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Reality Check - Chapter 12
Wesley was scared.
He’d never really seen this Spike before.
He backed up to the wall and felt for its comforting reassurance behind him.
‘You fucking idiot!’ Spike spat the words at him, and it was almost more frightening that he had not changed into his demon face. ‘What did you do?’
‘I brought him back.’
‘You said not to rip him out! You said….’
‘I had to do something! He was dying!’
‘He’s just thrown the bloody bed at us! How dead is that?’
Wesley licked his lips nervously. ‘I may have underestimated his strength.’
Spike began to pace, distracted, biting at the edge of his nail. ‘You’ve ruined everything.’
‘Oh! Have I?’ Wesley’s anger overcame his fear, and he intercepted the vampire. ‘Tell me the truth, Spike. When exactly would you have brought him home? I’m not stupid, you know. Did you like having him all to yourself?’
Spike slapped him.
It was a resounding slap, making Wesley’s face flare to a deep, painful red. There was a moment when tears, driven out on the pain, might have made Spike relent, when they might have gone back to the warm relationship that had begun to form in Angel’s absence, but it was gone before either could seize it. Spike made a small gesture of dismissal, spun on his heel and left.
Wesley put a hand to his burning face and turned resolutely from the evidence of Angel’s painful return.
The human did not expect Angel to be his office when he came down, nor did he anticipate seeing the dark figure strolling the hallways. A sense of bleakness descended on him, an insight into what his life would be without the vampire. He was self-aware enough to know that a large slice of his depression was loss not of Angel’s friendship, but of Spike’s.
The lab was deserted, and Wesley was surprised to remember that it was lunchtime. Time had played tricks on him as well while his friends had been gone. Ex-friends.
The small machine with which he had made his breakthrough mocked him. He leant on the table, hunched, staring at the faint coloured lines that had enabled him to free Angel, and then with an agonised sweep of his hand, he swept it to the floor, ripping cables out of the wall and flinging them away.
He felt a hand on his shoulder and spun around, his heart kicking wildly with shock.
As he turned, the hand stayed on him, so it rested now over that pumping source of his life. Spike’s eyes were large, limpid, and Wesley knew the vampire had known misery of his own. He felt his own unshed tears begin to fall and couldn’t say whether they were for Spike or Angel. ‘I’m so sorry.’
‘How did you do it?’
‘I was adjusting the power settings….’ They looked together to the smashed instrument. ‘And another line just appeared—over Angel’s. Grey, bloated, peaking where Angel’s dipped….’
‘I assumed so. I tracked it fairly easily then.’
‘And killed it.’
Wesley nodded, glumly.
Spike ran his fingers through his hair. ‘I—.’
Wesley nodded as if Spike had completed his apology. Tentatively, he put his hand over Spike’s, feeling his own heart through the surprisingly warm vampire hand.
Spike swallowed, and Wesley could see deep vulnerability and need in his expression. Even more slowly than touching Spike’s hand, he put his other hand to the back of the cool neck and rubbed his thumb along the hairline. ‘I don’t want to lose you—.’ He did not complete his sentence as well, but he saw from Spike’s expression that the vampire had completed it in his head. ‘Did I do the right thing?’
Spike pouted, and Wesley had the answer he needed. Sometimes, the right thing was the most painful.
They walked out of the lab, not consciously together but feeling, nevertheless, a sense of solidarity in knowing that the other was equally as lost and hurting. Wesley was desperate to ask Spike what had happened so he could know how to handle Angel but was afraid his questions might have been seen as prurient—afraid that he was merely being prurient in wanting to know. Somehow, he felt that Angel’s reaction on his return indicated that Spike had put at least part of his seduction plan into action. He took a small breath for courage.
Wesley’s mouth closed. He pursed his lips instead.
He was about to try again when they rounded the corner to the lobby. Spike stopped so abruptly that Wesley ran into the back of him. He followed Spike’s gaze.
Angel was leaning on Harmony’s workstation, handing her pieces of paper. It was so routine that, given the circumstances, it seemed bizarre.
Angel glanced up and said casually, ‘I’ve called a meeting—to catch up. Ten minutes, my office.’
He handed Harmony the rest of the signed letters and went back to his office, leaving the door open. It was all very normal, very routine and very… frightening.
Wesley murmured, ‘Perhaps we’re making too much of this? Perhaps he’s glad to be back now? Initial shock, yes, but….’
‘That flying pig nearly hit you.’
‘Well, how do you explain that then?’
Spike lit a cigarette. ‘I’m not sure I care to.’
‘You think it’s an act. Perhaps it’s time you told me what actually happened between you over there.’
‘Perhaps it’s not.’
‘How can I help if I don’t know?’
Spike closed his eyes. ‘You make the assumption that help is possible.’
‘Don’t be melodramatic. I think my explanation is by far the most likely: he’s back, and secretly, he’s glad. Okay, he’ll play the martyr for a couple of days, be more grumpy than normal, but mark my words—he’ll have forgotten this far more quickly than it actually took to play out. Now, are you coming to this meeting?’
Spike saw himself doing both—going and not going. Not going seemed to imply he had something to hide, some reason why he was afraid to face Angel. Going was just plain impossible. It was an unpleasant dilemma.
It was solved for him when Angel came back out with some more paperwork and, brushing past them, said even more casually than last time, ‘We need to talk before the meeting starts. Are you free now?’
Wesley swallowed quickly. ‘Was that addressed to me or…?’
Angel looked up, his expression completely veiled by a mask of neutrality. ‘Both of you, of course. I kinda assumed you came together these days.’
With that, he went over to Harmony and began to run through some more work with her.
Wesley let out a small breath. ‘Ah. I may have been a little hasty assuming he’s taking this well.’ He turned to see Spike’s reaction and realised that this vampire was just as capable of masking his feelings as the other. Spike only shook out his shoulders and headed to the conference room.
He was on his third cigarette by the time Angel joined them, Wesley watching him smoke as if hoping to be vicariously calmed.
Angel slid into his seat at the head of the table and laid out some papers, spreading his hands on them. He looked up and would have caught their gaze, but both Spike and Wesley were staring with fixed attention at the tabletop.
‘There’s a rival firm opening up in the city. We’ve been informed—Gunn is bringing the latest update to the meeting later—that they make the Senior Partners look like Girl Scouts. We need to set up some lines of communication with them and see what their agenda is.’
Wesley blinked and seemed lost for words.
Spike ground out his cigarette and hastily lit another.
Wesley licked his lips. ‘I thought you wanted to talk about what happened. I’d like to explain, if I can, why I—.’
‘Let’s go for the succinct version shall we, old friend of mine? You need me back!’
Wesley blinked quickly and appeared to find nothing to add to Angel’s assessment, but he did say faintly, ‘I hope I am still your friend.’
Angel smiled. ‘Sure thing, Wes. A man needs all the friends he can get.’ He swivelled his eyes to the silent vampire. ‘So, Spike, Wesley needed me back here so I can die for humanity. What was your excuse? And, hey, great timing! Can’t fault you on the diversionary tactics, Mate.’
Spike pursed his lips, still staring down at the table, Angel’s spittle from his addition of that last term a faint mist in the air.
‘I didn’t know what he was going to do.’
‘Oh! No! Don’t tell me I’ve misjudged you!’ Angel put his hands over his mouth theatrically then drew them slowly off. ‘Just coincidence you were there, hey? Fuck, Spike, I’d expected something more imaginative from you.’
Spike frowned, seeing the trap. He had gone to bring Angel back, and he had toyed with the opportunities for revenge it had offered him, but he’d changed his mind. At that last minute, he’d changed his mind. But who would believe that? He hardly believed it himself.
Obliquely, he said calmly, ‘If you want me to go, I’ll go.’
‘Go? Who said anything about you leaving? Shit, no. I told you: a man needs to know where his friends are. Keep track of them, ya know? Stay. In fact, I insist on it.’
Spike looked up and caught the tail end of a look he didn’t care to examine.
Wesley, watching this exchange, was about to intervene when the rest of the team arrived, and they spent the next two hours discussing the firm’s business. Spike, he noticed, made no contribution at all, other than to chain smoke two packets of cigarettes and destroy three cuticles. Wesley said very little, too, every comment he made being received by Angel with mock appreciation and bitter little jibes that almost sounded quite normal—almost made them appear like the very old, very close friends they were.
The meeting eventually broke up, and Angel stood, waiting until the others filed past before saying quietly to Spike, ‘I think we have more to discuss. Upstairs.’
Spike ground out another cigarette, waiting for the room to empty and replied calmly, ‘I don’t think so.’
Angel smiled. ‘It wasn’t a request.’
‘You can’t make me, Angel. You’re being kinda dumb.’
‘Actually, Spike, I can make you, only I’d really kinda like to avoid having to touch you right at this minute as the thought of your skin revolts me. But, have it your way.’ Again, Spike didn’t see the fist coming. They’d been almost friends for months, almost lovers only so recently, and he’d let his defences down. His nose broken, he slumped against the table. Angel placed his hands precisely either side of him. ‘Now, do you need me to remind you some more of the scheme of things, Spike, or are you going to do as you’re told?’
Spike straightened, trying to stem the blood that ran down his face. Angel calmly put a hand into his pocket and produced a handkerchief. ‘Upstairs.’
It was an uncomfortable ride in the elevator—for Spike, at least. Angel seemed unconcerned and rocked on his feet, even whistling softly under his breath.
When the doors slid open he went to the kitchen and took out a bloodbag. ‘I’ve come back with such an appetite!’
He drank the blood, with his eyes fixed unwaveringly on Spike.
Spike took the handkerchief away from his nose and tested the break with a finger. The bleeding appeared to have stopped, and he dropped the bloodied cloth on a chair. ‘What do you want? You won’t listen to an explanation, so what’s the point of…?’
‘I’ll listen. I’m fascinated. Really riveted.’
‘Fuck off, Angel. I’m not playing your little mind games. You can frighten the children with them, but I know you.’
‘Ah. You know me. You know me.’
He chucked the empty bloodbag on the floor and came closer.
Spike stood his ground. If he never did anything again, he needed to hold his ground now.
Angel smiled as if he sensed the effort it took Spike just to stand and wait. He came very close, the difference in their height and relative power never more obvious when this close. ‘Whose idea was it, Spike?’
Spike pouted, unwilling to admit that he knew exactly what Angel meant. Angel smiled again, a soft, loving smile. ‘Come on, Spike. I wanna know.’
Spike took the only refuge he had: attack. ‘I didn’t notice you finding the idea so abhorrent when you were doing it, Angel! You put fucking me right up on your Christmas list along with doing Buffy!’
Angel’s smile reached beatific. ‘I never said I didn’t enjoy it.’
Spike tried to run. He made it to the elevator. He thumped the button. The elevator returned and was then the only witness to what took place, its doors opening and shutting on the action, a torn off boot preventing them closing. Afterwards, when Spike remembered, he remembered it like that—in snatches, as if a door opened and shut in his brain. He guessed it was the best way. To remember it in its entirety was too hard.
Angel began by hurting him. All the pain he felt—whether from remembrance of how he had conjured up the perfect life and lost it, or from the real events that had sparked his fantasies—he gave to Spike. Spike wondered if Angel was trying to destroy the thing he had wanted, for he worked systematically to break and deface him, taking away his beauty and the perfection of his body. When that was done to Angel’s satisfaction, when Spike was inside out—more blood without than within, bones mooning whitely at them from absence of muscle—he took what was left to have. Aroused from the torture, mindless, he pushed into the ravaged body, marking that with his unique brand, too.
He took a long time to come but didn’t let that stop him enjoying the journey there. He humped and sweated over Spike, holding his ass cheeks apart, enjoying that he tore him, laughing gleefully as he made him swell, pulling out to watch the tight ring flush and throb then jabbing back in to compete his cathartic rape. Only one thing seemed to bother him: he could rouse no sound from Spike—not when he broke his bones, not when he crushed his cheekbones and broke his teeth, and not now as he plundered his guts, ploughing deep in places where he would have expected Spike to attempt some defence, if only through tears.
It angered him to the extent that it began to distract him. He pushed, but his dick concertinaed rather than slid cleanly in and out. It squashed wetly against Spike’s ring then became so soft that he was only mushing in the blood that pooled when he extracted. Furious, he tried to work himself over the bloodied, still figure, but he was too soft, and he finally rose with a curse and kicked the inert form. ‘Get out and don’t come back. Ever.’ Tearing off his soiled clothes, Angel made for the shower, not turning back to confirm whether Spike had finally learnt to obey his instructions or not.