is the Fire in Which we Burn
Episode 8- Chapter 5
The following day, Wesley returned. He seemed calm and listened to Angel's hesitant recitation of the results of his research without interrupting. When the vampire was finished, he said cheerfully, 'Yes, very good, Angel. You're making progress. We'll just have to wait and see if anyone replies to your emails. In the meantime, I think you should go back to the church. That's where it all happened; that's where we'll find the answers.'
Wesley didn't catch Angel's eye. 'I'm sorry I flew off the handle. In other circumstances - if it had been you repeating and me free to do as I chose - I might have done the same. I was being very naïve.' As if he sensed he wasn't coming over as truthfully as he wanted, he added with a small laugh, 'I do hope I was worth it.'
Before Angel could make any response to this, Wesley turned away and busiest himself at the bookshelf.
Angel went to Spike where he sat morosely on one of the couches and sat down next to him. 'I'm going to the church. Go back to the bedroom and wait for me there.' He bent down and kissed him deeply. Spike hung on the kiss as if his life depended on it, but just before Angel rose, he whispered urgently, 'Chain me up... please!'
Angel screwed his face up at the anguished plea, but kept his desperate sympathy for his lover under control.
He led Spike up to the bed and gently put the heavy chains over him once more. He kissed him and then smiled. 'Forever, Spike. We'll have forever if we can get through this.'
Spike nodded and closed his eyes.
Wesley watched and waited for Angel to leave the hotel and then made his way slowly and deliberately up the stairs.
He went into the bedroom and looked toward the bed where Spike lay completely fettered, reading a book.
Spike glanced up, thinking Angel had forgotten something, and pursed his lips when he saw the human. With a rueful huff he said, 'Oh, goody, dinner.'
Wesley didn't even smile. He came closer and looked down at Spike's chains. 'I thought he trusted you.'
Spike shrugged. 'It's not him who doesn't trust me. What do you want?'
Wesley sat on the edge of the bed, and Spike suddenly looked less cocky and shifted away as much as he could.
'Does my presence disturb you?'
'Good. Only, you see, you've got him fooled, haven't you, Spike? He dotes on you, and anything you do will always be right in his eyes.'
'He's helping me….'
'He's setting himself up for the biggest fall of his life: discovering that you don't want to be saved - that all this is just an illusion in his head. He won't recover from that; I know him; I've watched him with you all these months. I know how much he loved you. I'm not going to let him fall. I'm going to stop this now, where it stands, before you hurt him.'
Spike narrowed his eyes and glanced around the room as if looking for a means to escape. Wesley chuckled. 'Don't worry; I'm not going to stake you. God, I'm not that stupid; I can't begin to imagine what Angel would do to me then. No, you're going to do it for me.'
'I'm not doing fuck. I'm lying here reading my book and minding my own business…. What are you doing?'
'I'm freeing you - what does it look like?'
'Wesley! No! Why?'
The human ignored him and finished undoing the padlocks. One by one, the chains fell away.
When he was free, Spike skittered away from the human to the back of the bed. 'Go away.'
Ignoring this, Wesley took a knife from his pocket and, with no hesitation, drew it across his throat. 'Blood, Spike, warm, fresh, human blood.'
Spike drew back with a cry and changed unconsciously into his vampire form. Wesley seemed to lose his way for a moment at this sight, but rallied, and dipped his finger into the bleeding wound. He waved it gently in the air. 'Smell me, Demon. Don't I smell like life itself? Can you resist? Are you really so innocent, Spike?' He leant forward and waved the blood near Spike's lips.
'Why are you doing this?'
'Because I love him just as much as you ever did - more maybe, because I get so little in return, but still I go on loving him. I won't see him destroy himself. I want to show him the truth.' He dipped two fingers into his blood and repeated the gesture near Spike's lips.
Spike began to come forward like a small creature hypnotized by a blood-cobra. He wavered just in front of Wesley's neck, and then with a spine-tingling snarl, he fell on the human and ripped the wound wider with his fangs.
He fed for the smallest of moments and then reared back, screaming. His mouth sizzled and smoked, and he began to spit violently.
Bloodied, torn, Wesley rose with difficulty to his feet. He looked down and said sadly, 'Holy water - I've been drinking nothing else for days. It's in me - in my blood.' He put a hand to his torn throat. 'But thank you for this. He can't deny it now.'
Spike staggered onto still healing legs and came at the human viciously. 'I could have withstood! I could have held out until he saved me! You fucker! You traitor! I tried to warn you! I thought he would kill you, and I didn't want that! Wesley! I can love just as well without my soul - didn't you know that? Oh, how could you? I - I….' He looked wildly around the room. 'I have to get out of here. The blood - all the blood. It's calling to me. I need it!'
He pushed past the human and ran out into the hallway. Wesley stood, holding his torn throat with an expression on his face that, had he seen it, might have made even the desperate vampire feel sorry for him.
There was nowhere to go. The pain was internal, and he could not escape it. Wesley listened to the increasingly silent hotel, feeling the blood seep between his fingers and slowly, with no desire to go anywhere else, he sank down the wall and waited.
Angel arrived back, angry that he'd found no trace of the priest or his activities, but desperate to see Spike, release him from his bonds and begin the slow work once more of bringing him back. He'd left him with a book - one of the few fun ones that Angel had read, and he wanted to talk it over with him, bring the normality back into this totally abnormal situation.
He bounded up the stairs, already hard at the thought of seeing Spike in chains and burst into his room.
His eyes absorbed the scene quickly: no Spike, Wesley, Wesley bleeding.
He howled and ran to the human, sinking to his knees in front of him. 'What the fuck happened! Let me see!' He pulled Wesley into his arms and touched the wound. He reared back and stared at his smoking fingers for a moment and then looked more closely at the wound. He glanced around on the floor and slowly picked up the knife. 'You were cut first.' They both knew this was not a question. Angel looked at the bed, and the scene reconstructed in his mind. He rose to his feet and backed away, and the human could see that, for a moment, Angel's whole anger was directed only at himself: he'd mistaken the scene and doubted Spike. When the moment came, Angel had doubted Spike.
Wesley felt Angel would not continue to direct the anger at himself for long.
He was right.
Angel dragged him to his feet and pressed him back to the wall. 'Why?'
As if trying to convince himself, Wesley snapped back, 'Did you think that you could live here with him while he slowly picked us off one by one? How many excuses would you have made for him? How long before you started to fuck him in our blood? How long before you helped him?'
Furious, almost too incensed to speak, Angel nevertheless forced out, 'You've never trusted me!'
Wesley pushed him off, holding his neck in one blood-coated hand. 'How can you say that? I've always been here. I've fought at your side, patched you up, held you when you hurt, comforted you when you cried, listened to you, advised you, and you DARE to say I don't trust you! You sicken me, Angel. You aren't the hero I've built up in my mind. You're a fraud, and you've got everyone fooled. You were a weak bully as a man, and you're still one as a vampire - but that pretty face has everyone taken in. Go after him. Fuck him in some innocent's blood. At least HE'LL get to bloody REMEMBER it!' Shaking, Wesley jerked his head back. He looked as if he would take the words back, make them not spoken, but he couldn't. Angel seized him by the shoulders and slammed him back against the wall.
'That's the truth of this! That's what this is all about. Nothing about saving me - you were punishing me! You….'
'YOU FUCKED ME! Deliberately when I couldn't remember! What else did you make me do? Did you humiliate me? Did you laugh at me with him? Did you make me cry and beg for you? I trusted you with the things I told you!'
Angel's eyes got dark. 'You want Spike out of the way - not because he's soulless now, but because I love him instead of you.'
'Don't flatter yourself, Angel; you're not that loveable.'
Angel pulled off and wiped his hands on his coat. 'Get out.'
'I'm going to. If you think I'm going to stay here while you….'
'No. Get out of here, out of my sight, and out of my life.'
Wesley stood straighter and stared defiantly. If there was a moment when they could have fallen on each other, begging forgiveness, begging for the angry accusations to be withdrawn, it was destroyed completely when Angel said softly, 'Take it as a final favour that I don't kill you.'
He turned and went slowly out of the room, shaking his shoulders as if suddenly free of something that had constricted him for far too long.
He jogged down to the lobby and went to the weapons' cabinet. Spike's sword was gone. He bowed his head and whispered desperately, 'No one will help me.'
'I will - if you'll let me.'
Angel jerked his head around, speechless.
Nate came closer. 'For once, we want exactly the same thing, Angel. If you can put aside your enmity for me long enough, I will get Spike's soul back with you.' He raised his eyes and added in a slightly amused voice, 'I do have friends in high places, after all.'
Angel looked at the man for a long time. He took in the phenomenal body strength, the even stronger presence of mind that the man exuded, and it was something in this serenity - the calm return of Angel's stare - that finally made the vampire nod his acceptance of the offer.
Angel knew his decision to accept the priest was in no small measure due to the contrast this composed man made to the one he had left bleeding upstairs.
'Can you run?'
Nate looked briefly surprised but nodded. 'Running I can do.'
Angel took an axe from his collection, sniffed the air and then took off toward the basement. He had to slow slightly for the human to keep up but was incredibly impressed, nevertheless, by his speed and stamina. They ran for some time, Angel stopping every once in a while to sense the air. At one stop, his face creased, and he held a hand out to keep the human behind him. They went cautiously forward, and then Angel groaned. He went down on one knee alongside a body and turned it over gently. He heard an intake of breath from behind and turned. The priest was staring at the torn throat, his face pale.
'They've always been old before - serene, like death should be.'
Angel nodded and turned back as if to study the wound, hiding his expression.
He felt a hand on his shoulder. 'We'll get him back. This is just his nature now. It says nothing about the real Spi….' He trailed off with a frown. 'What?'
Angel rose to his feet, his face pale. He raised his eyes to the roof and looked as if he were trying to suppress a howl. Instead, he whispered chillingly, 'No….'
Suddenly, he leapt toward the man and propelled him to one side. Nate was about to fight back, panicked, when he felt it too: a rumble under his feet then a sickening lurch that made his belly spasm. He looked at Angel; Angel looked back equally scared, and then there was only a screaming of metal being torn apart, the crashing of bricks, and the deafening sound of the earth crying out in pain. Nate reached out for something but fell as the ground beneath his feet betrayed him.
When the earthquake was over, Nate opened his eyes, utterly disoriented. He couldn't tell whether he was lying or standing; his head spun, and he felt sick. Then he became aware of pain. He felt down his leg, dislodging rubble. A calm voice whispered in his ear, 'Don't move.' Something heavy was lifted off his leg, and he was dragged to sitting.
It was totally black, and instinctively, he held onto the other's strong arm. He felt Angel hesitate then allow the reassuring touch. 'The tunnel's collapsed at both ends.'
Nate tried his voice. 'Are we trapped?'
'Until I can free us, yes.'
There was a long pause, and then Angel chuckled as if hearing fear that was unspoken. 'I've not forgotten that you need to breathe, Human.'
Nate coughed and replied, 'I was thinking more of your need to feed, Vampire.'
Angel laughed. 'Touche. Help me dig.'
'I can't see anything!'
'Okay, stay here.'
'No!' Calming himself, Nate said in a more adult tone, 'It's kinda unnerving being in total darkness.'
He felt Angel's hands on him, and he was raised to his feet and helped over to sit where he could feel the vampire working close by.
'You saved my life, Angel.'
'I wanted to get to the wall - you were in my way.'
'Why do you find it so hard to admit that you care? Why so difficult to forgive?'
There was no reply.
'He forgave me. He came to me and told me he still wanted my advice - that he would help me if I needed him.'
'Yeah, and look where it got him.'
That ended conversation, such as it was, for a while.
After a few minutes, Angel sat down alongside the priest.
Nate turned to the sound of ragged breathing. 'What's wrong?'
'I need a rest.'
'Is the body in here too?'
Angel glanced over at the now decapitated, crushed head.
'I wonder how the rest of the city fared - if anyone else is trapped or injured.'
As if suddenly spurred on by some other reason than releasing them, Angel began to tear at the rubble once more.
Nate sighed and stared into the darkness. 'Do you think we could ever be friends?'
Before the priest could follow this up, Angel said hurriedly, 'Do you really believe Spike isn't responsible for his actions now?'
Nate sounded surprised. 'Of course I do. His soul is his conduit to God. Without it, he is cut off from God's grace. It's what separates us from animals. They can't enter the kingdom of heaven, but they carry no blame for their actions on earth.'
Angel ripped viciously at the bricks. 'Spike isn't an animal! He has conscious choice.'
'Does he? Does he really? Can he resist the call of his nature?'
'He was. He was trying. Until….'
Nate waited patiently.
'Wesley tricked him into feeding.'
'Oh. That was… unfortunate, but it would have happened eventually, surely? Maybe he did the best thing - forced us to act.'
'You're a very forgiving fuck.'
Nate laughed. 'What's the point of carrying resentment, Angel? If we let the things that happen to us affect us adversely, then we've only helped the people that hurt us.'
'It's real easy to forgive when no one's hurt you - when it's all theory you studied in some college.'
Nate laughed again, but this time the sound was much colder. 'I doubt the doctors who used to patch me together would say that. But perhaps they thought it was all self-inflicted. I was crazy, so why not? Couldn't have been the dear Fathers, could it?'
The scrabbling stopped, and Nate felt that Angel was looking at him. 'Priests?'
Nate looked away from the piercing gaze he couldn't see. 'I went to a church orphanage when I was eight. It wasn't a happy time.' He laughed self-deprecatingly. 'They didn't like me looking for angels. They said it was ungodly. Odd really.'
'I don't believe you. Spike must have told you about me. You'd never have become one of them if that were true.'
'What better way to make something good from something so terribly bad? What else should I have done? Become bitter and resentful? Take my pain out on other people so they hurt more than me? They damaged me only on the outside, Angel. Inside, I was free of them entirely.'
Angel was silent for a very long time as he went back to his digging.
He eventually broke the silence by saying softly, 'I hated you so much for taking him away from me that I-I-dreamt about torturing you to death - did it in my dreams, many times. Spike told me to stop - dreaming. He said it was affecting me. He's good for me. Perhaps you would be too.'
Nate gave a rueful laugh. 'He was good for both of us.' He put a hand on Angel's solid form. 'We'll get him back. I promise you.'
Angel stopped his efforts again, and Nate was puzzled once more by hissed breathing. Before he could ask, Angel said, 'Do you have a plan?'
Nate nodded to the darkness. 'I'm going to pray for him.'
'Oh. That'll probably do it then.'
'Do you have a better one?'
'Let's find him first and take it from there.'
Angel began to dig again. There was a shift in the rubble; Nate smelt fresh air, and then he felt himself being dragged up and over the loose bricks.
They stood in the faint light of the outer tunnel, which now seemed quite bright to the human's eyes. He turned, grinning then cried out. 'Oh! You're bleeding! Angel!' He stared aghast at the vampire and then gently lifted his shirt. At the sight that greeted him, he turned and vomited dryly. Gagging, he turned back. 'I'm…. Angel, you should have told me! All that… the digging and the… and I just sat….'
Angel put a hand on his arm. 'I'll heal. It's what I do. I fell on the axe, and now it's lost.'
Nate could not take his eyes off the wound that cut Angel's belly in two, the blood pouring out over his pants.
Suddenly, he tore off his shirt and began to tear it grimly into strips. 'Maybe you do heal fast, but you're losing too much blood.'
Angel nodded and slipped his coat off, then his shirt, and allowed the man to bandage roughly around his belly. Nate's T-shirt became soaked with red as he worked on Angel until it was hard to tell who was the injured one. At last he stood up with a nod of wonder. 'I think it's stopped.'
'Told you. Let's go.'
Watching the vampire with amazement, Nate trailed after him down the gloomy and now very treacherous tunnel.
After a short time, they came to a manhole, and Angel peered up with a huff of surprise. 'It's dark. I didn't sense that. Let's go up.'
Very carefully, with a stop halfway, Angel led the way up to the street.
When they emerged, they stood looking around them in horror. Cars lay on their side, one or two burning. Everything was dark, lit only by the flames and the blue flickers of electricity out of human control. Angel suddenly grabbed Nate's arm painfully. 'Stay at my side. There'll be a feeding frenzy. What ever happens, stay with me.'
Nate hardly heard him: he was staring at a car. 'Oh, God, there's someone in there.' He ran over to, and with a grimace, Angel followed. When he got there, though, he suddenly took the lead, pushing Nate to one side and getting down to peer into the interior.
'Baby. Strapped in its seat.'
Nate moaned and went to the figure in the front. 'She's still alive.' He began to ease the unconscious woman from behind the wheel. Angel wriggled into the back and ripped the twisted buckle off the baby, lifting him gently from his seat. In deep shock, the child only stared back at him, very pale and very clammy.
He gave the baby to Nate and knelt to the woman, suddenly picking her up in his arms. 'Hospital. Let's go.'
They turned, and then they saw him: a blond figure through the flames. It seemed to Angel as if the figure moved in slow motion, his coat billowing out behind him as he strode delightedly through the earthquake's victims.
Then he paused and started at the two of them through the heat and smoke. For a second, Angel sensed that Spike did not recognize him, but then he focused and grinned, licking his lips. Across the distance that separated them, Angel knew that Spike was now lost to him completely. There was nothing left; the bloodlust had been fueled by the earth's vomit, and his childe had fed and fed and fed until his body screamed out its demonic power.
He made a move toward the figure but felt a hand on his arm. 'Angel. Think with your head. This isn't the time.'
Angel turned, furious, and when he glanced back, Spike was gone.
He looked down at the baby in Nate's arms, nodding, but said bitterly, 'I'm sick of people accusing me of thinking with my cock.'
Nate jerked his head back. 'I meant your heart, Angel. You think with your heart; it's so obvious that you love him.'
Angel bit his lip and turned away, striding through the detritus of the earthquake toward a hospital, carrying the unconscious woman in his arms.
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