Credence Chapter 10
Oz was pissed at him, and although Spike knew what he was pissed about, he wasn't exactly sure he knew why. They'd got back to his flat an hour before sun-up and Xander had gone straight into the bathroom. Thirty-seven minutes later and the shower was still running and Spike was getting a little pissed about that. He gave up on the shot-glass and just carried the bottle of whiskey over to the couch. Laid down and got his legs between the couch-back and Oz, shoving pillows under his head and enjoying the warmth. The couch was wide enough for it to be supremely comfortable. Oz was in the corner of the couch, his back against the arm and a blanket over his legs.
"Tell me again," Spike said, "I don't get it," and Oz just looked at him.
"You're not going to get it, Spike. That just...wasn't a good idea." Oz reached out to the coffee table and carefully picked up a glass of some sort of juice. His hand shook a little as he carried it to his mouth and he drank slowly, in tiny, separate mouthfuls. He was - not better, really. Not unconscious, not fevered, at least. But the silver poisoning kept him weak - made it hard for him to eat or to sleep soundly, made even getting up and walking painful. 'Like an electric shock that just doesn't end,' Oz said, 'like my bones are eroding and jamming up the gears...hurts to fuckin' blink, sometimes.' He pushed his morphine free time as far as he could, but he still spent the better part of the day swooning in an opiate haze. He was too thin, and Spike had begun to wonder if he would even wake up from the next full moon. As a result, he'd pestered Wrxl until the old demon refused to talk to him anymore.
"He wasn't afraid. I'd have smelled it. He wanted it," Spike said, third or fourth time, and Oz leaned forward and put the juice back down, the glass chattering on the table a little.
"No, the hyena wanted it. That's different. That's...something else."
"Part of him," Spike said, shrugging, taking a long drink of his whisky, and Oz leaned back on the arm of the couch, pulling the blanket a little higher.
"It is, but... It's not a part he wants."
"Doesn't matter what he wants, does it? It's there, and it's not goin' anywhere, far as I can tell. He's not human anymore - he's like us. Why bother pretending?" Spike really did want to understand. For Xander to deny what the vampire had seen - had sensed - would be like himself trying to deny his demon. Impossible, and ultimately fatal. It made no sense, and while Spike dimly grasped that there was more human than hyena and that made it harder to accept the hyena - it still seemed an act of self-castigation to repress the beast.
"It'll tear him apart, tryin' to keep it at bay," he said finally, and Oz sighed.
"But it's what he wants. Listen, Spike. I understand why you hunt the soldiers. I - won't. That's not what I'm about and it's not... I can't inflict what I...remember...on anyone. You can. I rule the wolf - when I'm well enough." Oz frowned for a moment and then shook it off. "Xander wants to have control over the hyena. He did things - the first time it happened - that frightened him. He doesn't want those...impulses...to be him, you know? He doesn't want to be capable of what the hyena's capable of."
"He is, though. He'd never have done if he wasn't. Can't make a dog hunt - it has to want to. And he wants to. Needs to, maybe."
"Maybe. But he doesn't want to want it, and he's going to fight it."
*More fool him, then. But he can't fight the beast in him AND the one in me.* Spike had to smile to himself at that thought, because it was true. Xander wouldn't be able to resist the beast if Spike bent all his attention to teasing it out. And that's exactly what he intended to do.
Oz reached out and put his hand on Spike's ankle where it rested on the couch, circling the slim column of bone and muscle with his fingers, stroking the knob of bone with his thumb. Spike sighed a little, smiling, and Oz smiled back. They'd longed for touch, down in the cells - made do with words instead - words that caressed like lovers hands.
"You, love, and I... (he whispers) you and I...and if no more than only you and I...what care you or I?"
"It is time for us to kiss the earth again...it is time to let the leaves rain from the skies...let the rich life run to the roots again..."
"He locked the door behind us, and then for a moment, in the gloom, we simply stared at each other - with dismay, with relief, and breathing hard. I was trembling. I thought, if I do not open the door at once and get out of here, I am lost. But I knew I could not open the door, I knew it was too late: soon it was too late to do anything but moan. He pulled me against him, putting himself into my arms as though he were giving me himself to carry, and slowly pulled me down with him to that bed. With everything in me screaming No! yet the sum of me sighed Yes."
"So, when I am in a voluptuous vein...I pillow my head on the sweets of the rose...and list to the tale of the wreath and the chain...till its echoes depart...then I sink to repose..."
Spike let the small warmth of Oz's hand sink into his bones. This was all he'd wanted, in the cell. This was...enough.
"Tell me how it happened, then. Where'd this hyena come from?" he asked after a while, when he heard the shower finally turn off. He drained the last of the whiskey and put the bottle on the coffee table.
"Oh, years ago. Some keeper at the Zoo, he'd heard about these cults in Africa. How they invited the spirit of the hyena into them. He wanted to do it, so he set it up and - Xander and some other guys from school, they walked into it. Got possessed for...a week, I guess." Oz scooted down on the wide, soft cushions of the couch and Spike twisted himself onto his side, bending his legs so Oz could lean back against his thighs. Oz pulled a pillow out from behind Spike's back and tucked it between his head and Spike's hip. Spike liked being curled around the werewolf like that - like he was keeping him safe, and he pulled his own pillow free and put it on Oz's thighs - rested his head there.
"He attacked Buffy while he was possessed. Hurt her pretty bad, considering she was the Slayer." Spike lifted an eyebrow at that, and Oz shrugged. "She didn't want to hurt him, and he didn't have any real control, then. So - it was bad."
"Tried to kill a Slayer, huh?" Spike mused, and Oz shook his head.
"No - the pack wanted a - leader. Hyenas are matriarchal, and they needed a strong female to lead the pack. The one that got possessed with them - she wasn't leader material, so Buffy was the next logical choice. Strongest female around. He... Well, he tried to rape her." Oz tugged at the blanket, trying to get it higher and Spike came up on one elbow and helped him, smoothing it over the werewolf's chest. He cupped Oz's cheek in his palm for a moment and Oz pushed into his touch, closing his eyes. After a moment Spike leaned back, burrowing into the pillow, and Oz opened his eyes.
"The pack - they killed a few people. Attacked Willow - Xander's best friend - attacked Giles, the Watcher?" Spike nodded, remembering. The Watcher tied to the chair in the mansion, writhing under Angelus' cruel, deft touch, and Drusilla's crueler illusion. And the witchling, yelling at him about 'taking' and 'spells', defiance in the face of his drunken savagery and Spike had admired that, that she had that much courage.
"I remember," Spike murmured, and Oz nodded.
"Yeah. Anyway - when it was gone, Xander said he couldn't remember what he'd done. We told him some of it. But later - the summer after Buffy killed Angel and ran away - he told me he remembered it all. He was - he wanted to know if I remembered what I did when I was the wolf." Oz hand came out from under the blanket and wormed its way under the thin, soft sweater Spike had changed into. He curled his fingers over Spike's ribs and stroked slowly, up and back. Spike sighed happily and closed his eyes.
"Do you, then?"
"I - do, and I don't. It's very...dreamlike. It's easy to distance myself from it. But if I really - concentrate - I can be there with it. If I want to be. Xander didn't have any control at all, when it first happened. He was - like a passenger in an out-of-control car, or something. It really scared him. Mostly 'cause - he said - he liked some of it."
"What part?" Spike had to ask, and Oz went still - moved, just a little and Spike opened his eyes. Oz had lifted his head a little and was looking over the back of the couch and Xander was standing there, his wet hair ruffled from being toweled off and his skin flushed still from the shower. He was pulling on another hoodie - dark green - over a black t-shirt and an old pair of faded black sweats. He'd left the hoodie unzipped but shoved his hands into the pockets, shoulders hunching and his head going down.
"Having a nice chat?" he said, and Oz shifted a little.
"Telling him about the hyena, is all. You okay?"
"No," Xander said, and went over to the kitchen - got a bottle of juice out and drank, long swallows without benefit of a glass or a breath. Then he stood there a moment, and Spike could smell the sorrow and anger coming off him. But the honey-thick musk that Spike was realizing was the hyena was there, as well, and he took a deep breath, watching the boy's shoulders tense and flex - watching him put the juice away and then come slowly back to the couch, his eyes wide and lost-looking.
"Wanna know what I liked?" Xander said, and Spike looked up at him and nodded, arching his back a little at the slow stroking along his ribs that Oz hadn't stopped. Xander saw it and his eyes narrowed - anger coming off him, and Spike smirked a little.
"I liked not having any second thoughts. Not having much in the way of thoughts at all. For the first time in...forever...I wasn't scared of anything. And I had a family. A real one." Xander's hands were back in his pockets - his shoulders were rounding down even further and Spike wanted to taste him - wanted to taste the loss and need that was in his voice - wanted to taste the longing.
"How'd you get it back? What happened?" Xander shrugged - looked at Oz, whose eyes were half-closed, his breathing settling towards sleep, or at least towards rest.
"When we took out that Adam - when we got Oz out. We did a spell. All of us combined our...spirits, I guess? We were all - in Buffy. In her - mind or...something. Helped her take Adam out. And it - it was like I could see all of myself and - the hyena was still there. All locked up, all - chained down. I could see it in there...in the dark, all alone..." Xander shivered all over, and he looked at Spike's hand, where it lay possessively on Oz's stomach. Something in his eyes, and Spike knew how to reel him in. Knew it, and almost laughed aloud.
"And you just - let it out?" Spike asked, and Xander nodded. He looked up at Spike's face - looked away, and made as if to turn, heading towards the bed.
"C'mere, rabbit,' Spike said softly, and Xander twitched a little. Hesitated, taking in long, shaky breaths. Then he came slowly around the end of the couch and stood there. "Come sit down," Spike murmured, and reached out and tugged on the edge of Xander's hoodie. The boy hesitated again and then he pulled his hands out of his pockets and folded down to his knees and then shifted, his back against the couch, cross-legged on the thick wool rug there. Spike let him settle and then he reached out and touched the silky hair. Xander flinched and Spike smiled, hidden in the pillow. He stroked softly, threading his fingers through and through the long strands - scratching his nails lightly over the scalp and tugging gently - rubbing the thin skin behind the boy's ears, rubbing at the base of his skull but mostly just petting that heavy, wonderful hair.
Oz's breathing had settled into the slow rhythm of sleep and he sighed a little, his hand still lying over Spike's ribs. Xander sighed, too - relaxed, finally, his head falling back and resting against Oz, his eyes closing as he pushed into the slow strokes of Spike's hand.
*Poor little rabbit. I know what you need. Taken in hand, kept safe...kept close.* Spike grinned into the pillow, watching Xander.
"You rest now, rabbit," he whispered, curling the hair around his fingers, cocooned himself in the scents of wolf and boy. "You rest, and we'll see what we can see tomorrow. Gonna love being mine, rabbit."
Quotes are, in order:
Robert Graves - Counting the Beats
Robinson Jeffers - Return
James Baldwin - Giovanni's Room
John Keats - On Receiving a Curious Shell