Babylon - part five

 

 

"You lucked out, Harris!" Spike called, pushing open the door, the ward swinging from his fingers.  But the bed was empty - the blankets pulled half onto the floor - and there was the smell of blood in the air.  *Christ!*    "Harris?"  Spike piled food and finds by the door - slammed it and locked it and dove for the bed.  One water-bottle, empty and crushed on the floor, the other one on its side, mostly empty.  The trailing edge of the sheet was soaked and Spike yanked the blankets back before they got wet, too.  *Bathroom, thenWhat the fuck?*

Xander was huddled in the corner between tub and wall, arms tight around his shins and his head on his knees.  There was blood all down the side of his face and trailing onto his neck - smeared on his hands and ribs and arms.  He was still fevered and his whole body juddered and trembled with hard, cramping shivers.  A low, breathy sound was coming out of him - words, but Spike couldn't understand them.  After two days of silence Xander's voice was cracked and broken.

"Harris, you git, why didn't you stay in bed?"  Spike crouched down in front of Xander and reached hesitantly for his arm - touched the sweat-slick, too-hot flesh and jerked away as Xander flinched and banged his opposite shoulder and arm into the tub.

"Harris -"   Xander lifted his head - looked at Spike with a dazed, too-wide eye - looked through him.  His gasping, breathless voice was finally clear and Spike listened with growing dismay.

"Wo-won't do it a-g-g-gain, won't - won't - d-d-d -   P-Promise!  I prom-mmise I w-wo-won't...do it ag-again just l-l-let me have my sh-shhhot, let me have my shhot, fuckers, give it to me -"   Raw-voiced whisper that was so full of desperate need that Spike very nearly got up and got the stuff.   Instead he reached out again and carefully touched Xander's face, steeling himself against the involuntary, terrified twitch away.

"Harris - stop that, now.  You're sick.  Can't give you a shot - that shite'll kill you.  You hear me?"  Xander kept mumbling - kept pleading - and Spike growled softly in frustration.  "Wake.  UpXander!"

Xander checked - blinked - and drew in a hard, wheezing breath, his lungs creaking and whistling.  "Spike.  S-spike?"

"Yes.  Yeah.  Spike.   Got you free, Harris - got you some medicine.  You'll be fine in a - a few days."  Xander raised one thin and shaking hand - looked at the blood on it and blanched even whiter.  He looked up at Spike with a strange sort of lost expression on his face.

"I d-dreamed you died," he whispered.

"Yeah, well.   I got better."  Xander only looked confused and Spike shook his head - stood up and grabbed a towel and turned on the water in the sink.  "Let me get the blood off you and then back to beddy-bye.  Got you some medicine -"

"My sh-shot -"

"No."  Spike glared at Xander in the mirror and Xander curled down on himself tighter.  "No, Harris, no more shots.   Dream Water's for demons, not for the likes of you.  Kill you, that will."

"I'm dying n-now, Spike!   Just give m-me the fuckin' - sh-shot!"
"Shut up, Harris," Spike growled, getting - he had to admit - a certain satisfaction in saying that.  He turned away from the sink, the towel dripping in his hand and crouched down again - reached and lifted Xander's head, fingers under the stubble-rough jaw.   He started to wipe the blood away, dabbing carefully around the empty socket.  "You're not dying.  Just the withdrawal, is all.  Pass in a few days."  Xander's eye was closed, his lip caught between his teeth and Spike rubbed his thumb along the hollow cheek.  "Harris...how long were you -?"

"The l-last pure-blood hu-human?" Xander whispered, and Spike nodded - realized Xander wasn't looking and spoke instead.

"Yeah.  How long'd those bastards have you?"  

Xander didn't say anything for a long moment and then he opened his eye, the lost look back in his gaze.  The confusion.  "Wh-when is it?  Is it - Ss-summer?"

"No, it's - it's nearly October, Harris."  The weather had gotten - strange, after Illyria.  It should have been a lot colder than it was, especially this far north.   Spike couldn't remember seeing snow, since...Before.

"Oc-oct-t....  No, it c-can't be, it was J-july when they f-f-found me...  Spike -"   Xander's hand shot out and gripped Spike's forearm, ragged nails digging painfully in and Spike hissed.  "Doesn't mm-ake sense -"

"It's almost October of naught-five, Harris.  The Before, that was - year and a half ago.  They had you - three months?"

"No! No, no - nonono -"  Xander's nails cut into Spike's arm and Spike tried to jerk away but Xander came with him, falling forward onto Spike - clutching at his shirt, all salt and iron-earth and the bitter licorice stink of the drug - fever heat like a smoldering, smothering fire.  Panic suddenly adding itself to the mix as Xander flailed - fought - seemed to be wanting to get away and shred Spike's skin from his bones at the same time.

"Harris - stop it!"   Spike hissed again as Xander's nails raked his neck - his face - as the scrabbling legs drove boney knees into his gut and thigh and groin and Xander's teeth suddenly found his jaw and bit, drawing blood.  "Bloody hell! " Spike howled - gave an almighty heave and flung Xander backwards hard, into the tub.  Xander crumpled to the floor, thin shriek of pain whistling out through his teeth and Spike just lay there for a long moment, panting.  Watching as Xander gathered himself jerkily up into a knot of bloody skin and bones and started rocking - muttering.  Shivering on the cold tile floor.

*Fuck, fuck, fuck!  God damnit.*  Spike heaved himself wearily upright - thought for just a moment and then leaned around Xander and turned the shower on, dialing it up hot.   Stripping his clothes off and tossing them out the door - pulling a reluctant and dazed Xander to his feet.

"C'mon, Harris.  Fucking hell.  Let's get in the shower - get warmed up again, yeah?  I got you some soup - good stuff, smells like.  Some kind of fish chowder and - and some sweet and sour soup.  You used to like that."  Xander let himself be maneuvered into the tub but flinched from the pound of the spray and the hollow click of the stall door shutting.  Spike bit his lip, listening to Xander's heart speed up and his wheezing breathing grow labored.  He grimly forced Harris under the water - held him there when he writhed and coughed and tried to get away.

"Stand still, damnit!  You're gonna fall, Harris!   Break your sodding skull!"  Xander opened his mouth and screamed - hoarse and hysterical and Spike just hugged his arms around Xander - held him tight and sank down to sit in the tub.  Closed his eyes against the spray and wrapped arms and legs around Xander's shivering body and just held on.  Crooning nonsense into Xander's ear - telling him it would be all right, all right 'all right, Harris, all right...promise...'   Gradually warming under the spray and finally Xander went limp; little hitching breath and his hand curling around Spike's wrist, holding tight.

Spike - just sat.  He was so damn tired.  Just so tired.   Still just wanted...a drink.  Wanted some fucking peace.  But he hadn't had that in years.  Hadn't had that since Dru - since they'd danced together to her own private music.  Music of the stones and the stars and the bones of their latest kill.  Danced with eyes closed, forehead to forehead and body to body, the Hellmouth nothing but a place to leave behind.  All of eternity at their feet.  But...

*Always keep my promises, don't I?  Promise I'll do my best to fix this...  Won't let you hurt like this.  Don't deserve this, Harris.  Xander.  Don't deserve this.*

 

 

By the time Spike felt like they'd both calmed down Xander's shakes had come back with a vengeance, so Spike got them up and out.  Got them both mostly dry and Xander back into the bed, tucked up with extra blankets and wearing the sweats and t-shirt Spike had dug out of an abandoned sporting-goods store.  Spike got Xander to swallow three aspirin and a dose of penicillin and Xander simply lay there, propped on pillows and watching Spike's every move with a bleary, half-aware gaze.  The hurt place on his head - where he'd fallen, Spike assumed - was bruised but the cut was nothing and Spike didn't bother with a bandage.

"For a city this size the place isn't half-bad," Spike said, laying out his finds on the bed and sorting through them, watching Xander watch him.  "Half the shops still have gear in 'em - guess by the time the wave got here, they -" and he gestured out toward the city and the demons and hybrids who owned it now, "- had everything they needed.  Could have got enough clothes for a year."  As it was he'd gotten several changes of jeans and t-shirts for both of them plus the sweats and some warmer clothes - a couple of thermal shirts and sweaters.  Light but bulky things and he was figuring in his head how it was all going to pack - if Harris would be able to carry his own gear or if Spike would be stuck burdened with another pack.

*Fuck.  I guess 'wither thou goest', Harris...  Already making plans for us...*   But it was better, a very quiet voice in his head said, than being alone.   *So much better.*

"Look here," Spike said, and displayed the camping stove.  He'd traded the bulk of the clothes and trinkets scavenged from the traveling show for the stove, and the last of the Valium - nearly twenty pills - for two bottles of fuel.    "We can make tea over this, coffee - heat this soup up.  You want some soup, Harris?  Got -"

"S-sweet and sow...er," Xander whispered, and Spike felt the grin stretch his mouth wide before he schooled it to something less - obvious.  Grinning because Xander remembered - grinning because Xander was talking, and Spike just needed that right now.  Needed to hear someone else's voice.  Convince himself he wasn't off the deep end.

"Yeah.  You up for some?"  Xander considered that while Spike set up the stove.  Thick wire tripod that held a heating element at the center.  He fiddled with the fuel-bottle and the valve - finally got it lit and adjusted the hissing blue flame down low.   Found the small pot whose handle detached and opened the waxed carton the soup was in.  Barely warm, it still smelled sharp and savory and good and he held it out toward Xander, eyebrow going up.

"Yes or no, then?"

"Yess.  Just - a l-little," Xander said, measuring with his fingers and Spike snorted softly, pouring soup into the pot.

"Take more than that to get some flesh back on your bones," he muttered, but Xander just looked away, scrunching down a little lower under the blankets.   As the soup heated Spike sorted the rest of his haul.  Three kinds of antibiotics, just in case Xander was allergic to the penicillin.  He'd found them in the private pharmacy of a little clinic near Beacon Hill.  The lobby had been littered with sun-faded brochures for Botox and silicone injections and the pharmacy shelves had been looted for painkillers but for nothing else.  

In a desk drawer in one of the doctor's offices he'd found a pretty little cloisonné box with a pretty little chunk of hash inside, the color of Turkish Delight.  The hand-blown glass pipe and three marijuana buds nestled beside it - as sticky as candy floss - had made him grin.

"Look - got you some jeans and stuff," Spike said, holding up the clothes but Xander didn't seem overly interested - seemed to be half asleep, actually.  Lying against the headboard, his eye shutting in long, slow blinks - his face relaxed and expressionless.  With his chopped-off hair sticking up every which way and his unshaven face all hollows and bones, he looked -

*Looks younger even then that time Angel tried to feed him to me.  Looks like a little boy.*  Spike wondered what he looked like, with his hair grown long enough to braid back in a short queue or get in his eyes.   Vampire bodies did change, and the mutated blood of the hybrids had made him...different.  Had made all the vamps different.  Closer to the demon, he supposed.  No spare flesh on him anymore but his muscles singing with strength and speed.    *Didn't recognize me, did he?  Wasn't sure.  Just the drugs...*   Spike didn't like to think that he didn't look like himself.  "Soup's hot, Harris.  You ready for some?"  Xander blinked and licked his lips - struggled into a slightly more upright position and Spike poured three fingers-worth of soup into a tin mug - brought it over to Xander and offered it. 

Xander's hands shook as he took the mug and he sipped slowly, slowly.   Spike rooted out the left-over blini and ate them, reckoning that day-old fish might not be good for...whatever Xander was.  *Not human, that's for sure.  Can't be.  But not demon, either.  Something...else.*   He licked his fingers and wished for a shot of whiskey - had a smoke instead, standing over by the balcony doors and watching the lights of the Dens roll and bob on the surf - watching pinkish-blue lightning flicker through the dull pall of the clouds.   It felt late - past midnight, probably.  He finished his cigarette and sent the butt arching out over the rail - turned back inside, shutting the doors. 

Xander was tipping sideways in the bed, cup tilting in his hand and his gaze glazed and distant.  The shivers had stopped, finally and Spike stepped quickly across the room, plucking the cup from lax fingers.

"You're gonna make a mess, Harris," he said and Xander jerked - looked up at him - and recoiled.

"What the fuck do you want?" Xander rasped, his look one of intense anger - hatred.  A look Spike hadn't gotten from him since -

*Since the beginning.  Since the fucking Initiative.  Just bloody great.*   "I'm just makin' sure you don't spill your soup, Harris," he said, and Xander made a sort of confused sneer, his gaze flickering here and there.

"Get out of m-my house, Ss-spike, you're not w-welcome," he said - then he flinched again, curling down around himself as some pain shot through him.

"Not your house, mate -" Spike muttered, catching Xander's shoulder and pushing him away from the edge of the bed - tugging the covers up only to have Xander claw wildly at them.

"Tryin' to - s-strangle me!  No, get off me!"  He bucked - arched hard and then curled up again, arms around his belly, a sudden sweat breaking out on him.  "God, g-god..."   He hugged himself, shivering again but this time in reaction instead of fever and Spike crouched down next to the bed, wiping Xander's face off with the damp corner of the sheet. 

"It's the drug, Harris - Xander?  It's the drug, is all.  You'll be okay in a couple of days -"   Xander's hand shot out and locked around Spike's wrist, ragged nails digging in.

"Ss-pike, just gimmie the sh-shot, it w-won't hurt mme -"

"It'll kill you, you stupid wanker.  No.  Look, I got - got something else -"   Spike wrenched away from Xander's grip and snatched up the little cloisonné box - hastily assembled a pipe-full of the blonde hash and found his lighter.  "Just - take a couple hits of this, okay?  Make you relax.  Take your mind off it."  Xander turned his face away, mouth drawn down in anger or distaste.  "Damnit, Harris," Spike yelled, his temper flaring.  "You're not getting a shot!  For fuck's sake just smoke this!" 

Xander twitched away from Spike's raised voice - gasped in a wheezing breath.  "Gonna - kill me with th-that, can't - b-breathe -"

"You'll be fine, for fuck's sake!"  Spike held up pipe and lighter and waited.  Xander pulled his knees up higher, cradling his belly and then finally he looked back at Spike again.  Nodded slightly.  Spike sighed in relief and held the pipe to his lips - let him take one and then two and finally three deep hits, waiting through the coughing fits that came after each one.  "There now, that's enough.  Condition you're in, wouldn't be surprised if you passed out on me." 

Xander glared at him, wiping at his eye which was tearing all down his cheek.  He plucked at the damp sheet and sketchily wiped his face - collapsed back onto the pillows with a groan, his arms going around his ribs.  "Fuckin' hurts."

"Yeah.  It'll get better.  You...  How long you been on that shite, Harris?  You remember?"  Xander seemed to be thinking, his lips moving soundlessly, and Spike sat down by the bed, leaning against the side - closing his eyes.  *Almost twenty-four hours with no sleep...pullin' him all over the city and...  Need to sleep...*   His meal - two too-fat-to-run hybrids that had been nesting in the doctor's office - was urging him toward rest, and he wanted to crawl into the bed and forget for a while. 

"I d-don't know," Xander whispered, and Spike jerked, half-asleep, his head drooping down toward the mattress.

"What?"

"I don't - know how l-long they...  They got me in J-july -"

"So only a few months - only three months, Harris." Spike said softly.  "You'll be back to your old self in no time."

"No.  No."  Xander scrubbed one hand wearily across his eye - looked at Spike with a desperate sort of fear.  "I - I was t-trying to get to - L.A.  When they f-found me.  It was j-just after...  It was l-last year, Spike, it was - wa-was - I've...been..."  Xander stopped, panting, and Spike reached hesitantly and touched his shoulder - stroked his fingers down muscles hard as steel with tension.  "It can't be a year, Ss-spike, it c-can't be - more than - it can't, it can't, it can't..."  Xander's voice trailed off into soft, hoarse sobs and Spike watched helplessly for a moment. 

His hand crept up from Xander's bicep to his neck and he curled his fingers around the back - rubbed gently with his thumb just behind Xander's ear.  "Hey now, Ha- Xander.  It's....  It's all over now, right?  Got you out - gonna get you off this shite...  All good, yeah?"

"No.  N-n-never g-good again.  Never g-good..."

"Shh - hush now.  That's no way to talk."   Spike stood up - pushed at Xander until he scooted over, dragging his pillow with him.  Spike stripped off boots and jeans and shirt and slid into the bed, curling into the fever-warmth of Xander's body - pulling him close.  Half expecting the man to lash out, or pull away.  To reject him.  But after a moment's silence Xander settled on his side, back to Spike's chest and his hands clutching Spike's wrist - pulling Spike's hand close to his bony chest.

"Don't know wh-what to do, Spike.  I'm...lost."

"We'll figure it out tomorrow, Xander.  Promise," Spike whispered.  He rubbed his chin across the crown of Xander's skull - through the silky prickle of his butchered hair.   *We've got all of time and the wide world to roam, Xander.  We'll find...something.*