“We got a good one yesterday.”
“Yeah? Not another prophet, I hope, because we already have two Jesuses and a Mohammed, and last week—“
“Nope, not a prophet.”
“Ooh! Is this one talking to aliens?”
“Nope. Even better.”
“Uh…secret government agent?”
Hernandez shook his head. “Uh-uh.”
“Okay. I give up.”
“Vampire.” Hernandez’s lip quirked.
“Yep.” Hernandez took a big gulp of the crappy coffee.
“Does he talk like Bela Lugosi? ‘I vant to suck your blooood!’”
“No, this guy’s more like Billy Idol, actually. Someone found him half-dead in an alley. He’d been jumped pretty good, I guess, all cut up and shit. And when he came to, he got all hysterical over the window in his room ‘cause he thought the sun was gonna burn him up. Claims he’s 150 years old.”
“Oh, and it gets better. He’s a good vampire.”
“A good vampire?”
“Yeah. He has a soul. And he got beat up helping another good vampire battle evil lawyers.” Hernandez’s smirk transformed into a white-toothed grin.
“Yeah, well…evil lawyers. I can see that.”
Hernandez stood and tossed his cup into the trash. “You can see the vampire. He’s all yours, Harris.”
Xander took a last sip of his coffee and stood too. “Great. Hope he doesn’t bite.”
He didn’t look much like a vampire.
Instead of black and all slicked back, his hair was peroxide blond and standing up around his head in a riot of curls. And instead of dark, hypnotic pools, his eyes were ice blue and unfocused. Xander wondered what chemical cocktail they had running though this one’s veins. Instead of a cape, this guy was wearing a floral hospital johnny and four-point restraints.
He was pale, though. Really unusually pale.
He hadn’t noticed Xander enter the room. From the doped-up look of him, he wouldn’t have noticed a herd of elephants enter the room.
“Hey,” Xander said.
With obvious effort, the man rolled his gaze unsteadily toward Xander and then blinked several times. The haze in his eyes cleared a little.
“You!” the man croaked.
“Me.” Xander smiled calmly at him.
“What are you doing here?”
“Lunch,” Xander replied, lifting the tray in his hands a little higher. “And a few other details.”
“Is the Slayer here?”
Oookay. “No, there are no slayers here. You’re safe. This is a slayer-free zone.”
The man just gaped at him, so Xander pulled the little wheeled table next to the bed, then he sat in the chair beside it. He filled the spoon with the mush o’ the day and held it near the man’s face.
“Hungry?” he asked.
The man set his jaw and looked away.
“If I were you, I’d eat. If you don’t, they’re likely to put a feeding tube in you, and I can assure you that’s no fun at all.”
The man glared at him, but opened his mouth. Nope, no fangs in there. Xander popped the spoon in.
The patient spit the food out. “Tastes like shite!” he said.
“Yeah,” said Xander, using a napkin to wipe the man’s face. “Once they get your meds stabilized you can start earning privileges, and then you can eat in the dining hall. Food there’s much better.”
The man glared some more but parted his lips for the spoon, and this time he swallowed obediently.
“So, what do you like to be called?”
“You know my name, whelp.”
Whelp? That was a new one. And Xander really didn’t know the guy’s name. He’d looked over the paperwork, but they’d admitted him as a John Doe.
Manip by sueworld2003
Xander scooped up another spoonful of goo. “Why don’t you humor me, then, okay? What should I call you?”
The patient glared some more, but then he said, “Spike.”
“Nice to meet you, Spike. I’m Xander.”
“What are you playing at, Harris?”
Xander put down the spoon and empty bowl. “Just doing my job. Want some Jello to wash that down with?”
Spike shook his head.
Xander pointed to the cups on the tray. “OJ or H2O? Or both, ‘cause it’s bonus day today.”
Xander held the paper cup so that Spike could reach the straw. The man quickly drank it all down.
“You seem pretty thirsty, Spike. Want the OJ, too?”
Spike nodded and Xander held that cup for him, too. When he was finished, Xander stood and pushed the table away.
“Okay, my good man. What goes in, must come out. Ready for a bedpan?”
Spike practically growled at him.
“Hey, not my favorite job either. Soon you’ll get these restrains off and then the facilities are all yours. But until then….” He lifted the metal container from its shelf near the bed.
Spike looked as if he couldn’t decide whether to yell or cry, but finally he just nodded once. Then he looked away as Xander lifted the sheet off of him. Xander tapped Spike’s hip lightly with one finger and Spike awkwardly raised his midsection so that Xander could slip the pan under him. A moment later, the sound of urine hitting metal filled the room.
Another curt nod, and Xander pulled the pan out and covered the patient back up. He emptied the pan into the toilet and set it aside.
When he turned back, Spike was looking him, and it definitely looked like there were tears in his eyes.
“Please,” he whispered, like it pained him to say the word. “What’s happening?”
Xander’s heart broke a little at the expression on the man’s face. He couldn’t imagine how awful it would feel to be tied to a bed, confused about who and where you are, not even being able to take a piss by yourself.
“Everything’s going to be okay,” he said softly. “This is Coleman State Hospital. The doctors here are really good, and we’re going to take good care of you. Pretty soon you’ll be feeling better, okay? Then you’ll be able to get up and move around.”
Spike swallowed thickly. “’M not crazy.”
Xander patted his shoulder gently. “I’m sorry. It’s kind of scary, I know. You’ll feel better soon.” He hoped this was true, now that he’d said it twice. Some patients got the right mixture of meds and other treatments and they bounced out pretty quickly. Others, well…they didn’t.
Spike looked away again.
Xander went to the sink and filled a clean basin with warm water. He brought the basin over to the bed, along with some soap and a couple towels.
“Spike? I’m going to give you a quick bath, okay?”
Spike’s head whipped back toward him at this.
“Can’t wait to get your hands on me, Harris?”
Great. Xander loved the ones who imagined he was going to molest them. But he just grinned. “Yeah, well, you’re lucky. My hands are nice and warm today.”
He began with Spike’s face, washing carefully around his mouth and eyes and ears. As he did this, he saw that the man’s eyes had gone unfocused again. Then he wiped the surprisingly delicate neck.
Next came the tricky part.
He pulled back the sheet again and then reached around Spike’s neck to undo the gown’s ties. He lifted the gown off, leaving the man completely bare except for his bindings. Xander was careful to keep his face neutral, but inwardly he winced at the scars on the chest and belly and legs. They were still red and angry-looking. It looked like something had tried to claw the guy apart, and Xander tried not to think about what would do that kind of damage to someone, and why.
Working quickly, Xander did his best to cleanse as much of the patient’s skin as the straps allowed. Spike didn’t respond at all, even when Xander got to his groin. He simply stared at a point somewhere on the ceiling.
When Xander was done, he tied a fresh johnny around Spike’s neck and covered him again with the sheet.
“Spike? I’m going to take care of some other things. I’ll be back in about an hour or so, okay?” The patient gave no sign that he heard.
Xander gathered the soiled linens and the bedpan and left.
It was nearly thirty minutes later and he was wheeling an elderly man to the common room when the thought suddenly struck him.
How the hell did Spike know his last name?
For the next week, Spike was too drugged up to do more than garble a few unintelligible words. Xander talked to him anyway while he cared for him. He never knew whether anything he said actually made any sense to patients in this state, but he supposed it didn’t hurt, anyway. So he chattered on about football and last month’s trip to Las Vegas and his best friend, Willow, who had just announced her engagement to a musician, much to her parents’ dismay.
Spike just lay there, drooling a little, sometimes tugging weakly at the restraints.
When Xander returned from a three-day weekend, though, things were looking a little better. Spike was sitting in a chair, gazing out the window. He was wearing a straitjacket and a pair of striped pajama pants. Xander frowned slightly to see the poor guy still in restraints, but at least he could get up and walk around a little.
His head turned when Xander entered the room, and his eyes were bright and clear.
“Hi, Spike. Doing better today, huh?”
Spike just looked at him.
“I’m afraid lunch is mush again, but now that you’re up and around, I can get you something better for dinner, okay?”
Xander pulled a chair and the rolling table next to the patient and fed him. Spike swallowed each mouthful, his piercing gaze never leaving Xander’s face. It made Xander a little nervous, actually.
When Spike was finished eating, Xander accompanied him to the tiny bathroom. He unbuckled the crotch straps and slid the pajamas down so Spike could use the toilet. He had to sit, since his hands were still bound, but it was at least a little more dignified than the bedpan.
Xander dressed him again and refastened the straitjacket.
Spike returned to his chair.
“Anything else I can do for you, Spike?”
“Get me out of here.”
“Sorry. I can’t.”
Spike’s jaw worked. “You really don’t know me, do you?”
Xander sat down again. “No. But I’ve got a little time, if you want to talk.”
Technically, this wasn’t part of his job. But it was his job to make sure the patients were as comfortable and safe as possible, and he figured sometimes a willing ear was what they needed most.
Right now, Spike looked lost. “How…how do I get out of this bloody place?”
“You’ll have to talk to your doctor about that.”
Spike looked down at his lap. “I know you.”
“Sure, Spike. I’ve been in here practically every day for over a week.”
“No. I mean I know you. Xander Harris.” Spike’s voice was quiet and desperate. “Buffy’s friend.”
All the breath left Xander’s lungs at once and he felt a little dizzy. Calm down, he told himself. Maybe they really had met, once. Buffy’d probably dated him or something. Although…Xander thought he would have remembered this guy.
“Buffy? How do you…how do you know Buffy?” His voice did not squeak a little.
But he almost jumped when Spike laughed. It was not a happy laugh. “How do I know her? Burned for her, didn’t I?”
Xander didn’t know how to respond to this. Finally he shook his head. “Look, I haven’t seen Buffy in years, okay? But if you two are…close…I could probably get hold of her. Let her know you’re here.”
Spike shook his head. “No. Don’t want to see the Slayer.”
The Slayer again. What—or who—was that supposed to be?
“Is there someone else we can contact for you? Friends? Maybe you have family back in England?”
Spike laughed again. “Family’s dead, mate. Been dead a long time.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
Spike frowned at him. “Maybe…. Maybe you could tell the Watcher I’m here.”
The Watcher? Was that the same as the Slayer? “Who’s that, Spike?”
“Rupert. Rupert Giles.”
Xander pulled a pad of paper and pencil out of his pocket. “Okay, Rupert…um, how do you spell the last name?”
“How would I bloody know? He’s your Watcher.”
Okay. “Spike, I don’t know anybody by that name.”
Spike narrowed his eyes. “He was the bleeding librarian at Sunnydale High!”
Xander was surprised again—Spike knew where he went to school. Well, maybe he knew Buffy then. He definitely looked a few years too old to have gone to school with them, but Buffy always did like to date older men. “The librarian at Sunnydale High was Mrs. Delmonico. She had blue hair and she always wore those glasses on a chain.”
Spike looked at him for a long minute, and then squeezed his eyes shut. Xander was nearly rocked back in his chair by the almost tangible wave of despair that poured off the man. Then Spike turned his face back to the window, and didn’t say another word.
Spike was not one of the patients who bounced right out.
Sometimes he’d be lucid for weeks, but then he’d relapse, going on about demons and prophecies and bloodsucking and something called the powers that be. A few times he had screaming fits, punching walls and kicking furniture. Then he’d spend days back in restraints, or so doped-up he couldn’t even speak.
It devastated Xander, because Spike was young and when he wasn’t raving he was smart and funny and interesting. And—let’s be honest—really damned sexy and Xander so wasn’t going to go there because lusting after a patient was just. Not. Okay.
But no matter how much he swore at himself and warned himself to get his shit together, he couldn’t stop himself from being drawn to Spike.
On his better days, Spike charmed the nurses and beat the other patients at cards and snarked amusingly at the television. Even on his bad days, the days when he was strapped down and Xander had to inflict the bedpan on him again, he’d tell riveting stories about vampires and apocalypses and getting into glorious fights. He seemed to know a lot about history, too. Either he was a good faker—and he might be, because Xander’s own grasp of history was pretty tenuous—or he had studied for a long time.
So a tiny little part of Xander—a mean, nasty, selfish part, which Xander didn’t even want to acknowledge—was pleased that Spike was still there. But most of him was sad, and even more sad when not a single person ever materialized to visit him or even send him a letter.
Several months after Spike was committed, Willow called. After listening to her go on for forty-five minutes about her fiancé, and about his band, and about the wedding they were planning, Xander finally got in a few words of his own. He mentioned Spike. Willow said she didn’t remember anybody like that, but she said she’d ask Buffy. They were still in touch. But then, they hadn’t dated and then had a really miserable breakup, had they?
Willow called again a few days later to tell him that her fiancé was about to sign a recording deal and they’d decided on a venue for the reception and her thesis advisor was being a prick and oh yeah, she’d talked to Buffy, who never met a British guy named Spike.
Of course, Xander didn’t share this conversation with the patient.
Nearly a year after he’d been admitted, and Spike was strapped back in bed again. This time he’d somehow found a sliver of glass and he’d tried to slit his wrists. Fortunately, he’d been caught before he lost too much blood.
Xander took away the bedpan and started gently wiping Spike’s face. Spike blinked up at him, trying to get past the grogginess from the drugs.
Xander smiled at him. Nobody else called him that except Willow. Hernandez had muttered once that it wasn’t right, but Xander liked it. He figured he was as close as the poor guy had to a friend.
“’M never gonna get out of here, am I?”
His words were slightly slurred, but the emotion on his face was raw and intense.
Xander bent over him to untie his gown. “Don’t think like that. You’ll get better.”
Spike made a sound somewhere between a laugh and a sob. “Can’t. Can’t get better because I’m not mad. I’m…oh, fuck, Xander.”
Now he was crying for real, and Xander wanted nothing more than to unbuckle the restraints and take him in his arms and comfort him. Instead, though, he bathed him. Quickly. Professionally. Clinically. Noting the scars, still vivid against the pale skin. Then he draped a clean johnny over him and fastened it as tenderly as he could. He pulled the scratchy white sheet up to Spike’s neck and patted his shoulder.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m so sorry.” And it was cheap consolation, but all that he could give.
Spike looked away, his eyes still glossy with tears, and sighed.
Xander was about to leave when Spike whispered his name again.
Xander returned to his side.
“Gonna tell you some things about you. Some of them might be true, yeah? Probably not all, because…. Fuck. Please? Just listen?”
Xander sat down. He could listen.
“You…you grew up in Sunnydale. Which was an odd little town. And you were friends with Buffy Summers and the witch…Willow. And you were going to marry a girl named Anya, but you got cold feet. You…ah, you lost your virginity to a bint named Faith.”
Xander gasped at that.
But Spike was still talking.
“You used to wear horrible clothing. Loud colors and baggy trousers.” Xander groaned inwardly. Spike was right. Not that he was a fashion plate now—he mainly stuck to jeans and tees when he wasn’t wearing scrubs—but at least the Hawaiian shirts were long gone.
“Your parents were horrible as well. Drunks. You lived in their dingy basement and you could hear them stomping and yelling upstairs and you were just relieved they weren’t knocking you around anymore.”
Xander jumped up so quickly he nearly tipped over his chair.
“How---how the hell---??”
Spike looked at him, his eyes wide and desperate.
“Please, Xander. Please believe me. I’m not insane.”
Xander couldn’t listen to this anymore, or he’d be the one strapped down and Thorazined up.
He turned and marched out the door.
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