the Fire in Which we Burn
Episode 6 - Chapter 1
Wesley prepared his ambush extremely carefully: odd music, which he'd nicked from his victim; a vast supply of alcohol to keep things flowing; and a video he couldn't even look at the cover of without blushing. It wasn't easy getting the mood right for such a seduction. He'd run through his script a number of times, even paced it out once or twice, each rehearsal adding some better, more telling lines and a little more credibility to this incredible scenario. He felt it was almost perfect; he'd witnessed Spike's capitulation in his mind so many times he could almost feel the vampire in his arms.
Wesley shook himself. It was even harder getting a seduction right for someone else.
He clenched his jaw as he thought of Angel. He was so angry with the silent, withdrawn vampire that he could feel his pulse beginning to race at the stress of just picturing his calm acceptance, his lassitude and indifference.
If Angel couldn't seduce his own lover back to him, then Wesley was going to give it his very best shot.
He checked the Spike-seduction supplies one more time and then went for the kill: changing into his black leather pants and an expensive, ivory silk shirt.
There was a soft knock at the door. He swallowed nervously then strode over and wrenched it open.
'Angel?' Wesley lowered his voice half an octave and repeated his greeting, trying also to take a note of panic out of the simple hail. 'Angel.'
Angel nodded and, uncharacteristically, came in without waiting to be invited. He glanced around, then turned off the music and the video, and helped himself to a beer.
'You need to stay out of this, Wes.'
Wesley recovered from his shock when those challenging words hit him. All his fury with the vampire rose uncontrollably, and he snapped back, 'You're too pathetic to do anything, so I'm doing it for you.'
Angel stayed infuriatingly calm and replied, 'I am doing something.'
'No, Angel, you're not. You're letting that God-awful man….'
'I'm letting Spike go.'
Wesley floundered to a halt in his vitriolic tirade against the priest, floored by this comment. Angel sat on the couch and watched the human come hesitatingly forward then added, 'I was willing to do it for my own reasons - to save my soul - should I do less for him?'
'He needs you, Angel.'
Angel shrugged. 'Right now, he needs something else, and I'm respecting that need - as you have to.'
Fury boiled over in Wesley's heart once more, and he stormed to the wall, banged his hand angrily on it then flung back to Angel. 'No… I don't, Angel. You can accept this like a bloody….'
Wesley bit his tongue so badly when Angel flattened him against the wall that a red arc of blood splattered on the dark features of the vampire. Angel ignored the blood entirely, which scared Wesley far more than the sudden attack. Angel bent so close that his lips brushed the stubble on Wesley's cheek. 'Don't mistake my reaction to this as acceptance. I would end all human life in this city if that would bring Spike back to me. But it won't. This will: I'll be his friend, his guide and his mentor, and one day, he'll come back to me of his own free will.'
'You have to tell him this - tell him how much you love him.'
Angel let Wesley go and dusted him down a little, only then wiping the blood off the soft lips and his own face, licking provocatively at the red wetness on his hand. He looked at his fingers for a moment then replied softly, 'He knows. Jesus, this is tearing him apart. Can't you feel his pain?'
'Yes, I can. But I'm more concerned about yours.'
For the first time, Angel's carefully constructed façade slipped. Wesley took a silent intake of breath and put a hand tentatively on the tense shoulder.
'You can't keep this up, Angel. You'll tear apart inside.'
Angel hesitated for a long time, looking deep into Wesley's eyes then said distinctly, 'Then think how he feels. He senses everything I'm feeling. He knows what I'm thinking, what I want. He was willing to leave me once to spare me the torment of seeing him die one day, but knowing all that, he's still driven to do this.' He bent his head for a moment then lifted it again. 'If you saw hell in my eyes, try to imagine what you would see if you truly looked into his.'
Wesley's shoulders sagged. 'What can I do, Angel? I want to help.'
Angel visibly relaxed a little, too. He nodded. 'Treat his decision with respect. Remember he doesn't love any of us any less - he's just trying to negotiate the most difficult path of his life.'
'I think he's lost his fucking roadmap.'
For the first time, Angel smiled. He hesitated but then pulled Wesley into his arms. 'Do I tell you enough how much I like you, Watcher? Especially when you're bleeding....'
Wesley mock punched him on the arm. 'The sympathy is freely given; the blood I'd prefer to keep.'
'Spoilsport.' Angel turned and gave Wesley a light kiss, but just as his lips pulled away, he tensed and pressed them back harder. He leant on Wesley, pressing him back to the wall. His tongue sought entry and went unerringly to the welling blood blister, probing it. Wesley was momentarily confused, and Angel sensed his hesitation, pulling back a little, his eyes hooded. 'I'm doing it again: using you, and you're gonna tell me you don't want a to be substitute fuck or….'
'Actually, Angel, I was thinking…' he trailed his eyes down to Angel's groin 'that I'd just discovered the first positive outcome of Spike not wanting you.'
Angel raised his eyes in surprise, and they shared a moment of complete clarity: that one infinitesimal move from either would start them on a path neither had looked for at the beginning of this confrontation.
The knock on the door made them both jump. Angel recovered first. 'Spike.'
Neither moved at first, but then Wesley eased himself away from Angel's overwhelming presence. He adjusted his pants, frowned when it didn't help, so just untucked his shirt and let it hang, loose and concealing, as he walked to the door.
Spike was leaning on the wall opposite, his head bent in thought.
'Spike! Good timing.'
Spike looked up and saw Angel. 'What is this?'
'We're going to watch a video and have a few beers. I thought you might like to join us. I want to stay your friend, Spike - if I can… if you'll let me.'
Spike pushed off the wall, confused. 'Of course… I mean, yeah. I mean, of course we're friends.' He came in and gave Angel a significant look then turned silently to Wesley, his head tilted on one side, clearly sensing something about him too.
As he stood between them, for the first time, Wesley saw the vampire through Angel's eyes and with Angel's better knowledge of him. Spike's pain screamed to him, made his belly clench with an instinctive desire to fight or flee. He looked to Angel for support and watched the dark vampire conceal his expression, shut down his emotions, and respond to this terrifying cry for help in the way he had promised. He came over to Spike and clapped him on the back. 'I've a new book I want to show you. It's a bit dry, but there are some great insights into the soul.' He lifted his hand from Spike's back as soon as he'd completed his friendly greeting and offered him a beer.
Wesley turned his back on the small scene, took a deep breath then turned again. 'I must check my library for you, Spike; it'll give a new definition to the word dry, I'm afraid.'
Spike made a weak smile but seemed uncertain what he was supposed to do next.
Angel sat down and began a light, inconsequential chat with Wesley, and Wesley sat, slightly more shakily, and responded like an automaton to the words.
Eventually, Spike sat down, lowered his head and returned to whatever thoughts had been occupying him before he came in.
Their erections throbbing, leaking and draining blood from their brains, Angel and Wesley continued a bizarre conversation where neither heard, nor cared about what the other said.
After an hour, Spike left. He hadn't spoken, other than monosyllabic replies to questions that seemed to confuse him.
There was the slightest hesitation as he realised that Angel meant to stay longer with Wesley, but almost at the same time, Angel appeared to change his mind and stood up. Cheerfully, he escorted Spike downstairs, walked someway past his apartment door before turning and saying with an encouraging smile, 'Come over early tomorrow.'
Spike was unable to refuse for Angel spun on his heel and left.
Spike entered his apartment, carefully laid down his coat and went into his bedroom. He sat on the windowsill and drew his knees up to his chin.
It was the moment he waited for every day - the moment when he could be alone and start the fearful task of deconstructing every conversation with Angel and every look they had shared, until the whole day lay in shattered pieces that he could sweep away, purifying him once more. He started on Angel's words, concentrating on his voice, breaking it down into fragments that made no sense. He ignored soft remembered endearments: baby, childe, Will. These memories came from the devil, and they burnt him.
When he could no longer hear Angel's voice, he began on the body. Every inch had to be erased from his memory: what he had worn that day; whether he carried any injuries; how his hair had looked; what his hands had touched; where his gaze had landed, and what expression had been in those unfathomable dark eyes. Bit-by-bit, Spike nightly consigned Angel to a lock-down where he put the evil thoughts and sinful desires that condemned him. Finally, after many silent hours, Spike was where and what he wanted to be: nowhere and nothing - a blank page - exactly as he had come into this world before the shit that had shaped and made him into the evil he now was.
His mind spun with uncontrollable thoughts, but it was utterly devoid of Angel.
His body ached, but it could not be for Angel.
When he reached this state of total whiteness, he would savour it for a short while before falling, exhausted and fully clothed, on the bed. The respite was too short though, for in his dreams, the whole edifice of his love for Angel was intricately reconstructed: every inch of his skin; the smell of him; how he felt to touch; how his voice rose as he cried out in orgasm; what his laugh sounded like when they were alone; how he stood; how he walked; how he held his body poised and tense as he ejaculated; and how he lay warm and happy whenever his childe was there.
Spike's dreams brought his sin crashing back, and he awoke blistered, bleeding and crying out in pain for the comfort that would never be his again.
All too soon, the new day would begin, and he had to fulfil his promise to Angel: let him be his friend. Angel's idea of friendship demanded his continual presence, and so the sinful thoughts would worm their way into his brain once more, leaving him no respite until he reached this quiet time when he was alone.
With a sigh, Spike rose from the sill and lay on the bed.
He'd had the mattress changed, but he could still smell Angel. He sometimes wondered if he merely sensed his own sin, so deeply did Angel's essence pervade his body.
Hoping that the dreams would not come, that he would be spared the burning for one night, Spike's body succumbed to the need for sleep.
Spike was morosely bathing his wounds in the morning when there was a knock. He opened it cautiously and then hurriedly, 'Nate? Here? I mean… hi.'
The priest smiled. 'Can't I make a house call on my favourite customer?'
Spike frowned slightly at the term but, self-consciously, went to pull on a T-shirt.
'What are those?' The priest indicated the burns.
'Caught myself on the stove.'
'Yeah. Why have you come here? I'm coming to you tonight, remember?'
'I thought we could have a talk.'
'Okay, only I'm going to….' He dried up, well aware of the priest's views on his continued friendship with Angel.
To his surprise, the priest nodded. 'You should keep up your friendships. All of them.'
'But you said I should cut myself off from them all - that they were corrupting me.'
'Yeah, well, what do I know? You need friends, Spike; we all do.'
Confused, Spike went into the kitchen to make some tea and watched the man as he sat leisurely in a chair. He patted his cassock a few times, seemingly pleased with the fit. 'So, Spike, how's about we reconsider some of this soul business?'
Carefully, Spike put a mug on the desk and perched opposite him with another. 'Some new teachings?'
'Nah. I was thinking more along the lines of having some fun - too much study makes Spike a dull boy?'
'Are you drunk…?'
The priest laughed. 'On communion wine?' He rose and came toward Spike. 'I guess telling you I've changed my mind about things is gonna come as a shock…?'
Spike jerked back. 'I can't be saved?'
'Not about that, about this….' He put a hand on Spike's cheekbone, but used to the familiar, paternal gesture from the priest, Spike did not pull back as swiftly as he wanted to. When the man bent to kiss him, however, he dodged away so quickly that the tea flung between them, wetting their clothes and scalding them.
'Fucking hell! Spike! That's hot, you fuckwit!'
Spike stood up in total outrage, staring at the man. After some considerable bluff, the figure shrugged, and Jordan admitted defeat, shaking off the borrowed appearance.
He saw Spike's expression and quickly slid defensively into his eight-year old girl look and began to twiddle a hair ribbon innocently around one finger. 'Sorry.'
It was totally unexpected and even more unwelcome, but Spike began to laugh. The girl grinned too, and Jordan turned back to his usual look.
Spike sat back down and pinched his wet T-shirt away. 'I should kill you for that little stunt.'
'Yeah, I was crap, wasn't I? Jeez, got the clothes but lost it with the lingo!'
'Did you seriously think that I'd…?'
'All I thought was that I miss you, and I want you back, babe. That's all.'
Spike clenched his jaw. 'I lied, Jordan - I don't use the fucking stove, remember? I burn at night - when I dream. I dream of Angel, and that sin is burning….'
'Crap. That's fucking crap, and you'd know it if that fucking priest wasn't so rammed up your fucking rectum - metaphorically speaking, unfortunately. You're just having some weird demon psycho… semantic… type thingy. You need….'
'I'm not playing a game here! I went to the furthest place you can go on this planet without falling off the edge to get my soul replaced. I was tortured for a very long time in ways I've never told anyone, and I withstood it because I wanted to be a man again - a good man.
Jordan listened to all this and then added sweetly, 'So that Angel would love you.'
Spike moved around him carefully. 'You'd better go.'
'Sam misses you.'
'I'm still fucking here!'
Jordan opened the door and went out into the hallway. 'It's a pity you can't look in mirrors, Spike: you'd see just how much you aren't here. I'm not going anywhere, by the way. When this latest phase of yours is over, I'll be here, waiting. I've lived a very long time, and I can very, very patient when there is something I want.'
Spike shut the door angrily, his equilibrium shaken before the day had even started. He broke his promise to Angel and didn't go to the hotel. Instead, he went down into the tunnels and found somewhere quiet and dry to think. He was beginning to conclude that the priest was right: it was too dangerous to see his friends anymore - too dangerous to see Angel anymore.
Nate wanted Spike to study every night with him and had given him a key, but he often did not finish his church duties until very late. This night, he did not return to his apartment until an hour before dawn, but he smiled despite his exhaustion when he saw that Spike had stayed and waited.
Spike turned when he came in and frowned. 'You work too much.'
'Can you ever work too much for God? Let me change.'
He wandered into the bedroom, and Spike listened to the familiar sound of the shower and the rustling as Nate removed his clerical garb. Eventually, he came back out, rubbing his hair. 'It's really hot in here tonight. Let's go up top.'
Spike looked puzzled, and Nate chuckled. 'Follow me.'
'I thought I had been doing that.'
The priest turned at something he heard in Spike's tone. 'What's wrong?'
Spike shrugged. 'I'm just tired.'
Nodding at the truth of this, Nate went down the hallway and up the stairs. When he reached the next floor, he pulled a small ladder down from the ceiling and climbed up, pushing open an emergency roof access. Spike followed him up wonderingly and went immediately to the edge, looking at the church. Nate stood alongside him. 'It's even more beautiful from up here, isn't it?'
Spike shivered and moved away a little to light a cigarette.
Trying to ignore the smoking, which he hated, Nate sat down and laid out the books he'd brought up with him. Spike glanced over. 'Bit dark for reading, innit?'
Nate smiled. 'You're going to read to me, and I'll try and help you interpret the passages.'
Spike sighed. 'How's about we just sit a while - enjoy the night.'
The man hesitated then shrugged. 'If you'd prefer. Perhaps you'll tell me what's bothering you. Perhaps we could pray together again. As I told you: God always hears your prayers, Spike, however unworthy you may feel.'
Spike flicked his cigarette away and lit another then jumped up on the small wall that ran around the roof. The man flinched but watched, despite his instinctive fear. Spike paced around the wall, spinning at each corner, marching as if he were trying to outpace something.
Nate got tired of watching the display after the tenth circuit and stretched out, folding his hands under his head, watching the sky lighten instead. Streaks of gold and salmon pink began to glow around the edges of the cloud, and he suddenly sat up and said with some alarm, 'Hey! Time for you to be inside.'
Spike pouted and sat on the wall. He looked over at the man. 'Nah. I think I'll stay up here. I'm tired, and I think this is the best way.'
Nate stood up and came closer. 'Spike….'
'Let me be. Please. I've done enough, and now I want to rest.' He shut his eyes and turned his face to the east.
The man's face clouded over. 'How dare you! How many times do you think I've heard this kind of arrogance from men before? This is as bad a sin as you've ever committed, Spike! God gave you this life; only he has the right to take it away!'
Spike opened his eyes and stared at the priest. It seemed to him then as if he moved out of time: all motion becoming slow and languid around him.
He opened his mouth to speak, and it took a whole revolution of the earth before the words emerged. 'No. Angel gave me this life. God had nothing to do with it.'
For the first time, Spike saw a crack appear in the priest's certainties, for his gaze dropped, and he said, 'Your circumstances are unique - I don't deny that. The Bible was not written for you, of course, but….' He heard his fatal error as clearly as Spike did. To give the human his due, he didn't attempt to bluff his way any further. He just straightened and watched the edifice of fear and confusion that he had so successfully constructed around this unique soul crumble away.
Spike got to his feet and looked out at the approaching dawn. 'It's time all good vampires were abed.'
'Don't do this, Spike. You don't know what you are….'
'The only thing I don't know is how I am going to make this up to him - I only have eternity. Oh, and that's not eternity on some white cloud singing fucking praises, Mate; that's eternity in Angel's body - an eternity of sucking and fucking. Cus that's something you'll never understand: love like ours transcends any of your soddin' cant. Hell, you're too afraid to even test your own commitment to God with a good shag.'
He felt his skin beginning to burn, and for the first time since Lilah had dragged him into that torture chamber, he didn't feel overwhelming fear at the sensation. He felt nothing more than a vampire's instinctive need to be underground. He shook himself, tipped his head back to the faint rays and shouted, 'I'm an animal, and I'm gonna fucking live forever!' He raised an eyebrow at the priest and dropped out of sight off the roof.
to Chapter 2