Babylon - part two

 

 

Spike cursed softly under his breath - looked around at the huddled form by the fire and cursed again.  *Xander fucking Harris!  Here, now...  Fuck, fuck, fuck!*   The shivering, blanket-swaddled figure dredged up memories - too damn many memories - and Spike was having trouble pushing them back down.   Sunnydale, Dru, Buffy - the Niblet.  Demon-girl and the witches and even old Rupert.  All of whom were dead now, or altered beyond recognition.  Except for Xander, who seemed...

*What if he is the last human?  God - not possible...  But he's the same - just the same.*   Spike struggled with the ratty quilts that had made a sleeping nest in the cart, doing his best to sun-proof the unwieldy vehicle.  It was a hassle, but he took no chances, now - he'd lost his duster to this new and unpredictable sky.  The cloud-cover had broken for the first time in weeks and he'd been caught out - huddling in a little trader-tent, too far from his bolt-hole to run and the trader wanting to dismantle and move on.  He'd traded his duster for the thin, silver camping blanket, letting the length of leather and memory go with a sick feeling in his gut and his jaw clamped so hard he thought his teeth might crack.   He'd never let himself get into that sort of position again, but the damage was already done.   The sting of that...still hurt.

*Just a sodding coat.  Let it go.  Things to do, here.*   Xander hadn't tried to run - had barely moved, his single eye rolling in panic as Spike had gathered him up and half-carried him out of the cart - gotten him settled in scavenged blankets that the hybrids hadn't yet ruined.   His skin had been hot and tight to Spike's touch and he couldn't be sure but Xander seemed fevered.  *Not sweating, though, and that's not good.  Damnit, Harris - fuckin' pain in my ass...*

There was a fairly large cache of bottled water in a cupboard under the driver's seat of the cart and Spike had checked it carefully, finding bottles and bottles of sealed Evian and Dasani.  Stuff like that - was easy to come by.  Demons didn't much care for 'human' things when it came to food or drink - well, unless it was alcohol.   And since Illyria, there had been plenty of some things.  A lot of humans, it seemed, hadn't survived the changes.  Spike had walked around what was left of Denver rather than go in - from two miles out the stench of death had been overwhelming.  It was easy to scavenge, in the mostly-empty cities - there was no competition.

Spike put two water bottles next to Xander - watched a thin and shaking hand fumble one up and then struggle with the cap.  With a small snarl of annoyance he snatched it away and cracked the seal himself.  "Bloody hell, Harris - you really are a mess." 

Xander took the bottle - took a long drink and then looked up at Spike, his gaze going over and over Spike's face.  "Sss...pike," he said - whispered, really.  Raw, ruined voice coming out of cracked lips and Spike winced.  "That...you?"  Xander looked - uncertain.  Made a gesture with his fingers towards Spike's face.

"Course it's me, Harris - who else?"

"N-not...shh-ure," Harris whispered, and Spike had to think about it for a minute, just staring at the man.  Then it hit him.  His face...  He did that little, internal shift - the minute tightening of - something.  Wearing the human face again after so long felt...odd.  But as the demon sank away Xander's own expression relaxed - a bit of the wildness went out of his gaze and Spike realized Xander hadn't been sure - really sure - that the vampire who'd hauled him out of the cage had been the one he knew.  The one who'd... 

*Died.  I died and that's all they ever knew...*   "Yeah, s'me, mate - in the flesh."  Spike touched the water bottle - urged it upward and Xander took another drink.  "Died, came back, almost died again.  And now here I am with the last bloody Scooby on the planet."  The mostly-blank expression on Xander's face curdled at that and he turned his head away, staring at the fire.  Spike wanted to shake him.  Would have, if Xander hadn't been shaking so hard already.

"I've got to finish this," he said, gesturing to the cart.  "Drink that."  He stood up abruptly and stalked off and it wasn't until he had been rigging the sun-proofing for ten minutes that he realized Xander had been crying.  *Bloody...hell.  No point in that.  Not anymore.*   It made him angry for some reason, to see the man grieving for something he should have put away months and months ago and when he heard the first noises - a sort of mewling cry - he ignored it, not in the mood to comfort anyone.  But the sound went on - gained a note of desperation and Spike finally swung down off the roof of the cart and stalked over to the man.

"What the fuck, Harris?" he snapped, but Xander was oblivious to him - was straining in some sort of fit, back arching impossibly hard, his teeth locked shut and his lip bleeding.   The water bottle was crushed in his hand and the blankets had been flung away,  

"Bloody fucking hell..."  Spike pulled the straining body to him, not sure what to do but not wanting the man to roll into the fire.  Now Xander was sweating - a rank, heavy sweat that had a sickly-sweet undertone.  An elbow thumped into the gash on Spike's thigh and he hissed and shifted, flashing back to the demon's face and wrapping his arms tightly around Xander's thrashing body.  He tilted his head a little and touched the tip of his tongue to Xander's forehead.  The taste of the man's sweat - salt, sickness, licorice - exploded across his tongue and he grimaced and spat.  *Gave him the fucking Water, god damnit -*    Aqua Somnium might be a pleasant little trip into a surreal dream-land for most demons and vampires, but for humans it had side-effects.  Sometimes deadly ones.  *But he didn't change, so maybe he was part demon to begin with or...no,  couldn't be, but...fuck!   What to do...*

"Harris - hey - you in there?  Harris?  Wake up, now, mate - c'mon, Harris - Harris -"   The convulsions were easing off slowly; reducing themselves in intensity until Xander suddenly went limp in Spike's arms, gasping.  A thin line of blood trailed down from his nose and after a moment he wiped shakily at it - made a strange sort of grimace that Spike realized was an attempt at a smile.  His left front tooth had got chipped, somehow.

"Rusty pipes," he croaked, and Spike picked up the other water bottle - wrestled Harris into a more upright position, propping him between his knees and pulling the sweat-slick, overheated body back against his chest.  He opened the bottle and held it up to Xander's mouth.

"C'mon and drink, damnit.  Why're you takin' that shite, Harris?"  Xander drank clumsily, water spilling out of his mouth and washing blood down over his chin - his throat.  It stank of rotting tin and licorice and the demon in Spike recoiled, *unhealthy unhealthy unhealthy*.  "Turnin' your blood to sludge - no vamp in his right mind'd drink from you now."

"Gu-guess I'm sssafe from you then," Xander mumbled - took another drink and leaned his head back onto Spike's shoulder.  "Not - taking it.  They -"   He stopped - coughed - and his fingers twitched, out and around, indicating the bodies and the scattered debris.  "Gave it - t-to me.  Ssso..."    His voice trailed off and Spike shook him slightly.

"Harris.  Wake up.  Finish what you were sayin', yeah?  Harris."  Xander jerked - lifted his head fractionally and then let it fall back again, thump, onto Spike's shoulder.

"So I'd be - g-good.  Be good...b-boy, hu-human..."  The talk seemed to have exhausted him and he fell silent again - went limp, his too-wet breathing lengthening to a sleeping rhythm in a few minutes. 

*Bloody...buggering...fucking...hell.  Used it to keep him from causing them any trouble.  Fuck. How long?*   "Harris - how long you been on this junk?  Harris?"  He shook the man gently but Xander was well and truly out.  Spike stretched over for the blankets, getting one laid out on the ashy ground and easing Harris over on to it - tucking the other up around him.  He paused for a moment, gaze tracing over the network of scars that seamed Xander's body.  The firelight picked them out, silver against his pallor.  Looked like he'd been lashed - looked like he'd broken a bone or two - been stabbed or cut, somehow.   Scar on his jaw, too, and a small hump to the bone there that Spike had to touch to be sure of. 

*Broke his jaw - broke his collarbone - what else?  Boy - man - has been through some rough times.  Can't have all been from these tossers...*   Spike finished tucking the blanket up - hesitated for a long moment and then ran his fingers through Xander's cropped hair.   It was thick with sweat and dirt and he felt a lump there, too, over Xander's right ear.  But it felt nice, to trace the shape of Xander's skull.  To feel the heat of him, even if it was just fever-heat.  Spike hadn't been with anyone for so long.  Had only touched in violence for...months.  Nearly a year.  The last time...

 

 

"Just shut up," Spike grits, eyes shut and hips moving;  filling his nose and mouth with the thick, briny air and fug of tallow candles.  Trying not to smell the sex-smell of the body beneath him - the stink of too many others.  He just wants the release - the loosening of unbearable tensions.   Nothing to do with warmth, or softness...nothing to do with memory so degraded that it's like a bad Kinescope - all warped out of true and fuzzy; stop-motion jerky and starting to burn out.  The whore obligingly stops its low crooning and shifts on the bed, ass a little higher in the air and Spike's fingers sink into the tumble of rough blankets and wash-worn sheets, shredding them as he comes.   "Just shut up," he whispers, and pulls away. 

Two CD's - Cher and Cypress Hill, both relatively scratch-free - got him a half-hour with the whore.   Human enough to be appealing, demon enough to bear up under his strength.

Spike gets up and washes in the bowl of lukewarm seawater that stands on a hard little chair near the door.  The whore rolls onto its back and chirrups something at him, dolphin-squeak made low and slow.  It sounds vaguely like words but not really and Spike doesn't bother to interpret.  Its skin is silvery blue- grey and its legs join at the knees, flattening and fanning out into something very like an oversized seal-flipper.  Ariels, they're called.  Webbed hands, gill-slits in the neck and filmy clouds of white-sliver hair.  Pretty, if you care.  Spike doesn't. 

He shoulders his pack and leaves without a word, walking carefully on the bobbing deck of the whorehouse.  His traded Cher CD is playing on some sort of rigged system, tinny and unpleasant.    What he really wants, more than anything, is a bottle or two of good whiskey and a quiet space to sit and drink - to get drunk and just forget, for awhile.   But whiskey from the Before is scarce and he doesn't have enough trade to get any, at least not here.  He walks up and away from the docks - walks through the streets of Seattle, contemplating his next move.  He's heard rumors that the east coast wasn't hit as hard - heard rumors that there are ships plying the depths, making the crossing.  He thinks he might go back to England for a while.  The faint pull that whispers 'Dru' has faded in the last six months and he thinks she might be there.  Finding her is as good a goal as any other.  By sunset he's on his way, striding east, leaving the west and its failures behind him. 

 

 

Spike blinked, coming back to himself slowly, his hand still moving stiltedly through Xander's hair.   He didn't...want to move, the heat of the fire felt so good on his skin.  It was always cold, now; the sun behind the clouds so often that there didn't seem to be any warmth left in the world.  After a moment he shook himself - made himself get up and finish with the quilts and move the rest of the water-cache into the cart.  Just in case.  The hybrid with the cracked skull was still breathing and Spike pulled the chain and manacles that had been fastened around Xander's ankles through the bars and locked it up.  *Wouldn't do, to have my breakfast stumbling off into the wild.  Or gutting us in our sleep.*

Done and satisfied that the cart was ready, Spike got out his sleeping bag and set a knife ready under the attached pillow - went back to the fire and carefully gathered up the human's sleeping form.  Xander was light - too light - and his head lolled in something closer to unconsciousness as Spike maneuvered him through the door and into place.  Then he wedged a hunk of wood into the door frame, pressing hard with all his strength.  It would take something damn strong - or a battering ram - to get that door open in a hurry.  He looked around, running a mental checklist.  Making sure of things before he gave in and slept, and let his body heal.  The cut across his back felt shallow but it had bled freely and now his shirt was stuck to him, pulling uncomfortably on the edges of the wound.  With a grimace he pulled it off and balled it up - lobbed it through the bars and into the fire.  Then he lay down facing Xander - watching Xander's chest rise - hitch - fall.  Listening to the heart-beat that was a little too fast - a little uneven.

*Got to get him somewhere...  Get him to the city.  Rumor says there's a sizeable community there...might be a magic-user or two.  Might be a healer...*   He mentally catalogued the trade-goods he had and the ones he'd acquired.  Rich, but maybe not rich enough.  *Fucking white-hats, always making things difficult.  Always trippin' me up.*  He glared for a moment at Xander's slack, thin face - reached out and used his thumb to wipe away a smear of dirt.  *Can't seem to get away from them.  Can't seem to...resist them.  Bastards.*   Then he curled up and drifted to sleep, lulled by the almost-familiar heartbeat of someone he'd thought dead and gone.  *Makes two of us, Harris, who've survived this mess.  Don't give up now.*