Timeline: Through "Destiny"
Rating: I dunno . . . PG? Don't come to me for the smut.
Disclaimer: Joss's. Not mine.
Written for frimfram for the lynnevitational. Original prompt was: Preferred pairing (if any): Spike/Angel, please! Preferred rating: anything up to NC-17 Two things I'd like to see in my fic: goading of Angel, a punch in the mouth. One thing I'd prefer not to see in my fic: Connor.
Thanks so much to magarettt and sweptawaybayou for looking it over. You guys are fantastic.
This is memory.
Spike leaks a hum of tense energy into the gaps between words, audible only to Angel, but resonant in blood and bone. Like Spike himself it’s almost tangible, a slow, saturated seep building toward explosion. "You're miserable," Spike observes defiantly, all emotion held in check as though he isn't detonating. Angel hates this, these moments that reveal Spike's inability to maintain the illusion. He'd hit him, except that he can't; his hand passes right through (he's tried, of course he's tried), and then, then Spike looks at him like he used to, like the challenge is real.
"I’m miserable? What about you?"
Spike sits on the edge of Angel's desk. Or Spike looks like he's sitting on the edge of Angel's desk. He claims that most touch takes concentration; he's frustrated all the time by his unsuccessful attempts to do simple things like pick up a glass or punch Angel in the gut. Or ease himself into Angel's bed, one try at clumsy, incorporeal seduction before the idea was abandoned. They can't touch anyway; can't hit or fuck. That would make things easier; then the old holding pattern wouldn't be obsolete. All that’s left is the talking, the constant run of insults and demands, the only way Spike has left to make himself known. This is about validation.
Angel can smell him, leather and blood in sense memory, but that doesn't mean anything necessarily; it's a phantasm, and it happens sometimes whether Spike's there or not.
"I'm a bloody specter! It’s your own fault you’re miserable,” Spike looks at him, considering. “It’s kind of your fault I’m miserable. And what’s with the evil office job? Hey, are you sure you’re not . . .”
Angel interrupts, tired, “I’m not evil, Spike.” Spike watches him, takes him in with the sweep of his eyes meant to be obviously lecherous, but it’s tentative; even in that he is diminished.
“Yeah. I can tell the difference,” he says.
Spike is different. Buffy said “hero,” her voice clenched through the static of the phone line after Sunnydale. Angel has been trying to see it ever since.
Spike looks old , slouched in necro-tempered sunlight; it bleaches his skin almost to translucence and highlights the purple shadow of veins trailing below his surface. It’s too much detail; Spike is too present in his mutinous anger for physicality to be such an impossibility. It’s a force, his manic frustration and calculated antagonism. It hangs in the air like a scent that overpowers and stifles, the illusion maintained.
Spike wants. Angel remembers that.
“I’m not giving you an office, Spike,” Angel says, as though they’re talking about an office. Their metaphors are entirely too obvious.
Spike is petulant, and once would have bled for it. Once, that would have been the point.
Before, when he was Angelus’ protege, he was never petulant unless he wanted to bleed; he took what he wanted. But everything was different then.
Spike watched him lazily from across the room, sprawled on the couch, vibrant and wild. He wasn’t Spike then, or he was, but only just. Darla and Dru were gone; it was St. Petersburg. He must have been Spike already.
“What do we do?” Drusilla’s abandonment rankled; Spike could never shake his ideas of romance.
“Hope Drusilla doesn’t run off on her own and bring home another one of you?”
“You’re glad I’m here. If I weren’t, they’d leave you all by yourself.” Spoken absently, no hint of gloating. They were that sure of each other once. “I’m bored.”
“You’re annoying. Go find someone to eat. Bring back something young and tender.”
“I can do that anywhere.”
“You sound like a child.”
“It’s cold and there’s nothing to do.”
“It’s St. Petersburg; there are things to do.”
“I don’t speak Russian. I’m tired of Russia. I’m tired of Darla.”
“Spike!” Low and cold; a warning.
“Let’s go, Angelus.”
“I don’t know. Italy? Spain?”
“You don’t speak Italian. Or Spanish.”
“Come on. You don’t want to be here any more than I do. You’re probably torturing me on purpose.” Spike looked suspicious. “Are you torturing me on purpose?”
Spike returned hours late with something young, tender and morally upstanding. Angelus, who was also tired of Russia and of being left for The Master when Darla had a whim, had decided that as much fun as it was to torture Spike, he had a point. There were also many other, much more fun, ways to torture Spike.
“Maybe it would be nice to be somewhere warmer.”
“With spicier . . . cuisine.”
“We should leave the girls a message though.” Spike couldn’t bear long separations from Drusilla.
Angelus nodded. “We should probably leave them several.”
Their messages made the Watcher’s Council’s history books. When Darla and Dru caught up with them months later on their second circle through Italy, Darla was impressed by the bloody trail she’d followed and Drusilla was amused by the game, if hurt that Spike left Russia without her. Angel and Spike had bonded over shared experiences.
Spike attempts to sprawl on the coach, but Angel ignores any intentional mimicry. The amulet still lies coiled on one corner of Angel’s desk, untouched since Spike’s return, glinting and mocking in the sunlight, a reminder of other shared experiences. Spike draws attention to it every once in awhile, “There aren’t that many of us who could have worn that, you know.”
Not everything was different then, but it’s dangerous to take emotion out of context.
Take a good look, hero. I’m nothing like you.
That’s never been true. This is the first time Spike has wanted it to be.
There’s a steady ache in his shoulder where the stake went through, though there’s no pulse to the pain, no pump of blood to make it throb. Already it’s starting to itch where the skin is knitting itself back together. It’s not the worst Spike’s ever done to him; it won’t leave a mark any more than the hot pokers did, or their hundreds of previous fights. It won’t leave a physical mark, but Spike’s not the only one deteriorating.
Ironically, it was a relief at first, when his fist could actually connect. Everything between them sliding back into focus.
Spike shows up before sunrise, drunk and failing at stealth. Angel hears him at the door, smelled him before that in the hallway, reeking of whiskey and smoke and sex. Spike knocks around the living room, tripping over the coffee table and taking the lamp over. Angel finds him lying on the floor in front of the couch. The sun is rising, stripping the color and tinting everything blue-gray.
“You left the door open,” Spike begins.
“I figured you were coming back.” Angel reaches down to help Spike up. There’s a cautious truce to it, but the physical touch is a jolt. This is memory.
“Didn’t have anywhere else to go when I wasn’t corporeal, you know?”
Spike staggers against Angel and Angel takes his weight, supporting him, but holding him away.
The air pulses with Spike’s victory.
“Waiting up for me, then?”
“I wasn’t waiting for anything,” Angel lies. Spike laughs, low in his throat. There is no balance here; the stars have come unaligned. Angel would feel better if that weren’t a literal possibility.
Spike straightens and stumbles out of Angel’s hesitant grasp, pacing the room jaggedly. “You don’t have to feel bad for me now.”
“Right Spike, because that was the dominant emotion.”
“I saw the pity from you and yours. Didn’t it piss you off, poor pathetic Spike, can’t leave, can’t touch, can’t move . . .”
“I think it pissed you off more,” Angel says calmly. His shoulder aches. Spike is walking with a limp, detectable despite his drunken stumble.
“Or are you just relieved it wasn’t you?” Spike’s leaning too far into Angel’s personal space and glaring a legitimate challenge, so Angel hits him, hard, in the mouth because now he can and because that’s what Spike wants. Spike falls, and Angel stands over him with his fist still clenched, waiting for Spike to move, to give some cue as to whether they still need to fight this out. Spike holds his jaw and there’s blood again at the corner of his mouth, but he looks up all smugness and bravado.
“I still won, you know.”
“Once, boy. Don’t let it go to your head.” Angel looks away, willing Spike to take the bait, or at the very least not to see him flinch.
Spike actually rolls his eyes.“Don’t start that now. That was a hundred years ago.” He pushes himself to a sitting position, leaning against the side of the couch. “I won. And it was a bigger deal than that. You know it; I know it. It might even be about me, your precious Shanshu prophecy.”
“Might be,” Spike shrugs, “besides, either way, there’s two of us now. You heard the evil school girl. Two champions, two vampires with souls.”
“I thought I was nothing like you; if you’re going to go pointing out similarities, there are a few others that come to mind.” Spike watches him, but Angel shakes his head. “You made yourself what you are.” Angel pauses and offers his hand to pull Spike to his feet a second time; Spike takes it warily. “That includes what you are now.”
Tension hangs low and heavy. There’s daylight through the window, dropping shadows at stark, early morning angles. They’re standing in the sun. Spike’s hair looks blond instead of white; his skin appears less ghostly now that Angel has a physical hold on him; now that there’s some kind of tangible connection.
Spike kisses him instead of hitting him. Angel is shocked still for a moment before he responds. The bitterness of the whiskey and the cigarettes is drowned in the taste of the blood still seeping from Spike’s lip.
It tastes like memory. The switch in paradigms is sudden, and Angel is dizzy with the vertigo of years.
Spike breaks away first, but keeps his rough grip on Angel’s shoulder grounding himself in his ability to grip anything at all.
This is not resolution, but even postponement is something.
The connection is tenuous, but Spike is desperate for it. He’s watching in that way he has that actually means he’s willing someone else to move. Somewhere he learned to take cues from people around him, observational skills that normally only enabled him to be more irritating. They give him patience now, make it Angel’s turn to act.
“All right, Spike. Okay.” Angel kisses him back, a hundred years condensed. Spike is shedding leather already, sloughing off years like it’s easy, and Angel isn’t sure who drags who through the doorway to the bedroom.
“Still like that, do you?” Spike breathes against Angel’s throat when his hand finds that spot and the world turns to stars.
Angel traces familiar contours with his eyes closed. He could draw them from memory. He has.
Afterward, Spike finally sleeps the sleep of the recently resurrected. Angel steals a cigarette from Spike’s coat pocket and shifts so he can light it, keeping his shoulder pressed to Spike’s in a small concession to the comfort of physicality. He ignores the phone for as long as he can though it keeps ringing. The world is probably ending again.
Spike will inevitably wake up and say something obnoxious about Buffy or about destiny. When Angel goes downstairs, Eve will inevitably be waiting with dire predictions about the equilibrium of the universe.
Some things never change; Spike is an asshole and fate is a question mark.
Some things do; this is memory transposed.
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