the Fire in Which we Burn
Episode 2 - Chapter 4
Angel cursed and made out that he was still looking at his hand. Spike sighed and went to the window to more adequately rearrange the fit of the curtain.
He shrugged off his duster and lay on the bed, well over to one side.
Angel looked around, but there wasn't even a chair, so he was forced to sit on the other side.
Spike said casually, as if talking to himself, 'He's back to normal.'
'If he was responsible, then this is as much an act as the other was.'
'He didn't do anything, Angel. I told you that you were way off mark. I know him. When you make love to someone, you get to know them real well.'
Angel ignored the obvious provocation and, just to prove that he wasn't provoked, lay down on his side of the bed. 'This is going to be a long day.'
Spike cast him a small glance then turned and removed the pillow so he could lie on his belly. Facing away from Angel, he appeared to go to sleep.
Angel lay for a few hours, thinking. Then he turned on his side and watched Spike. He knew his childe was not asleep and felt the tense wariness behind the closed lids. He knew every inch of that body: every hair, every flaw, all its perfection, and he desperately wanted to touch it now. It called to him, raised everything that was good in him, all his desperate need to give and receive love. He pouted for a moment then turned onto his belly. After half an hour, he began to breathe softly as Spike had told him he did in sleep. After another half hour, he made a small sleepy sound and rolled onto his back, neatly covering the ground between them. Five more minutes and then he turned onto his side, lifted his leg slightly over Spike and flung his arm - as if in a possessively deep dream - over the stiff from. Angel felt Spike turn as if to get away from him, but there was nowhere to go. They were at the very edge of the bed. Angel kept his breathing low and even and, to his immense relief, Spike did not move more, but lay on his back, still and silent.
Angel brushed his mind down Spike's body where they touched, imagining the feel of the cool skin under the clothes that separated them. Suddenly, he felt a finger on his arm. It trickled slowly up from his wrist to his biceps and then slowly back again. There was an agonising pause and then he felt another finger on his temple. It brushed over his forehead and down one cheek.
Angel kept his breathing regular and waited for the finger to return. Suddenly, he knew beyond any doubt that Spike knew he was awake and that he was waiting for him to open his eyes. With a sigh, he opened them. Spike's face was inches from his, and they started at each other across the gap that separated them. Angel felt Spike as if he were inside him. He heard him as if they rolled in their noisy lovemaking. He blinked and said sadly, 'I'm so sorry.'
'I know you are, Angel.'
'Why can't you forgive me?'
As if in reply, Spike put his hand tentatively back on Angel's cheek. He opened his mouth to speak, but the air was suddenly split by the sound of a cell phone only inches from their faces. Angel cursed and put a hand on Spike's face. 'What? Why? Tell me….'
But the mood was broken. Spike kept glancing at the location of the bleeping, and eventually, with another curse, Angel reached into his pocket and answered it.
Angel sighed and sat up. 'Wes.'
Spike sat up too and looked at the phone. Angel held it out a little, and after only a small hesitation, Spike shifted closer so he could hear too. Angel tilted his head toward him, and by the time he put the phone back to his ear, Spike was so close their hair brushed lightly, blond strands mixing with the darker brown ones.
'Angel? Are you there?'
'It's the club, Angel. I think it's Babel causing this.'
'The club?' Angel looked at Spike and frowned. Spike raised an eyebrow and shrugged.
'Almost all the young men who disappeared are back. I spoke to two of them last night. They all seemed to find it funny; one minute they were at work or whatever, the next they just decided something wasn't right - they weren't right - and took off. No one took them, they just sort of took themselves.'
Angel mouthed, 'Like Sam,' at Spike, and Spike gave him an I-told-you-so look.
'That doesn't prove it was anything to do with the club, Wes.'
'Think about it, Angel. We all started to come down with it after we'd been there. Soon as we got away, it faded.'
'Damn. We can't get back now until tomorrow. Stay away from the place, Wes. Wait 'til we get there.'
'I had no intention of going in alone, and not just for demonic spells, believe me. So, how was the trip? Have you found Sam?'
'Okay and yes.'
'Uh huh. Is Spike there?'
'Put him on.'
'Because I want to speak to him, Angel. The small phrase "duh" springs to mind!'
Reluctantly, Angel handed the phone to Spike but craned in even closer to hear the conversation.
'Are you okay?'
'Hmm. How's Sam?'
'Wanking for England.'
'Oh. Good. I think. Spike…?'
'Is Angel listening?'
'Oh. Well, maybe when you get back….'
Spike heard the phone go dead and held it away from him, looking at it thoughtfully.
Angel lay back down and touched Spike lightly on his back. Spike turned and looked down at him. 'I meant what I said, Angel. I'm not… I can't… I don't want to start up with you again. I think it's been a mistake.'
Angel sat up angrily. 'Why are you being so fucking obtuse?'
Spike got off the bed and hunkered down against the wall. 'Go to sleep, Angel. I want to leave soon as it's dark. And we've another fucking seven hours in that damn car.'
'Are you going to stay down there all night?'
'When you are really asleep, I'll get back on.'
'Oh, fucking grow up, Spike.' Angel rolled right over to his side. 'Get on and stop outdoing whatshisname for histrionics.' He turned his back and maintained a stony silence.
Spike waited a decent interval and climbed back on.
The inevitable began to happen: strong, insatiable bodies, stimulated by equally strong, unfamiliar emotions. Angel shifted uncomfortably; Spike turned onto his belly then onto his back, then swiftly onto his belly again. Each could smell the other's sex.
Heat rose through the house and the room became a sauna. Sweat soaked their clothes, adding a subtle but dangerously alluring musk to the already charged atmosphere. After a few hours of uncomfortable forbearance, Spike sat up with a curse, ripped off his T-shirt and kicked off his boots. With a sigh, he lay back down. Angel hesitated then kicked his shoes onto the floor and peeled off his socks.
He lay on his back, staring at their bare feet. They seemed strangely intimate in the silent, impersonal bed. They were old friends who had rubbed, played, kicked, and fought for space, now separated. He'd never felt sorry for his feet before.
It wasn't long before his gaze travelled up Spike's jeans to his naked back. He was lying pillowed on folded arms, and Angel could see the soft hair under one arm. He remembered rubbing his face into its softness and laughing.
Spike turned again: a restless, futile attempt to alleviate his discomfort. They lay side by side on their backs watching flies circle the broken fan.
'We did it once before when we were enemies, just for relief.'
Spike heard the soft words like a cool breath over his hot skin. He turned his head.
'When we were chained. We were both hard and we needed….'
'I remember, Angel.'
Angel turned back and continued to stare at the ceiling, awaiting developments.
Things developed rapidly.
Spike reached over and undid Angel's button, then unzipped him. Angel arched at the relief of being freed from the constriction of his pants, and his erection lay hard and thick across his belly. Spike swung off the bed and stepped out of his jeans then crawled naked back to Angel. He straddled Angel's hips. His need was just as urgent, and they winced as their shafts rose to meet each other. Spike lay forward so they were crushed together and began to jerk his hips. Angel arched again but then rose up and captured Spike around the back of his neck, pulling them together for a kiss.
Spike jerked his head away and kept his gaze averted.
Silently, with no emotion visible on his face, he brought them off, simultaneous ejaculations rather mocking their carefully constructed estrangement.
Angel didn't want his orgasm to end - he didn't want Spike to climb off, but inevitably, he did. At the first possible moment, as soon as his penis had stopped twitching and shooting its milky load, Spike fell off to his side of the bed, curled into a foetal position, and lay naked, silent, and still for the rest of the day.
Angel contemplated the sticky mess on his shirt with a mixture of emotions so intense and so confusing that he did not know whether to bellow his rage, or cry piteously into the pillow.
After a few minutes, Angel sensed that Spike was genuinely asleep and knew he ought to join him.
He was almost sure he had not slept except that quiet voices woke him. He kept his eyes closed then opened them very cautiously. It was dark outside. Spike was propped up on one elbow, still naked, talking to the human with the oh-so-forgettable name. The man was kneeling alongside the bed dressed in deceptively casual ripped jeans and a white T-shirt. Angel recognised them both as Armani and guessed the dungaree phase was over.
He opened his eyes wider in disbelief. The human had leant in and was kissing Spike - and Spike did not jerk his head away at that soft intimacy.
Angel rose off the bed, startling the other two and went out, running down the stairs. He flung out into the newly dark evening and went to the car. He ripped off his shirt, spied a pump and slouched water over his head and torso, standing in the light from the house, shaking water off like a dog, droplets catching the light and shining like fireflies on the hot night air.
He took a clean shirt out of his bag and pulled it on. The screen door banged, and without looking, he said brusquely, 'Get in the car.'
Dressed once more, Spike got in as he was told. He handed Angel his shoes, socks and jacket. Angel snatched all the items and threw them in the back, until with a grimace, he recovered the shoes and put them on.
He slammed the car into drive and bumped it too fast down the dirt track once more.
They maintained a stony silence until Angel cursed, glancing down at the dash. At the next gas station, he pulled in. Spike climbed out and wandered into the shop. Angel watched him as he pumped the gas. He could still smell Spike's sperm - maybe on his pants, maybe still lingering somewhere on his skin, maybe only in his imagination.
Angel felt utterly depressed but had to remind himself that he had no right, remind himself who was the torturer and whom, the victim.
He went to pay and brushed past Spike coming out with packages as if they were strangers - worse, without even the polite sorry that would have followed such contact.
They had only been driving a mile or so when Angel felt a hand come over to his side. He glanced down and, silently, Spike handed him a soda. Angel hesitated then took it, their fingers touching. He drank it almost in one and was then handed some chocolate. It was sticky already, Spike's fingers coated in it as he held it out. Angel didn't want to get his car sticky, so declined with a small shake of his head. With only a tiny hesitation, Spike brought the piece up to Angel's mouth. Angel looked at him, parted his lips slightly, and the bitter, dark substance was eased onto his waiting tongue.
Spike broke off another piece and fed it to him again, turning in his seat so he could watch Angel's reactions. On the third piece, Angel captured Spike's wrist and held the offering away from his mouth. 'What are you thinking about?'
Spike looked startled as if he'd been concentrating so much on the slow feeding of chocolate that he had forgotten where he was. He blinked. 'I was thinking how good chocolate tasted second hand from your mouth.'
Angel shivered. 'Don't. I don't understand what you want, Spike. I don't understand you.'
'I want things to be back as they were….'
Angel turned to him briefly. 'So do I! Shit, Spike, I've been saying that since….'
'But they can't.'
'Why not! Christ, Spike, we've gotten over me murdering you, me torturing you, you torturing me, me taking Dru from you, you having Buffy - everything: endless lifetimes of hurt, and we survived them. We want each other. We NEED each other. You know that.'
'Watch the road.'
'I'm tired. You drive.'
Angel swung over and climbed out. Surprised, Spike slid into his seat. There seemed something more than just sharing the driving in Angel's reaction.
Angel climbed into the passenger seat and stretched his legs. He half turned in the seat and watched Spike. Spike ignored the scrutiny and lit a cigarette.
'I'll do whatever it takes, Spike, to get us back to where we were.'
'Turn back time?'
'If I could, I would. But I'll say this one more time: that was not me. You forgave me for hurting Wesley; why can't you see this as the same thing? I don't get it.'
'I know, I'm sorry.'
'Just drive, Spike. You exhaust my patience.'
'Anything then that doesn't involve any effort?'
'Is that it? Is this some kind of test to see if I'll persevere to want you and try to get you?'
'No. I'm sorry, Angel, that was a crass thing to say.'
This small, uncharacteristic apology silenced Angel more effectively than the previous argument.
Angel slept for the rest of the trip, and Spike chain-smoked, listening to the restless, dream-filled sleep. His head hurt so much from the tension between them that he wanted to drill into it with his fingers and tear something out. Everything still hurt, although the physical pain was nothing more than a dull ache. He couldn't answer any of Angel's questions because he had no answers. When Angel looked at him, all he knew was fear; fear when Angel touched him; fear from his very voice and presence, but what he was so afraid of was not so clear. It wasn't physical torture. It wasn't even the emotional rack Angel had put him on. It was something that took away his ability to think or to act.
He drove on auto-pilot, glad the road was quiet. Angel did not wake until they got into the city. He let out a deep sigh, as if coming back to a place he didn't want to be. Spike glanced over. 'Where?'
'Your place - Wesley's.'
Wesley looked at them both intently as he stood in the hallway. He sighed and pushed past them. 'Let's go.'
He sat in the backseat and listened to the silence with foreboding. 'I'm glad Sam is back with the living.'
Spike nodded, Angel did not appear to hear, for he said suddenly. 'What's the next move?'
'I've got a locator spell to identify magical influences. We'll scatter it on this sketch I've made of the interior of the club, and with any luck, it'll show us where the source of the power is.'
Spike turned and looked at the drawing and then at Wesley. They shared a brief look of complete understanding, and Wesley said guardedly, 'You've had a long trip.'
Spike just blinked, and the human smiled at him. He nodded at Angel's back. Spike shook is head fractionally, and Wesley frowned at him. Spike shrugged. Wesley narrowed his eyes and looked disapproving, but Spike looked so uncharacteristically sad that he let the expression drop. 'We'll find out what this is all about. Don't worry.'
Spike tried a smile but then turned back and lit a cigarette, and Wesley was forced to join the tense silence in the car. They were all glad to get there. Wesley spread the paper on his lap, glanced at them both and then shook some dust all over the pencil lines. It took very little time. One corner of the drawing began to glow with soft light, and then suddenly, it burst into flames. Wesley yelped and dropped it; Angel tried to beat the flames with his hand before they damaged his seats, while at the same time not burn up himself. 'Where was that?' Wesley looked helplessly at Spike.
Spike tipped his head on one side, considering. 'Either the bogs or the dressing rooms.'
'Oh, Christ, magical influences in the toilet.'
'Sewers perhaps leading up to the bathroom?' Wesley nodded at Angel's suggestion.
'Damn spell. What are the dressing rooms?'
'Dunno really. Where the performers get ready, I guess.'
'Let's start there. Even drag queens are preferable to the lavatories at Babel.'
They climbed out and went into the melee together. Angel elbowed dancers out of his way. Spike steered Wesley through. They found a series of small rooms and picked one at random.
A futile search revealed nothing of interest. They searched the second and had the same result. By the time the entered the third, they were hot and getting angrier - none of them looking forward to having to search the bathrooms.
At first, the third dressing room looked empty. They went in and began to search. It was only when Spike flung some clothes onto an armchair that a small movement revealed an old man sitting back in the shadows.
Temporarily forgetting that he wasn't associating in any way with Angel, Spike caught at his arm and directed his gaze. Angel narrowed his eyes and began to walk toward the figure.
'I wouldn't come any closer, Sonny Boy. I'm not a pretty sight these days.'
Angel turned as if heeding the words but switched on the overhead light. The figure let out a cry and tried to shield his face. Wesley strode over and pulled the hands away. He hissed and let them drop.
The man appeared to have heavy pan stick makeup on his face that was running and dripping with the heat, making a grotesque mask, but at Wesley's odd expression, the vampires looked more closely. What they had taken for makeup was skin. The old man appeared to be dissolving in the heat.
Repugnance obvious in his expression, Angel took a step closer. 'How are you controlling us? Is it hypnotism?'
The man laughed. 'Shall I tell you a story?'
Angel banged angrily on the wall. 'I don't want a fucking story, I want to know what you've done.' Unexpectedly, Spike laid a hand on Angel's arm and quieted him.
The man watched this small dynamic with rheumy but inquisitive eyes then continued, 'A long time ago in a land far away - well, actually it was Cleveland, but who's gonna call me on it? - there was the most beautiful man in the world. He was perfect.' He stopped at looked longingly at Spike. 'Almost as beautiful as you are. I worshiped him, became his slave - oh, not the leather and bullwhip kind you'll see out there on Harem nights. I found out where he lived. I followed him incessantly, knew who he knew, liked what he liked. Of course, there weren't these kinds of places then. Oh no, we had to slink around the edges of the normal world, taking our secret pleasures where we could find them. One day, I found enough courage to go up to my beautiful prince and tell him of my love. He told me… he said… he told me I was a disgusting old drag queen and laughed. I was twenty-three. But from that moment, I began to become this - as you see me now. It took a little under a year. All my youth, all my beauty, stolen.' He looked up at a small, impatient noise from Angel. 'Don't you see? It was a self-fulfilling prophesy. And when I saw him….' His eyes strayed once more to Spike. 'When I saw him - always the brightest, always the most beautiful - I thought of my prince, and I wanted you to suffer in his place, because I did not have the power to make him suffer. I know more about the dark arts now - I've been studying them for almost fifty years, looking for my lost youth.'
Angel kicked one of the small chairs over. 'I'm getting really bored, old man.'
The man dropped his theatrical, sing-song story voice. 'I cast a spell on him so that everyone he loved would become exactly the thing he most feared they really were.'
Spike took a step forward, but this time, Angel caught his arm and held onto it tightly. 'And…?'
He chuckled, although there was no humour in the sound. 'Self-fulfilling prophesy, don't you see? You become what he fears you will; he fears what you've become; his fear drives you apart; in that separation, you become what he fears. It's so delicious. A never-ending spiral of misery. But I didn't have the strength to maintain it. It only worked when you came here - near to me.'
Wesley sat on the edge of the bed, well away from the figure. 'I don't understand. What about the others? Spike didn't love the other young men….' He cast a brief look at Spike, got his instant denial and continued, 'that disappeared.'
'Had to practice on someone, didn't I?'
Spike shrugged off Angel's restraining arm and went very close, bending low over the old man's revolting face. He gave it very close scrutiny then said, 'Wrong person to pick on, Mate. See… I'll be just as you see me now forever and ever: always young, always beautiful. Think on that as you melt into your fucking puddle.'
The old man lifted his bleary, running eyes and grinned through rotten teeth. 'But you'll be alone now. You've lost him, and you'll never have him back as you once did. You can't.' He dropped his voice to a whisper. 'He's seen how you really see him.'
Spike lifted his hand but was restrained. Angel whispered softly, 'Your chip.'
Spike gritted his teeth and moved away.
Wesley waved a hand at them both. 'You go on. I want to talk some more with our friend here.'
Giving Spike brief, but intent glances, Angel half-dragged and half-propelled the vampire out of the door.
They had hardly got to the car before Wesley jogged up to catch them. 'Well that's all settled then.'
Angel turned and gave him a penetrating stare. Wesley refused to catch his eye and climbed into the back seat. He nodded at Spike. 'Call Jordan and Sam - if he's back. My place. One hour.'
Spike obeyed like an automaton. He still seemed in shock when they gathered in Wesley's apartment. Angel helped himself to some whiskey and poured some for the others. Spike's sat untouched in front of him.
Wesley looked around and briefly outlined what they'd found to the other two, then he turned to Spike with an amused look. 'You feared I'd become a pompous watcher and not want you… I mean, that's assuming I do, which of course I don't… want you, that is. Stupid vampire.' He turned and downed the whisky in one.
Sam shook his head theatrically. 'I will NEVER forgive you for this, you fuckwit moron. You thought I'd become straight? You thought I become a bible basher in a Waltons' Mountain rerun? Jesus, Spike. I've had to suck two guys already tonight just to get the taste of corn out of my mouth.'
Spike pursed his lips but said nothing. Jordan squeezed in next to him and put an arm over his shoulder. 'I'm never gonna just shift away from you, Lover.'
Spike jerked his head back, gave him a look and murmured petulantly, 'Let's rake over my private nightmares together, why don't we?'
Wesley laughed and said jokingly, 'Anyone else want a go at Spike; it's open season on the blond.'
Naturally, they all looked to the one who had not yet spoken. Angel looked deeper into his glass and said quietly, 'No. I don't want a go at him,' then put it down very carefully and left.
Wesley twisted his head around and watched the swift exit then looked back at Spike. 'This is good, Spike. It proves it wasn't Angel; don't you see?'
'No. It's what I made him become.'
'Rubbish. It was a spell. You are both exonerated from any blame. I certainly don't blame you - in fact, I find it rather endearing. Go and see him, Spike.'
Spike nodded and rose, but they all knew he had no intention of going after Angel.
He didn't have to. Angel was in his apartment when he got back, leaning on the counter in the dark kitchen. He passed Spike a blood bag, and Spike realised how hungry he was. For a while, all they did was feed.
Angel finally laid his empty bag down. 'You think I hate you and that I want to hurt….'
'No. It's not like that….'
'It's what happened, and you can't deny….'
'I-I've never thought that consciously then….'
'But you believed it totally. That's why you been so shitty with me - you couldn't accept it wasn't me, because it was a me you really believe in….'
'Don't do this, Angel, we….'
'Don't do this! Don't do this! You fucking hypocrite, Spike. You cause all this, you keep me distant, say we're over, then when it's all proved to be you, all….'
'Shut up. Shut up. I know. Don't you think I know all this? So, Angel, how do you think about me? Like to have your secret fears laid bare for everyone to snicker over? Oh, yeah, very fucking funny that I think everyone is going to change and leave me, that I'll just go on as I am with everyone I love different and not….'
'You don't love me. I see that now.'
'Angel! Don't fucking do this. You know I do….'
'You hate it when I touch you now. You can't bear to be….'
'You're making it come true. Stop it!'
'Stop seeing the truth for the first time?' Angel grasped him by the front of his shirt. 'You think I am a monster. You think I'm a mean, stupid, drunken bully. You think I'm a rapist. Well, FUCK YOU, Spike.'
He tried to let the shirt drop, but his ring had become entangled in one of the buttons. He wrenched at it in frustration. Maddeningly, he felt his eyes filling up and couldn't even see the shirt. He heard a small, caught breath and looked up. Spike wiped his hand roughly across his eyes. Angel scrunched his face up trying to control his emotions, but he couldn't, and tears began to run down his face. He gave up trying to separate them and cupped his hand behind Spike's head, pulling them gently together.
'Don't, Spike. Please.'
Spike turned his face into Angel's neck, and they stood together in the dark until the storm had passed.
Spike was the first to pull away. He wiped his face on Angel's shirt and then stood back. He glanced down to where the ring still joined them and ripped his shirt to free it. Then he peeled the rest off and began to unbutton Angel's shirt.
Angel let himself be undressed, his shirt and pants falling to the floor in the kitchen. Dressed only in his jeans, Spike led them toward the shower. He kicked off his remaining clothes and stepped into the stall, turning on the water. When Angel joined him, Spike silently picked up the bar of soap and began to systematically wash Angel's body, starting with his hair and working slowly down to his feet. With a look, he handed the bar to Angel, and the same careful attention was given to Spike's body.
They were so clean they squeaked. They rinsed, turning slowly under the hot water. Spike then stepped out and went into the bedroom, his skin glistening and pale in the early morning light. He lay down and turned to watch Angel coming out. Angel hesitated, and Spike twitched back the sheet.
He lay down and they turned to look at each other. Spike combed back his wet hair with one hand and said calmly, 'We will never been the same, Angel. We can't go back. That is lost. But I don't want to be alone.'
Angel looked at him out of unfathomable eyes and stretched out his arm. Spike came to him, and they spooned together. He bent and said with some difficulty, 'I feel more alone now than before you came to LA.'
The muscles in Spike's jaw jumped as he controlled his emotions but he nodded that he understood that kind of loneliness.
Angel sighed and turned away from the spoon. 'Go to sleep. We need to recharge. We have eternity to endure together now.'
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3 will be posted on 21st Jul.