I didn't come into this fandom looking for slash. I didn't even come into this fandom looking for fic. In fact, I avoided fic for quite a while because I had the same idea that a lot of non-fic fans had, that well, fic was wack--as in not just the deep end but plummeting into the Marianas Trench wack. Ah, these artificial lines we draw. Please forgive me, I was a different person then.
What I came looking for was Spike.
"Chosen" had just aired; Spike had gone up in flames doing a far, far better thing; BtVS had ended. But you see, I wasn't done. I wasn't done so, for the first time, I dove into the internet. And Spike? Spike was not difficult to find. I read essays, articles, lurked on discussion boards and lists--as a Spike fan first and foremost, as a Spuffy fan second. And on one of these Spike lists, I read my first fic. Twas Spuffy, and, well, twas bad. Let me just say there were a lot of endearments and sunsets, your basic wish fulfillment. And, if anything, didn't Buffy teach us about the dangers of wishes? I didn't touch fic again, ten-foot pole or no, for a while.
Well, around the same time, I found out that JM, and thus Spike, was moving to AtS, a show that I enjoyed immensely but in which I didn't have any ship investment. I did, but I was more concerned with Connor, with Angel, his role as a father. After all, "Home" had just aired as well.
And on the boards, all I could hear about from my fellow Spike!fen was the possibility of Spuffy, the possibility of Spred, and they better not make this the season of Spangel. This was quickly followed by a we've-got-nothing-against-slash flurry, but these Spike!fen didn't want to see their boy get beat down--he'd grown beyond that with Buffy, they said. And they said that that said beat down was the inevitability of Spangel. We'd rather have Spander than that, they said.
Self, said I, is this true? And I started reading slash: Spander, at first, because by luck of the draw, I stumbled onto eliade and mpoetess and witling. And, by God, it was good--dark, intense, with that splash of humour. The A/S? I found a lot of sire/childe chest-beating, biting, and shouts of "Mine!" With the occasional bubblebath and declarations of "It's you. It's always been you. That Buffy chit? Never cared much for her." So I devoured all the Spander I could find. And I found an equal share of bubblebath there, along with what I term The Fashion Show or Spike and Xander Go Shopping. If that were my thing, I'd be reading Louis and Lestat fic on the sites that Anne Rice's lawyer hasn't found yet.
And funny that I bought the Rice-pires up, because what differs from Riceverse and Jossverse, besides the ability to occasionally laugh at themselves, is the vampire's ability to deliver. No homoerotic celibacy here, folks. And once I was no longer slash-blind and I could get my slashy little hands on the DVDs? I couldn't really see the S/X. Not if I viewed them with an objective eye. But the A/S? Joss was jumping up and down with the semaphore flags on that one. And this was before AtS S5 aired.
And when S5 aired, it all clicked for me, the part that I just couldn't figure out about Spike, why he acted the way he did--the insecure bravado. He's just as much a creation of Angelus's as Drusilla ever was, one that Angel never admitted to, the one thing he never took responsibility for. I could get all meta with the confusion of Sire/Grandsire midway through the verse. But it all makes sense. Maybe Angelus didn't bite William, but he took him on, he taught him. Spike became a Project. Angelus wanted something:
SPIKE: You never knew the real me. (hands sizzle on the cross; he throws it away; walks toward Angel) Too busy trying to see your own reflection... praying there was someone as disgusting as you in the world, so you could stand to live with yourself. Take a long look, hero. I'm nothing like you!
--"Destiny", AtS 5x08
But if Angelus merely wanted a reflection, he would have kept Penn, that shallow copy that we met in "Somnambulist". Angelus discarded Penn, abandoned him pretty much after he turned him. Penn was a failed project. So Spike is wrong, Angelus didn't want a mirror. He had no use for one. Angelus is a family man; Angelus wanted a legacy.
Now this is the part where you sigh, fold your arms, and say: I've got two words for you, woman. Daddy. Kink.
I don't know. Maybe. But let's soldier on, shall we?
We only ever see Darla turn someone once. Angelus serves as her companion, son and lover. It's Angelus who adds to the family. It's Angelus who revels in the role of paterfamilias. And he values the emotional pain of it. He wants Hell on Earth, and he wants it through his family.
Darla: "So are we going to kill her during, or after?" Angelus sits up, startling her: "Neither. We turn her into one of us. - Killing is so merciful at the end, isn't it? The pain has ended." Darla: "But to make her one of us? She's a lunatic." Angelus: "Eternal torment. (Grabs a hold of Darla's arms and rolls them so he is back on top with her under him on the floor) Am I learning?" Angelus starts to kiss Darla while Dru first laughs then cries.
--"Dear Boy", AtS 2x05
And so Drusilla was made to suit Angelus's aesthetic, to suit his pleasure, to add to the family. So when newly-made William is brought into the fold, Angelus begins the torment immediately.
ANGELUS Don't mistake me. I do love the ladies. It's just lately... I've been wondering... (holds his own fist in the beam of sunlight) what it'd be like... (watches his hand sizzle) to share the slaughter of innocents... with another man. (turns his hand over so the palm is in the light now; looks admiringly at it as it smokes) Don't... don't think that makes me some kind of a deviant, hmm? (pulls his hand back close to his face) Do you?
Staring at Angelus, William sticks his own hand in the light--voluntarily this time)
ANGELUS (laughs, slaps William on the shoulder affectionately) Au ah! I like this one! You and me, we're gonna be the best of friends.
--"Destiny", AtS 5x08
So at the very first, Angelus uses pain and *sexual* threat to test young William. And William responds by holding his ground. Test passed. Whether Angelus ever made good on that initial threat is up to speculation, but to suppose that he did do more than threaten would not be wild speculation. Angelus would have had no moral qualms about dallying with the lads, he certainly had no moral qualms against rape. Sexual aggression as threat or act has little to do with sex, it has to do with power. And power is always something that Angelus took. He would have stood up and grabbed it out of Heaven if he could. He did everything he could to mock God. I don't see why he wouldn't add sodomy to the list.
But William can take a beating and come up laughing. He learns to goad and manipulate Angelus in such a short time, as we can see in the famous mineshaft scene from "Fool For Love". What good is the threat then? Angelus would soon learn that what motivates Spike, what he craves, is respect, love and approval. And Angelus either doles those out sparingly or withholds them completely.
DRUSILLA (to Darla) My little Spike just killed himself a Slayer.
Angel looks him up and down, his face expressionless.
ANGEL Congratulations. I guess that makes you one of us.
--"Fool For Love", BtVS 5x07
No longer Angelus, but Angel, he could not approve of Spike's kill. But the dialogue fit in with his Angelus script. He would have said the very same thing if he were Angelus. He would have meant that, no matter what flamboyant thing Spike did, he would never be good enough. And this would have been said subtly over and over again for twenty years.
Angelus had taken on the role of father, and he only had one script to draw from.
Father: Defy me now, you won't. - Not as long as I live. Liam: You'll want to move away from the door now, father. Father: Go through it, but don't ever expect to come back. Liam: As you wish, father. Always, *just* as you wish. Father: It's a son I wished for, a man, instead God gave me you! A terrible disappointment. Liam: Disappointment? A more dutiful son you couldn't have asked for. My whole life you've told me in word, in glance, what it is you required of me, and I've lived down to your every expectations, now haven't I??
--"Prodigal", AtS 1x15
Now dutiful is not the first adjective that jumps to mind when I picture Spike. But Angel, through many seasons, wasted no opportunity in telling Spike that he was less than he was, that he was an idiot and a moron. And considering Angelus's inability to suffer fools gladly, does he believe what he's saying? No. In fact, when Spike is introduced to us in "School Hard", Angel tells the Scoobies something else entirely.
Willow: We can't run, that would be wrong. Could we hide? I mean, if that Spike guy is leading the attack, (shudders) yeeehehehe.
Giles: Well, he can't be any worse than any other creature you've faced.
Angel: (suddenly appears) He's worse. (they all look at him) Once he starts something he doesn't stop until everything in his path is dead.
--"School Hard", BtVS 2x03
In fact, throughout the episode, Angel treats Spike with the utmost respect, as if he had taught him well. He uses subterfuge and fails. "You think you can fool me?!" Spike screams at him, not only because Angel is on the side of the Slayer, but that he denied Spike that respect, his due. Spike at this time is presented as a powerful, intelligent creature whose only flaw is his impetuosity. The way Angel talks him up, it's as if he takes a perverse sort of pride in that.
From what we learn, subsequently, and that it's easy as an audience to forget, Angelus is not gone. Angel is Angelus. The soul only serves as will and conscience; and it could be argued that Angelus possessed the extreme will prior to being souled. Angel is a demon with a demon's emotions and a demon's desires. Part of him could very well be proud of Spike. It's only later, perhaps because of that pride, that Angelus derides Spike, uses the control mechanisms that he must have used the century before. What we see is not pure derision, but a reminder of place, of hierarchy. And we need to remember that Angelus tormented two people that year, used the people around them to hurt them: Buffy and Spike.
Perhaps Angel took a perverse sort of pride from Spike's later betrayal too.
But Spike, he retained the old fear. In "Lover's Walk" (BtVS 3x08), believing him still Angelus, he can't even enter Angel's mansion. "Yeah, you. You think I'm afraid of you?" All played for laughs, of course, but the deeper truth is there. He is afraid.
Only later, does he gather up the courage, the audacity, to enter another place and take what only Angel has, to change, to grow, to become a man. Angel—he should've warned me. He makes a good show of forgetting, but it's here, in me, all the time. (walks around toward her from behind) The spark. I wanted to give you what you deserve, and I got it. They put the spark in me and now all it does is burn. ("Beneath You", BtVS 7x02) All very poetic and tormented, but it raises the question of communication. In the four years between the year of Angelus and the threat of The First, Spike and Angel had on-screen contact twice--in "Lover's Walk" and "In The Dark" (AtS 1x03). When would Angel have had the opportunity to warn him? When would they ever talk? True, Spike is raving, on the brink of madness, but that one line implies that perhaps Angel and Spike had had a conversation or two during Spike's chipped phase. It implies a relationship beyond simple resentment and enmity. It implies that maybe, just maybe, Angel wouldn't hang up immediately if Spike called his office in L.A. It implies obligation, an obligation to listen, an obligation to be heard.
Such a conversation would account for Angel's lack of shock and surprise when he smells Spike on Buffy. He's surprised, but his reaction is milder than when he witnessed Connor and Cordelia together. And he certainly doesn't protest the implication that Buffy will give the amulet to Spike, make Spike the champion. His reaction to Spike at Buffy's side is even less than his reaction to Riley. His jealous banter during "Chosen" is playful in comparison. Throughout the two series, Buffy has told Angel three times that she has someone else in her life. And Angel is openly the least hurt when she tells him about Spike. Perhaps it's due to a lack of respect where Spike is concerned, the lack of true threat; perhaps it's due to familial respect, the sense of inclusiveness, an odd sense of trust. Most likely, it's both. Keeping it in the family is a pattern that Angel repeats throughout his unlife, both as Angelus and as Angel. He doesn't have to like it, but it's familiar.
And Spike finally does what Angel never did: he willingly dies for the world. He becomes the champion that Angel struggles to be. And if Spike had stayed dead, Angel might have learned to accept that. After all, he reveres the dead more than the living sometimes. He counts them as a bead on his rosary.
But cosmic irony and network executives thrust them together and Spike stumbles. No matter how much he accomplishes in the world, the son must stoop in order to enter his father's house. Spike is reduced to ether, incapable of affecting anything but Angel's peace of mind. Let's just say Angel isn't running off to get the coffee cake when Spike appears.
FRED OK, would somebody please tell me who—
WESLEY William the Bloody. He's a vampire. One of the worst recorded. Second only to—
ANGEL Me. (an angry Spike turns to face Angel) But you're dead.
--"Just Rewards", AtS 5x02
For someone who isn't happy to see him, poof, appear, Angel can't help but emphasize the comparison, the relationship. He sees Spike as less than him, but only barely. Spike returns as the reluctant prodigal. He doesn't get the welcome, the coffee cake, the fatted calf. The fatted calf will always belong to Connor. Of course, none of them now have a clue as to Connor. Spike just knows that the calf is withheld.
So Spike does all he can to remind Angel of their relationship, constantly calling him "grandsire", "old man", "gramps"--not only to imply his ascension and Angel's descension, ridiculous, because Angel has all the power--but to remind Angel that he's family. As much as he's willing to hurt him, he wants nothing more than for Angel to acknowledge that.
And Angel does acknowledge jealousy, fear, that he will be surpassed, that he isn't the saviour, but merely the heralder, the one who comes before.
And yes, the biblical references. For all their modernity, these two think in these terms. The only philosophical struggle we ever see, ironically enough, on either show, is from the vampires. The humans struggle over morality, the right choices, but philosophy or religion--not so much.
Could it be possible that in this renewed struggle that their old dynamic would play out? When Spike feels powerless, he resorts to the only currency he believes he has--his sexuality. He swaggers, he struts, he flirts, and he wants to prove, even with no audience to see, that Angel is weak, that he can be tempted--either to hit Spike or something else. It probably doesn't matter to Spike. The main thing is the contact. Spike lives in a physical world, and he will do all he can to not be alone in it.
And Angel is alone, the King alone in his castle. Only once do we see him bring the gang up to his suite. They're only in his office for business. His contact, his ties to the world, are slipping so slowly away. Spike, in his off-putting way, is a godsend. He won't let Angel float away, dissolve, he won't allow it. Spike, for better or worse, reminds him of who he is.
SPIKE Andrew double-crossed us? That's a good move. (chuckles) Hope for the little ponce yet. Though the tingling in my forearms tells me she's too far gone to help. She's...one of us now. She's a monster.
ANGEL She's an innocent victim.
SPIKE So were we... once upon a time.
ANGEL Once upon a time.
--"Damage", AtS 5x11
What's important is not that Spike remind him that he's a monster--Wolfram and Hart do that every day--but that it's possible to be more. Although the animosity never fully disappears, a respect born of their shared past allows them an intimacy that Angel never had before, an intimacy that he needs so desperately now. It allows Angel, in the end, to embrace his demon and to use it to serve a higher purpose.
This intimacy, this odd camaraderie, may be what Spike is referring to when he makes the allusion that he and Angel had been intimate "that one time", although he may very well have been referring to a mixture of physical and emotional intimacy. And it's possible that Angel and Spike had been physically involved on more than one occasion even with that line. Spike's made it quite clear in the past that sex doesn't necessarily equate with intimacy.
SPIKE It was the best night of my life. If you poke fun at me, you bloody well better use that, 'cause I couldn't bear it. It may not mean that much to you, but—
BUFFY I just told you it did.
SPIKE (sighs) Yeah...I hear you say it, but... I've lived for soddin' ever, Buffy. I've done everything. Done things with you I can't spell, but... I've never... been close... to anyone. Least of all, you. 'Til last night. All I did was... (smiles) hold you, watch you sleep. And it was the best night of my life. So, yeah... I'm... terrified.
--"End of Days", BtVS 7x21
We see Angel and Spike reach across that gap and grasp hands; we see them stand at the brink of the hole in the world and return. We see Angel's opinion of Spike change, even though the words are similar. We see Angel attempt to chase him away, perhaps, in order to save him.
ANGEL Look, I can't do this anymore. (walks from the window to his desk)
SPIKE Admitting defeat, are you?
ANGEL You and me. This isn't working out.
SPIKE (holds his hand to his chest) Are you saying we should start annoying other people?
ANGEL I'm saying you should go.
SPIKE You really can't stand the competition, can you?
ANGEL That isn't the— (sighs, starts over calmly) The way I figure it, Lindsey brought you back as a spirit bound to this place so you'd become...invested in it. He only made you corporeal again once you'd gotten used to it, attached to it.
SPIKE I'm not attached. (twiddles his fingers) I just don't have anywhere else to go.
ANGEL What if you did? Look, Wolfram & Hart has got offices in every major city in the world, and a lot more out of it. I'll give you the resources you need to go anywhere: cars, gadgets, expense accounts. You fight the good fight, but... in style. (sits on the edge of his desk) And, if possible, in Outer Mongolia.
--"A Hole in the World", AtS 5x15
This exchange is all very funny, but what we need to remember is that this takes place after Cordy dies, after Angel has his vision. Here, we see Angel actually beginning to enjoy Spike's company. He knows that if Spike stays, he dies. Could it be possible that he wants to save him? Send him away, so that Connor isn't the only piece of him that continues? Angel firmly believes that they're both hellbound. Could it be that he wants to grant Spike a stay, if only for a little while?
But Spike can tell something's coming; he refuses to go. And Angel needs him; he doesn't try to send him away again.
You see, this has nothing to do with true love, who gets the girl in the end. This relationship doesn't take away from the one either has with Buffy. What happens here is deeper, older than that. It's about need, acceptance, forgiveness. It's not about sunsets, only endings.
So, stop me if you've heard this one: A god, a wounded man, and two vampires walk into an alley...
As it was in the beginning, so shall it be in the end.
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