Who Wants to Live Forever
Brown rolled sideways in the dew-laden grass and fought the immediate nausea down. One side of his head was beating like a giant heart had lodged there. Given that he lived in Sunnydale, Brown knew the possibilities and checked. Nope, just a head. A bloody head, he noted as his fingers encountered something sticky.
Fuck. He’d been hit on the head and knocked unconscious. Not his first experience with this phenomena, Brown lay still and allowed his mind to slowly gather itself and report what had happened. The grass was damp and chill, but sun pierced his closed eyelids, so dawn had come. He squinted and opened his eyes a painful crack. Maybe an hour ago?
The last memory he had was Spike in demon face, and rushing out of a door. He dwelt on that disturbing memory for a while. Wondered why he was not yet undead. Then his mind decided to let him know that something or someone had clobbered him after he’d run from Spike. Somebody else was here. Or something else. And then Brown remembered Xander.
He sat up suddenly and the world whacked him on the side of the head again. He wobbled and gasped with the pain, but stayed upright. There was a slight rebellion in his stomach and he gagged and retched up the remains of his dinner onto the grass for a minute. He closed his eyes and pushed himself away from the spot. God, he hated vomit. Wiping his mouth, staggering and fighting down the retching that continued jerking at his stomach, Brown slowly pushed himself to his feet.
He was standing next to the wall of the mausoleum. About six feet from the entrance. Man, he hadn’t gotten far before the thing had smacked him. Which meant it had been just outside when he exited. So where was it now?
With a very bad intuition adding to the general not goodness inside Brown’s body, the young man inched slowly towards the entrance. He kept himself near the wall, but avoided brushing against it and making any noise. He watched his shadow on the grass, careful not to give any possible inhabitants of the mausoleum any warning of his approach.
Next to the doorway he paused. Voices rose inside.
“I’m tellin’ ya, wanker. You can’t keep him here.”
“No one is leaving this crypt, Spike.” Brown raised his eyebrows and grimaced at the twinge in his head. Maurice!
“You crazy fucker! He’s not done anything.”
“Really? I find that hard to believe.”
“Spike.” Brown felt the relief flow through him at the sound of Xander’s strong voice. “I’m okay for now.”
Brown focused as hard as he could. Maurice was in the tomb. He was holding not only Spike, but also Xander. Not allowing either to leave. He had hit Brown on the head and apparently left him without thought. Little pisser’s finally cracked up, he thought furiously. Great. He tried to think what to do.
“Gotta take a piss, Morrees,” Xander’s voice declared sullenly from inside. “Got any suggestions?”
“Go ahead,” said the voice grimly. “I don’t mind.”
“Not gonna do it standing here in front of you, asshole. Unless you stand a little closer.” Xander’s voice had a smile in it. “I’m a pretty good shot.”
“You may go to a corner.” There was a pause. “Don’t forget, I’m a pretty good shot as well.”
Brown saw a shadow cross the threshold and located Xander in his mind as standing in the same corner that Spike had leapt from the night before. He tried desperately to locate Maurice and Spike by their voices, but the acoustics of the stone mausoleum made it almost impossible.
“Spike.” said Maurice’s voice icily. “Very slowly toss that small knapsack to the center of the floor.”
“Come get it yourself, fucker.”
Brown remembered the small bag from the night before and located Spike behind the tomb, near his and Xander’s pallet on the floor. There was a shift in the room. “Cross bolts are not just dangerous to vampires,” Maurice reminded the room in a cold voice.
Brown heard an object hit the floor inside. He made his move.
Coming through the door in a fast forward roll, he headed straight for the halfway point between the tomb and the far back corner. He had figured that was the only spot from which Maurice could safely watch both men. He jumped halfway up from his roll, already spinning in an inside head kick and made solid contact with flesh and bone before something hard caught him across the neck. He flailed backwards, but recovered into a back roll, attempting to throw himself towards the corner Xander had stepped to.
The pain in his head completely swallowed him for a minute, and he blinked away the fog as Xander’s arms wrapped around his chest and pushed him upright. On the floor in front of him the Watcher was flat on his belly, straddled by an enraged vampire in gameface. He was snarling and his hands held Maurice’s head.
“Spike!” shouted Xander, desperately shoving past Brown. “No!”
The demon froze and slowly removed his hands. Brown observed that he was panting hard. He couldn’t imagine what the last hour had been like for an overly protective vampire with a crossbow aimed at his partner. “Aw. Let him do it, Xander,” Brown said silkily. “I really wanna see it.”
Xander spun around and stared at him. “What happened to you?”
“Da pederast on da floor there clocked me one,” said Brown, stepping forward. The shock and adrenalin were slipping out of him and he felt anger sliding in to take their place. “Think he thought he’d killed me.” He pursed his lips and glared at the top of Maurice’s head. “Watchya gonna do with him? And can I help?”
Maurice spat blood from his mouth and spoke grittily into the dirt beneath his face. “Brown, you have finally irrevocably ruined your life.” Spike’s hand came down warningly on his head and he silenced.
“Yeah, right. No Rhodes scholarships, now huh?” said Brown. He had dug out his old friend the fishing line and was handing it to the still gamefaced Spike. The vampire shook himself back into human visage with a shudder and began wrapping the Watcher’s hands. Brown turned to take in the apparently risen Lazarus that was Xander Harris.
“You look good,” he said, “for a guy that was almost dyin’.’”
Xander looked back surprised. He was still very flushed, and his eyes were almost pitch black with enormous pupils, but he stood steadily and the sweaty clamminess was gone. He had his goofy smile back. He shrugged. “Was I that sick?” he shook his head and looked at Spike.
The vampire finished binding Maurice, jerked hard on the gag knot at the back of his head, and leapt up. “It’s my blood, Xan,” he said with assurance. “We gotta get you to the doc before it wears off.”
“Will it wear off?”
Spike looked at him from beneath lowered brows. “I’m thinking it’d better. You’re stoned off your ass, Xan.” He shoved not gently with his foot at Maurice on the floor. “I can baby-sit.” He addressed Brown. “Can you take him in?” Nodding at Xander.
“Sure,” said Brown, making to leave.
“NO,” said Xander firmly. Brown stopped moving and turned with rolling eyes.
“We back to that ‘Gone with the Wind’ scene again, man?”
“Xander. Go,” said Spike firmly.
“No, Spike, I told you before…”
Brown got a freaky feeling from the sound of the vampire’s voice. He thought he heard a reverb in it or something. He shook his head a little and winced. “Hey, man, wouldn’t mind a little trip to da ICU myself. Think somethin’ mighta cracked open.”
“Okay,” said Xander with a creepy docility. He looked worriedly at Brown. “I’m sorry, ‘course you have to go to the hospital. Come on.” He turned to go. Stopped. “Spike?”
The vampire had his arms around Xander before Brown could register his movement across the room. “See ya soon luv.”
“Promise you anythin’. Just promise to get well.” He nuzzled Xander’s neck and whispered into his ear. “I’ll come fetch you, pet. When you’re better, I’ll come.”
Xander stood with his head bowed. “Yeah,” he said disbelievingly.
“Listen, I can’t take many more of these scenes, man,” said Brown impatiently. “Let’s go.”
The ambulance smelled like french fries and Brown so did not want to know why that was. Either blue, elephant nosed whatever-the-hell these were ate at McDonald’s. Or something else smelled exactly like McDonald’s french fries. Either solution gouged a deep hole in what was left of Brown’s youth and he just didn’t want to know. He slouched unhappily in his seat and glared at the embarrassment next to him. Xander was leaning against the door, staring out the window with teary eyes looking like an abandoned dog. It was sickening.
Brown frowned and muttered, “It’s like you’re addicted or something.” Xander looked at him, puzzled. “Well it is,” said Brown, “like you’re in vampire thrall or whatever.”
Xander looked out the window again. “I’m in love,” he said calmly. “Sorta the same thing, I guess.”
“Gag, man, get some balls. You sound like my girlfriends.”
Xander laughed. He straightened up a bit in his seat. “Can’t tell you how amazed I am that I really don’t give a shit how I sound.”
Brown appraised him for a second. “You sure it’s not some demon trick?”
“Well, fuck then.”
Xander sighed. “Yeah.”
“What you guys gonna do?”
Xander looked out the window again. “Try to survive,” he said.
Brown chewed things over for a bit. He and Xander discussed their stories and then sat silent. When they pulled up at the hospital entrance, he patted Xander’s hand reassuringly. “’S gonna be hell ta pay now, I’ll bet,” he said grimly. “Call me if you need anything.”
Xander nodded and regarded him seriously. He could see so much of himself in the younger man, but there was a strength there he hadn’t had. And a bitterness he had managed to avoid. He studied the flickering golden and green eyes and wondered what had happened.
Brown boldly stared back and then gave him a cheeky smile. “Ooh, you look at me like that much longer, buddy, and I’ll seriously consider switchin’ teams.”
Xander’s eyes widened and he blushed and looked away.
Brown laughed out loud. “God, you old guys are so easy to fuck with.” He laughed again, “Yeah, sure. It’d be the last thing I did before a certain vampire snapped my neck.”
“Spike wouldn’t do that.”
Brown looked at him. “You sure ‘bout that?”
Xander didn’t answer. The hospital orderlies were assisting them as they reluctantly sat in wheelchairs. As they pushed him through the sliding glass doors, Xander saw Willow standing in ER reception. She had one of her mangy books under her arms. And an ominously serious look on her face. Xander glanced around and saw Giles, Quentin and some guy who looked military. He leant his head back and closed his eyes. “Oh bloody hell,” he said merrily.
The nametag said “Dr. Thompson”, and Willow wondered for the fifth time in the past fifteen minutes what the first name was. The doctor had long black hair and tilted up blue almond eyes. In her hospital fatigues, with plastic clips and stethoscope hanging about her neck, the silky hair dragged up under a net, she still looked like something from the temple at Thebes. She also looked incredibly skeptical.
“I have received his records,” she told Willow. “but there must be a mistake.”
“Xander just told me this week,” Willow insisted patiently. “Around 300 he said. People don’t pop up to a normal range t-cell count in just a few days, do they?”
“No.” Dr. Thompson studied the folder again. “It’s not my area, of course. And we don’t know much, either.” She sighed. “If you hadn’t told me your friend was HIV positive I wouldn’t have guessed it from the preliminary tests,” she said. She looked at Xander, who lay very quietly on the bed regarding her with sad and thoughtful eyes. “You’re very lucky,” she said.
“So I’ve been told,” said Xander.
“And about that neck trauma.”
“Fell on a rock,” said Xander immediately, “told you. Weird pointy rock. While camping,” he added.
“Yes,” said Dr. Thompson slowly, “there seem to be quite a few pointy rocks in Sunnydale. Well, at any rate, it’s healing well.” She frowned. “very well,” she commented. “Practically before my eyes.” She looked at Willow again. “This is all very unusual,” she said, “I don’t feel comfortable releasing Mr. Harris quite yet.”
“Sure,” said Willow calmly, “of course.” She smiled. “What did you say your first name was?”
The woman looked surprise. “Diana,” she said.
Willow’s smile broadened. “Of course it is,” she said.
The doctor left the room. Outside a military man stood opposite the door. Willow sighed and closed it.
“You are such a slut,” said Xander.
“Oh, you are not even getting near me with your moral condemnation, Mister.” Willow had become all business. She crossed the room and picked up her book, climbed easily onto Xander’s bed and threw it on his knees. “Listen. Riley is going to be in here questioning you within the hour. Giles is only holding them off with some smoke and mirrors, so you’d better pay attention and get all this the first time.”
Willow did not even pause to take a breath. “I finally found something written about the claiming.” She tapped the book. “Seems everyone in the demon community knows about it, but it isn’t written anywhere.” She bit her lip and continued. “It isn’t written anywhere, Xander, because it’s forbidden.”
“Crap,” said Xander hoarsely, “that’s usually not such a good thing is it?”
“Nope. Usually a bad sign when demons don’t want to do magic. However,” said Willow brightly, “I’ve found some interesting references that make me think maybe its forbidden-ness is of the good.”
“Getting a little dizzy, here.”
“Yeah, well. It’s forbidden amongst vampires because of the ‘contaminant’. They keep going on about the ‘contamination’ and the ‘contaminant’. They think the bond makes the demon impure.”
“As in not pure demon.” Willow nodded. “I’m thinking I like the sound of that, maybe.”
“Dunno, Willow. Need to know so much more.”
“Oh, there’s more. My swollen eyes and aching head can attest to it,” said Willow brusquely, “setting aside for the moment your obviously supernatural healing powers,” she looked intently at Xander, “which I can not as yet even begin to comprehend. You and Spike are bonded. Bonded by blood.”
“Yep. Heard that,” said Xander feeling ill.
“Till death, Xander.”
“For you, actually, not necessarily bad. I don’t know. But for Spike, Xan. Being bonded with you limits his eternity. He is bound to a mortal. He becomes mortal.”
Xander stared. “As in human?”
“Oh no. I’m pretty sure no,” said Willow doubtfully. “No. What happens is he dies when you die. He lives as long as you live. Your existence and his are bound.”
Xander blinked at her. “Oh Willow,” he said, feeling an enormous sorrow suddenly building in his chest. “Are you sure?”
“Pretty sure,” said Willow gently. “The book is pretty clear about it, Xander.”
Xander felt tears starting in his eyes. God, he’d cried more in the past forty-eight hours than he had in the past five years. “You gotta find a way to reverse it, Willow.”
“I don’t know if I can, Xander.”
“You have to, Willow.” Xander leaned his head back on the pillow. “I can’t do that to him Willow. Not Spike.”
Spike poked Maurice with his booted foot again, just for fun. He lit his cigarette and leaned casually back on the tomb.
“Gonna have a little chat now, Watcher,” he said in a friendly voice, “now that the kiddies are off.”
Maurice glared at him malevolently. Spike reached down and yanked the gag so it hung loosely around the man’s neck. Maurice worked his sore lips and spat dirt and blood onto the floor. “I have nothing to say to you, demon,” he managed grittily.
“Oh, I dunno.” Spike squatted near Maurice’s head, casually flicked ash near his face. “You seem ta have a lot on your mind.” He contemplated the small dark dome of Maurice’s skull. “Such as it is. I think you should share.” He smirked. “’S supposed ta be therapeutic.”
Spike waved his cigarette absently inches from Maurice’s face. The Watcher could feel the heat of it on his cheek. He tried to jerk his head back, but Spike’s hand came down firmly on his head and held him still. “We’ll start with whatchya doin’ up here to begin with.”
“Looking for the boy you were turning,” said Maurice nastily, his skin twitching as it tried to draw back from the cigarette. “Thank God we found him in time.”
“Wrong answer,” said Spike darkly, and lightly drew the lit end of the cigarette across Maurice’s cheek, just below his eye. The watcher screeched and Spike pulled the hot ember back. He contemplated his victim. The burn was light pink, not even a blister, but its proximity to Maurice’s eye had the whole face twitching uncontrollably. “The human body is such an interesting toy,” Spike said in an educated and detached voice. “It’s amazing what one can put it through without leaving a mark.”
Maurice felt waves of unbelievable fear rushing through his body and into his bowels. Being a Watcher, he had read all the accounts of William the Bloody. He knew what he might expect. He knew, with terror, that he would not be able to endure it.
“I knew we couldn’t trust you, demon,” he hissed. “I knew it was a pretense all along.” He breathed noisily, trying to control his terrified body. “Whatever you do to me, you haven’t a chance this time. They will catch you. You are finished.”
“They will?” Spike contemplated his cigarette, took a drag, flicked the ash on Maurice’s cheek. Watched, interested, as the Watcher’s skin jumped to escape the burn. “Who are they?”
“Initiative,” Maurice informed him maliciously. “Remember them, Spike? They have fond memories of you.”
“Those wankers are dead.”
“You are such an idiot,” said Maurice, and a second later regretted it. The glowing ember of Spike’s cigarette filled his vision, the heat making his eyelid involuntarily close and then jerk.
“Wrong answer again,” sighed Spike. He did not remove the cigarette.
The skin on Maurice’s’ eyelid was flinching hard and painfully. His eye felt dry. The terror in his mind, however, was worse. Obviously the soul had been a fiction. Or if it were real, it had apparently no effect on the demon. His breath was coming hard and his heart pounded against the floor. He had wet himself, he noted miserably, and his bowels were spasming uncontrollably as the taught history of William the Bloody’s past flew unbidden through his mind. He clenched his lips together so that the demon would not hear him whimper.
Spike watched the Watcher remember who he was. He could hear and smell the man’s body rebelling against the fear. Spike could sympathize with Maurice’s discomfort. Spike didn’t particularly enjoy remembering some things he had done either. He took a drag from his cigarette and stood.
“So where’s the new Slayer?” he asked, studying the prone figure on the floor.
Maurice was silent.
“Barely had a look at the chit and they bundled her off,” said Spike thoughtfully. “Seemed kinda young, even for your sort.” He tilted his head slightly and let an evil smile play on his lips. “You like ‘em young, though, donchya Watcher.”
Maurice in his extremity was not particularly prepared for this blow. He felt a sob in his throat and squeezed his eyes closed. Spike placed a booted foot solidly on the Watcher’s rump. He pushed and rolled him a bit. “What do they call it now? Statutory Rape?” Spike enunciated the words carefully. He chuckled a bit. “Too bad for you, Watcher. Back in my day, nobody cared if an old gent bundled some young chit up ta his room. Weren’t any laws back then ta protect the innocent.”
Maurice clenched his jaw. The swelling under his eye was stinging and pressing his eye shut, but he glared up at Spike as best he could. “Shut up, monster,” he said, “I loved Brandy.” His face worked uncontrollably and he closed his eyes again, painfully. “I would never have hurt her.” He fought against showing such emotion to this demon. “You wouldn’t understand.”
“Oh, I understand, Morreees.” Spike shoved hard on the watcher’s butt with his boot. He contemplated the man’s behind. “Tasty little thing,” he said evilly, unclear as to whether he was referring to Brandy or the watcher’s rear end. His tone alerted the terrified watcher and he looked back to see Spike licking his lips. “Somethin’ so appealin’ about breaking them in,” said Spike as if remembering. “Showin’ them how it is.” He came around and crouched by the Watcher’s face again. Lightly touched the unburned cheek. “Sometimes they even like it,” he said “So whaddaya think, Watcher? You gonna like it?”
Maurice felt a shudder in his belly. “You’re going to rape me?”
“Eeew. Gross.” Spike spat. “Disgustin’. I wouldn’t touch you with a ten foot pole.” He chuckled, “especially my ten foot pole. Nah, talking ‘bout those blokes in prison. They’ll sort it for yer.”
“I won’t be going to prison, Spike.”
“Nah?” Spike looked disappointed. “Well maybe then I’ll do for yer after all, Morreees. Don’t want ya missing out.” He had wandered back to his storage chest and found something. He came back and showed it to Maurice happily. “Like old times,” said Spike with delight.
Maurice struggled again for breath and miserably felt his bowels emptying into his pants. In his hand Spike held a 10 inch rusted metal railroad spike.
“Now,” said Spike easily, “we need ta have that conversation.”
Brown repeated the story to the ER admissions nurse that he and Xander had crafted in the ambulance. “Yeah, we were camping. Fell over the side of a cliff. Hit my head. Harris there fell on a pointy rock,” he repeated, bored. The orderly dutifully jotted this fiction down. Brown watched Quentin and Giles as he spoke. They were obviously going to talk to him when he was through here. Brown had no idea what he was going to say to the Council members. Xander had been quite clear. He wanted Brown to tell the truth about him, and leave out Spike’s location and the fact that he still held the Watcher captive.
“Just tell them that I’m addicted to vampire bite,” Xander had insisted, “they’ll know about it.” At Brown’s horrified expression, he explained, “It’s happened before. Tell them Spike got scared and ran, left me behind.”
“You ain’t addicted, though, is ya man?”
Xander smiled sadly. “Yeah, maybe, but it’s not the biting. It’s the biter.”
“Gross.” Brown shook his head disgustedly.
“Riley’ll drop the subject right away, trust me,” Xander said confidently, ignoring Brown’s reaction for the moment, “but I’ll play the rejected heroin addict anyway. Just to put them off.”
Brown saw Giles giving him an assessing look. He had known the older Watcher for five years, off and on. Giles had had less interest in Brandy and her tribe after Maurice got into the swing, but he had been around when major events happened. Brown knew that Giles consorted with people proscribed by the Council Maurice so avidly obeyed. He wondered what Giles’ role was this time, why he appeared to be helping Quentin. Giles was now looking at him intently, as if meaning to express something to Brown. With the flat expressionless face that Brown could manufacture at will, the young man studied Giles for clues. He noted the older man’s hand rubbing the edge of a jacket pocket repeatedly. A letter poked from the pocket. Giles finger touched the letter lightly and lay there. Brown looked back into his eyes. Giles imperceptibly nodded. Brown looked away, ostensibly bored. A doctor stood before him with a clipboard.
“You can go home, if you wish,” she said to Brown. He blinked up at her. “You don’t need stitches,” she said, “though I would like you to follow some precautionary guidelines.” She handed a printout to Brown with instructions on how to watch a post-concussionary patient. He had several copies of these at home, but he nodded gratefully and carefully folded the paper, put it in his pocket. He slid a quick sideways glance at Giles. The man’s eyes blinked once, like a camera lens. Brown looked with a flat expressionless face at Quentin.
“I’ve been released,” he said coolly. “Ya need anything, or can I go?”
“We would like to speak to you,” said Quentin politely.
“Course ya would,” said Brown. He stood from his wheelchair and looked around. “So where’s ya want me ta sit?”
Brown did not like being inside this van with Riley and his men. When they had motioned him inside the unmarked behemoth, he had seen in his mind’s eye an old newsreel about the black Mariah’s of the concentration camps. Every instinct in him flinched away from the man who sat across the desk from him. He found it hard to look at Riley comfortably. He had been struck by the man’s ugliness the other night, but now facing him he saw it wasn’t that his features were unappealing, but that the scarring, external and internal, had twisted them into something very difficult to view. Brown twiddled with his hand on the desk and looked around him instead.
“So Alexander Harris has become addicted to vampire bite?” Riley sounded pleased somehow with the news. “And you found him?”
“Yeah, well I was lookin’ for him.”
“You lied to me when you came to the house before.”
“Didn’t like the look of things, man,” said Brown truthfully. “Thought I’d poke around on my own first.”
“And the blow to your head?”
“Really did fall off a cliff, man,” Brown chuckled at his own idiocy, “lucky Harris was around ta slap me to.”
“You’re a very good liar, Mr. Brown.”
Brown raised his eyebrows and grinned. “You bet I am,” he agreed. “Helps a lot sometimes.” He didn’t go on.
Riley regarded him. “Why should I believe you now?”
“You shouldn’t,” shrugged Brown nonchalantly, “I’m a fucking liar. Juvenile delinquent you old guys would say. But I owe Harris,” he added seriously, “and I hate fuckin’ vampires.” He looked to Giles for confirmation.
“It’s true,” said Giles, “Mr. Brown and Spike have always been hostile towards each other.”
“And why is that, Mr. Brown?” asked Riley.
Brown looked Riley up and down. If he knew anything, it was where a guy’s head sickness lay. “Fucking demon,” he said with as much spit as he could. “need more reason?”
Riley sat back satisfied. “No. Of course not.” He waved to the men at the door to the van. They stepped back obediently. “Go on, Mr. Brown. We’ll undoubtedly be in touch.”
“Yeah, sure,” said Brown casually standing, he flinched and fell sideways into Giles. The Watcher caught him quickly and set him upright. “Thanks man,” Brown shook his head ruefully, “damn bump on the head seems ta be messing with me still.”
He walked carefully outside, still holding his head as he stepped slowly to the pavement. As he strode off, his finger ran over the letter Giles had substituted for the printout in his pocket.
|Feed the Author|
|Home||Categories||New Stories||Non Spander|