the Fire in Which we Burn
Episode 6 - Chapter 3
The following day, Spike was up and working quietly at one of the desks when Wesley arrived for work.
He gave the human a small glance and a brief smile, and then made a show of turning his page and marking something.
Wesley frowned and went into Angel's office. 'Is Spike actually reading a book?'
Angel looked up very slowly, composed his face and said softly, 'Probably not.'
'Oh. Can vampires take…? I suppose they can; would you like something? I always keep Tylenol in my desk.'
Angel wanted to refuse but bit down on his pride and nodded - gently. He took a handful of the offered pills and Wesley, not appreciating the real pain Angel was in, began to potter and chat. He took some books down from the shelf, remarking on them. It was only when he got no reply to a direct question that he realised he was talking to himself. Angel had gotten up and was leaning on the counter, watching his childe. When he sensed that Spike was concentrating on him too much and not on his studying, he went upstairs and, unseen, stared at him over the railing.
Wesley watched Angel watching his silent, still chide for a while and then went up to join him.
Angel acknowledged his presence with a flick of his eyes in the human's direction, but then went back to the intense scrutiny of his childe. After a moment, he said softly, 'We all thought he was so together with this soul thing. Do you remember when he first got here? I thought he could teach me.'
Wesley looked thoughtfully at the lowered blond head. 'He hid his pain well.'
'It's been corroding him from the inside.' Angel winced badly and couldn't stop his hand flying momentarily to his head. He waved off Wesley's look of concern, and respecting the vampire's pride, Wesley returned swiftly to the discussion of Spike.
'Why do you think he's found it so hard?'
'I suffered my torments as a vampire, Wes - I wasn't trying to be a human. I skulked around the edges of the human world, so all of this additional pressure didn't affect me. He's tried too much too soon.'
'But he's had friends - he has you. It can't just be that.'
'Maybe it's the men we were to begin with. I was ripe for turning - I wasn't that worse as a vampire than I'd been as a man, just more vicious. But William was different. He was the most unlikely man you could have met to be demonised.'
'But you did it anyway.'
Angel gave a bitter, self-recriminating grin. 'I did it because. I couldn't wait to see how he would suffer.'
'He must have surprised you.'
'Yeah. He took to unlife like a kid in a candy store. Perhaps that's why I believed he'd coped with his soul so well.'
'Don't take this too much to heart, Angel. I think he is coping better than the last few weeks have shown. He's overcome the devil, and that's not easy to do. Don't underestimate him.'
Angel smiled faintly. 'I'm impressed with your hatred of that damn priest.'
'He spouted ancient, hypocritical cant, Angel. I can't abide it.'
'Did I say that?'
'Well, don't you think all those cosy sessions with Spike were a bit... odd?'
Angel turned incredulously to Wesley and said, amused, 'You think he secretly wanted Spike?'
If it was on the tip of Wesley's tongue to reply, 'Who wouldn't,' he repressed it sternly and only murmured, 'I think he was jealous.'
Angel laughed and immediately seemed to regret it, closing his eyes briefly. 'I think jealously was involved, yeah.'
Wesley narrowed his eyes at him, but Angel was distracted. At the soft laughter, Spike had looked up at them. Angel suddenly jogged back down the stairs and went up to him. He bent close to Spike's ear. Immediately, Spike's head lowered over his book once more. Angel returned to his office with a defensive glance up at Wesley.
A few moments later, he looked up to find Wesley staring at him from the doorway. 'I'm not sure I like this new Spike.'
Angel grimaced. 'He's not supposed to be likeable; he's supposed to be silent and obedient.'
'Exactly.' Wesley gave Angel a look and went back to his desk.
Wesley found the regime increasingly difficult to accept. The next day, he came to work and after studying Angel's dark expression for a few hours, said casually, 'Where is he?'
'In his room' was the curt reply.
A few more hours passed, and then he confronted Angel more forcibly. 'This isn't right, Angel.'
'It's none of your business.'
'You can't lock him in like that! I won't allow it! I'm standing up to you at last… I mean…. Are you all right?'
Angel gritted his teeth and nodded. He looked at the flushed human for a moment and then added softly, 'He's not you, Wes. He's not a child, and he knows what he's bought into with this.'
Afraid he'd revealed too much, blushing furiously, Wesley retreated to the calm of his own desk.
After half an hour, he left the lobby stealthily and made his way up the stairs.
Spike was lying on his bed, one arm folded under his head, one hand lying lightly on his new sabre.
'Hello.' There was a pause; Wesley assumed he was invited, so he went in. He winced at the vivid bruises on Spike's face. 'What was that for?'
Spike grinned. 'I didn't put this away.' He patted his treasure lightly.
'Ah. You still haven't.'
Spike grinned some more. 'Nah.'
'I think you should tell Angel that this isn't….'
'Stay out of it, Human.'
'You're just going to lie there and let him…?'
'I'm not just lying here; I'm thinking. I'm contemplating my offences to my sire. Apparently.' The smirk that accompanied this statement rather belied its veracity.
'I don't understand any of this - why you would need…?'
'You think that this is for me?'
'Come on, Luv - you saw him. You saw what I did to him by listening to that fucking priest. He needs this.'
'Oh. He thinks it's for... you.'
'I know what he thinks.'
Wesley sat down on the edge of the bed and put his head in his hands briefly. 'We all missed you so much.'
Spike turned his head with a mischievous expression. 'You had Angel all to yourself - although you made fuck-all use of your opportunity, so I hear.'
'Don't you think that would have been the very last complication Angel needed then?'
Spike laughed out loud. 'Jeez… next time we have an Angel fan club meeting, let's get a better hotel, yeah? One with room service maybe?'
Wesley smiled too, but the expression whipped off his face when Angel appeared in the doorway. He jumped up. 'He didn't do anything. I came in uninvited… I didn't realise I needed your permission….'
Angel came forward and put a hand on his arm. 'Hey! Relax. I punishing him, not you.'
It was too much. Wesley's face creased up, and he pushed past Angel to the door.
Spike sat up and rubbed the back of his neck guiltily, trying desperately not to let his gaze drop to the offending weapon. Nevertheless, Angel stared at it. 'This is your last chance; lock it away.'
'Can I get it out whenever I need it?'
Angel relaxed. 'Of course. I gave it to you so….'
'I need it now.'
Whether Angel was suddenly taking a more pragmatic approach to siring, or whether he was in too much pain to care, he merely said, 'Come downstairs now. We're scaring Wesley.'
Spike swung his legs off the bed. 'Yeah. What's with that? Sire.'
'That's something you'll have to ask him.'
'I think he wanted to save me.'
Angel turned, his face sad. 'No. He wanted to save himself, but it's too late for him.'
Spike frowned and probed no further.
Angel sat at his desk completely still. If he moved, he felt his head would split open. All he could think about was lying down, but that was unthinkable.
He heard faint voices from the lobby, but he could not focus on them or tell who was speaking. He heard telephones ringing and sensed Wesley come in once or twice.
He would have coped; he would have sat there all day, but gradually, he felt a strange sensation in his jaw. He couldn't place it, but it felt familiar all the same. Saliva began to pour into his mouth, and with a jolt of shock, he realised he was about to vomit. With stoicism born of hundreds of years in hell, he rose and walked steadily toward the stairs. He felt Wesley's look of concern, felt cool blue eyes rake his back, but ignored it all and walked calmly up to his rooms. He fell to the floor in the bathroom and vomited bloody bile into the toilet. That made his head hurt so much that he sat for a moment with it cradled in his arms before rising and crawling thankfully onto the bed. He pulled the cover over his head and closed his eyes to the world.
Angel turned his back to Spike's voice and added a pillow to his defences.
'Hey! Pet, what's wrong?'
Angel suddenly flung himself out of the bed and propelled Spike into the wall. His head fried with pain, but he hit Spike's hands away. 'You're just fucking playing at this! You don't think of me as your sire!'
'Not when you're bloody like this, no!'
'See! See! Three days and you can't even do that!'
Angel hit at him. Spike punched back, and Angel just lost it. He couldn't control himself. Driven by pain, he threw Spike onto the bed; he tore at the covers, turned and vented his fury on anything he could find. He ripped his books off the shelf; smashed his nightstand; he whirled around and made the fridge a victim of his rage, ripping it out of the wall, hurling it across the room, its contents spilling out and falling like obscene red organs to the floor. He picked up the bloodbags, one after another, and tore them open, flinging blood around him to splatter walls. He followed its passage with his eyes then ran over and wrenched open the wall safe. Advancing on Spike, he crawled onto the bed. He took the pictures he had drawn of his lover and systematically shredded them. Spike watched this act of malice with the same closed-down expression he'd watched the rest of the display.
Finally, Angel got off, picked his way over the detritus and went to stand in the window, holding the side of his head. 'You will never be my childe.'
He heard no reply. After what seemed like an age, he turned. Spike was lying prone on the blood that pooled on the tiles, his arms outstretched.
'I am your childe, Angelus, and I bow to your authority.'
'Get up and stop….'
'Anything. I will do anything you want, Sire, only don't abandon me.'
'Fuck off and….'
'Please, Angelus, ask me anything. I'll be the obedient childe you want. I promise.'
Angel knelt down, his legs shaky from the pain. 'Anything?'
Angel nodded. 'Then leave me alone. I want you to leave LA and leave me alone.' He stood up and watched the blond figure through a haze of pain.
Spike rose to his knees and sat back on his heels, staring at Angel, his face coated with the spilt blood. He took a deep breath, blinked for what seemed like a lifetime then dropped his head to his chest once more. 'You are my sire, my source of life, and I owe you more than obedience. I'll be gone by the morning.'
He rose gracefully to his feet, dipped his head in obeisance at Angel and began to walk toward the door.
He heard an unfamiliar noise but couldn't break his promise and turn. The sound came again, and it frightened him so much this time that he snatched his head around to see what danger lay behind him. The sound was coming from Angel. His hands to his head, it was as if he were trying to hold something in, crush his skull together to keep it at bay - but he failed. With a bone-shuddering scream, he fell to his knees. 'Nooo!'
Spike came back, then turned and tried to leave as he'd promised, but the scream came again and, distressed, unsure what to do, he moaned slightly. 'Angel?'
Angel began to bang his head on the floor. 'I won't. I won't.'
'Angel! For fuck's sake, please!'
'I can't! I can't tell… won't tell…! Suddenly, Angel sat back on his heels and grabbed at Spike, pulling him down onto his knees too. His eyes wild, tears pouring down his cheeks, he shouted, 'You left me!'
Spike flinched and swallowed. Angel began to shake him. 'It's like being on a fucking roller coaster with you! You love me, then you cast me off like a fucking toy you've gotten bored with…!'
'No, it's not like….'
'You let HIM take you away from me! They fucked me over as a child, and you let them have me again!'
'What are you…?'
'You left me, Spike! You left me! I can't do this all the time! I can't take this anymore!'
Angel put his forehead to the floor; the pain had burst in his head, flinging the bitter words out of his mouth, and now he could not call them back. He felt a hand on his shoulder. It began to rub into his hair. He thought he'd shifted to get away from it, but somehow, he ended up with his head in Spike's lap. They didn't speak; Spike just kept up his repetitive stroking of the soft, dark hair. He felt Angel shudder and only held him closer as he cried, this reversal of everything he knew almost too painful to bear. Angel seemed utterly unable to control his crying. Deep sobs racked him, and once or twice, he retched: dry heaving coughs that only weakened him more. Spike sank lower on the floor and tried to hold more of him. He began to kiss into the tears, lick them away, but they only flowed faster. At last, unable to bear the pain any longer, he reached for his ever-present sword and ran it repeatedly over his wrist, pressing the wound to Angel's mouth like a child's comforter. 'Luv? Look, for you….'
He rubbed around Angel's mouth, smearing the wet lips with the enticing scent of his blood. Angel's tongue slipped into the cut almost automatically and tasted the coppery fluid. Spike kissed his hair and pressed his wrist in some more. 'Get up, Pet. Come to the bed with me.'
He helped Angel to the bed and crawled in beside him. He reopened the wound with his teeth, made them both as comfortable as he could and pressed it back to Angel's mouth. Deep shivers from the crying still trembled through Angel's body, and Spike wondered how anything to strong and so invulnerable could feel so fragile in his arms.
Through all his trials with the priest, he thought he'd heard Angel's pain. He'd thought he'd understood it. He saw now that he'd only seen the thin veneer that Angel had allowed him to see. This, he had not known. Biting his lip to the irony, he realised now that trying to recreate their vampire relationship had been the last thing Angel needed. Angel had repressed so much pain and fear to be able to appear the strong, invulnerable sire that it had almost torn him apart. Spike frowned into the dark hair and felt his own tears begin to fall, knowing that his weakness wasn't what they needed and that, above all, he needed to stay strong.
Almost unconsciously, he put his hand to his sword and had the most vivid impression of pressing it to Angel's neck, ending his pain and then following behind him. He shook himself. It wasn't good to want to kill yourself more than once a week, but the tantalizing thought remained.
Even simpler, he realised, would be to get rid of their damn souls. He had the bizarre thought that maybe they had preternatural strength souls - too much for anyone to bear.
He began to go back over his relationship with the priest, blaming himself for all of it, unable to shake the memory of the flames consuming him. He sighed deeply and pulled Angel back onto his wrist.
After a long time of these depressing thoughts, he felt the need to top up himself and began to ease Angel off him.
Angel's only response to this was to grab him so tightly that Spike watched bruises flare on his skin around Angel's fingertips like flowers opening to rain. It was the most beautiful sight he'd seen for long time, and he sank lower in the bed with the knowledge that Angel was as obsessed about him as he ever had been: it was only that he occasionally had a very odd way of showing it.
When Spike woke he had difficulty getting Angel to let him go long enough to make a short visit downstairs. He only managed it by giving Angel his sword. So, guarding a treasure he knew its owner would return for, Angel curled into a ball under the covers and let Spike go.
Unable to see himself in a mirror, Spike made quite an impression on Wesley when he went silently into the office. Totally mistaking the blood that covered him - caking his hair and staining his clothes - Wesley rose from his chair with a bellow of anger and slammed his fist into the table. Spike went to him swiftly. 'It's not mine.'
Wesley jerked back. 'Angel's?'
'No. Just some conscripted pig. I - We - No, I - Well, we….' He couldn't finish, spun on his heel and went into the kitchen.
Wesley came tentatively up to the hunched shoulders and put his hand on Spike's spine. 'Have you got bored of playing vampires?'
'Did you realise it's not what either of you need?'
Again, a tight nod.
'Are you both all right? Angel?'
Spike's shoulders sank. 'I hurt him so much.'
'I know you did.'
Spike spun around wide-eyed. 'Did I hurt you all this much?' He hung his head for a moment. 'Sometimes I think it would be better for you all if I were dead.'
'Well, it would be quieter. And less risk from secondary smoking.'
Spike wasn't in the mood to be teased out of his fear. 'I'd best get back. He needs me.'
'Have you only just realised that?'
Spike looked up. 'Yes. I think I have. He's always so in control, ya know? But underneath… I never saw it before. All that fear. All that need. I thought that was me. Jesus… I come here, crashing into his life, expecting him to look after me, sort me out, but all this time….'
'Hush. It's not as bad as you're painting it, Spike.'
'You didn't see him. He lost it, Wes. Worse than me.'
'Is that possible?'
At that, Spike let a faint smile flicker on his features. 'We need some space. Can you close things up for a few days?'
'I'll shut up shop, but I'm staying here.'
'You do. You might. I'll be invisible. I sleep down here on the couch, but I'm not leaving you two alone.'
Spike sighed. He indicated his clothes. 'We're out of blood so maybe…?'
Wesley held his face lightly. 'It's always blood with you… what?'
Spike shook his head. 'I said that once. I guess I thought it was true - 's why I wanted to do this sire/childe thing… for Angel… so he could find his way through blood again. But it's not true anymore. Not for us. That's not a sire upstairs, Wes. He can't do it anymore, not with so much….'
'Love? He loves you. Is that so hard for you to accept?'
'I don't deserve it! I've hurt him so much.'
'And you've given him more pleasure in the last few months than he's had in his entire God-damned lifetime - human or vampire.'
Spike dropped his head again. 'Why does it have to hurt so much?'
Wesley chuckled. 'It's better than not having it, Spike. Believe me.'
Spike raised his eyes and gave the human a frank look. 'You know we love you.'
Wesley smiled. 'I was speaking of another time; now, shouldn't you be getting back upstairs? Maybe shower, too? You could do it together - you seem to enjoy that very un-Christian-like behaviour.'
Spike grinned, and Wesley sighed at the familiarly of the expression. 'Does Angel need anything else?'
Spike increased the grin and added the raise of one eyebrow.
to Chapter 4