Hero Chapter 1 (1/8)
"Oh shit." Will stopped dead in the middle of the sidewalk and Oz crashed into his back.
"Will, what the fuck!" But Oz was laughing, like always, and Will looked around for something to duck behind - darted to the back of a parked SUV.
"What the hell are you doing?" Devon huddled near him, looking around with wide, glazed eyes.
*Oh goody, he's slid into the 'paranoid' part of his high. Tosser.* "It's that damn kid. I just don't wanna fuck with him tonight." Devon looked blank, but Oz shook his head, peering around the back of the SUV.
"Hell, he's right outside the club, man!"
*Great, fuckin' great.* Will leaned against the vehicle, pulling a smoke out of his pocket and lighting up. He didn't hate the kid... In fact, he liked him - felt like a big brother, or something. But sometimes he just didn't want to deal with him and his ongoing head-trip.
"Who is? We'll just go kick his ass -" Devon made to walk down the sidewalk and Will snatched him back with a growl.
"No! Fuck no. Just leave him alone. He's just - he's just this fucked-up kid, thinks I'm -" Will stopped, shaking his head and puffing furiously on his cigarette.
"Thinks you're what? Billy Idol? Elvis? What?"
"Fuck you! No, he - he thinks I'm a vampire." Devon stared at him and then doubled over in laughter, leaning on the bumper of the vehicle.
"A -a vampire? Oh man! What the fuck? You gotta tell me what's up with this kid." Will took a last, hard drag and flicked the butt of his cigarette into the street - looked over at Oz who sighed and nodded.
"Fuck. We'll tell you inside. We've gotta get going, we're late." Will ran his hands back through his hair, making the white-blonde spikes stick up even more wildly. "Devon? Listen, okay? He's gonna talk to me - he always does. And no matter what he says, just - just let me do the talking, okay? I mean it, Devon!"
"Yeah, yeah, I get you, man. Don't talk to the freak 'cause he might freak. No problem." Devon held his hands up in a 'who, me?' kind of gesture and Will scowled at him. Oz reached over and punched Devon lightly on the arm.
"Seriously, dude. Just don't, okay? The kid's harmless."
"Yeah, okay," Devon said, backing off. He always did what Oz said, for which Will was secretly grateful. Devon could be a real pain, sometimes.
"Okay - here we go. Let's just go fast and maybe he won't - notice." They stepped back up onto the sidewalk and strode down the street towards the stage door that led into the back of the Bronze. They had two sets to do tonight, and they needed to get inside and get set up. The sun was just down, and the street - alley, really - was shrouded in a deep, plumy shadow. The amber-tinted 'bug light' over the back door made strange purple shadows and made the kid look -
*He's too fuckin' thin. Gotta get him to eat more...have more 'research parties' or something...* Will steeled himself as they drew closer. The kid was only a year or two younger then they were, but he seemed...childlike. Shaggy dark-brown hair in need of washing fell to his shoulders, and his thin body was hunched inside layers of t-shirt, flannel shirt, and a sleeveless Army BDU shirt. His jeans were ragged, shiny along the seams with dirt, and stuffed haphazardly into worn work-boots. He was crouched up on top of a pile of four or five empty pallets, rocking to and fro, something clutched in his hand. As they approached they could hear him talking softly to himself. The kid looked up, his dark eyes wary and startled. And then his thin, scarred face broke into a smile, and Will shook his head. That smile was so sweet - so wide and happy and fucking trusting - it broke Will's heart every time.
"Spike! Hey, I looked for you at your crypt today but you weren't around. Heard anything? Is there something going down tonight? Hey, Oz." The kid jumped down from the pallets and stood there, nervously twisting his hands around the object he held - a crudely carved wooden stake.
"Hey Xander. I stayed with Oz - got caught too bloody late, couldn't get home, you know?" Spike stopped walking to answer him and he couldn't help it - he smiled back. But not too big, 'cause 'Spike' was apparently more smirk then smile. "It's gonna be a quite night tonight - nothing doin' - so why don't you go see Willow? I bet she's got something you could help her with." Xander's smile faltered a little as he caught sight of Devon and he took a step back.
"Who's that, Spike?"
"That's Devon. You remember Devon, right? He sings." Xander stared at Devon, flexing his hands tighter around the stake.
"Yeah I - I guess I do. He - is he human?"
"All human here, bro." Will groaned. Devon just could not shut up, not to save his fuckin' life, and Will shot him an evil glare.
"He knows then, huh?" Xander said, and Will sighed.
"Yeah, he knows, he's cool with it. Listen, pet, we need to get goin'. Why don't you go see Willow, get somethin' to eat, huh? That way - I'll know where you are if I need you, huh?" Xander shifted from foot to foot, looking at him - at Devon and Oz - and Will realized he was shivering in his layers, and that his pale face was sheened with sweat.
*Damn. He's got a fever. Fuck - what the fuck can I do? C'mon, kid - go to Willow's, okay? Please?*
"Welcome to the fight, Devon," Xander said suddenly, and he held his hand out. It was trembling ever so slightly; callused and dirty, with ragged nails and a cut across his knuckles that must hurt like a bitch. Devon just stood there for a minute and then he took the kid's hand - shook it good and hard, and then let go. Will just stared, because Xander almost never touched anybody, and this was totally new.
*Probably the fever.*
"Thanks man," Devon said, and then he grinned and the kid blinked - looked past him up the street.
"I'm - I'm gonna... go and see Willow I guess. See you later, Spike," Xander said, and Will felt something tight in his chest relax. Hopefully Willow could get some soup down him - some aspirin and some juice or something. Maybe even get him to stay a couple of days, or at least the night.
"Okay man, that's cool. I'll find you if I need you, okay?"
"Yeah," Xander said, and his smile was gone, now - his shoulders hunched and fragile-looking and his hair starting to string with sweat. Will reached out and touched his shoulder - let his hand rest there for a minute.
"You all right, mate? Somethin' up?" Xander leaned into his touch for a moment and then took a step back - looked back up the alley, shaking his head.
"No, I'm - it's okay. I'll...see you later."
"Sure, man," Oz said softly, and Xander looked at him - offered a shy little smile.
"Full moon in two days, Oz - you ready? You need me to do anything? I can come sit with you."
"Nah - I'll be okay. Gonna try something new, see if I can keep it under control. I'll tell you about it, okay?"
"Sure," Xander said, and he looked over at Devon and nodded once - shuffled off down the street, already starting that under-his-breath mutter that almost never stopped. The ways to tell a vampire from a human. What kills them, and who he was. That, most often, as if he was in danger of forgetting from moment to moment. Will watched until he was out of sight and sighed. He felt Oz's hand on his shoulder, squeezing for a moment in silent sympathy.
"Fuck. Let's get goin' and get the bloody gear set up," Will muttered, and they went into the Bronze, shutting the night and the lost boy out.