the Fire in Which we Burn
Episode 5 - Chapter 2
Spike was in a dilemma now. He knew what he wanted to achieve but had no idea how to go about it. He mulled it over for a day then decided to call an emergency conference, made the necessary calls and got in essential supplies.
Angel came back from a long night of demon hunting, looking forward to a shower, Spike, and sleep - in that order - when he walked into his room to find it empty. He heard noises down the hallway from Spike's room, and with his hackles up (for some reason he couldn't easily define), he stalked down and walked into a sea of naked bodies on Spike's bed.
After the initial shock, Angel admitted that none of the bodies were totally naked - in fact, they were all dressed, but they were still bodies, and they were still on Spike's bed.
By the time he'd worked that out, Angel had also recognised Spike's annoying friends. When he'd got that straight, the alcohol, chocolate and excited card game were a given.
He let out a breath. Spike, Jordan and Sam were drinking, eating chocolate and playing cards. With a veneer of calm he walked further into the room. Spike looked up, a glint of humour in his eye. 'Hi, Babe.'
Trying to appear masterful and sire-like (anything, in fact, other than babe), Angel nodded at the others. 'What's all this?'
Angel gritted his teeth. 'No one's naked.'
'Nah, we've been playing it backwards. See we all got naked and then….'
'It's late, Spike. Maybe time for your little friends to go home now?'
Jordan looked up, biting off a large piece of dark chocolate. 'Join us. Course, you'd have to strip off first….'
Angel spun on his heel and left.
Sam looked at Spike, amused. ' Aren't you going to bite J's head off and slink out after lover-boy?'
Spike just lifted an eyebrow. 'What do you think he's doing now?'
'If it was me…. I'd be sitting on my bed furious with you and plotting all sorts of…. Jesus, Spike, you are so kinky. I love it!'
'If I'm real lucky, he'll get the whip out.' Spike licked provocatively at some chocolate.
Sam groaned. 'Fuck off, Spike. I don't want to hear vampire sex details….'
'I do.' Jordan grinned and threw his cards away. 'I'm bored with this now. Why did you call us, Spike?'
Spike chucked his hand down too. 'Cus I was bored and missing you both?'
'And the other reason?'
'I need some help with a case.'
They both sat up, looking interested. 'How much?'
'Oh, it's well-paying….'
'Oh, you've not taken a fucking freebie, have you Spike? Have some pride in Big Bad Bump Offs.'
Spike jerked his head back. 'In fucking what?'
Jordan grinned. 'It's what we've called the business: Big Bad….'
'It's so cool.'
'It's better than Angel Investigations!'
'I'm not saying it's not, but it's still wank, and we're never saying it again. Now, this job….'
He took the offered bottle for Dutch courage and outlined the problem.
He drank the bottle slowly, watching them laugh. When he'd allowed them enough fun, he pounced, holding them both effortlessly face down on the bed. It was only when Sam stopped wriggling that he realised, with a fearful jolt and crashing agony in his head that the human needed to breathe.
Apologies got made; more alcohol got drunk.
He tried to bring them back to the matter in hand, but the wrestling had become the new game, Sam fighting Jordan for possession of the next bottle. Spike watched and refereed, excused from playing because he won all the time. Then it occurred to the others that there were two of them and only one of him, so he got attacked for a while until he won that as well.
A great deal more alcohol was drunk, and then they couldn't work out whether what they were doing could really be called… wrestling.
Spike was the first to wake. He was blind and cried out in panic, until he realised his face was covered in chocolate. He sat up, licking. 'Hey!'
Only groans greeted his cry so he slapped Sam. 'Get up. Why are we…?'
Sam peeled his eyes open and peered at Spike. 'Huhg?'
'Naked. Why are we all naked?'
'Ugah.' Sam crashed back to the mattress and covered his head. Spike looked down. His entire body appeared to be chocolate coated. He had no memory whatsoever of why that should be. Morosely, and hoping beyond hope that Angel wasn't up yet, he staggered to the bathroom.
Disbelievingly, he fell to his knees and vomited into the toilet bowl. He grinned. His recuperation was coming along just nicely.
He sensed someone standing behind and put on a faint, pitiful groan. It seemed to work, for Angel pulled him gently to his feet and led him over to the shower. He worked shampoo into Spike's hair for him and washed him down, looking wonderingly at the substance that covered him.
Spike pouted. 'Think I must have rolled in it by accident.'
'Hmm. Most likely.'
'The guys are still… asleep. Okay if they stay here today?'
'Hmm. Why not.'
'You're pissed at me. We did invite you.'
'Oh, that was an invitation I had to struggle to refuse.'
'Do you want me to go back to my place?'
Angel tried to keep up the fiction of being angry, but the thought of Spike leaving made him glance away. Spike held his chin, looked intently and then sighed. 'If I wasn't feeling like a dog's dinner, I'd make you suffer for that little pretence, Mate.'
Angel smiled and rubbed lightly against Spike's face. 'I never knew there were so many holes you could push chocolate into. We must try it….'
'Angel! Were you watching? Bloody hell! So… what… kinda… happened?'
Angel laughed and turned away, flinging Spike a towel.
When Spike finally made it downstairs to the kitchen, he found two equally sour, unhappy faces staring down at uneaten food on the table. He didn't spare them a glance but pulled out a blood bag and straddled another chair, ripping into his food and swallowing in great heaving gasps.
Jordan made it to the sink; Sam vomited on the floor. At the smell of the human vomit, Spike's eyes widened, and he brought back up the blood in a spray of red mist that coated the table, plates and the unlucky human bent weakly to the floor.
He put his head slowly to the table and murmured to no one in particular, 'I only wanted to save a soul.'
The three trailed out, glancing around to see if they could make their exit unobserved and thus blame the mess on someone else. Spike pointed to the basement, and they went as quietly as they could down into the gloom.
They sprawled on the stack of training mats, and Spike handed around some cigarettes. Sam fished some pills out of his pocket that he claimed were the best things he had ever found for headaches, and with these various legal and illegal substances, they found some temporary peace.
Sam and Jordan both glanced away from Spike, unwilling to revive his strange request from the previous night. At last, Sam said, 'How can we help, Spike? I'm not sure I've got a soul, let alone help someone else find theirs.'
Jordan nodded. 'I don't have one either.'
Spike looked between them. 'You're kidding me? Don't you feel it? Don't you feel all this guilt and confusion…? You don't! You don't suffer, do you?'
Sam shook his head. 'I'm feeling kinda low this morning; I'll give you that.'
'Maybe you all feel like that - you humans. Jesus, how am I going to do this?'
They all turned when Angel came out of the darkness toward them. He hesitated on the edge of the light, feeling that he was unwelcome, hearing how the conversation had stopped at his entry. He felt awkward and debated leaving, but seamlessly, Spike shuffled over and said, as if it was the most natural thing in the world, 'I need your help, Luv. Take a pew.'
The other two shuffled around as well, and Angel saw that they were all looking to him for answers, no animosity in their expressions at all. Just touching Spike's arm gently as he sat, he tried to forget the mess he had just discovered in his kitchen.
'What are you doing?'
'I want to help someone get reacquainted with their soul - their good side, but I don't know how to do that.'
'Goodness needs something to focus on, Spike. You met me when I didn't have that focus, remember? You met the me that killed all those humans, even though I had a soul. A soul doesn't mean you have the capacity to be good.'
'Yes, that's exactly what it must mean. The capacity, at least!'
'All right, the capacity maybe, but not necessarily the desire to be good.'
'So, what would make that desire flare up and stay? I've seen a flash of it, but it goes out so quickly. What will make it stay?'
Angel glanced at Spike's friends, and to his dismay saw that they thought this project of Spike's as foolhardy as he did. He tried to let Spike down gently. 'You can't do this for someone else…. It's like giving up smoking - or drinking - or vomiting in other people's kitchens - the desire to give up has to come from within each person.'
'No! It can be done for someone else! I got my soul for you!'
'I think you are unique, Spike.'
'If I could get Lilah to want something enough….' He dried up when he saw Angel's face. Angel climbed off the mat and paced away for a moment, then turned and came back, leaning in close to Spike.
'Stop this foolishness now, Childe.'
Although hearing the injunction, Spike refused to listen to it, not wanting to lose face with his friends through this display of their sire/childe roles.
He climbed off too and faced Angel. 'I don't need your permission.'
Angel clenched his teeth, also unwilling to exert his power with such an audience. He just hissed low enough for Spike alone to hear, 'Yes. You do. And you don't have it; now, move on, Spike. It's over.'
Spike shoved him hard and went for the steps, slightly slower than his instinct told him he ought to move after such a transgression, but faster than he wanted to, given his friends were watching. As soon as he was out of sight, he sprinted the rest of the way into the lobby, but Angel caught him before he made it to the stairs.
He gripped Spike's arm and bent in close. 'I'll let that go, Spike, because I can. But don't push me too far in front of humans. I won't tolerate it.'
'Stop being such a fucking arsewipe, Angel! This ain't old London town any more. I don't have to friggin' obey you; I fuck your arse, and you cry out my name… seems to me….' He recoiled when Angel slapped him, more from the shock of being hit than from pain. He took a shaky breath. 'You've just taken yourself off the committee, Angel. I'll save her, and I'll do it on my fucking own.'
'You need professional help, Spike. You're insane. You're playing with forces you can't….'
'Fuck off!!! Fuck off! If you can't be more helpful, just fuck off!'
Spike didn't really understand why this small exchange upset him so much, but he wrenched out of Angel's grasp and headed for the tunnels. As he left, he flung back over this shoulder, 'None of you! Not one fucking one of you will help me.'
Angel watched him go then tipped his head back and looked long and hard at the ceiling until he was under control. He sensed a presence beside him and said softly, 'That's not how I meant any of that to come out.'
Wesley laid a light, affectionate hand on his arm. 'I know, Angel. I tried too, but I think this is one of those times that you just have to let him learn by his own mistakes.'
Angel sighed and looked down at his feet, running a hand over the back of his neck. 'He thinks we don't care - about Lilah.'
'I know. If he was a teenager, you'd understand his complete self-absorption and inability to see the bigger picture.'
'He is in a way. He's only had his soul a few months.'
'And that's why we're both terrified for him.'
Angel knew this wasn't a question and just nodded sadly at the truth of it.
Spike stomped furiously through the tunnels, playing back the fight with Angel. He came up with some much better lines and used them to devastating effect, silencing the bossy git completely. Satisfied, he lit a cigarette and thought about one thing Angel had said: 'You need professional help.'
Spike thought that maybe, for the first time, he did.
The building was lit up from the inside, and its windows shone out their unearthly beauty to the soft LA night. Sitting all day in the tunnels, fuming at Angel had not put Spike in the best of moods for one of his rare visits to church, but the memory of Angel hanging, bound and bleeding into Drusilla cheered him up enough to enter.
A few of the faithful were wandering up and down the aisle, lighting candles, kneeling and doing other equally boring things. He spied a priest and went hesitantly up to the old man. He waited until he was noticed, but the priest only gave him a glance and moved on, rearranging books on a table. Spike frowned. 'I need answers to some questions.'
The old man turned and looked him over. 'If you've come to waste my time….'
'No. I just want to ask your advice about something. Souls.'
'Souls? You've come to the wrong place.'
'Eh? Ain't this a friggin' church?'
The old man turned with an odd look and glanced toward the confessionals. 'The sheep are waiting. Try the library - under s.'
Spike watched him go, incredulously, then spun on his heel and nearly collided with another figure in black. 'Forgive Father Jon. He has a… bizarre sense of humour.'
Spike eyed the young priest for a moment. He was… impressive and exuded calm confidence. Spike huffed and pushed past - anyone would look good in that outfit, and he'd had his fill of church now for the next century.
The young man caught at his arm. 'You wanted to ask something about the soul?'
'Yeah, I did. Getting drunk again seems more attractive now.'
The man began to walk back with Spike toward the door. 'Is it your soul you fear for?'
Spike gave him a look. 'No.'
'Ah, someone you care about then.'
'Compassion for our enemies is very rare and valued the more for that.'
Drawn into the conversation despite himself, Spike stopped and looked the man over more carefully. That this young priest was undeniably beautiful was slightly distracting: he didn't want beautiful; he wanted advice and help.
'I know someone who is playing on the dark side - flirting with serious evil, and I want to help her.'
The man nodded, not surprised. 'She has to want your help… er….?'
'William - you can't bring people to God unless they want it.'
'Uh? I don't want to bring her to bleedin'… I mean, I just want her to see the consequences of her actions - seek forgiveness, be forgiven.'
'That is God.'
'Look…. I can't talk now; I have to take confession with Father Jon, but do you… can you… would you like… I mean, I… later…. Do you run?'
Spike jerked his head back a little at the odd question. 'When someone's after me I've been known to, yeah.'
The priest smiled. 'I meant recreational running. It's the only time I have to myself, but I always take it every evening - shall we say ten? Entrance to the park?'
'What? Me come running with you?'
'Why not? Then we can talk - if you can run and do that at the same time, that is. You look… fit-ish.'
Spike smelt the slight pump of testosterone as the man gave this subtle challenge. Wanting to put him in his place, he grinned and nodded. 'Sure. Okay. Then you can tell me how I'm gonna save this bitc… woman.'
Spike watched him sweep toward the small booths and wanted to strip the man of his confidence. He rolled his eyes slightly at the thought that stripping him of other things had occurred to him as well.
He sauntered out, greatly cheered up and giving a mental finger to Angel. It was only when he hit the coolish night air that it occurred to him that running in boots, jeans and a leather duster would look stupid. As he never exerted himself physically unless he was fighting or shagging, something had to be done.
Spike knocked loudly on the door. 'Mate, it's me.'
Sam opened up, looking slightly worse than he had in the morning. Spike sauntered in and gave him a look. Sam shrugged. 'Saw no reason to stop. I'm partying. Wanna party?'
'I need some sweat pants.'
Distracted, keeping up his party spirits, inhaling the fun, Sam replied, confused, 'You want to sweat in my pants?'
'Jesus. No. I need - look, you go to a three-hundred-dollar-a-day fucking gym thingy, don't you? I need some….' He had trouble saying it, but forced the words out. 'Exercise clothes. Hey! Stop it!'
Sam staggered slightly toward his closet and rummaged, producing a pair of loose, long, black cotton shorts, a T-shirt and some running shoes. Spike sniffed the clothes and then stripped and put them on. 'Well?'
Sam blinked. 'Incongruous.'
Spike gritted his teeth. 'Is that good or bad? Do I look human?'
'Oh! Yeah, fucking hell, Spike, you look edible.'
'That's not the same!'
'Yes. Yes it is.' He came close and brushed his hand over Spike's biceps. He pulled lightly on the arm and brought Spike to his lips. 'I want to eat you.'
Spike smiled into the kiss and teased around Sam's face with his lips. 'Just tell me one thing, Mate.'
Warming to the feel of Spike in his arms, Sam murmured, 'Yeah, Babe, anything.'
'Does my bum look fat in this?'
Spike hung around the entrance to the park feeling more self-conscious than he had since the first time he'd ventured out in public with bleached hair. That dozens of other joggers were flowing past him utterly oblivious to him or his clothes did nothing to alleviate the feeling that somewhere along the way, the Big Bad had taken a seriously wrong turn.
Someone tapped him on the back, and he turned to find the priest smiling with pleasure. 'You came!'
Spike gave him a look. So concerned about how he would look, it hadn't occurred to him that the man wouldn't be in his cassock. He was very much not in his cassock. Shorts, tighter and shorter than Spike's, clung to the man's very powerful, muscular thighs. A cut-off T-shirt showed off perfectly formed abs, the sleeves straining over swollen biceps. Spike swallowed, not sure now he could spell soul, let alone discuss it.
The man grinned and stuck out his hand. 'My name is Father Ignatius, by the way.'
Spike ignored the hand, and the human shrugged and began to stretch off. Spike kept his groan to himself but, glad his shorts were loose, fumbled for a cigarette. Ignatius stopped and looked at him. 'You've got to be kidding me….'
'What? Oh. It helps me better than….' He waved at the thigh stretch. 'That thing.'
'Smoking helps you prepare to run?'
A small, evil smile crept around the Father's mouth. 'Well, let's go.'
Spike raised an eyebrow behind the arrogant human's back and began to calculate how far he'd make him run before suitable points had been made.
Spike gave the man his due: he was fit. The priest made the pace for the first ten miles, obviously surprised that Spike kept up with him. As they began their eleventh lap, Spike grinned evilly and lit another cigarette. He let it dangle from his lip provocatively as they pounded around the circuit. The priest glanced over and lost his step, tripping slightly before regaining his balance. He was beginning to sweat, and his breath was heavy and laboured. Spike flicked the cigarette away and said casually, 'This was a good idea, Mate. 'S nice to chat as you go along, like. So, this soul thing…. How am I gonna get this person to see the light? I'm all ears; fire away.'
'It's - complicated. You - see - in - God's - eyes…. God - this - is - kind of a - fast pace?'
'Is it? What about God's eyes then?'
'God - sees - everything.'
'Huh. He don't see vampires all that well. They get away with all kinds of sneaky shit.'
'Is this a - slow down a little; you're not pacing yourself - is this a joke?'
'Do you find vampires funny?'
'I don't think about them at all. I don't read books like that.'
'Ah. I'm getting cold; step out a bit, Mate!'
'Sorry. Look, I'm going to have to….' Ignatius collapsed against a tree, heaving slightly. Spike smirked and lit another cigarette.
'Fancy going for a beer?'
Ignatius began to laugh and clapped Spike on the back. 'Pride goeth before a fall. I think I've just been taught a lesson, haven't I?'
Spike couldn't resist the expression on the man's face and grinned. 'Lesson one according to Spike.'
Spike scratched the back on his neck. 'It's a nickname.'
'I like it. Spike. I shall call you Spike. I'm Nate, by the way. I'm only Father Ignatius when I'm being a pompous arsehole.'
He put an arm around Spike's shoulder and began to walk back toward the gates. 'Come back with me. I'll shower; I'll get us both a drink, and then we'll talk properly.'
Feeling the hard, sweaty body swaying against his, Spike grinned and sent a thought out into the dark night - to no one in particular - that at last someone was helping him.
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