Credence Chapter 21
Spike noticed a certain fragility in Xander in the days that followed. A tendency to cringe - to look away. While Xander sweated the decaying remnants of too much dopamine, adrenaline, coke and who knew what else out of his body, Spike watched him twist and burrow and hide. Watched him duck his head and drink his juice like a good little rabbit but without the glare and the curl of lip that had always come with it before.
Spike took to petting him - coaxing him - calling him out at every opportunity and it seemed to make Xander worse. Made him shiver and turn away and feign sleep for hours at a time.
Eventually, of course, it pissed Spike off and then he simply ignored him. Or tried to. Sprawled on the couch, footie on the TV and a bottle on the coffee table. Shot glass cool and wet in his hand, cigarette smoldering beside it, he'd lean back on the pillows and...watch. Peripherally. Carefully.
Watch Xander move shakily from bed to bath to wardrobe. Damp hair curling around his neck, body hunched over the healing cut on his chest, the stitches starkly black against his too-pale, bruised skin. Watch Xander struggle into jeans and raveling thermal shirt and a flannel over all. Socks on his feet and he'd shuffle to the kitchen and drink juice - eat a boiled egg or a slice of toast, all the while keeping a wary eye on Spike. Wary, dark - sad? Spike wasn't sure. Little flinches every time Spike moved. Big ones when Spike shouted at the TV - at the refs and the players. Spike shouted a little more than necessary, just to see him do it.
Then Xander would just...huddle. Hover. Stand by the kitchen island and fiddle with a paper towel. Stare into his slowly-emptying juice glass as if the secrets to the universe where all there at the bottom, waiting for him to drink up. Deeply-socketed eyes looking up and away, up and away. Too much emotion in them for Spike to figure out and not enough noise from a human who'd hummed unconsciously under his breath - who'd talked, even when he clearly didn't want to because silence had been too heavy a cross to bear.
All of it ratcheting tension and irritation up and up in Spike until he'd snap - snarl - get up and go out. Go hunt or go fight or go do something, because he wanted his rabbit back; wanted Xander to snap and snarl along with him - wanted him to come sit on the couch and roll his eyes and make fun of the game - wanted Xander to fidget and kick Spike's ankle and tell him to fuck off... And kiss him, and let Spike pet his hair, and lean into him and sigh and doze. Curl his arm around Spike's ribs and rest.
This new Xander didn't rest. It was driving Spike crazy.
Seattle was driving Spike crazy. He was sick of the damp and the fucking rain and sick of Tod and his boys and Viv's calls on his cell, prodding at him. He'd gotten what he needed, thank you, and paid off his considerable debt to her - although not the way she'd wanted it to be paid off - and now he just wanted to get gone.
He and Dru had stayed years in some places - New York and Tokyo, Berlin and London and fucking Prague had all been big enough to hide them and feed them for however long they'd cared to stay. But they'd traveled a lot, too, and the itch was getting under Spike's skin. The need to move on - to see new places.
He cursed himself, and picked another fight, and drank another bottle because, damnit, he wanted to take Xander with him. Wanted to show him the Giza plateau just before dawn, when all the ages of the old Earth seemed to distill out of the air and seep into your skin - make you feel young and ancient at once. Wanted to show him the vast underground of Paris where secret chambers still hid the bones of martyrs and rebels and aristocrats long forgotten. Wanted to show him the endless, lazy glide of the Danube as it spilled past dense forest and chill, knife-edged mountains. Wanted...
*Fucking hell. Fucking HUMAN. Pushed and wormed and dug a hole in me and now he's IN there, all curled up tight and won't fuckin' get OUT... Little bastard. Should have just eaten him. Should have just let him go after the wolfling...* That thought made Spike even more pissed off. Oz. The werewolf had abandoned the boy - told him he wasn't wanted and left him. *Left ME. Didn't want to stay, didn't want...him... Us...*
"Wanker," Spike muttered, lifting his hand and signaling for another shot. Watching with heavy-lidded eyes the girl dancing on the stage. She caught his look and smiled - shimmied closer to his table, hands fluttering over her body, her look promising...anything. Spike got his shot and drained it, watching her. Contemplating the roll of money in his pocket and how much she would want to let him pick her up and fuck her against a wall.
But she was too blonde. Too thin. No muscle in her twiggy legs, no firmness to the lean buttocks. Skin and bone and silicone and Spike stood up with a grimace of disgust, throwing down a hundred dollar bill and stalking out. He didn't want that. He wanted... *Dark eyes, dark hair, honey-musk and spice and blood like new wine...thighs sleek with muscle, rough hands, sharp teeth...*
"Bloody hell!" Spike shouted - kicked the fender of a red, imported car and grinned at the shatter of fiberglass under his boot - the shriek of an alarm. When the owner - and his four friends - rushed out of the strip-club he was waiting; eyes bright, teeth bared. They were big - that was good.
Letting himself into the flat just past dawn, skin tingling from the mostly-occluded sun and from the bruises and scratches and raw spots on his body. If one fight feels good, five will feel better, and Spike licked at a split lip and grinned to himself. Pleasantly exhausted from the night's adventures - belly full of adrenalin-spiced blood. Hot shower, shot of good whiskey, bed. *Xander in the bed with me...except he won't...* Spike growled to himself and tried to turn off that thought. Xander slept fitfully, curled fully clothed on the couch or in the bed he and Oz had infrequently shared, and Spike didn't have the heart to force him. Wanted him willing, like he'd been before. Wanted that heat and lean muscle cuddled up to his back -callused fingers tight on his wrist and the slow, steady heartbeat that lulled him like nothing else.
"Fuck!" Spike hurled his keys across the room and then whirled at a sharp, shocked bark of sound coming from - his bed. His bed and Xander in it - lying on the comforter, Spike's pillow bunched in his hands. Dressed, like he always was now but his hair a tangled corona around a sleep-dazed, cringing face. "Rabbit," Spike growled - crossed the room in a few long strides and snatched Xander up from his huddle, pulling him half off his feet, fingers knotted in the torn hoodie and the t-shirt underneath.
"What are you doing, rabbit?" Spike asked, his voice low and even and - nearly pleasant. It took a monumental effort of will not to scream in Xander's face. Xander clutched at Spike's hands - looked wildly everywhere but at Spike's face and Spike shook him. "Asked you a question, rabbit. What. Are. You. Doing?" Shake with every word and Xander's teeth clacked - shut hard. For a moment heat flared in his eyes and then it was gone and Xander just hung there, head down, shivering.
"I - I - was j-just...tired, I just wanted to r-rest," he whispered finally, and Spike wanted to shake him again.
"On my bed."
"Ss-sorry, I'm s-sorry, I won't - t-t-touch -"
"Shut UP." Spike did shake him again - flung him back down onto the bed and Xander froze for a moment and then scrambled up and away, dodging Spike and heading for the far side of the room. Spike took a deep breath and roared - pounced after him and grabbed him by the shirt again, spinning him around - slamming him hard into the wardrobe he'd shared with Oz. Still full of Oz's things - still thick with the stink of sick werewolf.
"What the fuck is wrong with you, rabbit? What are you playing at? What do you want from me, damnit!" Xander shrank back against the wardrobe, his eyes darting frantically over the room and Spike hissed - reached and grabbed the boy's chin in a hard, pinching grasp and forcefully turned his head up - made wide, human eyes meet furious demon ones. Eye to eye for long moments and then all at once Xander simply sagged, and Spike let him go. Xander slid down the wardrobe doors to the floor, landing on his ass, his knees drawn up and listing sideways, hands limp at his sides.
"I - I just....I thought... I'm gonna...go, I'm gonna...f-f-find some other p-place -" Spike crouched down in front of Xander - slammed his palms into the wood on either side of Xander's head, making him flinch back and rap the back of his head, hard, on the same wood.
"What the fuck are you talking about? You're not going anywhere, rabbit." Xander gaped at him and then - a switch was thrown and that pissed off look came over his face - that sulky anger that made Spike want to bite him.
"Fuck you! Damnit, Spike, I - I'm going! I'll clear out! I'm not your fucking pet and if - if you don't want me here I'm not gonna stay!" Xander pushed Spike hard, and Spike lost his balance and fell on his ass, astonished. He snatched at jean-clad legs as Xander tried to move past him and brought the boy crashing down, rolling them over so Spike was on top. Xander fought back, heartbeat soaring and his hands clawing - punching - his whole body fighting. Spike growled when Xander hit already-bruised places and just barely kept himself from sinking his fangs into a briefly-exposed throat.
Eventually they crashed into a wall and Spike pinned Xander beneath him, thin wrists in his hands and Xander's furious, tear-streaked face inches from his own.
"Let me go, you fuck, you bastard -"
"Shut up shut up shut up!" Spike squeezed Xander's wrists until the bones ground together under his fingers and Xander yelped and froze, panting. Spike was shaking - shaking! So angry he was demon-faced and growling and ready to scream. "Damnit, rabbit, you better tell me what in bloody hell his going through your fucking head, right now!"
"Thought you wanted me to shut up," Xander snarled, and Spike struck. Fangs in Xander's throat, catching on the leather that was....that was still there. Spike stopped, the tips of his fangs just breaking the skin and Xander twisted beneath him, gasping for air.
*Fuck. This is... This isn't what I... Fuck, fuck, FUCK.* Spike pulled away - sat up - hauled Xander up with him and shoved him into the wall, holding him there with on hand on his shoulder and his right leg over Xander's thighs. Xander just stared at him and Spike used his free hand to trace the cheap leather strands. The silver chevrons were already dull - chipped - showing their pot-metal origins.
"You didn't take it off," Spike said, and Xander shrugged - looked away.
"You gave it to me. I didn't..." He stopped - wiped angrily at his face with the sleeve of the faded navy hoodie and then glared at Spike. "I was going to," he muttered.
"But you didn't." Spike stared at Xander under Xander looked away, and Spike finally let the demon go - sighed and slumped a little, letting loose of Xander's shoulder. They both sat in silence, Xander fidgeting with the zip of his hoodie and Spike staring at the collar. *Necklace. It's not a real collar.* "Rabbit, tell me why you want to leave," Spike asked finally, and Xander's mouth opened, soundless look of surprise.
"What? You said -! No, you didn't, you..." Xander stopped and looked down at his hands - chewed on his lip for a moment. "Silas told me you said... I mean, you talked to him and -"
"Silas?" Spike barked, and Xander's gaze came up fast, hot and furious, skewering him.
"You told Vivien I'd fight for her and she - Silas told me about - you made this deal, and -"
"Xander, for fuck's sake - Silas is a cockroach. I don't make deals with his kind. What the fuck did he tell you?" Xander just stared at him - looked away again, his eyes wide and his hands clutching fiercely into the ragged hem of the hoodie, twisting it.
"He told me. He - you owed Vivien money. I
did. For Oz. For the - drugs and the...Knocker. And I had to - pay it back.
"That's utter bollocks, rabbit. How could you possibly believe such shite? What did I tell you, when I came and got you?"
Xander shrugged - looked down and away and back up. "I don't...remember," he said finally, and Spike just looked at him. "I was kinda...fucked up."
"Christ." Spike sat there - got up, finally and went over to the cabinet - got himself a drink. Stood there and tried to calm down, because Xander was pissing him off. Xander was scaring him, just a little. Not remember how? Had he got hit on the head? Did he need a doctor? What else had he forgotten?
"Explain that, rabbit. What the fuck were you doing? What - what do you remember?"
Xander pushed himself slowly up the wall - sidled over to where Spike was standing. Head down, shoulders slumped. Looking so lost, and so beaten, and so...alone. *God, rabbit, what've you done to yourself? What...happened?*
"I - Oz was here. And he... and then I left. I was really...angry. And I just - walked for a while and Tod -" Spike snarled and Xander flinched and Spike got another drink - took Xander's shirt-front in his fingers and pulled him over to the couch - pushed him down. Sat down himself, cross-legged on the cushions, hands on knees. Waiting.
"Go on then, rabbit. What about Tod?"
"I was down near O'Shea's." Xander's head stayed down as he talked - voice low and flat, fingers twisting into the hem of his t-shirt and shredding it, just a little. Spike wanted to put his hand out and stop him, but didn't. "I - wanted to hurt something and I was scared the hyena would... And Tod was there and he said Silas was having these - f-fights, down at... Not in the club. And I had to g-go 'cause Vivien was paying me to. I didn't...want to, Spike!" Xander looked up finally and Spike almost recoiled from the misery in his eyes - the accusation and the loss.
"Didn't have to, rabbit! I'll kill that bloody Tod. What next? What'd you do?"
Xander shook his head - took a deep breath and let it out. "I - went with him. Didn't think... I heard you talking to Vivien, sometimes. I know you....owed her. And - I know she took me on for - you. I figured....figured I didn't have a choice. There was a fight that night and...it was..." Xander stopped, swallowing, and Spike finally gave in and reached out - touched the twitching, twisting fingers and stilled them.
"Was what, rabbit?" he asked softly, and Xander shuddered.
"It was people. Humans. And I wasn't and I - f-fought and this guy...he...he didn't g-get up, Spike. He didn't g-get back up."
"Bloody hell." *Kill Silas, too. Shiny little bastard. Fucking HELL.*
"I didn't want to fight anymore but Silas said I had to and Tod d-did and I was ss-sick and Silas gave me...something. Shot me up with...something."
"Christ. Xander. You fucking know better!" Spike squeezed the thin fingers under his hand and Xander tried to jerk away - gave up.
"Fuck off, Spike." Glance up from behind a ragged fringe of hair - eyes burning with anger but still plain brown. Sill not the hyena. "Not like I never did that before. Sometimes - when Oz... I just wanted to nod out, too. Sometimes we shared. I - didn't care. He had a lot of different shit. It was - kinda nice to just....forget."
"So you forgot me comin' to get you, huh? Forgot what we said - forgot everything," Spike said, and Xander closed his eyes for a moment.
"Yeah. Silas said I could go h-home if you came to get me. I just had to c-come back. You didn't...you didn't come, Spike." Xander's hoarse voice dropped to a strained whisper. "You didn't come for days and days and I just kept...fighting. I kept fighting and they kept...not getting up and Silas just kept...giving me stuff..." Xander flinched and Spike realized that he'd been squeezing the boy's fingers harder and harder. He eased off - started to pull his hand away and Xander grabbed it - yanked it back, squeezing Spike's hand between his own, his breathing starting to get erratic.
"Why didn't you come, Spike? I just wanted to come h-home -"
"Oh, god -" Spike untangled their hands and pulled Xander to him - pulled him up and held him close, wrapping his arms around him and burying his face in Xander's silky, tangled hair. Holding onto him as tightly as he dared. "No, love, no, no, no - that's not right. I was looking for you, Xander, I was. Looked for you for days. That bloody Tod, he told me he hadn't heard anything, he - fucking hell! Xander - pet, look at me -" He got fingers and then his palm under Xander's chin - got him to lift his head and studied the wary, miserable face for a moment. Leaned in close and kissed him, just a brush of lips over lips. Xander's mouth was cold with tears - chapped and trembling.
"I want you here, rabbit. Want you with me. Want you always. I told you that. Told you....I wanted you forever. Hasn't changed."
Xander took a deep breath - lifted his hand to the necklace and touched it. "What does that mean, Spike? What does that mean to you? What does... I'm not -"
"Shhh..." Spike put his fingers with Xander's on the tattered leather. "It means...means I want you, love. It means you're mine and I'm never giving you up. It means..." Xander was still - so still. Rabbit frozen under the hawk's stooping shadow and Spike had to kiss him again. Reached with both hands and carefully undid the necklace. Xander shivered as it slipped free of his throat, and Spike kissed the revealed flesh tenderly - reverently.
"It means you're mine, rabbit. Xander. Means I'm yours. Means...I love you."