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Time is the Fire in Which we Burn - Chapter 4


Angel only seemed a little puzzled when Spike headed into the tunnel system. He made no comment, but Spike murmured nevertheless, 'Dunno the way up top.'

Angel nodded and followed him. Just before they reached the chamber, Spike bent as if to retie his boots. Only one direction to move in, Angel went on ahead. Spike came into the room, picked up the tranquilliser gun he'd left ready and shot Angel in the back twice. When he didn't go down but turned with an unreadable look, Spike shot him in the face. Then his expression became much easier to interpret. He fell heavily, but Spike still circled him warily until he was sure he was fully out.

Heaving Angel into restraints was more difficult than Spike had anticipated, but eventually he had him manacled behind his back and chained high on the wall. He squatted down in front of the inert form and lit a cigarette, waiting for him to wake.

When he saw signs of consciousness returning, he switched on the CD player and let the music drift through the small chamber. Angel opened his eyes and then struggled to his feet, testing the restraints. For one awful moment, Spike thought that they would give to the incredible force being applied to them, but they held, and Angel eventually stopped straining.

He looked at Spike. 'Why?'

Spike shrugged. 'Cus I can.'

'What now?'

'Now, Angel? Now, we're gonna have some fun.'

'You mean you are, and I'm going to hurt.'

Spike grinned. 'Jeez, you're not as smart as Angelus, but you do have flashes of brilliance sometimes. Gotta admire you for that.' He turned away and picked up the first of the many toys he'd brought into the place where Angel was to suffer.

He ran the strands of the whip through his fingers, playing with them, temping them to hurt him with their sharp edges.

'Is the whispering loud now, Spike? Does it drive you mad?'

Spike looked up sharply. 'What do you mean?'

'You know what I mean. This causes you pain, but you're still denying it.'

Spike laughed. 'Pain! Pain! You don't know fuck about my pain, Angel. You weren't there… I mean…. Fuck off!' He brought the whip down across Angel's chest with a vicious blow that tore the silk shirt into fragments. He looked at the effect for a moment then came closer and took hold of one of the hanging tatters. 'You know? Think I'll have all this off. I wanna see what I'm doing here.'

'You want me naked for other reasons, Spike. Why don't you admit it?'

Spike jerked back then came forward and punched Angel in the face. 'Shut up.'

As Spike tore Angel's shirt and threw the pieces to the ground, Angel began to laugh. Trying to stay in control, trying not to fall for the provocation, Spike had the irrational thought that, somehow, despite being chained and semi-naked in the dark, Angel was still in control of the situation. He decided to obliterate that thought with pain - Angel's. He rained blows down upon the naked back and torso, circling the chained figure until it fell to its knees.

All was silent for a while then Angel raised his head. 'Doesn't matter what you do, Spike, what you use, I'll not make a sound. I won't give you that satisfaction.'

Spike squatted down in front of Angel and lit a cigarette. 'I think you will. But we'll see. You forget - well, what am I saying? You don't know fuck about it, cus you don't care. I went through hell to get this soul back - torture the like of which even Angelus would be proud of. So, I learnt; I took notice. Now I'm here, and so are you.'


'Cus I fucking hate you, cus….'

'I meant why your torture, why the soul? What did you expect to get out of it?'

Spike suddenly rose to his feet and turned to his little pile of toys. 'Shut up, Angel. I told you to shut up.'

'Actually, you told me I'd make a noise; you can't have it both ways, Spike. What's it to be….' Angel suddenly cut off his provocation, perhaps unwilling to risk a sound of pain. Spike held onto the metal spike he'd driven through the powerful chest then gave it a small twist of malice.

'Still silent? Jeez, Angel, you impress me. I'd have screamed blue murder if you'd done that to me…. Hey? What am I saying? You did once.'

'That was Angelus.'

'Bullshit, Angel. Don't try that Angel/Angelus crap on me now. I used to believe it. I was like everyone else: falling for that little boy lost act of yours.... "Angelus is so mean. Angelus is a bully. Don't let Angelus out; he's done all these nasty things." That's utter crap, Angel. You're talking to the only other souled vampire in the world, and I know! I know! It's just me. I'm exactly the same as I was before the soul, only now I don't get to friggin' enjoy things.'

'Don't do it then, if you don't enjoy it.'

Spike wrenched the bar out of Angel and flung it to one side, coming in close to the pain-racked face. 'If I don't do it then I go fucking insane, cus it was all for nothing.'

'What did you expect, Spike? What did you expect when you went through all that for a soul? Did you want a ticker-tape parade? Did you want every knee to bow? Did you want to enter the Kingdom? Well it doesn't work that way.'

'Want! What did I want? You fucking hypocrite, Angel! You got sodding cursed with your soul. I asked for mine. I begged for it. I got fucking tortured for it, and I'm being tortured now! I don't know why I fucking did it, but it don't matter, cus I don't let it affect me. I don't have a friggin' soul.'

He picked up the first thing that came to hand - a small blowtorch, lit it with his cigarette and held it in front of Angel. 'Wanna see how much of a soul I don't have?' He let the narrow blue flame play over Angel's nipples, burning them out. When Angel made no sound, only watched him throughout, he threw the instrument to one side and came closer. He stood in front of Angel and began to unbuckle the slim leather belt. 'Nipples not do it for you, Luv? Let's try something more sensitive, shall we?'

'You got your soul for the wrong reason, Spike, and you won't live with it until you face that.'

Spike, his face inches from Angel's as he stripped his sire, said with utter disdain. 'That so?'

'You got your soul so I would love you, but love can't come with conditions, Spike.'

Spike let his hands drop and looked up at Angel, aghast. Angel only shrugged as best he could. 'Love can't come with conditions, Spike; it can't be forced - however hard you want it.

Spike screamed and flung himself on the chained body, propelling them both into the wall. He punched and kicked Angel until the heavier body slid unconscious to the floor, and then he lay on the inert vampire, panting heaving, ragged breaths.

Angel's skin still smelt clean and fresh.

With a huge, sucked-in cry, Spike rose up and ran out of the chamber. He ran through the tunnels and emerged into the early morning LA darkness. He ran desperately through the streets, unable to find what he was looking for, as he did not know what it was he sought. Eventually, he ran back to the bar he'd been in earlier that night, and without subtle teasing and wind-ups, just punched the largest, meanest thug he could see. He went down to a rain of blows; he was kicked and dragged into an alley; he was humiliated, abused, had an arm and his nose broken, and then he was thrown unceremoniously into a dumpster. He lay in it all day, and only when the sun went down did he return to Angel.

Angel was sitting back against the wall, twisting the manacles around his wrists with little sign of any injury on him. It briefly crossed Spike's mind that Angel appeared to heal far quicker than he did and wondered what he'd been feeding on lately. Angel stood when Spike came in and winced, coming forward to the ends of his chains. 'Don't do this, Spike. You aren't hurting me; don't punish yourself like this. It's not what I wanted.'

Spike came forward, unwilling to let Angel see the extent of his injuries, but wanting to confront him nevertheless. 'What the hell do you mean - not what YOU wanted?'

Angel didn't reply but only scanned Spike's bleeding face anxiously. 'How long have you been gone?'

Spike walked over to his toys and rummaged in them. 'Dunno, why? A day.'

'We were talking about love.'

Spike whirled around. 'We weren't talking at all, Fucker. This is not about talking.'

'Of course it is. That's all you and I have ever done. Talked around things, instead of getting down to what we needed to do.'

'There's only one thing I need to do, Angel, and that's shut you up for a fucking minute. Think this'll do it?'

Spike brought the needle-nosed pliers to Angel's face and drew them in slow patterns around the smooth skin. He teased them across his brown eyes, down the prominent line of his nose, into the soft contours of his mouth, over his tongue. He smiled as he watched the contrast of their sharp promise of pain sliding over these vulnerable places. Finally, with a small pout, he withdrew and tapped their cold edges thoughtfully against his nose. Angel smiled. 'Why don't you use your lips on me instead, Spike? You know it's what you want to do.'

With a howl of rage, Spike stabbed the pliers into Angel's cheek, piercing through. The small hole instantly welled with blood, which leaked like tears down Angel's clenched jaw.

Angel continued to hold Spike's gaze and said softly, with some difficulty now, 'I told you, Spike: this gives you more pain than it does me.'

For the first time, there appeared to be some recognition of the truth of this in Spike's face. He stared at the wound with as much horror and shock as if he'd been on the receiving end of the penetration. He looked down in wonder at the sharp tool held bloody and loose in his hand and, with a small cry, threw it away from him. He staggered back from Angel, and then turned and ran out of the chamber. Angel called to him, but Spike didn't acknowledge the sound, trying to put as much distance between himself and his victim as possible.

Spike was in an even worse state when he returned once more to Angel. He looked crushed, broken, and Angel winced at the damage visible, wondering at that he could not see. He stood and faced Spike, only a trace of an already healing puncture still visible on his face.

As he watched Spike rummaging furiously in his pile of instruments, he said softly, 'I didn't come for you, because it was not what you needed.'

Spike flew furiously to him, crushing him back against the wall. 'You are such a friggin' expert on what I need! You know jack shit about me!'

Then, totally belying the harshness of his words, Spike put a finger wonderingly to the near-healed mark on Angel's face. Angel kept his eyes fastened on Spike's lowered blond head and leant his cheek a little into the hand. 'I know you need me, Spike. I know you want me, but it's like I said about the killing - the reason why is all there is. It's all that counts. I can't love from being blackmailed into it.'

Spike, his face still lowered, lifted his eyes and, for an instant, Angel almost broke his promise that Spike would not draw a sound from him. Spike watched this small struggle but did not seem to understand its cause, for he said equally softly, 'You didn't come for me. That's all there is now. That's all that's left of anything I wanted or needed. You didn't come.'

'If I had?'

Still only inches separating them, Spike replied, with a small frown, 'You know what. I'd-you'd-we'd….' He trailed off, and Angel looked on with sympathetic eyes.

'I thought all that, too, Spike. So... I come… I get you out of the school basement... I bring you here, try to cure your insanity, help you accept your soul. I could have bought you a leash and collar too. Maybe a security blanket, so when I was away from you, you wouldn't panic. Jesus, Spike, I didn't want that for you.'

'So, you didn't come, and we've got this instead.'

'What? This small interlude in our lives? This is nothing, Spike. This will pass, and we'll both survive it. You can survive. I know it doesn't feel like it now. I know you are dying inside. But it will pass. You can conquer it. Admit your fear, and you take away a huge part of its ability to hurt you.'

Spike turned away at this and bent to the small pile of toys. He kept his back turned to Angel then, when he faced him once more, stuck a large piece of duct tape over his mouth. He looked sadly at his sire. 'I'll take it away like this, Angel. It's easier.'

Angel just looked sadly back at him and closed his eyes. He kept them closed all the way through the tortures Spike inflicted on him, only opening them again when he heard small, choked sobs from his tormentor. Spike crouched beneath Angel's broken body and cradled his head as if from an attacker. He rocked slowly to and fro then wrapped his arms around his body as if cold.

Unnoticed, Angel strained until he could rub the tape on the wall and peel it off his mouth. He crouched as best he could in front of Spike. 'I want you to be your own man, Spike. Not mine. You can't belong to anyone until you belong to yourself.'

'I can't.'

There was a small sigh of relief from Angel, as if he sensed a much greater import in the message of Spike's words than in their quantity. He eased down until he sat alongside him. 'Why did you get your soul back, Spike?'

Spike looked up, and there was nothing but complete defeat in his eyes. As if not caring much about anything, he replied, 'So you would want me again.'

Angel nodded at this final admitting of the truth. 'Angelus wanted you because he-I was a demon, and I wanted your soul. That kind of want could not last. Even as I took you, the want went away. You know that.'

Spike finally looked up. 'So, I've wasted my time?'

'You have a soul again, Spike. It's a miracle of sorts. Do you really regret it - all the possibilities?'

'Yes. No. I guess not.'

'Your own man, Spike. Not just a demon, not controlled by a chip, but controlled by your own free will. You will find it… sublime.'

'I have no free will; I'm controlled by this fucking soul.' He had the grace to add, somewhat abashed, 'When I'm listening to it, course.'

Angel smiled at the small apology. 'That's what a soul is. It's just you, as a man, able to decide for yourself. Can you face that? Are you strong enough?'

Spike looked back at him and gritted his teeth to enable him to speak. 'But you don't want me.' Spike meant it to be a question, but they both knew it was merely a statement of fact.

'No. I don't want the demon that went to get his soul back just to please me. What would I do with him? Shit hits the fan in my life on a regular basis. I can't carry anyone.'

As if demonstrating a free will that he didn't yet understand, Spike got to his feet. He looked down at Angel and then, after only a small hesitation, offered him a hand. Angel allowed Spike to hold him under the arms, rising with a wince to his feet. Spike couldn't look him in the eye but pulled the keys for the manacles out of his pocket. With a slightly guiltier smile at Spike, however, Angel pulled on the chains and broke one away from the wall. Spike jerked his head back and stared. Angel shook his head ruefully. 'You'd better make all this worth it, Spike. Come here.'

Spike took a puzzled step closer, and Angel clasped him behind the head. 'This is forgiven already. But I need you to think carefully about what I've said - about need. What I need as well as you. About the future. Our future. I want... I need you to be your own man, Spike.'

'Well, this is a nice, touching moment. Am I interrupting, boys?'

They turned as one to face the woman standing in the entrance to the chamber. Angel began to struggle with his other chain, and his soft, gentle manner with Spike vanished. He shouted at him, 'Get out of here now!'

She laughed. 'Don't waste your breath, Angel. Spike doesn't understand.' She turned to Spike. 'See, I did want Angel. And thank you for this - all trussed up and ready for me.' She walked closer. 'I could have done without the blood though…. Whatever, blood works for me. But now I've reassessed my original plan. I'm thinking of keeping you alive, Angel - so to speak - do you like that plan? Because I'll have something I can control you with, use against you, won't I? See… I've just found your weak spot.'

'Spike! Leave now!' Spike turned back to Angel in time to see the remaining chain wrench off the wall, but also to see a dart strike Angel in the chest, another in his leg, and one in his belly. He turned back to the woman in outrage, confusion making him slow.

'The deal's off. Just fuck off, and you'll get your money back.'

She grinned. 'I don't think so.' She turned the gun on him.


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