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Reality Check - Chapter 7
Spike was not the least surprised when the baby made no appearance at breakfast or the rest of that day. He knew he shouldn’t be grinning and feeling pleased with himself that he’d supplanted a baby, but it was kinda cool all the same.
As Angel began some preparations for breakfast, Spike studied him with intense concentration. He was here now; that was established. But having pancakes together, messing around with weights or whatever else Angel had in mind for him, wasn’t going to snap Angel out of this fantasy life. He had to seduce Angel with something that he would want more than he wanted this.
Spike knew his history with seduction wasn’t all that impressive. Drusilla had seduced him and he—nervous, repressed, virgin poet that he had still been—had submitted to her dark caress as he would have to a whirlwind: first with fear and then with resignation. It was only as the change had begun in him, the blossoming of his new persona, that he had taken the initiative with her, but by that time there was no seducing to be done. She was his; he was hers, and it had lasted for decades of passionate pleasure. Then there had been Buffy. His seduction of her was almost too embarrassing to think about. He remembered chocolates, wigs, robots and poems, all in flashes that made him feel nauseous. If he wasn’t hounding and tormenting her, kidnapping or torturing her, he was like a court jester: desperately joking and dancing, hoping his queen would notice him.
Spike jumped and looked up, confused.
Spike eyed the batter and nodded.
Spike frowned and toyed with the gingham tablecloth. ‘Did Buffy ever talk about me?’ He suddenly blushed deeply and cursed under his breath. Who was the one forgetting reality now?
Angel didn’t find the question as odd as Spike feared: he believed he had lived with Buffy for twelve years, so sat down and appeared willing to give the question consideration it didn’t deserve.
Spike knew anything Angel said would be unreal, made up to fit his own version of reality, but nevertheless, he couldn’t resist asking, ‘And?’
‘Well…. She told me how it started—all that pain from being pulled out of heaven.’
Spike felt it was better to move on from this particular subject, given the reason for his being there, so asked casually, ‘Did she know how I felt before that? I mean, I was trying to get her to want me before that, but I kinda messed it up. Not good with the seduction scenes, I guess.’ He looked away, feeling that he’d said too much, admitted too much, but something about this cosy domesticity—sitting at a pretty breakfast table, laid with gingham and flowers—encouraged confidences he would not have attempted in the sterile masculinity of Wolfram and Hart.
Angel was watching the expressions flit over Spike’s face. After a while, he said, ‘Sure she knew.’ He looked down and adjusted the cutlery then looked up and said with odd clarity, ‘You can be very seductive—mostly when you aren’t trying.’
Spike’s lips quirked, and he watched Angel rise and return to the stove.
He returned to his introspection, happier but none the wiser about how he was going to pull this thing off. He had the distinct feeling that Angel wouldn’t be impressed with any of his seduction tactics, even if there were the tiniest hint that Angel wanted him, which there wasn’t. Perhaps he was going about this all wrong. Perhaps his history didn’t matter so much as Angel’s. Perhaps he needed to think more about what Angel wanted, not what he could offer.
He leant back in his chair and looked around the kitchen.
Is this what Angel wanted?
It was something out of one of Harmony’s magazines: Hello, Okay, Envy Me. He could picture Angel posing at the range, posing on the couch, posing on the bed—perhaps with a Buffy look-alike: this is my life, this is me.
It all seemed so shallow to Spike, but at the same time, he couldn’t see how he could surpass it in Angel’s mind. Its very lack of real substance gave it its power: like sugar, he guessed, it was addictive.
Maybe Angel was just going for contrast—something that was the opposite of what he had always known. He’d done a pretty good job of it, if it were true. This sunny, warm, sweet-smelling kitchen could not be more different to what they had both left behind in the edifice of evil.
He was missing something though, and he knew it. What was it that really held Angel here? Could it really be gingham and pancakes and the smell of caramel in the air?
Slowly, Spike lifted his eyes to the ceiling. The child.
Where did the baby fit into this perfect life?
What was the baby giving Angel that held him fast in this destructive world? He closed his eyes and pictured the child, felt him again as he’d held him, let his baby-sweet essence seep into his being, trying to unravel the mystery.
He snapped open his eyes and fumbled for the plate that Angel was holding out to him. He yelped and dropped it to the table. ‘Ow! Hot!’
Angel laid down the cloth he’d been holding the plate with. He made a small click of his tongue and took Spike’s burnt fingers in his own, turning them, murmuring something that sounded very much like, ‘Baby.’
Spike looked up into Angel’s lowered eyes, and in that moment, he knew.
Touch—Angel was starved for touch. He was a creature put behind invisible bars, which prevented him from reaching out to the love he saw around him. Spike tried to think back to that other place that was real life, but which was becoming less and less real the longer he stayed here. When was the last time he’d seen Angel touch someone? Not the casual taking of a mug of coffee from Harmony. Not the resting of his hand on Wesley’s shoulder as they talked. Not the fighting with him. Real touch—hands; bodies rubbing together, belly to belly; smell and taste; and the sound of sweat getting off on sweat. When had Angel last enjoyed these things? He had Angel at something of a disadvantage. Despite Angel’s fantasy, he was the last one to be with Buffy, and Buffy shared secrets occasionally. Especially when she was in love, as she had been at the end, when it had been too late for both of them, and they had sacrificed that love for something they needed more: validation. She had lain in his arms and told him something of that one night with Angel. Not consciously kissing and telling, but trying to reassure him that she wasn’t short-changing him, because it had been just like this with Angel: loving, intense, but oddly asexual. So, he had to go further back to find sexual physicality in Angel’s life. Darla had given it to him; that was for sure. Perhaps that’s why, as Wesley had said, Angel still caved into her particular charms when he’d met her again in L.A. It was just touch, feeling something other than the cold, and no one else would give it to him.
What a perfect thing to create: a baby. Unconditional love, touch that could not be withdrawn, that would never be withheld. What did a baby need more than to be touched?
‘You don’t like them?’
Spike focused on Angel then on his plate. ‘No, they’re….’ He took a bite. They were surprisingly good. He repressed the thought that he was eating recycled baby and tucked in.
As he was chewing, he nudged Angel with his foot, watching the reaction to this small touch carefully. ‘What?’
‘What do you want to do today?’
Angel seemed to consider this for a long time. ‘How about a swim?’
Spike gritted his teeth then held his hand into the beam of sunlight that streaked high above his head through a crack in the blind. ‘I can’t go…. Hey.’ He stood up and put his forearm into the light. ‘Hey!’
Angel grinned. ‘Didn’t I tell you? I had the house made with Wolfram and Hart glass.’
Spike was absurdly grateful for this revision to their fantasy, and sat back down with a wide grin, until he said annoyed, ‘Last time I looked, the pool was outside and had roses in.’
Angel tipped his head to one side and said amused, ‘I’ve got a pool in the basement, Spike; you know that.’
Spike clenched his jaw. ‘Don’t you find it freaky? That you can control your life like this? Yesterday, you didn’t have an indoor pool! You didn’t!’
Angel looked curious for a moment then said calmly, ‘One day, I was human, and then I wasn’t. One day, I was soulless, and then I wasn’t. One day, I was in this world, and then I was in hell. Then I came back, and I was a demon again, and then I wasn’t: I was human for a day. But I was the only one who could remember that. One day, I was sterile and dead; then I had a baby with Darla, who was also dead—and barren. Oh, and, hey! One day, I was a dad, and then I wasn’t! But, best of all, one day I was grieving, and then I wasn’t, because he was back, and all grieving stopped. All emotion stopped, because it was too much: being killed by your own child, slowly in a way no one should be left to die. Oh… but then I didn’t die. I survived and fell into a world where everything was perfect, and I was in love, and I’d have killed to stay there. But they dragged me out. With blood! And how ironic is that, Spike? And then it was like hell again when I realised that I would never have Jasmine’s love back. And then I lost my child again—I gave him away, to someone else. Someone who could be a real father to him. See… seems like I wasn’t real enough for him. Are you starting to get it? I had to stand there and watch him have the perfect life while I returned to my life—what there was of it then. So, no, I don’t find it odd here. Here is right, and it stays just the way I want it to be. The way I want it to be, Spike. After three hundred years, it’s the way I want it to be.’
Spike swallowed. ‘How come I’m here then?’
Angel blinked and thought about this for a while. Then he smiled and said softly, ‘You’re my deliberate flaw.’
Spike’s hand froze as he was reaching for his coffee. ‘You need to be careful….’
‘The Shakers used to make sure that however perfect they made something, they put a tiny, human, deliberate flaw into it—to remind them that they could never be perfect: only God could.’
Spike repressed a pout and tried to say neutrally, ‘So, I’m the flaw ruining your perfection?’
Angel laughed. ‘No, I think that if this is all a delusion, some hell dimension that’s holding me in its blissful maw, you’ll be the one to save me. You’re my true perfection that will rub in the eye of this enticing devil.’
Spike leant back in his chair and lit a cigarette. It had not occurred to him, or (he assumed) to Wesley that Angel knew exactly where he was and what he was doing, but that he chose to stay here regardless.
He wasn’t sure that was what Angel had said, but if was, it explained a lot.
It changed a lot, too.
Now he had to tempt a conscious, resistant Angel. He had to try and seduce the same bloody Angel he’d been fighting with in L.A. only a month ago.
He snorted with amusement and stubbed his cigarette out into the remains of his pancakes. ‘I think I’m fucked.’
Angel lifted an eyebrow in surprise. If he was acting, it was a bloody good job.
Spike thought in for a penny, in for a pound and said deliberately, ‘If you know that this is a hell dimension and you’re trapped, then what the hell can I do to persuade you to come back? How the hell am I gonna rescue you, Angel? Give me a clue, maybe?’
‘Maybe this is real and everything else is the delusion, Spike. Maybe we were trapped in hell, and now we’re free. Seems to me…’ he looked slowly around his perfect, honey-coloured kitchen, ‘this is very real and normal. For once.’
Spike quickly lit another cigarette and screwed up his face, taking in the first jolt of very necessary nicotine. ‘But we—. I—.’ There was a good response; it would come to him. ‘That’s dumb.’ (It was the best he could come up with.) ‘Hey! What about the baby? How come he’s disappeared this morning?’
Angel watched him for a moment then leant over and took one of his cigarettes, tipping his head to indicate he wanted it lit. Bemused, Spike touched the tip to his, their faces inches apart. With his eyes locked to Spike’s, Angel murmured, ‘Do you want me to fetch the baby back?’
Spike reared away. ‘Are you threatening me?’
Angel tipped his head to one side, taking a deep drag on his cigarette. ‘Why does Connor threaten you?’
It was a bloody good act. Spike shook himself slightly. He was seeing twists and tricks that weren’t there. This was Angel’s mind, after all—simple, one-dimensional.
‘Are we going for this damn swim, or not?’
Angel smiled and stretched his arms above his head, and Spike felt a stab of uncertainty once more. Who was playing whom?
Angel stubbed out his cigarette. ‘We shouldn’t swim so soon after eating.’
‘I’m not bloody human, Angel! No tummy! No circulation! And you shouldn’t bloody smoke, come to that!’
Angel grinned and rose. ‘I do lots of things I shouldn’t these days—all the things I promised myself I would do.’
With that, he took the dishes to the sink and began to wash up. Spike had the distinct impression that housework wasn’t what Angel had just meant.
He took his bad mood into the living room to get away from the distracting presence. He was tempted to return to reality and tell Wesley to forget it. Or return to their shared delusion, which Angel had escaped….
As he flung himself furiously into a very real and substantial chair, he realised that Angel had not answered his question: What was he going to do to tear Angel away from this?
Or perhaps he had.
All the things I promised myself I would do
Had that been a come-on? A promise?
Spike slammed his fist into the chair. He’d had Angel’s promises before. He was the one who was supposed to be making and breaking promises now.
Something flew over the back of the chair and landed in his lap. A swimsuit.
Angel came into view, amused at Spike’s expression. ‘Are you coming?’
Just as Angel promised, he had a pool in the basement with one wall of sliding, sun-safe glass, which gave the illusion of bringing the outside in.
Angel pulled off loose sweatpants to reveal a pair of small red trunks, which did some considerable revealing of their own.
Spike held his up with dismay but saw with relief that they were anonymously baggy. As he had no intention of going into the water anyway, he wondered why he was alarmed. He sat on one of the sunbeds and watched Angel dive like an Olympian God into the perfect blue water. He shook himself and tried to remember that anyone could be perfect inside their own head.
Angel’s head rose when he reached the near side, and he propped his chin onto folded arms, drifting his legs out behind him. ‘Come in.’
Spike shook his head. ‘I don’t do the water thing. You know that. Have you ever known me to get voluntarily into water?’
Angel pouted. ‘But this is….’ Before Spike could react, there was a blur of movement, something on his ankle, and he was in the water—jeans, T-shirt, boots and bad attitude still in place.
Angel ducked under him and rose on the other side, laughing.
Spike had swallowed some of the water, which freaked him out more than swallowing the food, despite them all being some part of Angel’s psyche. He gagged and flung himself on the grinning figure, which was exactly what Angel had wanted in the first place.
Angel wasn’t easy to fight; he was wet and slippery and moved like he was part of the water: fluid and easy. (Which was something Spike really didn’t want to examine.) He, on the other hand, was dressed in sopping clothes, which were now stretched, enabling Angel to twist holds to pull him under then throw him away or drag him closer.
He only had one advantage.
He took it.
He was curious to see what Angel would do.
He caught Angel’s ankle and began to swim down.
It was one reason he detested swimming (besides being English and having bad memories of pink puckered thighs and water so cold it froze his spermatozoa): having no air, he sank. Badly.
Now, however, it was a distinct advantage. He was the anchor around Angel’s neck; he was the weight pulling Angel down.
He grasped him around the neck, locking his arms, watching Angel’s face.
Angel’s cheeks bulged out; his hair floated toward the surface, as if it had already made a desperate bid for air, refusing to recognise that this was all delusion and it didn’t need to breathe.
Angel began to struggle: a man drowning.
It really was a bloody good act.
For a moment, Spike wondered if this would be enough to bring Angel back. Would he give up the fantasy? Would he just stay under the water, admitting he didn’t need to breath, or would he…?
Spike frowned and licked his lips. Angel was going blue and ceasing to struggle.
Suddenly, holding Angel protectively, he kicked for the surface.
He held Angel above the water and felt him shudder then take a huge gasp of air.
It was best sound he’d heard for a long time. He towed Angel to the shallow end and just let him float out, holding his head. After a moment’s hesitation, he pushed a lock of hair from Angel’s forehead. ‘I’m sorry, Luv.’
Angel was concentrating on the air, but he opened his eyes, and they were curiously alive. ‘How long?’
‘Shit. That was such a rush, Spike.’
Spike stared down at him, perplexed by this reaction, but he felt Angel wanted to say something more, so raised an eyebrow expectantly.
Angel smiled. ‘You can let me go now; this is the shallow end.’
Very slowly and playfully, Spike pushed Angel’s face back under the water then he let him go and dragged himself out of the pool. He cursed his waterlogged clothes and took off his boots, empting them theatrically, ripping off his T-shirt.
He couldn’t believe it.
He refused to believe it; Angel caught him again and pulled him back into the water.
He surfaced and spat out a stream of water. Angel was smirking, his eyes sparking with challenge.
So, Spike let it all go: all his confusing motives, delusions, realities. For this one moment, none of it mattered.
He skimmed his hand over the surface and sent a sheet of water into the smirking face.
Angel hissed with glee and retaliated.
For over half an hour, they fought and splashed and wrestled like children. Spike didn’t exploit his advantage again, except by occasionally swimming out of Angel’s reach and staying down, attacking him from below like a demonic blond shark. Angel, though, still had the advantage of slippery skin compared to Spike’s jeans, which gave him great handholds.
It was this—a simple handhold—that turned the game from a childish one of splashing and noise to something else. Something definitely not childish.
As Spike ducked beneath the surface to dive and swim out of reach, Angel caught the back of his jeans, pulling hard on the waistband to detain him.
The top button gave, and with the increased strain, the next one went as well. Unaware of the damage, Angel yanked again, and the jeans slipped down to Spike’s thighs.
Spike twisted, now trying to swim back to the surface. Angel, confused by this turn of events, pulled some more, and the jeans came off in his hand.
Spike surfaced, flicking his head from side to side to clear his vision. He held out his hand, an annoyed look on his face.
Angel glanced at the jeans, as if considering something of great import then flicked up his eyebrows, smirked, shook his head, and slowly paddled backward.
Feeling exposed, well aware just how distinct his natural, dark hair looked against his unnaturally pale body, Spike swam closer. ‘This isn’t a joke, Angel. Gimme.’
Angel backed off again, glancing behind to see how close he was to the side.
Spike took his chance and lunged, grabbing the wet denim, but Angel didn’t let go, and they entangled, struggling for mastery.
Spike was now just as smooth and slippery as Angel, and their bodies twisted and coiled like mating sea otters. Angel was getting the worst of it, going under too much, swallowing too much water, but he would not back off. He held the jeans behind his back with one hand, swimming with the other. Spike darted his hands around, and they were locked together. His momentum buffeted them where Angel could stand. Spike could have, if he’d tried. They both knew this. Instead, he locked his legs around Angel’s waist.
Angel flung both arms back and grabbed the side, jeans forgotten.
He closed his eyes with a small hiss, which Spike could not interpret until he felt something snaking along his stretched cheeks. Angel’s cock tented the tight swimsuit, horizontal, running snugly the length of Spike’s stretched arse.
Intensely stimulated by the fight, Spike’s cock was already vertical, quite free of its tight foreskin and leering up at them with its greedy little mouth open.
Angel hung his head and murmured, ‘Fuck.’
Brushing his lips against Angel’s neck, Spike whispered, ‘Was that a request?’
Angel’s head jerked up, and he locked cold eyes on Spike’s. Spike held the gaze, knowing his eyes were deepening to amber, dilating. Very deliberately, he dragged his eyes down to Angel’s lips and back again. Angel’s tongue flicked out almost unconsciously, and he glanced down, too. Then Angel’s head dipped. It was so slow and so deliberate that Spike felt it outlasted the hundred years he had already waited.
Their mouths came together, and for one tiny moment there was nothing else but a kiss: the feel of the other’s lips, which they knew so well by sight, but had never felt before; the taste of the other’s saliva, which they’d seen spat in anger, but had never tasted before.
One moment, before the rush of what they were doing hit them…. Then it was all hands and limbs and rip of lycra. Flesh then rubbed to flesh, until with a sob, Angel’s body shook. He clamped Spike tight, as if by this close proximity, the childe would remain ignorant of the weakness of the sire’s resistance.
Crushed in such a tight embrace, Angel’s orgasm, therefore, ripped through Spike, too. The shudders of that powerful release kick-started his to life, and he arched back in Angel’s arms, his fingers digging into the powerful shoulders, his body jerking, spasm after spasm wringing his sperm from him, until it floated with Angel’s like tiny oil-slicks of pleasure on the rippling water.
They only came down from their individual pleasures when Angel began to shiver.
The heat of the water seemed to have gone into Angel’s orgasm, for now it was bitterly cold, the fabric of the house indistinct. Spike extricated himself from the almost stiff arms and sprung out of the water. He picked up Angel’s towel and turned, offering him his hand.
Angel ignored the hand but accepted the towel when he rose from the water. They watched the jeans and Angel’s ripped costume float together, as if tangled in some game of their own.
Spike felt as if he’d ruined everything: gone too far too soon. Resolutely, he lifted his head. ‘I’m not going to get all angsty about what just happened, Angel. It happens. Forget it.’
Angel turned his head and regarded him intently. ‘I’m not sure I want to.’
Spike faltered but added, ‘It was just release, we both needed it, and I’m….’
‘I wasn’t thinking about the orgasm.’ To illustrate his point, Angel leant over and put his lips to Spike’s. It was a cold embrace until his arms slipped around Spike’s head. Then he seemed to forget he was chilled, naked and kissing a man.
Spike felt the moment when the kiss changed, Angel’s mouth opening to his. For a fleeting moment, he remembered that he was supposed to be initiating this, leading the seduction, but then he didn’t care. What could be remembered when Angel’s tongue found his: touching, playing, teasing? Who cared who was supposed to be in control when Angel’s fingers dug into his wet hair, stroked his back, or sought lower, cupping him and crushing them together?
On his last rational thought, it occurred to Spike that, this time, Angel did forget he needed to breathe. Then he let the rational go on the pleasure of the fulfilment of a century’s old promise.