Beauty Effulgent

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Title: Fading
Author: uberaeryn
Pairing: Spike/Angel
Rating: Adult
Summary: Set post AtS "Not Fade Away." There are many kinds of sacrifices.  
 
Part One

Spike cursed, struggling under Angel’s dead weight and fighting to keep Ilyria in his line of sight as she stalked silently through quiet city streets and alleys, searching.

He squinted briefly at the lightening sky. Dawn soon.

He kept looking over his shoulder. Nothing. Not yet, at least.

“Here.”

He fell to his knees, propping Angel against his lap, and watched as she ripped a sewer grate from the sidewalk, the whining grind of metal and concrete like nails in his brain. A grayness washed over his vision and through the silver film of near unconsciousness he saw her take Angel from him and disappear down into the sewers; and soon felt himself swept up in her arms, smelled the familiar stench of the world underground and then the more comforting scent of Angel as he was lain next to him; and then all was blackness.

***

“You are weak.”

“Keen observation, pet.” He pushed himself upright, grunting at the pain of it, and leaned back against the damp wall of the den Ilyria had found, patting absently at his pockets.

“You are looking for these?” she asked, holding up a battered pack of Marlboro Reds and his Zippo. She tossed them to him and he fumbled to catch them, missed and cursed, and then scrabbled to pull one out. Lighting it, he looked down at Angel. “Fuck,” he hissed, grabbing Angel by the shirt-front and straining to pull him across his lap.

Underneath the bruises and cuts and scrapes Angel was pale, his face slack. Spike tugged at the hem of Angel’s shirt, lifting it up and revealing bruises and burns and half a dozen stab wounds from weapons of various sorts. He sighed, fingers running gently over the back of Angel’s head and felt the lump there and the drying blood matting his hair.

Angel. Angel was dying.

“Slayin’ dragons,” he whispered. “Not near so romantic as it’s made out to be.”

“But it was slain. Magnificently. In a shower of fire.”

Spike looked up at her. “Gunn?” He remembered Gunn falling, already dying, but fighting hard and hurling insults and grinning madly and then . . . nothing. Nothing but black and then – he damped the memory down, stashing it away to mull over it later, see if it was real.

“Gunn is dead. Consumed. In the flame.”

He winced and leaned his head back against the wall. Yet another champion down. “Blaze o’ glory,” he muttered, dreading the idea of giving Angel the news; that was, if Angel hung on long enough to get the news. Probably already knew anyway, wherever he was hiding in that rock-hard head of his. What with all the mystical mojo flying about this night, he wouldn’t doubt that all creatures touched by magic knew what had happened. Magic. So much of it, and so much of it dark. The very earth was bruised with it, he thought, and there would be a price to pay, he was sure.

“You are both dying. Can this be corrected? Things are not as I wish them to be. How will you change this, so that it suits me?”

He sighed, amused. He saw his reflection in her, and not for the first time. No wonder everyone thought he was such a pain in the ass. “Fuck if I know, Blue.”

“I am unsure of what to do if I am alone. This must be corrected.”

He stared at her; seeing a flash of Fred in that brief moment of vulnerability.

“We’ll fix it,” he promised, even though his every cell in his body was telling him that was a lie.

He had received more than his share of battle wounds as well, something was very wrong in and around his chest, and there was a puncture wound just above his hip that wouldn’t stop bleeding. They had been battered with fists and steel, yes, but with magic as well, and that . . . He sighed, ignoring the hitch of pain this brought to his chest. Magic. That was the problem; part of it, at least.

He inhaled deeply of cigarette smoke, thinking frantically, and then started rummaging through the pockets of Angel’s coat, finally finding his cell phone. He didn’t expect it to work and it didn’t, the senior partners having shut everything down once the battle had started.

“All right then, listen, Blue. I need one of these; just grab one from some git that’s yappin’ away on one, bound to be one out there somewhere.” He held up the phone and she cocked her head in acknowledgment. “And food, water; whatever you can find, all right?”

She rose from her crouch and stood, staring at him and waiting.

He watched her closely, feeling the thrum of her unspoken question. His eyes started to close in weariness.

“Yes. Yes, fetch him, if you can, and then we’ll . . .” He looked down at Angel. “And then we’ll leave.”

“Where shall we go? Everywhere we are hunted. And both of you are dying.”

He chuckled. “So you’ve said. Just go. I’ll think of somethin’.”

He opened his eyes to find her already gone. He looked down, running one hand over Angel’s face, fingers brushing softly against Angel’s eyes, wiping away tears of pain and of something else, tears that he wept even as he was unconscious and fading.

“I’ll think of somethin’,” he whispered. “Promise you that.”

***

“His body still has warmth.” She laid him down and placed her hand to his chest.

Spike blinked in surprise and reached across Angel to run his fingertips over Wesley’s face. Yep, warm. Bloody hell, had it all happened such short time ago, that his body would still be warm?

He sighed and sat back, trying once again to rouse Angel from his stupor, fighting his own pain and exhaustion and terror, and nearly cried in frustration when Angel didn’t respond. Damned phone was no good if you didn’t have the bleedin’ number, now, was it? he thought.

He looked down at Angel; thought he could feel him pulling away now; fighting Spike’s insistence that he return. “You’d better not die on me, you bastard, not after all this. Not now,” he whispered fiercely.

Ilyria moved and knelt on the other side of Angel, digging in the inside pocket of his coat and pulling something out, holding it gingerly. “When he would use that instrument to speak across distances he would also use this,” she said, handing it to him carefully.

Spike stared at it and nearly laughed. Only Angel would stride off into battle with his address book. And only Ilyria would look at it as if it were a magical totem of the highest order. He flipped through it hurriedly, cursing Angel’s hideous idea of alphabetizing before finally finding what he was looking for.

“Blue, help me,” he said as he struggled to stand. She reached out and hauled him upright easily and tears of pain slid down his face. “Over to the grate,” he wheezed, “Need to be able to get a . . . signal, whatever.”

Again she swept him up into her arms and he sighed. “Messin’ with my manly self-esteem, you haulin’ me about like this.”

“You cannot walk.”

He had to agree. “No. I cannot walk.”

“Then perhaps you should ‘sod off’ and let me be your legs. You are dying and it must be remedied. I do not see how your ‘manliness’ is relevant.”

He would have laughed but his chest was aching and when they got to the grate she set him on his feet, holding him upright, and he maneuvered the phone until the little bars were where he thought they were supposed to be and then he dialed with one shaky hand, sighing in relief when there was an answer.

“Rupert? Callin’ in a favor. Think you owe me at least one.”

“Yes, Spike. I suppose you’re right.”

Odd. Giles’ voice sounded odd. Spike pulled the phone away from his ear, looking at it in puzzlement.

“Up here, Spike,” said a soft, feminine voice.

He looked up to see Giles standing at the edge of the grate, looking down at him with an unreadable expression, and then a fall of red hair as another face appeared, and he felt an odd and ridiculously insane moment of joy before passing out completely.

***

He woke, still being held upright, to see Giles reaching up to help Willow through the grate.

“One bloody hell of a quick flight, mate, to get here so fast,” he mumbled, slumping heavily against Ilyria.

Willow landed lightly and moved quickly over to him. “We’ve been here, Spike, looking for you . . .” She touched his face gently and his eyes closed and he remembered with a rush the wild, white ride of magic he’d felt when last he’d seen her; and suddenly he felt warm and comforted and safe.

“Spike,” she whispered and he opened his eyes to see that her own were wide and questioning. He gave a quick, sharp shake of his head, silently pleading, and she looked at him for a long moment before nodding slowly.

“You’re hurt. And Angel, I can feel it . . .” She cocked her head and looked again at Spike with the same unspoken question in her eyes and he nodded in answer, weary down to the bone and wanting only to sleep now; he could sleep now, she was here, she could fix it . . .

“Giles, we’ve got to get them someplace safe, and, like, yesterday,” Willow murmured, voice shaking, still staring at Spike. She reached out to trace one finger along a scarred eyebrow and then she smiled slightly, and he wanted enfold himself in her, in her magic, until everything was fixed, until everything was right.

He was so fucking tired. And Angel was dying. “Please,” he mumbled.

“Sun’s going down. We can get them to the car, to the plane. I assume that’s what you want, Spike? To come to England?”

Suddenly the anger was back, an overwhelming red wave that slammed through him and made him stiffen in Illryia’s arms. “Where the fuck were you, you bastard? You got a fuckin’ army of Slayers and you leave us to be eaten by the angry, demonic hordes? Where the fuck were you?”

Giles grimaced and turned away from him, standing stiffly.

“Not now, Spike,” Willow said quietly. “A lot’s been going on. Let’s get you and Angel better first, all right? Then you and Giles can mix it up, just like the old days? Good times?”

She feigned a couple of feeble punches and then caught something in Spike’s expression and sighed. “I guess not so much with the funny right now, huh? Not that that was particularly funny, but you know, how I get, the babbly . . . anyway . . . where is Angel?”

He gave her very small, pained smile and then relaxed back against Illryia, wincing. “Angel, yeah. Down there. And Wes.” He sighed. “We need to take Wes . . . home.” His vision began to go gray again and he groaned as Ilyria held him more tightly.

Giles spun on his heel, staring, and Willow’s face lit up. “Wes is here? Is he okay?”

“Wesley is here. And Wesley is dead,” Spike heard Illryia say coldly and then he sank down again into the darkness.

***

The smell of incense and sage brought him to awareness, and he sat up with a start, cursing at the pain that slammed through his head and chest. He looked around, bleary-eyed. Private jet, from the look of it; he wondered absently how much the Watcher had been holding back from all of them. He and Angel were both laid out, nude, wounds washed but now swelling and black and reeking of rot. Willow was sitting cross-legged on the floor beside Angel, inside a make-do circle that enclosed all three of them, eyes closed and lips moving slightly.

He watched her as she did her work. She’d changed, certainly, hair now a long, straight fall to the middle of her back. She’d gained weight, which suited her; it smoothed out the dark hollows of her shoulders and collarbone, brought a fullness to breast and hip.

And she was tired. He wondered bitterly what kind of use the new Council had been putting her to; such a powerful new toy to play with.

“It’s not like that, Spike,” she said softly, eyes still closed. “Well, not completely. I’ll explain it all later, okay? First, lay back down. And I am not fat.” She opened one eye to glare at him.

He grinned in spite of himself. “You know bloody well that’s not what I meant.”

“I know. Lay down.”

He did so, rolling his head to the side to look at Angel. “Has he woken up?”

“No. Not yet. He talks, but it’s all jumbled up. I think he doesn’t want to wake up, Spike; he’s not ready.”

For fuck’s sake. Couldn’t the stupid bastard lay the burden of the ages down for one second? “Bloody hell, after all this time . . .”

“Loss. Guilt. Grief. Shame.”

He snorted. “The usual.”

She opened her eyes and smiled slightly. “Yeah. Been there; done that. But now, Spike . . . it was a huge price to pay, for this, you know? He hurts; doesn’t think he deserves it.”

“He never really thought that he did,” Spike murmured.

Willow’s brow furrowed and she bit her lip. “And I’m not sure but I think something else is going on, something . . .”

“What?” he said sharply.

She avoided his gaze. “Like I said, I’m not sure. I need the coven; they can help.”

Spike sighed and closed his eyes. “So what now?”

“So first we try to heal you. Dark magics; like an infection, dozens of them. I can draw those out – and after that . . .”

He opened his eyes and looked at her in warning.

“After that . . . we’ll do what we have to do. But Spike, you can’t keep this a secret forever, someone will . . .”

He stopped her. “Just . . . gimme time to think, okay? Time to think and to talk to Angel, if he ever gets the balls to come ‘round again. This is his decision to make; not mine.”

She sighed. “All right. For now. Close your eyes, this may sting a little . . .”

***

It was fucking agony.

White hot pain, searing, and he screamed; and thought he heard the echo of Angel’s scream in the distance; and Red’s voice was in his head, reverberating throughout his body, it sank down into his very bones; how could such a soft whisper be such an utter roar, ordering the black and rot and the dark out of their bodies; and it hurt, it fought and clawed and tore at his insides and he screamed and screamed and screamed; reaching for Angel who was weeping somewhere in the darkness and unable to find him; and then there was laughter in his ear and he screamed again . . .

White out.

***

He was shivering, weak and cold, flinching away from the touch of the blanket that Willow was tucking around both him and Angel.

“Fuck, Red. That was more than a bit of a sting . . .” He looked up at her, noting her drawn face and sunken eyes. “Oh, no, pet. Good for you, too, then?”

“Oh, yeah. Best I’ve ever had.” She smiled wanly and he frowned. “It worked, though.”

“Yeah, the magic part, anyway. But you’re both still hurt, physically, and Angel . . .”

He looked over at Angel, who was still unconscious, but the gray cast to his features had eased. He turned back to Willow. “You . . .” he shuddered for a moment, teeth chattering, unable to speak. “You should rest.”

“I will; I need to talk to Giles first and convince Ilyria to keep from pushing all the buttons in the cockpit. Besides, the first aid kit is up there and there’s more stuff you need . . .”

He grabbed her arm. “You won’t say anything . . .”

“No, Spike, I won’t. I told you that already.” Her eyes flashed, angry and hurt, and he lay back.

“Right. Right. Sorry. Just . . . scared, you know?” He looked at Angel, who was stirring restlessly as he fought some battle with himself deep inside.

Her expression softened. “I know.”

“Are we there yet?”

“Five more hours at least. Try to rest. I’ll be back, make room for me. I’ll have to sleep with you.”

He couldn’t help it; he leered and was pleased when she blushed furiously.

She sighed and then smiled. “You know, I’ve kinda missed you and your not-so-subtle, ‘feel up everyone in the room’ demeanor.” She wriggled her fingers in a vaguely sexual way and he smirked.

“I am a charmin’ sort of bloke, ain’t I? That why you want a bit of a cuddle?” More leering.

She snorted. “Keep it up, though, and that’s gonna get old real quick, Spike. And to answer your question, I have to stay with you both. To keep the wolves away,” she said by way of explanation, and then got to her feet, made a motion with her hand to make an opening in the circle and padded away.

“Wolves,” he muttered to himself. “Wonderful.”

He rolled to his side and pulled Angel tight against him. “Angel? Come on, you still in there?” He pressed his lips to Angel’s neck. “Please,” he whispered desperately. “Come back. I can’t do this by myself.”

There was no answer; not that he expected one; and he dozed on and off until Willow returned, nude now herself for reasons she didn’t bother to explain, and he was too tired and hurt too badly to even attempt a leer. He was made to swallow pills and drink water, and they struggled to force Angel to do the same until Willow was satisfied, and then she slid herself between them, wrapping her arms around Angel from behind while Spike clutched them both tightly to his chest, burying his face in her hair. Soon he warmed, and soon he slept.

***

“Whoa, hey, Spike! Watch it with the hardness and the . . . the poking!”

He sighed, still half-asleep, and buried his face in the back of her neck and continued thrusting up against her until he suddenly realized where he was and who he was fondling. He pulled away hurriedly.

“Sorry, love,” he muttered, embarrassed and blushing and trying to hide it, and then realized with a start that he was feeling better. Not ready to take on the world but a hell of a lot better of than he’d been after the battle.

He opened his eyes to find Willow glaring at him. “I said I was sorry!”

She rolled her eyes, stood, unwound the circle, and started dressing.

“Are we there yet?” he asked, to change the subject.

“We’ll be landing in half an hour.” This from Giles, entering the sleeping cabin from the front of the plane. “Then out to the estate, get everyone together, and then we’ll discuss this.”

Spike glared at him. “And Wesley? His father, Rupert, I don’t think he . . .”

“I haven’t contacted him, not yet,” Giles said, running one hand over his face. “I don’t know that I will.” He tossed a pile of clothing at Spike’s feet. “Do you need help?”

“Why, wantin’ to get your hands on my delicate flesh, Rupert?”

This elicited a pained sigh. Giles looked at Angel and then at Willow. “How is he?”

She sighed. “The magic is gone; the dark half at least. But he still won’t wake up, it’s like he’s fighting me or something.”

“Shall I help you get him dressed?”

“No,” Spike said sharply, rising to his knees and hovering over Angel protectively. “I’ll do it.”

“Suit yourself. Willow, I’ve talked to Carrie; the coven will be ready whenever you need them.”

She sighed in relief. “Thanks, Giles. How goes it with the hostage situation?”

Spike frowned, pausing in the middle of pulling a shirt over Angel’s head. “Hostage situation?”

“Faith and Xander have had the Council at gunpoint for the last three days,” Giles snapped.

Spike sat back, stunned. “What? Why?”

“So we could hijack their jet and get to you. Well, so Giles could hijack it and I could stand around and look nervous.” Willow groaned. “We are so screwed when we get back home . . .”

“And when are we not?” asked Giles, and she smiled wryly.

Spike resumed his battle with Angel’s clothes. Be damned, he thought, as the color of the situation started to shift. Guns, hostages, hijackings . . . bloody hell . . .

“I WON’T GO!”

The shout startled all three of them and Spike fell back, the hair on the back of his neck rising, staring at Angel who stared back with eyes of black.

“He’s mine, William, he’s been mine for over 200 years,” Angel hissed, snarling. “No magic and no prophecy will change that.”

“Angelus . . .” Spike whispered, terror slamming through him. No, no, no . . .

“There’s my bright boy, ever so smart, Drusilla insisted, the crazy fucking bitch.” Angel stood, Angelus stood, and started advancing on Spike, fists clenching and unclenching. He held one hand out and looked at it, shaking his head, his smile a mockery of Angel’s. “I can’t believe the stupid bastard chose this. Weak.” He laughed, turning his gaze again to Spike. “But I can fix it. I’ve got him in a corner now, William, too scared to come out and the rest of . . . this,” he growled, spreading his arms wide. “Well, this can be fixed, too, and will be, once I’m away from you and all your new good-guy friends . . .” He paused, shaking his head. “What in the hell happened to you, William? My biggest disappointment, my biggest failure; out seeking a soul, for love.” He spat the last word as if it were a curse and then he smirked. “Or was it strictly for the pussy? Because the cunt on that one . . . sweet. But I can fix you, too, William. Of course, you’ll have to be punished; tortured, mutilated, raped, you know, the usual, but then . . .”

There were three muffled thuds in quick succession and Angelus’s smile faded slowly; then his eyes closed and he toppled forward, landing heavily, the tranquilizer darts jutting from his shoulder.

“Oh, shit,” Willow hissed, falling to her knees and yanking them quickly out of Angel’s body. “What dosage did you use, Giles?”

“Enough to knock him out, for several hours at least,” he said, lowering the tranquilizer gun and leveling a gaze of steel at Spike. Spike stared back, shuddering, his stomach twisting. Angel gone, Angelus back, how was it bloody possible . . .

Willow looked at Spike helplessly. “But Giles, was it, you know vampire strength? Because it really should not be, Angel is . . .”

“Angel is human again,” Giles finished for her.

Both Willow and Spike looked up at him in surprise.

“Tie him up; at least this time we don’t have to worry about his strength.” He stared down at Angel’s body with a look of utter hate.

“But how . . . how did you know?” Willow asked, voice trembling.

Giles kept his eyes on Angel, shaking slightly, and Spike knew he was remembering.

“Because,” he said, jaw clenched. “I could hear him breathing.”

***

Part Two

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