is the Fire in Which we Burn
Episode 8- Final Chapter
Angel put Nate near a freshly dug grave and made the anonymous call. He felt a presence at his side and glanced across at Spike. He noticed that Spike had not retrieved his coat or saber. He touched his arm. 'Let's go.'
Spike shook his head. 'I wanna watch them come. I'm not leaving him here alone like that.'
Angel nodded, and they melted into the shadows to wait.
Angel felt naked without his coat, defenseless, and he wondered if Spike was feeling it too. Neither of them seemed to feel like talking.
They watched the small scene play out, and then there was no excuse not to climb into Angel's car together.
Angel started the engine, and the haunting Bach began again. Angel cursed and stabbed it off. He gripped the wheel with his hands and seemed to be waiting until some emotion passed. When he was under control, he stabbed the car into drive and headed back to LA.
They drove in total silence, until the familiar landmarks of Sunnydale fell away behind them. Angel debated for a moment, dark shadows crossing his eyes, and then he took the quieter coast road. Within a few miles, the ocean glinted on their right as breaking crests caught and reflected the moonlight.
Suddenly, Spike snapped his head back and said urgently, 'Stop the car.'
Angel glanced at him, but did as he was asked, pulling over to the cliff and crunching to a soft halt on the dusty gravel.
Spike sprang from the car and went to stand on the very edge of the drop. It unnerved Angel, even though he knew that physically, such a drop would do his childe no permanent damage.
He climbed out more slowly, and still feeling vulnerable in just a shirt and pants, went to stand beside Spike.
Spike stared out at the moonlit sea for a while and then bent, busying himself lighting a cigarette. He glanced at his nails as he smoked and said in a low, amused tone, 'Have to get rid of this now, I guess.'
Angel made no comment. Spike sighed. 'What a bloody awful few days. Do I smell bad? I've not washed much.' He glanced over at the blood on Angel. 'Come on; let's go. We'll be scaring the gulls.'
Angel nodded his agreement. He made his expression match. He forced his eyes to concur. Only his heart cried out the truth of what was inevitably still to come - but this, he kept hidden from his childe.
He couldn't prevent it - no more than he could stop the tide that lapped at the shore below them - so speaking would not help.
Knowing nothing of what Angel was thinking, Spike tossed his cigarette in an arc of bright red where it flared for a moment then plunged into the darkness.
Still in his own bright flare, Spike climbed back into the car, complacently crossed his ankles, and hummed quietly, waiting for Angel.
Angel slid in behind the wheel, kept his face calm and neutral, and drove Spike toward the darkness he knew was coming.
It didn't take long.
Things went well for another half an hour. Angel stared resolutely at the road ahead, and Spike busiest himself with smoking, biting his nails and playing with the electric window.
Then, glancing at Angel's set jaw, Spike said tetchily, 'I'm okay, Angel! Stop it!'
Angel made no comment and concentrated on the deserted road.
He was glad he'd taken the quieter road when he heard the choked sounds next to him. He swung over once more and pulled Spike into his arms, just holding him and stroking through his hair without speaking. There was nothing he needed to say: everything Spike was feeling, he'd felt; everything Spike suffered, he'd already suffered for decades; every tear, every heart-wrenching shake, he'd shed and shivered too. There was nothing Spike could teach him about guilt. There was nothing he did not know about misery. He knew that Spike knew all this, and he did not speak while the storm overtook his childe.
A long time passed, and with a sigh, Angel bent down to Spike and whispered, 'Hold it together for a while longer, little one. We'll stop somewhere.'
Spike nodded and sat up, turning away from Angel, staring out of the window. Just letting his hand lie on Spike's thigh, Angel pulled out once more and drove until he saw the lights of a motel. When Spike read his intention, he shook his head with a small laugh. 'I'm fine, Angel. Jesus. I'm just tired. Let's get home, yeah?'
Angel ignored him and pulled in anyway.
Spike followed him morosely to the room, grumbling, but when they got inside he sat on the edge of the bed and then buried his face in his hands, and it all began again.
Angel didn't want to hear what Spike had done. The recitation of the evil he'd inflicted on the helpless citizens of LA revolted and excited him in equal measure, but he let Spike talk. He let him rant and fight him and break things. He let him cry and then laugh and claim he was fine. He let the rest of the night and then the long, hot day pass, quieting him, reassuring him, holding him, or restraining him until the darkness came once more.
In a quiet period, when Spike lay inert and pale on the bed, he made a call to the Hyperion and told them in a few chosen words what had happened. It was very difficult to speak of the priest without using the words dead or killed, but they had to be said, and when he heard them, Spike hissed, 'Murdered!' and flung himself once more into a frenzy of furious, destructive passion.
Angel made an urgent request and ended the call, grabbing the flailing vampire and restraining him until he stopped trying to hurt himself.
As soon as Spike was calm enough, Angel opened the door and said softly, 'Home.'
Spike turned his head listlessly, and his inertia clearly stated that, at that moment, he didn't care too much where he went or what happened to him.
In the car, his mood swung violently back again, and he laughed at the excitement of going home, seeing his friends. He wanted loud music on and began to curse at Angel CDs, throwing some out of the window gleefully. He turned to Angel and talked non-stop for over an hour, not needing or wanting a response. He slept for a while but jerked awake and began a furious ripping at the paint on his nails, talking and singing snatches of old songs that Angel had not heard for over a lifetime.
Angel let it all flow over him and drove steadily, taking his childe home.
By the time they reached the hotel, Spike was in one of his quiet moods: all talked out, tired and listless. He trailed after Angel into the lobby and looked around wonderingly. 'How long was I away?'
'Yeah. It seemed longer to me too.'
'Where is every…?' Jordan came out of Angel's office and came over to him slowly with a smile.
'Hi, Babe. Welcome home.' He embraced Spike and whispered, 'Broody one told everyone else to go home. I think he loves you.'
Spike held him away and then blinked slowly and nodded.
Angel dipped his head in relief, and putting a hand of gratitude to Jordan's back as they passed, he led Spike upstairs.
Before they entered the bedroom, Angel took Spike's arm and held him back. He cupped the drawn face in his hands. 'It'll be like the earthquake, Spike. You've had the heaving and the tearing apart, but the aftershocks will go on. It's not over yet. Don't expect too much of yourself too soon.'
Spike glanced at the room, suddenly pushed the door open and went in. He stared at the bed. 'The fucker!'
Neither of them needed to have this accusation clarified.
Angel sat tiredly on the bed and stripped off his soiled shirt.
Spike glared at Angel. 'Where is he?'
'I don't know. Not here.'
'I was trying.'
'I know.' Angel looked up and debated whether to say it but took the risk. 'Nate worried that you wouldn't be able to forgive him.'
A tic in Spike's face jumped at the name of his friend, but he replied calmly enough, 'He was right then.'
'I never intended for him to hear about the… what I did to him.'
Spike came and sat on the bed next to him. 'But I told him.'
'So it's my fault?'
'I fucked him. Ours maybe?'
Spike took Angel's fingers and played with them absentmindedly. 'Do you really think what we did deserved what he did?'
Angel pouted. 'I don't know. I honestly don't know.'
'You're going to forgive him!'
Angel shook his head. 'It's not like that, Spike! It's not something I can just decide to do! Forgiveness isn't a decision.'
'What? Yes, it is! He cut himself and waved the fucking blood at me! I'm not sure I could resist that now - with a fucking soul! He didn't try to help! He got you out of the way and made me… made me….' He suddenly looked down at his heavily bloodstained shirt and ripped it off with a cry. The blood had soaked through to his skin, and he licked his hand, wiping at it frantically.
'Hey!' Angel pulled him in for a hug and murmured, 'Shower - I'll wash it all off you.'
'I won't forgive him - ever.'
'Okay. Let's not talk about it now.' He led Spike toward the bathroom, and they shed the rest of their clothing. When they were under the water, Spike suddenly reanimated, tearing at his skin, rubbing viciously over it with soap. Angel held his wrists still and ventured softly, 'He didn't want you to grieve for him like this.'
Spike ripped away and began to scrub desperately into his blood-matted hair until Angel imprisoned him once more. 'Shhh, sing no sad songs, Spike. Remember what he said - what he told you to do: the old, familiar tone? All is well. Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost.'
Spike blinked, and his hands fell listlessly to his side. Angel nodded and took over the washing, being gentle where there had been fury. Letting Angel's hands work their magic on his body, Spike stared into his eyes and said wonderingly, 'You liked him!'
Angel chuckled. 'You'd have to torture me for a very long time to get me to admit it.'
Spike's eyes shone for a moment, and he dipped his head.
Sensing another mood shift approaching, Angel said firmly, 'Bed,' and pulled him out of the shower, drying him as if he were a helpless child.
It was the first time they'd ever climbed into bed together without the thought of sex foremost in their minds.
Spike tried various positions to get comfortable, and Angel let him thrash around for a while, until with a sigh, he pulled him into a very tight, restrictive embrace. 'You must sleep, Childe. You will heal with sleep and food.'
He quieted for about fifteen minutes, lying on folded arms, staring at the ceiling, then he swung out of bed and began to pace. Once more, his mind began to spin, and he talked rapidly: a stream of consciousness about the death he'd delivered. It took Angel a few moments - understanding only half of the rant - but he realized with a shudder that Spike now confused the present with the past: that now he was remembering old evils with as much abhorrence as the killing of his friend.
Angel climbed out of bed and cradled him in his arms, until with another deep sigh, he whispered, 'If you don't go to sleep, I'll punch you unconscious and have you rest that way.'
Spike jerked back, looked at his sire's tired, strained face, and nodded. He climbed back into the bed, crawled over to Angel's side nearer the wall and curled into a ball.
Angel slid in alongside him, but before he could lie back, a quiet voice said, 'How did you get it back?'
Angel had been waiting for this question and under the cover of beating his pillow comfortable said truthfully, 'I bought it.'
'Oh.' In his quiet, listless mood, Spike accepted this readily enough and had no suspicion of the currency that had been used for that transaction.
Angel watched his childe for a moment, debating whether to pull him closer, but something in the rigid, resistant back put him off, and he didn't want to appear crass - have Spike mistake his motives. Instead, he laid his hand lightly on the prominent hipbone and stroked softly with his thumb on the smooth skin. He didn't know it's affect on Spike, but it gave him some comfort, and he left it there through the night.
When Angel woke, Spike was lying on his back, staring at the ceiling once more. He looked calmer, and Angel smiled tentatively at him. 'What are you thinking?'
Spike didn't turn his head but said casually, 'That you came for me.'
Angel gave him a look, and they both knew that there was far more to this small observation than Spike's casual tone implied.
Angel suddenly sat up and ran his hands through his hair. 'Stay up here today. I'll get some food.' He ignored Spike's quick declaration that he didn't want to eat, pulled on some sweat pants, and slipped out of the room.
When he got into the hallway, Angel stretched pleasantly. He found himself humming slightly as he went down the stairs and chuckled. He burst into the kitchen and skidded to a halt when he found Jordan, his head on folded arms, asleep at the table.
The demon woke with a start and then jerked the chair back, rising. 'How is he?'
Angel wobbled his hand, but seemed to belie this pessimism by continuing the tuneless humming under his breath.
Jordan watched him warming the blood for a while and then said petulantly, 'I can't see why you're so damn happy. Everything's shit. Just like when I first met him.'
Angel turned with a raise of one eyebrow. 'It's not shit at all.'
'He's fucking going insane!'
'He's grieving, Jordan. He's sad. He's angry. He's exactly what I would expect him to be - what he has a right to be. What he's NOT doing is slaughtering things, torturing me, torturing himself, or going insane. He's just suffering - like humans do. This is NOTHING like when he first came to LA.'
He turned back to the microwave and went back to his small, happy humming. When it pinged, he turned back to Jordan. 'Call everyone in. I want it to be as normal as possible today, and I need to see Sam.'
Jordan watched him go sadly, knowing they were both thinking of the person who would not be called.
Spike clearly didn't want the blood, but he drank it anyway to please Angel.
Incredibly touched by this small gesture, which only seemed to prove what he had just tried to explain to Jordan, Angel swallowed his blood quickly and then slid into the bed alongside Spike once more. They lay on their backs, thinking, and it was quiet for a while, until suddenly breaking the silence, Spike said, 'I want to move in here with you - give up the apartment.'
Angel didn't reply for a moment then said carefully, 'You could find another - further away from….'
'No, it's not for that. I just don't want us to be apart anymore.'
Angel propped himself up on one elbow and stroked a small lock of blond hair out of Spike's eyes. 'Wait a few days; see how you feel then.'
Spike replied distinctly, 'I know how I feel now,' but uncharacteristically, let it drop.
Angel's soft stroking dropped to Spike's ear then began to take in his temple, brushing smoothly into his hairline. Suddenly, he lunged clumsily forward and kissed Spike hotly, his tongue seeking entry, but just as suddenly, he reared away with a groan of self-reproach at this totally inappropriate gesture.
He didn't get far. Spike caught him around the back of the neck and closed on the withdrawing lips as if they were magnetized, his own clamping back to them with an urgent need.
Angel felt hands slide around his back, felt them slip under his waistband to lay cool and familiar on his skin.
They kissed slowly.
They kissed deeply.
They rolled and twisted on the bed. They could not get their bodies close enough. Angel ripped urgently at his sweatpants - not so he could precipitate sex, but so he could lay skin against skin, feel Spike's body so lithe and vital on his.
Hands roamed wildly over increasingly warm skin, finding places that made them arch away with cries of pleasure, but always they went back to the kiss.
They hardly realised it had happened, so easy and familiar did it seem, but one moment, Angel was rubbing against Spike's body, and the next, he was inside, pushing deeply into the soft channel. He levered himself over the slim body and worked in and out, his head hanging down, just engrossed in the feeling of being inside Spike once more.
A hand snaked out and lifted his face, and Spike rose once more to kiss him. Angel stilled for a moment to enjoy his mouth, and then with a look in the dilated blue eyes, he pulled out and rolled them.
Angel opened up as easily as Spike had done, and Spike slid in until his balls ground into Angel's hard backside. He worked around for a moment, making them rub together. He bent down to kiss Angel again and leant hard on his thighs, taking him as they kissed. Spike pushed his tongue into Angel's mouth with the same pace and rhythm as he pushed his cock into the willing body, and Angel groaned at the sensation.
Just before Spike felt he could hold back no longer, he eased out and turned quickly, holding himself on his hands and knees then dipping at the waist and offering Angel what he wanted. Angel hissed with pleasure and knelt to Spike's backside, playing gently with his stretched ring before re-entering.
Once more, they played and worked until orgasms threatened then they swapped again; this time, Spike flinging himself over onto his back and pulling Angel onto him. Angel sat impaled on his childe and watched his expression as he raised and lowered gently. It was becoming almost too difficult to hold back now. His cock leaked copiously over Spike, a trail of sticky precum glistening on the pale skin. But once more they rolled, and now Angel stood at the side of the bed to take Spike, penetrating deeply into his body, urging his hips forward, rocking into the soft, clinging tunnel.
They were both panting heavily now, slick with sweat, tight with the need to release. Angel pulled Spike up to standing as well, and although the access was not as good, it enabled him to nuzzle into his neck, hold him tightly around his belly, pull him back onto his shaft as his balls tightened with their urgent need to send seed deeply into the waiting body.
Spike's hand came up to entwine around Angel's neck, but then he pulled away and flattened himself against the wall, facing Angel. He pulled Angel to him and the kiss resumed. Now two cocks stood hard against each other, their tips exposed: leaking, hot, puffy, and swollen. Angel took them in one hand and worked them as they kissed, making Spike tighten his hold around Angel's neck. Then he lifted one leg and twisted it around Angel's waist. It was such a small dip, but Angel rose with Spike embedded on him. He gave him a look and then lifted his other thigh, supporting the sinewy body against the wall. He thrust in, and they both knew this was to be the last swap. Everything in their bodies needed to come. Angel braced his legs and pushed in again, pulled out and drove in. Spike thumped against the wall, clinging onto Angel's neck, and then they fell to the floor, the need to thrust harder driving them down. They writhed in a tangle of limbs, pushing and rising to meet, opening up and clamping down. And still they kissed, finding a mouth even through the passion that drove them on.
At last, Angel arched his neck and cried out. Spike worked his own cock desperately, needing to come with Angel, and they released together, balls giving up their heavy, hot loads until cocks could shoot no more and bodies were done with shuddering.
Then they returned to the kiss. They bathed on spilt cum, rolled around the floor on it, tasted it and sought out its source, sucking and licking before returning to waiting mouths.
They kissed furiously, passionately; they kissed with the very certain knowledge that this kiss was merely foreplay for an eternity of lovemaking.
Only when he tasted salty tears did Angel ease away from the angular face. Spike tried to pull him back, but Angel demurred with a soft, questioning look. Spike frowned and said very reluctantly, 'He hadn't even done it, ya know? He had so many fun things he'd never tried.'
Once more, Angel felt a profound sense of gratitude that Spike's grief was so very human, so vocal, so normal. He stood up and pulled him to his feet. He hugged him tightly and didn't even attempt some trite reply. He just let Spike talk. Covered in cum, still quivering slightly from the intense sex, Angel sat on the bed with his childe and listened to him talk of a priest.
Later that day, Spike lay on his own in the bed, thinking. He could hear faint noises from the lobby and knew his friends were there. He wanted to see them, but he didn't want to break down in front of them. Last time he'd seen them, he'd had to restrain himself from killing them, and the things he'd wanted to do to Sam still reverberated in his mind, poisoning the pleasure of seeing them now. He wanted it to go away. He knew he had to dress and go down, but he lay quietly, thinking.
It was only when he heard Angel and Sam talking quietly outside the door that he roused. He sat against the wall, waiting for them to come in, but they moved past and went on down the hallway.
Spike frowned and looked down at his nails for a moment, a habit he knew he'd picked up from Angel and one that really annoyed him. Still frowning, he climbed off the bed and pulled on some jeans. He went out and followed them into the gloomy interior of the hotel. They'd gone higher, and Spike jogged lightly up the stairs, tracking them. They'd gone to the attics, and Spike stood outside the door for a moment, puzzled and unsure.
Disbelievingly, he heard a soft murmur of need. He heard a hissed reply of ascent, a low voice speaking of love. He heard skin brushing against skin. He heard a groan of desire and then an exclamation of release. Everything went green. Everything went dark. He burst through the door, and then he saw them. Sam was standing in sunlight that streaked down from a hole in the roof, and Angel was standing in the shadows, looking morosely up at it, and they were talking about tiles.
Spike skidded to a halt at Angel's surprised face. He looked around, wonderingly, trying to see why everything had gone green and dark, only to find that it was quite bright and sunny, and that he was beginning to smoke. He yelped and ducked into the shadows with Angel.
Sam looked at him delightedly, but Angel was watching him with a slow smile of amusement. He said with a flick of an eyebrow, 'Something wrong?'
Spike gritted his teeth. 'No. Why are you two up here?'
Angel gave Sam a small nod, and the human left slowly.
He trailed his finger over Spike as he passed and bent to kiss him, keeping a very close eye on Angel as he did so. Spike wasn't sure he liked that look and narrowed his eyes at his friend. Sam chuckled and left them alone.
Angel turned to hide a grin of amusement at Spike's expression and tried to suppress the intense sexual excitement that had flared in him at the thought of Spike's jealousy. That was new and something to be thought over and enjoyed later.
He turned back with a calm expression and pulled Spike over to the sloping wall of the attic. 'I've been thinking about you wanting to move in here.'
'I'm not moving in… HERE!'
'Shut up and listen, annoying childe. I know why you didn't want to live here, why Wes…. Why you thought it would be a good idea to have your own place.'
'Yeah, but now I want….'
'I want that too. But not here. I'm going to sell the Hyperion, Spike. I want a new place.'
If he expected an argument, he was disappointed. Spike looked relieved. 'Can I tell you now how much I HATE this place?'
Angel began to play with the button on Spike's jeans teasingly. 'One of the major disadvantages of being a vampire - being dead, in fact - is that you can't own property. Or sell it. Easily. Sam's going to be my human front.'
'He's going to own it for a while and sell it for me.'
Angel smiled at Spike's lack of interest and added wearily, 'I'll need somewhere new to live.'
Spike suddenly animated. 'You're gonna move in with ME! Bit small, Luv, but I guess….'
'Give me strength. I'm going to buy somewhere new. I thought offices downstairs and then… maybe… if you want… an apartment on top. One way up. Safe. Secure.'
Spike stepped back and ran a hand through his hair. 'An apartment?'
'Yes. For us. If you want.'
'And work. Shared agency. Co-directors. Whatever. I know it's a lot to think about.'
'Yeah.' Spike frowned and looked up at the hole. 'Do you think anyone will want this fucking place?'
Sam brought the realtor into Angel's office when he'd done a preliminary tour. Angel waited for a moment then nodded at Spike, and they wandered casually in. Sam turned and looked at them. 'This is my brother and his business partner. He has a large share in the hotel. So, what do you think? Initial impressions? Ballpark figure?'
The man scanned his notes for moment and then looked up and gave them his estimation.
Angel flicked his eyes at Spike to find Spike doing exactly the same thing to him. They both looked resolutely back to the front. Sam's expression didn't change, but both vampires heard his heart begin to race.
'Okay, thanks. Well, we'll be in touch if we want to proceed.'
He showed the man out and then returned to the office.
They were all silent until Angel said casually, 'So, we sell.'
Sam toed the ground. 'I'm getting ten percent of…. Jeez. I can retire.'
Spike nudged Angel. 'I'm fucking with a multi millionaire.'
Angel pursed his lips. 'I'm thinking the new apartment will be big then.'
No one knew how Angel did it, but they both went to the funeral in style. He had the time changed so they could attend in the soft evening darkness. No one knew, and no one dared to ask. They just looked at his implacable face and let him do things his way.
He hired a car: sleek, expensive, dark, and utterly appropriate.
He knew Spike was reluctant to go, for lots of reasons, and he didn't push it. He was going, and Spike could join him if he wanted.
He didn't push Spike for anything. He made life as normal as possible for him, and if he had a good day, he didn't mention it, and if some days he didn't get up at all, he didn't talk about that either. He was there when he was wanted and gave him the space he needed other times.
A couple of hours before the funeral, Angel gave Spike a small look and then went upstairs. He waited until Spike came into the bedroom and stood to one side, letting him see what lay on the bed. Spike came over, despite his better intentions and looked at the clothes. He fingered the soft material of the immaculate black suit. He stroked his hand over the dark shirt and flicked up the black silk tie. Then he picked up the long overcoat. It was such a dark blue that it might look black to human eyes. It was pure cashmere and fell long and straight almost to the floor. It was a perfect accompaniment to the suit.
Spike held it in his hands and looked at Angel. They both knew this beautiful coat meant a lot more than a garment to wear to a funeral. Spike put it on over his jeans and T-shirt.
It made a very different statement to leather.
He'd moved on.
Dressed, they came down the stairs.
They were beautiful, somber; they flowed gracefully to the car and sat together in the back, driven now, as the other mourners would be. Not a detail had escaped Angel.
As they strode through the cemetery toward the graveside, everyone turned to look at them, but they caused not a ripple, not a stir of surprise. They blended in with the other cultured, well-dressed young men who had come to mourn one of their own.
The service began, and Spike pressed close to Angel, glad of the warmth of his coat, glad more of the solid presence alongside him.
A drizzle, like sea mist, hung in the air. Spike lifted his face to the cool dampness and felt Angel's gaze on him. Under the privacy of the lowered heads, he took Angel's fingers in his and gave them a small squeeze then pushed his hands into his pockets and hunched his shoulders.
Angel knew why Spike stood close; he felt his childe's need for reassurance and pressed his arm lightly so they were joined by that small touch.
As he listened to the service, it seemed to him then that some fundamental change had taken place in their relationship, of which his childe was, as yet, only dimly aware.
They stood at last as equals in pain, mourning a human, and it seemed only fitting that when the priest said 'In the midst of life we are in death' Angel felt, paradoxically, nothing but intense life - with all its vulnerabilities, vagaries and joyous, beautiful promise - spark between their cold, lifeless bodies.
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The second season of this series is "The Darkling Plain".