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Returning Feelings

Chapter 4

Angel dressed, watching Spike doing the same. 'They're humans.'

Spike looked over and shrugged. 'Like you said with the guy on the pavement, not real?'

Angel shook his head. 'No. Real. I don't know how, but somehow people have tapped into this place and are here… for real.'

'Oh.' Spike frowned. 'That's not good then….'

Suddenly, Angel came close and held Spike's hands still. 'You throw a diversion, and I'll go for the control room.'

Spike nodded as if this was a good plan, but contradicted this by saying distinctly, 'And this from the pillock who can't use his own cell phone? I'll go for the controls.'

Angel opened his mouth to disagree, but Spike added, raising his arms fractionally, 'Not really gonna put up the diversionary fight we need either.'

Angel winced, clearly still unwilling. Eventually, he nodded and turned away. He continued buttoning his shirt and said in a quiet voice, 'Be careful.'

Spike glanced up at his back. 'You owe me a packet of cigarettes, remember? I'm holding you to it.'

Angel smiled at Spike's characteristic way of hiding anything he really meant in humour and straightened, watching the door expectantly.

He expected them both to be taken to the holding room, where they could collect their thoughts and prepare for what lay ahead, but instead, they were led straight back into the room he had spent most of the previous day. He didn't catch Spike's eye as the younger vampire took in the scene that greeted him. He knew that Spike gave him an odd look, felt a stab of anger at this judgment, but then frowned when Spike stepped closer and said under his breath, 'I had no idea. I'm sorry, Luv.'

Angel hesitated then repeated his warning to be careful.

From then on, it became a blur of flesh and pain. He tried to watch Spike, didn't want to watch what he was forced to do, but didn't want to lose sight of him, either. He sensed that Spike watched for him, too, and when he could bear it no more, he broke off with a roar, crashing through the bodies that surrounded him. He saw Spike take the cue and slip away, but then he saw no more as pain from the collar blinded him. He fell to the ground, beaten and kicked, waited until they believed he was subdued, and then came back to himself: a master of pain. He drew the pain into himself and made it his. He fed on it and rose, unassailable. He fought them back, agony a fulfillment of a promise that he'd long been denied, but then the pain overwhelmed even his great need of it.

When he opened his eyes, he knew they streamed with tears, but he faced Spike and brushed them away.

Spike swallowed deeply.

Angel nodded and smiled. 'Well done.'

Spike opened his mouth to reply then frowned and cast a small glance to the side. 'Oh. Bugger.'

Angel came back to himself, shaking off the memory of the pain that had clouded him for a moment. He frowned and looked down. 'Huh.'

'I knew it! You traitor!'

Angel released the outraged boy and said in a puzzled tone, 'Xander?'

Xander looked up at him through terrified eyes. 'You're with him! You tricked me and betrayed us all!'

'Calm down. This isn't what it seems.'

'You've just told him well done!'

Spike grinned. 'Hey, you did!' He poked Angel. 'You did all right yourself.'

'Shut up, maybe? Not the right time?' He turned to try and pacify Xander, but the boy gave him a furious look and ran out through the doors.

Angel bent and put his hands on his thighs.

After a small hesitation, Spike put his hand on Angel's back. 'You okay, Luv? You seemed to be going down there for a while.'

'I think we both went down-- a lot.' He straightened, caught Spike's look and began to laugh. Spike dipped his head and laughed, too, his hand now slipped down to Angel's waist. Angel took hold of his arm and pulled him a little closer, brushing his lips over Spike's hair. 'I meant it. Good job.' Spike lifted his face with a puzzled look. For a moment, they both sensed that something was going to happen, but Angel suddenly glanced to one side and said in an unnaturally high voice, 'Buffy?'

Spike turned his head, too, and side by side, they stared at the slim, young figure.

She stared back, her hands on her hips, an axe swinging at her side. 'Stand aside, Angel.'

Angel swallowed and stepped toward her. 'Buffy. This isn't what it seems to you.'

'Oh, and what does it seem to me, Angel? Some vampire called William the Bloody and his gang of dead-breaths terrorise my friends and make Parent Teacher Night even worse than it would have been without them!' She glared at Spike. 'Kitty's here.'

Spike stepped up behind Angel and said cheerfully, 'You've gotta give her credit; she's wrong on almost every point.'

Angel hissed, 'Shut up. Now.'

Buffy's eyes rose, but they watered slightly at the same time, and she said less confidently, 'You didn't say you knew him-- I mean… not….'

'Actually, Slayer, he knows me pretty well after last….' He shut up when Angel's elbow thumped into his belly, and he went chuckling to the wall, rummaging for a cigarette in an ever-hopeful belief that they, like his clothes, might have magically reappeared.

Buffy smiled and turned as if to leave, but in a move almost too quick to follow, she spun around and hurled the axe at Spike. It was a deadly accurate throw, the blade spinning toward his neck. There was cry, and it thumped into Angel's back as he crashed into Spike, covering him.

Buffy cried out and came toward them, but there was a scream from the other end of the corridor, and with tears in her eyes, she murmured, 'Mom.' Undecided for a second, she spun and ran off into the darkened hallway.

Spike eased Angel off him and cursed, pulling out the blade. He cupped his hands over the wound.

Angel staggered to his feet and caught hold of Spike's arm. 'We need to get out of here.'

Spike hesitated, looking down the hallway. 'I--.'

'Spike! Now!' He began to pull Spike away.

Spike resisted. 'They were a nasty bunch I got together, Luv. She's all alone….'

Angel looked at him incredulously, sweat from the pain standing out on his pale forehead. He bent close, his breath nothing more than a ragged whisper. 'This isn't real. You are. Now, move.' Suffering no further disobedience, he dragged Spike to the door. It was a token display, for the effort was too much.

Spike glanced back at the trail of blood Angel was leaving, cursed and propped him up. 'Come on, Pet. We need to get you out of here.'

Angel nodded, and with great difficulty, they made it out into the night.

Spike led Angel down into the sewers, shaking off the almost overwhelming strangeness off being back in these tunnels. 'Where shall we go?'

Angel pointed and nodded, 'My place-- old place. There's blood there, and weapons.'

Spike nodded and began to lead Angel the way he had indicated. After a mile or two, he sniffed quietly and, glancing at Angel's increasingly pale face, said, 'Thanks.'

Angel grimaced. 'I didn't intend for it to hit me.'

'Not that. You took my side, Angel.'

'In your dreams.'

'You said you don't dream of me.'

'Why is it that if I give you some instruction, advice, commands, insults, you manage to totally ignore it all; I make one throw-away comment about a dream, and it lodges in that irritating brain of yours forever!'

'Dunno, Pet. Just a lucky knack, I guess. And you did, by the way. You took my side against Buffy.'

'She was going to kill you.'

Spike didn't seem to find this an adequate enough explanation, and he kept his eyes lowered thoughtfully as they walked.

Angel straightened when they came to his door. He opened it cautiously and peered inside. With a small breath of relief he murmured, 'No old me, sitting here, brooding.'

Spike looked intrigued. 'Two you's…?' He left a small pause and said, timed to perfection, 'That has interesting possibilities.'

He found something thrown at him and fumbled to catch the medicine box.

Angel slumped on the bed, and Spike helped him off with his coat and shirt. The wound was worse than he'd anticipated, and before he did any first aid, he found the refrigerator and handed Angel a couple of bags of blood.

Angel was looking around with a dark expression. Spike crawled onto the bed behind him and began to stick the edges of the wound together with tape.

'This was my life.'

'Yeah. Sad, hey?'

When Angel didn't reply, Spike poked him gently. 'Don't tell me you're regretting this?'

'It was all so simple, you know?' He ran his fingers wearily through his hair. 'But I guess it didn't seem so at the time; it was just dark and confusing.'

'Yeah, that's what loving Buffy'll do for you.'

'I meant….'

'I know what you meant. Remember-- I've just been through it all: soul, dark, depressing, broody, damn sexy.'

'You grew your hair and sulked in a cellar for a few weeks, Spike. Ow! Jesus!'

Spike put another strip over the place where he'd ripped one off and said pointedly, 'Now you've got it made, Angel: CEO?'


'There. All patched up.'


'Like the old days, huh?'

Angel twisted around on the bed, wincing as the edges of his wound were stretched apart. 'I think that's exactly what Buffy thought.'

'That you'd turned?'

Angel frowned. 'I'm not too sure at this stage she really understood the curse thing, but she got that I was… conflicted, yeah.'

Spike was staring down at Angel's blood on his hands. Suddenly, he brought one palm up to his mouth and licked it, watching Angel through lowered lids.

Angel rose and cursed, stumbling over something. He leant a hand on the wall and closed his eyes.

Spike climbed off the bed and said carefully, 'Lie down. You need to rest. I'll keep watch.'

'What are we going to do?'

The question was so ambiguous that Spike didn't risk a reply.

Spike allowed him an hour's rest before he woke him. He sat alongside the sleeping figure for some time before he actually put out a hand and contacted with the cool, pale flesh.

Conflicted seemed a good word. He rolled it around mentally, trying it out, seeing if it suited all the ways he thought about Angel. It did. He wondered idly why it was that he found it so hard to keep enemies-- that he kept turning them into something quite other, something that burnt with the same fire and passion as hate, but left him so raw and exposed, so vulnerable.

Conflicted and vulnerable…. He smiled wryly and poked Angel in the ribs. 'Wakey, wakey.'

Angel said, without opening his eyes, 'I haven't been asleep.'

Spike snorted and went to the closet. 'Right. Now, let's find you something to…. Huh….'

Angel sat up and glanced over. 'What?'

'Well, what a damn waste! Fancy leaving all this stuff here and wearing all those damn suits all day!'

'Jesus, Spike, are you really dense, or do you just practise quietly? This is the past. I didn't leave them. I still have them…. Is this the past?'


Angel stood up and came over, sorting through the shirts hanging in the closet. 'If this is the past, then we can't change it without changing us.'

Spike gave him a look through narrowed lids then crowed, 'You've been watching Star Trek!'

Angel gritted his teeth with exasperation, but before he could make a suitable reply, Spike patted him reassuringly, 'It's just a recreation for the game, Luv. Not real, remember?'

'If that axe had hit you, it would have been.'

Spike pursed his lips, thinking. 'If I got killed in here, would you stay or - whoosh - catapult back to Wolfram and Hart, do you think?'

Angel was watching the shapes Spike's mouth made and didn't reply. He turned and fetched two bags of blood. 'Feed. It might be our only chance.'

'What do you think this level is all about?' Spike tipped the bag up and drank deeply, wincing at the taste of cold pig's blood.

Angel lowered his blood and licked a dribble off his lower lip. 'I think this is where I have my loyalties tested.'



'Did I tell you recently how much I admire and like you, Angel?'

Angel smiled. 'I'm the Sea-Green Incorruptible, Spike-- you can't bribe me.'

Spike moaned softly at the delight of the challenge and slid seamlessly into his most seductive face. With a perfect pause, he said softly, 'Is that so?'

Angel repressed a smile. 'Stop it. We're going to have one very pissed-off Buffy here soon.'

Spike came closer and put his hands behind his back submissively. 'Sorry.'

'Stop it!'

Pursing his lips, looking up through lowered lids, Spike whispered, 'Choose me, Angel.'

Angel pushed him, but they were both laughing, and suddenly Spike switched moods. 'I really need a cigarette, and you promised…!'

Angel threw him his coat, opened the door cautiously, and nodded for Spike to follow him.

Neither could deny that strolling through Sunnydale was as bizarre as it was a turn-on. They felt detached, powerful, very removed from the little events that had happened to them there. Glancing over at Angel, Spike knew that part of this heady sense of power came from being there with him for once. Angel caught him looking, and they shared a moment of complete understanding about the changes that had overtaken them both since their last visits there.

Angel pursed his lips and looked down at the sidewalk for a moment then said very quietly, 'My decision to take over Wolfram and Hart was very complex, Spike.'

Spike glanced over at him, but at the tone of this small comment, knew better than to respond.

'I had to make a decision that has consequences at every turn-- every move I make now.'

Spike pushed his hands into his pockets to resist the extremely disturbing need to take Angel's hand for a moment.

'Last year, Darla came….' Darla now conjured in his mind, fear churning his belly as he tried to unburden his soul to this most unlikely of confessors, Angel confused the small, blond figure in a school girl's skirt who barred their way.

Spike was the first to speak and groaned impatiently, 'Slayer.'

'What is this, Angel? Are you…? Have you…? Why are you still with him?'

Angel held up a placating hand, but kept the other on Spike's chest, forcing him to keep behind. 'Spike has a soul, Buffy. It's complex, and I'm not going to try and explain it to you. You have to believe that I know what I'm doing.'

Buffy looked more upset than angry, and she tossed her head at Spike. 'He killed Mr. Mathew.'

Angel looked blank, and she said in an increasingly tense voice, 'My history teacher? Angel! You know who he is! You helped me with my assignment on Nineteen-Six…!'

Spike leant around Angel. 'Good choice, Pet. 'Gelus knows lots 'bout history. Get 'im to help with Sex Ed, too-- 'e's even better at that!'

Angel suddenly said brightly to Buffy. 'I'll stake him for you!'

She looked angrily at him, sensing that she was the butt of a private joke between the vampires. Something in this - some perceived betrayal from one she had come to rely on - clouded her judgment enough for her to make things worse. She hissed icily, 'Step away from Spike.'

Angel did the opposite and put both arms behind him, keeping Spike pinned to his back. 'No. Buffy, you have to try and understand that the Spike who killed Mr. Mathew is not this Spike. It's a spell. This Spike has a soul, and he's….' He trailed off, not sure how he'd meant to end that sentence. The word mine echoed on the air as if he'd actually said it.

Suddenly, Spike swore and stepped through Angel's restraint. 'Look, Buffy….'

Something in the red heat of Buffy's rage made her forgo using the stake that she carried. She went in for the kill with more deadly weapons: her feet and fists. She expected this new vampire Spike to be good - he'd killed two slayers already - but she was completely taken aback by his speed and strength.

For a moment, they were evenly matched, but she placed a powerful kick on one arm, and he went down, cursing and biting his lip with pain.

Suddenly, she found her feet lifted off the ground. She kicked back in surprise and caught something unexpectedly hard on Angel. Whatever it was, it seemed to cause him some considerable pain, and for a moment, she had both vampires kneeling on the ground in front of her.

Angel slowly rose to standing. 'No more.'

She kicked him again. He caught her ankle and flipped her back. She lay on the sidewalk, staring up at him in bewilderment.

Angel took a menacing step toward her but turned when he felt a hand on his arm. 'Don't.'

Angel frowned, and Spike added for his hearing alone, 'Don't let the bastards ruin your memories of Buffy. I'll go.'

Angel leant into his ear. 'The old factory.'

A small quiver ran through Spike, but he nodded and ran off into the night.

As soon as he was out of sight, he stopped and stamped his foot in fury, realising that he'd left the two of them together.

He walked along, chewing on this sour thought for a long time.

The bitter memory of embraces and passionate kissing, whilst he'd looked on helpless and forgotten, churned his guts.

Suddenly, he stopped.

Passionate kiss? -- He'd been watching Buffy then.

Leaving them together on the sidewalk? -- He was picturing Angel now.

He wrapped his arms tightly around his body as this small revelation hit him: the stab of jealousy at the thought of what they might now be doing was all for Angel.

Instead of going to the factory, he went to the Bronze and got drunk.

The alcohol, at least, was very real.  

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