Title: The Red Curse
Pairing(s): Various/Spike, Fred/Wesley, others as story develops
Rating/Warnings: NC-17 (Non-con/Rape, BDSM, torture, violence, language) Previous Parts
A/N: In which we find out exactly what the Red Curse is... extra warning for additional bleakness for poor Spike.
Part 20: Rest
Angel's demon raged.
They'd been standing in the hall for several minutes. Wesley had been released from the frame. Kate had found some plastic cable ties, which they had used to bind his hands before him. For now, the man was still unconscious.
Spike sat astride Xue Fei, head bent and hand stroking in a rhythmic motion, a gaze of vague irritation on his face as the others continually argued what to do with the new information they had just been given. But below the walls the younger vampire had put up Angel could smell pain, and deep wounds, and all things that would have made Angelus crow with delight.
It made him furious.
“How long?” Angel asked. The others continued to speak around them, paying no heed to his words.
Spike's eyes drifted to Angel, his breaths stilted and uneven. He arched an eyebrow.
Angel clarified. “How long do we have?”
Leather clad shoulders gave a stiff shrug. “A few years about, Illyria said.”
That was good enough for Angel. He raised his voice, his tone brooking no argument. “You can stop fighting. We're not worrying about this right now.”
Of course, that didn't stop Lindsey from trying to argue anyway. “Did you just happen to have a bigger issue come up than the end of the world?”
Angel felt his face shift. He turned his head and bared fangs that felt heavy in his mouth. “You really want to think twice about drawing my attention to you again.”
There was a soft whimper from behind Angel, and he immediately forgot Lindsey as he shook out of his vampire face and turned back to Spike. The hands on Xue Fei had stopped their stroking and clenched into the fur. Red-rimmed eyes glanced up at Angel, and then Spike's nose scrunched as he turned his face aside.
Angel knew Spike wasn't going to open up to him – especially not here, and surrounded by all the others. “We have a few years,” Angel said. “We need to get back to the mansion, and rest and regroup. The rest of the world can wait.”
“Guess I'll just make a note on the calendar.” Gunn said, with no small amount of sarcasm.
“Sun's down,” Spike said. His gaze was rooted to the tiger's back. “We'll need to leave now if we want to avoid the soldiers insisting our continued endurance of their hospitality.”
Angel was relieved – some part of him had expected Spike to be a stubborn ass and still decide staying in the hands of the American military was the best idea.
“What about Illyria?” Eve asked. “Spike gave her the crystals.”
Angel felt no sympathy. “Then I guess you'd better hope she's not gunning for you.”
Eve directed an indignant look his way, but he could see the fear on her face. “She killed everyone at Wolfram and Hart. Do you really think she's not going to kill anyone else now that she's at full power?”
Spike suddenly stared at Eve through narrowed eyes. “You knew she'd rampage,” he said. “And you knew Wolfram and Hart would be the first place she would look.”
Eve stared back. “The job had some nice perks, but it wasn't really my style. Plus, I didn't really trust the Senior Partners were going to let me live too much longer.”
“That was just one branch,” Angel said. “They'll send someone else after you.”
“Maybe, if they figure out I'm still alive,” Eve said.
“You'll have to find a good hiding place before then, I expect,” Spike said. His eyes slid pointedly to Lindsey.
Realization dawned on Lindsey's face. “You're setting us loose.”
“Your cage has been reserved for someone else.” Spike patted Xue Fei's back and the tiger turned about. “And I'm bloody done with the both of you.”
Angel gazed at Wesley's body, knowing that the ex-Watcher was the “someone else” that Spike had mentioned.
Angel had struggled to keep them all safe, and in the process had torn them further apart. Wesley's betrayal almost felt like history was repeating itself.
Only this time, Angel deserved it.
“Stay here,” Angel said. He turned his eyes on Lindsey and Eve. “Kate, we both know we can't let them go.”
Lorne looked distinctly uncomfortable. “So we're just going to totally ignore Spike's wishes, after everything he's done for us.”
In answer, Kate pulled her gun out and aimed it in Lindsey's direction, clearly uncaring of the sword the cowboy carried.
Angel ignored Lorne's look of disappointment and gave Kate a nod of thanks. Then he hurried after Spike.
He didn't find him until a few halls down. “What the hell are you doing?”
Spike kept his eyes forward as Xue Fei continued to walk. “Right now? Figured I'd find some pants.”
“I've known Lindsey for longer than you have, Spike. He can't be trusted.”
“Think I know all I need to know about him myself, thanks.”
There was something in the tone an inkling to begin in Angel's mind. The younger vampire often smelled of shamed arousal these days. It was a lingering product of Ambrus's mindfucks. But now, coupled with Spike's mood and his words
“He hates me enough that he'd come back and try to get at me even if the world was ending,” Angel said. “Even if it meant fucking you over again. Literally.”
Spike turned a severe gaze on Angel, the pain and fear in his eyes laid bare.
Angel stopped in his tracks, his suspicions confirmed. He saw red. “That son of a bitch.” He turned around, intending to paint the walls with Lindsey's blood.
A body crashed into him and made him stumble into the wall. A loud growl filled with pain and frustration was breathed into his ear. Angel tried to pull away and felt a forearm about his throat.
“Angel! Stop, you bloody berk!”
The scent of Spike's blood perfumed into the air. Angel did pause, then, brought out of his need for violence. The arm slid from his neck.
Immediately, a heavy weight bashed into him from behind and shoved him away. Angel rolled and landed in a crouch, whirling about to see Xue Fei's face wrinkled in fury, one large leg positioned defensively in front of Spike.
Spike gave a painful cough and clutched at his middle.
“Spike,” Angel moved to his feet and approached. Xue Fei moved to further block him. A hiss let him know he'd be getting a swipe with claws if he came any closer.
“Out of my way, you stupid cat! He's hurt.”
Spike started to giggle. The sound sent heavy warning signals through Angel.
“Go, Puss,” Spike said. “Make sure the others stay put. Don't have the energy to keep telling you off.”
Xue Fei hissed again, but obediently walked away, with one last pointed look at Angel. Spike propped himself against the wall. He was quiet for a long moment, his long, pale throat working. Then, he turned his face in Angel's direction.
“Thanks for trying to avenge my honor, grandsire.” Spike's breaths became laughter again at the end of the sentence and he turned his face away. The white gold at his throat glinted under the base lights.
Angel moved closer. “He raped you,” he said, meaning Lindsey.
Spike painfully began to raise himself against the wall. “Yeah, but it wasn't his choice. Kind of a double torture deal from the demons who nabbed us.”
Angel growled. “Bullshit. I'll bet he wasn't the one left torn and bleeding.”
Spike suddenly clutched his hands into his hair and howled in a paroxysm of pain. A bitter edge of lust mixed with his agony, and the scream ended on a choked sob.
“Spike! Christ, what's wrong?” Angel rushed to the younger vampire's side and tightened his lips grimly when a strong, pale hand shoved against his chest.
“Just stay back, you bastard,” Spike cried. His eyes were wild, and it was several moments before he regained enough of his composure to speak. “It was to break me. If Lindsey hadn't bloody raped me, they would have killed him. Then they would have just forced Fred to do it.”
Angel did freeze then. He sat back on his heels and bowed his head as sorrow stabbed at him.
Spike let his hand fall, his breaths shallow. “But after all that, it didn't matter that she was spared. Their plan had been to kill the both of them from the start.” Spike winced and guilt plastered his features. He clutched suddenly at the collar that gripped his throat. “It was the last blow, to make sure I was weak enough for Glory to invade my mind. Problem was, they'd slipped up along the way, and Illyria had already mostly killed Fred. I thought it was a mercy when they'd disposed of what was left of her, and I tried to stay strong when they tied me on the altar for the ritual. Didn't keep Glory from shoving her way into my cranium, of course, but it bolloxed things up enough that she can't take over my body unless I'm healthy and comfortable.”
Angel scanned the trembling of Spike's body. Spike had been bad when he'd woken up, but this was much worse. It was as if every waking moment pained him.
Angel feared he knew its cause, and he berated himself for not intervening sooner. “Wes did this to you.”
Now that they were alone, Spike didn't try to deny it. He rolled his head back wearily to rest against the wall. “He called it 'the Red Curse.' Some black magic he'd found deep in Wolfram and Hart. Said he normally wouldn't have had enough power, but Illyria's crystals gave him the juice he needed to perform the spell.”
“It hurts,” Angel said.
“Of course it fucking hurts, you oaf.” Spike fisted his hands and stared up at the ceiling. Angel saw the shine of tears line on his lower eyelids. “S'more than that, though.” Spike lifted a hand and wiped at his eyes as he let his chin fall to his chest, his breaths becoming labored. “Every memory I play through my head is like it's happening. Everything's clearer – I don't just remember bits and pieces but whole sordid scenes – every touch, every blow. And I can feel
them – the sensations, the pain, as if they're happening in real time.” Spike laughed again, hands digging into his hair. Tears streamed down his cheeks, and his giggles ended in a sob. "It's like a bloody interactive cinema in here.”
Angel absorbed the information in shock. He thought back to his lifetime of tortures, and imagined being forced to relive them – really
relive them – as soon as he thought on them. For a moment, the gravity of what had been done to Spike made him sick beyond all thought.
“Jesus,” Angel breathed.
Spike's voice became small and sad. “It's been taking everything in me to keep quiet. Blocking it out only works up to a point. I try to keep away the worst of it by thinking of the smaller tortures.”
Angel could almost see Spike slipping away. The younger vampire had been rescued, and he'd even saved the rest of them. But it was too late. The worst had already been done.
“Fuck,” Angel said. “We'll find a way to fix it.”
“Our plans to fix things don't exactly have the best track records,” Spike said bleakly. “Anyway, I don't think this is a curse that's meant to be fixed. Wes was high on primordial demon king mojo when he laid this spell on me. It'll probably take the equivalent to undo it.” He gave a pained grunt as another unseen attack occurred. “At least Wes was right about one thing – it'll keep Glory at bay.” He barked out a laugh. “Bitch won't dare come out now.”
Angel slowly rose to his feet. Spike looked up at him, eyes still filled with tears.
“I'll find you some pants. Stay here and rest,” Angel said.
He turned away, and clenched his jaw as Spike's laughter followed him down the hall.
When Angel returned, Riley was standing over Spike. Angel grew tense, but at a warning look from Spike, he unwillingly forced his angry words down.
Tear tracks were still drying on the younger vampire's face, but his walls had gone up again. The trembling had died down and he seemed stronger, more assured.
Angel wasn't sure he preferred the act.
Spike began to push himself to his feet with a groan. “Riley's coming with us.”
Angel choked down a snarl. “What?”
“Oh, don't look like that, Liam. The boy's a trustworthy sort.”
Spike held out his hand for the pants, which Angel gave him, even as he kept his eyes on Riley. “I just don't think it's a good idea to have a deserter join the group. The last thing we need is the American military chasing us.”
“Actually, I quit,” Riley said. “There's too many memories in this job for me, now. And I told my superior that the hellgod has been neutralized, so Spike's free to leave.”
“Seems like he believed you awfully easily,” Angel said.
“Well, recent behavior aside, I don't make it a habit to betray my boss,” Riley said, and Angel knew that was a stab at the fact that they'd trusted Wesley.
Spike finished pulling the pants on. “If I was still evil, this would be the bit where I mentioned vampire trulls.” Spike raised his eyebrows at Riley, whose expression had morphed into a full-on glare. “Lucky for you I'm not, eh?”
Spike moved back down the hallway back towards the rest of their group. Angel frowned at Riley as he walked passed the unhappy looking soldier. “Vampire trulls?”
“Don't.” Riley said. “Just... don't.”
Spike flat out refused to keep Lindsey and Eve captive, or to even leave them for the soldiers to look after. The last bloody thing he needed was the memories the sight of those two would stir.
Out loud, he just said, “We'll have enough trouble with Wes, I'd expect.”
Riley packed some rations for the two of them and pointed them in the direction of the nearest town, where they would travel on foot. Spike had smirked, wondering how soon it would be before Eve regretted wearing heels.
The way for themselves to get home was a lot more troubling. Spike wanted nothing more than to be alone, but he feared running Xue Fei into the ground if they tried to race back to Los Angeles. In the end, he'd shared the necro-tempered Wolfram and Hart car with Riley and Angel while Kate, Gunn and Lorne took Wesley in the second car. Xue Fei would get home at his own pace, which Spike hoped wouldn't be life-threatening. He'd given the setigris hybrid strict orders to get himself something to eat.
Spike spent the majority of the ride attempting to keep his eyes open. He stared enviously at Riley, who had fallen asleep within the hour of their setting out. Spike was still starving, too, but he knew that the second he was presented with blood, he would feel ill again, for that was when the memories crowded in the strongest.
Angel turned and looked at him often throughout the ride, ponderous brow set upon worried dark eyes.
Weariness tugged at Spike. He felt a burning in his hand, like sunlight on his flesh, and a bruising grip that was not there.
Spike rubbed at his palm. His head began to droop. “Angel...”
Another glance of those dark eyes. “Hang in there.”
Spike pressed his forehead against the cool glass of the car window. His voice became little more than a whisper. “Don't let me fall asleep...”
The abyss was raging. Spike hung suspended, and he didn't need eyes to know that Glory was here.
Invisible claws pierced him. He cried out in shock.“YOU IDIOT! DO YOU THINK I WANT TO SPEND THE REST OF MY EXISTENCE TRAPPED INSIDE YOUR EMPTY HEAD?!”
The claws dug deeper. He arched and thrashed, as his world became nothing but the most intense of agonies, every nerve and sinew aflame. “I PROMISE, IF YOU DON'T FIGURE OUT HOW TO FIX THIS, THERE WON'T BE ANY MORE PLAYING, PRECIOUS. I'LL MAKE YOU PRAY FOR DEATH LIKE NOTHING EVER HAS BEFORE.”
The black whipped away and night air assailed Spike's flesh. Strong hands gripped into the leather at his shoulders.
“Spike! You're awake, goddammit – open your eyes!”
Spike did, to the darkness of the desert. He'd been pulled from the car, and felt rock and dust beneath his hands. Riley and Angel stood over him, their dark forms framed by a sky full of stars.
Behind them, the car that held the others was coming to a stop on the side of the road.
Spike gasped and panted, then heaved miserably into the ground. His empty stomach clenched painfully against the spasms.
“Something's wrong,” Riley said.
“No shit, genius,” Angel snapped. He grasped at Spike's shoulders, and Spike was too weak to pull away. “He wanted me to keep him from falling asleep.”
The world swirled in a haze as Spike was lifted and placed back into the car. Riley stayed with him while Angel went to speak with the others, their voices muffled.
Riley gazed at him with eyes of cornflower blue. He looked refreshed after his nap. “You need blood.”
At the words, Spike saw silver tendrils, and felt the blaze of fire as one lashed down his back. He rolled onto his side and buried his face in his forearms.
The scent of blood filled the tiny space of the car. Riley's warm body climbed over him. “Drink.”
Spike shook his head. “Hurts,” he whimpered.
“Yeah, well, it looked like whatever you just came out of hurt a lot more, and starving yourself won't help you stay awake.”
Spike grimaced, but pulled his arms down and lurched into a sitting position, hands grasping at Riley's arm. Before he could think twice about refusing again, he sealed his mouth over the wound and felt the blood gush over his tongue. Riley gasped, and Spike flashed back to memories at random – first in Sunnydale, with a plastic stake digging a hole in his heart. Buffy's incredibly powerful fists as they smashed into his nose. Then, more recently, fingertips digging bruises into the back of his neck as he sucked down Ambrus's cock.
Angel rushed back to the car at the sound of Spike's whimpers, and frowned when he smelled fresh blood. “What did you do?”
“I fed him,” Riley said. He had pulled a bandage from a pocket and was busy wrapping his forearm. “I've seen enough starving vampires to know what they look like when it starts getting bad.”
“Please... no more. Please.”
At the whimpered plea, Angel looked into the back seat of the car to find Spike curled against the door, his hands on the damned collar. “Does this look better to you?”
“He needed to eat. And we need to leave if we're going to beat the sunrise. You should stay in the back with him, make sure he stays awake.”“Don't let me fall asleep...”
Remembering Spike's words, Angel climbed into the back of the car. Riley seemed surprised that the action had been done without argument. He nodded at Angel and moved to the driver's seat, where the keys were still in the ignition. They closed the car doors, and the interior lights shut off and shrouded them in darkness.
“Spike,” Angel said, desperate to do something, anything to help. “William.”
A moan answered him. As the car zoomed back onto the road, Angel hesitantly moved closer to Spike. The younger vampire bowed away at his touch.
Angel hesitantly grasped at Spike even as he frantically searched his memories. “Remember Vienna?”
Encouraged, Angel went on. “Dru had that obsession with parasols. She'd carry them around indoors, always accidentally hitting us about the heads.”
Angel felt some of the tenseness drain from Spike's form. They'd reached somewhat of a truce during their time in Italy. There had been pain, yes, but nothing so intense that Angel didn't think Spike could manage it.
The strategy worked. Spike's trembling died down, and his breathing evened. Angel continued to speak for the rest of the ride back to the mansion, his hand pressed against Spike's chest to ensure that he did not fall asleep.
While he spoke, his mind continued to search for possible solutions to Spike's problem. A spell to help him stay awake... that hadn't gone quite so well for Lorne, but Spike wasn't an anagogic demon. The spell could be worth the risk.
Of course, that was just the first on their new list of issues. Wesley, the dormant hellgod inside Spike, when or if Illyria, Lindsey, and Eve would show up again... and a true Apocalypse on the horizon.
Angel only knew one thing for certain – as long as Spike couldn't rest, then neither would he.