Credence Chapter 5

Credence Chapter 5

                It had started to rain, sometime between Tod's little cronies going out and coming in, and when they came through the door, the sagging figure of the werewolf slung between them, Spike had a vivid flashback to one of his very first kills.  Pretty little rent-boy, lured into the bushes off Rotten Row - left lying amidst the blood and amber colored leaves and conkers of an October twilight.  Pale face spangled with the evening's drizzle and here's that face all over again; starred with raindrops and as blue and deathly as any corpse.

                *He looks deader than I do.  What did they do to him, for fuck's sake?*   The two half-carry the slight form across the floor and ease him down onto the couch, and the werewolf was boneless and motionless, only his eyes showing any signs of life.  His clothes - corduroy jeans and hoodie and flannel shirt - were all too big, and not very clean.  Dim, ugly colors that Spike hated on sight.

                "Food.  Now," Spike snapped, and those two were gone again, taking the smell of wet concrete and garbage and cheap cologne with them.  Tod was off to one side, hovering over the other boy, and Spike hesitated for a moment.   But finally he crossed to the wolf and crouched down - reached out and very gently turned his head, so that the eyes - the color of new willow leaves - could focus on him.

                "Wolf?  You in there, wolf?"  There was nothing, for a long moment.  Spike could hear the werewolf's heart, that was beating slow and steady.  Could hear his breath that has a thick, wheezing undertone. 

                *That's not right, not good...need to get Wrxl over here -*    "Tod - call Wrxl.  See if he can come down."  Tod was studying the wolf and he nodded and moved away, pulling a tiny cell-phone from an inner pocket. 

                "Wolf?  Oz?  You hear me?'  Spike let his fingers trail upwards, to comb through matted hair that might be auburn or might be dark brown.  Brushed over the straight, dark brows and stubbled lip.   Nothing.   "C'mon, wolf - what's wrong with you?"  Spike could smell pot and that sickly-sweet opiate - could smell sweat and must and curry powder.  Could smell the sickness that is the Initiative's taint, like a new-born dog left to lie in the sun and broil: blood and rot and rotting metal, charred flesh.  The werewolf's skin was so deadly pale it had taken on a bluish cast, and his lips were a slatey grey - even the whites of his eyes were bluish, and they made his eyes seem paler, less human.  "Wolf - wolfling -"   Spike went so far as to shake him, quick snap of his shoulder, but he only blinked ever so slowly, and then closed his eyes.

                "He's gonna be out for a while," a voice said, and Spike looked up sharply, into the dark-brown eyes of the boy.  He was sitting up now, hands still locked behind him, his lip swollen and the left side of his face darkening to a bruise.

                "Why?  What's wrong with him?"

                "Nothing, at the moment.  He's just - stoned, you know? Probably shot up right before your guys got there - lucky he was awake enough to invite them in."  The boy shifted uncomfortably and tried to get up, but he couldn't manage with his hands like that.  He settled for getting up to his knees and crawling over to the couch.  Spike bared his teeth, warning him off, but the boy ignored him - ducked his head and turned it away a little, flashing a bit of his long, pale throat through the torn neck of the hoodie and it was enough to short-circuit the demon for a moment. 

                *Where'd he learn to do that?  WHY did he do that?*   Spike just crouched there as the boy leaned against the couch and studied the werewolf - sagged back finally into a sitting position.

                "He's okay.  He'll just be out for a while.   Full moon a couple nights ago.  He's still - recovering."

                "What the fuck does that mean?"  Spike looked back at the werewolf - reached and carefully straightened his awkwardly sprawled limbs.  The skin of his wrist was cold and damp and silken, and Spike could feel his pulse there, steady as a drum.

                "It means...fuck, it means it's a long damn story.  Take these damn things off me and I'll tell you, okay?"  The boy's tone was calm - almost soft - but his heart was pounding and his eyes flashed up just once, holding that same darkness and Spike felt a grin coming over his face.

                *So fierce!  Wonder how much pushing will make him snap.*    "Like you better like that.  Tell me anyway."  The boy glared at the floor, his shoulders jerking as he fought the handcuffs.  Spike could smell blood - fresher, not from his lip - and knew his was hurting himself.  But he didn't seem to care much.

                "Fuck you," the boy mumbled, and Spike reached over and jerked his head up by a thick handful of hair.

                "Be nice, rabbit.  Or you won't like it."  A moment's inner struggle that showed clearly in his face - in his eyes.  *Like a damn wolf himself, with those eyes.  All fire and fight.  But a rabbit's heart, telling him to crouch down and be still.  Which one...*  Spike watched the seesaw of emotion and intent - saw the hungry, hateful look fade and the resigned one take over, and gentled his grip on the boy's hair - petted him, just a little.

                "That's a good rabbit, then.  Tell on."  Spike stood up, going to the kitchen for another beer, getting a cigarette and settling on the free end of the couch as the boy told his story.  Tod talked on, cell-phone pressed to his ear, and Spike ignored him.

               

                "When we got him away from the Initiative, we thought - he'd be okay.  They'd tortured him...drugged him...  But we thought it was mostly just - stuff he'd recover from.  Oz's always been really good about - working things out.  It didn't seem like he was too bad off.  But he - had really bad nightmares..."  The boy paused, looking at the still figure next to him, and Spike hastily shut down his own mental follow-up to that.  Nightmares, he knew quite intimately.  The boy licked his lips and continued, his voice a little rough.

                "Anyway, seemed like he was doing okay but then - first full moon after that... D'you know he'd been in Tibet - learned how to control the wolf?"   Spike nodded at the boy's slightly questioning look.  Oz had told him all about that - had brought the high, sharp mountains and dense cities of the Far East to life in his soft, steady voice.   Part of learning about that headspace, and Spike knows he'll go there someday - hang up a prayer-flag in deference to the ancient gods that had - translated through this man - brought him some peace.

                "Yeah, he told me about that."

                "Yeah," the boy echoed, and sighed.  "Anyway - he wasn't sure, after - all that - if he'd still be in control, so that first night he had us lock him in.  Just in case.  And..."  The boy paused again, biting his lip and wincing a little when his teeth found the split.  He was trembling ever so slightly and Spike wasn't sure if it was cold or fear or a reaction to the story - to the memories.  On impulse he scooted forward off the couch and offered his beer - watched avidly as the cracked lips fastened around the mouth of the bottle and the muscles of the throat undulated with swallowing.

                *Pretty, oh yes...* 

                "So - what happened?"  Spike sat cross-legged and the boy licked a drop of beer off his mouth - looked over at the motionless werewolf.  His eyes were wet and very wide, and his voice was husky when he spoke.

                "The moon rose, and he - changed - and...  It was like the pain of the change just went on, and on.  It's not supposed to be like that.  It hurts, when he's changing, but it stops.  This time it didn't stop, it just kept - hurting and the...the werewolf was h-howling and snarling and screaming...   He was - it was like convulsions and we - we thought he was going to break his back or - or his arms and legs it was so bad..."  The boy took a sharp, shuddering breath and Spike could smell the fear and sorrow and rage that were pouring off of him. 

                "We - Giles had a - a trank gun and he knocked him out...  We had to do it twice, it didn't last long enough.  As soon as he started to wake up the p-pain came back..."  The boy stopped again, but this time he laid his head down on the couch, almost on the werewolf's shoulder.  He was trembling harder now, and Spike could smell tears.  "It was so fuckin' awful, it was - we couldn't do anything but knock him out for three fuckin' nights and after - during the day - it was like...  Like he was lost.  He had trouble talking and - moving right.   He moved in with me after that...  We were scared..."  The boy sat up abruptly, as if suddenly aware of how much he was saying - showing - and he roughly wiped his eyes on his shoulders and sniffed.

                "We tried everything.  Willow used all kinds of magic to see - what was happening.  But it wasn't until after the next full moon that we got a break.   Buffy was dating one of those Initiative soldiers and he finally - came through with some information."  The boy's jaw was clenched as he said this, and it was obvious that he had nothing but dislike - even hatred - for this soldier boy turned traitor.  Spike remembered the soldier that had been there that night - that had got one arm up under the werewolf's shoulder even as this boy was doing the same on the other side.

                "Sold out his own then, did he?"

                "Not fuckin' soon enough.  They had Oz for two fucking months!  He spent all that time fuckin' lying to us and -"  The boy kicked out hard, jolting the coffee table back a couple of feet and the wildness was back in his eyes - the darkness.  Spike grinned, seeing that.

                *So different, this boy.  Such a strange little rabbit.*

                "So what'd he tell you?"

                "The fucking Initiative, our - well, my fucking government was - was putting microchips - computer chips - in - in people's brains.  They put one in Oz."  When Spike heard that he couldn't stand up fast enough - couldn't get away fast enough, because the memories came crowding into his consciousness thick and fast.   Little mental movie as badly lit and jerky as some kind of home-made porn and it was just as obscene.   He felt his gorge rising and swallowed convulsively.   

                "Guess you know something about that."  Spike cast a hard look at the boy - strode over to the cabinet against the wall and jerkily poured himself a shot - drained it in one swallow and did it again.  After a moment he could feel the heat of the whiskey creeping outwards from his stomach and he put the bottle and glass away - shut the cabinet up again.

                "Yeah, I know something about that.  So - what does the fuckin' thing do, then?"  The boy shifted a little, because Oz was - looked at the werewolf who was twitching over just a little, moving onto his side. Then he was still again, and the boy looked back up at Spike.

                "He told them, when they first captured him - that he could control it.  That he could - stop the wolf.  They believed him but - they didn't trust him. They - put that thing in there...so when he'd start to change, it would hurt.  Like - like a fucking shock collar on a dog.  But - with all the fuckin' drugs and - and the fuckin' shit they were pumping into him, he couldn't do it anymore.  And the - the whole time he's the wolf -"  The boy kicked the coffee table again, sending it over, this time, the remote and some magazines and Spike's beer flying onto the floor.  Spike was on him in seconds - lifted him by the front of his grimy blue hoodie and shook him hard.

                "Better learn a little control, rabbit.  You don't bust up my place."  The darkness - the seeming wolf that lurks in this boy is right there, snarling at him, and the fear-scent was overlaid with rage and with hate - with a sort of bloodlust that Spike cannot imagine this boy ever indulging.

                "What is that?  What's in you, boy?"  Spike let the demon come, to scent deeply and to taste - flick of tongue over the boy's lips, over his throat.   The boy shivered convulsively at his touch - snapped his teeth at Spike and Spike laughed.   Shook him again.  "Tell me."

                "Possessed once.  A hyena spirit.  Fuckin' long story I'm not gonna tell you.  Let me go."  Spike raised an eyebrow at the boy - at the command that was just spat into his face.  He lunged and got his fangs right into the boy's throat - right over his jugular.  Sunk the tips in and just held him.  Beads of blood gathered around his fangs and Spike could taste them - could taste the fury and the terror.  He could taste exhaustion as well, and sorrow, and a desperate loneliness and oh fuck it was good; it was the sick-sweet buzz of heroin or meth and for a moment he just wanted to bury his fangs to the gum and drink it all down - suck out every drop.  The boy was pressed up against him, hot and shuddering and trying to be still and Spike pulled away slowly - licked the tiny spill of blood from the boy's throat.  He ran his hand gently down the boy's cheek - cupped his jaw.

                "You just came this close to being my next meal, love.  Best learn to keep that at bay, savvy?"   Those eyes, feral and terrified, stared at him and he abruptly let him go.  The boy went to his knees and then his ass, clumsy sprawl beside the couch.  Spike settled on the couch again, reaching out to rub the werewolf's thin ankle through his pant leg.

                "So - what the fuck?  I understand...when the moon is full.  But why's he - "   Spike gestured at the wolf, and the boy sat up finally, glaring at the floor.

                "You see how he's kinda - grey?  How his skin isn't right?"

                "Yeah..."

                "It's called - argyria.  It's silver poisoning.  It's not so bad when he's human, but when he's the wolf...   It keeps him from healing.  It's making him sicker.  When we left Sunnydale - he started using so he could - so he could get through the full moons.  Every fucking change damages him a little more and with that shit in his body he can't heal.  He's fucking dying, Spike."  His name on this boy's lips jolted him and he stared at the sleeping werewolf who looked a day dead, all marble-white and the blue of coagulated blood.  At the boy, who's been taking care of him for...

                "How long?  How long has he been using?"

                "'Bout - six months.  Giles - didn't like it but...  The trank gun made him sick, after a while.  This works...fuck, this works better."  His voice was thick with tears again and for a moment Spike wanted to slap him - doesn't want to hear it.   But he stopped himself.

                *The wolf trusted him - trusted him enough to go with him - to do this.  He's mine now, but I'll let him keep taking care.  See how well he does.* 

                "What's your name?  What's the wolf call you?"  The boy looked up at him finally, deep pools of exhaustion in his eyes.

                "Xander.  My name's Xander."

                "Right."  Spike has no memory of that name - just of this boy squirming away from him, trapped under Angel's arm.  Of this same boy leaping to defend his witch-girl, and later half-carrying the damaged Watcher out of the mansion, gaze flickering over him and Dru as they all get the fuck away from the madness that is Angelus.  *Might do, this pretty rabbit-boy.  Might do.*

                Tod approached just then - he'd been hovering on the edges for a while, and Spike looked up at him.

                "Wrxl says he'll be here in an hour or so."  Spike nodded, not replying.  His hand was still on Oz's leg, feeling the thinness and the chill.

                "Go get a blanket Tod - he's cold."  Tod grimaced but he went and Spike turned back to Xander.

                "The rumors were right.  There is somebody who can help him.  Demon-doctor.  He'll figure it out."  The relief in Xander's eyes is palpable - the hope.  Spike leaned back on the couch.  Nothing to do but wait now, and see what Wrxl could do.

                *Fix you up, wolf, just like you fixed me.  Hold on.*