with blood, he was black, the colour of whatever it was they had poured into him. The gag was still clean though, and this memory had terrified Liam for many weeks, the fear that they had poured something into the man’s ears making his ache in sympathy.
With his face pressed into his father’s protection, he heard a woman whisper, ‘They never found the other one.’
His father had replied, ‘They say he would not give up the name, despite….’
Liam had opened his eyes and watched the woman: her furtive glances toward the naked man on the stage, her blushes, which seemed even to Liam, young as he was, more excitement than shame. When she glanced around the crowd, he did too, wondering what she was looking for. ‘They say he’ll come to watch—that he won’t be parted, even in death.’
His father had shaken his head. ‘How could you watch this if you had been…?’
Liam had continued to study the crowd though, looking around for the other one—the other sodomite. Perhaps if he could see one not bleeding and dying he might understand what it meant.
There were fewer men than women watching. The old ones he discounted. This was a man they couldn’t find: he was handsome and daring and possibly had a black horse.
There were none like that.
He might have missed him altogether, except at that moment, in reaction to whatever was happening on the stage, the crowd let up a collective cry of satisfaction—except one man. This man closed his eyes and covered his face with one hand.
Liam turned to look at the stage, curious to see what the man could not bear to see. One of the captors was holding something up to the crowd. It appeared to be a sausage, and Liam had turned back to see why this distressed the man, but he was gone.
The women next to them had remarked then that they would bury the man without his cock, so, she claimed, he could not practice sodomy again, even in hell.
Angel shifted uncomfortably on the bed. He still remembered the icy flood of comprehension that had washed through him at the woman’s coarse words, still remembered how he’d jerked his face back to the stage, how he’d seen things—some of them—for what they were.
He still had a vivid recollection of his vomit spraying out over his father, into the greying hair, splattering the women standing next to them. He remembered the consternation, the anger, the shouting. What he could not remember, for the child he had been had not thought to look, was where the man was—the one who had been dismembered in public, his penis held up like a trophy to a God who reviled his definition of love. That, he could not remember, for as a child, he had been lost to a haze of vomit and crying and snot that had overtaken him until he had been carried home to his mother’s care.
So, Angel wasn’t quite as ready to accept this thing that Wesley seemed to find so trivial. He wasn’t ready for Spike to become a sodomite, and he wasn’t ready to be in the crowd again, watching Spike being sent agonisingly to hell for something their world had deemed worthy only of that fate.
He heard the elevator and had a moment of pure elation that it was Spike come to say he’d changed his mind.
It was Wesley. He came in, the coat draped over his arm and a small silver device in his hand, the size of a cell phone.
Angel swung his legs off the bed and nodded to the living room. He took the coat and inspected it. ‘Where is it?’
Angel looked at them but could see no difference between them.
‘Put it over there.’ Wesley nodded at a table in the far corner of the room.
Angel walked it over, and Wesley flicked a switch in the device. Angel pouted. ‘What now…?’ His voice came out loudly from the device in Wesley’s hand.
‘It’s got two gigs of memory. More than enough.’
Angel nodded as if he understood this. ‘Turn it….’ He stopped. He didn’t want anything he had to say about any of this recorded for posterity.
When he saw it was off, Angel came over, holding out his hand. ‘Show me.’
‘I’ll work it, Angel. There’s no need….’
‘No. I’m the only one who’ll be listening.’
‘No! I want to hear about Fred!’
‘You will—but just that.’
Wesley held his gaze a little too long and a little too knowingly. Angel looked away.
‘Why don’t you let me do this for you, Angel? I can’t imagine what it would be like, listening to….’
Angel gave a bitter smile. ‘Don’t worry, if it gets too much for me, I’ll close my eyes and put a hand over my face.’
‘Nothing. Show me how it works.’
Wesley nodded reluctantly. ‘Switch up—it’s on. Down—off. When it’s on, you press here to record. The red light in the display shows you it’s recording. To download, you dock it….’
‘You what it?’
‘Dock? USB…. Okay, that bit I will do. You tell me where the part I want is… see the time read-out here, on the display.’
‘How do you wind it back to the beginning?’
It was Wesley’s turn to look mystified. ‘Wind it back?’
‘If I want to listen….’
‘It’s digital, Angel.’
‘Oh. So… it doesn’t have a beginning?’
‘Uh huh. You put a time code in here. Right… put zeros in here…. That will… wind it back.’
Angel nodded, turning the device around in the palm of his hand.
‘I’m afraid there may be one flaw in our plan. It would have been better had we had something more personal of Spike’s: some jewellery perhaps. It’s very possible he’ll shed the coat as soon as he….’
‘Don’t worry. He’ll….’ Angel faltered, so went to pour a drink and downed it in one. When he was steadier, he finished, ‘He’ll keep his coat on as long as he can. It’s his….’ He heard security blanket in his mind, but out loud said, ‘Talisman.’
‘Right. Well, I’ll leave you. Are you going to take it over?’
‘No. He’ll come here before he….’
‘Are you sure? He might decide to just….’
‘He won’t be coming just for the coat.’
Wesley didn’t attempt to reply to this. He just nodded and left.
Angel wanted to rip the buttons off, stamp on the device, but as he held it up to hurl across the room, he saw Fred, clear as day, as if she stood there bemoaning the waste of such pretty technology.
Perhaps it was a small sacrifice to make to bring her back. This wasn’t seventeen thirty-three. He wasn’t six. Now he understood all the words he ever needed to understand.
Once more, he heard the elevator, and he slipped the device into his pocket. It had an unfortunate effect on the front of his pants, so he hastily pulled it out and put it under the covers of his bed. By the time Spike strode in, his pants were a funny shape again anyway, so he kept his back to the room.
‘I’ve come for me coat, Pillock.’
Angel waved at it.
‘It better not be….’ Spike sniffed it suspiciously and made a small sound of annoyance.
Angel casually pulled his shirt out of his pants and turned. He let out a small breath. Spike was wearing tight, black leather pants and a white shirt. He had numerous rings and chains, and his hair was wet and spiky, some kind of gel making it glisten.
He was utterly…. Angel downed the rest of his drink and tried to keep his voice steady. ‘You found something to wear then.’
Spike nodded. ‘So… you gonna phone him…? It’s six.’
‘You’re the boss. You’re making the deal.’
Spike looked mutinous but oddly curious at the same time, as if he was waiting to see if Angel would actually do it.
Suddenly sick of all the anticipation, Angel strode to the phone and buzzed down to Harmony. She put him through.
‘Ingram?’ He kept his gaze fixed directly on Spike.
‘Angel! I was half-expecting you to come in person. I’m rather relieved.’
‘Cut the small talk. We’re agreeing to your terms.’
‘I can’t feign surprise. I knew you would.’
‘Ingram. Bear in mind that I am an unfortunate enemy to make. The deal is one night in exchange for the information to enable us to retrieve Fred. I expect my… colleague… to be returned tomorrow totally unharmed. Do I make myself clear?’
‘Angel… Angel… I flatter myself perhaps, but my guess is he’ll be back here tomorrow night and many nights to come.’
‘What?’ Angel faltered, aware he’d lost the command that he demanded in every situation.
‘I intend to make this a very pleasurable experience for us both. Now, tell him to head over….’ Angel wasn’t listening. He was staring at Spike, picturing the pleasure.
He felt a gulf opening up between them, separating them, taking Spike away from him.
The man was still talking, so he interrupted. ‘Give the directions to my assistant.’ He transferred him back to Harmony.
‘What did he say?’
Angel pouted. ‘Harmony has the directions.’
‘Sod the bloody directions. What did he say about…?’
Angel smashed the phone off the table. ‘He said you’d enjoy it, Spike. He said you’d fucking enjoy it and go back for more.’ He stormed into his bedroom and slammed the door.
The tiny lump under the covers whispered evilly to him. Once more, he pictured smashing it and got as far as picking it up, but he turned it on instead.
‘Fucking anally retentive arsehole!’
He reeled back and stared at the device. ‘You….’ Suddenly, he panicked that voices went both ways but cursed his stupidity. He set the thing on the bed and sat alongside it.
‘The prick said you had directions.’
‘Spikey! You look… you bastard! Who is she?’
‘Fuck off, Bimbo, and give me the sodding directions.’
‘The new client…? Ingram?’
‘Why are you going there dressed like…?’
There was a rustle, a ping and then some shuffling. ‘Hi ya, Spike.’
‘You could say that.’
‘Broody-balls working you late again, huh?’
‘I don’t work for Angel. I come and go as I please.’
‘Oh, sure thing. Later….’
There was a ping and some more shuffling, which Angel now recognised as the elevator doors shutting, then the striking of a match.
‘I need to leave this fucking place.’
Angel was tempted to make a reply to this, but didn’t want to appear that foolish.
Once more, elevator doors swished, and then things sounded… echoing. ‘Now, which car would he least like me taking...? Oh… yeah.’
There was a sound of an engine, and Angel murmured, ‘You bastard,’ as his Camero sparked to life.
There was silence for a while, just the sounds of background traffic barely distinguishable. Some music came on. After a few minutes, Spike began to sing along. Angel picked the device up. He’d never heard this before—Spike’s singing usually raucous and designed for maximum irritation. Now he was soft and tuneful, effortlessly picking out a harmony and singing it beneath the tune. After a moment’s hesitation, Angel pressed the record button—just to test to see if it worked.
Suddenly, the singing stopped. There was a sound of crunching gravel, and the car stopped. Angel heard another match, then something harsher—possibly the sound of a hand slamming into the wheel. A few moments more, after a sniff, Spike said, ‘I can’t do this.’ It was whispered, but it seemed very loud to Angel.
He swallowed and held the silver device to his mouth, as if it were a phone and could say something to Spike. There was a rustle, then the sound of things being punched, and then, suddenly, Angel’s cell phone rang. He stared at it in utter confusion, but before he could snatch it up, it stopped, and he heard a corresponding snap from the device. After another sniff, Spike said softly, ‘Yeah, like… not. I can hear that fucking conversation already. You sodding bastard, Angel! Why do you do this to me? Why can’t you just…?’ Angel craned forward to hear what it was he should do; he even shook the device, until he blushed and dropped it down. The car started again and different music came on—something loud.
Angel went into the living room to pace. If he couldn’t listen to this, how was he going to bear what was to come? For a moment, he considered taking Wesley up on his offer to listen in his place, but dismissed it quickly—he’d done enough betrayal for one evening.
What would he have said if he had answered that call? What did Spike want him to say? Don’t do this because—
The completion of that because whispered too inarticulate a need to overcome the louder one: Fred.
What was his need compared to hers?
What was some vague desire that crept upon him whenever he was with Spike compared to his desire for Fred’s safe return?
The music stopped, and so, apparently, had the car. There was a loud, ‘Shit,’ and another rustle. ‘Harm?’
‘You sure this is the right place?’
‘Where are you?’
‘Where you sent me, you Bint.’
‘It’s fucking Buck House, that’s what!’
‘Is that a rival law firm?’
Angel smiled softly at Spike’s pause. He could actually see his face contorted in disbelief. There was a click as the phone was apparently snapped off then a buzz.
‘Just fucking open the friggin’ gates, Ingram.’
Angel frowned. He’d never heard fear and vulnerability in Spike’s cursing before, but when he listened now, not distracted by the physical presence, he realised they had always been there. It startled him to think he’d taken Spike too much at face value.
He retrieved the device from the bed, grabbed a bottle of whisky and a glass, and ensconced himself on the couch.
A door opened. ‘Well, hello.’
‘Least you could do is invite me in properly.’
‘Oh! Sure, come in.’
Angel smiled softly, wondering if Spike was, too.
‘You look… incredible.’
‘Yeah, I’m seeing someone important when I’ve finished with this shit.’
Ingram laughed. ‘Your name suits you. You’re very… prickly.’
Angel bristled for Spike and then heard a snarky, ‘I got this due to a nasty habit with railroad spikes. Wanna hear the story?’
‘Sure, why not? I’ve got nasty habits, too. Drink?’
‘Let me take your coat.’
‘No. Nice place you’ve got. Showy. Cheap. Suits you.’ Angel frowned and thought of Fred, wondering how much of Spike’s humour Ingram would tolerate.
‘You’re not even gonna try and be nice, are you?’ The man actually sounded amused.
‘Look, Mate, I’m not nice to people I love, so no, to scumbags like you? Sorry.’
Angel sat forward. ‘Ask him who he loves!’
‘Who do you love, Spike? Tell me.’ Angel could have kissed him.
There was a small laugh. ‘Everyone I love is dead.’
‘Like you then….’
Angel cursed, too alarmed at this to pick apart Spike’s last comment.
‘Okay. So you know.’
‘And you’re not afraid?’
‘You could kill me. But then every trick I’ve ever invited into my house could, too. So, no.’
‘Well, ain’t that just peachy. So, let’s get this thing on, yeah? Cus, like I say, I’ve got more important things to be doing.’
The tension in Spike’s words was so evident to Angel, listening to his disembodied voice, that he could not believe Ingram didn’t hear it, too.
‘I have you all night. No need to rush things. Sit down. Make yourself at home. Tell me about Angel; I’m curious about him.’
Spike and Angel both said at the same time, ‘Huh?’
‘Angel. I was surprised he took the deal.’
‘Join the fucking club.’
‘You sound bitter. From my experience, only personal feelings being hurt can lead to that level of bitterness.’
The glass shattered in Angel’s hand, and cursing, he sucked a drip of blood as he craned forward to hear.
‘Well, I’m a vampire, so I don’t have those.’
‘But you expected him to try and stop you?’
‘Maybe. Maybe he did try—in his own way.’
‘I supposed even the incorruptible can be… corrupted.’
‘I wouldn’t have been.’
Angel’s sucking turned to biting, and he made the wound on his finger considerably worse.
‘I’m not with you. Another drink?’
‘If you’d wanted Angel instead of me, I’d have stopped him.’
Angel let his hand fall from his lips, blood now dripping inexorably onto the tiled floor.
‘Do you have that much power over him?’
Spike suddenly laughed. ‘I guess not. I’d have given it a bloody good shot though.’
‘Why? Why do you care?’
Angel heard the clink of ice; it was very quiet, but he could have heard a proverbial pin drop, so intently was he listening for this reply.
He heard a soft laugh. ‘Good question. I ask myself that every day.’
‘And what do you reply?’
Angel couldn’t have put it better.
‘As if I’m going to tell you that.’
‘You’ve known him a very long time. Since he sired you.’
‘You’re a bloody mine of useless info, aren’t you?’
‘I know everything about you. As I told Angel: information is my passion.’
‘And here I was thinking you’d been lusting after my irresistible body.’
Ingram laughed. ‘Oh, believe me, I am. Speaking of which….’
There was a rustle. Angel hunched forward painfully. There was soft, ‘Don’t.’
Ingram said, ‘It’s what you’re here for.’
The voices seemed to come from slightly further away, as if the coat had been dropped to the floor. ‘Fuck. You are beautiful.’
‘Just do it—don’t talk about it.’
‘Just a corpse, Ingram. I’m a demon inhabiting the body of a man who died a long time ago. Fuck dead flesh if you want.’
Angel whispered, ‘Clever,’ and hoped somehow Spike would hear him.
‘I’ve never seen leather pants look more beautiful on anyone—but take them off.’
Angel knew the sound of leather sliding off skin. He could picture every inch.
‘No. I’m not going to….’
‘One night. Able and willing.’
‘How can you do this? When you know I’d rather kill you than kiss you?’
‘It adds spice, Spike. It’s why I sought you out—a demon but one with a soul—a soul that enables you to love. Now, kiss me.’
Angel sprang up, a huge surge of feeling making the cramped position he was in unbearable.
His mind would not conjure an image from the sounds of lips on lips, fingers tugging on hair, bodies pressed together. He dashed a hand across his eyes and kicked viciously at a table, sending it crashing across the room.
‘What was that?’
Angel turned and held very still at Spike’s hushed comment.
‘What was what? Besides my heart pounding….’
‘Nothing. I thought I heard….’
‘Can I get dressed now?’
‘Of course not. As much as I liked the leather, I prefer you naked. So, tell me, am I the first man you’ve ever kissed?’
Angel jerked his head around then sat down abruptly.
‘But Angelus never used his tongue—I’ll give you that.’
The surge of relief that washed through Angel’s body actually left him shaking.
‘Angelus. Ah, Angel before…. You and Angel? Now, that I didn’t know. That changes things. Or maybe not….’
‘Not like that. Angelus was… expansive with his affection. He kissed lots of things.’
Ingram’s next comment was not made with such wry amusement. ‘You were thinking about Angel while I kissed you.’ Angel crowed and stamped his feet rapidly.
Spike laughed. ‘I’m always thinking about Angel. See, that’s the one flaw in your plan, human. I’m here, I’m willing, and I’m very, very able. But… see… I’ll be willing and able because I’ll be pretending I’m fucking Angel. You can own my body for a night; you won’t ever own my soul.’
Angel crashed out of his apartment. He picked up speed as he hit the lobby and got the address from Harmony. By the time he was driving, he was illegal. It was only as he was negotiating the city traffic that he realised he’d forgotten to bring the device—that he could no longer hear what was happening. He cursed and slammed his hand into the wheel, his driving only becoming worse.
It took him over an hour to reach his destination.
He didn’t hesitate at the gates, but scaled them as easily as a pro-athlete would take a hurdle.
It was only when he hit the ground—the first pause he’d made since hearing Spike’s declaration—that he realised he was trapped: he could not explain to Spike why he was here, without telling him what he had done. Spike had not made that confession to him (he had apparently made very sure over the last hundred years or so not to give any hint of how he felt); he had confessed to a stranger.
When the human finally fell asleep, Spike rolled from the bed and dragged on his pants. Leather was never easy to pull over sticky skin, and he gave up the attempt to fasten them, leaving them gaping as he lit a cigarette and wandered out through the French windows.
He sat on a low wall and tipped his head back, admiring stars that he couldn’t really see but liked to remember as he’d seen them most of his life—before city lights obscured them.
The cigarette was the best thing he’d tasted all night, which wasn’t saying much.
It was amazing how he could not think about things he didn’t want to think about by the simple expedient of thinking a stream of useless trivia. He smiled bitterly: Angel would accuse him of babbling, even in his head. He frowned deeply. Angel was not something he wanted to think about. He’d tried that for five minutes, when it had begun—the touching and kissing and other things that he still wasn’t thinking about—but had quickly had to banish Angel from his thoughts. Something was being spoilt that should remain… unsullied. Yeah… babbling.
If Angel was here now, he’d….
‘What the fuck!’ Spike never jumped. He was dead and too cool, but he dropped his cigarette into his open jeans. That explained the leap into the air and the cursing. That and the fact that Angel had appeared out of the darkness, as if conjured by his thoughts. ‘What the fuck are you doing here, you pervert?’
‘Oh! This is great! We have yet another non-conversation about something neither of us will name, and all the while…. Shit, what was that?’
Angel looked up toward the house. ‘A gun….’ They both ran toward the lighted bedroom and skidded to a halt just inside the open doors.
Spike winced. ‘Oh, Christ.’
The arc of blood belied the fact that a body only carries eight pints. It began at Ingram’s now unrecognisable head and sprayed up and across the wall, a glorious display of death. The vampires swallowed hard and tried not to harden with demonic need.
Angel went forward and peered to one side of the bed. ‘Gun.’
Spike didn’t reply; he was staring at what was left of Ingram’s face.
Angel straightened. ‘Did he tell you? Spike? Spike? Did he tell you?’
Angel cursed and went back to Spike, leading him into another room. He wasn’t at all sure whether he liked this apparent display of shock.
‘Did he tell you about Fred?’
Spike’s eyes didn’t appear to focus, but he shook his head. ‘He was going to… it’s not morning…. We had other things we wanted to try…. I mean….’ He trailed off, and Angel wasn’t in any mood to prompt that confession.
He turned angrily. ‘Illyria.’
‘Yeah, in the morning…. He was going to tell….’
‘No. She was here. It must have been her.’
Spike wrapped his arms around his bare chest. ‘I’m so cold.’
Angel frowned and wanted to shake him slightly. It wasn’t as if he’d really known the man; it wasn’t as if Spike wasn’t a freaking vampire! He gave Spike the benefit of the doubt though and fetched the remainder of his clothes where they trailed over the floor toward the bed.
Keeping his mind in neutral, trying not to recreate scenes in his mind, trying even more desperately not to anticipate listening to these scenes later on, he dressed Spike.
‘We need to get out of here.’
Spike didn’t respond, so Angel took him by the arm and pulled him toward the door.
When they got out into the night air once more, Spike seemed to revive slightly. He plunged his hands into the pocket of his duster, effectively shaking Angel’s hand off. ‘What the fuck are you doing here? Did I ask you that already?’
‘Oh, yeah. That’s right. Flash back. So, I ask you, you stutter and stammer and we get to the sum of….’
‘I—. Listen… we had to know what Ingram said, Spike. Wesley said it was vital that if he told you, and something happened—like it fucking has by the looks of it—that we had it on… tape.’
‘On tape….’ Spike stopped and put his hand on the gate for a moment. It was too dark to see the expression in his eyes, but Angel frowned at something in his posture.
‘Are you okay?’ He really didn’t want to hear the answer to that.
‘Yes. But the point I’m making is that I heard….’
‘You heard. You heard? You heard!’
‘I heard you say that you’d be thinking about me.’
Spike pushed off the gate and went toward the car. A car drove slowly past, its lights on main beam, and Angel let out a small cry at the extreme pallor of Spike’s face. ‘Shit! Are you…?’
‘Spike! I’m trying to tell you: that’s why I’m here. When I heard you say that, I kinda….’
Spike began to run. He dodged past Angel and across the street just in front of another car, and before Angel could catch him, he was lost in the darkness of the woods opposite. Angel called out for him for sometime, the last image of Spike’s mind burnt into his memory. For one brief second, as the lights had swept over him, Spike had looked like a different person.
Angel could not shake the sinking feeling in his gut that he had lost another member of his team.
Go to Chapter 4
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