Human Condition

Human Condition


Notes
 

“Spike.”

Angel is glaring at him. Angel is always glaring at him these days. Spike stifles an expletive and pulls off his shirt.

“You’re in a hurry, mate,” he says as he crosses the room to join Angel.

There’s no mistaking the set of Angel’s jaw, the furrowed line between his brows: he’s pissed.

You’d’ve thought surviving an apocalypse would ease the tension, but no, Angel’s wound tighter than a …Spike’s eyes suddenly register the tented blanket at Angel’s crotch and he loses track of the metaphor.

Not that shagging the stupid poof is a hardship, but every once in a while Spike wishes it was his idea.

*

At night they patrol the streets. Los Angeles is a wreck, but it could have been worse. It very nearly was. If Buffy and her merry band of, well, Buffy-lites hadn’t shown up, it’s hard to say what might have happened. Still, the casualties had been significant: Gunn and Wes; Lorne was MIA; Lindsay was a planned and necessary loss; after the battle even Illyria had said adieu.

Angel fights with precision, but it’s passionless violence. Spike can’t really see the point. He always preferred a little heart-pumping (so to speak) with his heart-staking. Spike has always been cocky enough to believe that he and Angel were fairly evenly matched when it came right down to it, but now he thinks that might not be true anymore. It’s emotion that mucks up the works.

Now, on a street that looked as though it might have been teleported from Baghdad, Spike watches Angel stake one, two, three vampires without breaking the proverbial sweat.

“Nicely done,” he says, reaching into his pocket for his lighter.

Angel slants his gaze towards Spike but doesn’t speak.

“Course, I miss the days when there was actually a little more back and forth. You know, a little he said, she said.”

Angel leans over to pick up his stake and wipe some vamp dust from his boot.

“Is it absolutely necessary for you to give me the play by play?”

Spike lights the cigarette dangling from his lips and inhales. “I actually have some pointers on form, too, if you’re interested.”

“Not especially.”

Spike shrugs. “Had enough?”

“No.”

“Are you ever going to have enough?”

“Enough of what?” Angel asks.

“All this.” Spike spreads his arms wide, the lit end of his Marlboro making a tiny red arc in the air.

Angel bites back a laugh. “I suppose you think there’s something more,” he says. “Jesus, you really are the eternal optimist.”

“Well, you’ve got the eternal part right at any rate,” Spike replies.

*

They’ve moved back into the Hyperion. The lobby’s still a mess, but they’ve fashioned a livable space in the basement. They dragged a couple mattresses down from one of the rooms upstairs; there’s no direct light to deal with; there’s easy access to the labyrinth of sewer tunnels. Home sweet home.

It’s almost dawn when they get back. Spike twists the top off a bottle of Dewar’s and takes a long swallow.

“You drink too much,” Angel observes.

“Could say the same about your moping, but what’s the point?”

“There isn’t one,” Angel says. “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you.”

“Jesus,” Spike says, flopping into a rescued armchair. “You really are thick.”

Angel reaches for the whiskey and tips the bottle into his mouth. He wipes his mouth with the back of his hand and says: “Tell me, Spike, is this how you’d imagined it? Us living in a fucking basement in Los Angeles like two bachelor uncles.”

Oh, it’s gonna be one of those nights,” Spike thinks grimly.

“Honestly,” Spike says, “I thought I’d be on top more often.” He shrugs and holds out his hand for the bottle.

Angel hesitates before handing it back to Spike.

“This isn’t the way it was supposed to be,” Angel says dropping onto the mattress.

Spike laughs. “What? You didn’t honestly think any of this was going to end well?” he waits for Angel’s reply and then adds, “You and Buffy and a white picket fence?”

“It’s what you thought.”

“Maybe,” Spike concedes, “without the fence bit.”

“It isn’t even about Buffy,” Angel says.

“There’s a first.”

“Fuck you.”

Spike cocks an eyebrow and gets up off the chair.

“Right then.”

*

Spike lights another cigarette and reaches for the whiskey bottle when they’re done. He tells himself it’s to banish the taste of Angel’s spunk from his mouth, but mostly it’s because he want to busy himself with tasks that don’t involve any more intimacy. Not that he could call what they do intimate.

Angel appears to be asleep beside him. Spike is a little envious of Angel’s ability to fall asleep because it seems that, these days, Spike never can. He tries. Hello, whiskey. Hello, sex. But he can’t shut his brain off. He can’t stop seeing the dragon, floating in the star-dusted sky above their heads like some child’s colourful kite. He can’t stop thinking about Gunn; one hand pressed against the gash in his side, one hand extended clutching a sword he seemed barely strong enough to hold up. He can’t stop thinking about Buffy, suddenly there in the alley, her mini-me’s in a loose clutch behind her.

He lies in bed and wonders if Angel dreams. He admires the way Angel’s stern features soften in sleep and he understands, looking at him, what Buffy saw (sees) in him. Angel is still and sometimes Spike thinks about touching him. But that’s just the whiskey talking.

*

After the battle in the alley, Spike had worn a path in the carpet outside Angel’s old room in the Hyperion waiting for the door to open, for Buffy to emerge and grace him with the same audience she had bestowed upon Angel. Her eyes were quiet and her mouth was twisted in a grim smile that had reminded Spike of all the post coital talks they’d never shared.

“What’s going to happen now, then?” Spike had asked her.

“I’m going back to England,” she’d said. “We need to be ready for whatever comes next.”

“What if there’s nothing more to come?”

“Well then I guess we need to be ready for that, too,” she’d said.

The skin under her eyes was smudged blue; she hadn’t been sleeping. There was dried blood under her fingernails, and a deep scratch along her collarbone. She was beautiful.

“I’m glad you’re okay,” she’d said suddenly.

“Yeah, well, okay might be stretching the truth just a tad,” Spike had said.

“But you’ll recover,” Buffy had said with certainty.

He’d nodded. Of course.

“Look after him,” she’d said. “This whole thing has been hard on him.”

Spike could feel an incredulous snort building, but it was clear that Buffy wasn’t joking.

“I mean it Spike. He’s not like you.”

“Damn straight.”

She’d smiled a little brighter then. “I really did miss you.”

“Why don’t you stay then?”

“Yeah,” she’d said. “That would work.”

*

After Buffy left, Angel came to Spike’s room.

“We’ll need to be on the streets,” he said. “Wolfram and Hart could still be out there.”

Spike watched Angel out of the corner of his eye. He’d been flipping through the channels looking for news, but all he’d been able to get was static.

“So what’s this then? A strategy meeting?”

“What have you got to drink?” Angel said, ignoring Spike’s question.

“I’m sure I’ve got something, but you’ll have to ask nicer than that.”

Spike barely saw the blur of Angel crossing the room and only registered his head bouncing against the wall for a second before he felt Angel’s mouth, cool and full against his own.

“What’s this?” he asked when Angel pulled away.

“Grief.”

*

“So, what you fancy, then,” Spike says, pulling open the door of the refrigerator. “Some pig’s blood or--” he pauses dramatically, “some pig’s blood.”

They’ve returned from another night on the streets and Angel is more sullen than usual. Sometimes the fighting cheers him up and he’s slightly more bearable, but apparently tonight isn’t going to be one of those nights.

Spike looks back over his shoulder for the response and finds that Angel is not even in the room.

“Angel?”

Spike closes the fridge door and heads back across the room, poking his head into the bathroom to see if Angel is in the shower and then, discovering that the bathroom is empty, heading up the stairs into the lobby.

He’s not there either and Spike pauses, suddenly cautious.

There’s a muffled sound from upstairs and Spike bolts for the staircase, bounding up the steps two at a time.

“Angel,” he shouts again as he rushes down the hall towards what was once Angel’s room.

The door is open a crack and Spike reaches out a hand to push it open a little wider.

Angel is there, sitting on the grimy floor, a carton of stuff beside him.

“Connor’s things,” he says needlessly. “I’d locked them away.”

Spike can see the closet door has been kicked in; it’s hanging from one hinge.

“I couldn’t find the key,” Angel adds.

“Oh.”

“I just needed to--”

“What? Be even more bleedin’ morose than normal?”

Spike can’t help himself. He understands the loss; at least he understands it now that he has a soul, but he doesn’t understand Angel’s constant need to scratch at the wound.

“You’ve never really loved anything besides yourself,” Angel says, reaching into the carton and pulling out a pale blue blanket decorated with small red sailboats.

“You’re a bloody selfish arse, you know that,” Spike says, stepping into the room. He squats against the wall and readies himself for another one of Angel’s speeches; Spike thinks of them derisively as Angel’s Lecture Series on The Human Condition.

Angel is rubbing his thumb along the satin edge of Connor’s blanket. “You were spurned by Cecily, turned by Drusilla, and the Slayer’s boy toy for what was it, a minute?”

“Yeah, thanks for the lesson, Yoda. Did you have a point?”

“What have you lost? In your whole life, what have you ever really lost that mattered?”

Spike thinks for a minute because put like that he supposes Angel could make a case, except that Angel’s logic is painted with a broad brush and if Spike knows anything, he knows that love is made with smaller, more careful strokes.

“You’ve had a soul for a century, Angel, and you still don’t get it,” Spike says.

“And I suppose you do,” Angel says flatly.

Spike shakes his head and stands. “No. I don’t get it. But isn’t that the bleedin’ point?” He moves closer to Angel. “We are not like other people, in case you’d forgotten.”

“I haven’t forgotten,” Angel says looking up to meet Spike’s eyes. “How could I fuckin’ forget?”

“Well, you couldn’t really,” Spike says, “but you always act all surprised when things sting a little.”

Angel crunches the blanket in his long fingers and says: “That’s what I mean: this isn’t a little flesh wound, Spike. Everything is gone.”

“Not everything,” Spike says.

*

This is how they live, although it’s not really living.

They fight. They fuck. They don’t talk because there is nothing to say.

When it’s really bad, Angel goes upstairs and sits in his old room. Unpacks Connor’s things. Maybe he howls at the moon; Spike doesn’t ask.

When it’s really bad, Angel hurts him: digs his strong fingers into the back of Spike’s neck and holds him down. Doesn’t wait for Spike to be ready.

*

Spike has his own demons to fight. Figurative demons mostly, although of course there are real ones, too. He resents Angel’s ability to swallow up the air and make everything be about him and his losses. He hates the way Angel makes him come, face buried in the pillow, impaled on Angel’s fangs and cock. Some days, he hates every goddamn thing about Angel.

Spike can’t really decide whether Angel’s trying to save the world or just fuck it up- but Spike stays because he doesn’t know what else to do, or where else to go. He wants to remember what it felt like to do something good. To be something good.

He keeps holding on to the belief that Angel needs him, too.

*

He sits on the roof watching the last of the colour drain from the sky. From here, Spike can see Los Angeles trying to right itself; on the corner to the west, the café has set out some patio tables and chairs and several people are enjoying a late dinner; he can hear the normal-sounding honks and idling engines which signify a traffic jam. It’s a spectacular view and Spike imagines it must be pretty amazing by day, too.

He lights another cigarette and sucks on it gratefully. It’s when he’s smoking that he feels most human, which he understands is ludicrous.

The rooftop door clicks behind him, but Spike doesn’t bother to turn around. He waits until Angel joins him at the railing and then he says:

“You shouldn’t have destroyed the ring, mate.”

Angel sighs and crosses his arms.

“It isn’t good to long for what you can’t ever really have.”

Spike smiles.

“You might think about following your own advice, Angel.”

Angel smiles a little, too.

Spike stubs out his cigarette and turns away from the sky, the ragged band of pink that traces the buildings and skims across the horizon. Turns his back away from what’s left of the light and meets Angel’s dark eyes.

If this is going to be his life now, he needs to know.

“Going to play cops and robbers again tonight?” Spike says.

Angel shakes his head, his expression quiet.

Spike waits. The sky is the colour of tarnished silver, starless.

“We’ll never win,” Angel says.

Spike’s throat aches.

“No, Angel, but that’s not why we do it.”

Spike steps closer, reaches out a hand to brush it along Angel’s arm, as casual as if he were merely removing a speck of dust.

“Remind me again of why we do it.”

Spike isn’t exactly sure of the question Angel’s asking, but the answer’s the same anyway.

“Because we have no choice.”

The End

Notes
Written for: redbrickrose
Preferred pairing: Spike/Angel OR souled!Angel/Darla
Preferred rating: No PWP, but I don't mind if the sex is in there too. Or not. I leave it to the writer's discretion.
Two things I'd like to see in my fic: If A/S, post-NFA. If A/D, then set sometime during the AtS series (or if you want to do that post-NFA that's alright too, but I imagine that would be much more difficult). Angsty philosophical pondering on the nature of the soul. YES.
One thing I'd prefer not to see in my fic: I'm not going to rule it out completely because I know it can be done well, but daddy!kink kept to a minimum, please.
With thanks to for her useful comments. Not one else says ‘get rid of it’ like Lynne!

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