Waiting on a Different Story
Spoilers: Ats S5 through "Just Rewards"
Written for: Mer /stakebait
Who requested Spike and the smell of burning
Author's notes ~ Many thanks to Magpie and Ginny for the encouragement and advice.
Available at the ABoD archives, here.
Every night, Spike wakes to the smell of burning.
It's never anything simple like leaves or wood in a stove; it's always complicated. Complicated by the taste of blood in his mouth, rich and tangy and metallic like quicksilver.
Sometimes the blood's his own, but most times it's someone else's. The old man who'd refused to back down, refused to cower. He'd almost let that one go -- rare to find someone with attitude like that, someone he could respect -- but in the end he'd drained him just like the rest. Something fitting, he'd thought, about the old git going on in him. One stubborn bloke to another.
He can taste the fear too. Never fleeting, it lingers on his tongue, coats the back of his throat like something thick and cruel that he can't swallow down, no matter how many times he tries.
Spike thinks that the line between sanity and insanity isn't a line at all -- more like a molecule. Another drop of fear and he'll be hurtling back down into that basement, where he's haunted by memories that circle around him, wisps and tendrils of spiders' webs tangling him up and keeping him there, trapped and waiting. Waiting to be devoured.
But when he wakes up -- and fuck if he even understands why he needs to sleep, when technically he's dead, or sort of dead... mostly dead -- it's the burning that he smells. Like flesh and carbon, bodies turned to black, evil fueling the flames in an endless circle that just goes on and on and on.
It's the sort of thing that'd drive a living man to suicide. Spike's not sure if he should be grateful or sorry that that's not an option for him.
Place is empty at night, for the most part. Like any big company there's the occasional sod who wants to get ahead and spends his free time slaving away -- and probably his actual working hours kissing arse -- but mostly, the place is like a tomb. There'd probably be an echo if it weren't for the expensive wallpaper and even more expensive carpeting.
Not that his feet would make a sound anyway.
He strolls around casually, wanting to be able to think that it's more like prowling but knowing it's not. The novelty of walking through walls for its own sake has passed, so Spike sticks to the actual hallways, watching his boots fall and wondering why he can stand on the floor and sit on a couch, but not pick things up.
Something about the elevator bothers him, so he avoids it -- when he's not following along after Angel, trying to drive his grandsire batty. Might be because of the whole Glory thing. He remembers prying the doors open and falling, not knowing when he was going to hit a hard surface and wondering if all his guts were going to turn to jelly when he did, what with that bitch having stuck her fingers inside him, hoping to pull out a plum.
Anyway, yeah. Not so fond of elevators since then. Bad association and all that.
Stairwell's not as nice as the rest of the building really. Must be because they figure anyone sensible's gonna take the elevator, or the interior stairs. Still, there's something about it Spike likes. Almost like it's a secret part of the building.
Angel's apartment's dark, and the clock says 3:28 am.
Spike just stands there in the dark for a long time, listening to the little sounds -- click and hum of the refrigerator, faint, faint buzz of the computer modem in the other room. Angel's got that look about him that says he's in the first deep sleep of the night, the one that's heavy.
Part of Spike wishes he didn't know Angel that intimately, but reality is, he does.
He could wake Angel up, but he doesn't. Just stands there for a long time -- one benefit of the whole ghost thing, no muscle cramps -- and watches the other vampire sleep. It's kind of peaceful, in a strange way.
But in the end, of course, Angel wakes up.
There's a faint growl, then, "Didn't I tell you to stay out of here?"
Spike shrugs a little bit. "Since when d'you think I listen to what you tell me?"
Angel rolls over and looks at him. They can see each other perfectly well, and that doesn't mean either of them likes it. "What do you want?"
"Then why," Angel says -- patience thin despite the fact that he's only been awake for, what, twelve seconds? -- "are you in my apartment?"
Spike considers this. "Don't know," he says finally.
"Then get out." Angel settles himself back on the pillows and closes his eyes, like it's the end of the conversation.
Spike just stands there. The room's quiet again, and Angel's pretending to be asleep but isn't. Funny how he can tell that, even though there's no breathing or anything.
"Spike," Angel says.
He smirks a little bit. "Make me."
Angel sighs, and there's a genuine sort of weariness in it. "Well, don't just stand there."
"What'd'ya want me to do? Interpretive dance?"
"I dunno." Angel opens his eyes again, crosses his arms over his bare chest. "Anything."
"Well I'd offer to let you blow me, but you know..." Spike gestures at himself. "Non-corporeal and all."
Angel snorts. "I can barely contain my disappointment."
"Yeah, well... can't always get what you want."
Shoving himself to a sitting position, leaning against the headboard, Angel asks the same question again. "What *do* you want, Spike?"
His eyes are drawn to where the sheet's slipped down, riding low on Angel's waist. He can remember being on his knees in front of Angelus. Can remember licking someone's bloody hand print off the soft skin of that abdomen, nuzzling there even as Angelus' fingers, tangled in his hair, jerked his head back.
He realises Angel'd asked him a question, one he doesn't have a real answer to. Real answer's there, of course, but for once, he has no idea what it is. "A way out of this," he says, which is true as far as it goes.
"Me too." Angel's just looking at him, watching him. Kinda makes his skin crawl, and not in a bad way.
Then what Angel just said sinks in, and Spike feels a rush of the annoyance that almost no one else can inspire in him. "Oh, right. Here you are in your posh apartment with your Big Boss job and your thirteen cars, and you think *you* need a way out?"
Angel keeps watching him. "No, I meant you. A way out for you." His voice is all mild. Makes Spike want to hit him.
"I know you want me out of your hair, Angel." It's not an unfamiliar feeling, that's for bloody sure. Suddenly Spike just wants to lie down and rest. He's so fucking tired of all of it -- the arguing, the not being wanted. Feels like it's all been going on forever.
All his life.
He doesn't even know what he is anymore, if he ever did.
Angel sighs. "That's not what I meant either."
"Well, why don't you bloody well say what you mean then?" Spike rubs his face and leans against the wall.
Another sigh, and Angel shifts himself on the bed, but doesn't answer.
Spike thinks that's just fine with him. Angel doesn't want to talk, that's okay. They can both just sit -- stand -- here and not talk. Fine. Not like he expects any more from his grandsire at this point anyway. Not like he ever expected anything from him.
He can remember a time when they were capable of sitting in the same room together for hours without saying anything, and it wasn't one of those uncomfortable silences either. Well, not always. It was usually after they'd had a long night of feeding and debauchery, when they'd slept a few hours and were just kind of hanging out, waiting for the sun to set again. Knowing that they were going to go out into the night because that was what they did.
Darla and Dru off in another room, curled up around each other in bed, still sleeping, or at least pretending to. They were good at decadence, those two. Better than he was -- Spike was always too wound up, twisted tight like a spring waiting to recoil. Not that he didn't appreciate the finer things in life.
"Remember that night with those girls?" Angel asks suddenly, interrupting his thoughts.
Spike looks at him in disbelief. "There were a lot of nights with girls."
"Well, yeah. But... those two with the birthmarks? What were they, twins?"
And he does remember, and he can feel a smile that has a lot to do with smirking spread across his face. "Yeah, something like. Sisters, at any rate."
They'd been drinking out at some pub, both of them completely pissed, barely able to stand up, when the two women had approached them. Actually, calling them women wasn't really accurate -- they were girls, just experiencing the first flush of womanhood, ripe and plump and succulent for the taking.
"It really should have occurred to us that they were more than they seemed," Spike says, shaking his head slightly at the memory.
"Maybe if we hadn't been so drunk, it might have." Angel pulls his knee up, making a tent out of the sheet that hides a multitude of sins. "Still... those birthmarks..."
The girls had had matching port wine marks on their throats -- hidden initially by artfully draped curls, they'd been revealed when the two vampires had dragged them into the back corner of the pub for a little taste. A pair of perfect marks in the shape of hearts, just begging to have fangs sunk deep...
"And then when they tried to stake us...."
"Yeah." Spike chuckles. "Not like it was much of a laugh at the time."
The look of utter, complete surprise on Angelus' face when one of those little girls had held a stake to his chest... that wasn't something Spike would forget, not ever. He finds that he's laughing now, helplessly, at the thought of it.
Hadn't mattered in the end, after all. They'd let the girls get away long enough for them to think they were safe, then caught up with them outside a farmhouse and killed them. One, two, with the heart shaped marks torn out.
"Remember after?" Angel asks.
Their eyes meet and hold. In some ways, it's the most touching Spike's had since he came back, the whole necromancer thing notwithstanding. This is more real. More genuine. He doesn't want to look away. "Yeah. I remember."
It'd got them both all hot and bothered, of course, what with the girls and the blood and all. They'd ended up fucking next to the cooling bodies, Spike's hands scrabbling a nonsensical pattern in the packed dirt as Angelus pounded into him. His back'd gotten all scraped to hell even through his shirt and vest, and he hadn't be able to walk proper-like for almost an hour afterwards.
"I'm not supposed to miss stuff like that." Angel glances down at the bed as he admits it, breaking their eye contact. He's got that look about him now, the one that says the soul's weighing heavy on his shoulders. "You know."
Spike does. "Yeah." He feels it too -- not the same as Angel, never the same, but it's there. It's what jerks him awake screaming in time to smell the burning before it fades away. "Can you hear them?" he asks, in a low voice that cracks on the last word.
Angel looks startled. "Who?" Then he realises what Spike's really asking, and he nods slowly. Their eyes meet again. "Oh. Yeah, sometimes."
He's spellbound now, like since he thought of them it somehow gave them permission to inch closer. He can feel their icy fingertips brushing against his legs, pulling at him. Can hear them crying out in voices that echo through him, leaving empty spaces in his chest that ache and bubble up with pain.
Spike looks at Angel desperately, and knows that Angel must be able to see it.
"Come here," Angel says, reaching out a hand that Spike won't be able to touch.
Like a good boy, Spike goes. Sits on the side of the bed, one leg folded up underneath him, facing Angel. "I can hear them." It's a whisper, splintered glass forced out of his throat.
Angel's hand twitches like he wants to touch Spike, but stays where it is. "I know."
"Know what I did," Spike says. He's not sure if he could hear anything Angel's got to say at this point -- the voices are getting louder. "Can feel it, but I can't..." Words have always come easy, but not now. "Can't fix it. Can't make it better."
"Yeah." Angel's looking at him with something between understanding and pity, and Spike's disgusted with himself that even the pity isn't something he'd refuse right now. "You can't. It's hard."
Louder still, the voices are. Calling out to him, filling his head with it. Spike wonders wildly if this is what it's like for Dru -- hearing things you can't see, not knowing what's real and what's fantasy. Or maybe it's all real. That's an even scarier thought. He brings his hands up and covers his ears, rocking a little bit back and forth, knowing that he's losing it and utterly unable to do anything about it.
"Spike," Angel's saying, but he can't stop. Can't hear him, not over the cries.
"I just want it to stop," he whispers. "Please, just... make it stop."
But of course Angel can't. There's nothing either of them can do, nothing but wait and keep on surviving as best they can. Soul's like an anchor, and they're just struggling to keep their heads above water.
He sits, and rocks, and after a while the voices fade a little bit. Not completely away. But enough. Spike looks up.
Angel's standing next to the bed, just setting the phone down on the bedside table.
"They coming to take me away?" Spike asks, aware that there are tears in his eyes, aware that doesn't even make sense because technically he's not sure he's even *got* eyes. Aware that anything he had to lose is already lost. Well, except maybe his sense of humor.
"Ha ha," Angel says flatly, but it's clear that he's worried, and somehow that makes Spike feel better. "That was Wes. I just thought..."
"Thought that maybe now was the time to let me cross over?" He's so damned tired that the idea doesn't even spark any anger, even though he's not ready to give up either. "Show me some of that mercy you're so fond of going on about?"
Angel sits back down, seeming totally unconscious of the fact that he's completely nude. "I thought maybe he could help."
Spike shrugs. "Fred's trying. Or says she will, at any rate."
"Yeah." He's all curled in on himself, but he still can't quite keep himself from watching Angel. "Talked to her yesterday."
"How is Fred going to help with the whole, you know...?" Angel makes little circles in the air next to his own head.
"Hey! I'm not bonkers, thank you very much." Spike still can't summon up the energy to be truly offended, but he makes an effort at least. "Just a little unwell is all."
"Well you can't just stay like this," Angel says. "We've gotta do something."
"And again, that's what Fred's gonna try to do." He wonders if he should tell Angel how deep it goes, that the chasm's there and getting wider, threatening to take him whole, but he wavers. Can't decide. "She'll try to find a way to get me back," he says finally.
Spike's not sure what Angel's asking. "Then I go as far away from you as I can possibly get?" he suggests. "Don't worry, Angel, I'm not gonna stick around and drive you mad." Fuck, he doesn't even know if he's going to be able to stick around long enough for Fred to *get* him back. Last thing he's worrying about right now is how fast he'll be able to get out of Angel's hair if and when he can.
"Jesus, when did you get so apologetic?" Angel asks, then shakes his head. "Never mind, don't answer that."
The voices are still there, just loud enough to keep him from being able to totally concentrate on the conversation. "What?"
"I was asking..." Angel snorts, gets up, and goes over to the dresser. "Forget it. History repeats itself, right?"
"What, you and me?" Spike watches as Angel pulls on some clothes, sorrier than he'd admit to see him covered up. "Yeah, but as you so helpfully chose to remind me, I went out and got the soul on purpose. You didn't ask for yours, did you."
Angel rubs a hand over his face wearily. "No." He waits, then asks, "You regret it?"
Spike's sigh is so heavy that it almost hurts. "No. Yeah." Hell, he doesn't even know what the proper answer is. "Can't regret it, can I? It's done. Can't just get rid of it like some people I could name."
"If you seriously think it's that easy, you're an idiot." Angel looks mad, but it's that kind of mad that's just annoyance really. Not the kind that would result in violence. Not that it would matter since he can't touch Spike anyway.
No one can.
"Didn't say it'd be easy." Spike just wants to lie down on the bed and close his eyes, so after a minute, he does. There's no comfort in it -- he can't really feel the pillow or the mattress. But it's better than nothing.
"It's gonna be okay," Angel says, his voice close by again, and Spike opens his eyes to see him sitting there on the side of the bed. "Wes, and Fred... they'll figure something out."
"They will. Don't worry."
"M'not worried," Spike lies, closing his eyes again. He can feel sleep pulling at him, and that's so much better than the other place that he wants to let it take him.
"Wes'll be here in a little bit," Angel says. Spike can hear him shift his position on the bed, can tell that he's lying down next to him now.
He opens one eye the tiniest bit, just quick-like, but Angel catches him at it. The big bloke's lying there, one hand about three inches from Spike's, just watching him.
"Get some sleep if you can," Angel says, his voice soothing. "When Wes gets here, we'll talk about what we should do."
Spike wonders just when Angel will decide that sleeping in his bed's not okay. He wonders if Wes and Fred will actually be able to do anything, or if it's already too late. Maybe he condemned himself for good a long, long time ago.
He wonders if he'll smell the burning again when he wakes up.
Without opening his eyes, Spike reaches out his hand toward where he knows Angel's is, and for just an instant, he thinks that maybe their fingers brush together.