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Reality Check - Chapter 16
His smile began to irritate Wesley by the time they got to work, as the human had seen only an angry Angel who had misunderstood what was happening.
Spike couldn’t help smiling but didn’t enlighten Wesley as to the reason. Whether this was because he wanted to keep Angel’s confusion over him private or because he was afraid to shine the cold light of someone else’s more rational assessment on his pleasure, he wasn’t keen to examine.
They went to the lab, and Wesley showed Spike, on a replacement machine, how he’d tracked the demon’s presence. He had already analysed some samples he’d brought back from killing it, and he worked on these while Spike mooched about, annoying the rest of the staff.
After a couple of hours, Wesley called up to his department and requested some books. A young man arrived with them after a few minutes. When he saw Spike, he said, ‘The Boss is looking for you.’
When he’d left, Wesley said casually, ‘Are you going to see what he wants?’
Spike grinned and thrust his hands into his pockets. ‘Nah. I know what he wants.’
‘It might be serious.’
‘It might be by now, yeah.’
Wesley lifted an eyebrow and murmured, ‘He’ll probably be down here soon enough, in that case.’
Spike pouted, lit a cigarette and toed the ground for a while then said craftily, ‘So, where did you find this demon, Pet? I’ll go check out the area—case you missed something.’
Wesley shook his head at the gamesmanship but gave him the address.
Angel arrived three minutes too late. He made as if he were interested in some of the equipment, spoke to one or two of the lab-coated assistants then sauntered over to Wesley. ‘What are you working on?’
Wesley began to speak, but Angel interpreted. ‘Someone said Spike was down here.’
Wesley nodded. ‘He was. He’s gone out.’
‘I’m not sure. Why? Was there something you wanted with him?’ He’d punish himself later, but sometimes Angel was a very easy target.
Angel looked impressively nonchalant. ‘Tell him to come see me when he gets back.’
Trying to carry an air of calm authority, Angel left.
Spike was next seen in the canteen. Harmony spotted him sitting with his feet up and came bustling over. ‘And where have you been all morning? Have you seen Angel yet?’
‘Tall bloke? Kinda angsty?’
‘Spike! He’s had me looking everywhere!’
Spike felt a pleasant clench where it counted. ‘Really?’
He pushed her the remains of his mug of blood and sauntered out.
He took a detour up to the next floor, along to the elevators at the end of the hallway and down, to emerge just outside Wesley’s office.
He went in swiftly and nodded at the man. ‘Any progress?’
Wesley was sitting at his desk, reading, tapping a ceremonial dagger against his lips. He looked up then fished a teabag out of a mug with the dagger. ‘Not really.’
‘Cus I’ve had an idea.’
‘Ah. During your I’m-avoiding-Angel day?’
Spike smiled. ‘Don’t be facetious.’ He went over to Wesley’s kettle and began to make himself some tea, too. ‘It’s not the demon we should concentrate on, maybe, but its victims.’
Wesley rose and handed him the dagger, which Spike used to squish his teabag. ‘If he’s drugging them, or even if he’s just using some sort of spell, there’ll be traces. There always are.’
Wesley perched on the edge of the desk. ‘Why didn’t I think of that? But not Angel—I don’t want him to know about this yet.’
‘Know about what?’
The conspirators turned as one. Wesley went toward Angel in a conciliatory manner. ‘We’ve had some ideas about the rival firm—how we can best monitor their….’
‘What are you doing?’
Wesley could have been incorporeal for all the notice Angel took of his presence. He directed his calm question at Spike and kept his eyes fixed unwaveringly on the other vampire.
Spike laid down his tea and lit a cigarette. ‘I’m helping Wesley.’
‘I… want to… discuss something with you.’
Spike made a pained face. ‘I’m running kinda late, Angel. Can it wait until tomorrow?’
Even Wesley seemed to pick up on some tension in the room, for he perched nervously on the edge of the desk, sipping his tea, glancing between the two.
Angel folded his arms and examined the carpet for a moment. ‘It won’t take long.’ It was the closest Spike had ever heard Angel come to begging.
He sighed and craned around Wesley’s monitor, saying in a shocked voice, ‘Jeez, look at the time! Sorry, Pet, I’ve gotta run,’ then proceeded to throw himself into an armchair and say with mock seriousness to Wesley, ‘So, fancy doing something tonight? Club?’
Wesley didn’t appreciate being used as a foil for Spike’s games, so stood up and went to the window, pointedly not replying.
Angel went to the desk and pretended to be interested in some of the books.
Spike rested one ankle casually over his thigh and began to chat to Wesley’s back, recalling many of their topics of the night before—any and all that excluded Angel.
After a few minutes, Wesley turned, annoyed with Spike, but before he could shut him up, he stepped forward, his voice high-pitched with shock. ‘Angel!’
Spike dried up and glanced over at the silent vampire.
Angel looked up as if surprised.
He had driven the dagger through his palm and was twisting it around and around in the soft, bleeding flesh.
Spike got up. ‘You bloody….’
Angel stared fascinated at the crucified palm.
Wesley silently handed him a handkerchief, which he took with a small nod.
There was a moment of awkward silence then Angel ripped out the dagger and left. He didn’t look at either of them.
Wesley sighed and moved a book over a drip of blood on his desk. ‘Do you know, it doesn’t matter how awful he is sometimes, I find it almost impossible to stay angry with….’
Spike seemed to share this assessment because he was gone before Wesley could finish.
He caught Angel up as the bleeding vampire was waiting for his private elevator to the apartment.
He stood alongside him, not commenting on the fact that he was there. He cast a glance at Angel’s hand, and his withering gaze said all that needed to be said.
Angel thrust his hand in his pocket and stepped into the elevator.
When they emerged into the apartment, Angel grabbed hold of Spike’s arm with his good hand and began to manoeuvre him toward the couch. Spike pulled free. ‘Go do something about your hand.’
Angel glanced toward the elevator as if afraid Spike would bolt then went out of sight to the bedroom.
When he came back out, bandaged, Spike was standing in the window, looking at the view.
Angel came and stood behind him then took the collar of his duster and began to slide it off his shoulders. Spike shrugged him off and shifted away. ‘I’m not staying.’
Angel grabbed his arm. ‘Yeah. You are.’
Spike looked directly at him for the first time. ‘Be very sure you can take me before you start something, Angel. You caught me off-guard last time—thought we were friends, see? Now I know different, and I’ll take you down as surely as I did in the desert.’
Angel seemed at a loss. He had clearly not expected Spike to take a stand now. His expression seemed to say that stands should have been taken earlier. He shifted his hold to one of Spike’s buttons instead. ‘You want this as much as I do.’
Spike shook his head and lied. ‘You don’t have anything I want.’ He began to move toward the elevator.
‘Why did you come up here then?’ Angel’s voice was a shade too high to maintain his fiction that he was calm and in control. ‘What’s this?’ He suddenly pressed Spike back into the wall, cupping him, grinding the heel of his hand into the rock-hardness he discovered.
Spike pushed him back, hard, and balled his fists, well aware his body always betrayed him around Angel. ‘Leave me alone.’
‘Tell me that’s not because of me!’
Spike stepped up close, too close. ‘It was the blood, Angel. So, yeah, there is something of yours I want: your blood. But the rest? Keep it.’
He walked to the elevator, stepped in and punched the down button.
That he regretted his newfound independence as soon as the elevator doors closed pissed him off so much he punched the wall, broke a couple of bones, and thereby felt much better.
The next day, Spike followed up on his idea to track evidence of the demon activity by finding people who were being plagued either with sleepwalking or night terrors. It wasn’t as easy as he’d anticipated. Either people accepted these conditions as normal and therefore not reportable, or they knew they were not normal and didn’t report them for that reason.
He returned to the firm at midday to meet up with Wesley. They rendezvoused in the lab, where Wesley had started to analyse the blood he had taken from the demon. Before they could exchange notes, Harmony stuck her head around the door. ‘You’re wanted upstairs, Spikey.’
Spike said cagily, ‘Why?’
Harmony grinned. ‘Big box for you in the lobby.’
Even more warily, Spike sidestepped Wesley and faced her. ‘I’m not expecting anything.’
She nodded happily. ‘Boss said you’d know where to put it.’
Spike stepped back. ‘Is it ticking?’
Wesley put a hand on his arm. ‘Go see what it is, then we really must get on.’
Spike trailed behind Harmony, admiring her assets, as they went up to the lobby. He stopped with a low murmur of surprise when he saw the size of the box. ‘What the fuck is it?’
Harmony went over to her desk and read off the delivery note, ‘The Samsung PPM63H3 63-inch Wide Screen Plasma Monitor brings excellent video images into your home or boardroom. With a maximum resolution of up to 1366x768 pixels and 1.02 mm pixel pitch, the PPM63H3 enhances….’
‘Angel’s bought a TV?’
‘Seems so. Said to ask you where you wanted it.’ If there was an edge to her voice as she said this, she kept her face neutral. Spike narrowed his eyes at her warningly. She looked unconcerned. ‘Well? It can’t stay there!’
Spike nodded at this assessment and eyed the bored looking deliveryman. ‘That hydraulic thingy fit in an elevator?’
‘No, I flew it up here.’
Spike gritted his teeth. ‘Follow me, funny man.’
He watched as the man unboxed the television and set it up. It took two hours, but it was worth it; Spike had never seen anything more beautiful. It was the only good thing in Angel’s apartment and seemed utterly incongruous for that.
The deliveryman stacked the remains of the crate and packing onto his trolley and made his departure.
Spike hovered in front of the screen with the remote control in his hand.
As he was about to test it, he heard the elevator so dropped the remote as if it were contaminated. He moved to the window and tried to appear unconcerned.
Angel stepped out, eyed the TV and said flatly, ‘Good. It’s here. Well… put it on.’
Spike jerked his head back. ‘What is this? Is this what you thought I meant?’
Angel didn’t seem to hear him. He picked up the remote, studying the buttons.
‘Angel! What the fuck do you intend this to be? This isn’t what I meant when I said there was nothing here I wanted! Did you think you could buy me a TV to make me want to be here with you? Did you really think… oh… hey… that’s a great show. Turn it up….’ He sank onto the couch, already absorbed. Angel tossed him the remote control and with a small, private smile of pleasure, went into the bedroom to change.
When he emerged, he was wearing a pair of thin black cotton sweatpants and a white T-shirt. His hair was wet, and he was combing it with his fingers. He watched Spike for a while then went slowly behind the couch.
Spike leant forward on his knees, trying to ignore Angel, which was exactly what Angel had intended. It gave him room. He stepped over the back of the couch and sat behind the slim figure, his thighs outstretched around him. Spike pursed his lips and twisted his head around with an annoyed expression.
Angel raised an eyebrow. ‘Watch your damn show, Spike.’ He took hold of Spike’s head and turned it back. Purposefully, he began to slide Spike’s coat off. When it was half-mast, caught around his waist, he leaned into him, sliding his hands around to the front. He breathed onto the back of Spike’s stubble-short hair and nuzzled into his neck.
Spike gave into the feeling of being enveloped by Angel and lay back against him. Something seemed to give deep within the invulnerable vampire, a tension that dissipated on Spike’s small gesture of contrition. Angel turned the nuzzling into licks, caressing his tongue up over the downy bristle of Spike’s scalp like a mother cat cleaning a prodigal kitten.
Very gently, his hands slid into Spike’s lap, where age-soft denim clad iron-hard flesh. Angel murmured something, a sound of surprised pleasure, and he traced the ridged outline under the cotton with one inquisitive finger. ‘Good show?’
Spike jumped, as he was meant to, and went back to his fiction of being interested in the TV. Under his breath, confused, but amused by this confusion, he muttered, ‘Bastard,’ and Angel bit his ear lobe, just hard enough for the sensation to lie erotically between pain and pleasure. Spike put a hand back to push him off, but somehow his fingers became entwined in dark hair, and he tugged gently instead.
Angel’s exploratory fingers became bolder in Spike’s lap. Having found the lay of his erection, they attempted to alter it: to make the blood-heavy cock lift and rise, twitch and swell under their ministrations.
Spike took his hand off Angel’s head and lowered it, sliding it behind him along the line of one solid thigh. Angel let out a low groan and helped him, fitting Spike’s fingers around an unencumbered cock. Spike didn’t know when Angel had freed his own erection, but he wanted to give his the same privilege. With one hand each, they negotiated his zipper, but before Spike could relieve the tightness, Angel plunged his hand in, groping blindly around, mushing hardness with warmth and softness, grinding and enjoying the way Spike wriggled and squirmed in his arms.
With sudden clarity, Spike knew that he was moments away from tearing off his jeans and impaling his body on the hardness he held in his fist.
As if his thoughts were being read, or Angel had come to this conclusion on his own, the powerful vampire wrapped his other arm firmly around Spike’s chest, preventing him removing his clothes.
This was different from the No Kissing rule, though. Spike felt Angel wasn’t acting out of spite. It seemed his flaccid jibe had hit home. He couldn’t believe that Angel could be anxious about being hard enough. The cock in his hand felt like a tree branch, like a stake that could reach solid all the way to his heart. He pictured his guts recoiling at its vastness as it pushed inexorably into his body and on this thought came so hard and fast that Angel wasn’t even prepared. Shot after powerful shot of come, unable to escape the confines of his jeans, wet Angel’s still exploring hand. Angel cried out and crushed Spike to his cock, jerking against him, as he rolled his fist around in the sticky mess in Spike’s jeans.
Grunting with the effort of freeing himself, Spike twisted around. Kneeling, facing Angel, he began to work him expertly, taking over the effort of making him come. Angel held onto the bony shoulders, his neck stretched back like a man on the rack, and when he came, Spike was afraid a tendon would snap, so hard did Angel strain and buck his body beneath his unrelenting fisting.
When Angel was done, Spike stilled his hand and sat straddling the broader thighs. He looked up and found that Angel’s dark eyes were watching him thoughtfully. Thinking he had very little to lose one way or the other, Spike asked calmly, ‘Why do you find it so hard to admit what you really want? There were cheaper ways to make me want to be here with you than a TV.’
Angel didn’t explode or withdraw sullenly into himself. He ran his fingers through his hair then cursed when he remembered what coated them. Equally calmly, he said, ‘Go take a shower.’
Spike shook his head. ‘Tell me.’
Angel didn’t catch his eye. He took a small breath and said uncertainly, ‘You assume that I know.’
Spike kept his eyes fixed on Angel’s profile. ‘Why don’t you let me help you find out?’
Angel suddenly chuckled ruefully. ‘I kinda thought that’s what I was doing.’
Spike smiled. ‘Kiss me.’
Angel pouted then stood up, lifting Spike effortlessly to the floor. ‘Go shower. I’ll….’
‘You come, too.’
Angel’s body language betrayed him, giving lie to any refusal he might have made. Spike laughed and tucked his fingers into the waistband of the dark sweats, tugging him gently toward the bathroom.
Their clothes were done for: Spike’s jeans soaked and tacky on the inside, Angel’s running with rapidly drying cum. They peeled them off, and after only a moment’s hesitation, Angel put Spike’s in the hamper along with his.
Naked, they stepped into the shower.
It was a whole new level of intimacy. So far, most of their encounters had been furtive, partially clothed, or hidden. Now they saw each other in the raw, saw cocks swinging beneath thatches of dark hair and glimpses of pendulous balls. After a moment, holding the soap loosely in his hands, Angel said quietly, ‘I’m sorry I hurt you.’
It was as if for the first time, this nakedness forced Angel to see the man beneath the skin, see the vulnerable beneath the surface of Spike’s demonic hardness. He lowered his brow and repeated, ‘I’m sorry.’
Spike’s reaction surprised them both. He’d imagined such an apology a number of times since Angel tortured and raped him, and each time he’d been so pleased that he’d shrugged at the confession and reminded Angel how many times they’d done similar things to each other in the past.
So, when Angel finally did apologise, his anger surprised him. Instead of shrugging it off, his face creased, and he said bitterly, ‘I thought we were friends—if nothing else.’
Angel’s brow lowered more.
‘I came to help you!’
Angel eyes lifted and they glittered with suppressed malice. ‘Did you? Or did you think it was payback time at last?’
Spike stared him out but finally nodded. ‘Okay, I admit: at first I thought it would be kinda cool ripping you out of your humanity.’
Angel seemed wrong-footed that Spike admitted this so readily. He nodded briefly. ‘Okay then. We know where we stand.’
‘But whatever I did, or why I did it, you had no reason to…. I mean…. Shit, Angel, you fucking raped me!’
Angel stepped out of the shower and pulled a towel around his waist. ‘I know. You don’t have to remind me.’
Angel whirled around and gripped his upper arm. ‘I know every single evil thing I’ve ever done. Every one and I regret them all. All of them, Spike. A lifetime of regret. But where does it get me? I still hurt the people that mean the most to me!’
Spike looked down at the bruises flaring on his arm, shadow fingerprints, and then back up. ‘Just tell me what you want from me.’
Angel began to shake his arm, his face pained. ‘I want what I had back there! I want what I was there! What you were….’
‘It wasn’t real! We’re real now. Why can’t you have it here with me now? You want me, but you don’t want me!’
Angel released him, and whatever impulse he may have had to share or turn away from the path he was taking was lost. In a flat voice, he said, ‘You’re right. I do want your body. Hell, I’d be pretty damn foolish to try and deny it now. But I don’t want anything else from you. Do you understand what I’m saying? I’m dead, but I still need to fuck. I need release not involvement. I don’t want to talk to you or look at you. I just want to get off on you. There’s nothing inside me, Spike. I’m totally dead now, and I don’t want to be brought back to life again.’
For a moment, it could have gone a number of ways. Like parting realities, Spike actually saw different lives play out for a while: the one where he flew furiously at Angel and they went on living their painful lies; the one where he believed Angel and decided that an emotionally dead lover wasn’t enough, leaving L.A. for good.
The reality he actually accepted he could not see play out, but he did it anyway. He snorted, said ‘Right’ in a derisive tone and waved his hand, amused, at the TV. ‘So, that’s, like, what? No bloody involvement? Get out of my way, Angel; you make me madder than hell sometimes.’ He pushed past the silent vampire and threw himself wet on the bed. Yanking the covers up, he added, ‘You gettin’ in?’
Angel stared at the carpet, his lips pursed angrily at being called on his lies. Eventually, he climbed in alongside Spike, but he turned his back to him and pulled the covers protectively higher. ‘Things will never be as you want them to be. However much you want them, Spike. This is reality, and I control it more than I controlled my dream world. I don’t want you or like you, but if you want this, then fine, I’m not averse to having you around: I don’t like having to seek you out when I want to fuck you. But don’t turn this into something that it’s not. If you need more, find someone else to give it to you.’
Spike listened to this from his vantage point the other side of the resistant back. He raised his eyes and said thoughtfully, ‘I’m thinking Wesley is pretty lonely.’
Angel turned over. ‘Not him.’
Spike kept his smile inside and frowned as if thinking deeply. ‘But you’ve just said….’
‘I need Wesley focused on what he’s supposed to be doing. Don’t distract him with your games.’
‘I wasn’t going to play with him. He’s more than capable of knowing what he wants.’
‘I’ve said no.’
‘I’m really scared. And isn’t this nice? A little cosy bedtime chat. Kiss me goodnight, Darling.’ He laughed at Angel’s expression and turned his back. ‘‘Night, Pet.’
Angel was silent for a while but finally said tightly, as if only just controlling his jealousy, ‘If you need more, you rent a movie and jack off. Got it?’
‘You are so romantic.’
‘Go to sleep, Angel.’ He turned over and said with blunt clarity, ‘Right now, I don’t need more than this. When I do, I’ll break down another of your barriers and have it with you. I told you in the dream, Angel: family and Buffy. That’s all there’s ever been for me.’
Angel licked his lips and picked at a nail for a while. ‘I lied about Buffy. I haven’t spoken to her, and she doesn’t know you’re back.’
Spike felt a layer of pain in his heart dissipate and knew it had nothing to do with Buffy but everything to do with Angel’s confession, providing as it did that something fundamental was changing between them. He flung himself down on the pillow. ‘I’m thinking she wouldn’t be all that bothered if she did know.’
Angel glanced over. ‘She never calls me either.’
Spike smiled softly. ‘Careful or we’ll actually be talking.’
Angel turned his back and stiffened his shoulder in silent reply.