Midas

AUTHOR: Jennie
EMAIL: Jenexell_fic@yahoo.co.uk

DISCLAIMER: All stuff BtVS and A:ts belong to joss and co. I’m not making any money from this so don’t bother suing me.

RATING: R for graphically disturbing imagery.
SPOILERS: general up to the end of both series.

DISTRIBUTION: My Site www.livingindreams.co.uk/whisper You want it? Take it! Just tell me where!

SUMMARY: Post NFA - If silence was golden then Angel truly had the Midas touch.

PAIRING: S/A

Feedback: PLEASE.

 

 

Part One

 

November 2004

 

Spike slipped into the room with barely a sound. Stealth was something he’d perfected over the last hundred and twenty odd years although he wasn’t really the type to enjoy sneaking around. He much preferred crashing into places, large, loud and in your face; he’d done enough hiding before he’d died. But he wouldn’t even think of bursting in with a cacophony of sound now, not into this place. Not into this sanctuary of silence he’d painstakingly erected.

 

He moved over to the kitchen, his socked feet light as feathers on the bare wood floors. He’d left his boots in the car; they crunched the gravel outside, made the floorboards squeak and groan. His hands felt cramped and stiff from carrying the bags from the car, but he set them down gently on the kitchen counter, trying to avoid any kind of rustle. As soon as the bags were down Spike let out a long breath and flexed his hands, turning them upwards so he could examine the black lines that clawed out from barely healed scars on his wrists. A little less black today, a little more pink. He was healing; slowly.

 

Looking down into the bags, he scratched his head. Enough blood to last another night. There was no refrigerator here, no microwave, and no stove. He made a blood run everyday; it was a small price to pay for perfect silence, and it wouldn’t be forever. He hoped. He could remember noise, cheer and singing, but it all seemed like a life time away. So he held onto that hope more tightly than he had any other in his long existence. The hope that one day the silence would end, and that when it did, he wouldn’t be alone in the noise. Six months was long enough.

 

***************************************

May 20th 2004

 

“WEEEEEEE ARE THE CHAMPIONS AGAAAAAAAAAAIN!!! WEEEEE’LL KEEP ON FIGHTING TIIIIILLLLL THE END!!!!”

 

Spike threw open the doors to the Hyperion with a flourish, strutting inside and spinning round in circles, arms outstretched singing at the top of his voice.

 

“WEEEEEEE ARE THE CHAMPIONS!!!!! WEEEE ARE THE CHAMPIONS!!!!!!! NOOOOOOOOOOOO TIME FOR LOOOOOOOOOOSERS!!!! COZ WEEEEEEEEE ARE THE CHAMPIOOOOOOONS! OF THE WORLD!!!!!”

 

Angel laughed as he followed him in, a giddy smile on his face. Illyria followed a short way behind, her expression disdainful. 

 

Spike crowed gleefully and jumped up on the counter. “HA!!! That’ll teach ’em to mess with William the Bloody!! William the Bloody Marvellous!”

 

“William the bloody up himself more like it.” Angel laughed again.

 

“Oi! None of that! You’ll kill the buzz! WE WON!”

 

“That we did,” Angel nodded then his lips twitched as he failed to contain his own mirth. He walked over to the counter and leaned his back against it as Spike jumped down and copied his position. “We really did, didn’t we?”

 

“Well let me see… you’re not dust, I’m not dust, Blue’s… does she go dust?” Angel shrugged, so Spike continued. “We’re alive and they’re not, so I’d say we won. Plus, dragon? Very dead.”

 

Angel’s grin turned self satisfied. “Very, very dead.”

 

“You over estimate yourselves, Vampires.”

 

Both vampires turned to Illyria in surprise; they’d forgotten she was there.

 

“Ok I’ll bite. How exactly do we overestimate ourselves?” Spike snapped.

 

“You have lost half your number and the wolf ram and hart will send others. They have gained much power here; they will not give it up easily.” The smiles slipped from their faces as Illyria spoke, the truth crashing down on them. Wesley and Gunn, both gone.  Then as if reading their minds, or maybe just seeing the grief on their faces she spoke again. “There is no point to this petty celebration. I must search elsewhere to find relief for my grief.”

 

And with that she turned around and walked out of the door.

 

As the door clicked shut Angel seemed to lose control of his legs and he slid to the floor. Spike blinked a couple of times before he too seemed to run out of the requisite energy to remain on his feet and joined Angel on the floor.

 

“They’re all gone.” Angel said finally.

 

Spike said nothing just stared blankly ahead.

 

“I can’t believe…”

 

“Yeah…” Spike sighed.

 

“We should… We need to get cleaned up, and… we need a plan.” Angel said, starting off vaguely then gaining some determination. He nodded firmly and hauled himself to his feet, turning to face Spike and offering him a hand.

 

Spike drew a deep breath and took Angel’s hand, labouring to his feet. Looking at Angel he nodded, his face set then he spoke.

 

“Could use a drink too.”

 

***

 

It took a while but Angel finally found a bottle of Finest Irish single malt he’d hidden away a couple of years before. Spike rolled his eyes, but agreed to wait while Angel also found two unbroken glasses in the kitchen.

 

Sat on the dirty red couch below the main office window, they drank the first glass in silence. Then as Angel filled the second glass, Spike spoke.

 

“So…”

 

Angel tossed back his drink and poured another.

“Did you know you’re bleeding all over my couch?”

 

“Yeah, actually I did. Figured it wouldn’t show… red n’all.”

 

Angel didn’t reply just stood up and went into the office. He came back a minute later with a large first aid box.

 

“Take your shirt off and turn around.”

 

Spike downed his drink then Angel’s before complying. Angel stood there for a moment just staring at Spike’s shirtless back. Three long claw gashes from right shoulder blade to left hip, deep and bleeding freely. He took a deep breath through his nose. Thoughts unbidden and unwelcome stirring in cages long ago sealed and chained.

 

He settled himself on the couch behind Spike, placing the first aid kit that looked more like a mobile surgery than a place to store band aids, on the coffee table. He pulled a few things out; sutures, bandages, gauze, tape and an ointment for bruising Cordelia had sworn by and now more than ever he wanted to believe in because not doing so was one delusion shattered too many.

 

He poured himself a drink and drank it before he started. He had the strangest premonition that he’d need it.

 

OW!  Bloody 'ell!  Hey Mengala, how about not tryin' to pull my ass up through my shoulder, yeah?"

 

Angel snorted and clipped the end of the suture. “Stop being a baby Spike.”

 

Spike grit his teeth but kept quiet. Eventually Angel pulled back and surveyed his handy work. “There, you’re done.”

 

“What the hell were you using back there? A knitting needle and tow rope?” Spike hissed, pulling his shoulder round to look. Angel swatted his hands away with a stern glare.

 

“Stop it, you’ll pull the stitches.”

 

Spike pulled a face. “Last time I let you patch me up.”

 

“God, do you ever stop whining?”

 

“Don’t know? Do you ever stop being a total fucktard?”

 

“I’m not a…” Angel exclaimed then frowned. “What the hell is a fucktard?”

 

“Cross between a fuckwit and a retard,” Spike said with a dismissive wave of his hand. He’d been distracted by a stain on the front of Angel’s shirt. “What about you? You need anything patched?”

 

“No.” Angel said a little too quickly for Spike’s liking.

 

“Yeah, OK Angelus, let’s get you off your cross for a minute and take a look shall we?” he started to pull at Angel’s shirt, until eventually the older vampire relented with a sigh and pulled it over his head.

 

“See… no stitches required.” Angel huffed, grabbing his shirt back from Spike.

 

Spike just stared. It was true, there were no stitches required. There were signs of injury, serious injury, but they were healing. Healing fast, too fast. “You been nibbling on slayers without telling me or something mate?”

 

Angel looked embarrassed. Embarrassed and guilty. Spike’s eyes narrowed suspiciously.

 

“If the words Wolfram and Hart and Special stock cross your lips I will beat you within an inch of your life,” Spike murmured threateningly as he remembered the blood stock Harmony had let slip existed.

 

“Ummm… it’s not what you think.” Angel cringed.

 

“I’m listening.”

 

Angel sighed. “While I was fighting Hamilton…”

 

“And you can stop right there. You drank from the offspring of the senior partners?” Spike enunciated slowly. Angel nodded. “Can I call you a fucktard again now? Or can we skip that bit mate? Bloody hell… oh bloody hell. You know what? I’m going to call you a fucktard anyway.”

 

“Spike…”

 

“No… No, I need a minute here mate, coz this is serious. We’re talking about you drinkin’ from someone who is in essence, the child of Satan. That’s… well dumb. Probably the dumbest thing you have ever done.”

 

“It got me through the fight,” Angel pointed out.

 

“True… But let me put it another way. You have a habit of drinking from things that are the exact opposite of what you are and in doing so getting monumentally screwed. Case in point, one gypsy girl.”

 

“Spike, it’s not like the senior partners could give me another soul,” Angel sighed.

 

“No… but they could use this to take yours away.”

 

Angel snorted. “They wouldn’t bother, they just want me dead.”

 

Spike rubbed his eyes tiredly. “My ’ead hurts. This is all a bit much ya know?”

 

Angel nodded pouring and drinking three shots in a row. Spike grabbed the bottle from him and chugged a few long swallows straight from it.

 

“How long’s it been since we came in ’ere?” Spike asked after watching Angel look at the bottle for a few minutes.

 

“Two hours? Maybe three? Sun’s coming up.” Angel replied looking up at the windows.

 

“We alright here?” Spike asked, following his gaze.

 

“Sun doesn’t actually make it into the lobby much; too many other buildings around.”

 

“Handy.” Spike muttered then waved the bottle at Angel. “You got any more of this stuff? This one’s dead.”

 

A few Minutes later they were spread out on a couch each, two bottles of whisky on the table and a bottle each in hand. After ten minutes of silent intense drinking Angel pushed himself onto his side so he could see Spike on the other couch. Then he sighed and looked up at the ceiling. “I feel like I should be doing something.”

 

“Like what?” Spike asked, propping himself on his elbow.

 

“I don’t know… I just feel like… half of me is switched off. That I’m not really here.”

 

“Know what you mean… nothing seems real.”

 

“Can vampires suffer from shock?”

 

“Dunno… I know this is the first time in over hundred years I’m not spittin mad at you.”

 

“That’s… oddly comforting.” Angel replied. Then he frowned. “You know… I never stopped… thinking about you… and Dru and Penn. I was angry at Darla for a really long time, but I couldn’t help worrying about you. What you were doing, how you were, if you were ok.”

 

“You had a funny way of showin’ it mate. Every time we met in the last century you’ve tried to kill me.”

 

“I didn’t try to kill you on the submarine.”

 

“No… I’m not wrong. I distinctly remember being thrown out in the middle of the ocean two hours from sunrise.”

 

“I knew you’d make land. And see, I was right.”

 

“I couldn’t swim, Angelus.”

 

“Oh… sorry.” Angel cringed. He hadn’t known that. “Why didn’t I know that?”

 

“Because you never asked?” Spike offered but without any kind of malice. “Just a thought, but what’s with the sharing all of a sudden?”

 

“I just… Thought you should know… you know,” Angel stumbled.

 

“And this sudden desire to share before our impending demise didn’t strike you yesterday? You know, that other day we knew was our last.”

 

Angel couldn’t actually find an answer to that.

 

Spike could have read a lot into the silence, but instead he just seemed to bypass it. “It would have been nice to know… dunno why… I think I would have preferred that to…”

 

Angel looked over at the blond. “To what?... What did you do yesterday?”

 

Spike groaned. “I went to an open mike night at a biker bar and read poetry.”

 

Angel blinked. That had been something deeply personal. He looked back at the ceiling. “I went to see my son.”

 

“And oddly enough, you saying you have a son does not surprise me.” Spike said with genuine confusion rather than sarcasm. He thought about it and then said. “The super brat. The one who got a hard on for blue. He’s your son.”

 

“You knew?” Angel asked in shock.

 

“No… I just feel like I should have. It makes sense… I remember thinking that he looked like you, smelt like you… then he had Darla’s eyes. She is the mum right?”

 

“Yeah… this is weird.”

 

“You think it’s weird? I’ve just worked out I knew you had a son and I’m not surprised.” Spike huffed. “You got any other little tit bits you feel like sharing?”

 

“Err no? You?”

 

Spike thought about it and then he said. “I didn’t get my soul on purpose. I went to get the chip out.”

 

Angel took a minute to digest this information. “Do you regret it? The soul?”

 

Spike frowned. “Sometimes. Sometimes I forget you know? Forget how much things can hurt now. Then I regret it.”

 

Angel nodded. There was a feeling in the air. Like now as they languished in numbness it was the time to let out all the little secrets that had been niggling at them. All the little hurts and lies and distorted truths.

 

Angel took a deep breath. “I tried to get rid of mine once. It’s kinda how Connor happened.”

 

“Lucky you it didn’t work,” Spike observed. He felt it too, the safety net of ambivalence. “Just before the soul… I tried to rape Buffy.”

 

Angel pursed his lips; he felt like he should be reacting to that, but couldn’t actually bring himself to exert the effort. Instead he asked softly. “What happened?

 

Spike glared at a particularly offensive crack in the ceiling. “She fought me off. I left town.”

 

Then the confessions just came. Torrents of little things and the occasional big thing. Indiscretions overlooked, motives embellished. Self glorifications exaggerated in their constant battle of one-up-man-ship. A constant stream of words eased along by strong spirits and empty souls. Still the numbness prevailed. That was until Angel said three words that sent Spike reeling.

 

“I missed you.”

 

“What?!?”

 

Angel sighed; he was more than a little drunk now, but no less sincere. “I missed you. All these years, I missed you. Missed what we used to have.”

 

“What we had was a dirty little affair you were too ashamed to acknowledge,” Spike spat. Something other than numbness was starting to burn, but he wasn’t sure yet if it wasn’t just Dutch courage.

 

“You can’t forgive that can you?” Angel whispered.

 

“I don’t know.” Spike sighed. “Give me a reason, doesn’t matter if it’s a lie just give me a reason why you never acknowledged me, not then, and not now.”

 

Angel nodded wearily. “Then is easy. Darla would have killed you. Not because she was jealous, she just hated homosexuals, even if they were vampires. Now… would you have wanted me to? Really? You said it once yourself, you outgrew me.”

 

Spike’s lips pursed. “I think I said surpassed.”

 

Angel shrugged. “Same result in the end. And for the record I was never ashamed of you, even after my soul, I was always proud of you. You can hate me all you like, Spike, you can deny that I’m even your sire.” He shot Spike a pointed look. “We’ve seen more of each other in the last decade than we did the hundred years that came before and in that time you’ve tried to kill me more times than I can count. Almost succeeded three times. You’ve become a trusted friend and ally of people I tried desperately just to connect to. Every time we’ve spoken, you’ve belittled, insulted and undermined me. You’ve slept with the only woman I’ve ever loved and you’ve rubbed that fact in my face everyday you’ve been here in LA. You stole my mission, my hope and my belief in myself, just to prove you were better than me when I could have just told you. You left me with just my pride and my pride wouldn’t let me tell you. And now… it doesn’t even matter anymore.”

 

Spike closed his eyes and let the words rattle around his head for a moment. The fledgling that exists in every vampire bounced around the corners of his mind in excited glee at the praise yet cowered slightly at the knowledge of having slighted its sire. The master in him scoffed scornfully and the man… the man bit his tongue until everyone else had shut up.

 

After a few minutes, Spike took a pull on his bottle and sagged back onto his couch. Angel seemed to have folded inwards after his long speech and was laid out on his couch his own bottle held in the crook of his arm, his forehead pinched between thumb and forefinger like he was trying to squeeze out a headache. It started with a huff, and then Spike found himself letting out a series of huffing bursts that could have been laughter between incredulous shakes of the head.

 

“Great,” Angel sighed, pulling his hand down across his face. “Can’t you take anything seriously?”

 

“Didn’t you ever wonder why?” Spike asked in a quietly disbelieving voice before releasing another burst of huffs and taking another long drink.

 

Angel sighed wearily and scratched the back of his head. “Why what?”

 

“Why I hated you. Why I did all those things. Why I could.”

 

“I’m not an idiot; I know why you hate me, Spike” Angel replied.

 

“I used to worship you,” Spike said bluntly. Angel rolled his head to the side so he could see the blond; he couldn’t help but notice how tired he looked, but he could imagine that he looked much the same. Spike swung his feet up on the coffee table and titled his head back so he was staring at the ceiling. “I used to think like you’d hung the bloody moon. I wanted to be just like you. And you… I never knew where I was with you. One minute you were pullin’ me into dark allies to screw me ’gainst a wall, next you make like you’d willin’ly tread in dog shit if it got you away from me quicker.”

 

“That’s not true,” Angel interjected quietly but firmly.

 

Spike snorted. “Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. But I deserved more from you. I deserved a little respect. If you couldn’t treat me like a lover, you should have at least treated me like someone you could stand.”

 

“It tore me apart,” Angel admitted. “Knowing what she’d do to both of us if she found out. It made me so angry. And sometimes I hated you for it, because…”

 

“Because?” Spike prodded.

 

Angel took a deep breath. “Because Darla always taught me that Vampires couldn’t love, but you could and… every time you walked into a room I couldn’t even look at you in case she found out that I could too.”

 

Spike’s jaw clenched as he continued his in depth study of the ceiling. There was another decidedly offensive crack a little to the left and he glared at it.

 

“Who started these tiresome games we play?” He whispered solemnly.

 

Angel, who had also taken up a study of the ceiling, sighed. “I don’t know, Will.”

 

Spike’s head snapped down to look at Angel, his brow marked with a frown. It had been a lifetime at least since Angel had called him that. He got unsteadily to his feet and moved round to the other couch, studiously ignoring that Angel was just as studiously ignoring his approach. Then before the older vampire had time to object, he was straddling his lap.

 

“Wha…!?” Angel started in surprise, but Spike put a finger to his lips.

 

“No, it’s my turn.”

 

Angel pursed his lips and watched him silently.

 

“The thing is mate, I’m so angry at you most of the time I can barely stand the sight of you. I’m sick of it. Sick and tired of fighting you and playing these silly games we play because we’re both too stupid to give them up.” He paused, taking a shallow breath through his nose. “You should have told me all this stuff a hundred odd years ago and maybe I should have spoken up sooner, but we didn’t and now we’re here. The world as we know it is gone, Angelus. We’re dead men walkin’ and I don’t mean coz we’re vampires. If that second wave comes we won’t be standing at the end of it. We were lucky last night, we had Blue and Gunn and you playin’ Popeye with Hamilton brand spinach. It’s just us now, just us against the worst the worst can send.” Spike glanced away from Angel’s face and sighed tiredly. “And the scariest part is… I really don’t care. I’m tired of it, all of it.”

 

Spike went to move off Angel but he sat up, a hand on Spike’s thigh keeping the other vampire from moving. Once he was sitting, he raised his hands to Spike’s face and cupped his cheek. When he spoke his words were whispered but gut wrenchingly heartfelt. “I’m just as tired as you are, Spike. I’m tired of fighting, tired of hurting, tired of living. But I don’t want to die not knowing…”

 

“Not knowing what?” Spike whispered back, their faces only inches apart, the gap getting smaller without either consciously meaning it to.

 

“If you’ll let me do this.”

 

Spike chose that moment to forget how to breathe. Angel’s lips were just how he remembered them but with none of the harshness that had come before. His hands groped for Angel’s shoulders then crawled his fingers up to tangle in the soft downy hair at the nape of the older Vampire’s neck. The kiss deepened, neither willing to break the contact and both grateful that they didn’t need to breathe.

 

Angel’s hands were doing some wandering of their own, skirting around his injured back and coming to rest on his waist, caressing and kneading the skin. Spike began to push Angel back down onto the couch and Angel let himself be guided. A small act of surrender that had monumental significance to them both.

 

This was it, their first and last time together in a century. Their first and last meeting as equals. As Angel’s hands started to claw at the waist band of Spike’s jeans, the blond broke the kiss and reared up. They were both still shirtless from earlier and Spike took a second to rake his gaze down the perfect chest that had changed so little in over a hundred years.

 

“What are we doing?”

 

Angel looked up at him and Spike moaned. He’d seen those eyes determined, hateful, angry, and lust glazed, but he’d never seen them as they were now. They shone with love and trust and pride, but they were dulled by desperate fear and hopelessness.  He was seeing his sire at his most vulnerable. The battle and their confessions had stripped them both bare and now as he looked into Angel’s eyes he knew he was seeing a mirror of his own. The past no longer mattered and there was no future.

 

Angel reached up and pulled him down so their lips were barely touching. “Does it matter?”

 

“No,” Spike whispered in reply. When their lips met again they both knew the time for words had passed; all that was left was need and no words could ever articulate the desperate need to drive away the fear of tomorrow that was suffocating them today. They rolled, forgetting the narrow couch they’d been precariously perched on. Spike’s back hit the floor and he hissed, arching into Angel to escape the pain. Angel’s arm shot out, violent moving the coffee table out of their way and they were rolling again, Spike regaining control and finding himself lying between Angel’s thighs.

 

Hands moved frantically as their lips and tongues continued to duel. They broke only briefly as pants were shed hastily, but even that tiny moment of time seemed too much and they pounced on each other as soon as they were free.  Spike trailed kisses along Angels jaw and throat, pausing to lick and nibble. Angel ached helplessly below him, his hand clinging to Spike as he surrendered to the skilful mouth of his youngest and dearest childe.

 

Spike continued to journey lower, feeling Angel’s need dragging along his stomach as his lips trailed across soft skin. His lips closed around a pert nipple making Angel buck up into him. Angel moaned loudly as lips changed to teeth that tugged then a cool tongue that soothed. Spike began to feel high on the power he now had. He knew this surrender had not been of his own making but came from Angel’s utter defeat, but he didn’t feel he’d been robbed of its personal import. Had he been anyone else, perhaps even Buffy, Angel would have kept his masks, but for him, for Spike, he had let his defences down.

 

“Spike please.”

 

Spike let go of the nipple he had been torturing and looked up. Angel laid spread below him, a banquet to be devoured, his head thrown back, his chest rising in sharp pants. He knew, without doubt, he could do whatever he wanted to Angel now and Angel would let him. Again the three major parts of his self splintered in different directions at that revelation. The fledgling watched on curiously, unsure and confused, weeping slightly at seeing its fallen god. The master crowed and cheered; revelling in its victory and salivating at the thoughts of what it could now do with its newfound power. And the man… the man begged he not take advantage of such vulnerability.

 

***************************************

 

Part 2

 

November 2004

 

Spike sighed and pressed his forehead to the cool wood of one of the kitchen cabinets, his hands lying flat on the counter. He was half tempted to bang his head against the cabinet repeatedly to dispel the images that were now floating around his mind, but that would cause noise and noise was something that couldn’t exist here.

 

The trouble was that a tiny niggling voice in his head told him that he had taken advantage that night. It wasn’t about who topped whom, although breaking that small part of vampire lore he was sure was going to come and bite him in the ass one day, no it was that he’d let it happen at all. What had happened between them was so very human; they’d been two frightened men trying to take comfort in the familiar as their worlds crumbled around them, but he couldn’t help but wonder, what if. What if he hadn’t let it happen? Would he have been awake and aware enough to stop what happened later? If he’d been able to act sooner, could he have saved Angel?

 

No, there was no point to this speculation. He hadn’t been and what had come after had happened. He’d woken to find Angel writhing in agony, his face lying in a pool of black vomit. The stench had been horrific, like rot and burnt flesh. He’d tried to feed Angel his own blood, they’d come too far the night before for him to lose Angel now. But the dark vampire hadn’t been able to hold anything down.

 

That went on for hours until Angel finally fell unconscious. When he woke he seemed groggy but better and they’d both thought it was over. Angel had, rather hoarsely explained what he thought was wrong. Hamilton’s blood. Spike couldn’t help but agree; he doubted even a vampire could stomach the blood of something born of the senior partners. He’d ranted then, let rip with a stream of verbal abuse. At Angel for his stupidity, at the powers for being so fucking screwed up, at the partners for existing and humanity for needing people like him and Angel to fight their battles. Angel had listened with a kind of tired, fond tolerance. That’s what Spike remembered; Angel just sitting there watching him rant and rave and not once even attempting to argue or intervene.

 

How he wished Angel had argued back, But wishing was fruitless, he had things he needed to do.

 

He needed a drink, something with caffeine; his life may be silent, but it was exhausting. There was a camping stove and kettle in the small lean-to outside, but there was something he had to do before he could make a cuppa and relax for the night.

 

He considered calling out but there was little point so he moved from the kitchen out into the small living room. He didn’t need to speak; he could see there was no one here. He moved on, through a narrow door and into a bedroom, the only bedroom in the tiny log cabin. There was a small sound, just on the edge of hearing, like someone trying to choke up something very, very quietly. So the bathroom it was, and plastering on a braver face than he felt, Spike moved to stand against the door frame.

 

Angel leant over the sink, his hands braced on either side. His face was screwed up with pain and his too thin body would tense, shudder and finally a trickle of black fluid would dribble from his mouth and into the sink. Spike watched this cycle through twice before he stepped into the room, running his hand carefully up Angel’s back.

 

His fingers brushed over the bandages that covered open sores, and between them the patches of once perfect flawless skin was clammy and marred with a lattice work of evil looking black lines. Spike couldn’t remember when he’d started to call the effects of Hamilton’s blood the “rot”, but the name was incredibly accurate. Angel was rotting away before his eyes.

 

Sometimes he couldn’t believe how naive they’d been. They’d both honestly thought that once Angel had expelled the vile blood from his system that everything would get better. It hadn’t, instead it got far worse. It started with the sore throat not clearing up, then coughing, nosebleeds, stomach pain, headaches and ear ache. He’d joked, actually joked, that Hamilton had given Angel flu. Angel hadn’t found it that funny, but then he’d known even then that it was worse than it seemed. Hamilton’s blood had left its mark. It was like a virus, first contact burnt and corroded the flesh, and then the infection set in.

 

It started in his stomach, and from there it spread to his throat, lungs, mouth and ears. There were three days between throat and ears. Spike could clearly remember that, because when it reached the throat Angel stopped talking, and when it reached his ears his world became built around silence. Silence because even the slightest noise was agony, because even a whisper caused pain. Even the back ground sounds of LA had been too much and Spike had taken Angel and fled.

 

They’d fled here, to this tiny mountain cabin in the middle of nowhere, where even the wildlife was sparse and the nearest town was an hour drive away.

 

Angel had sagged visibly at the first touch of Spike’s hand on his back and the blonde continued his soothing ministrations until Angel’s shoulders tensed as a clear signal he should step back. He hated to, but Spike moved away. Angel straightened with some effort; standing upright it was even clearer how much weight he’d lost through this whole ordeal. His sweat pants, that once fitted him perfectly, now had the draw string pulled so tight to keep them on that the extra length of cord hung to mid thigh.

 

Angel fished under the sink and came back up with a large bottle spray of anti-bacterial cleaning fluid. Spike wasn’t sure how much good it would do, but didn’t complain at buying a new bottle of the concentrate and mixing up the solution nearly every week. It was just one of the things he did now; like using surgical gloves if Angel was in too much of a state to clean himself up and making sure he kept his and Angel’s mugs separate. Small, probably useless efforts to keep Angel’s sanity, because Angel blamed himself enough.

 

***************************************

July 2004

 

Spike leant against the door frame of their small bedroom and watched Angel sleep, rubbing his sore wrist absently as he did. He looked peaceful just lying there, like he hadn’t a care in the world, like he wasn’t… dying.

 

As Spike watched him he couldn’t help but feel like he’d let Angel down. For a little while it really looked like he’d been slowing the progress of the rot down, possibly even reversed some of the damage. Just two weeks ago Angel had hoarsely said his name, although he’d twitched and cringed at the sound.

 

Childe’s blood, nowhere near as potent as Sire’s blood true, but the blood of family always had healing properties and Angel couldn’t stomach anything else. The first time he’d fed him pig after they got to the cabin, Angel had taken a violent turn for the worse, so they’d stuck with his blood. But despite its healing qualities, Angel had spent most of his time drifting in and out of sleep, barely awake when he was awake, and fidgeting almost deliriously when he was asleep. It had worn them both out, and maybe that was why everything got worse.

 

Spike sighed and glanced at his wrist. He’d been scratching again. Angry red welts surrounded the torn skin from where the bites hadn’t been healing, and below that, black clawed its angry lines through every vein and capillary between mid forearm and palm. His feeding Angel may have helped Angel recover some, but in return, the infection had spread to him.

 

And now he was torn, feeling selfish and mean because he’d seen this more than a week ago, and he’d been weaning Angel back onto pigs blood ever since. Without his blood, Angel was increasingly more aware and awake, no longer slipping in and out of what Spike had hoped was healing sleep. Not that Angel being more awake was a problem, it was just that it was easier to do things, and therefore make noise, when he was asleep.

 

And now there was a bigger problem. Over this last ten days, Spike had noticed a decline in feeling in his hands, so much so he was getting clumsy. But he couldn’t be sure that it wasn’t just fatigue, so he had set himself up a little test.

 

Slipping out of the bedroom he moved to the kitchen and grabbed a carrier bag from the counter before moving to the front door and out onto the porch. Placing the carrier bag on the small table he sat down and carefully pulled out three boxes of a dozen eggs. Now, he’d had a good night sleep last night for once, and if it was fatigue then this little challenge should be no problem at all.

 

***

Angel woke to the sound of something smashing outside. He shuddered and rolled into the spot he hoped Spike would be. The occasional animal interrupted their perfect isolation, and as much as he hated the neediness of the act, he could find small comfort in curling into Spike until the noises passed. Only this time, Spike wasn’t there.

 

Panic raged through his system and he scrambled clumsily from the bed. Stumbling through the living room he reached the front door and huffed a relieved breath. Spike was still there, he hadn’t left.

 

To his own continuing shame, over the last weeks the fear that Spike would leave had become almost unbearable. Not that he would blame him for going, not even Drusilla had been as much of a burden to the blond. Angel knew that he was now totally and utterly dependant on Spike, but that wasn’t the main driving force behind the fear.

 

Before the soul he’d fallen in love with William for his fire and determination, his startling looks and wickedly provocative mind, now, both with souls, he’d fallen all over again. But this time he wasn’t afraid to show it, to try and communicate with every look and touch how much the blond meant to him. He only hoped one day he could tell him, properly; that he would one day fight off whatever it was that was ravaging his body and tell him all the things his pride hadn’t let him say over the last century and he hadn’t been able to express before his voice had been lost to him. His only solace was that Spike seemed to know, that he returned each small smile or caress with one of his own in a mutual show of silent understanding.

 

If Spike left now, he didn’t think he’d be strong enough to fight at all.

 

Standing in the cabin’s doorway, an amused smile crossed his face as he watched Spike. The younger vampire didn’t seem to know he was there and just as well, because whatever he was doing, whatever game he had invented to while away the long silent ours was sure to embarrass him when he realised he was being watched. Just standing here watching Spike’s single minded determination was enough to chase all the pain from his ailing body and Angel felt like he could just stop the world right in that moment and keep it. Spike sitting on the porch, taking an egg from the box with extreme care and holding it over a bag until it broke, his brow furrowed in concentration. By god he wished he had a camera or a pencil and paper to capture this innocent moment.

 

But the innocence didn’t last. With a soft curse as the next egg broke, Spike snarled and wiped his hand on his jeans before reaching for an egg with his other hand. As he raised his arm Angel choked and stumbled back against the door, his eyes fixed on the damaged wrist. Spike froze and very slowly looked up to where Angel stood looking down at him in horror.

 

Angel couldn’t believe his eyes; his jaw trembled as a myriad of emotions crashed through him. Spike was infected, he’d infected Spike. Not only had he forced the role of carer on this rampant free spirit, but now he was killing him as well. He didn’t need to look down to know that the lines on Spike’s wrist were like the ones that crawled all across his own body, every vein and artery in his torso, arms and neck blackened and swollen. He couldn’t take his eyes away from Spike’s wrist anyway. Spike was infected, he’d infected Spike, and Spike hadn’t told him.

 

As Spike stood slowly, his face a mask of worry and apology, a blinding flash of insight hit the sickly vampire. Spike had known for some time. Betrayal, his of Spike, and Spike of him, anger and hurt; desperate love and utter devastation warred for dominance. Spike was reaching to him and he couldn’t bare the thought of touching him, couldn’t see why Spike would want his touch anyway. As tears blurred his vision he fled back into the house, desperate to escape everything that was going on. He was tired, weak and couldn’t handle this, not right now.

 

Spike was quicker off the mark though. He’d seen Angel ready to bolt and as he did shot after him. He could see every emotion on the once stoic face and knew they matched his own. This was the last thing Angel needed, and he’d hoped to keep it from him. It was a foolish hope, and now all he wanted was to be able to tell him it would be alright, that he didn’t blame him, and that it wasn’t his fault. But there could be no words, and as he grabbed Angel and knocked him to the ground, all he could do was hold him as the tears came. Silent sobs of utter heartache.

 

***************************************

 

Part Three

 

November 2004

 

Angel leant heavily on the sink with one hand as he wiped round the basin using a cloth in the other. He could feel Spike staring holes into his back, knew the blonde thought his efforts were fruitless and pointless, but kept going anyway. Spike would think it was pig headedness or maybe paranoia, but Spike didn’t know. He didn’t know what the rot felt like, not really. Not the constant tearing pain through every inch of skin, muscle and tissue. Not the fear.

 

Fear of what would fail next. Fear of his own body. Fear of sound, movement and touch. Fear of complete dependence, and fear of abandonment. Fear of losing what he had only just found again. Fear of dying and what he knew lay beyond.

 

Fear like the night he’d found out Spike was infected. Even back then, all of four months ago, seeing those lines on Spike’s skin had been terrifying. The thought of Spike being chipped away at by this disease… it was horrifying. He didn’t deserve that, not the pain or the weakness, not the nausea or the slow persistent sensation of your own body failing you degrees. Even back then the pain and the fear had been what he thought was unbearable. If only he’d known then what he knew now.

 

So the next night he’d started this mission. Angel knew he wasn’t capable of much, but he’d be damned if he’d let Spike suffer. He knew he was selfish, knew that he should just make Spike leave, go out into the world and find a cure for himself. After more than 250 years of immortality, even the thought seemed alien. He was dying. And if he knew nothing else, he knew that by not pushing Spike away then he would break his heart when his body finally gave up. But he couldn’t do it, couldn’t bring himself to push away the comfort Spike’s mere presence brought. Some days he really thought he could, tried hard to push him away. But it seemed pigheaded stubbornness was something they shared, and Spike always stayed, always rode out the storm. So Spike remained and would watch him die but he would make sure he did not follow him.

 

He’d set to work. It was pretty clear where the infection had spread from. Mouth and blood; everything that made contact with either, could not make contact with Spike. He’d systematically bagged and binned every mug and glass in the house that night, along with the towels in the bathroom, the toothpaste, both their toothbrushes, and all the spoons from the kitchen draws (Spike had fed him ice cream one night, hoping it would ease his throat, but now he didn’t know which spoon he’d used, so they all had to go.) When Spike had woken and joined him in the kitchen, he’d watched first in disbelief and then tried to help. That night the shame, fear and heartache had still been so strong that Angel hadn’t been able to look at him. Instead he’d sent him into to town with a carefully drawn out list. Disinfectant, surgical gloves, those little yellow bio-hazard bags for medical waste, antiseptic wipes, new clothes, hand and bath towels so they didn’t have to share, two new tubes of toothpaste, two new toothbrushes, and new mugs for their blood.

 

Spike had hesitated on seeing the list, and then shrugged in acceptance. When he’d leaned in to give him the by then customary kiss before he headed into town, Angel had shied away. As he did, he’d seen heartache that matched his own in the blonde’s face. Everything had changed.

 

Angel paused for a second, hanging his head as he fought against the tears. God, he wanted to cry; to curl up into a corner and sob and wail and just let the damn rot take him be done with it! But he wouldn’t, not now and not ever if he had any choice in it. He’d made a decision and in the long run it had been the right one. At first it seemed like bolting the stable door after the horse had bolted, but Spike’s wrists had begun to heal. Whatever rot was in his wrists was localised and small, and his body was fighting back. With each day he saw the black recede and hoped he would be around to see it gone altogether. So yes, in the long run he had been right, but the on a base, emotional and needy level, the changes in their relationship made him long for simpler days.

 

After the fight, and until Spike had become infected they had still been – to the best of their abilities – lovers. But now that just wasn’t possible. It had been hard at first, resisting the urge to touch and hold, to kiss and be kissed back. But the risk was too great, and there could be no more intimacy between them than embraces, innocent caresses and closed mouthed kisses. He imagined it was still a battle for Spike; sometimes when he woke, he could feel Spike’s need pressing into him and knew when he left the bed to go and make a cup of tea in the lean-to outside, he’d gone to find a different form of relief to caffeine and milk. Part of him wondered if Spike left the bed because he needed the distance to conjure the beautiful and immortal ghosts from his mind to find that relief, rather than the by looking at the decaying corpse laying in the bed next to him. But the larger part of him was grateful. Grateful that even if the images in Spike’s mind were of other times, or even other people, Spike didn’t push the issue. That Spike left him to his pretence of sleep, and never picked him up on it, that he always returned to their bed and wrapped his arms around him to chase away the doubts. And that he hadn’t noticed that Angel’s body was failing to the extent that even without the risk of infection, he couldn’t be the lover he had promised to be after that first passionate morning on the Hyperion floor.

 

Angel tiredly ran a hand over his face and tried to push away the emotions which were begging to be released. He cringed as pain shot through his ears as he sniffed. He needed to sort himself out before he turned to face Spike, not that the blonde wouldn’t see all he’d been thinking in just one look anyway. That was the one amazing thing that had come from their silent life. Without the words that had always stood stark and angry between them, Angel felt he actually knew Spike now. Not the obscure mix of gentle poet and Buffy’s nemesis turned lover that he’d thrown together in his mind in the months at Wolfram & Hart, but the real Spike, the souled demon as he was now. And the same could be said in reverse. Where once Spike seemed unable to pick up on even the most obvious indicators to his mood, now he thought Spike could read him like a book.  

 

With a final shake of his shoulders, Angel turned and faced Spike. The blonde watched his face for a moment before offering him a small smile, which Angel gladly returned before reaching out his hand for Spike to take. One look into those eyes and he felt lifted, loved and the weight of depression that had been building since Spike had left for town earlier slipped away.

 

Spike nodded and stepped forward, snagging Angel’s fingers and pulling him into a hug. He’d watched the tense back as Angel leant over the sink with concern, but knew better that to approach. To Angel, the cleaning ritual was sacrosanct, and Spike knew to interrupt it would send the frail vampire into a tizzy of concern and worry. So he’d waited, and watched for the signal that let him know Angel felt he was safe to be close to again. As he ran his hands up and down Angel’s back he could feel the tremors coursing through his body. He got weaker every day; standing took more effort, the pain in his rotting body less easy to hide. Some days were better than others, like today, where Angel willingly got out of bed and could stand his touch on his over sensitized skin, other days feeding was an issue, or getting out of bed. Some days, Angel barely woke at all.

 

Pulling back from the embrace, Spike nuzzled into the slightly chemical smelling hand that came up to stroke his cheek. This was a very good day it seemed. Open affection from Angel was a sign of a decent mood and less pain. Oh he’d seen in the rigid posture and bowed head that indicated Angel was deep into a brood, but Spike also knew that Angel’s mood could turn on a dime. A sudden new jolt of pain could send him pin wheeling into depression, while a look, a flower picked on the walk back to the cabin or just the uncracking of a stiff joint could spin him in the other direction.

 

Raising his hands, he took a second to mask the feelings on what he was about to do and signed to Angel.

 

“How are you?”

 

Angel just shrugged. But off Spike’s stern look returned to leaning against the sink before signing his reply.

 

“My back hurts”

 

Spike nodded. His lower back had been aching for days now. And if it was bad enough for it to register above the constant deterioration then it must be agony. He wished there was something he could do, but all their experiments with pain killers had either made Angel violently sick or just plain failed. But at least now Angel could tell him what was wrong, even if he was helpless to help. It was the one good thing that had come from what he considered his worst betrayal. Hot pokers for a ring seemed like small fry compared to what he’d done the night the silence had become too much to bear.

 

***************************************

 

July 2004

 

Spike huffed impatiently as he waited for the manager of the town’s small bookstore to come back from the store room. It had been a bad night, and the sun had only sunk below the horizon less than an hour before. It seemed that everything that evening had conspired against him.

 

It had been a rough day. Angel hadn’t been able to settle, keeping them both awake for hours.  By the time he could smell dusk coming he’d been exhausted and cranky. Thankfully though, Angel had finally slipped into sleep.

 

But the evening just seemed to build on a bad day. First as he’d been dressing, the zipper had broken on his jeans and he’d had to bite the inside of his lip to stop from cursing and waking Angel. Then not wanting to miss the stores in town, he’d been rushing and had dropped his mug of blood in the kitchen. Vampire reflexes had stopped the cup reaching the floor, but blood had still splattered all over and as he stood he’d whacked his head into the counter.

 

Things had started to look marginally better as he’d walked in just his socks from the house to the where he’d parked Angel’s lovingly restored Plymouth (works and repairs paid for courtesy of Wolfram & Hart). It was a nice night, and despite the gravel it wasn’t a bad walk. The tunes on the radio had been mediocre on the trip into town, but still there were a couple he knew all the words to, so he managed to vent a little by singing along. But then the night from hell had returned full force.

 

Getting out of the car, he’d yelped and dropped back into his seat as sharp pain bit into the soles of his feet. Gravel from the track from the cabin to the car had become hooked into the weave of his socks, which were now, tightly laced into his boots. Twenty minutes wasted, unlacing his boots, picking out the gravel, and re-lacing them again had meant that he’d rushed into the butchers just as the store owner was about to lock up. She’d been put out and surly as she served him, grumbling constantly about irresponsible young people. Both comments only served to fuel Spike’s ire, tending for Angel was in his opinion not something that could be considered irresponsible behaviour, and he was feeling far from young, each and every one of his one hundred and twenty four years hanging round his neck like a lead weight.

 

The next stop was the bookstore. There was less of a rush here, what he needed from the bookstore wasn’t all that urgent, well not in comparison to blood, and it closed half an hour later than the butchers. He’d had a number of books on order for some time, books that could very well change their lives, and very much for the better. The only problem was, the store manager couldn’t remember where he’d put them when they arrived. And that lead to why he was standing at the counter, contemplating how many different ways he knew how to kill someone with a book.

 

Finally the manager came back and rang up the sale. Spike gave a tense smile as he handed over the cash and stiffly walked away, the handle of the carrier-bag squeezed tight in his clenched fist. Throwing the bag on the backseat of the car next to the one from the butchers, Spike slipped in behind the wheel, not bothering with the door just vaulting over the side. With a squeal of tires he was headed back to the cabin and hopefully to a restful evening curled up with Angel, going over the books he’d just paid way too much for.

 

Parking the car once again a mile from the cabin, the slow barefoot uphill march did nothing to improve Spike’s ever deteriorating mood. By the time he pushed through the front door of the cabin he was limping, a stray stone having caught him unaware, and he fumed silently as he marched into the kitchen and dropped off the blood bags. Turning to re-enter the living room he saw Angel watching him speculatively from the couch, and a strange sense of foreboding trickled icily down his spine.

 

He purposely straightened his shoulders, and with far less tact than he would later like to remember, he thrust the package at Angel and stood waiting for his response.

 

Angel carefully eyed the carrier-bag wrapped books that had been unceremoniously thrust into his hands then back up at Spike. Seeing a slight twitch in the blonde’s eye he quickly looked back down again and pulled the bag away.

 

Spike watched Angel’s face carefully as he read the covers. “Universal Sign Language for Beginners,” “Linguistics in Signing” “Dictionary of British Sign Language” and a whole host of other titles that should in essence teach anyone how to sign. But Angel kept looking down.

Spike’s jaw began to tick at the lack of response. It had been a hellish day and a hellish night and the least Angel could do was acknowledge the effort he’d put into making their lives a little easier. But still Angel remained statue still on the couch.

When he did look up, Spike either couldn’t or wouldn’t interpret what he saw. The look on Angel’s face was there for only a bare moment before he shuttered. Carefully laying the books down on the couch, he stood and stiffly walked away, entering the bedroom. As Spike picked up the tiny sound of the lock sliding home his fragile hold on his temper snapped. Hefting one of the heavier books from the couch he threw it with pin point accuracy at the door, screaming out a shout of pure fury and frustration to all and any who could hear.

 

“FucKING BITCH!!!”

 

Turning on his heel, his demon face to the fore as more evidence of his complete loss of control, Spike stormed out into the night.

 

***

 

The Plymouth careened through the night, swerving all over the road in tune with its driver’s fury. The roads were thankfully empty as Spike disobeyed every rule of the road in his desperate flight from his own rage. Yanking the car off the road and onto a dirt track, he obliviously drove up towards a beauty spot he’d seen listed on the maps, but would be deserted at this time of night. Finally coming to the end of the track, the car skidded to a halt in a cloud of dust and Spike leapt out before that dust had even begun to settle.

 

Pacing away from the car he suddenly spun and kicked the wing mirror from the driver’s side.

 

“YOU FUCKING ARSEHOLE! YOU BLOODY MORONIC SELFISH UPTIGHT GIT FACED WANK STAIN!” Throwing his head up to the sky he continued his unheard tirade. “WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU WANT FROM ME!!!??? HAVEN’T I BEEN FUCKED ABOUT ENOUGH THIS CENTURY???!!! WHAT’S NEXT YOU WANKERS!!!??? HOW ARE YOU GONNA PISS ON ME NEXT??? I SAVED THE FUCKING WORLD!!! I FOUGHT THE BLEEDIN HORDES!!! I HOLD HIM! I BATHE HIM!! I FEED HIM!! WHAT THE HELL DO YOU WANT!!!???... WELL I’VE HAD IT!!! THAT’S IT!! THIS FAR AND NO FURTHER!!! YOU WANT A CHAMPION GO FIND SOMEONE ELSE COZ I’M DONE YOU HEAR!! DONE!!!”

 

Sagging, Spike moved round to sit on the hood of the Plymouth, but could only sit still for so long before he jumped up once again, moving round to give one of the wheels a good kick. “I can’t bloody do this anymore!” The hub came away with the third kick and rattled tinnily on the ground. An insane giggle suddenly surged up and out as Spike watched the disc with cat like eyes. “ooooh… bad Spike!!! Making SO… MUCH… NOISE!!! Well who’s gonna stop me!!??”

 

Stepping back to take a run up, Spike leapt high in the air, landing heavily on the hood of the Plymouth, denting the metal work. “WELL??? I guess no one is!!!” Leaning over the wind shield, Spike pushed a CD into the CD player he’d had installed a while back and turned the volume to full.

 

Then as the music belted out of the car, Spike leapt away and began to pace, kicking out at lose stones as he went.

 

“Just bleedin’ perfect. You do a bloke a favour and what does he do? He fucking shits on you that’s what he does. What does he expect me to do? Sit around and watch him brood for fuckin’ ever? Sorry mate, but no. What the hell is his problem anyway?...”

 

So the stream of words continued, weeks of pent up frustration leaking out in a constant flow of insults and accusation aimed at every one he’d ever met and brought him to this point in his life. With a final missed kick at a rock his shoulders lumped and the words trailed off; finally exhausted from his cathartic rant. Wandering unsteadily back towards the car he slumped down beside it, leaning back against the door and let the tears come.

 

Desperate hiccupping sobs that hurt his head, and made his thoughts tumble one on top of the other through his mind. Fears, hopes, dreams and worries all pounding against each other in a jumble of pained release. Every muscle every sinew in his body felt ready to just crumple and fall. His head was heavy with pure exhaustion. As his eyes drooped and he collapsed sideways to curl on the ground he found one clear thought in his head.

 

These were tears shed for all he had lost, now regained…

 

…and was soon to lose again.

 

That final thought made him blink, and he sat upright with a bolt. No, he would not lose again. Not this time, he was going to put this right, whatever the hell it was and he wasn’t going to lose again. Jumping to his feet he suddenly stopped stock still. The sky on the horizon was turning pale orange, and the early dawn light was already making him smoulder. Cursing as he hurriedly pulled the top up on Angel’s ancient car, he scrambled inside and into the foot-well of the rear passenger seats. He sighed and glared angrily at the roof of the car, but this time the anger was directed solely at himself. He must have fallen asleep, and now he was stuck out here for the rest of the day, trapped while Angel…

 

Angel, Jesus. What would Angel be thinking now? That he had gone, that he wasn’t coming back? It didn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that’s what kept Angel watching the door when he went into town each night; the fear that he would just drive off one day and leave him stranded and alone. God, he was such an idiot. All of this over a few lousy books.

 

A few lousy books Angel hadn’t wanted…

 

A few lousy books Angel had looked so… betrayed? Hurt? Devastated? At receiving.

 

Groaning, Spike grabbed the blanket from the back seat and pulled it completely over himself; burying his head in the dark as final realisation hit.

 

A few lousy books that Angel would see as him giving up on any chance that he would get better. A few lousy books Angel would see as something Spike had done to preoccupy him while they waited for him to die.

  

***************************************

 

Part Four

 

November 2004.

 

Angel cocked his head to one side and studied the blonde vampire in front of him. He knew the far away look in Spike’s eyes all too well. Spike would spit feathers if he ever told him this, but without the option of openly ranting, Spike had taken to getting lost in his memories, otherwise known as brooding almost as much as he did. But this wasn’t just any far away look, this one was special. Special because no matter how he tried, Angel couldn’t get Spike to let go of what happened that night.

 

He couldn’t imagine how he must have looked to Spike when the blonde had entered the cabin a little over an hour after sunset. When Spike had screamed out as he left, the pain had made his knees buckle and he’d fallen into one of the bedposts on their bed. Curled up on the floor, blood flowing from a deep cut on his forehead, all he’d been able to do was cry. All he could see in his mind was those books and want they meant. He’d felt so lost, so desperately lost. Since the whole ordeal began Spike had been his rock, his strength. While Spike kept smiling, kept saying with glance and touch that everything would get better he’d believed. But those books, those books meant Spike didn’t believe anymore and if Spike didn’t believe how could he? He didn’t want to die, he didn’t want to waste away to nothing but a putrid corpse that would eventually give in and turn to dust. He didn’t want to go back to hell. But it looked like he didn’t have a choice.

 

Realisation hit like a freight train. The finally shattering of his denial and more painful tears had come, each hiccupped sob bring more pain and smacking him in the head with more harsh reality. He’d cried so hard he’d passed through the storm and out the other side in a strange numb detachment. Uncurling from the floor he’d looked at the blood like it was an alien substance, and then just as numbly, he’d cleaned it up. Blood was bad, Blood could hurt Spike, and Blood had to be cleaned. Numb, broken, surreal.

 

As he’d left the bedroom he’d found the books and he’d just sat on the couch holding them for hours. It was only when the sun began to rise that he realised time had passed at all and that’s when feeling had returned. Not panic, not anger, just desolation. Spike was gone. Spike wouldn’t be coming back. He was alone. It seemed slightly hysterical looking back on it, but at time the thought had come to him that maybe if he looked at the books, did what Spike had silently asked then Spike would somehow know and come back. And as he read and studied the diagrams, the real truth had hit him, and the tears had returned.

 

When Spike had slipped guiltily through the front door of the cabin that evening, he’d found Angel on the couch, curled up around one the books, his face stained with tears and blood. Even if they could have spoken, there would have been no words that night as Spike had woken and lead an emotionally drained Angel into the bathroom. Neither had attempted eye contact as Spike had painstaking cleaned and dressed the wound on his forehead and lead him to bed. Spike had sat with him until Angel had fallen asleep, and only returned to the bed when the sun had started to rise.

 

Angel had woken as soon as Spike had joined him in the bed. When the blonde finally tipped over into restless sleep, Angel had stiffly crawled out from under the covers and returned to the living room. He’d found the books neatly piled back inside their carrier bag, sitting by the front door. He knew Spike had planned on returning them, but he’d had other ideas. He’d had so much to make up for.

 

Spike blamed himself, but Angel knew where the blame really lay. He’d been selfish, hadn’t seen or wanted to see how everything was effecting Spike.  The tension between them had been building for days since he’d found out Spike was infected. Spike meanwhile had to deal with that, and all the extra restrictions he’d put on their relationship.

 

Spike was a communicator, a highly social animal. Angel was well aware that it was the biggest difference between them. But in his total central focus he’d overlooked how his complete withdrawal from all physical contact would remove the last vestiges of social interaction between them. Spike had just been desperate to connect and he’d prevented that. When that was combined with the stress of being a full time carer to a less than co-operative patient he was surprised Spike hadn’t blown sooner, or more dramatically.

 

But that night and long day had become the eye opener that he really needed. It had drawn so much into sharp focus and made him accept certain aspects of their relationship now.

 

When Spike woken with the sunset, he’d found Angel sitting crossed legged on the bed in front of him. Angel had looked paler than normal, drawn, and so very, very sad. He’d handed spike a book with three pages marked with tiny scraps of paper and then when he’d been sure he’d had Spike’s attention, rather shakily signed him a message.

 

Spike had just blinked and looked lost, but Angel had nodded to the book. Angel had watched Spike scan the pages then nod, opening his arms for him. Angel had gladly fallen into the embrace.

 

His first words in almost two months had been “Forgive me”.

 

Angel blinked and frowned as a pointy finger poked him in the shoulder. He looked down into Spike’s concerned face and realised that he’d been miles away and While Spike had obviously shaken himself out of his revelry some time ago, Angel had lost himself in his own.

 

“Stop it.” Spike signed with a mock frown. “Pillock”

 

A small smile quirked the corners of Angel’s lips. After that night they’d spent many night just reading the books Spike had bought and practicing, sometimes each sitting with a sign dictionary in hand, holding slow, but in depth conversations. Then one night Spike had arrived back at the cabin with another book. “The British Sign Language Dictionary of Slang and Curses.” Obviously it wasn’t endorsed by any deaf association, and Spike had made annotations and improved on it since then. Still, it was fun to see Spike gesticulating wildly when he was annoyed. Angel couldn’t help but think that who ever had painstakingly developed the language had never considered that a 124 year old vampire would come up with a with a way of saying “mother fucking son of a three legged German goat with herpes.” And boy hadn’t that taken a while to translate.

 

Spike looked mildly affronted, knowing he was being mocked in Angel’s head, but brushed it off when Angel leant down and kissed his cheek, before slowly making his way back into the bedroom. Shaking his head, Spike turned to follow, just in time to see Angel’s fatigue finally catch up with him. As the taller Vampire’s knees Buckled he darted forward, helping him back onto the bed. His concern grew as Angel struggled to lift his legs onto the mattress, and carefully did it for him, settling himself on the edge.

 

“How long have you been up?”

 

“A couple of hours” Angel replied with a shrug.

 

“You were in the bathroom all that time?” Spike gesticulated with angered concern.

 

Angel just shot Spike his now quite common, ‘stop mothering me’ expression, which made Spike soften and run a hand through his hair.

 

“I worry.”

 

“I know” Angel signed back with a small smile, then he nodded at Spike’s wrists. “How are they?”

 

Spike held his wrists out for inspection and Angel tenderly took hold of his hands, running his thumbs up and down the black lines. Letting go he nodded in satisfaction. “Less today.”

 

Spike nodded, and restrained himself from replying “more today” as he looked at Angel’s chest. Instead he leant forward and pulled up the edges of one of the bandages there.  The white cloth was stained with shades of reddish browns and black, and under it, a ragged sore looked festering and painful. This had been a more recent development; the rot was eating its way to the surface in places. Mostly where the skin was thin and delicate, but also where the rot was more prominent inside. Angel’s back, chest and neck all had them, as well as a few other places.

 

“These need changing”

 

Angel looked away. He was tired, he hadn’t lied to Spike, he’d woken nauseous and had to stagger into the bathroom and there he’d stayed until Spike had returned. Between Coughing, vomiting and just having to stand for so long he was exhausted. Spasms of pain were shooting up his legs and from his lower back. The thought of having his bandages changed now almost made him cry.

 

Angel allowed his head to be turned as Spike cupped his cheek. Neither of them liked this, it had become the most hated repercussion of the Rot.

 

“Maybe later ok?” Spike offered sympathetically.

 

Angel nodded. “thank you.”

 

“Tea?” Spike smiled with a quirked eyebrow.

 

***************************************

 

 

Spike shifted on the couch and smiled when Angel head butted his thigh gently in annoyance. The evening had progressed smoothly. They’d moved into the living room, and after Spike had brought in two cups of tea, they’d sat just chatting and practicing their signing. When Spike had noticed Angel tiring, he’d got them both something to eat and then they’d settled in for the rest of the night.

 

This was what made everything worth it, these moments. Sitting on the couch, Angel curled up beside him with his head in his lap. Sometimes they would read, sometimes only Spike read and Angel dozed. They could spend hours like this. More often than not Angel would fall asleep, like he was on the verge of doing now.

 

The night air was getting chilly, and Spike pulled a soft wool throw from the back of the couch and draped it over Angel, his smile turning to a silent chuckle as angel snagged a corner and pulled it up around his shoulders to his chin. With an amused shake of his head, Spike returned to his book which was resting on the armrest. He wished he could purr, but knew it would spoil everything, so just revelled in the warm feeling which was settling in his chest. It was in these moments that he wasn’t Angel’s nurse and protector, but his lover and friend. It was this peaceful comfort which kept him going, and every second of this time reminded him why he stayed, why he lived through all the horror and heartache… why he loved Angel.

 

Loved him enough to stay, loved him enough to give up on the things in life that had seemed so important just a few months ago. And he would still stay, even when these moments weren’t possible, because he had his memories to hold on to. He wasn’t a fool, he knew that one day all he would have at all were memories, but Angel needed him and he loved him too much to let him down. He’d loved for more than a hundred years; he didn’t think he even had the choice to stop now.

 

On his lap, he felt Angel stiffen. Spike frowned and concentrated, trying to work out what could have brought on this change. There was nothing even on the edge of his hearing that would affect Angel this way, but when he sniffed the he felt his insides freeze.

 

Damp air, and a tinny smell that could only mean…

 

A flash of white light lit the curtains from outside and Angel sat upright with a jolt. Spike caught Angel’s eye and they just stared at each other with frozen terror. Spike realised he was counting down in his head, and then he saw Angel’s jaw begin to wobble. On the very edge of his hearing the beginnings of a rumble were already registering.

 

No, not now. Spike watched Angel shake his head in desperate denial and he wanted to scream. There hadn’t been a single storm in the whole time they’d lived at the cabin and now it looked like one was about to make its presence felt. The rumbling was getting louder, the storm a long way off, but the roll of thunder was building in the back ground. Spike leant forward and clasped Angel agonized face between both hands and did the only thing he could think of. He just had to time to mouth three words…

 

“I love you.”

 

…Before Angel’s hands flew to his shoulders and his back arched, his head thrown back in a silent scream as the thunder crashed all around them. Spike hung on to Angel for dear life has he convulsed in his grip, the thunder still rumbling out. Angel’s nails bit harshly into his shoulders, tears pouring down his face and his chest rising and falling as he took great harsh breaths as if it would ease the pain.

 

As the sound drifted off Angel slumped, and Spike slid them both to the floor, wrapping his arms around Angel’s shoulders as he rocked in agony, his hands clutching at his ears. Another flash lit the room and Angel bolted forward. He didn’t get far, just collapsed resting his forehead on the floor. The rumble built quicker this time and Spike watched horrified as Angel began to beat his head on the floor. Acting quickly, he pounced on Angel, rolling him onto his back, straddling his legs and pinning his hands above his head. Angel was mouthing something and Spike strained to work out what Angel was trying to say. When he did his own tears started to fall.

 

“Make it stop! Make it stop! Make it stop!”

 

He’d never felt so utterly powerless in his life. This time when the thunder reached its peak Angel arched again, crashing his head into the floor and there was nothing Spike could do to stop it. On and on the thunder kept coming, Angel had started to growl and hiss, no longer aware enough to realise that he was causing himself nothing but more pain. He was acting on instinct, a wounded animal desperate for escape and throughout all this all Spike could do was watch, unable to help, unable to ease Angel’s pain. Angel’s face shifted and the growling grew louder; amber eyes burned into spike with their plea for mercy.

 

Unable to bare that look in Angel’s eyes any longer. Spike lowered his head to Angel’s chest and sobbed.

 

“I’m sorry, hold on luv, just hold on. I’m sorry I can’t stop this.”

 

The gap between the lightning and thunder was getting ever smaller now, the volume growing with each strike.

 

Suddenly the air went very still and Spike looked up and deep into Angel’s pain hazed eyes. The air crackled, every hair stood up spike’s body. Angel’s eyes cleared for a second, and Spike could do nothing more than stare.

 

When the next strike hit, it could only have been yards from the cabin. The noise was instant and deafening. Spike crunched up against the onslaught of sound, his sensitive vampire hearing overwhelmed by the blast.

 

When he looked up he let out the howl he’d been holding in. Angel’s eyes were blank, he hadn’t even cringed when the thunder hit. A trickle of blood dripped slowly from both his ears.

 

“Angel…”

 

Another flash of lightning, another thunderous barrage, but Spike paid it no heed.

 

“Angel… Please…”

 

There was no response to his plaintive plea, not even a twitch. Spike collapsed to the floor and pulled Angel’s unresponsive form into his arms. He'd wished the silence would end, and now he wished it would return. But the storm couldn't last forever, like all things in life. Whatever he wished now, he knew, that one way or another, the silence would soon be ending for good.

 

The End

 

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