You tore your shirt
to show me where
you had been hurt
I had to stare
I put my hand
on what I saw
I drew it back
It was a claw
Your skin is cured
You sew your shirt
You throw me food
and change my dirt
- Leonard Cohen, from The Energy of Slaves
“Are you finished?”
“Look, mate,” Spike said, leaning long against brick and grime, bored into eternity. “Like to part ways, if it’s all the same to you.”
“It’s really not.”
“Buck up, yeah? I just don’t have those kinds of feelings for you. You’ve got to get on with your life, you know, as it is. Not.” And Spike let his head fall back against the wall. Tactilely-deprived, free-range vampire on the loose.
“Spike, you moron. Either knock it off or take your sorry ass out of my city.”
“Who is it chasing after who, eh?”
“What’s keeping you here, anyway? Because it sure as hell isn’t anything like, let’s say, a deep emotional connection with anyone.”
“Why, Angel,” Spike said. “You wound me. My own kin.” He looked vaguely delighted at provoking such a response. Angel wanted to throttle him and the fact that such a thing was now possible tugged at him, but Spike, having already been sated in all other matters, was quite obviously out for a fight, was practically gagging for it, and Angel was damned if he was going to give him one for the books tonight.
“I was referring to your nightly— paramours. Whatever. Whatever you want to call them.”
“I prefer not to call them anything.” Which was utter crazy-talk, because although Spike looked the part of a Lover Boy he’d been Turned as a virgin and they both knew it. He was all lips and bravado, mostly bravado. But before Angel had a chance to call him on it, Spike was saying, “What’s this, then? We can’t even reside in the same city?”
“That would be a good start, yeah.”
“’S a big city.”
“Yeah, well, you’re a fairly large pain in the ass.”
“Well,” Spike said, and cocked his head just as if he were trying to understand why Angel would say such a thing about someone such as himself. “Not like I’m killing anyone, if that’s what has you all atwitter.”
“I’m not atwitter.”
“You think I’m killing again? You been watching me? I killed anyone?”
“I’ve been watching you,” Angel told him levelly.
“Fucking soul,” Spike said acidly, dropping the act a bit. Worn leather coat made him seem tragic. Reciting all those old lines. He looked like he was doing his best James Dean over there lighting a cigarette. If James Dean had fallen into the glory of the seventies. And he looked tired, saying, “We’re in the same boat on this one, yeah? And you’re gonna capsize the both of us with this high and mighty bullcrap.”
Barely-there shiver in the hands, then, but Angel wasn’t in the mood to be forgiving. “You always did have a way with words,” he said irascibly and Spike had lost the cigarette and was there in a metaphorical heartbeat, right in his face. Blur of movement, and Angel’s cheek stung a bit but not too badly because Spike never could hit worth shit when he was mad. “First time you’ve had a go at me in awhile,” Angel continued, and didn’t know why, really, except that Angelus had been a sadistic bastard and resided within him, still. “Sure you want it to be that half-assed?”
“No,” Spike said petulantly. Then, “I’m not killing anyone.”
“Be that as it may, I can only trust myself.” And sometimes he couldn’t even do that, but he kept that part to himself.
“So, you want me out of LA,” Spike said abruptly, changing tack. He’d started backing up, taking little shuffle-steps, but Angel let him. Had him right where he wanted him for once, all nice and boxed-in.
“You’ve always been quick on the uptake, you know that?”
Spike scowled, and shot him a small trapped-animal glance. All eyes, the white, spooked-horse parts. But his voice betrayed nothing when he said, “Out of sight, out of mind. Is that it? I could decimate the entire East Coast and you’d just be sitting over here in your posh office with your giant forehead.”
“You couldn’t decimate the entire East Coast.”
“I could cut a swathe.”
“A little one, maybe,” he allowed, and sidestepped when Spike did.
“I’ve cut a swathe, you great git.”
“You’re no Angelus,” Angel pointed out.
“No, I’m Spike,” Spike said, enunciating carefully, as if Angel were a particularly slow child. “Always and forever. None of this multiple personality shite.”
“And you wonder why I worry about you.”
“You don’t worry about me,” Spike said tightly. “You worry about you. Got yourself some cozy digs here, haven’t you? Living just like a real boy. You treat everything that came before like a dream-vision, innit that right? But it was no past life, Angelus. It was this life, and I cut a swathe at your side. How do you like them bloody apples?”
“Are you finished now?”
That was all fine and good, but Angel had had enough of both the situation and of the setting. “Get in the car.”
“We’ll finish this elsewhere. Get in the car.”
“What do take me for, a raving idio—” Eyes lit up a bit, either with sinister intent or Spike was just a boy who liked toys. Possibly, probably both. “Can I drive?”
“No,” Angel said flatly.
“Haven’t been behind the wheel in awhile,” Spike cajoled, but something else flashed in those eyes that gave deeper meaning to the words.
Angel hesitated. “You take her where I tell you,” he told him finally, stupidly, and let Spike out of his corner. He tossed the keys at the other vampire, who drove them with two fingers on the wheel to the city limits where he proceeded to pace the cage of self-imposed boundaries while Angel grabbed at his arm before sliding heedlessly onto the hood of the car with a hard, chain-smoking countenance and a backdrop of smog. At which point Angel decided that he really had had enough. There was a brief scuffle over the keys and Spike kicked him in the throat, which was uncalled for, really.
“You really want me to get out of dodge?” Spike asked him then.
“You just kicked me,” Angel said reedily, hand held to his neck. Spike just shot him a Yeah, so? look, flicking ashes in his general direction. “Okay.” Angel swallowed, and resisted the urge that would get him nothing more than another boot to the face. “Okay. What is this? I’ll bite.”
Spike gnashed his teeth. “Will you, now?”
“What is this, Spike?” he pressed. Demon at the foregate and Spike always did this to him.
Spike took a post-coital looking drag. Cherry glowed red in the dark and his face seemed haunted, still, all of the sudden. “Where do you want me to go?”
“Just. Away from here,” Angel said helplessly. “Fuck. Please.”
“I have nowhere to go, you know. Tosser.” And then Spike shoved the keys at him. Angel jangled them against his thigh and studied him. He thought, for the first time in a long time, that he really wanted a cigarette.
“Get in the car,” he said eventually.
Spike looked considering, almost serious. His own cigarette had gone to ash and he shucked it at Angel’s feet and looked around as if looking for something else to do with his hands.
“Can I drive, then?”
“You can sit in the passenger seat and keep your mouth shut,” Angel told him, and Spike held up two fingers, sodyouandtheworld, but slid off of the hood when Angel revved the engine. And that was how he became an official flesh and blood member of Angel Investigations, much to the chagrin of everyone involved, himself included.
The thing about the situation was— not the only thing, but one of the things was that Spike was reckless. Boxer Rebellion I-just-bagged-myself-a-Slayer reckless. Angel left it alone at first - if Spike wanted to play it like he was invincible, that was up to him. But every time he knocked more heads off than Angel did, there was this glint in his eye. Angel started to dream about it, about bashing that look right out of his skull.
On one such night, he walked in on Spike as he was peeling off the layers: the leather, the red, the torn shirt, and stuck a finger in the direction of the latter. “What happened?”
“There were claws involved,” Spike said, and shrugged another shirt on. Angel hadn’t known he owned another shirt, but was quite certain that Spike and his new, shiny soul didn’t have any qualms about shoplifting. “‘M about to get back out there, mate,” he continued pointedly.
“Seems like you’re cutting a swathe of a different kind,” Angel noted.
“Can this wait?”
“This is my territory, Spike.”
“That would be a no, then?” Spike scoffed. “Lest I forget. You’ve all but pissed in the corner.”
Angel ran a hand through his hair, nearly yanked at it in his frustration. “Look. You’re taking too many chances.”
“That’s me telling you to tone it down, before I tone you down.”
Spike seemed unimpressed. Angelus would have had him back against the wall and squirming by now, maybe even saying please, and for the first time in a long time Angel wanted to just melt back into him, Angelus. That man-shape in all its depravity. Just to make Spike stop looking like that and to drive that glint right out of him and to—
“Wonder what would happen if I bit the dust again, is all,” Spike said conversationally. “No pun intended, but you know what I mean?”
“Leave it alone, Spike.”
“Can’t very well do that now, can I?” He shrugged again, and winced. Angel scented his blood in the air, a palpable thing. Like listening to an aria and having those tiny blue notes shift the air, so blue and solid you’d think you could just reach out and catch them in your fist. Family blood was heavy like that. “So,” Spike continued, jerking him out of his blood-trance, “You think they’d shove me right back here?”
Angel found the thought fairly disturbing. “What possible reason would they have for doing that?”
“I don’t rightly know. So’s I could be the eternal thorn in your bloody side. Since when do you give a rat’s arse about any of this, anyway?”
“Nobody dies on my watch,” Angel said coolly.
Spike made a noise in the back of his throat. “Right,” he drawled, once he’d recovered. “’M going out.”
“Spike.” What could he say? Be careful? That was a long dead cause. “Leave it alone, alright?”
“Cross my heart and may Lady Luck be with me,” Spike pledged dryly.
“I’m not following you this time,” Angel warned.
Spike paused at the door briefly. Put his collar up. Kept right on going. But Angel knew that he was probably smiling as if he had a jaw full of feathers.
The worst thing about the situation was what Spike was doing to him. He was making him crazy, of course, but that was the least of his concerns.
Spike was making a liar out of him. Making him— not worry, but he was anxious in this kind of unrelenting, yanking way. That night, for example, he found himself following the asshole and his latest conquest into the bathroom of a seedy bar, where that conquest had recognized that something was seriously off-kilter with her plaything and she was saying, “I don’t understand. I don’t understand.” It could have been the yellow eyes. Or more likely, the vacant mirror: all that smudged glass and no razor-sharp cheekbones to be seen.
“Don’t you like me anymore?” Spike asked sweetly, with his invisible mouth.
Angel rolled his eyes and waited it out.
“No! No, I don’t, I—” She darted for the doorway and Spike feigned a left but let her duck beneath his arm. Then he pivoted on the spot. Gazed at Angel in a rather reptilian way. Fake button eyes made real. He had a lipstick stain on his cheek. Not blood, though it looked that way. Angel knew blood.
“Fancy meeting you here, eh?”
“What was that? What was she?”
“Fresh meat? I don’t know.” Spike tipped his head back. “What are you asking me?”
Angel sighed. “Look. Are you coming? This is getting old, and fast.”
“Why are you doing this?” Spike asked of him, and seemed to be considering something, but shook the thought off the way a mongrel shakes water from his back. Looking at him, Angel could tell he was very drunk, or very something. He wasn’t bothering with guises. Eyes strange and feral in a preternaturally pale face. He was swaying prettily where he stood.
For some reason that strangeness made Angel think of another thing about the current situation, perhaps the oddest thing, which was the fact that Spike hadn’t mentioned Buffy. Not once, not since that first desperate calling-out, though he sighed her name sometimes while he slept. “Why are you doing this?” Angel shot back at him, because he wouldn’t be the one to call him on either one of those facts, although part of him wanted to just get it out there. Is it her that you’re mourning? Is it her for you too?
Spike shook his head. Paused, and then spoke, almost as if he’d been party to the unspoken question, “Just doesn’t feel any different, no matter what I do. ‘M as untouchable as ever.” He paused again, and then gave Angel an almost hopeful look. “Get that?”
Angel did, but he found that he really didn’t want to hear such a thing, not from Spike’s lips. He had no comfort to offer. No urge to comfort, even. Not much. “Getting old,” he repeated instead, impatiently.
Spike balked. “We’re getting old, running around in these circles.”
“Not really,” Angel said wryly.
Spike took a swing at him just then, and Angel caught the wrist, thought about snapping it. Didn’t.
Spike shook him off. “Let’s be on our merry way, then.”
They took the fire door. Angel saw the word EXIT, flashing red, and it filled him with some kind of vague, yet all-consuming longing.
“This is all your fault,” Spike was telling him.
“What’s that?” he asked distractedly. Another alleyway. Wonderful. And it was raining: a steady, sedate kind of rain. Spike had stopped moving, of course. Angel thought he should’ve known all along this wouldn’t be quite so easy. Nothing ever was.
“This. Me being here at all, existing like this.”
“I’ve had my fill of self-pity, Spike. Let’s not do this.”
“Oh, yeah. With you everything’s all perfectly sad and terrible and woe-is-me. With me— well, I’m just a bloody annoyance. Why should I feel anything that you feel?”
“I don’t care what you feel; I just don’t want to hear about it.”
“Look here, you sod!” Spike exploded. “It was Dru that made me this way, but don’t you stand there and tell me you didn’t play a part in that whole business.”
“I didn’t, actually.”
“Know I’m right,” Spike tossed at him wildly, like a child. “You never let me be right. Never let me be the right one.”
“What are you talking about?” Some kind of angry music spilled into their little corner, and Angel was spinning away with the beat. 'I hate to tell you baby, this is home.' He had no idea why Spike had this caught in his teeth all of the sudden, and wasn’t sure he cared. But who was he fooling, really? Of course he knew why Spike had this caught in his teeth. They’d never dealt with this, with anything. They had a past and one soul between them, and that was all. Except now that was supposedly all changed, right?
Angel didn’t know. He hated Spike as much as he ever had, at any rate.
“You could have stopped her. You could have. Why didn’t you?” Spike entreated him, and Angel hated that pleading tone more than anything. “I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to be here.”
That was the crux of it, then. Well, Angel didn’t want to be there either. So fucking what? Just because Spike was drunk and pissed besides, he got to be the one to fall to pieces?
“Let’s not do this,” he reiterated harshly. “Let’s not dig up past uglies. It isn’t worth it.”
“Don’t want to be here,” Spike kept saying.
“She wanted you, Spike,” Angel cut in, giving up on his own advice without a fight and exasperated beyond belief. At Spike, at himself, at the world. “Hell if I know why, but you know how she is when she gets something in her head—”
“Or someone,” Spike said. “I know, but why? Why did she—”
“How am I supposed to know? She’s insane. She, I don’t know, she saw you, and that was enough for her.”
“That was enough?” Spike raged. “That was enough? It wasn’t enough!”
“Well,” Angel said calculatingly. “She told me she thought you were pretty when you cried.”
At that, Spike’s face contorted into what could have been a parody of anger, but it wasn’t funny, it wasn’t. Where his demon should have slipped into place, only his eyes changed into eyes that were all wrong in that face. Gold-flecked, but wet, and Angel felt— not guilty, he knew guilt, oh yes he did, and that wasn’t the prevailing emotion he felt, but disarmed, almost. The kind of repentance you’d feel if you kicked someone when they were down, even if they deserved it.
Then Spike kissed him just as if he didn’t know what else to do and it was different than the last time they’d kissed, boy William starfished beneath him with his open face and his open legs. Hands that had been clumsy were expert now, finding all the right places while at the same time his collarbone was wet-mouthed and the rain kept falling and everything about this was melodramatic, and everything about Spike was wet, his hands and his mouth and that face and Angel could only moan, because although he hadn’t been the ghost, no one had touched him in a long time, too long.
Angel didn’t know what to do either, and he still didn’t want to be there, and he still hated Spike, but he needed this. He did. The realization was sick and awful and he loved the way it crawled up his spine.
“What’s the matter, ducks?” Spike pulled back long enough to say, seemingly still a wraith. A slip of light. Curtain of rain fallen behind him. Hair tumbling into his face just like William’s had, but Spike seemed unconcerned with the crashing together of those two worlds. He was doing unspeakable, vicious things with his mouth, hands on Angel’s hips. Then he rose abruptly and yanked Angel down by the hair and they were both on their knees. “’M not pretty enough for you?”
Moisture clinging to his lashes, tears or rain, Spike wasn’t pretty, he was an Adonis. Flash of lightning made him God, made him the Devil. Once, Angelus had made William mewl. Spike was years from sure a fate and turning the pin on its head: he was going to made Angel mewl, make him scream, and Angel was fairly certain that such a thing would be lorded over him forever, but he didn’t care. He needed this, a dirty fuck in the rain like a dirty fuck in a B-rated flick made new and beautiful by Spike in all his gritty dazzle, a bottle blonde under a black sky. In Technicolor.
“No, Spike. No. That’s not— I’m—”
“Sorry? That it? Let me tell you something you should have sussed out by now, Angelus. Shouldn’t apologize when you don’t fucking well mean it. Doesn’t help much.” And then Spike was on him again, frantic now like someone at the breaking point, but Spike was already broken, maybe.
“I know,” Angel murmured. Any residual anger he felt melted away at the blank, terminal acceptance he saw in Spike that the both of them shared.
“Doesn’t help at all,” Spike said darkly, and Angel should have told him that this wouldn’t either but he and Spike were on the same page for once. Spike knew that. They both knew that, and it was what kept the momentum up, because what would happen if they stopped, stopped the grinding hardness, the sliding of mouth on mouth and shucking Spike’s leather in the corner where it lay, soaked through, smelling like a dead animal, and counting ribs with fingers, and vertebrae— What would happen?
This whole time, Spike’s eyes were wrong still, joyless and implacable, and Angel was about to find out. When he came finally, and screamed and very nearly wept, there was a flash of spite there. And then Spike began to laugh.
Afterwards, Angel drove them back to Wolfman and Hart. Spike didn’t even vie for a place at the wheel.
He was giddy. Kept on pressing the heels of his palms to his eyes like he was sobbing, not laughing. He wasn’t really doing either anymore. Not even making much noise anymore, just caught up in the throes of it.
Angel just felt wet, or rather not really wet anymore, but damp. The remembrance of Spike’s tongue and the wicked things he’d done with it still fresh and cutting in his mind. He was impossibly hard, still. Throbbing. But Spike had gone down the rabbit hole.
In the parking garage, engine idling, he wrested those hands down. “Sit on them or something, would you?” But Spike was twitchy. Manic. Angel had heard, of course, of the basement, Spike prostrating himself on a cross. He always did have a flair for the dramatic. But now the mere thought of it blanketed him with dread. He imagined Spike going off the rails. The questions, the recriminations. He didn’t know who his accuser would be, but there was always someone. He imagined them saying What happened, exactly? and Spike answering, It’s a funny story, really...
Fortunately for Angel’s sanity, the choked laughter began to choke off. “My coat,” Spike said. “Have to go back for it.”
“I put it in the back,” Angel told him carefully.
“Holy hell,” Spike snapped abruptly. “Had ourselves a little fun and suddenly you’re your brother’s keeper.”
“You asked,” Angel pointed out incredulously. Then, “Doesn’t seem like you had much fun.”
“Could try again,” Spike suggested, backing off a bit. “Take that ‘ol American myth of going down on each other in the backseat of a car to a strange, new level.”
“You’re acting like a lunatic.”
Spike hmmed, and feigned boredom in a rather obvious way. “Fancy a snog, then?”
“Not so much.”
“You’re a terrible liar, and a git at that,” Spike told him, which was probably true. No one ever said he wasn’t obvious. Just less obvious than Spike, was all. But then again, that didn’t take much. When before he had resisted, he was suddenly struck by their history together, the things he’d done with Darla to please himself, the things he’d done with Drusilla to displease Spike, (and wasn’t that an understatement?) the things he’d done with Spike to— to what? He didn’t know, and couldn’t bear the weight of it, all of the sudden. The past fell over him like a veil, unwieldy gauze. His mind went dark.
“Quiet, now,” Angel found himself saying. “This didn’t happen.”
Spike stilled. “That right?”
“Oh?” Angel asked, giving Spike a sloe-eyed look. “You’ve heard that before, then?” Spike just twitched. When Angel went to touch him he twitched back and away. History repeating itself and Angel felt like a bit of an ass, despite the fact that he’d just been called a git for about the hundredth time in as many days. “Spike,” he tried again. “You know this shouldn’t have happened again.”
“That’s not what you said,” Spike snarked sulkily.
“You’re pretty high maintenance, you know that?”
Spike very nearly hissed, and Angel leaned in and put his hand on the other man’s knee and just squeezed, hard, until Spike spat out in annoyance, “But yeah, I know it.”
“Fuck, yes. Don’t go all kids gloves on me at this late stage, right?” Then, as if out of some distant hurt that had been rendered a mere ache you felt according to the weather: “If it had have been you that Turned me instead of Dru—”
“Wouldn’t have been me,” Angel cut in smoothly, and it was still raining like a bastard, he was certain. Something old was twisting within him as well.
“—you have kept me around, or left me like you did with Penn?”
“I probably would have just killed you,” he said blithely. Maybe he was hoping for a smile, but Spike just kept on flaking nail polish off with a thumbnail. He was doing a good impression of someone who wasn’t anxious to hear the actual answer, but he must have been. Angel was, himself.
“That would have been too kind, mate,” Spike said finally. “Not your style.”
Since Angel’s hand was already on Spike’s knee, he rubbed his thumb in a circular motion across the kneecap a few times, little uneasy circles, before he took his hand back as his own. “You’re probably right, Will,” he said softly. Their gazes scraped against each other briefly, then Angel had to look away.
He went inside, Spike trailing after him like a specter.