Credence Chapter 4
"H'm!" Said Rikki-tikki, "that is very sad - but I am a stranger here. Who is Nag?"
*A clanging from somewhere, down to the right and he knows, he knows what it means, and he feels the shaking start, that he can't control.
"I know. Can you keep going?" Deep breath and he tries for calm - tries for that headspace that the other has been teaching him*.
Darzee and his wife only cowered down in the nest without answering, for from the thick grass at the foot of the bush there came a low hiss - a horrid cold sound that made Rikki-tikki jump back two clear feet. Then inch by inch out of the grass rose up the head and spread hood of Nag, the big black cobra, and he was five feet long from tongue to tail.
*Booted feet, the faint squeak of a wheel that isn't quite straight. And that hum, that starts with a tiny, tiny click. That hum, that means...
"It's all right - you can do it. Sink into it, see it..."
"I am - I am..." breathlessly, as if saying it makes it so.*
When he had lifted one-third of himself clear of the ground, he stayed balancing to and fro exactly as a dandelion-tuft balances in the wind, and he looked at Rikki-tikki with the wicked snake's eyes that never change their expression, whatever the snake may be thinking of.
"Who is Nag?" he said. "I am Nag. The great god Brahm put his mark upon all our people when the first cobra spread his hood to keep the sun off Brahm as he slept. Look, and be afraid!"
*And then the hideous, helpless convulsion as the hum kicks up abruptly to a whine of power and electricity dances over him like a million needles dipped in acid.*
"Go! Just go! I'll bring you back -" And then nothing, and then the garden and the snake and the mongoose in the dust, and he is gone...*
"Well," said Rikki-tikki, and his tail began to fluff up again, "marks or no marks, do you think it is right for you to eat fledglings out of a nest?"
Spike jolted awake, the words dying on his lips as he became aware. He was...on the floor -against the wall - huddled in an attitude that his body remembered all too clearly even as his mind tried to forget. The brick wall was cold and rough against his cheek, and he could smell blood - could smell the reek of raw, burnt flesh from scorch marks that cannot heal.
*No, that's memory, that's the past...I'm healed, those burns are long gone...*
He shuddered all over, resting there for a moment and then slowly pushed himself upright. The bed was a few feet away and he staggered to it - slumped on the edge, shivering. The dream was still there, hovering, waiting for him to slip back in and he wrenched his mind away from it with an effort - focused on his hand that was clenched tight in the sheet - focused on the music he could hear coming from the TV.
*Christ. Headspace. Need to...* There was a small noise and he whipped around, the demon there, snarling.
"Hey, Spike." Tod stood there, hands up and out in a show of harmlessness, human faced. Not moving, even though the bed and twenty feet of floor separated them. Vivian's best boy and the one who'd kept his flat in order - kept him fed, this past week. Someone to trust, for the most part. The narrow-faced vampire waited, unmoving, until Spike pushed the demon away and relaxed a little.
"Tod. Gonna shower. Your little proselytes back, then?" Tod grinned at that. He'd been a priest-in-training, when Viv had got him.
"They'll be back soon. Getting you something with a little fear and loathing in it. Should make for a good meal."
"Yeah." Spike stood up and walked slowly around the bed, dragging his t-shirt off, pushing the pants down. They - he - reeked of magically generated sweat and he wrinkled his nose, disgusted. He let the clothes lie where they fell. Tod's little acolytes would take care of it. They'd cleaned the flat to within an inch of its life, and kept the whiskey and the smokes stocked, and gone out for Thai take-away and Ethiopian when Wrxl deemed human food a good sop for the poison. Vampires weren't supposed to vomit, but Spike had done it before - there - and he did it now. The food came back tainted with the dying stem-cells and the poisons that he'd been fed, and he could feel his body healing every time he coughed up another stomach-full of foulness.
Now he was rank with the stuff, his unnatural sweat a sort of dirty rust color and he wanted it off. Tod had gone back to the television, wisely not saying a word about mumbled snakes and mongooses, and Spike got the shower going and then stood there in the steam and roar of it, eyes closed.
Dru had loved The Jungle Books - she'd had Spike read the stories to her over and over until he'd memorized them. They were one of the few things he'd been able to remember with any clarity back there, in the Pit. And then, some timeless time into the nightmare of illness and pain, that voice had come to him, from the next cell over. Calm voice, quiet voice. A voice that told him softly about the moon and monks and chants - about headspace that was private space. That took you out of yourself and out of the world, and let you cope. That voice had taught him to sink down and away, and those stories were the trigger. Far-off places, jungle and heat or the cold Nova Scotia shores; so different from the white on white on deadly white of that place.
A werewolf voice, that woke him up when his time with the doctors was over - that pulled him out of the void and back to himself. A voice that had saved him and that he'd lost, except for his dreams. And he'd been dreaming more about that voice, just lately. Ever since he'd smelled werewolf on that Mission case, he'd been thinking about him. Spike was pretty sure the wolf was alive. When the Slayer and her groupies had smashed into the Initiative and taken out their private Monster, all the doors had come open, and Spike had scrabbled into his duster and crawled out, cringing a little from the flames and the chaos. He'd turned, and seen him - slight, pale boy with scars and wounds over his naked body. Shock of dark-auburn hair and eyes like pits. A faint, pained smile and then the Slayer was there, and that little red-headed witch, and others - dark boy, darker man, one of the soldiers. They'd swept the wolf up and gone, the Slayer killing as she went and Spike had forced himself to his feet - gone for the room and the duct and the way he knew was out, following his nose to summer-green air and freedom. He'd never looked back.
But now, soaping the filth of that place off him - *Nine damn months and those bastards are still IN ME* he remembered, and he wished he knew where the wolf had gone. If he'd lived. They'd had their claws into him, as well, and Spike had listened to the screams and talked the boy down out of his own waking nightmares more than once. Reciting bits of books and poetry and old songs until the ragged wails became whimpers, and the whimpers trailed away to silence, and the steady breath of sleep.
*Saved me, I saved him...hope he made it.* Spike rinsed himself, and shampooed again and scrubbed again, until he finally felt clean. He got out and wrapped himself in his robe. He felt - almost good - felt cleaner and healthier and - stronger then he had for months. Felt like he'd finally turned the corner, somewhere, and was now going back up instead of down. He was too thin and his skin was nearly transparent, but he felt the demon stirring in anticipation of blood - felt it wanting to move and do, and he smiled.
*Soon, now. Be back to myself. Coming out of the pit and getting up onto solid ground now.* That thought made him so cheerful he almost laughed, and he went out into to the kitchen area and found his smokes. Lighting up and dragging the smoke over his tongue, down into his lungs, it tasted good, first time in a while, and he did laugh then. Tod's head popped up from the couch, looking curiously over at Spike.
"It's worked. Wrxl's tonic worked." Spike said, grinning, and Tod grinned back. Spike went over to the couch and Tod moved up to one end, facing him.
"Great. Viv'll be pleased to hear it. She's been calling every day."
"Yeah? I'll talk to her later. Might even go out tonight." Spike flopped down on the couch and they both watched the television in silence for a moment. Just as Spike was looking around, wondering where the remote was, the front door rolled open and Tod's boys - Spike could never remember their names - came in, manhandling a bound, hooded figure between them.
"Dinner's here!" the blond-haired one said and they pushed the figure to its knees. Spike put out his cigarette and rose and walked closer, taking in a deep breath. And it hit him, full force.
*Wolf! Fuck, that's -. No, it can't be...* Spike brought out the demon and he breathed again, scenting deeply. Fear, rank sweat, a little blood. Dirt and grease. Faint burnt-sugar smell that was some sort of opiate. Werewolf. Familiar as his own body - tainted still with illness.
*Fuck, it is, it's -* "Where'd you get him?" Spike snapped, and the other one - black one, who hadn't survived his first night of being a cop - took a step back.
"We saw him at that shelter - the church one? Followed him. We thought - he looked like a good one, but - " That one stopped and the blonde licked his lips - took up the story.
"He - it was like he knew what we wanted. He started running and - we followed. He was good." Brief flicker of golden eyes, and Spike knew what he meant. A good chase, a good hunt - a worthy prey.
"He almost got home, but we got him in the hall. Somebody'd dumped a bunch of furniture in the corridor and he got hung up on it." Spike crouched down in front of the boy - reached out and yanked the hood off in one swift motion. The boy blinked, squinting, and then he froze and Spike heard his heart pounding even faster - smelled fresh sweat and fear rolling off of him.
"Fuckers." The same too-large hoodie hung off him - the same knit cap. Dark brown eyes, a little blood-shot. Pale skin and dark circles under his eyes. Fear and hatred contorting his features. Spike let the demon go and the dark eyes widened in shock and the mouth - bruised and a little swollen, lip split - came open on a harsh intake of breath.
"Spike, fuck -"
"I don't know you," Spike said, and the boy blinked at him - took another breath and scowled, and Spike had to grin.
"I know you. You attacked my school - kidnapped my friend, almost got my other friend killed." The boy was trembling, but it was anger as much as fright and Spike stared at him, fascinated.
"I did? When?"
"In Sunnydale. You remember - the Hellmouth?" Spike flinched a little at the name - studied the boy again. Something surfaced in his memory, brief flash.
"Fuck! You're the one that was mouthing off to Angel when he was handing you over as a snackpack." Spike grinned harder, remembering that. Remembering the dozy expression on Angel's face when he'd punched the git. Remembering the dark-haired boy who'd struggled and snarked and then run like hell. "Oi! You were down there - you helped get the wolf out. Away from the soldiers." The boy stared at him - shook his head slightly.
"You were there? Oz told me..." The boy cut himself off and Spike seized on the name he'd tried to banish from his memory.
"Yeah, Oz. The wolf. Where is he? I can smell him all over you." The boy looked around at the three other vamps standing over him and set his face into an expressionless mask.
"Think I'll just tell you? Forget it."
"Yeah, I think you will. 'Cause you're not leaving here alive, boy. And he's sick. I can smell him and it's - wrong. It's off. You just gonna - abandon him?" The boy's hard look wavered for a moment, but then it was back and he shook his head slowly.
"No. I'm - look. Just let me go, okay? There's tons of people to - to eat. Billions of Happy Meals, right? He can't -"
"He's sick," Spike said, and the boy's mouth snapped shut and he glared.
"I know that. What the fuck do you care, anyway?" He struggled for a moment against the handcuffs that former-police-vamp habitually used and then slumped, defeated. "Please -" Spike stared at the boy - at the glitter in his hard, dark eyes that meant...
*More going on here...fuck...*
"We know where he is." Spike looked up sharply, and blonde-vamp flinched ever so slightly. "I mean - we could s-smell a werewolf, but we didn't care about it. I'll bet he lives right there where he was going - we can go get him."
"What, think he'll just invite you in?" Tod scoffed, and blonde-vamp deflated a little.
"He might. Or he might just - come with you. Listen -" Spike stood up and strode over to the two younger vamps - grabbed them by the throats and pulled them close. "You go over there and you get him. Do not hurt him. Don't even think about hurting him. Tell him - tell him the mongoose and the snake. Tell him - Tibet. Understand?" The two had morphed to their demons and nodded jerkily, wide-eyed and trying not to struggle. Spike let them go with a push and they went rapidly towards the door. The boy struggled to his feet and Tod grabbed him by the neck of his hoodie.
"Hey! Hey - tell him I said - Willow. He'll - he'll come then." The boy's voice shook ever so slightly, and then he straightened himself in Tod's grip, obviously locking down his emotions, and Spike felt a moment's satisfaction in that.
*Good. No caterwauling or hysterics. Wonder what...*
"You two - I'm still hungry. When you get the wolf here you're gonna have to go out again, so make it fast, right?" The two nodded and skittered out the door, shoving it closed with a thump. Spike turned back to the boy, who Tod dragged over to a chair and pushed down. "What are you two doing up here? What's the story?" Spike asked, but the boy only looked silently at the floor. Spike walked over to him and snatched the knit cap off - grabbed a handful of hair and jerked his head up. "Answer me, boy. I'm not in the mood for games." The boy glared up at him - tried to wrench away, and Spike jerked him to his feet - held him close and shredded the neck of the hoodie open wide. Let his fangs drop and deliberately, delicately, fastened them over the boy's throat. The pulse pounding there against his tongue was like a bird's wings, and the sweet-salt of flesh and sweat was thick and oh, so tempting. He licked, and shivered every so slightly.
"I'm hungry, and I'm pissed off," Spike murmured, feeling the uncontrollable spasms of fight/flight jerk through the body that was like a brand against his own. "And I don't want the wolf to get here and see your drained fucking corpse, because it's obvious you've been carin' for him." Spike licked again, and nipped gently on the boy's earlobe, not even breaking the skin. "So tell me what the fuck you're doing here. Savvy?" He pushed the boy away and down, slamming him back into the chair and the boy just froze for a moment, eyes shut. Then he shifted, easing his shoulders a little, and looked up at Spike, his gaze venomous and cold.
"We're here because we had to get the fuck away from the Hellmouth. The Initiative fucked him over, and he's not getting better. Heard some rumors -" Here he stopped, and licked his lips, and Spike eased himself down on the couch, finding his smokes again and lighting one, watching him.
"Heard some rumors that there was - was somebody that might be able to help, up here. So we came."
"Where's the rest of your little gang? What about the witch an' all?" Spike plumed smoke upwards and Tod shuffled his feet - went over to the kitchen and got a couple beers. He didn't like that they were English and that they were warm, but he didn't say anything. He put one down in front of Spike and Spike opened it, watching the boy. He was whiter than a sheet now and there was something raw and too-young in his eyes that drew Spike like a magnet.
*Pain and loss and lost innocence. Sweet little rabbit*
"I - there was a g-god. A Hellgod. We - we killed her but Buffy died. Willow tried to bring her back..." Spike's eyes went wide at that, and he felt Tod's shock as well. Resurrection spells were tricky, dangerous, and rarely worked. And they took power. A lot.
"So - she do it, then? Bring the Slayer back?" The boy blinked rapidly - looked away and down and leaned forward a little, hunching. Spike realized he was trying not to cry and he lifted his cigarette slowly to his mouth, watching through half-shut eyes.
"She - tried and the spell - backfired and...she died. W-willow died." The boy closed his eyes and just leaned down over his knees, his breathing going all jerky and wet, the salt and sorrow smell like a fog around him. Spike couldn't resist it - he got back up and crossed to him - crouched down and ruffled his hand through the thick hair. It needed a wash but it was long and silky, and felt good. The boy trembled under his touch but didn't move - didn't pull away.
"Don't cry, little rabbit. If the spell didn't work then she got lucky - didn't have to hand her soul over to some...devil. Probably." He grinned and the boy sat up with a jerk, his eyes blazing absolute fury and something was there, something, a darkness that wasn't there before, a difference. The boy lunged, teeth snapping. Spike backhanded him and he was gone - out. Slithering off the chair and hitting the floor hard, awkward and floppy as a rag-doll. Lying there with fresh blood welling on his lip, those suicidal eyes closed. Spike leaned forward and lapped at the blood, sucking gently for a moment. It was hot and shivery-good; full of so many emotions, and Spike let his eyes flutter closed for a moment. Then he stood and stubbed out the cigarette - went to the bedroom and shed the robe, opening the wardrobe doors. He wanted to be dressed when the wolf arrived.
*Gonna find out everything. Gotta talk to Wrxl - he can probably help... Oh, that boy...sweet little rabbit... Gonna keep him, for sure.* Spike grinned to himself, and dressed, and settled to wait. This was all just so...neat.