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Wesley had gone home, so Angel made his way over there and knocked hard on the door. Wesley had been in the shower and answered cautiously, peering around the door, a towel around his waist and another one rubbing his hair. ‘Angel!’
‘He came back. Spike came back.’
Wesley opened the door and stepped back. He hesitated then said precisely, ‘Illyria is Fred sometimes. I don’t mean she puts Fred on… she is Fred more than Fred was. It’s something she does….’
‘No. This isn’t like that. It was Spike. He had no memory of Ingram in his body.’ He pouted and mumbled, ‘Not like that, anyway.’
‘You’re mistaken. You must be.’
‘Why? We know this isn’t like Illyria. We know that’s just what Ingram wanted us to think. I told you—science. Spike is still in there, and we can bring him back.’
‘No! This is delusion. You’re deluded.’
Angel slammed him back against the wall. ‘Do you think I don’t know my own childe?’
Wesley raised his eyebrows. ‘I could ask you that, Angel. You’re the one I found about to fuck what you thought was Spike.’
Angel’s face crumpled, and he spun away. Wesley cursed and went to pour him a drink. ‘I’m sorry. Being with the Goddess-Of-The-Blunt-Comment I’m losing my ability to tell white lies.’
‘I don’t want your lies, Wesley; I want your help.’ Angel took the offered drink and downed it in one. ‘He’s in there. I know.’
Wesley nodded. ‘All right. It’s possible that what I’ve discovered so far supports that to some extent.’
Angel grabbed his arm. ‘What?’
Wesley made a face. ‘It’s not much, but I did discover the reason why he was banned from the research facilities.’ He gestured to the couch, and they sat side by side. After a moment, Wesley adjusted the towel and glanced toward the bedroom as if he wanted to put on something more substantial. He sighed and then said, ‘Everyone had to put in a research proposal. I saw Fred’s.’ He smiled softly. ‘In her handwriting. All those tiny squiggles she loved….’ Angel didn’t have the heart to interrupt, but he pictured tearing Wesley’s head off to dip into his brain and lick the information he wanted. ‘Ingram’s proposal was based upon some experiments that had been done some years before, and when it was examined by his professors, they cut off his research grant. He was banned from the facilities.’ He got up and poured himself a drink, and with his back to Angel, asked softly, ‘Have you ever heard of Mengele?’
‘Sure. I met him once.’
Wesley whirled around.
Angel hunched into himself. ‘What about him?’
‘Well, one of his obsessions was on personality—how it develops and changes. He did his most infamous experiments on twins, trying to discover how one twin’s personality varied from the other—how they could be… altered.’
‘Well, in Ingram’s proposal, he wanted to take this further. He said he had developed a way to clone a person.’
‘Not gonna win him the Nobel Prize! Been done!’
‘He believed he could clone a person’s mind—personality if you like. He proposed that he could grow a different person inside someone.’
Angel rose from the couch and began to pace. ‘Clone? You mean transfer a person with….’
‘DNA, yes. Transfer a personality through selected strands of DNA, then accelerated cloning.’
‘But how could he have given Spike his…. Oh.’
‘Hmm. It rather explains the bizarre request to start with, doesn’t it? The… one night….’
‘He implanted Spike with his personality. Is that what you are trying to tell me?’
‘Yes. I think that’s exactly what he did.’
‘So, what about Spike?’
‘It appears—if what you say is true, and as I’m wearing only a very small towel, I really don’t want to dispute with you now—that Spike is still in there. Perhaps—and this is mere speculation on my part—perhaps Spike was too strong a personality to entirely displace.’
‘Why can’t he fight back? Why can’t he push him out? When I bit him, he….’
‘When you what?’
‘Bit him. You said discipline….’
‘Ah, yes, and a stern lecture and being sent to his room just wouldn’t have done…. But this may be the key….’
‘Oh.’ Angel paced, watching him out of the corner of his eye. The towel was very skimpy.
‘DNA. Spike’s demonic DNA. I don’t know what it is, but you must have it.’
‘It was boosted when you treated him like a demon. Somehow, that enabled him to assert his DNA over Ingram’s.’ He saw Angel’s mystified expression. ‘You called to him, Angel.’
‘Oh. So… I just bite or hit….’
‘Hmm. Hardly practical. And Ingram was still in there, despite Spike’s spectacular return. No, we need something permanent.’
‘Oh, I have no idea. I just pose the hypothesis that we need it.’
Angel gave him a dark look.
Wesley looked nervous.
Angel made for the door. ‘Let’s see how much Ingram really wants to be a member of the House of Aurelius.’
Wesley shivered, and tried to tell himself that it was just the cold.
It was then a painful time for all of them. Wesley went back to doing what he did best: watching—watching Angel trying to beat the human out of Spike. Occasionally it worked, and Spike would speak from the battered body, but in an irony that made Angel weep, he could not stay: the pain from the beating fading him in and out of consciousness, even as Angel fought for him to stay. In despair, Angel would then feed him his blood, which left him too weak to be vicious enough to bring Spike back. Using Spike’s fantastic strength, Ingram then wounded Angel so often he had to retreat.
After a week of watching Angel suffer, Wesley was not there one day. Angel did not notice his absence, intent as he was on Spike. No sexual absorption could have rivalled the total physical obsession he had with Spike’s body: every place where pain could be more effectively produced, where defeat could be efficiently harvested and fear tuned to demonic fury was known. He studied skin and muscle and tendon as he never had before.
The moments when he held the bloodied body in his arms and Spike came back were worth all the pain hurting him caused. Spike tried to resist being held so intimately, but they both knew his protests were sham—that he was more than happy to lie with his head on Angel’s lap, as he tried to keep Ingram at bay. Angel was careful not to let Ingram know of Spike’s returns, but he tried to encourage Spike by telling him snippets of Ingram’s activities—how he used and abused Spike’s body. Some things though, he kept hidden; some things he dreaded Spike discovering.
The world outside the lab and the cell became irrelevant to Angel. He took Ingram in hard, vicious combat during the day then took him at night in different ways—ways that left them equally exhausted, only degrees of his guilt differentiating between the two.
One day, fighting as usual, the world intruded: Illyria appeared. One minute there had been space, and the next, it was filled by Illyria. Angel began to speak, but she winked out as quickly as she had appeared. That night, far more disconcertingly, she appeared again. With Ingram pressed to bars of the cell, Angel deep in his arse, she appeared once more. She stared at them and then was gone. Furious and embarrassed in equal measure, Angel pulled out, and for the first time in many nights left them both unsatisfied.
Wesley was in bed when Angel arrived, but he wasn’t asleep. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d slept. He pulled on some pants and answered the door, fairly sure who it was.
Angel didn’t even wait to be offered a seat. ‘What the fuck is she doing?’
Wesley nodded. ‘You’ve seen it too.’
‘Seen her, yeah! Kinda when I didn’t need to!’
‘Is that all you’re going to say: ah!’
‘What do you want me to say, Master?’ He genuflected, and Angel had the grace to flush.
‘What the hell is happening?’
‘She’s outgrown this dimension, I think. It’s cracking apart.’
‘Huh! Should I be saying shit?’
‘I have once or twice.’
Angel sat down on the couch and ran his fingers though his hair, suddenly aware he hadn’t showered and that he still stank of Spike. He liked it, but he was fairly sure Wesley wouldn’t. ‘We have to do something.’
‘I know. I’ve…. There’s possibly a way. It involves… draining her power.’
‘Well, good, so?’
‘She’s not going to consent.’
‘You plot to destroy me.’
Wesley was pleased to see Angel jumped as much as he did. Illyria stared at them both, her head on one side, her eyes less dog-like now—more snake about to strike. Angel stood up slowly. ‘How are you doing this?’
‘Why do you reek of the other half-breed?’
‘Spike. Your body swims in his essence.’
‘I—.’ Angel tried to stay in a commanding position, which suddenly wasn’t easy. ‘We’ve been fighting. You know that. You watch.’
‘You lie. Your tongue slides deceitful over the truth. Spike fights with me.’
Angel glanced at Wesley, and when he looked back, she was gone.
‘Did you have the impression she was confused?’
Wesley licked his lips. ‘I think she was from a previous time.’
Angel suddenly laughed and grabbed Wesley’s arm. ‘We can use this! We can go back and….’
‘Angel! For God’s sake! I don’t even know if she knows what’s happening, let alone being able to use this!’
Angel bowed his head for a moment. ‘It’s not working: the beatings…. I can’t hold him here long enough….’
‘I know. I’m sorry.’
‘What am I going to do?’
‘Tomorrow. I’ll tackle her tomorrow… see if she knows something….’
Angel was in Wesley’s office, waiting for him before the human arrived. The man looked tired, as if his sleepless night had continued. Angel, he noticed, was showered and looking as fresh he usually did. He harrumphed silently and slid in behind his desk.
‘So, what’s the plan?’
‘Is this the one you wanted?’
They both turned and caught the bizarre sight of Gunn falling to the ground. They were so stunned that neither moved forward nor spoke. Illyria looked down like a lioness with prey and repeated her question.
The quickest to recover, Wesley suddenly jumped and said blankly, ‘Yes. He is.’
She looked directly at Angel. ‘I am owed.’ With an icy look she spun around and strode out.
Angel watched her retreating back as he helped Gunn to his feet and murmured to Wesley, ‘She knows we need to stop her. This was an… offering.’
‘I’m afraid—incredible as it is—it won’t be enough.’
Gunn looked between them bleakly, and Wesley patted him on the arm and led him out.
Angel went to his office to think. It was something he used to do a lot but had given over in preference to actually doing: thoughtless action that he now regretted. Even now, even trying to concentrate on Gunn or Illyria, his mind was on Spike. It was exhausting and distracting: thinking about Spike’s body, knowing it wasn’t him inside as he did things to it that gave him so much pleasure, then thinking about Spike and what would happen when he came back, if he did, if he didn’t, and then it all began again… thoughts of the body that consumed him with need. Guilt flooded his soul like a pool of tar: black and sticky and burning. Occasionally, just occasionally, the thought flitted across his mind that he’d be better off if Spike didn’t return. Angel had no doubt that the privileges Ingram allowed him with the slim, hard body its true owner would not. In very bleak moments, to torture himself to the maximum, Angel allowed himself to wish that Ingram would retain possession of Spike’s body—as long as he shared it with him.
When he looked up from his reverie, Wesley was watching him from the door. Angel started and tried to look busy. ‘What?’
‘I want to try something—with Illyria. I need your help.’
Angel stood up. ‘What?’
‘I think I have a way to drain her power, but she will know what I’m going to do. You have to do it.’
‘Why won’t she read me, too?’
‘Because you’ll be fighting with Ingram as usual. She’ll be distracted. I’ll speak to her; when her back is turned, you have to do it.’
Angel handled the large weapon with ease, but with a look of scepticism Wesley did not miss. ‘All you have to do is fire it at her, and she’ll be… drained. Go get Ingram.’
Ingram seemed in a good mood. He didn’t want to fight; he wanted to do something else that began with f, but Angel wasn’t in the mood. He wasn’t in the mood when Ingram grabbed him and rubbed them together. He wasn’t in the mood when the blond figure dropped to his knees and unzipped him. He wasn’t in the mood as Ingram sucked and fondled and enjoyed himself on his knees. He got slightly more into the mood when he came; then he cried out and felt his knees weaken. He quickly reverted to pissy though, so zipped up and dragged Ingram to his feet and out of the door.
They walked side by side down to the lab, Angel’s arm protectively on Ingram, not that he thought the man would try to run, but to remind him not to bother to try.
He wasn’t sure who he hated more as he made the long elevator descent. It was a close run thing, but he reckoned he hated himself just a little more than his companion on the ride—not for enjoying the blowjob, but for knowing that he would never get one from Spike. Once he thought that, there was no other thought to think but how much more pleasant life would be if Spike never came back.
He was so angry when he exited the elevator that he almost crashed into a maintenance cart that had been positioned too close to the doors. He gracefully sidestepped, but heard a crash from behind and turned to find Ingram sprawled on the floor.
Before he could intervene, Ingram leapt to his feet and tore into the man who’d been pushing the cart. ‘You fucking ugly little runt! I’m gonna tear your fucking heart out and stick it….’
‘Hey!’ Really angry, Angel tore Ingram off the small, inoffensive (but really incredibly ugly) man. As he held the outraged body of what had once been his childe, Angel had one of his rare moments of complete clarity. All the confusion and darkness that obscured his view of the truth lifted. He didn’t want this man. He wanted Spike back. He wanted the one who’d have leapt to his feet and cursed, but made it into a joke. He wanted the one who’d have mock-punched the small man and made him feel okay about it. He wanted the one who’d have lit a cigarette and shared it with him, utterly unconcerned about his appearance or anyone else’s. He wanted Spike.
The fight was uneven, Angel—cresting on righteous fury that he couldn’t force Spike to come back to him, that he’d wasted so much time over the years not appreciating what he had, and that now he had Ingram’s spittle on his dick, not Spike’s—had the best of the hits to start with.
Ingram soon caught up though. Glimpsing Wesley and Illyria by the door, Angel became distracted—not by the thought of what he had to do, but by something in his friend’s expression. It was habitually bleak these days, but now there was something else there too: something almost demonic. It nagged at Angel that he might have missed something in the man’s conversation to explain this away, but he could not bring the faint disquiet to the surface and examine it—not while he was being pounded into the wall by Ingram, anyway.
Ingram was triumphant, and crowed as he drew blood from Angel’s forehead and nose. Angel pushed him back and noticed that Illyria and Wesley had parted and that he and Ingram were now between them. He held Ingram in a headlock to stop the pummelling, and then pushed him away, making a show of heading over to the towels, which covered the weapon.
He sensed Wesley was ready, moved the towels to one side, hefted the weapon and, without hesitation, aimed it at Illyria.
A bright beam arced from the weapon, or from her—Angel couldn’t tell which. He wasn’t concentrating too much for at the exact same time that he hit Illyria, Wesley stepped casually forward and pushed Ingram into the light stream.
Angel’s arms shook with the effort to contain the power surging out of Illyria. He couldn’t scream or drop the weapon, despite trying to do both. Ingram hung illuminated and suspended as the power, like lightning, surged through him. Angel didn’t notice what Illyria did, until he fell, drained, and the light went out. Ingram fell too. Angel wondered if time was playing tricks on them for it seemed to take him a lifetime to get to his feet and cross the small space between them. He cradled Spike’s head in his lap in so familiar a way that he was almost not surprised when the blue eyes opened and focused on him. Angel licked his lips. Spike blinked. ‘He’s gone.’
Angel lifted his eyes to Wesley, who was watching his demon obsession from afar, a look of intense sorrow on his face. He seemed to sense Angel’s regard and pouted. ‘He needed more of a boost than you could give him. I hoped this would work.’
‘Why didn’t you tell me?’
‘Because you’d have put it before the need to stop Illyria. If it had killed Spike—burnt him up—you would have stopped. I couldn’t let that happen.’
Abashed at the truth in this, Angel lowered his face to Spike’s. ‘What the fuck are you doing?’ Spike pushed him off and leapt nimbly to his feet. ‘What the fuck is happening here at all? Okay, I’m just going to have a universal what the fuck! Cus, this is freaking me out!’
Angel stood up. ‘Are you sure he’s gone?’
Spike gave him one of this best you-are-such-a-total-wanker looks, which more than anything persuaded Angel that he had.
Spike went over to Illyria. ‘What’s up with you, bint?’
She looked up at him, the weight of a thousand worlds on her shoulders. ‘I am empty.’
‘Yeah. So am I. Good, hey?’ He turned around, surveying the room, rubbing the side of his face. ‘Is this permanent?’
Neither Wesley nor Angel knew if he was speaking of Illyria or himself so didn’t reply. Spike just circled his shoulders and nodded. ‘Okay, talk to yourself Spike. I’m going for a drink. I’m going to get totally plastered.’
He stomped out, and Angel risked a small glance at Wesley. Wesley pouted, looking at the defeated demon at his feet. ‘My theory of keeping them at a distance hasn’t make it any easier, Angel. I just thought I’d tell you that.’
Angel laughed bitterly. ‘Fucked if we fuck and fucked if we don’t.’
‘We need to get back to work, Wesley. We need to put this behind us. It’s done now. Over.’
Wesley nodded and gave a last glance to Illyria. ‘Yes, over.’ He turned and followed Angel out.
No one saw Spike for a few days. He was very noticeable by his absence, the place seeming to go into stasis until he returned, which he did early one morning.
Angel came down from his apartment to find Spike sitting on the couch in his office, smoking, and watching smoke rings dissipate with apparent absorption.
Angel nodded at him and went to stand by the window.
Refusing to take the bait to initiate the conversation, Angel kept silent.
Spike narrowed his eyes at Angel and stretched his legs out. ‘Nasty business.’
Angel nodded. ‘For you. Yes.’
‘Reckon you had a time of it, too.’
Angel suppressed a wince and said carefully, ‘For some reason, I didn’t like the idea of a human taking your body.’
‘Unless it suited your plans, course. Don’t forget how all this started.’
‘Where is it?’
‘Oh.’ Angel blushed deeply. ‘Destroyed.’
‘Uh huh. After you had a good listen, I’m thinking.’
Angel turned and sat at his desk, suddenly needing the safety and stability of that evidence of his power. ‘I had to listen to work out what had happened to you.’
Spike rose and crushed his cigarette under one foot. ‘I got fucked, Angel, that’s what happened to me. In more ways than one.’ He strode out with an air of arrogance that Angel did not hear in his words.
Spike went into Wesley’s office without knocking and sat on a chair without asking. He put his feet up on the desk and lit another cigarette. ‘So, human, now you’ve all had your jollies, I wanna know what the fuck happened.’
Wesley leant back in his seat. ‘I’m not sure that we know exactly. He found some way to project his mind into you.’
‘Uh huh. Project. That’s a nice little euphemism.’
‘Yes. I’m sorry. I’m treating you like Angel does. He somehow cloned himself inside your body through the exchange of bodily fluid. Call me sceptical, but I suspect that’s the reason he made the odd deal in the first place.’
‘And there was me thinking I was just irresistible.’
Wesley smiled faintly. ‘I think he had the whole thing worked out: taking your body, ensuring Angel’s compliance, transferring all his….’
Wesley felt an icy stab in his bowels and glanced toward the door, just to gauge the distance. ‘I think you should discuss this with….’
‘I’m discussing this with you.’ As if to make his point, Spike swung his legs down and came around to Wesley’s side of the desk, perching in front of him. ‘Now, that’s more friendly. So, tell me how the fucker got Angel to… comply.’
‘It was a trick, Spike. He tricked Angel as effectively as he tricked you. Is Angel to be blamed for that?’
‘When Ingram regained consciousness in your body, we didn’t know… of course we didn’t, how could we? We thought it was you. Angel thought it was you. By the time I discovered it wasn’t, he’d been… snared. He’d become obsessed with…. I’m sorry, I’m really not going to discuss this with you any further. You need to talk to….’
Spike seemed to agree with this assessment for he levered off the desk and strode out.
Wesley snatched up the phone, but Angel’s was engaged. He sank back in his chair, realised he was powerless to intervene, so switched his mind once more to Illyria.
Angel was having a fairly heated conversation on the telephone when Spike walked in. He went up to the desk and cut him off.
Angel rose, enraged. Spike had never done anything so blatantly…. He caught the expression and sat down again, replacing the handset carefully. Spike nodded. ‘Yeah. I know.’
Angel tented his hands under his chin and decided the best course of action was to say nothing.
Spike stared at the familiar profile for a while, and suddenly, Wesley’s words caught up with him. He’d heard them, of course, only he hadn’t really… heard them. Obsessed and enraged by the idea of Angel fucking his body, he hadn’t really taken in the fact that Angel had… fucked his body. Angel had thought it was him and… fucked him. Suddenly, he spun on his heel and left as abruptly as he’d come.
Angel stood up and for an absurd moment wanted to restrain him as urgently as he’d wanted him to leave a second before. He hesitated for a moment then jogged to catch him up. ‘We need to talk.’
Spike waved his hand in a small gesture of dismissal. ‘No, we don’t. I need to get drunk.’
‘That’s your answer to everything, and it’s an answer to nothing.’
‘I’m not asking you to do it.’
‘Stop. I want to explain.’
‘I don’t want to hear it.’
Suddenly, Angel shoved him hard and tipped him into an empty office, standing with his back to the door to prevent him leaving. ‘We talk.’
‘Angel, stand aside or I’ll….’
‘You’ll make an unseemly amount of noise and then everyone will know your business.’
Spike narrowed his eyes in disgust at Angel’s tactics, but turned away sullenly. ‘Talk then.’
‘It was—. I was—. Okay, what do you know?’
Spike turned, curiosity in his eyes, but he appeared to let it drop. ‘I know you fucked him—when you thought it was me.’
Angel let out a silent breath of relief and nodded. ‘It was a very bad time, Spike. You were sick; he—. I thought it was what you wanted.’
Spike came close and poked him hard in the chest. ‘Then you were very, very mistaken.’
Angel looked down at the finger. ‘That’s what he did. That’s how it started.’
Spike jumped back as if he’d been stung. A look of total disgust crossed his face. ‘How the bloody hell could you believe that was me! Jesus, Angel! We’ve known each other over a century. Have I ever given you the impression that I wanted your cock up my bottom? Have I?’
Angel hesitated for a moment, pictured hanging for a very large sheep and replied, ‘When you straddled me and ground your hard dick into me? That time, it crossed my mind that you might.’
‘You fucker! I was about to…. I just wanted it to be…. I mean—.’ Angel cocked up an eyebrow, and Spike turned away to light a cigarette. After a while, he turned back apparently calmer and said, ‘I want you to remember that it was not me.’
Angel nodded obediently.
‘I want you to forget it, in fact.’
Angel nodded again.
‘It was a one-off thing. We’ve done some weird one-off things in our time, I reckon, and this is just one of them.’
Angel risked a soft, ‘Sure,’ and added a small nod.
Spike flicked his cigarette away. ‘So, was I good?’
Angel’s jaw dropped; Spike grinned and exited through another door.
Go to Chapter 7
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