Credence Chapter 7
Noise woke Spike - familiar and unwelcome noise and he found himself off the bed and moving before he was completely awake. Felt the wall at his back, rough brick, and the rug under his feet.
*Not right, not - where? Hurting the wolf -*
"What the fuck," he mumbled, blinking, coming awake for real this time and realizing he was in his flat. Between the bed and the wall again, safe here, safe in his lair and in Seattle and he took an unnecessary, needed breath and forced himself to stand upright.
Oz was moaning, twisting on the couch and Spike could see Xander crouching next to him, talking softly. Spike ran a hand through his hair and walked over, leaning on the back. Xander glanced up at him but his attention was all on the thin form that shuddered in his grasp, caught in a nightmare and not waking up.
"Oz, shhhh, I've got you, I've got you, man, its okay, shhhh...." Xander was stroking the sweat-limp hair back, was rubbing Oz's chest and shoulder and trying to get his arms around him but the werewolf thrashed, crying out, and a flailing arm send Xander crashing backwards into the edge of the coffee table, lip split again. Xander shook his head - moved back to the couch. "Oz, Oz, you need to wake up now, come on, Oz, wake up, you're safe, I've got you - Oz - shhhh, wake up now -" Xander's hands were soft and deft and quick, this time, and captured the frantically working arms - pulled the werewolf up against his chest. But even ill, Oz's strength was more than any human could cope with and Xander was knocked back again.
*Stubborn little rabbit,* Spike thought, grudgingly admiring, and he moved around the couch and got down on his haunches - got his mouth close to the werewolf's ear.
"Come back, wolf - wake up. It's over, you're safe, come back, mate, you hear me? Need you here, wolf - wake up now, wake up -" Oz shivered all over, panting, and then gradually going still. After a moment his breathing evened out and his eyes were open. Still dazed, they tracked uselessly for a moment, not focusing, and then all at once Oz came back to himself and his gaze sharpened on Spike's face.
"Wolf - you here now? You awake?" Slim eyebrows went up in surprise and then came down again and Oz jerked away, coming half up off the couch and hurling himself backwards.
"No, you're not - what -"
"Oz - it's okay! It's okay - you're safe -" Xander's hand on his knee, on his wrist and Oz's lips pulled back in a half-hearted snarl before he blinked and looked again. He relaxed marginally, staring at Xander, then reached out and touched the boy - touched his swollen lip.
"Fuck, man - sorry. I'm sorry."
"Nah - not your fault. It's his fault." Xander glared at Spike, his hand still rubbing lightly at Oz's knee and Oz shifted focus again and looked at Spike as well - took a deep breath.
"Vampire? Is that... Spike? That you?"
"In the flesh, love." Spike said, and his voice was a little choked.
"There was a - doctor..." The spooked look wasn't entirely gone from Oz's eyes and Spike reached hesitantly and touched his chest, feeling the thunderous pound of the werewolf's heart.
"My doctor. Wrxl. He - fixed me, found a cure. He'll do the same for you." Oz stared at him, bewildered - looked over at the boy.
"Yeah, Oz. He was here - looked like - some kinda weird catfish or something. He - he knows what he's doing."
*Vote of confidence from the rabbit. He's awfully...trusting...*
Oz looked between the two of them and finally he relaxed, running his hand back through his hair and sitting up a little straighter, looking around and blinking.
"So not what I was expecting..." Oz said, and smiled.
Fifteen minutes later he managed to get up and, with Xander's help, get into the bathroom. Xander had filled the big tub up with hot water and soap and Oz slipped in with a sigh, going down in the water until just his nose and eyes and forehead were dry. Xander sat on the tub-edge and watched him, licking over his lip every now and again, his eyes blinking in long, heavy blinks. Asleep for maybe four hours and obviously less then that before. Full moons, Spike thought, watching from the doorway, must be hard.
After a minute Spike went over to the cabinet and got out the bottle - had a shot or two of whiskey and then began haphazardly putting away the stuff Tod had dumped on the kitchen counter - mindless labor to smooth away the rough edges that his waking had made in his mind. Locking things up tight again, with little bits of whispered prose. He turned away from stashing juice in the fridge and was utterly startled to find Xander right there. The demon flashed out, snarling, and Xander froze - turned his gaze and then his head to the side a little, just waiting until Spike collected himself and regained his human features.
*Clever rabbit. But that might not be a good reflex to have around me.* Spike moved up close to Xander - reached out and ran a finger down the taut line of his throat and Xander's head snapped back around and his gold-brown eyes glared at the vampire.
"Did Oz teach you that, rabbit? Or did you learn it yourself - trial and error kind of thing?"
"Hyenas, I told you," Xander said, pushing roughly past him and getting out the juice Spike had just put away. He opened three cabinets before he found the glasses and then almost dropped one, getting it down. Spike came up behind him, leaning into his heat and his smoky-sweet scent, letting his fingers stroke over the bit of skin that showed in the torn neck of the hoodie. The boy shivered under his fingers, and his hands were tight-clenched fists. He suddenly jabbed an elbow back hard, catching Spike in the ribs and Spike snarled - got his hand in Xander's hair and his head yanked back in about three seconds - let his chin dig into Xander's shoulder and his tongue lick out and taste the pale flesh just there, that throbbed with hidden life. His other arm was tight around Xander's ribs.
"Keep still, rabbit - keep still. I might bite," Spike murmured, grinning fiercely, and the boy did keep still, for all of the space of a breath or two. Then he twisted around, getting in another jab with his elbow, almost stepping on Spike's bare toes.
"I'm takin' care of Oz so back the fuck off, Spike!" Spike felt his eyebrow go up in surprise and he tipped his head a little, looking at the boy.
"What's the wolf got to do with you and me, eh?"
"What's he - Jesus Christ!" Xander looked ready to hit something and that darkness was there - hyena-soul, Spike guessed, hovering in the murk at the bottom of the boy's conscious. "It's got everything to do with you and me. I'm - I'm with Oz." Spike felt his eyes widen at that, and the boy's gaze wavered aside for an instant, and Spike smelled the blood that rose under the surface of his skin. "I take care of him, he trusts me. I know - how to make him feel better when he's sick, or having nightmares. He won't trust that Wrxl, no matter what you say, unless I'm there to check up on it. You get it? We're a package deal! So leave me the fuck alone." The blood - the flush of anger - was delicious and Spike just couldn't help himself - he leaned into the boy, thigh to thigh and belly to belly, his hands on the counter behind Xander. He was half-hard from the thrill of the fight and he knew Xander could feel it - watched the dark eyes widen and the pupils dilate.
*Maybe that's why...* Spike thought, and sucked up another mouthful of the warm, spicy scent that rolled off the boy with his sweat and his fear.
"If you and the wolf were fucking, I'd know. And you're not. Be very surprised if the wolf could do anything like that, the amount of shite in his system." Spike leaned a little harder, grinding, and the boy's eyes went hooded and narrow, his whole body tense under the vampire.
"Is that why you were so quick to get him here, tell us your...safe word? Is that why you're just...taking it?" Spike dipped his head to nuzzle into Xander's hair - let his lips brush wetly over the stubbled jaw and cheek. "You fancy him - you'd do anything for him..." Spike whispered, and Xander's whole body jerked in an excess of nerves and tension. The friction and pressure on his groin was delicious and Spike pressed closer - nibbled on the pulse he could feel thumping wildly in the boy's throat.
Then Xander made a low, growling sort of noise and his arms came up - pushed Spike hard, palms flat to his chest, his whole body springing off the counter and flinging him away. Spike was thrown back a few steps and he growled for real, calling up the demon and pouncing onto the boy, driving him back hard enough to thud him solidly and painfully into the cabinets, crack of his head into a door and Spike's fangs right there, biting down, just breaking the skin. The growl got louder and Spike shook the boy, just a little - twisted the hand that was in his hair, making Xander utter a tiny whimper. His other hand was in the small of Xander's back, keeping him still. Nothing then, for a long moment and Spike drew back a little - licked the two welling drops of blood on the boy's neck with a little shiver of delight. He could taste the otherness in the boy, and it was intoxicating.
"Xander?" Oz called, his voice a little cracked and wavering, and Xander looked towards the bathroom - looked back at Spike, and whatever had fueled the rage and the fight was gone, like that.
"Let me be, Spike. Don't make it harder on Oz." Their gazes locked for a long moment and then Spike stepped back, letting his hand slide slowly out of the thick hair - off his back.
"Best go see to him, rabbit. Don't want him to drown." Xander stared at him for one more moment - scrubbed shaking hands back through his hair and went, head down. Spike watched him disappear into the bathroom and leaned on the counter, listening.
"Hey man, what'dya need?"
"Just a drink... You all right?" A moment's silence and a sigh.
"I'm fine. Just getting things...settled...with Spike, you know? Don't put your feet on the coffee table, don't leave your towels on the floor, that kind of stuff." Strained humor in his voice and there was a moment's splashing noise from the tub.
"I can smell the blood. What'd he do?"
"Just... Nothing. Pack stuff, I guess. That's what it feels like."
"He's not the right pack."
"Neither are you, if you wanna get picky." Soft laughter from Oz, and then a sort of groaning sigh. "This feels so fucking good. You think - this doctor, Wrxl - think he knows what he's doin'?" A faint but perceptible tremble in the wolf's voice on the word 'doctor' and Spike closed his eyes momentarily, remembering.
*No, fuckin' NO...damnit...*
"He seemed like he knew his job. He asked a lot of questions... I'm sorry, I just - I told him everything I could. I didn't want to...lay out your private stuff but... I think he really could help you, Oz."
"It's okay..." Oz said something else, his voice low, but Spike couldn't hear him anymore. He put his head down in his hands - leaned his elbows on the counter, trying frantically to switch things off, but the clamoring voices were getting louder and the sick smell of his own perpetually burnt flesh and ill body and the rank, poisoned blood he was forced to eat was thick in his nostrils. Old pain flared along his nerves and he pressed his fists into his temples, eyes screwed shut.
"Brothers, that was a dog's death," said Mowgli, feeling for the knife he always carried in a sheath round his neck now that he lived with men. "But he would never have shown fight. His hide will look well on the Council Rock. We must get to work swiftly."
A boy trained among men would never have dreamed of skinning a ten-foot tiger alone, but Mowgli knew better than any one else how an animal's skin is fitted on and how it can be taken off. But it was hard work, and Mowgli slashed and tore and grunted for an hour, while the wolves lolled out their tongues, or came forward and tugged as he ordered them."
A plain of grass, with the moon high in the still, sultry air. The roar of life from a jungle heavy and wet and green as crushed emeralds. Blood-scent, but good, clean blood. And the scent of rain, and cattle - dung and the hot dustiness of their hides. It was so real he could see it - he could smell it and it stilled the voices, stilled the ghost-pain. Washed it away.
"Spike?" Soft voice - not the wolf but some other voice. Gentle voice, not too close. "Spike? Wake up now." Spike took in a long breath, scenting. That first, always, because that sense had never left him even when the others had failed, or tricked him. He smelled cigarettes and candle wax and soap heavy with cloves. He smelled the wolf, but there was no fear, only illness. He smelled burnt sugar and sweat and blood rich with want and he finally opened his eyes. Stared down at the green granite counter top for a long moment and then raised his head. The boy just there, a few feet away. Looking at him, anxious and a little afraid.
*But no pity. Wolf'll have teased THAT out of him, thank Christ.* And the wolf, leaning in the doorway to the bathroom, thick towel around his waist, another around his shoulders, the silver poisoning making him look like a ghost, like the walking dead and Spike shivered and stood up.
"What is that?" Xander asked, low, and Oz walked slowly across the floor - touched the boy's shoulder and then leaned there.
"It's headspace. His is Kipling and Keats and Chaucer, mine is -"
"Whatever your stoner brain can remember," Spike said softly, quoting the wolf back to himself, and Oz smiled.
"Yeah. Hey, you think I could borrow some clothes, Spike? I'm kinda cold." Spike noticed, finally, that the werewolf was shivering and Xander looked sharply over at him - touched his forehead.
"Fever's back, damnit," Xander muttered, and Spike turned to the bags still on the counter - dug out a bright blue and white box.
"Here - Tod got aspirin." He tossed the box to the boy and went to find clothes for Oz. He had some soft flannel pants and loose sweaters, things he likes to wear when he's alone and curled into the heat of his lair - when he fires up the antique wood-burner in the corner and basks in the heat. The wolf'll swim in them, but they'll be warm. He heard Xander tearing open the box and snapping the safety seal - cursing a little when the cap fought him. He found the clothes and went back, watching Oz swallow four of the pills and drain the glass of dark-red juice and then stand there, head to one side and hand lightly on his stomach.
"Gonna keep it down?" Xander asked, and Oz nodded marginally.
"So long as I don't - jostle around," Oz pulled the towel away from his neck and accepted the sweater Spike held out to him - pulled it on and grinned down at his hands, which were lost in the floppy sleeve-ends. Xander rolled them up for him and then took the pants himself - held them while Oz carefully climbed in. He was shivering now and he shuffled over to the couch and curled himself into the corner of it, pulling the blanket over himself and shutting his eyes.
"I'm - gonna be out of it," he said softly, and Xander picked up his damp towels.
"It's okay, Oz. Just sleep, if you can."
"Yeah," Oz breathed, and then he was slipping down further on the couch, his breathing ragged with the shivers but deepening, and Spike stood watching him, barely aware of Xander tidying the towels away, pulling the plug on the tub.
"Spike?" Spike blinked - became aware that Xander had probably said his name more than once.
"What, rabbit?" Xander frowned, but his knitted cap was in his hands, and he pulled it on.
"I'm going to go back to our - to our old place. Get our stuff. I need a change of clothes and Oz has some things... I don't want his stuff getting stolen." Spike just stared at him and Xander's eyes narrowed. Anger, in his scent. "You know I'll come back."
"Yeah, I know." Spike considered for a moment, and then he put his thumb to his mouth - bit, and let the blood well up. He reached over and smeared a line of it under the raveling edge of the hoodie and Xander just stood there, still scowling.
*But not stopping me. Brave rabbit.*
"There's beasties out there. This'll keep most away."
"It's not even noon," Xander snapped. Spike shrugged, and found his keys on the counter - handed them over. Xander's eyes were steady on his, and he saw the tiny flicker there when the boy took the keys slowly from his hand. Then Spike went over to the couch and settled in the corner opposite Oz, eyes on the werewolf again.
"You know all the beasties aren't asleep during the day, rabbit. Hurry back, now." Xander stood for a moment longer and then he was gone, sliding the heavy door shut behind him and cursing softly over the elevators sticky gears. Spike just watched the rise and fall of Oz's chest - slow and hypnotic, lulling. He was asleep five minutes later.