Fade to Black

Rating: PG-13
Setting: Angel Season 5, immediately post "Not Fade Away".
Disclaimer: Not my sandbox.
Feedback: Would be pretty spiffy.
Words: 2,971
Notes: I think of this as kind of a loose sequel to Sweets, but it can stand alone just fine.

Of course it’s a dark and stormy night, because it’s Angel’s last stand, and the Great Poof has that kind of bloody luck. Spike remembers that his own last stand—his last last stand, anyway—was on a sunny spring afternoon; he may have burned to ash in excruciating agony, but hey, it was a beautiful day. It just goes to show there’s just no justice in the world.

The raucous din of hundreds of demons shrieking, hissing, growling and roaring might be daunting, Spike thinks, except that he once lived in a house with a pack of pubescent slayers, and that kind of clamor really puts this into perspective. Even the dragon trumpeting overhead as it swoops nearer isn’t all that much worse than the earsplitting shrillness Kennedy could muster when she really got going.

Angel steps forward, eyes on the oncoming horde at the mouth of the alley, and Spike, Gunn and Illyria follow, flanking him with a smooth, automatic ease that Spike would really like to deny later, should there be a later.

Not taking his attention off of the demons, Spike asks, “In terms of a plan?”

“We fight.” Angel’s voice is all stone and teeth.

And what kind of a plan is that, anyway? Nobody ever accused him of being overly prudent in the planning department himself, but even Spike thinks that that’s ridiculous. Angelus might have been a nasty piece of work, but at least he could turn out a decent strategy from time to time. What is this, suicide by demon? “Bit more specific,” he tries.

Angel steps even further forward and turns his eyes up to the sky. “Well, personally, I kind of want to slay the dragon.”

The first of the demons are so near now that Spike can see the whites of their eyes. Well, the ones that have eyes with whites, anyway. Or eyes at all, for that matter.

Angel swings his sword up into poised readiness as the clouds overhead break into full deluge. Angel’s lithe motion looks almost like dancing, and the rainwater runs in sinuous curves down his upheld arms, painting transparent glyphs against the leather. “Let's go to work.” He almost sounds eager.

The first rank breaks across them like a wave before Spike can say anything else. Then he’s busy trying to dodge a Chaos demon—and really, does that race just have it in for him, or what?—without letting it maneuver him away from covering Angel’s back against something with hooves and some sort of stinger. Not, of course, that he’s protecting Angel on purpose; it’s nothing but Angel’s dumb—emphasis on the dumb—luck that Spike happens to be there at his back.

After a moment, Spike manages to call out, “Because see, I got a plan.”

Angel unexpectedly careens against him as a swath of dragon fire jets down into the spot where Angel stood a moment before. Without breaking the rhythm of his fighting, Spike instinctively leans into the shoulder that catches against his back until Angel regains his balance and pushes away. The dark bulk of the dragon swings wide across the sky as it climbs higher and begins to ponderously wheel back around for another pass.

You,” Angel keeps swinging his sword without looking back, but Spike can hear his eyes rolling in the tone of his voice anyway, “have a plan. Aren’t we in enough trouble already?”

Spike snorts and snaps the heel of his hand into the finely arched nose of a Q’Pentha demon. “An’ whose plan we got to thank for that?

Before Angel can get out more than an indignant-sounding growl, the opposite end of the alley is lit with sudden blazing light, delineating the silhouettes of the demon army with stark clarity and turning the falling rain to streaming glitter. There’s a rumbling, mechanical growl that carries all the way to Spike as the demons fall into a startled hush.

Into the lull laid over that low thunder, a booming voice calls out, “Stand away from the bard!”

Spike squints against the blinding glare and can just make out the yellow shapes of bulldozers as they ram forward into the demons’ hindmost ranks. Overhead, the dragon pulls up short, hovering fitfully in obvious saurian confusion. The army breaks into howling chaos and suddenly there’s breathing space in this last stand.

“What...?” Angel’s jaw keeps working, but the rest of his sentence seems to be stuck somewhere. He waves his free hand at the bulldozers, which are merrily plowing over any and all of the demons they can catch. He’s still holding his gore-streaked sword out to one side, and it somehow looks just a bit forlorn.

“See, I did a bit of a poetry readin’ today in a demon bar, went over better’n I expected. Got me a few real fans. I might’ve let ‘em know I could maybe use a spot of help later,” Spike remarks with a slightly smug nonchalance. He adds a casual shrug for good measure.

Angel’s jaw apparently gives up and stops moving entirely, and his head snaps around to fix Spike with a wide-eyed stare.

Gunn staggers a little and leans heavily on his axe, blinking rainwater out of his eyes blearily. “Damn! Told my sixth grade English teacher I didn’t need to read poetry cause it’d never save my ass out on the street. Who knew?” His voice slurs, worn and fraying at the edges, and the bones of his face seem sharper than they should. Even over the sulphurous tang of wet demons, the air is still distractingly redolent with the heavy, dark scent of his blood.

Angel still gapes at Spike, looking completely poleaxed.“You what? Are you seriously telling me that your brought your demon fanboys to my final battle?” He pokes Spike in the chest, thankfully not with his sword hand. “How could you be sure that they wouldn’t go straight to Wolfram and Hart to sell us out? They might’ve given the whole plan away!”

Spike blinks. “Er. Well.” He looks at the melee of demons, and ducks as a body goes flying over his head. He brightens suddenly and turns back to Angel. “But they didn’t, did they?” He pokes Angel in the chest. “You’ve just got your knickers in a twist because my plan,” he thumps his chest proudly, “was loads better than yours.” He pokes Angel in the chest again for emphasis.

“You!” Angel splutters comically, and his hands flail around. “This wasn’t a plan! This was complete stupidity that just happened to turn out—”

He’s cut off abruptly by something with too many legs barreling into Spike and sending him sprawling.

Without missing a beat, Angel hews off what is probably its head with a quick backhand cut as it recovers itself and looms menacingly over Spike. “That’s my job!” he yells at its corpse. He reaches down, grabs Spike’s arm, and pulls him back up.

Spike stares at the corpse, then at Angel. A slight, almost shy smile flickers briefly over Spike’s face like a trick of the light.

But Angel is still glaring. “What were you even thinking?”

The evanescent smile broadens into a challenging grin, and Spike runs his tongue behind his teeth in the very way that he knows annoys Angel for some reason. “Right now, I’m thinkin’ I’m gonna get me a dragon.” And he darts off into the pandemonium.

He can hear Angel yelling after him furiously, “I called that already! Get your own!”

As Spike gets closer, the bulldozers look to be reversing course and pulling out now, which isn’t much of a surprise. Sure, his fans liked him enough to nick some construction equipment and turn up to do some damage, but that hardly means they’re going to stick around after the shock value wears off and the enemy starts to rally—especially that dragon, which finally looks to be maneuvering around for a pass at the bulldozers. Fire and gas-powered vehicles aren’t a good combination for the drivers, now that Spike thinks about it. He didn’t figure they were signing on for serious mortal danger, and that’s more than fair enough, really. Okay, so the odds are still ridiculously long and this still looks to be a last stand, but at least there’ll be a few more notches tallied up for their side. And it was so worth that gobsmacked expression on Angel’s face. Abso-bloody-lutely.

Some of the rallying demons break off their chase of the quickly retreating bulldozers and turn to stampede back towards Spike before he can quite make it to the fire escape with its promise of better dragon-hunting vantage. Of course they’d pick just this second to overcome their confusion. Sodding typical of his luck, really.

With wonderful timeliness, a blur of blue flickers in his peripheral vision and resolves into Illyria. She looks especially peeved to Spike, even over the dull smolder that’s been simmering on her face since she told them that Wesley was dead. He’s sure of it when she strikes her fist into a Polgara demon’s chest with a rather vicious crack, even for her.

“Shouldn’t you be back there watchin’ Charlie?” he manages to gasp out as a vampire pounds a fist into his stomach.

“He could no longer remain upright. Angel was pushing him through the back door of the Hyperion when I left them.”

There’s nothing Spike can think of to say to that, and he doesn’t much want to think about it either, so they fell a few more opponents quickly in relative silence.

Finally Illyria speaks, her voice almost human in its annoyance, except that its evenness never falters as she fights. “Once, only to amuse me, the very seas boiled until their steam blotted out even the light of the stars in the heavens. Now a lowly half-breed commands more worship than I receive.” Her eyes spare a moment from her opponent to stab a scornful glance at Spike.

Spike snorts as he twists away from the Polgara’s flailing arm-spike and tries to flatten two more assailants while he’s about it. “Yeah, yeah. Now’s the sauna of our discontent. Sing a new song, Blue.”

Illyria hisses a little like an incensed cat, but she doesn’t pause the economical, whirling grace of her combat. Spike can see Angel struggling through the melee, finally closing in on them. He looks, Spike thinks a little uncharitably, like nothing so much as a ruffled, sodden crow. And his hair is utterly ruined, which is just a lovely thought.

But it certainly wouldn’t do to let Angel catch up before the dragon’s firmly slain, so Spike shelters in the arc of Illyria’s circle of destruction and leaps for the lower step of the fire escape. The wet metal slips against his palms for a dizzy moment before catching. A bit of kicking and twisting sees him safely clambering onto the stairs, and he races to climb them even as he hears Angel’s wordless snarl below. Above, the dragon’s banking to come around for another pass at the alley, apparently done with the bulldozers, wherever they are.

Reaching the top of the metal stairs, Spike hops the railing and leans out over the alley below. He holds fast to the rail with one hand and waits. The dragon glides closer; its lamp-like eyes seem to be fixed on the distinctive blue-streaked shape of Illyria on the ground, and it doesn’t seem to notice Spike’s black-clad stillness. As it rockets past, opening its jaws and inhaling mightily with a gust like a blacksmith’s bellows, Spike leaps out into space. His fingers scrabble at slick, shining scales until he manages to kick his legs up to lock them around the narrow neck just below the hinge of the beast’s jaw.

The dragon gives a furious roar and flails in midair, twisting and whipping around. Spike clings desperately, washed by vertigo as the world spins and dips crazily. He throws his arms around the dragon’s neck as well, and even tries to sink his fangs into the scales for extra purchase, but their plating proves impenetrable. It occurs to Spike, a little dizzily, that now would be a really good time to have a weapon handy. Thinking on handiness, though, gives him a bit of an idea.

Spike cautiously looses one arm from its death grip around the dragon’s neck, and gropes blindly upwards until he feels the warm, yielding softness of an eye. An eyelid flutters angrily against his fingers, and the dragon gives another maddened roar that leaves Spike’s ears ringing painfully.

He draws back his fist and drives it elbow-deep into the dragon’s eye, clawing at the scalding-hot brain inside. The neck between his legs snaps like a whip, and suddenly the dragon’s falling out of the sky. Spike has just enough time to think that it’s a good thing they weren’t too high up when the dragon crashes to earth, rolling and tumbling until it crushes Spike into agonizing blackness beneath its shattered skull.

The first thing Spike can hear over the rushing, ringing darkness: “Spike! Damn it, Spike! You moron, I know you can hear me!”

And doesn’t that just figure? Spike’s always had a sneaking suspicion that his own personal hell will probably involve losing arguments to Angel for eternity. Except that hell probably wouldn’t include the oddly gentle hands that are pulling at him, skating over his body, pressing carefully over the worst of the broken places. That’s enough to make Spike open his eyes and squint up at Angel.

“Did I get it?”

Angel huffs in annoyed relief, and his hands feel less frantic. “Yes, you got it. You idiot! Did you even think about what you were doing?”

Spike lifts his head to peer around instead of answering, and there’s a wide trail of crushed demons to one side. On the other, it looks like the demons have prudently fled down the alley to get out of the crashdown path. He can see the blue-tinged spin of Illyria harrying the stragglers, who are beginning to turn around to fight back.

Spike glances down at the wreck of the dragon, the up at Angel’s ferocious glower. He grins lopsidedly at Angel, and staggers to his feet, holding a hand over the stabbing pain of broken ribs. “Sorry, mate. I steal your thunder?” He doesn’t even try to sound the least repentant.

Angel reaches out—possibly to steady, possibly to shake; Spike can’t tell—and his fingers splay wide across Spike’s shoulders, digging into the muscle insistently as if seeking the solidity of bone underneath. Angel’s eyes blaze fiercely, all the resolute ice burned away. “Why do you always have to—”

Angel’s hands tighten even more, and he gives a sudden, unexpected yank. Spike finds himself stumbling forward against Angel’s body, clashing together from thigh to chest. He doesn’t even have time to twitch in surprise before Angel’s mouth comes down roughly over his, jarring and shocking and still somehow the opposite of both.

Angel’s lips are rain-wet and strong on Spike’s, demanding, pushing, provoking. The tip of Angel’s tongue thrusts at the seam of Spike’s lips persistently until Spike, a choked sound muffled in the back of his throat, opens to Angel and meets the intruding tongue with his own. For a moment their teeth crash together awkwardly before Spike tips his head to one side and slides into a wicked angle. He is only half-aware of one of his hands wrapping around the nape of Angel’s neck, the fine wet hairs there clinging to Spike’s skin, to crush Angel’s mouth even more firmly against his own. Spike feels his body work restlessly against Angel’s, all pain faded to background noise, rubbing and pressing with a stupefying friction, but he can’t quite bring himself to stop. It’s been so many years since they’ve touched each other like this, he’d almost forgotten what it felt like.

Angel finally tears himself away, drags in a deep, ragged breath, and goes on as if he never interrupted himself with Spike’s lips. “—try to take everything that’s mine? You’re a thoughtless, spoiled brat, and I should—” Angel runs aground there and pushes forcefully away from Spike to parry the incoming arc of a club.

Spike stumbles back, and looks around to see that the vanguard of the horde has reached them again while they were lost in each other. He snaps a slightly unsteady kick at the next attacker before he can offer, “Mixed message there, Peaches.”

“Shut up, Spike!” Angel snarls, not looking at him.

“And you. Melodramatic git.”

Yeah, so they’re all probably still going to die, and his ribs are throbbing with a nauseating ache. As Spike wheels around to fight back to back with Angel, he can feel the corners of his mouth quirking irrepressibly upwards anyway. He’s had worse days.

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