Credence Chapter 2

Credence Chapter 2

                Wrxl was down in the sub-basement under the dungeon, helping to stitch up a Vleet that had gotten a little too enthusiastic with his suspension act.  Three jagged tears in the demon's dappled hide showed where piercing jewelry had been torn out, and the demon was moaning and leaking blue-green blood everywhere.

                "Now next time, dear boy, don't play 'Superman' and you should be fine."  Wrxl put in a last stitch and mopped at the blood - glanced up at Spike.  His tentacled white brows went up in welcome, and long fleshy 'whiskers' came forward, orienting on him and scenting. 

                "Mir, you finish up, there's a good girl."  Wrxl handed a forceps and needle to his assistant and stepped away from the table, peeling off Latex gloves.  He prided himself on being a professional.

                "Spike!  Dear boy!  You're looking exceptionally well!  Come, come, I've some lovely new Double Mazedar chai I'm certain you'll like."  Wrxl limped to his office door and ushered Spike in - began to fuss about with pots and cups and a small gas-ring and Spike settled comfortably into a worn leather wing-back chair.  He pulled out a cigarette and lit up, and took the cup of hot, milky tea gratefully.

                "Cheers, mate."

                "Now Spike - not supposed to smoke, you know!"

                "I've cut back!" Spike mumbled, and sipped his chai noisily.  Wrxl did the same and sighed contentedly, and neither spoke until their cups were empty.  Finally, Wrxl put his cup down on his desk and clasped his hand before his face - peered at Spike over his slim, elongated fingers.

                "So.... you really are looking better.  I'd say we only have one more treatment to go and you'll be back to your old self."

                "That's good news, then," Spike said, relieved.  The treatments were not pleasant. 

                "Indeed.  Oh!  Speaking of news - I've had some.  Let me just..."  Wrxl pushed himself to his feet and hobbled over to a door opposite his desk.  It opened into a private study and apothecary's lab.  Various beakers and alembics littered one massive table, some positioned over Bunsen burners.  Their contents fumed or boiled or smoked, making the air fuggy with stinging or smelly vapors.  Shelves, riddled with tiny drawers, lined the opposite wall, stuffed full to bursting with the bones of his trade.  Wrxl donned more Latex gloves and began to mix bits of herbs and other ingredients into a crucible, chattering as he did.  Spike settled on a tall stool and watched him.

                "Now, this Gly'gli, it came knocking on our door two nights ago.  It was in terrible shape, poor thing - starved and half dead.  While I was ascertaining its state, it told me that the Slayer had died, down at the Hellmouth.  The one that was so instrumental in removing the soldiers from the game."

                "Did she now?"  Spike grinned.  That damn blonde was half the reason the soldiers had gotten him in the first place. 

                "Oh yes.  Months ago - back in November.   Seems a Hellgod killed her, or - she killed herself?  I don't really know.  The Gly'gli was very ill, and his story was rather incoherent, I'm afraid."  Wrxl added three drops of something poisonously green to his mix and it flared up for a moment and then subsided, smoking.  Spike shifted a little on the stool, practicing his patience and not liking it much.

                "So - is that all he knew?"

                "Oh my, no.  He'd been down in that Pit - down in that Initiative.  Just seeing what there was to see.  You know the Gly'gli - consummate scavengers.  He had found some bits and bobs that he thought I would want to look over.  But unfortunately, he also stumbled across some rather nasty trash."  Wrxl adjusted the flame of a burner and settled the crucible over it, and then turned to Spike.  "He died, I'm afraid, just last night.  But he did bring me something rather crucial to your recovery.  It seems that the scientists were using stem cells."  Wrxl smiled triumphantly, showing his lamprey-mouth of numerous tentacles.  His 'whiskers' practically vibrated with glee.

                "Ookay.    What, in bloody Hell, does that mean to me?"  Spike had no idea what stem cells were, or why they would make a difference in what Wrxl was doing to cure him.

                "Spike, Spike," Wrxl chided, shaking his head.  "You really should keep up with the times.  Stem cells are embryonic cells.  They can be - turned on and off, as it were, and in the right circumstances can be prompted to replicate any cell structure.  For example -"

                "Wrxl, please."  Spike held up his hand.  *Practiced my patience enough.  Time to cut to the chase!* "Just tell me, all right, mate?"

                "Very well."  Wrxl slumped, defeated, but then went on.  "It seems the Initiative scientists were injecting you with stem cells that had been programmed to produce cancerous cells - poisoned cells.  That's why you have - plateaued - in your recovery.  Your body keeps producing the toxins that are making you ill."   Wrxl checked the crucible and motioned to Spike, and they returned to the office.  Wrxl offered more chai but Spike declined, wishing for a shot instead.

                "Very ingenious of them - very crafty.   I cannot begin to imagine what they hoped that line of - er - research would tell them."   Spike hissed, low, and Wrxl made a gargling noise that was something like an embarrassed cough.  "Of course, it wasn't all done with science, oh no.  Humans haven't gotten quite that far yet.  Did you know, there was a Chaos mage in there for a bit?  He escaped as well, at the last, but before he did he was coerced into using magic to program the cells."  Wrxl settled himself into his chair, sipping at his chai, and Spike ground his teeth.  He wanted to leap up and shake the silver-blue demon until he talked, but he controlled himself.  Wrxl was old and fragile and an accomplished mage as well as apothecary and surgeon.  Spike wouldn't be likely to survive long if he angered the old bore.

                "Right, so - you know what they did.  You got a fix, then?"

                "Oh my, yes, I do.   Some of the details of what this mage did were in the things the Gly'gli brought to me, and from them I've extrapolated the chain of events.  And - found a way to turn off the cells!  After this treatment, you'll be cured."  Wrxl gaped his mouth open again in his parody of a smile and Spike took a deep drag off his smoke.

                "There's a catch though, right?  Always a catch."

                "Well, I suppose you could call it that.  This last treatment is going to be rather harsh.  You'll be out of commission for - at least four days, maybe six.  But not to worry!"  Wrxl sipped his chai and nodded pleasantly at Spike, who smoked furiously.  "I've arranged with Vivian to have some meals sent round, starting Monday.  You'll take this last treatment right before you go to sleep tonight, and I can't imagine you'll be wanting anything in your stomach for at least twenty-four hours.  And you must sleep as much as you can, and wash as often as you can.  The toxins are going to be forced out, and a number of them will come through your skin.  The stem cells will die and you'll be shedding them, as well."  Spike thought about that.  Finished his smoke and stubbed it out, stood up.

                "But after I'll be like I was."

                "Yes indeed.  Once the cells are turned off and pushed out, and you're not fighting a stalemate, as it were, with your own body, your healing abilities will kick in and you'll be just fine.  Vampires have a remarkable ability to become well, if only they're not being - interfered with."  Wrxl frowned at that, his disgust at the Initiative and its experiments plain on his flat face. 

                "Wrxl, I owe you.  William the Bloody - owes you.  You just name it, and it's yours."  Spike grinned down at the old demon, who huffed in pleased surprise.

                "Oh heavens, Spike - I couldn't imagine...  I'll think of some token - some thing to - to make us even.  This has been absolutely fascinating, really.  Finding a solution to a problem like this is its own reward."

                "So they say, Wrxl, but I owe you.  I won't forget."  Spike made a small bow and spun on his heel - strode out of the office and up out of the sub-basement, feeling a rising tide of giddy excitement.  To be healthy again - that was just -

                *Fuckin' incredible!  Fuckin' amazing.  That old geezer - I'm gonna make him happy for this.* Spike bounced up to the bar and got a shot of whiskey - looked around for a fight or a fuck-up.  He felt good, and he wanted to do something.  And by this time next week, he'd be his old self - ready to...

                *To what, though?  Dru's gone - Slayer's dead.  No plans on goin' back to the Hellmouth or 'cross the pond.  Guess it's a wait-and-see thing.  But tonight - one of those soldiers wants to come out and play.  I'll just bet anything at all.* 

                Justin started playing some Iggy Pop and Spike laughed out loud.