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Reality Check - Chapter 4
Spike spent the night sitting alongside Angel, hoping the sight of him would help with the capture of all the necessary facts. It didn’t. The contrast between the Angel lying on the bed and one that existed behind those still features in Angel’s imagination was painfully distracting. Stressed, worn looking, his energy being drained, the only sign of life on this Angel was a vein pulsing in the broad forehead. Spike tore his eyes away and focused on the paper. He felt guilty, as if he were conspiring with Angel’s enemies. He knew that Wesley underestimated the pain Angel would feel if they did this thing to him. Spike wasn’t entirely convinced that Angel would rather return to life in this world than die in that one. As he had pointed out (although he’d noticed no one had listened, as usual), he’d kinda… been here… done this…. And it hadn’t ended well (for him, at least).Dutifully, he made his list of observations: Angel was sitting by the pool. He was rocking a basket with his toes. The baby looked like him. It had the face of an angel. He looked like the baby. Unsullied.
One by one, he listed in order the things he had thought then went down through the dark and always slightly eerie hallways to Wesley’s office and laid his list prominently on the desk.
When he walked in at lunchtime, Wesley peered at him over the sheets of paper. ‘Hello.’
Spike nodded and lit a cigarette, flinging himself into a chair. ‘Well?’
Wesley looked down and spread the sheets on the desk. Suddenly, he shoved his chair back and went to stare out of the window.
Spike sat straighter, then got up and came closer. ‘What?’
Wesley spun around and grabbed his wrist. ‘Damn you.’
‘What do you smell, Spike?’
‘Coffee! What is this, Wesley?’
‘No! Tell me! What can you smell?’ He shoved Spike hard then pulled him closer. If Spike were human, his wrist would have bruised. ‘What can you smell?’
‘You washed your hair with something that has coconut in it. You filled your car up on the way to work. You polished your shoes. Your pen leaks, and you cried last night. You stood close to a man in a bar who killed someone. You have something that belonged to Fred in your bed with you. But you can’t smell her on it any more.’
Wesley stepped back, pale. He suddenly seized the papers in his fist and shoved them in Spike’s face. ‘Tell me! Tell me the truth!’
Spike’s face creased up, and he looked as if he would pull away from the human’s grasp, but then he spat out, ‘He was hard all the time! He ached for relief, and Buffy wasn’t what he needed, but he couldn’t change that fucking life—it was the one he’d always wanted. His body yearned for dark pleasures, but his damn head wouldn’t let it have them. His saliva was aching to taste someone else’s; his sweat was eager to share with sweat. There! Are you happy now?’
Wesley ran his fingers through uncombed hair. ‘Not particularly, but I do have a plan—of sorts.’
Spike felt angry, as if Wesley had opened him up and peered into his secret places. He tried not to use the word rape, but it slipped into his mind nevertheless.
That he had just betrayed Angel in some way made him turn away and deliberately not ask Wesley what he had devised. He knew this would piss the man off. It was a petty revenge, but he enjoyed it anyway.
‘I’m sorry, Spike. Angel used to….’
‘Don’t talk about him in the past tense!’
‘I’m not. I’m telling you something that happened in the past.’
‘He used to do that to me sometimes. When I’d come into work in the mornings, he’d slide past me with that enigmatic smile he’d wear sometimes and whisper my night to me. I had forgotten that he did that. In this place, I find I forget a lot of things that happened between us. But when I read your bland… account… I could hear him whispering again of sweat and saliva and….’
Spike swallowed. ‘You heard him?’
Wesley blinked. ‘Well, no, not literally; I was using dramatic irony.’
Suddenly, at the same time, they snorted with faint amusement, which then amused them enough to give each other shy smiles. ‘Sorry.’
Spike nodded. ‘Yeah. So am I. I didn’t lie, Wes; it’s just something I can’t talk about with….’
‘Did you ever talk about it with Angel?’
Spike pursed his lips and narrowed his eyes fractionally. ‘That’s an odd question.’
‘No, it’s not. You said you couldn’t talk about it with humans, which implies that you could with fellow demons.’
‘Well, yeah, an’ I know lots of demons, all of ‘em more friendly than Angel.’
‘So, you don’t… talk… about things with Angel?’
Wesley sighed and sat down in his chair, spreading his fingers on the desk as if for support. ‘I’m trying—in what appears to be far too subtle a way—to find out what kind of relationship you really have with Angel—the one you have when no one else is around.’
Spike froze, a cigarette theatrically halfway to his mouth.
Wesley pouted and winced slightly under the intense scrutiny. ‘Surely you can’t know someone for that long and not have a sort of private relationship when it’s just the two of you. Like—and I’m half-afraid to actually say this—like a very old married couple that moves around each other without the need for outward communication?’
‘You really do need a good shag now and again, Wesley. You bloody dwell on some very unhealthy thoughts.’
‘Why are you both so afraid to confront these issues, Spike?’
‘What issues? He’s just a vampire that bit me. Sure, he’s kinda familiar now. That’s partially why I’m here; I’ll admit that, but it’s no more than that! What do you think we bloody do when we’re alone? We stare in opposite directions and think about Buffy! What the hell has this to do with me trying to break that bloody demon’s hold…?’
‘Because you need to make Angel fall in love with you. That’s the plan. You need to make him want you more than he wants that illusory life.’
Wesley almost laughed at the way Spike’s face gave meaning to the word derision. He would have laughed if he hadn’t felt the weight of his plan like a stone around his neck. He suspected that Spike thought he couldn’t know how much this would hurt Angel. Of course he knew. He knew Angel better than anyone. He knew what drove the dark vampire. He understood passion better than a man who indulges it. He’d studied it—studied Angel—until he knew all the ways that passion could drive a man. Everything Spike told him confirmed in his own mind that Angel was fighting just this: his deep, red river of passion.
It was time to let it flow.
Spike finished lighting his cigarette and said deceptively casually, ‘You are a complete riot sometimes, Mate.’
‘You know I’m not joking. I think you knew what I’d say. I think you thought it yourself when you were there.’
‘You think too bloody much.’
‘At this moment, I’m thinking that you haven’t actually denied the truth of what I said.’
‘It don’t matter how true it is that he needs to do it; he isn’t going to do it. You might as well tell the sun to stand still in its orbit.’
Wesley glanced up, frowning, then shook his head as if deciding to leave well enough alone. ‘The situation is not real, Spike. Nothing that is real here need apply there. Christ, you say he’s conjured up a baby? That just proves how out of character he’s acting over there. Who knows what else he could be persuaded to that was… out of character.’
Spike nodded, but it was clearly a nod of denial. ‘Still not going to work. You wanted to know what we’re like when we’re alone? I’ll tell you, Wes: we make the arguments we have in public look like sweet, whispered nothings.’
‘Excellent. I suspected as much.’
‘Oh, come on! You’ve been alive a very long time, Spike. You’re not exactly challenged in the cranium department: you’re one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. Do you really think the way you and Angel carry on means you don’t like each other?’
‘You need to be very careful where you’re going with this.’
‘Yet again! No denial!’
‘No, I don’t need to deny it. It’s too bloody preposterous to need my denial!’
Wesley stood up and slammed his fist onto the table. ‘It’s passion, Spike! I don’t care what you rationalise it as. It’s Angel’s passion, and he has it with you. Yes, you bicker and try to kill each other and make each other’s lives a misery, but you gravitate to one another. You circle each other. Your passions keep you bound together in a bitter dance.’
Spike folded his arms around his body, rubbing for a moment as if he were cold. ‘Dance?’ His voice sounded unnaturally loud, so he repeated softly, ‘Dance?’
Wesley lifted his eyebrows. ‘Wrestling, if it makes you feel more manly. What?’
Spike shook his head but then, after a moment’s hesitation, said quickly, ‘I said that to Buffy once: that all we really did was dance.’
Wesley perched on the edge of the desk and began to dig distractedly at a cuticle. ‘I never have asked you how your affair started. I’ve meant to—I certainly didn’t see it coming—but it’s never been the right time to ask somehow.’
Spike raised his eyes to the ceiling and blew out a long stream of smoke. ‘One day, the dancing wasn’t enough.’
Wesley lifted his eyes to Spike’s face and knew that he had won.