For a long time, Angel didn’t know what to do. Regardless of his status as one of the undead, he was a man. Men didn’t hug and hold each other; they didn’t cry their pain out on another’s shoulder. They got drunk. They killed things. They had awkward conversations that inevitably turned to sex—or, if they were both vampires, to blood and death and sex. The good things.
Spike lay among the corpses, bloodied clothes shredded to exposed swelling pink patches where he had been stung. . . sobbing. Heartbroken. No—just broken. There was nothing left of the personality he’d worked so hard to craft to please Angelus and Dru, to keep himself sane. There wasn’t even much left of the human he’d been, sweetly caring and considerate of the wants and needs of others. There was just pain. Just shattered remnants of a life lived too long.
“All right, Spike,” he said eventually. His own wounds stung and itched feverishly and if nothing else, he wanted to get back to the hotel and bathe in the calamine lotion Wesley was supposed to have purchased. Also, it was probably a bad idea to leave Spike to cry among bloody bodies. It wasn’t very sanitary, for one thing. “Come on, let’s go home.”
More tears and Angel tried to remember what had happened when Spike came back to Sunnydale after Dru had left him the first time. How had the humans jollied him out of the intense crying then? He needed to get Spike moving under his own power again, or the younger vampire would withdraw from the world totally. It’d happened before, after all, and Angelus’ method of blood, sex, or flat-out ignoring him would only compound the problem, this time. Spike needed his Sire, he needed someone to help him—
Then again, Angel itched. A lot.
Shrugging at his own callousness, Angel knelt in the blood and gore and pulled Spike over his shoulder. The smaller vampire thrashed at the forced movement but Angel managed to restrain him. He was kicked in the head and gut a lot and now there were more rips in his nice black sweater—but it was ruined from the zorraziks anyway. Let Spike tear it up; it didn’t matter.
Dumping Spike into the front seat of the GTX, Angel retrieved the hidden clothes—very careful not to get any blood or gore on them—and placed them in the trunk next to the large cooler. Opening the cooler, he contemplated the multiple bags inside. Spike was silent now, staring off in the distance in a way Angel remembered from when William and Spike had held equal time over the pale, slim body. “I’m sorry.”
Okay. That wasn’t supposed to prompt hysterical laughter.
Cold blood was as disgusting as ever, but it was some of the human Xander had arranged for, so it at least tasted better. Angel gulped three bags worth before closing everything and sliding into the car next to Spike.
“I’m sorry. I never should have. . . Angelus wanted. . .”
“Angelus wanted what he always wanted,” Spike said grudgingly, voice low and rough. “Possessive bastard. I’m his. Always have been. Always will be.” Bloodshot eyes cut through the early morning gloom. “’Cept Angelus ain’t here no more, is he? So even though I’m his—”
“That’s not true.” When Drusilla had approached him so long ago, wanting a puppy to play with, promising to clean up his messes and keep him nice and pretty, Angelus had been indulgent. Also intrigued. Guardians for Drusilla were usually easily manipulated into submission—a bit of pain, some mental torture and a show of force and they were baring their throats like good servants. What Drusilla had requested demanded much more intelligence—and a much stronger resistance to the ‘usual’ methods.
It had driven Angelus to choose very carefully, despite what Drusilla had always believed.
“Innit? Christ, Angelus, he loves me. Says he does, any road. And I can’t even—I can’t. Was easier before—with the Slayer? She didn’t know, didn’t care. I was a nuisance she couldn’t bring herself to stake, nothing more. But him. . . he—”
Spike was shaking. Possibly just a reaction to the poison in his system, but probably not. William had always worn his heart on his sleeve and Spike had never truly rid himself of that habit.
Look at the mess I’ve created, Angel thought sadly. No matter how much I’ve done to pay for Angelus, I’ll never truly be free. Not for killing William—Spike would be the first to tell you that his human existence had been unbearable and meaningless and that he’d only felt fulfilled after dying. But for creating this wreck of a vampire, all so that Angelus could play mind games? For that, he was eternally bound.
“Spike. I’m sorry. I know it doesn’t fix things, but I am. Before, in London. . .I never should’ve. . . ” Spike froze. They had never spoken of that week, not even during Angelus’ brief reign in Sunnydale, when Angelus tossed every hurtful, humiliating thing he could think of at Spike. Even lost in Angelus’ insanity, he’d known not to cross that line.
Gently turning and tugging the still figure next to him, Angel slowly bared his own throat. He could feel crystal blue eyes resting on his unbeating pulse, widened in shock and disbelief. He waited, hoping that Spike would accept the only offering he had left to give this shattered creature. It didn’t matter that Angelus had always viewed Spike as a complete and utter failure. Spike believed he’d become what Angelus had wanted—which meant now, when Angelus was long gone, knowing that his experiment with Spike had failed, the results he’d sought manifested themselves.
Preternatural strength and healing were wonderful things, but a full five minutes of tilting his neck at an awkward angle was giving him a cramp.
Hands, unzipping him, pulling him out, all before he could react enough to shove himself out of grasping flesh made unnaturally hot, pushing at the now-frantic body next to his. “Have to,” he heard panted over the sound of struggle. “What you want—let me—have to—”
“No, Spike, no! I am not Angelus!”
“Could be,” was the taunting reply. Angel blinked at the abrupt switches taking place, unable to keep up as Spike cycled through every facet of his personality. “Could be again. Let me please you, Sire, let me give you that one moment of true happiness.” Blue, startling blue, reflected in someone’s headlights, staring up at him with manic glee as Spike again dove for his prize. “Let me please you,” he repeated, holding Angel’s hands away with arm and shoulder while he stroked with a skill Angel hadn’t experienced for—
—three years. When wheelchair-bound Spike had been forced to do exactly this if he wanted to be fed, Drusilla fully compliant with anything her Daddy wanted.
“No!” Twisting them, he yanked Spike’s hands behind his back, pressing his own body up close to try and hold the thrashing vampire down.
“Like this? Would it please you like this?” Spike asked, bucking back provocatively. “Would it please you to take me again? To make me—”
“Angel? Man, you out here?”
Spike was still moving, still writhing under him, apparently unconcerned that someone was going to see them. Desperate, Angel threw Spike to the other side of the car and punched him.
“Yeah, that’s it, Sire, c’mon and—”
A nice, sharp cut to the right and in his weakened, frenzied state, Spike passed out.
Panting, Angel hurriedly arranged them so that when Gunn—“Angel. There you are. You okay?”
“Yeah, Gunn. We’re fine.” The tall man hovered next to the door, peering through the darkness to try and see into the open car. Angel abruptly wished he’d put the top up; Spike wouldn’t stay unconscious forever and the top would have provided a little more shielding. “What—why are you here?”
Gunn’s expression was unreadable, even to vampiric eyesight. “Xander’s getting a little antsy. Also a little drunk. Fred and Cordy are keepin’ him company, I volunteered to go vamp-hunting, see if I could track you two down.”
“Shit.” He could sense Gunn’s shock at his uncharacteristic cursing, but ignored it in favor of concentrating.
“Hey, is Spike okay? He looks—”
“He’s fine. Just knocked out, he’ll come around soon enough.” Angel had no idea which Spike would wake up, but for his own sanity he hoped it wasn’t the version he’d just knocked out. Spike had always been a fabulous sexual partner—
—even when he was paralyzed from the waist down. Remember that, Angelus?
Shaking his head, Angel sighed and got control of himself. “We’re done. Took a little longer than we thought, but the queen’s dead. We were just on our way back now.”
“Did I hear scuffling before? You two tusslin’ for old time’s sake?” Gunn grinned at Angel’s shocked expression. “Hey, just asking. Should warn Xander not to tell as many stories as he does.”
Grumbling, Angel started the car. “Meet you at the hotel.”
Gunn’s laughter faded under the roar of the convertible’s engine. The drive was quiet, although Angel knew when Spike regained consciousness. He remained silent, however, so hopefully whatever mania had possessed him before was gone. There had to be a way of dealing with this, one that didn’t include Angelus. There had to be.
Cruising to a red light, Angel let the car idle, wondering what the hell he should say. He had to say something; once the others knew how badly he’d botched this, they—Cordelia—would ask him what he tried to do to fix it. Which meant he had to at least attempt; Cordelia actually went through with her threats. Angelus has nothing on her abilities to torture. So he had to do something. . . other than sit there. “So, uh. . . are you hungry?”
“Great, you’re back to not speaking. You should be hungry, if you aren’t. I have human in the trunk. I should have offered earlier, I know, but I thought—” But I thought you might be willing to accept Sire’s blood, instead. Silly me, as Cordy would say. “So are you?”
“Can’t go back.”
The light changed and Angel debated circling the block for a little while. Dawn wasn’t that far off, though, and Gunn was following right on their tail. “Where else are you going to go?”
“Don’t know. Don’t care. Can’t go back there.”
“It’s not like you to be scared,” he said cautiously. Another red light. Angel contemplated the possibility of Spike just jumping out of the car and what he’d do then. “And, well, running? Not fun. Not when there are people who’ll be very concerned if you do.”
“They’ll get over it.”
Angel didn’t try to stop his snort of derision. “Really? About as well as you got over Angelus leaving—you.” There was actually traffic to negotiate, despite the late—early?—hour so Angel couldn’t close his eyes or thump himself on the head, both of which sounded like good options. He was a moron, to quote Cordelia. “Spike, running doesn’t solve anything.”
“Did for you.”
“When? After I spent a hundred years living off rats and driving myself insane? Wanting to greet the sun to make the guilt go away, but too guilty to allow myself? Yeah, that solved plenty. Besides—he’d follow you. You know he would.”
A familiar, wheezing chuckle that meant Spike wasn’t even close to being in control. “Think I’m that bad off? Can lose one human boy.”
“No. I don’t think you could.” He met Spike’s gaze steadily, wishing he had the words to make Spike understand. “He loves you.”
“He just likes bein’ in love.”
“So that’s why he came here for his vacation? To see me? Spike, he hates me and he always will, but he still came here because he thought it might help you. He came here immediately when Giles told him that I offered.” Spike continued looking at him, empty eyes covering something that hadn’t been there before. “That’s why he sent Gunn out here to make sure that we were okay?”
“That who’s following us?” Angel blinked, surprised that Spike had even noticed. But then, he’d never given the other vampire enough credit.
“Didn’t come himself, did he?” Something in Spike’s voice was wrong, too strained, too tense, too. . . angry. Thinking over what he’d just said, Angel tried to figure out what could have set Spike off. “Don’t like him getting hurt.”
“He didn’t come because Cordelia wouldn’t let him—Gunn said he was a little drunk.”
“Drunk.” Any nervousness fled, leaving coiled anger tensed in the seat beside him. Angel blinked, certain he’d said something wrong, now. Moron might not be strong enough. Cordelia is going to be very angry when we get back. . . “Spike, he—”
That was a Spike he remembered: the flat, clipped word full of chilling anger that made Angel very nervous about bringing them immediately back to the hotel. Maybe a short drive was just the thing; feel the night air, allow certain killing rages to cool off. Coming back with Spike like this was going to lead directly to shouting, blood, and a pissed-off Cordelia. Wesley would be pissed off too, but he didn’t shout as loud and Angel had practice ignoring the speaking-looks Wesley tended to use.
Gunn was still a car-length behind them.
“I talked with Wesley,” he said conversationally. Spike tried to interrupt him but Angel just kept talking. “Explained some things. Or, tried to—explaining vampire lore is really hard, you know? Humans just don’t get it.”
He could hear Spike’s teeth grinding together.
“I would’ve talked to Xander myself but. . . he really does hate me. Can’t say I blame him, either, but still; I can see how he’s changed, he should be able to reciprocate a little, don’t you think? So, yeah, talking to Wes, that was cheating a little, but by now, they’ll have had time for a really long conversation. Maybe explained a few things.” Like how you still belong to Angelus, even after a curse, a century, a chip, and a boy you want nothing more than to love. At least, you think you belong to Angelus.
And that might be enough to make it true.
They were pulling into the garage by that time, with Angel up and out of the car before he realized Spike was still sitting there. A glance told him that yes, some of the rage had lessened—although not all of it—leaving a lot of confusion, pain and the knowledge that the grand, dramatic gesture Angel had planned hadn’t worked. While Angel was feeling rather chipper with his three bags of human blood in him, Spike had had nothing.
What’s worse than a moron? Idiot? No. Too prosaic. Doofus? I think Cordy’s called me that before. Then there’s the raft of things Spike has called me. All of them are pretty much appropriate right now.
Opening Spike’s door, he hauled out the slighter vampire, making sure that he was carrying most of Spike’s weight. “Sorry,” he said shortly. “Forgot you haven’t eaten. Gunn?” The truck idled and shut off, Gunn popping out with a questioning expression. “There’s a cooler in the trunk and a bag of clothes. Bring them both, please?”
“Sure. Is he okay? He looks wiped,” Gunn commented.
“He’s fine. We’ll be upstairs. Be careful with the clothes,” he added when Spike began to struggle. “They’re new.”
“Sure. You go on up; Cordy’s had blood warming for you and my guess is she really wants to be rid of it by now.”
As many times as he half-walked someone, Angel never got used to it. There was the whole closeness problem, something he didn’t have to deal with unless he was fighting—and that had a different rhythm altogether. Even after three years of working on a daily basis with humans who casually touched him all the time, it wasn’t something he particularly liked. Then there were stairs, which were interesting enough with him unbalanced like he was. Add in a body’s unwillingness to bend and it became. . . complicated.
Cordy threw open the door before Angel reached the top of the stairs—she must have heard Spike’s boots clunking or himself cursing. “There you are! What happened? Was it bad? We were worried!”
“It was fine, just took longer than we thought,” Angel soothed as he maneuvered himself to the plush grey sofa in the middle of the lobby. Easing Spike down, he stretched for a moment and then turned back to Cordelia. “He needs blood, a lot. And we should really find out if calamine lotion works on vampires.” He scratched at his chest, noting the swelling there.
“Then you’d best sit down,” Fred told him, her determined expression eerily mirroring Cordelia’s. Angel sank down next to Spike, content to let the girls fuss over them both. Gunn made a joke about mother hens, which Cordelia smartly returned even while she was cutting off the remains of Spike’s sweat pants. Angel vaguely remembered Wes saying something afterwards and then the sound of people leaving, but he wasn’t clear on anything. They were fed blood—Cordelia glaring until Spike actually started drinking his—their wounds cleaned, and each individual bite was carefully daubed with calamine—which, as it turned out—did work on vampires.
Twenty minutes later, Cordelia pronounced them fit for movement.
“Where are Wes and Gunn?” Angel asked, stretching carefully so not to disturb any bandages.
“Home. Asleep. Where you should be.”
“And Xander?” He caught Cordelia’s glance towards the desk—and the concern in her features. Sighing, he helped her clean and put away the materials, shooing Fred up to her own room.
Xander was sitting at the front desk, staring moodily at an empty bottle. He seemed oblivious to the fuss not ten feet from him, instead watching as a single bead of something amber colored rolled around the bottom as he twisted the bottle this way and that. His eyes were focused on that same far reaching point that his lover’s were.
“He’s been like that, the last hour.”
“How much has he—”
Cordelia laughed, folding the spare towels and stacking them neatly. “A few shots, that’s it. I wouldn’t let him have more. He’s just depressed and the same terrified little boy he’s always been.” She glared when Xander didn’t appear to notice her loud comment. Spike noticed, though, shifting so that he wouldn’t be seen from the desk at all.
“It’s no use trying that,” she interrupted when Angel opened his mouth to address the human. “He hasn’t done anything but play with that bottle for the last hour, like I said. That’s when I made Gunn go look for you. Who knew what kind of freaky vampire thing was making him act like that!”
“Freaky vampire thing?”
“One minute, we have the always humorous, slightly drunken retelling of why he isn’t enough for Spike and why he’s going to get dumped—like he always does—once Spike realizes that Xander isn’t really worth loving. We’d had that for quite a while. I was not happy.” Her look said that it was all Angel’s fault—like he’d known it would be. “Then, mid-sentence, he stops. Picks up the bottle and starts doing that, like we were all suddenly invisible. He doesn’t respond to anything, just sits there. Wesley said to leave him alone, I decided enough was enough.” Folding her arms, she turned her full attention on Angel.
He gulped, trying to hide it.
“Did you kill the Zorraziks?”
Safe ground; Angel knew the answers to these kinds of questions. “Oh, yeah, they’re all dead.”
“Good. Now, what did you say to make both of them go catatonic?” She flung her arm out to Spike, who was staring morosely at the floor, and Xander, still watching the single drop of amber roll. “Is there some freaky vampire thing that they’re both suffering under?”
Angel sighed, scrubbing at his thoroughly destroyed hair. “No, Cordy. There’s no ‘freaky vampire thing’ connecting them.”
“Then why is he—”
“Cordelia. Go home. We’ll talk about this later, okay?”
Rolling her eyes, she reluctantly complied. At least, flouncing her way out to her own car was a little like compliance. She was going to make him pay for that later, he was sure. Turning back to the rest of the room, he folded his arms, winced, and settled for glaring. “Both of you are tired and hurting. Go upstairs, go to sleep, don’t talk about anything until tomorrow evening. Is that understood?”
No response, but then he wasn’t expecting one. Sighing again, he threw up his hands and climbed up to his own bedroom. He was hurt and tired. Let them deal with their own mess for the moment. He needed to sleep .Part 8 coming soon.