the Fire in Which we Burn
Episode 5 - Chapter 5
Angel had to watch Spike changing over the next few days. The usually caustic, defensive vampire became abnormally talkative and cheerful. He wanted company all the time, wanted to talk about things that he had never voiced an interest in before. Wesley had to find old, packed away books on religious teachings for him. Angel was subjected to complex questioning about the meaning of salvation.
He was happy all the time, and his happiness infected everyone around him - even Angel, who tried to put his foreboding behind him and just enjoy the positive outcomes of the new Spike. He saw slightly less of him, for Spike went daily to see his new mentor and confessor, but when they did get together, Spike's happiness sparked their bodies to new extremes of passion. They could not get enough of one another, and exhaustion from lack of sleep began to add an almost manic glow to Spike's features.
Angel tried to get him to take things calmly, tried to set the example himself by limiting how many times he would take Spike in a day, but nothing worked. Spike burnt with a fervour for his redemption, and the flames were daily fed by the soft words of the priest exhorting him to better deeds and promising him the kingdom of God.
One day, Spike bounced into Angel's room and flung himself on the prone vampire. 'I've got a good idea.'
Angel groaned. 'We had good ideas all night! Why are you back? Fuck, Spike, it's only eleven. I've only been asleep for….'
'Listen! Tomorrow night! I want us all to get together: you, me and Nate.'
Angel sat up. 'No.'
The rebuttal just bounced off the shiny vampire. 'I thought maybe dinner together. Cus I know he knows what we are, but I want him to see we eat and do regular things.'
'I know this cool little place we could take him - it's so NOT him; he'll love it.'
'I just want him to get to know you, ya know? Cus, like, when I get to heaven I want you there too….'
Angel swallowed down his planned refusal and said softly, 'I'll think about it.'
Spike nodded. 'What time then?'
'No, Spike. I said I'd think about it.'
'Oh. 'K then. Well?'
Angel gritted his teeth. 'I'll think about it today. If I can get some sleep. All right?'
Spike gave a small pout but began to unbutton his shirt.
Spike crawled toward him. Angel backed away. 'No! Sleep, Spike. I need sleep!'
Spike grinned. 'Never mind, I'm meeting Nate in an hour. We're doing the Sermon on the Mount today.'
'Deep joy. Don't let me keep you.'
Utterly insensible to the irony, Spike gave him a swift kiss and left, just as bouncy.
Angel slid down in the bed and tried not to think about what he'd just promised his childe. That only brought it to the forefront of his mind. He lay awake when his body craved sleep, grinding his teeth at the idea, and by the time he had to get up and fight the good fight, he'd not managed any more sleep. He thought about Spike and the simple offer of dinner all night as he fought and bled and hurt. He took the thoughts to bed once more at the rising of the sun, but by now they consumed him and sleep was impossible. He put up with it for about an hour and then rose, went to his small bar, swallowed a large amount of something very strong and lay back again. By the time he'd fallen back asleep, he'd made his decision. He would tell Spike that he would not meet with the priest.
Spike and Nate were already sitting in a secluded booth when Angel arrived. He was late and flustered. He'd been dressing, deciding what to wear - what statement he wanted to make - when he'd begun to think of Spike. This was always a bad move if he had to be somewhere, for thoughts of Spike inevitably led to delay: showering, hair needing redoing, other clothes.
He walked up to the booth and slid alongside his childe. Spike and priest were holding hands, which surprised Angel, but he was even more surprised to see that the human had dressed in his cassock - flattering, undeniably, but hardly suitable.
Angel frowned and was about to comment on the handholding when the priest said lowly, 'Why are you late? Tell me what you were doing.'
Angel felt his tongue sticking to the roof of this mouth and tried to summon saliva. His heart was pounding wildly in his chest like the wings of some great bird, trapped and desperate to escape. 'I-I….'
'Don't lie to me, Child. I know. God sees everything. You are filthy; you are unclean, and you know what punishment He demands for such wickedness, don't you? What do filthy little boys have to do now?'
'No! Father, please! No! NO! NO!'
'Angel! For Christ's sake!'
Angel sat up, disorientated to find Wesley pointing a crossbow at him, eyes wide with confusion himself. 'What's wrong?'
Angel swallowed. 'Bad dream.' He groaned and lowered his head to his knees.
Wesley put the weapon down carefully and sat on the edge of the bed. Rather unnecessarily he felt Angel's forehead. 'It's not like you to cry out like that anymore. Was it another one about hell?'
Angel fiddled with the sheet, not catching Wesley's eyes. 'In a way.'
'It must be all this damn talk of Spike's about heaven; it's bringing it all….'
'I was given to the Jesuits when I was four, Wes. Four! Fuck, I couldn't even write my name, but I was handed over to those bastards.'
Wesley narrowed his eyes. 'You were dreaming about being human? About being a child again?'
'Not really, but they did things… ya know? It never leaves you.'
'It was a very long….'
'You never forget. If we sinned, they would beat us until we confessed - bats, belts, table legs. We were four. When we got older, it got worse.' He risked a small glance up at the pale human. 'I guess our sins got more real then. Those fucking priests… fanatical… sniffing out wickedness. If they suspected a boy of… you know… touching himself at night, he was made to parade in front of all the brothers and….' Angel pouted and clenched his jaw. He tried a small laugh, but it didn't help, and he raised his eyes to the ceiling to prevent his friend seeing him completely unmanned.
Wesley laid a gentle hand on one sheet-clad knee. 'What, Angel?'
Angel took up the sheet once more and began to run it nervously through his fingers. 'They would make him stand naked, and every one of the fuckers would take his turn cleaning him… everywhere…. It was to make him pure again in God's eyes.'
Wesley rubbed tiredly at his eyes. 'I had no idea.'
Angel tried to smile. 'You and Spike had the soft, Sunday school kind of religion in England, Wesley. We fought the devil on a daily basis.'
Wesley held Angel's eye for a fraction of a second then stood and turned his back, saying softly, 'Yes, my childhood was very soft and pleasant.'
Not even hearing the irony, buried deep in his own woes, Angel said plaintively, 'And now he wants me to go eat food with one of them.'
Wesley turned back again. 'Don't go then. You're not a child anymore; you can do what you want.'
Angel looked up and suddenly shook himself. 'I'm fighting a fucking war here, Wesley; every skirmish is vital. I can't afford not to go.' Ignoring Wesley's deep blush at his nakedness, Angel climbed out of bed and went to the closet. He pulled out a pair of black leather pants and held them up for Wesley to comment. They he pulled out a plum coloured silk shirt, and dressed hurriedly. He shrugged on a long leather coat and turned.
Wesley nodded. 'Dressed to kill; well done.'
Angel arrived at Spike's apartment and found the door ajar. He pushed it further open and went in, expecting to find Spike ready and waiting. A voice called out from the bedroom, and Angel wandered in to find Spike reading on his belly on the bed.
He glanced up when Angel appeared and made a small, appreciative moan. Angel repressed his smile of pleasure at the response to his appearance and said brusquely, 'You're not ready! This was your fucking idea, and now we'll be late!'
'Relax, Pet! Jeez! He's not going to give you detention!'
Angel jerked his head back. 'Oh. No… of course… just get dressed!'
Spike crawled off the bed. 'I'm gonna take a quick shower.' He stripped out of his jeans and T-shirt and walked to the bathroom, chatting about the book he'd been reading.
Not interested in loaves or fishes, Angel followed him and leant in the doorway, watching.
Spike kept his back turned, but when he stretched lazily and began to rub himself slowly with the soap, Angel knew that the blond vampire knew he was being watched.
Spike washed his back and over his buttocks, the water streaming over his firm flesh, making it glisten. Angel put his hands to the front of his pants. Spike turned and began the slow washing of his chest, lifting each arm provocatively and running the soap in to the soft hairs that he knew Angel loved to bury his face into.
It was too much. Angel lunged forward, caught Spike's arm and pulled him out of the streaming water. He kissed him hard and hissed, 'Let God wait. Bend over the bed.'
Spike grinned and did as he was commanded, spreading his legs wide. Angel groaned with the expectation of entering the exposed hole and slowly unzipped his pants. He thumbed the puckered skin for a while, as he got himself fully hard then on Spike's shower-wet skin, he slid in deeply. They both groaned, and Angel withdrew enough to make the re-entry just as pleasurable. When he'd got into a rhythm, he closed his eyes and, with a small grin, pictured the priests watching them. He put on a show, groaning, running his hands over Spike's back.
Spike cried out as Angel unerringly hit the spot that made his cock swell and leak. Hardening further at the pleasure of hearing Spike's cry, Angel lifted one slim thigh and went deeper. As he thumped into Spike, Angel had the absurd, but intensely pleasurable thought that Wesley had been right: now he was an adult, and he could do as he damn well liked.
He laughed as he felt his balls thicken, preparing to shoot their load into Spike. With one last glance at the impotent, furious priests, Angel opened his eyes ready to ejaculate.
The priest stared at them from the open doorway. Angel had one moment of total confusion, and then he stilled. Spike laughed and swore, lifting his head from the mattress. 'Don't stop, Fucker; I'm ready to….'
No one moved at first. Then Angel started to pull out. Then he suddenly remembered the squidgier, slurpier aspects of this, picturing an exposed, bobbing, unsatisfied erection. So he pushed back in. Standing now, the pushing back in hit something in Spike that had not been touched so far, and he moaned with pleasure, all the time trying to drag the sheet off the bed to hide his contribution to the bobbing and unsatisfied scene.
Angel couldn't help it. He looked at the priest's face and began to giggle. He pulled out some more, and gently rocked back in. Spike's free hand flung round to hold him still with a furious slap, but he said cheerfully, 'Thought we were going to meet you there, Pet?'
Nate's eyes strayed to some books in his hand, and his mouth opened to speak. Instead, he turned on his heel, shut the door very carefully behind him, and left.
Angel began to get back into his rhythm, and with every thrust, he pictured the priest being driven forcibly from the battlefield. Spike wriggled away, laughing. 'You insensitive git, Angel! I've gotta catch him up - talk to him.'
Angel froze. 'No. Spike, don't go after him. You can't see him again now!'
'What? Don't be bloody ridiculous! We were only shagging; 's not like we were eating babies or nothing.'
'Celibate, I know.' He pulled on the old jeans and T-shirt he'd been wearing and some discarded trainers. 'Kinda hard for him to see someone else doing it, I guess. Wait here; I won't be long.'
Unwilling to physically restrain him, not sure why he was so afraid of Spike leaving, Angel had to watch him go, certain in the knowledge that he had not taken the battlefield at all; the enemy had merely regrouped and sneaked up behind him once more.
Spike caught the human easily enough; he was sitting on the bench where they had waited for Lilah, his head in his hands. Spike slid in alongside him feeling oddly bashful - for him.
The man looked up as if roused from deep contemplation, and when he saw who it was, he grabbed Spike painfully on the arms and stood him up. 'I won't lose you to the devil! I won't! Not now!'
Spike tried to back away a little, embarrassed by the passion in the man's voice. 'Come on, Luv, it was only a little shag.'
The priests widened, and he moaned. 'Oh, Spike, I can see the flames. They reach out for you, and there's nothing I can do to bring you back to salvation.'
Spike swallowed. 'What do you mean?'
'Spike, Spike. It's the one thing God can't tolerate. It's a vile sin. It is degradation and perversion.'
'No! There are no buts! God specifically forbids it above all other sins. He destroyed a whole city in his wrath at such fornication.'
'We're not forn….'
'God despises homosexuality and all it entails. He has told us in Romans - his own words, Spike! Unrepentant and practicing homosexuals will be cast into hell!'
The man fell to his knees in front of Spike. 'The flames will consume you forever, Spike.'
'No. No. Don't say that…. I - I can't face….'
'Forever! That eternity you described, Spike, what you wanted to save Lilah from! Save yourself; for God's sake; you must save yourself.'
'What must I….'
'Is the way not clear? Have you learnt nothing from your studies? You have to repent! You have to stop sinning. If you invite Christ in as your saviour, he will forgive all your sins, even this.'
'I - I….'
'Spike! God's wrath is eternal. If you do not repent of this sin, you will be without God - an empty vessel, and the devil will take you and fill you with his sin. Do you want that, after all you've achieved?'
'God understands how you cling to him. You burn in lust and do these shameful acts, these things that are the vilest and most depraved acts to which a man can sink, and he waits for you to come to him and ask forgiveness. You can still be saved. Spike!'
Spike began to back away from the human. The priest caught at his shirt, but Spike hit his hand away. The agony seared into his brain at even that small contact, and man looked puzzled at his contorted face, murmuring, 'That will be nothing to the torments you will face in hell.'
Spike began to run. He ran for a long time, until even his legs were tired and his body failing. He'd tried hard to outrun his mind, to leave nothing but a blank void in his brain so that it would not function. Now a long way away from home, he had to walk back with his thoughts churning and tumbling, vivid pictures disturbing his mind. Instead of going to his own place, he went to the hotel. There was no one around, and he went up to Angel's room. Angel was lying on his belly, reading and glanced up silently when he came in. Spike tore off his clothes and climbed in next to him. He rummaged for a cigarette, lay on his back and smoked defiantly for a moment then turned and buried his face into Angel's back.
Angel turned and held him, not questioning him - he knew what was wrong. He turned off the light so Spike had some privacy and just held him until he fell asleep, removing the stub of his burnt out cigarette.
Angel woke when the restlessness began. Spike had rolled to the other side of the bed, and Angel left him there, just watching cautiously as he thrashed. He was just drifting back to sleep when Spike sat up and cried out, 'I'm so hot!' Angel frowned and put a hand to his childe's forehead, snatching it back at the intense heat. He climbed out of bed and went to fetch a cold washcloth from the bathroom. Silently, he held it out to Spike, and the sweating vampire gave a small smile.
Angel smiled back. 'Lie down, and go back to sleep. You need sleep; that's all.'
'Aren't you going to say something?'
Angel looked at him. 'Yes, okay. Lie down. Go back to sleep. You need sleep.'
Spike let out a small breath but clearly decided not to pursue the subject at this hour. He slid back and closed his eyes, rather theatrically spreading the washcloth over his entire face. Angel clenched his jaw and climbed back in alongside him.
A few hours later, it all happened again. Angel woke to a startled cry from Spike. Spike was sitting up, his skin actually red and raw looking in places. 'I'm so hot!'
'I'm going to my old room, 'K? It's being in here with you… you're getting me too hot.'
Angel didn't comment that his skin was a cool as it ever was but allowed Spike to leave without trying to detain him.
Angel dressed and went down into the lobby. He could see no point trying to sleep more. He debated phoning Wesley, but feared to make the situation real by actually talking about it with someone. He took out a favourite book and sat in his chair, drinking.
Time passed, and eventually he heard someone coming in through the lobby. Wesley stuck his head around the door and greeted him. Angel nodded. Wesley gave him a look through narrowed eyes and said, 'How's things?'
Angel sighed. 'I've not even been kissed this time.'
Wesley frowned. 'Err… I'm not with….'
Angel looked up. 'Only, I kinda like to be kissed first, ya know? Before I get turned over and fucked.'
'Ah. Things not going well.'
'You could say that.'
'Is there anything I can…?'
Angel kept his face lowered and said softly, 'In this case, Wes, I don't think there's anything anyone can do.'
Before Wesley could reply, a scream split the air. Angel moved so fast that he was at the top of the stairs before Wesley reached the bottom. By the time the human made it to the source of the noise, Angel was standing by Spike's bed with a horrified look on his face. Wesley skidded to a halt, and his hand flew involuntarily to his mouth. Spike was burnt. One whole side of his face was blistered and weeping, but it was his hair that was the most shocking. It was almost all gone, just the raw, seeping scalp left.
Angel moaned and turned helplessly to Wesley. Wesley tried to remain calm, tried to be the watcher he once was, but words failed him. He came closer and sat on the edge of the bed. Spike would not look at anyone and kept his face lowered on his arms.
Wesley put a hand gently on his head. 'This is like Cordelia! Angel! Do you remember…?'
Angel didn't move, only stared at Spike.
Wesley tried to take command. 'Right, I know what you need….'
Spike lifted his face. 'I know what I need too.'
'No.' Angel's denial was very quiet, but the passion in his voice was unmistakable.
Spike looked at him sadly. 'I'm so sorry.'
Angel didn't take his eyes off Spike, but he said lowly, 'Leave us, Wesley, please.'
Wesley hesitated but then stood and murmured about fetching some blood.
Angel waited until he was gone and then said very slowly, 'Tell me to my face, Spike. I want to hear it.'
Spike swallowed and said equally slowly, 'I am vile and degraded. I will repent my sin, and I will be saved.'
Angel opened his mouth to speak, but Spike rose from the bed. His appearance was so fearful, that Angel took a step back. Spike nodded as if this confirmed something, and he went toward the door. 'I'm going home to… heal.'
Wesley could not understand why Angel did not go after Spike; he couldn't understand why he did not go to Spike's apartment and see how he was. He was frantic with worry, and Angel's calm acceptance of the situation infuriated him. He only felt marginally happier when Spike appeared two days later, fully healed. He went over to the silent vampire and checked him over carefully. Angel stayed perched on Cordelia's desk, watching the scene. Wesley was the one who began to question Spike, but once more, Angel just said quietly, 'Can you leave us?'
Angel rose and came closer. Wesley backed away and went into the kitchen. Spike stood as if none of this concerned him.
Angel leant on the counter and just waited. Spike took a breath. 'I think the burning thing is….'
'I know what it is, Spike. I watched the video, remember?'
Spike's eyes flickered with fear, but he nodded. 'Good. Then you know. It makes this easier.'
Spike looked straight at him. 'No.'
They both regrouped for a moment, and Angel glanced at his office and then went in, holding the door for Spike to follow. Once inside, he shut the door.
Spike began his usual restless wandering around, and Angel sat at his desk watching him.
'I have to choose, Angel.'
'You and God.'
'Ah.' Angel picked up his pen and tapped it for a moment on the edge of the desk in a small drum beat. 'And?'
Spike's voice was so soft, only Angel's preternatural ears would have caught the reply. 'I'm so sorry.'
Angel wished he had not asked. Slowly, he laid his head down onto his arms and stayed silent, ignoring Spike's increasingly agitated pacing.
Eventually, he rose and came out from behind the desk toward him. Spike flinched away and cried out, 'Don't! I've made my decision!'
'I know you have. Will you let me say one thing?'
'Don't try to….'
'Just one thing, Spike. You owe me that.'
Spike took a small, hiccupped breath but nodded.
Angel kept his fists clenched at his side and resisted the almost overwhelming temptation to touch his childe. 'I have been your sire, your lover and your best friend. Let me still be the last of those. Please.'
Spike looked utterly stunned. He seemed unable to catch up with this totally unexpected declaration. He looked into the sad eyes and saw Angel's pain. Wanting to relieve that pain, but not wanting to go back on his promise to Nate, he nodded. 'I guess. I….'
'Promise me then, Spike. Whatever he says, you will let me be your friend. And in return, I promise I won't ask for more. Ever.'
Angel's desperation affected Spike so much that he could not refuse this promise that he knew to be so wrong. He nodded again.
'No. Say it.'
'I promise, Angel. I promise.'
'Okay. Then I promise too. Just friends now.'
Bemused, uncertain where he was supposed to go and what he was supposed to do now that the reason for his unlife was over, Spike drifted out into the lobby.
Angel held himself together enough to climb the stairs and make it to his room. He could still hear Spike's footsteps moving away even from there, and each step Spike took away from him carried Angel a step back to a time when he'd stood impotent and humiliated under priests' greedy hands. They'd won then - robbing him of his innocence and destroying his self-esteem. As Spike closed the door to the hotel, Angel realised with a sense of impotent terror that they'd won now, too. Bitter, childish tears had not helped him as a boy and they were powerless now; nevertheless, he let their hot, mocking drops fall unheeded to tiles that he had bought to mark a promise for eternity.
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