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Spike felt as he had the night Angel had taken him. Everything hurt, and he was lost—literally, as he staggered around dying; and metaphorically as he could no longer connect to what he had been. All he could hear in his head was the sounds they’d made together. He and Ingram, he and Angel—fucking, dying: it was all the same in the end.
Panting became real when he realised he’d been running. Pain became real when he realised he’d fallen. He rolled over onto his back, but scrunched up again, hugging his belly. It was on fire, and he could not escape the pain.
He sensed someone near and groaned softly, ‘Angel?’
The presence came closer. ‘Not yet, Sonny Boy. One day, maybe. Now, what’s wrong with you, pretty one, eh?’
He felt hands on him, taking his coat and his boots, and cried out weakly in protest. Why couldn’t he rise and fight? Was he dead? He knew he was, but he remembered power. Perhaps he’d been dreaming: a lifetime of power all a dream. He was still weak and dying, and Angel had taken him. ‘Angel?’ It was all he could think of to say; he’d been thinking that name for hours.
‘Told you, Sonny Boy: you’re the one ‘bout to be an angel. Say one for me when you get there.’
He was left in the dirt, and he was so cold. He was shivering as if he was cold; so why was he so hot? He could feel his skin clammy and wet. Or was that cum? He’d been splattered with a lot of that, and swallowed it, and taken it inside him. Was that why he was hot? He should have held out for cold cum. Angel’s wouldn’t have made him sick.
He retched weakly into the dirt and tried to stand. When he walked, he cut his bare foot on something, and it hurt. More blood spilt. Where had he seen blood tonight? It seemed like a long time ago he’d seen his blood over the walls of that house. No, Ingram’s blood, not his.
He had to get home. Sick animals go home to die. Which way was home? It seemed to him it was two ways, both contradictory, but one way pulled him more than the other, so he staggered toward where his sense took him: somewhere out of the sunlight that threatened. Whatever else he was, had been, would become soon, the sunlight was a threat. Old instincts die hard. He’d died hard. Dying was hard.
Angel drove around the area for a long time, until he realised that he wouldn’t find Spike. Cursing, he screeched the car around and headed back to the office. He would know exactly where Spike was soon. Two gigs—he had no idea what that meant, he only hoped it meant the damn device was still listening. It had torn them apart; it would bring them back together again as well.
He tore up through the now empty offices to his apartment.
It was sitting on the table where he’d left it. He snatched it up and held it, half expecting Spike to just speak and tell him where he was. ‘Come on! Where are you, Spike?’
‘Give it t’me!’ Angel held the sound away. That wasn’t Spike’s voice.
‘‘S mine! Nice coat. Mine now.’ Another voice—not Spike’s either.
It was inconceivable that Spike had lost his coat. Yet… it appeared that he had. Over thirty years of caring for one thing more than any other, and he’d lost it. But he’d just lost something he’d cared about for over one hundred years—Angel guessed it was the night for losing precious items.
He called the Special Ops team—he’d made sacrifices for all this power, might as well use it.
Frustrated that he couldn’t help the search for Spike, that the daylight kept him impotent inside, he went down to find Wesley, the device, with all of its secrets, safely in his pocket.
Wesley was in his habitual place, watching Illyria. Angel tried to stay calm at the intense, hopeful look Wesley cast at him. ‘Illyria killed the human—before he could tell us.’
Wesley’s face registered shock, then anger, but then confusion. ‘We were here all night—together.’
Angel hesitated. ‘Is it possible she can be in two places at once?’
Wesley paled slightly. ‘You actually saw her there last night?’
‘Well… no… only, who else? We were outside; there was a shot. Someone had blown his head off, Wes.’
Wesley pursed his lips. ‘And you ruled out suicide?’
Angel laughed. ‘What? After fucking Spike? Yeah, that’s likely… I mean…. I didn’t think of that.’
Wesley looked as amused as his bleak mood would allow. ‘So I gather. What did Spike say? Did he see it coming? So to speak….’
Angel didn’t hear the save; he was pacing, playing Spike’s reaction back in his mind. ‘He was weird—even for him. He seemed shocked—but that’s not possible. He’s done worse things than that to people….’
‘But possibly not to people he’d got to know… care for even…?’
Angel didn’t want to admit that this had occurred to him, too.
Wesley didn’t push. He added, ‘What does he say now? Now he’s had time to….’
‘He ran off. I’ve got people looking for him.’ He added, as if it were inconsequential—as if he could thus make it inconsequential, ‘He’s become separated from his coat.’
Wesley didn’t catch on that he was supposed to support this fiction of irrelevance. ‘Oh, that’s not good. That’s not like him.’ He then caught Angel’s expression and had the sense to say no more.
After a few moments of watching Illyria, he said, ‘It would have recorded the death. Maybe the solution is already in our hands.’
Angel started and touched his pocket.
Wesley frowned. ‘You have listened to it?’
Angel pouted. ‘Not… all of it….’ He did not need to explain his reluctance. Wesley went back to studying his obsession and left Angel to come to terms with his own.
Angel turned and went back upstairs, calling for a sitrep from Spec Ops. Still nothing.
He poured a large drink—ignoring the early hour—and downed it before switching on the device and trying to remember how to wind it back.
He flung himself on his back on the bed fully clothed to listen.
When Spike stopped the car on the side of the road for his small crisis, Angel wished he could go back in time… leap up… arrive at the house before… stop what had happened—all of it.
He had heard tension and disgust in Spike’s voice the first time through, now he heard grief as well. It tore at him: hearing this and knowing he was powerless to intervene; but worse, knowing that he hadn’t intervened when he’d had the power.
All too soon, it reached the point where Spike told Ingram that he loved his sire. Or this was how Angel heard it. It’s how he’d heard it the first time; he’d not revised his opinion, despite Spike’s reaction to his dramatic arrival.
From that point on, what he heard was new. He’d heard these sounds before of course—even from Spike, as face-to-face, they’d taken their hapless victims between them. He could not help then but see and hear Spike’s orgasms—feel them too, through women’s dying bodies.
Oh, but this was different. This was new. This was so much harder to hear. He flung an arm over his eyes, gritting his teeth as he heard protest stifled, a moan—of pleasure or pain, he could not tell—a laugh, which he could interpret, then furious sounds of fucking that blended between all of these.
Spike did not speak at all, other than the occasional swear word. Ingram was more vocal—much more, but Angel tuned out most of his contribution, listening desperately for lower, more strained sounds.
Gradually, tears rolling down his cheeks with shame and guilt, Angel unfastened his pants and slid his hand down to touch himself. The wet slap slapping from the tape made his touch clumsy and urgent. He beat his prick to the sounds of the couple’s vigorous sex. If Spike was thinking of him, then it seemed fitting, for Angel was there.
He laid his hands over the hard flesh, poked into the resilient body, took Ingram’s pleasure to be his own. His voice mingled with Spike’s, equally low and urgent, equally full of obscene comment on the action, and equally as justified.
Their sweat mingled, a prelude to other releases that would slick between them, join their flesh. Angel buried his face into the crook of his arm—now Spike’s neck—to see if he could catch traces of Spike’s scent. Of course he could—a hundred years of intimate acquaintance danced in his mind like flowers, releasing the pollen of memory: Spike laughing, running down an alley, human blood on his breath; Spike lolling naked in bed, sated, refusing his entreaties to leave the woman they’d taken; Spike grieving, his ability to feel loss never muted by his lack of a soul; Spike passionate, challenging him, fighting, clawing his way up into his sire’s notice. Spike, Spike, Spike—a scratch on his retina, an irritant, forever marking his view of life.
When Spike came—for the first time—the sound was unmistakable. Angel exploded, shaking, panting and arching off the bed, his powerful body too constrained in the clothes, aching to be free to feel hot flesh for real. When he came down, it had begun again, but he was finished: pitched too low and unable to draw himself back from black despair he’d fought against since losing Fred. He cried for her. He cried for Spike. Most of all, though, he cried for himself: for being so utterly unable to admit that somewhere along the way what he actually was had diverged from what he appeared to be: a split begun as a six year old child gradually coming to understand the necessity for that divergence. He cried for the hopelessness of knowing that those paths were so far apart now he doubted his ability to draw them back together.
Now he saw that he had always held onto the possibility that Spike would be the bridge between his extremes, but it appeared that Spike had now gone on a path of his own, quite separate to the ones that defined Angel’s life.
He lay in the bed drained and exhausted, listening to Spike and Ingram begin and end, begin and end. As the man had said, he had a lot of energy. He had clearly found a good partner in Spike.
Eventually, he came to the part where it went silent: Spike presumably walking into the garden, Ingram…. Ingram speaking fast and low, incoherent. Were these the words of a man about to kill himself? Angel could not equate this mumbling man with the one he had listened to enjoying Spike so fully. It seemed as though he was the same, however, for at last it came: the powerful blast that ended Ingram’s life. Once more, Angel could smell the blood, and as ever, he hardened to that inevitable delight. He had no spirit for pleasure and rose off the bed, willing his erection away and stripping his stained clothing off.
He had no wish to hear his own voice on the recording, either, so he snapped the device off and showered quickly.
The call from Special Ops came as he was drying off.
It was precise and short. ‘We’ve found him, Sir.’
Angel gave his commands swiftly and jogged down to the basement to await their arrival.
He expected Spike to be… unwilling? embarrassed? angry? He did not expect him to be delirious and restrained. He did not expect him to be burning up. He did not expect any of this at all. He stayed in command though and took the thrashing, incoherent figure. He carried him up to his apartment and laid him on the bed. His feet were lacerated as if he’d walked over glass. His once white shirt was filthy and sodden, the leather pants ripped. Angel was more worried about the wounds he couldn’t perceive.
He stripped Spike and dragged him into the shower, ignoring his own clothes as he held him under a stream of cleansing water. He could not believe how hot Spike felt and, on instinct, turned the shower to cold. It seemed to make no difference to the temperature of Spike’s skin.
Once he was clean, Angel put Spike back into the bed. He was either asleep or unconscious—it was hard to tell—and Angel stepped away from the bed for a moment to change and summon Wesley.
The human arrived with Illyria. Angel narrowed his eyes at her, covered Spike’s body more carefully and stood with his arms folded alongside the bed. ‘What the fuck is happening, Wesley? Vampire’s can’t get… sick.’
‘You did. When Faith poisoned you.’
Illyria looked interested, her blue eyes fixed, Huskey-like, on Angel. Angel felt a prick of alarm that she’d heard this chink in his armour, but shook off the sense of foreboding that the whole conversation gave him. ‘You think Spike’s been poisoned? That Ingram poisoned him?’
‘It’s possible. He wanted to sleep with him, so I’m afraid I have no confidence in his judgement.’
‘Ingram poisons Spike then kills himself—what? Out of regret? That’s ridiculous.’
At that moment, Spike’s eyes flew open, and he said distinctly, ‘It hurt.’
Illyria’s eyes widened, and she turned slowly to look behind her.
For the first time in over two centuries the hairs on the back of Angel’s neck stood up at this slow turn, and however hard he tried, he could not help but look in the direction she did, seeking the ghosts she seemed to see. He swallowed. ‘What?’
She turned back and tipped her head on one side. ‘Pain is relative.’
Angel cursed softly, annoyed by her cryptic nonsense. He sat on the edge of the bed and felt Spike’s forehead with the back of his hand. ‘Spike?’
Spike’s eyes swivelled to his. ‘Angel?’
Angel smiled. ‘Welcome back.’
‘I’m not there yet.’
Angel frowned. ‘Where?’
Spike closed his eyes and appeared to go back to sleep.
Angel turned his head to the human. ‘Bring your instruments, Wes. Take a blood sample and find this fucking poison.’
Wesley nodded and turned.
Angel turned his gaze on Illyria. ‘Stay away from Spike.’
She smiled enigmatically. ‘That will be unproblematic.’
Angel dismissed her from his presence and his mind, and went back to staring at Spike.
It was only when he wondered where he was going to sleep and picked up a pillow to take to the couch that he noticed that the device was missing. A fruitless search of the bed confirmed the absence. He would have gone down to speak to Wesley, but when he looked up, a pair of startlingly blue eyes was watching him. ‘Where am I?’
‘In my bed.’
‘Oh. That’s a first then, I’m thinking.’
‘You’re sick. I’m making allowances.’ He smiled to soften the words.
Spike smiled back. ‘I feel like shit.’
Angel sat alongside him, trying not to notice the way the sweat glistened Spike’s skin. ‘Did he put something in the drink? You’ve been poisoned.’
Spike pouted. ‘Why do you think this happened at his place? Maybe… later?’
‘I lost my damn coat.’
‘When you ran off? Spike, what happened? I heard voices….’
Spike’s eyes narrowed fractionally. ‘Heard how?’
Angel frowned. ‘I told you…. We had to record you with Ingram. We had to find out what he knew.’
‘You recorded...?’ Spike tried to sit up and fell back, too weak to support himself.
Angel cursed silently and wished he’d been quicker to seize the opportunity to avoid Spike hearing this again. ‘It’s kinda why you ran off, I guess.’
Spike shrugged. ‘Oh, yeah. I remember. God, I’m so hot! Feel….’ He lifted Angel’s hand and put it over his forehead. Angel hesitated then stretched his fingers and ran it through the sweat-dampened hair.
‘I’ll get a cloth.’
Spike’s hand flew back and grasped his wrist. ‘Don’t go.’
Angel pouted but did not take his hand away.
‘Thanks for bringing me here.’
‘Where else would I take you?’
‘Well, I was kinda thinking you’d have gotten me to the ER.’
Spike shrugged and seemed to want to change the subject. He changed it by rubbing his thumb lightly over the inside of Angel’s wrist. ‘So….’
Angel took his hand away and made it seem natural by fetching a washcloth from the bathroom.
The blue eyes never left him as he moved around, and when he sat down again, Spike waited until the coolness was on his head before saying, ‘So, if you taped everything, do you know what happened to Ingram?’
Angel tipped his head to one side curiously. ‘Ingram?’
‘Hmm. Have you… contacted him?’
‘Spike. He’s dead. You were there. Don’t you remember?’
‘Oh! I guess I’ve forgotten. I’ve been sick. So… dead.’ He made a ‘too bad’ face and resumed his stroking on Angel’s wrist. ‘So… you heard… us?’
Angel sat back and folded his hands once more. ‘Yes.’
Angel blinked at the uncharacteristically thoughtless comment. It had never occurred to him before how close they always skated around hurting each other, never actually inflicting the emotional damage they could. ‘No. I didn’t.’
‘Shame. You heard what he said about thinking about you…?’
Angel jerked his head back a little. ‘Ingram… thinking about me?’
Spike twitched a small, nervous smile but poked him in the ribs playfully. ‘I mean what I said about you.’
Angel turned away. ‘I think you’re still delirious.’
Suddenly, Spike seemed to tire of the game. He relaxed into the pillows and closed his eyes. ‘I’m beat.’
Angel frowned at something he couldn’t define and stood up. ‘I’ll be next door if you need me.’
‘Can I hold you to that?’
Angel moved away, tidying up a bit, mulling all this over. It was not how he’d pictured his first conversation with Spike after hearing—with the slant of his own interpretation—that Spike loved him.
He put a call down to Wesley, but there was no answer from his office or the lab. He tried his home number, but the machine kicked in.
He didn’t want to leave Spike, so had to content himself with thinking that if Wesley had taken the device, he was gentleman enough not to listen to things that should stay private—for Spike’s sake.
He could not sleep, and for more reasons than he couldn’t get comfortable on the couch. Eventually, he rose and poured himself a strong drink, taking it to the windows to watch the city at night—a place he had once craved like he still craved blood.
‘Feeling generous with the booze?’
Angel whirled around. ‘Spike!’
Spike was leaning in the doorway, naked, watching him. He pushed off the wall lazily.
Angel came up to him and felt his head. Spike laughed lightly. ‘Now I’m cold. It’s freaking me out.’
Angel frowned. ‘You feel normal. Do you mean you feel cold… inside… or something?’
Spike deflected him with another poke in the ribs. ‘Drink?’
Angel went back into the bedroom then came out, silently handing him a sheet. Spike looked annoyed but tied it around his waist nevertheless.
Angel poured him a drink and passed it over.
Spike sipped, watching Angel over the rim of the glass. ‘So, Angel, I think we were interrupted. You were going to tell me what you thought of my little declaration.’
Angel backed away to the window and did not reply.
Spike came closer, fingering the knot holding up the sheet. ‘I practically told you that I’ve been thinking about you for….’
Angel turned, his face a cloud of anger. ‘What is this, Spike? We’ve not talked about things like this for a hundred and twenty years, but the first time you get fucked up the ass you decide it’s time for a little share-with-Angel session? Well, I’m not buying it. I didn’t get fucked, and I don’t feel like sharing.’
‘Why not?’ Spike hovered closer. ‘If what you say is true, you’ve wasted enough time. Why not have what you want? What we both want? Why all the fucking pretence, Angel? If I’ve learnt one thing, it’s that life’s too fucking short to waste opportunities.’
‘Is that all this is to you? An opportunity?’
‘I didn’t expect the CEO of Wolfram and Hart to be this fucking diffident! Aren’t you the great Angelus? Haven’t you always taken what you wanted?’
Angel turned and seized his upper arms. ‘Is that what you want? Is that all you want—for me to take you?’
‘I want you to crave this body, Angel. I want you to wake up and think about this body before you think about anything else, so you’ll never see me hurt. I want you to protect me. I need your protection, Angel. Do you want to give it to me?’ He opened the sheet and let it drop to the floor, making Angel’s eyes drag down by the simple expedient of dragging his own gaze down to his prominent erection.
Go to Chapter 5
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