Title: "In the Red"
Author: mala
Spoilers: Parts of S5 of "BtVS" and S2 of"Angel". Rating/Classification: AC, B/S, B/A, A/? angst, language, adult situations.
Disclaimer: Grr aargh and vrooom!
Summary: The typical device--Angel finds Buffy and Spike in flagrante delicto and words are exchanged--with a not-so typical twist.

Gold against ivory. Funny how he'd never noticed before how those colors looked together. And they looked hideous from behind a haze of dark red. Like a canvas with a slash through it. The walls of the Sistine Chapel defaced. Like the only woman he'd ever loved fucking a soul-less demon.

Angel didn't know whether to bolt or to stride forward and tear them apart. To watch Buffy's eyes darken with guilt...to watch Spike's eyes glimmer with victory. To listen to their paltry excuses as they laid his heart bare on the crypt floor. As his nostrils filled with the scent of their betrayal.

He couldn't decide...fight or flight...so, instead, he closed his eyes and said the first thing that came to mind.

"Is it good?"

And they stilled.

The moans stopped.

The writhing limbs stopped.

When he swallowed the blood in his throat and fixed his eyes on the figures swathed in silk...he steadied himself for the onslaught of their sorrow.

Which is why he didn't expect the rage.

**

She clutched a handful of the sheets to her chest, thighs still clenching with need...with the cry for Spike to come back between them. But he was all ready on the far side of the bed. Gasping even though he didn't need to...fumbling for his cigs even though his eyes remained trained on their guest.

Guest.

Ha.

Coitus interruptus...mood spoiler...killjoy...Angel.

"Is it good?" he said again.

And Buffy caught her breath. "Can't you tell by looking?" she wondered, with calmness she drew from the ether. She sat up straighter, feeling an invisible rod go up her spine. The iron of it eased the twisting in her stomach. The flash of guilt...the surprise...the "ohgodhestilllookssogood!". It was nothing compared to what his three little words, his snide accusation, made her feel.

She wanted to scream.

Angel winced. Looking hurt and betrayed and tragic. "I came to talk to Spike."

"You could've knocked." Spike blew smoke, but his fingers shook as he lifted his cigarette back up to his mouth. He reached out and grabbed her hand below the sheets, offering quiet comfort much like he had that night on the back porch. Quiet comfort...raging passion...he had given her both these last few weeks. He forced a companionable smile. "But now you're here...so talk, Peaches."

It was like her lover hadn't even spoken.

If anything, Angel seemed to purposely ignore that there was still another person in the room. His beautiful face looked ravaged...the iron kept her from falling for it. "Is this because of me?" he asked, softly, dragging his hands through his hair, looking at them and then looking away and then looking at them again. "Is this how you get back at me for leaving, by fucking Spike? Of all people... Spike? This wasn't what I wanted for you, Buffy. Not that pompous G.I. Joe and not this...this...childish fling."

It was word "fling" that did it. Or maybe the word "childish." They cut back layers of skin. They sliced straight down to a gentle hand rubbing her shoulder, to intense eyes staring down into hers, to fangs that skimmed her throat but never pierced it. To someone who hadn't walked out on her.

No arms could hold her back. No urgently whispered "Slayer!"

She leapt from the bed, uncaring of her nakedness, of the sheen of sweat that spoke volumes about how she'd spent the last hour. And words poured forth. Words she couldn't control...words that came from a place she couldn't name. From years she'd thought forgotten...or at least locked away. "How DARE you judge me? How DARE you dictate who I make love to, who I love? You don't see me running to L.A. to watch the parade of people in and out of YOUR bedroom, do you? Do I even think about whether or not somebody keeps you warm at night? Whether or not your eyes soften when you visit Faith in prison? I don't! Because I can't. I'm not allowed. So don't you talk to me about what's "childish". When you left me...you made a clean cut choice. You didn't negotiate the terms and conditions of our break-up. 'Buffy gets to moon over me on alternate Wednesdays while dating some nice quiet human' doesn't wash. I need more than that! I need to be loved."

Her chest heaved as she spat out the last, damning words. As she pounded each nail into his coffin. "I need to be treated like an equal. Not like I'm made of glass. I need to be cherished...but I need to be fucked, too. And Spike gives me that. He fills up parts of me I didn't know I had! And I'm sorry if that doesn't meet your blessed approval, Angel, but you're not here. We are. In this bed. Every night. Without you between us. And we don't need you between us now either."

She stumbled.

He stumbled.

And she raised her hand to her mouth and tried to choke back the sobs. The weight of a long silence had been lifted...leaving cold, bare, anger in it's place. She felt like she'd been drained...drained by succession of Masters. She felt Spike's hand on her back. Slow circles. And his arm moved around her waist as he pulled her securely against his chest, turning her face away from Angel. Letting the tears heat his skin.

"Shhh...shhhh, Luv," he murmured, soothingly. "Look what all you've been holding in, hmmm? It's all right."

"Is it? Is it, Spike? Are we all right?" she demanded.

She felt the pressure of his lips on the top of her head. "We will be," he assured. "Just give it a bit of time."

She wasn't sure she could believe him until they were alone again. Until the creature who had intruded upon them took the remnants of her love and her memories and left.

"I don't have time," she reminded.

He shook her just slightly, fingers tightening enough to leave a mark or two. "Yes, you do!" Vicious. So vicious. "Decades. Without him. Maybe even without me."

She raised her head. And now it was easy for her to purposely pretend there wasn't another person in the room. "I don't want decades without you."

**

Angel knew then that he should've run. He should have turned and walked out the moment right after he'd walked in. This naked tableau was somehow a thousand times worse than the previous. The firestorm of tangled limbs and hoarse cries was pale, was dust and shadows, compared to her blond head on his smooth chest. To the quiet. To the symmetry of their aligned bodies. And the painful accusations in Spike's eyes.

"You wanna make this about you, Angel?" he asked, voice a deadly whisper. "Fine. We'll make it about you. Hell, maybe I should even thank you. Thanks for turnin' Dru so she could turn me so I could come to Sunnyhell and get all obsessed-like with the Slayer. Then, you broke her heart...thereby letting me realize I wanted to be the bloke to fix it. So thanks for that, too, Mate. And thanks for walking in on us. Since we obviously only shag when we think you might be droppin' by, it was a real treat." Spike's eyes flashed bright blue. And his sarcasm was like a thrice-blessed stake after Buffy's cold blasts of holy water. "Heaven forbid we might be doin' it for love."

He opened his mouth to speak...to finally speak after long minutes of numbness. And he couldn't. He had no defense. No argument. No excuse. No right. He opened and closed his fists. Reaching...reaching for what? He blinked. Gold against ivory. Ivory against gold. It was hard to tell where one color ended and the other began. And now he saw them clearly and they gleamed.

"I-I...this was bad," he stammered before he turned on his heel and walked out.

**

'Bad' was an understatement. She shuddered, finally feeling the damp chill of the stone walls invading her pores. This was horrible. Unbelievable. Surreal. It was like a soap opera.

All the things she'd said...and what Spike had said...

She swallowed, trying to forget the look on Angel's face...to forget the misbegotten scene and all the fury. "Are we really doing it for love, Spike?" He stiffened, hands loosening from around her waist. "Do you want us to be?"

"I-I...I don't know," she admitted, helplessly. Where had love gotten her before this? With Riley...with the vampire who had just hightailed it out the door? "Do you?"

"It's however you want it, Baby," he shrugged, eyes darkening. And just before they darkened, she saw them leap. She saw the hope flicker and then hide. Like always.

She swallowed.

He hid it for her. Had been hiding it since that night outside the Bronze. Because she wasn't ready for labels, for declarations. Because he knew and he cared and he accepted it. She raised her chin from his collar, furrowing her brows, playfully. "Then, what are we about?"

"Passion," he offered, lightly, swinging her back towards the bed. "The thrill. The dance." He caught her lower lip between his teeth, nipped it teasingly. "Our dance."

It was an answer she could take. And there was nothing "childish" about the way he lay her down...nothing "fling"-like about the way their bodies began to move in natural rhythm. Everything she'd said to Angel, in the heat of the moment, felt true. Spike filled up parts of her she didn't know she had. She felt equal. She felt cherished. She felt fucked. She felt loved.

Despite her fears.

Despite her past.

Despite herself.

She felt loved.

**

He pounded out onto the grass, shaking his head and cursing his temper. And she moved out of the shadows, a study in ivory and gold all on her own.

"How did it go?" she murmured, cocking her head.

"It didn't." He dug his hands into the pockets of his coat, clutching the material between his fingers as he paced. "I, uh...handled things badly."

"So they don't know?"

"'They'?" He whipped his head up, reading the look in her dark green eyes. The gentle knowing that held no judgment and no mockery. No laughter in the face of his grief.

"I smelled her in there, Angel. Why didn't you?" she chided, gently pushing a few strands of hair off his face.

Good question. "No...no, they don't," he sighed instead of answering it. "I didn't get the chance to tell them."

Her rosy mouth spread into a grin. A shadow of her old smile. Of death and promises. "A reintroduction can wait. You're not the only one who can be surprised."

No, indeed he was not.

And the thought was enough to make her mirth spread. He laughed, hollowly, and slipped his arm through hers. Together, they turned their backs on the crypt and the rising sun.

The sky was flush with reds...and golds...and ivories...and he didn't look up. He didn't need to. He could taste a thousand brighter colors on Darla's tongue.

--the end?--

November 2000.


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