The Big Bad

By Hush
Under My Skin 4

Part 9

It took all of Spike's remaining strength to drag himself from the alley and back to the Thunderbird. The blonde ached from head to toe as he fumbled with the keys and opened the door. He wavered on his feet, staying upright through guts and determination.

Angelus had broken at least one vertebrate and maybe three. Spike knew that he had passed within a hair's length breadth of final death, and he would be lucky if he managed to stay out of a wheelchair.

The encounter with his sire had shocked him to the core, and Spike remained locked securely in a coma of shock as he climbed behind the wheel of the car. Trance-like, he made the drive back to Sunnydale and parked in the garage of the Crawford Street mansion. He was a zombie as he staggered back into the house where Willow waited near the fireplace.

The witch's head jerked around at his sudden entrance and she dropped the iron poker she'd been angering the dying embers with. "Spike! Where the fuck have you been?" she demanded, crossing the room to him in quick strides.

"LA," he answered, still numb inside, willing to oblige any questions she put to him with answers. He turned blue eyes full of pain on the woman who had upended his world.

Willow's green eyes widened and she hissed. "LA?" She seized his arms, shaking, and Spike whimpered as a bolt of pure pain shot through his spine. "Spike," Willow's voice rose to a shriek of panic, "What the hell have you done?!"

"Angel," he began and Willow cut him off. With strength born of adrenaline, she slammed Spike into the wall. The back of his skull collided with the plaster and the jolt jarred his poor spine so hard that the blonde's head swam.

"What about Angel?" she demanded, her voice dropping to a low, deadly tone. The panic was still there but channeled into violence. "Spike, so help me if you've hurt her..."

Spike stared at Willow blankly. His pain-fogged mind kept insisting that her face should morph at any moment into a demon's, finally revealing the true nature he suspected. There was too much rage in her eyes for control. The vampire was unaware of the tears trickling down his cheeks. It hurt it hurt it hurt... So much blinding pain...

She saw and stopped. "Spike?" The command was more even this time and she reached him. Spike lifted his eyes to her face, unable to focus. He gasped and clutched at her arms as she lowered him to the floor. "Who did this to you?" she asked, sickness and anger coloring her tone.

"Angel," he managed. "Angel I--" A sharply indrawn breath cut off his confession as his back protested being settled on the ground. Scurrying, Willow dragged a blanket and throw pillow off the couch. She propped the pillow under his head and draped the blanket over his shivering form.

"Shh, shush." Willow shut him up and scrambled to her feet. "Wait here, don't move. I'll be back in a second." Before he could answer, she was gone.

"Right," Spike mumbled. "Like I was just gonna go for a stroll in the old park. No worries." He waved a dismissive hand to an empty room. "The Big Bad is just fi-I-I OOOOOWWWWW FUCK!" Panting, Spike abandoned any thoughts of trying to sit up. His bleeding sire had shattered his back like a crystal vase.

Where the hell had Willow gotten too? In agony, Spike looked around, being careful to move only his head. That too hurt but not as much. His ego quailed as he scanned the empty room. She'd left him! All alone and broken! Probably gone running off to her precious Angel, just like Drusilla!

Somewhere, the world's smallest violin began to play for Spike. Willow hadn't even had the decency to finish him off before she'd gone. He was doomed to waste away to nothing until he looked like a fuckin' Ethiopian, unable to hunt or move or go out for blood at Willy's. The longer he thought about it, the more grievous his list of imagined wrongs grew. Spike sniffled like a giant baby.

On cue, Willow appeared holding a mug. "Stop trying to move, you idiot." She grabbed his head and forced it to the side, shoving the mug under his nose and upended it. Spike gulped down an entire glass of lukewarm blood at her insistence. It wasn't like he was being given an option. He immediately felt better as the blood settled in his gut, spreading warmth and life-giving energy.

"Now tell me what happened," she said, placing a hand under his chin and lifting it with gentle fingers. "You went to LA. I got that much. Now tell me who hurt you."

He swallowed. His pride cried to lie but her eyes were compelling and the combination of pain and lethargy spreading through his body was intoxicating. He found himself succumbing. "Angel," he slurred. He paused, thought, considered. "Did you drug me?"

"Yes but just a little," she murmured sweetly. "What do you mean Angel?" Her eyebrows furrowed in skepticism. "Angel wouldn't..." She shook her head. "Hell, Angel *couldn't* right now. He's not capable of taking you in a fight."

Spike waffled between umbrage and pride. In one breath, she'd both insulted and complimented him. Something didn't quite sit right, though. "What's that mean?" he asked, iced eyes narrowing with suspicion. "Not capable."

"Nothin'," she snapped.

"You're lying." Spike's jaw set stubbornly. "Angel's lost it. His soul, or conscience, or soft fuzzy glow, whatever the fuck you want to call it. The wanker must of gone and gotten 'happy' again cause he's lost it."

Color drained from Willow's face and the hand gripping his chin turned rigid. Her reaction went deeper than honest fear. She was terrified. "Oh God, oh Fuck, oh Jesus," she breathed. She let go of his face and lurched to her feet.

"Where the hell do you think you're going?" Spike growled as his girl reached for her shoes. It wasn't the reaction he'd expected and his voice thickened with a burr as anger and fear set in. She meant to do something stupid. He knew it!

"LA," she answered without looking at him. "Angel. Back where I belong. Maybe it's not too late."

"You stupid bitch!" Spike exploded, sitting up despite a burst of crippling pain. "He'll twist your neck till your bloody head pops like a grape!" Rage and outrage combined in his heart. She belonged with Angel like hell!

Willow's back stiffened and she swiveled to face him on her heel. "I have to go. I don't want to but I have a duty to fulfill. I have to go back before someone else gets hurt."

There were tears in her eyes as she sank to her knees beside him. Spike opened his mouth to demand what precisely she thought she could do, and then stopped.

Pieces clicked into place.

"Spike, so help me if you've hurt her..."

"Willow?! What did heeee-shhheee say?!"

Willow calling Angel "she"; Angel referring to Willow as "he." Spike's disbelieving gaze roved over the black clad, impossibly stealthy, brooding little redhead kneeling beside him. Angelus, who'd always been a bit of a Nancyboy, had been positively girlish... At least, while the soft gold light had been in control.

"Shit," the blonde muttered, staring at his 'She Demon' with wide eyes. "You're him. IT. That thing in Angel's head." Her face twisted in a grimace and she extended a hand. Spike jumped away.

Her hand froze and then withdrew. "Yes," she agreed, resigned. "Except I'm not in Angel's head right now," she-he-it added with dark humor.

"Shit. Fuck. What the fuck are you?" Spike demanded, a mixture of panic and disgust rising in his gut. He'd almost fucked this *thing*.

"Dunno. I've wondered about that myself." One shoulder rose and fell and an inscrutable mask settled on her face. Now more than ever Spike could see the similarities. She wore Angel's stoic expression; she possessed Angel's remoteness and reserve. SHE WAS ANGEL. "I used to think I was Liam. For a while, I wondered if I was just some random soul they pulled out of the ether."

Her arms crossed, the first crack he'd seen in her reserve. "The truth is that I'm just a gatekeeper," she told him bleakly. Her eyes held such stoic acceptance that Spike instinctively longed to rebel. "I exist to keep that *thing* in check."

Thing. She chose the exact same word for his sire, dripping with disdain, that Spike had picked for her. The vampire fidgeted, suddenly confronted with his ever so apt choice of words, and not entirely comfortable with what it implied. Only a while ago, he'd been thinking of her-ANGEL--in terms of affection, endearment, and respect.

"How'd this happen? Where's Willow?" he asked sharply, changing the subject. He studied Angel's body language with a predator's perception. What really confounded Spike was how he could have missed it. It was obvious.

Irony tugged the corner of her mouth into a crooked smile. "Where do you think she is?" Angel asked tartly. "Trapped with my demon." Resignation intact, she stood, preparing to leave.

Spike panicked. She was going back to Angelus in a way William had never imagined in his darkest musings, and once they were rejoined, this quixotic creature would be beyond his reach forever.

FUCK! It was too fucked up!!!

"You still haven't said how," he pointed out loudly.

"Long story." She cut him with a look. "If you're ever in LA, give me a call and we can grab a beer." She smirked, mocking and daring him. As if he could somehow reconcile his hatred of sire with his desire for this exquisite little tease.

Spike's entire demeanor morphed. "I hate you," he hissed, glaring at her with all of the hatred his heart held for Angelus. "I hate you."

Angel changed too. She grabbed his shirt with clenched fist and hauled Spike off the floor. "I am so fucking sick of you blaming me for what HE did. GET IT STRAIGHT. I. WASN'T. IN. THERE." Each word punctuated with a hard rap of her fingers stabbing his breastbone. Spike blinked, a little stunned at her vehemence.

"I wasn't in there when he stole Dru, I wasn't in there when he ridiculed you, and I wasn't in there when he broke your back! Got that?!" She snarled and shook him. A final shove sent him slamming down onto the floor. Spike yipped in pain.

"I'm starting too get it," he hissed under his breath. She didn't hear and he didn't repeat himself. But he was...getting it. The soul and the demon weren't the same. It was like the two separate and distinct piles of drawings on the floor: Sinner and Saint; Bad Ass Vampire and Flouncy Nonce. Except that the Angel he'd gotten to know was a far cry from a saint.

"What?" she demanded.

"Nothin'." Spike stared at her strangely. Thoughts, what-if's... Yeah, he'd known the difference all along... 'You think you can fool me?!' Oh yeah, he'd known...

Memories affirmed it. Darla hadn't told Spike and Dru what had happened to Angelus but he'd been there for the gypsy massacre. He'd guessed. And then Angelus had returned two years later for that single, memorable night during the Boxer Rebellion. Angelus had been glum and quiet. Different.

A different person? Spike blinked. "Yeah right. You're not him in your imagination! You're seriously deranged," he told Angel. "In a schizophrenic, split personality fashion, and I mean that in the nicest way, old salt."

She stared at him and her eyes lost all anger and hope. "Yeah. Right. Whatever." Resignation again. Spike hated that, they way she accepted his rejection so casually. It burned. She knew she wasn't the demon and Spike knew it. She was supposed to fight him, dammit!

There she went packing off to LA N' Angelus again. Spike growled, cursing his own weakness. He had nothing to stop her with but words so he chose them precisely. "Don't' think escape is so easy," he taunted. "Angelus told me all 'bout how much you love me, pet."

She froze in her tracks and he gloated. He had more than enough weapons to wage a war of words. He'd conquer her yet. Angel tossed that mane of red fire over her shoulder and returned to Spike, just as he had anticipated. The blonde grew smug. He had her hooked; now he just had to reel her in. There was no way she was leaving.

Wide green eyes gazed at him, vulnerable, and then her lips pursed and a hellfire temper sparked. "Spike," she said evenly, "I loved Darla, and I loved Buffy. And yes, I even loved you a little." She smirked; her voice hushed to a caress. "I have a soft spot for pretty blondes, sweetie. Don't take it personally."

Her head tilted back and the perfect cruelty he associated with his sire entered her eyes. Spike gnashed his teeth, knowing exactly what was coming. She knew him too well: where he was weak and where he hurt worst.

"You're beneath me."

The words never crossed her lips but Spike heard them anyway. It cut so deep that she might have taken out his heart. He blinked back tears and looked away. Tears. His eyes full of pansy ass tears! No fucking way! It was the drugs, his broken vertebrae, and the unbearable pain... The Big Bad bit his lip and looked away from the emerald eyes raping the last of his heart and pride.

A hand seized the back of his head. Startled, Spike's eyes widened as Angel dragged him into a hard, unyielding kiss. She forced his lips open: ravaging, violating, and claiming. It ended as suddenly as it begun. Angel pressed the side of her face against Spike's, holding him tight. "I love you, William."

Her hands stroked his back. "Y-you know that if I'd been in there, this would have never have happened?" Her voice broke and Spike knew that he had won. At last, she was HIS. She exhaled warm breath and silken lips caressed the shell of his ear. He shivered and sighed. Heaven.

"I know," he answered. Yeah, he was thick but he'd finally figured it out. Angel did not equal Angelus. "You love me?" he demanded, needing to hear it again.

"I love you," Angel promised, "Always, forever." His eyes drifted shut as she placed a fleeting kiss on his lips. He was lost in her heat.

Abruptly, she released him and rose, departing the room on quick, sure strides. Each one carried her further from Spike, who lay on the floor, too stunned to react, too injured to follow. Finally, a cry of denial tore from his throat. He knew where she was going. Away. Back to Angelus...

"ANGEL NOOO! DAMMIT, YOU CAN'T DO THIS TO ME! COME BACK HERE YOU BASTARD!" Spike screamed his guts out but she was gone. He was alone.


A sob tore from his throat as he tried to understand, to reconcile, and to comprehend. He'd longed for love, yearned for it, needed it to exist the way he needed blood. And it had just been given and taken in one harsh, cruel action. And she'd left him ALONE, the one thing he couldn't stand to be.

Sobbing, the blonde turned onto his side and buried his face in his arms. He cried out his guts and his heart and his demonic soul until he drifted off into the merciful oblivion of sleep.