Angel did not look particularly surprised to see him. “Your perverted little friend is dust.”
“He weren’t never my friend, mate,” Spike said. “Just my hire.”
“I don’t know why you felt you needed the help,” Angel said. As always, the two couldn’t stop from sparring, even if only with their words. “Too difficult for you, Spike? Wouldn’t have been able to keep it up?”
“And waste my time? Watching you sweat and scream never did much for me, poofter.”
“Could have fooled me,” Angel said.
Spike grunted. Spike didn’t want to admit that some part of him had felt a little squeamish about torturing Angel himself. The man had helped form him. He was sort of family. Killing him, he could do. Fighting him was a complete tickle. Torturing him... well. It was just easier to have someone else do it. “Well, that’s why I’m here now. It’s always good to have a back-up plan.”
“Your front-up plan was a bit thick headed, in my opinion.” Angel said. “You could have just tortured me yourself, you know.”
“Well, not as if you didn’t show me how,” Spike said. “But that’s okay. If I have to get into it myself, you know well, I’m quite capable. What did you teach me once?”
“Finesse. And patience,” Angel said. “So, nothing that stuck to that oily head of yours. If it had, you wouldn’t have needed to sink to the level of that child-killer.”
“Not as if you don’t know about child-killers,” Spike said. “Or was that not a regular date with you and Dru at the orphanage?”
“That wasn’t me,” Angel said firmly.
Spike sputtered out a contemptuous laugh. “Got news for you, mate: yeah it was.”
“I didn’t have a soul, then,” Angel said. “Now I do.”
“And now you’re a ponce. So, we’ll just get down to it. You’re not wearing your new pretty.” Spike sighed. “So we’ll have to go through all this again when I’m done beating you.” He came up closer to Angel. “Unless you want to skip the whole torture thing and just tell me where the gem is, now.”
Angel smiled in a way Spike didn’t like. “You’ll never get it.”
Spike laughed. “If you swallowed it, all I need do is cut you open. It’ll be slow going, with it healing you up and all, but I think I could manage it.”
“I didn’t swallow it,” Angel said. “It’s gone.”
“What do you mean, gone? Shipped it off to the furthest reaches of darkest India, did you?”
“No,” Angel said with a smirk. “It’s gone.”
Spike heard the finality in Angel’s tone. He knew that tone. It was the tone Angelus used when he’d killed a victim that Spike had targeted before Spike could get to her. It was the tone he used when he’d torched one of Spike’s books of poetry just to light the fire. It was the tone he used when he informed Spike that Drusilla was already asleep, sated and content, and Spike wasn’t going to get bedded tonight. It was the tone Angel used when he had destroyed something. Spike’s mouth fell open. “You didn’t.”
“Keep every vampire in the world safely caged in by the dark of the night? Yes. Yes, I did.”
Spike looked at him in horror. “You....” He wanted to say You wouldn’t. But no. He knew Angelus. He would. He would, and he did, and Spike was appalled. “You selfish, thick headed, pansy-assed, cowardly, sad sack of chicken-hearts! Didn’t feel up to keeping it from me, so you just smashed it, did you?”
“It was a menace,” Angel said. “All it could do is give too much power to evil.”
“Which is why your little bint sent it to you, ponce!”
“It was dangerous.”
“It was a sodding ring.”
“It was a weapon.”
“At best it was armor.”
“It was evil.”
“It was only power! Good or evil, it did nothing on its own.”
“It made you come after me,” Angel pointed out. “It brought Marcus out of the woodwork. He was going to use it to hunt down children.”
“If you’d had the stones to wear it, lack-brain, you could have defeated me, and Marcus, and the armies of hell besides,” Spike pointed out.
“So why’d you bother coming after me, if you thought that?”
“‘Cause it was worth it!” Spike snapped.
Angel held his head up arrogantly. “I don’t need it.”
“That doesn’t give you the all-access golden ticket for destruction!”
“I won it from Marcus, it was mine.”
“It wasn’t yours to destroy!” Spike yelled. “If I’d known you’d do that with it, I’d have left it in that sodding crypt in Sunnydale! Ugh! You are the most wretched tit the world’s ever been slapped with, a complete failure at being either good or evil. Darla must have been nuttier than Dru to make you!”
“Hey, it was mine, and it was my right to destroy it.”
“No, it was not yours,” Spike snarled. “Not yours to destroy. It could have been yours to keep, yours to treasure, yours to lock away, yours to exploit even, but you hadn’t the balls for that. No, you just up and smashed it.”
“It was just a thing.”
“That thing was a treasure!” Spike came up and yelled in his face. “Gor, you never understood how to treasure anything. That was a thing of beauty, a work of art, a fine antique, a magician’s masterwork, and you just up and decide to destroy it because you’re too much of a pissant to dare be its keeper? You could have given it to me, I’d have faced any demon or nasty or beastie who dared try to take it from me, violence or torture or no, but no, not Angel, can’t let anyone have anything of any value. There can’t be anything worth treasuring. Have to destroy every thing of beauty in the entire bloody world!” Spike hit him, his patience gone.
“You’re a vampire,” Angel snapped, fighting back. “You don’t get to lecture me on destruction.”
“You’re a vampire!” Spike yelled. “Soul-having or no, you’re still what you’ve always been!”
“I’ve changed!” Angel snarled, hitting him hard. “I’m a force for good now!”
“You’re a force for force.” Spike traded blow for blow. “And you’re the one who destroys.”
“So says the big bad.”
“The Big Bad knows a treasure when he sees one!” Spike snarled. “You only see fodder.”
“Keeping it would have been leaving a foothold for evil.”
“No,” Spike said, smacking Angel down. “Destroying it was evil.”
Angel glared at him. “I’m not evil.”
He kicked him, but Spike deflected, and attacked. “Maybe you don’t want to be, but that doesn’t stop what you are.”
“I’m not evil!” Angel roared again, redoubling his blows.
Spike smacked him a good one right across the face, leaving Angel a bit dazed. “You’re a vampire,” Spike said with contempt. “You always had a complex when it came to what you were. But, you’re old, and a bit thick, so let me explain things to you, Angel. You can have whatever you bloody want in this world, but nothing is yours.”
Angel’s eyes narrowed as Spike threw his own words back at him. “Very cute, Willy. Listen up, you can’t t–”
Spike leapt at him and took hold of him, forcing him against the wall of a building. “No, you listen to me, Angelus,” he hissed into Angel’s face. “You’re so tangled up in your own self-absorbed guilt, you don’t know what good or evil is anymore. I still know. And you’re still evil, peaches.”
“Let go of me!”
“Shut up and listen, boy!” Spike shook him, knocking the breath from him. “That thing was powerful. It was ancient. You don’t know how it was made, or what it could do. But someone, somewhere, put a lot of work, and lot of magic, into that little sparkly. You can’t just go down to the five and dime and pick up another one. You could have studied it. You could have learned from it. If you were really too scared of it, you could have locked it away where it couldn’t be found, and left it to someone else to treasure a thousand years from now. But you, creature of darkness. All you did was wreck it.”
“Because it was evil!”
“You’re the one who’s evil!” Spike smacked him. “That gem was an art! Can’t you understand that? It was a treasure, it could be yours to keep, but not to destroy!”
“What’s the difference!”
“The difference is time!” Spike snarled. “You can break into a museum and steal all the sodding artwork. You can keep it in your private vault so that none other can see it, do you get that? That’s selfish. But two hundred years from now, when it’s found that treasure is still in the world. It belongs to the world no matter who ‘owns’ it. But you take that artwork and burn it, and that’s evil.”
“This from the man who kills innocents every damn day.” Angel pushed him back.
“An innocent dies all the time. Human life is transient. Art can be eternal unless some prat like you gets their sodding hands on it.” Spike shook his head and backed away. “You missed Hitler. You were still rolling in the dirt, eating rats and feeling guilty. I saw the Degenerate Art Exhibition. 1937, all those works of supposed ‘evil.’ Nudity and revolution and anything that wasn’t deemed of ‘value’. Van Gogh and Piccaso and Kirchner, great works of art gone up in flames, never to be seen again. That, my friend, was evil. Taking that gem, taking that work of art, that masterpiece of magic, that source of unexplored power, and crushing it beneath your sodding boot because you were too much of a coward to protect it? That, my friend, was evil.”
Angel knocked Spike back and stood in defense. “And if it was so evil, why are you appalled by it, huh? I think you’re just hurt that I beat you again.”
“I’m just disgusted that you claim to be good, when you’re not,” Spike barked. “You just walk back and forth between good and evil, and you don’t even know what side you should be on.”
“I’m one of the good guys now.”
“You’re a bad guy on the side of the good guys, and doing none of it right, wanker. But you’re still a monster. All you know is how to destroy.”
“And you’re such a saint?”
“God, no. I know I’m a monster. But at least I know how to treasure a beautiful thing. Not you. You destroy everything you touch, good, bad, and indifferent, everything you get your bloody hands on, from Drusilla, to your slayer, to an ancient sodding treasure, which sure as hell couldn’t stop you.”
Angel flinched. “You leave Buffy out of this.”
Spike raised his eyebrow. “Ooh! Leave your slayer out of it? Why? I see that the truth hurts.”
“You don’t know her.”
“Mortal enemies, Angel. Enemies and... oh, right! Allies. If you don’t remember. I know her quite well.”
“Get off this, Spike,” Angel warned.
“What? Don’t want to be reminded how you destroyed your precious slayer?”
“You’re the one who kills slayers.”
“Kills. Yeah,” Spike said. “Not destroys.”
“You’re not making sense, Spike.” He shrugged. “So... usual modus operandi there.”
Spike glared at him. “You have no idea. Slayers are beautiful things, things I know how to treasure.”
“You know how to murder.”
“And you know how to take apart,” Spike said. He flew at Angel again, dancing around him, laying blows left and right. The fight continued. “The last slayer I killed, she was beautiful. She was glorious. While you were off mooning over Barry Manilow, I was hunting down the sweetest bite of New York cherry the world has ever known. And she was perfect. Powerful, beautiful, a master of the space around her. The very air glowed when she came into a room. You could feel the power crackling off her, and I stepped into it and charged.” He beat at Angel, one blow, then another, forcing him back. “One on one, back and forth, the dance was magnificent. She nearly got me. I nearly got her. Again and again, a perfect duet, neither of us holding back, life and death burning between us like a bloody volcano. And when I won, I heard the bones crack in her neck, and she lay like a madonna, still the very mother of strength itself.”
Angel was battling now. He struggled up against Spike panting, his eyes narrowed. “That’s appalling.”
“It was beautiful!” Spike hit him across the face and stepped back for a better attack. “She started beautiful, and I left her beautiful. Never even made a mark on that perfect skin. But you, you get hold of a slayer and inject her full of ugliness, till the destruction crawls out of every inch of her, like maggots.”
The image was horrific, and Spike knew it would sting. “I love Buffy,” Angel snarled.
“And we all know how you value love, Angelus,” Spike said. “Trying to scrub it off in the garden like it was poison.”
“I keep telling you,” Angel said. “That’s. Not. Me!” He leapt and got hold of Spike, holding him down.
“Why not?” Spike said. “Because you’ve a soul? I ain’t got one, and I love just fine.”
“You don’t even know what you’re talking about,” Angel said. “And it’s sad that you don’t.”
“I know,” Spike snarled. “I know love. And I know you destroy love everywhere you go, soul or not.” He wrestled Angel over. “You wrecked it for me and Drusilla – you didn’t even want it for yourself, but you just had to get your little fingers into the one spot of beauty she had left, and crush it.”
Angel wrestled him back, and glared into his face. “Drusilla only left because she deserved better than you,” Angel said. “And even insane, she knew it.”
“She deserved better than you!” Spike shouted, and he landed a blow, bruising Angel’s eye. He rolled him over and held him down. “Always! You couldn’t bear that we were happy. That we’d done just fine, happy together for a bloody century, you couldn’t bear seeing it. Not even your own damn child, you couldn’t bear seeing her happy. You had to kill that love, one way or another. You just had to destroy her again.” Spike punched him. “And as for your precious Buffy, you crush her into tiny little slayerbits, until she pours her body onto the nastiest pile of midden Sunnydale Community College could spawn, a hunter of women so prolific and so obvious that even a child could have seen through his lines. But not Buffy. Not after what you did to her. Not after you’d dismantled her psyche so totally she doesn’t know what she’s looking it! And then walked off leaving her broken and alone!”
Angel grunted and shoved Spike off him. “I left so I wouldn’t destroy her!” he wailed.
Spike realized he’d struck a nerve. “Oh, really. You should have seen her crying.” He stalked Angel like a cat with a mouse. “If that’s why you left, you were far too late. She should have been strong. She should have been wise. She should have known better. And if she’d been unlucky enough to fall for his lies, when he saw her off, she should have bitten his neck and severed his spine like she was one of us. But no. You left her so weak and so wounded that all she could do was crumble, and beg him – beg him – to tell her if she’d ‘done something wrong.’” Spike snorted. “It was just sad to see. She was pissed on by a slug, and she’s so broken, she thinks its all her fault. You left her so twisted she can’t recognize the good from the bad, any more than you can.” He smiled at Angel. “And you left her reaching for what will hurt her, ‘cause it’s all she knows. Pain and pain and pain. It’ll happen again. Mark my words. You left a wound too deep to heal clean. She’ll be suffering all her life.”
Angel stared at him, his eyes tormented. Spike couldn’t help but be pleased by it. Yeah. That was enough. That was all he needed. He’d won. He backed away, contempt strong in every line of him. “You get hold of masterpieces, and you destroy them,” he said, twisting the knife as he left. “Fine antiques and beautiful women, good or evil.” He shook his head. “The slayer would have been luckier if I’d killed her the night I met her. She’d still have been perfect then. Glorious. Not the poisoned wreck you left of her.” Spike moved further away from Angel. “And you know what? I think I’m gonna solve that little problem. Bag me another slayer, gem or no. I don’t need it either.”
“You stay away from her.”
Spike laughed. “Gonna stop me, all soulfully challenged?” Spike asked. He laughed. “I gave you at least three chances to kill me tonight.” Spike stepped backwards with his arms spread. “And now I’m walkin’ away.” Spike turned with a flip of his coat – his slayer’s coat – and did just that.
Angel let him walk for a few moments, and then shouted after. “You could have killed me, too!” he called. “Cross bow in the dark.”
Spike grinned back at him. “I hurt you more leavin’ you standing lost in a fog, mate,” he pointed out. “I’m the one who knows what I am.”
“A monster?” Angel called out.
Spike had already disappeared into the night. “Slayer of slayers, mate. And you’re still bloody stupid.”
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