Breaking Free


by
StillRose




Part Twenty-Two

Spike would never know what he registered first; the echoes of Xander’s unholy and inhuman scream or the stink of his pet’s burnt flesh. It didn’t matter. All that mattered was that Spike slid back into a rage and bloodlust he hadn’t felt in decades.

It wasn’t Angel’s right hand man that stormed first through the doors of “The Black Thorn.” It wasn’t an enhanced human or a Biogen. Death stormed through the doors of the bar and those in Death’s way fled or fell.

“XAAAANNNDDEER!” Spike screamed as he plucked a hapless person in front of him and threw them aside. “Where is he?”

Gunn and Faith slid in the room each taking up the opposite side. The scanned the room looking for signs of Xander and fired on threats towards themselves or their Captain.

Angel wasn’t in the same emotional rage as Spike. Angelus never let those baser emotions get the best of him. Rather, Angel was in that cold dark space where he understood monstrosity and he smiled around his fangs as he saw the bartender head toward the back.

Angel sprung neatly over the bar and landed in front of the fleeing Biogen.

“Going somewhere?” Angel purred with his eyes shining a fierce yellow.

The bartender was in his own enhanced face but compared to the fierce vision it looked like only so much cheap theatric make-up. Angel weaved back and forth in front of the man. I miss playing with my prey, the thought rumbled through him.

“I-I-I..j-just…” the other man began to stutter.

“You just what?” Angel purred as he suddenly reached out, grabbed the man and wrapped him in brutal headlock.

“I j-j-just rented out the back room. I didn’t know wh—wha…”

“Where and how do we get in?” Angel interrupted.

The bartender pointed to a door behind the bar.

“B-bb-ioscan,” the bartender whispered. “I ca-can get you in..p-p-please j-just l-let me live,” pleaded the hapless Biogen.

“Xander lives. You live,” answered Angel. “Spike, Faith, Gunn!”

Faith and Gunn moved immediately to support positions around Angel. The bar was mostly empty now with only the hurt and hidden remaining. As quickly as Faith and Gunn moved Spike still managed to reach Angel first. Spike pierced the pinned man with a deadly gaze.

“You don’t want to see me again,” Spike said to the bartender. Angel turned the man around; keeping him pinned in front of him and marched to the door.

“Ready,” Angel said and his team took up positions beside the door ready to storm inside. Angel motioned for the man to proceed. The door slid open.


*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*


“Well that was interesting, but not use…,” Caleb began to say as he traded the torch for the big knife when he heard Xander’s name being roared in the other room.

Caleb motioned for two guards to take up position to fire on the door. He turned to Gavin and said, “See about the exit route.”

Xander was barely conscious but somehow he registered the sound of Spike yelling his name.

“Hey, Caleb,” Xander whispered. “Got some intel for you.”

Caleb spun back around to look at Xander.

“My boyfriend is going to kick your ass,” Xander smiled despite the pain and then let unconsciousness claim him comforted by the fact the medtech would be too busy to bring him back.

Caleb growled as the door flew open. The guards fired hitting the man in front of Angel squarely in the chest. Immediately Gunn and Faith fired back from the other side of the door as Angel dropped the body and dove forward into the room.

Faith and Gunn continued to exchange fire while Angel worked his way into the room. Caleb moved away from Xander and down towards Angel when Gavin burst out from the left.

“Exit’s blocked,” Gavin shouted and fired at Angel. “There’s a secondary team out there.”

“Looks like we're going to have to take out Angel here and now if we want to get out of this,” Caleb said calmly.

“You’re welcome to try,” Angel responded from behind cover.

“Get in line, Peaches,” Spike said as he strode through the door. The part of Spike that felt love and knew humanity was broken at the sight of his beaten, bloodied and tortured Xander hanging limply in front of a large vid screen that bore in too great a detail the horror to which Xander had been subjected. The Death part of Spike only saw Caleb.

“Caleb’s mine,” raged Spike as he charged, disregarding the firefight around him. Frantically Gunn and Faith kept up their barrage keeping the guards too busy to fire on Spike. Angel’s fear won over Angelus’s cool rationality and he broke cover to tackle and engage Gavin before he could fire a shot off at Spike.

Caleb smiled and returned the charge. The two tow haired Biogens met in the middle of blood and chaos. They fought with bare hands and bared fangs.


*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*


Gunn concentrated his fire and took down one of the guards.

“Cover me,” he shouted to Faith. “I’m goin’ for Xander.”

Faith didn’t waste time acknowledging Gunn. She fired off a few rounds in quick bursts forcing the remaining guard down. Gunn took off at run toward Xander.


*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*


Gavin and Angel rolled on the floor. Gavin tried desperately to hold on to his gun while trying just as desperately to keep Angel from ripping out his throat.

“I don’t know who you are,” snarled Angel, “but you backed the wrong bad guy.”

“Bad guy,” huffed Gavin as he squirmed to get his gun pointed at Angel. “You’ve gone soft. You once were the terror of humanity and the galaxy. Now you let your bed warmer throw you over for a pathetic human while you worry about negotiating with the Regent Prime.”

Angel rolled the two entangled men and then grabbed the wrist holding Gavin’s gun.

“No matter who I sleep with or what deals I make,” Angel growled as he punctuated each word by slamming Gavin’s hand on the floor, “I will always be a nightmare and the one guy you don’t want to piss off.”

Something fractured in Gavin’s wrist and the gun tumbled out of his hand. Gavin stared in horror at Angel’s face and saw the truth of what Angel was saying just before he heard the snap of his own neck.


*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*


Spike’s fist slammed into Caleb’s face with a satisfying and meaty crunch. Caleb reeled and stumbled backward. Spike moved forward and followed up with a fist to the stomach. Caleb let out a loud groan and countered with his own punch to Spike’s face. Spike shook his head and smiled. Caleb spun around and threw a kick into Spike sending him stumbling backwards and crashing into a wall.

“I wonder if your screams will sound as good or if your blood will taste as sweet as Xander’s?” Caleb asked as he marched toward Spike. Spike bellowed and charged forward. Caleb stepped to the side at the last moment and struck a two-handed blow to the back of Spike’s shoulders.


*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*


Gunn reached Xander. Gunn was well used to the horrors of war but his stomach rolled at the human mess that was left of the DeSoto’s CM. Stay with it man, Gunn chastised himself as he first undid the restraints on Xander’s ankles before undoing the restraints around Xander’s wrists.

Gunn took Xander’s weight and eased his body in to a fireman’s carry as gently as he could. I’m glad you’re out Xan, Gunn thought. There’s just no pain free way of getting you out of here. Gunn turned and began to make his way back to the door with one hand firmly holding Xander and the other his gun. I just hope I’m not doing you more damage, Gunn thought as he ran.


*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*


Faith kept up her concentrated bursts on the one guard as Gunn bore down on the door. Faith tried not to notice her bottom lip quivering at the sight of an unconscious and mangled Xander draped across Gunn’s shoulders.


*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*


Angel rolled off Gavin’s body and looked around. Gunn had Xander and was almost to the door. Faith was pinning down the last armed guard and Spike was stumbling forward from a blow delivered by Caleb. Angel took a step toward Spike.

“He’s MINE!” Spike shouted at his mentor as he waved him off. Angel stared at his William. Lovers or not they would always be family. Spike wanted and was owed Caleb’s blood. Angel nodded and then looked at Caleb.

“Pray Spike kills you,” Angelus said. “Because if you kill Spike? I’ll make what you did to Xander seem like horseplay. Believe me; I’ve got games...such fun games to play and an eternity to play ‘em.”

Caleb narrowed his eyes at Angel and then stumbled back as Spike delivered a kick of his own to Caleb’s face.

“You’ll have to play ‘em with someone else Angelus,” Spike said. “Caleb’s my play date today.”


*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*


“Fuck this,” Faith snarled as Gunn made it to the exit. Gunn barely had a chance to notice the eerily joyful smile dance across her face before she threw down her gun and leapt into the room. Faith had given over to the instincts and purpose for which she had been bred and born. Faith was on a hunt to kill a Biogen.


*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*


Gunn moved into the outer room and was relieved to note it was being secured by the secondary team.

“Good Lord!” exclaimed Wes as he approached Gunn and saw Xander.

“I need transport back to HQ stat,” Gunn barked never slowing down as he continued toward the door. “Tell them we'll need a trauma team standing by.”

Wesley nodded even as he was moving ahead clearing the path for Gunn to the hovercraft. Wes helped Gunn lower Xander into the craft and gently secure him.

“You better check on your girl. She’s gone all ‘First Regent’,” Gunn said to Wesley just before he closed the hovercraft door and sped off toward HQ.


*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*


Faith ran in a zig-zag motion dodging fire from the guard. She laughed as she felt the hot pain of metal grazing her leg. This was the thrill she was meant for and she reveled in it. Faith closed ranks with the guard and then quicker than the Biogen thought was humanly possible Faith kicked his gun from his hand.

Faith smiled enticingly at her prey even as she pounced.


*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*


Caleb had recovered from Spike’s kick and returned it with a flurry of his own. Spike reeled and stumbled from each one but somehow he kept pressing forward and never missed an opening to deliver a punch or kick of his own.

After one kick, Caleb stumbled and almost fell to his knees. Spike smiled and wiped the blood dripping from his nose.

“Havin’ fun mate?” Spike asked.

“I was until you and your friends interrupted me,” Caleb replied.

Spike was a blur of billowing leather as he spun and delivered a powerful kick to Caleb’s chest. This time Caleb flew backwards and slammed into the wall. Spike marched forward toward Caleb.

Caleb sat up and shook his head only to be hauled up by his shirt and slammed back into the wall by Spike.

“You know,” Spike said as he pulled back his fist and then rammed it into Caleb’s chest. “I don’t think your heart's in this fight.”

Spike yanked his hand back and ripped Caleb’s beating heart out of his chest. Caleb’s mouth fell open and his eyes went wide. Spike cocked his head and then took a bite out of the pulsing muscle.

“Pbbbtt!” Spike said as he spit out the bit of raw flesh. “Rotten to the core.”

Spike then threw the still organ over his shoulder and let the dead Biogen fall to the floor. Spike turned toward the vid screen. Xander was gone. Gunn better have him, Spike thought.

Faith’s scream caught Spike’s attention and he whirled to find his first mate. He spotted her just in time to watch her give a one-two snap to the neck of the last guard in the room. Faith stood up from the body and turned toward Spike and Angel who had moved over to him.

“Uh, Faith,” Angel said as he noted the feral look in the former Regent’s eye. Faith smiled eerily and moved toward the two remaining Biogens.

“FAITH!” Wesley barked from the doorway. “STAND DOWN!”

Faith paused and took a deep breath. Her focus seemed to shift and then she blushed.

“Sorry,” she said sheepishly. “Got a little carried away there.”

Angel and Spike looked at each other then back at Faith.

“No problem,” Angel said. “Just glad you're on our side.”

“Where’s Xander?” Spike asked.

“He’s on his way back to HQ with Gunn,” Wes said. “We’ve got a trauma unit on stand-by.”

Spike nodded and then began running. Hang on Xan! Spike thought. Hang on!


*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*



Spike burst through the doors of HQ and everyone had the sense to get out of his way. Quickly he made his way to the med wing. A doctor was alerted and was already standing by to brief the blood spattered and enraged Biogen. Gunn was standing by as well.

“How is he?” snapped Spike.

“Not good,” the doctor replied honestly. “He’s suffered severe trauma in the form of deep lacerations, second and third degree burns and multiple contusions and a ruptured spleen from a violent beating.”

“His chances?” asked Spike trying to keep the quake from his voice.

“Not good,” the doctor once again said honestly. “Right now we are trying to stabilize him and treat the worst of the damage. We were lucky we had a blood donor standing by we could use for the extra blood we needed.”

Spike narrowed his eyes and caught a glimpse of a pale and red-eyed Harmony peering around the corner while she held a bandage to the crook of her elbow. She gasped when she saw Spike watching her and withdrew.

“Can I see him?” Spike asked as he looked back at the doctor.

“Not until he comes out of surgery.”

“If he survives…” Spike began to ask.

“He most likely will not have a full range of motion in his arms due to the tearing in his back muscles. We will have to evaluate the reconstructive surgery needed to his genitals to determine what function we can restore,” the doctor paused before continuing, “we’ll also have to evaluate the damage to his right eye. In short, if he survives it will be a long haul before we can even determine the full extent of the damage and what we can do.”

Spike nodded and took a deep breath.

“Keep him alive,” Spike ordered. “No matter what it takes, just keep him alive.”

Spike looked at Gunn. “If…if the worst…if something…”

“I’ll call you,” Gunn said.

Spike then turned and fled the medical wing.


*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*


Angel, Wes and Faith entered HQ and headed for the medical wing. As they approached, Spike came barreling out. He paused to look at Angel.

“Don’t think he’s going to make that rendezvous in one piece,” Spike snarled and then continued to flee. Angel flinched.

“Angel,” Wes said as he put a hand on Angel’s shoulder. Angel shook his head and the three moved forward.

Gunn was waiting just inside the door along with the doctor.

“He’s alive but it ain’t good,” Gunn said.

“What did Spike say,” Angel asked.

“He said to keep Xander alive. Whatever it takes, keep Xander alive.”


*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*


Spike burst through another set of doors, this time it was the lab doors.

“Wha…,” Knox began to say.

“Spike,” Fred interrupted. “I’m so sorry. We heard.”

“Just tell me what you need, Fred,” Spike growled.

“Spike…,” Fred began.

“Please, ducks,” Spike pleaded. “Just tell me what you need.”

“Angel…,”

“Angel can sod off!” Spike cried tears began to form in his eyes. “This is my Xander. The DeSoto’s CM!”

“There’s no guarantee it’ll work,” Fred tried again.

“It’s a chance, luv. It’s a chance. Xander’s strong. If you’d seen what he’d survived you’d know just how strong. All he needs is a chance.”

Fred bit her lip and looked at Spike.

“Knox, I need a hypodermic needle and a syringe,” Fred ordered.

“Fre…,”

“DO IT!” Fred ordered.

Knox scurried as Fred led Spike to a chair and began to roll up his sleeve.

“I’ll need a sample of your blood,” Fred began as she took the syringe from Knox. “Knox has figured out how to stabilize the nanonites for a short time while outside the host’s body.”

Fred sterilized a spot on Spike’s arm and then stuck the needle in and withdrew a blood sample. Fred then looked at Knox.

“Go get a sample of Xander’s blood,” Fred ordered.

“Fre…,” Knox tried again.

“Tell Gunn it’s an order,” Spike hissed. Knox nodded and took off.

“Once we stabilize your nanonites,” Fred explained as she moved away from Spike and loaded his blood sample into a small centrifuge looking device, “we’ll slowly begin introducing Xander’s blood. The nanonites should see the new blood as food or new replicating material. At first they’ll replicate your cells. We’ll flush the new cells as soon as they are made and introduce more of Xander’s blood. The theory is that eventually the nanonites will learn and start replicating Xander’s blood cells.”

“Why can’t ya just give him my bleedin’ nanonites directly?” Spike asked impatiently wondering if Xander had time for all of this.

Fred shook her head. “Nanonites don’t survive long outside their hosts body. The few that might; they’d be attacked as foreign cells. Plus, anything they reproduced would be of your biological make-up. Xander’s body would reject it and could die from it.”

“But what good is just more blood cells?” Spike asked.

“Once the nanonites are recreating Xander’s blood cells then that means they’ll recreate his own biological material. They’ll hide themselves in the cells and we can introduce the new blood to Xander’s system.”

Knox returned with a blood sample and Angel.

“Spike!” Angel snapped. “I didn’t authorize this.”

“You will,” Spike said.

“Spike…,”

“You owe me! You owe me for Dru!” Spike shouted.

Angel closed his eyes.

“William, yer takin a chance with all of us,” Angel said quietly.

“I’m not letting that soulless fucking Biogen win!” yelled Spike. “I’m not letting the Council that created him win. Xander’s the first bloody decent thing in my life since Dru. And I’m not going to let this war first destroy his body and then his soul.”

“You don’t know what this will do to him…”

“It will save him,” Spike looked back to Fred. “Won’t it?”

“If we can get your nanonites to recreate his cells and we can successfully introduce them into his body,” Fred answered, “then it shouldn't take long for the nanonites to recognize the damage to the body. Their healing and recovery protocol should engage.”

“And they’ll heal him?”

“Not at first,” Fred answered.

“Wot?”

“There won’t be enough of them. They’ll need to self-replicate. Once they replicate enough of themselves, then they’ll begin to heal the damage.”

“But….”

“Spike,” Fred interrupted. “Provided the nanonites first replicate his cells and his body doesn’t reject them and the nanonites, then all we need to do is keep Xander’s heart beating and his spinal column intact. We keep him on a steady protein infusion and let science do the rest.”

Spike looked at Angel. Angel nodded. Knox rushed over to Fred and handed her Xander’s blood sample.

“Doctor wasn’t pleased with this,” Knox said.

Fred nodded and turned back to her equipment. She loaded the second sample into the machine.

“Now we wait,” she said.

“How long?” Spike asked.

“As long as it takes,” Fred answered.

“I can't just bloomin’ sit here!” Spike shouted.

“Then go up and sit with Xander,” Fred said, never looking away from her machine. “Be with him as soon as you can. Talk to him. Encourage him. Never underestimate the will’s role in healing. As soon as I have results, I’ll be up.”

Angel reached out and took Spike’s arm.

“C’mon. She’s right.”

Spike stood up and looked at Angel.

“I can’t lose him,” Spike said.

“You won’t,” Angel assured him.

“Spike,” Fred said as she looked up from her machine and at the two men, “you do realize that if this works, Xander won’t be a pure human anymore. He will be a Biogen.”

Spike nodded. “The first one created in over two hundred years. The first Biogen created by another Biogen.”





Part Twenty-Three

Spike let Angel lead him out of the lab.

“Sorry about that bit in the hall,” Spike said as they began to make their way back to the med wing.

“No you’re not,” Angel said.

Spike looked at Angel and then cracked a small smile.

“Right, I’m not,” Spike acknowledged. “Kinda makes the whole ding-dong crackers now dunnit?”

It was Angel’s turn to crack a smile.

“We’ll always have something to argue about,” Angel said.

Spike smiled then stopped and looked at Angel. “There’s no going back for Xan, either way now.”

Angel sighed. “Let’s take it one day at a time. Let’s just worry about getting him through this.”

“Angel…”

“Spike…William,” Angel said, “Worry about it when we can make this argument a threesome.”

Spike blanched a minute then couldn’t help but laugh. “He’d chin you for saying that.”

“He could try,” Angel said barely maintaining a straight face.

“He packs a wallop,” Spike said rubbing his chest in fond memory and began walking again.

“When did he get a punch on you?” Angel asked.

“Our first morning after,” Spike confessed with a sly smile.

Angel let loose a full belly laugh. “Let me guess, outraged virgin?”

“Oi! Xander’s no wiltin’ violet. Was corked to find out he could have hit me all along and not triggered the collar.”

Angel laughed again. “I’m beginning to see why you fell for him.

Spike laughed too and then fell silent.

“He innit gonna like this,” Spike finally said. “He hates Biogens.”

“He likes you,” Angel replied.

Spike shook his head. “Promise me I’m the one ta tell him.”

“Spike….”

“Promise me.”

Angel sighed again and nodded his head. “My advice though? Tell him as soon as you think you can.”

Spike nodded.


*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*


The two Biogens entered the med wing and were met by the remainder of the crew. Gunn took one look at the two men and shook his head.

“Ah hell no! Tell me you ain’t goin’ with Fred’s project!” Gunn exclaimed.

“Angel?” Wes said worriedly.

“Can we not discuss this here in the hall?” Angel said as he began to lead the DeSoto crew to commander a small office. “And what’s wrong with the project?”

“He was an annoying twit before,” Gunn said, “Now he’ll be an annoying twit I can’t get the drop on!”

The crew laughed in spite of themselves.

“I think you’ll survive,” Faith said as they all poured into the small office.

“How about you, luv?” Spike said pointing at Faith. “Smells like ya got clipped there.”

“Just a scratch. Nothin’ that a band-aid and a visit to the doctor’s lounge couldn’t fix,” Faith smiled and wiggled her hips suggestively.

Wes rolled his eyes.

“Damn, girl! You move quick,” Gunn said.

“It’s a biological imperative bred into the Regents…,” Wes began to explain.

“Yeah,” Faith interrupted with another smile and a wink. “A biological imperative.”

“…that is hormonally activated post a successful Biogen encounter,” Wes tried to continue.

“Wes,” Angel said holding up his hand. “We get the point.”

“Any word on Xan?” Spike asked obviously changing the subject. There wasn’t a person in the room who didn’t know that if something had happened Spike would have already been told.

“Still in surgery,” Gunn said.

“Are you really going to try and cultivate Biogen nanites and introduce them into Xander?” asked Wes.

Angel nodded.

“Have you thought about what…,”

“It will save Xander,” Spike interrupted, “and that’s all we need to think about right now.”

Wesley pursed his lips then nodded. “Yes, yes of course you’re right.”

“Who’s gonna tell him the good news?” asked Faith.

“I will,” Spike said. “And only me. No one else.”

Spike shot a deadly gaze at each of his crew.

“I hear ya,” Gunn said. “But he ain’t gonna like it.”

“I know,” Spike sighed. “I know.”

“So Fred thinks this will work?” Wes asked.

“It’ll work,” Spike said fervently. “It has to.”

“In the meantime no one outside this room or Fred and Knox need to know about this,” Angel said.

“What about the doctors?” asked Wes.

“No one,” said Angel.

“But if it works, boss,” Faith interrupted, “how you gonna explain it?”

“I’m not,” Angel said. “If it…”

“WHEN!” Spike said vehemently.

“When,” Angel began again, “when it looks like the nanites have begun to take over and repair Xander’s injuries I’ll have him moved to the lab and Fred will finish his care.”

“Is that wise, Angel?” Wes asked.

“Look, the less people know about this the safer Xander and we are. If…when the nanites kick in then Xander won’t need the medical care..he’ll need Fred’s.”

“And mine,” said Spike.

“The doctors are still gonna ask questions,” said Gunn.

“Not if they’re ordered not to,” said Angel with the deadly tone Spike remembered all too well.

“Hey, it’s your credit, man,” Gunn said. “I’m on board.”

“Five by five with me,” said Faith.

Angel looked at Wes who wore a puzzled look on his face. “Wes?”

“Oh?” Wes said focusing on Angel. “Yes, right.”

“What Wes?” Angel asked wanting to ferret out the cause of Wes’s puzzlement.

“I’d start down playing Xander’s injuries now,” Wes said. “I’d start locking down who has information as to how badly he was hurt. Plant rumors that the damage looked worse than it was. The less injured Xander is reported to be….”

“The less miraculous his recovery,” finished Angel.

“Also, have Fred monitor him somewhere else. Don’t take him back to the lab. That would look too suspicious,” said Wes. “We’ll need to take him some place a not too injured Xander would go to recover.”

“We’ll take him back to the DeSoto,” said Spike.

“We can better control who has access to him there,” said Gunn.

“Fred can easily move the equipment she needs there now without suspicion,” said Faith.

“And it’ll look like Spike wants to spend some quality time with his CM after a bad experience…” chimed in Angel.

“Without worrying about bumping into his old flame,” finished Spike.

Angel looked at the DeSoto crew and smiled. I could rule the galaxy with a crew like this, whispered his Angelus side. But they wouldn’t let me, countered the inner Angel, and that’s why I’d die for them.

“Let’s do it,” Angel said.

“We’ll fill Fred in and see what we can start loading on to the ship,” Faith said as she lightly back slapped Gunn before heading for the door. Gunn followed.

“I’ll start working on getting the word out about Xander,” Wes said as he stood up.

“How are ya gonna do that?” asked Spike.

Wes cocked a crooked grin and said, “I’m going to buy Harmony a cup of tea.”

Angel smiled and Spike swallowed a growl.

“C’mon,” Angel said grabbing Spike once again by the arm. “Let’s go out there and wait for the doctor. Once Xander’s out of surgery you’ll need to be with him…”

“…and you’ll need to have a word with the doc and the rest of the med team,” Spike finished.


*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*


It was a long wait. It was twice as long for Angel as he watched Spike vacillate between pacing the time-old pace of the desperately worried to trying to act as if he was waiting for Xander to get something as mundane as a cast.

Spike jumped up for the tenth time, paced, reached for a gasper, shoved it back in his pocket and then sat back down.

“You know you can smoke those outside,” Angel prompted hoping Spike might actually take a break and go out and smoke. It might calm him down, Angel thought.

“Get stuffed,” Spike growled.

Angel rolled his eyes. “Subtle,” Angel replied.

Spike growled again.

“You’ll feel better,” Angel prompted again.

“Sod off!”

“You kiss Xander with that mouth?” Angel asked.

Spike snarled and flew up out of his seat ready to strike.

“Uh…excuse me?” a tired and timid voice interrupted. Both Biogens turned to see a doctor looking at them.

Spike snarled as he caught a whiff of his pet’s blood on the doc. Angel laid a restraining hand on Spike’s arm.

“Doc?” Angel questioned.

“Mr. Harris is out of surgery,” the doctor replied.

Spike surged forward and Angel held him back.

“I wanna see him!” snapped Spike.

“We’re..I …,” the doctor stuttered as he stepped back from the anxious Biogen. “As soon as he’s out of recovery. We’ve got a room set up for him.”

“Let me go,” Spike growled at Angel. “I wanna wait for Xander there.”

“Doc?” Angel asked again not yet releasing Spike.

“I..I don’t…that won’t be a problem,” the doctor finally managed to say. Angel slowly released Spike who twisted his head to clear a phantom crick in his neck and then smoothed his still bloodied and dirty shirt.

“Right then,” Spike said to the physician, “lead on.”

The doctor turned and Spike followed. Angel followed Spike.

“Where do you think yer goin?” Spike asked Angel.

“With you,” Angel replied.

Spike looked back at Angel.

“It’s not necess…,” Spike said softly.

“It is,” Angel interrupted just as softly and then smiled. He knew Spike wouldn’t want to wait alone and Spike would never ask for company. Spike turned his head away from Angel before Angel could see the gratitude in Spike’s eyes.

Xander’s room was private and in a secure location of the med wing. However, both Spike and Angel prowled around and double-checked it.

“The staff and I understand Mr. Harris is a value..pri…patient. Only the best and most discreet will be caring for him,” the doctor said.

“Good,” Angel replied with flecks of gold in his eyes. “I really don’t want to have to deal with any issues of security or discretion.”

“Goes double for me, mate,” added Spike who briefly showed his enhanced face.

“If I even suspect there are problems,” the doctor gulped, “I will let you know.”

Both Biogens nodded and then Spike stiffened. He scented the air.

“Xander,” Spike whispered just before a medical team wheeled a large bed with the unconscious CM into the room.

A coffee-skinned nurse began giving cool and efficient orders on the setup for Xander and the various pieces of medical equipment wheeled next to him. The medical team moved swiftly and soon the bustle of the room began to diminish. The nurse who’d been giving orders moved a chair by Xander’s bed which seemed larger and puffier then normal. It also was hooked up to some sort of device.

“It’s a special mattress,” the nurse said noting the puzzled look on Spike’s face. “His injuries are such that there is no comfortable way to position him. The bed however will support him with as little pressure as possible. We'll rotate him as necessary and as often as we can.”

Spike moved over to the bed and leaned over the quiet form. Xander was pale, bandaged and had various needles sticking in his arms delivering various fluids. Gently Spike reached out and ran a delicate finger through the bangs pressed flat against Xander’s forehead.

“How long before he wakes up?” Spike asked quietly.

“Not any time soon,” the doctor replied. Spike whipped his head around in frustrated confusion.

“He’d be in too much pain, honey,” the nurse said. “If we keep him sedated he’ll remain calm giving his body a better chance to heal.”

“H-ho..,” Spike cleared his throat. “How will he know I’m here?”

The nurse smiled gently and said, “Talk to him. He’ll hear you. It’s not unusual for patients to claim they could hear their loved ones talking to them while they were unconscious or in a coma.”

Spike cocked an eyebrow. The nurse patted the chair next to the bed.

“Talk to him,” she said again. “You’re a Biogen. You’ll be able to hear the change in the heart rate. That’s how you’ll know he hears you.”

Spike once again reached to touch Xander and then stopped, “It ok ta touch too?”

The nurse smiled. “Oh yeah, sugar,”

Spike once again let his finger stroke through the hair on Xander’s forehead.

“Pet,” Spike said softly. “Xander, you have to hang on. You have to come back to me. I need you.”

Spike nearly jumped. The rhythm of Xander’s heartbeat changed!

“That’s it, pet,” Spike said not bothering to hide the choke in his voice or brush away the tear making it’s way down his cheek. “I’m here, Xan. You’re safe and sound. Just stay with me, pet. Stay with me, Xander.”

Spike carded his hand softly through Xander’s hair.

“Stay with me, pet,” Spike said again and then very softly whispered. “That’s an order.”

Spike smiled as once again he heard the change in Xander’s heartbeat.





Part Twenty-Four

Xander kept his back to the vid screen. He never needed to see what was on the screen ever again as long as he lived.

“How long is that, Xan?” a familiar voice asked.

“Jess?” Xander asked as he looked to the doorway. Jesse stepped through and frowned.

“Dude, I think I preferred the relay station,” Jesse said as he looked around the room and saw the sprays of blood, Xander’s blood, on the walls, the floor and of course in livid full detail on the vid screen.

“I think I did too,” Xander replied with a tight catch in his throat and a blush of shame. “Sorry.”

Jess laughed. “Xan, between a choice of dying all over again or you having to go through this? I’d easily take the dying.”

“Don’t say that!” Xander shouted.

“Why not?” Jess asked. “It’s the truth. I’d rather you be alive….”

“I didn’t want you to die for me!” Xander cried.

“As reasons to die, Xan,” Jess sighed, approached Xander and placed his hand on his shoulder, “It’s a pretty damned good one. I wish you'd get that through that thick head of yours.”

“You have to say that….”

“Yeah, I know,” Jesse interrupted with a tired sigh, “I’m just a dream. The real Jesse wouldn’t ever think you were worth dying for.”

Xander arched his brow and pursed his lips. “I didn’t say that.”

“You do, Xan. Every time you deny my forgiveness.”

“Jess!” Xan cried, “I didn’t mean….”

“Hey, shhh,” Jesse placed both hands on Xander’s shoulders. “Calm down. Don’t get so excited. You need to keep calm. You’ve had enough shocks to your system.”

“Does that mean I’m still alive?” Xander asked.

Jesse nodded. “Ain’t gonna lie to ya though, doesn’t look good.”

Xander resisted the urge to look at the vid screens to see again just how bad it was.

“Didn’t feel good,” Xander replied dryly.

Jesse laughed. “As long as you have your humor, there’s hope.”

Xander smiled.

“C’mon. If you insist on being here let’s go into the other room where there’s a bar,” Jesse said. “You owe me at least a drink for that heroic death of mine.”

It was Xander’s turn to laugh through tears. “At least.”

The two men turned from the bloody room and entered the bar.

“Mmm,” Xander muttered. “Looks a lot like the bar, Willie’s, on Oxnard and when I mean a lot I mean exactly.”

“Well,” Jesse said as he nimbly reached over the bar and rooted around until he pulled from out behind it two cold ales, “you didn’t actually get to see the bar where you were being held on Hyperion.”

“True,” Xander said reaching for and taking one of the cold ales.

“So,” Jesse said making his way to a seat at a table, “tell me about Spike?”

Xander nearly choked on the ale he just had sipped down his throat.

“Works better if you swallow,” Jesse advised.

Xander wiped his mouth and looked at Jesse. “What do you want to know about Spike?”

“Does he make you happy?”

Xander sat down on the chair opposite from Jesse and blushed.

“Yeah,” Xander finally smiled and said, “when he’s not being completely overbearing, bossy and an arrogant….”

Xander paused and looked down at his drink.

“Biogen?” Jesse prompted.

“It’s pretty monumentally stupid on the Xander scale of monumentally stupid, huh?” Xander asked before he took a sip of his drink and then continued. “Me being in lo..well being with a Biogen.”

“I may be dead Xan,” Jesse said, “but I’m still your best bud. I’ve waited a long time for you to find someone who could make you happy…who wanted you the way you wanted to be wanted. The way you deserve.”

“Well there’s no doubt, Spike wants me,” Xander blushed again remembering that first morning when Spike woke Xander up while getting his “brekkies.”

“Best buds,” Jesse said holding up his hands, “but we don’t need to go all 'Willow' here and share the ‘moments.””

Xander laughed. “Guess this is not the locker room talk you signed up for?”

“Definitely the wrong locker room,” Jesse agreed.

“Well I don’t have to worry about you poaching,” Xander quipped and then paled.

“What?” Jesse frowned.

“It may not matter any more,” Xander said quietly. “You said it yourself, ‘it doesn’t look good.’”

“Xan…”

“You know I can see how the missing the eye thing might be overlooked…outlaw Biogen mastermind’s image only goes up with a ‘pirate looking’ CM but…”

“Xan…,” Jesse tried again.

“There’s parts of me that are never going to work again,” Xander blurted. “Howz he going….?”

“Xander,” Jesse barked. “Listen. Spike wants you. You know that.”

“No, I don’t!” shouted Xander. “How could he?”

“Listen,” Jesse softly ordered.

Xander stared at Jesse. He opened his mouth to fire off a retort but then closed it, took a deep breath and listened.

As if from a great distance and yet at the same time as if it were coming from deep inside Xander himself he heard Spike’s voice. The words were faint but clear, “Pet, Xander, you have to hang on. You have to come back to me. I need you.”

Xander gasped and looked at Jesse who smiled.

“That wasn’t him! That couldn’t be,” Xander said frantically and hopefully all at the same time.

Jesse nodded. “Listen, Xan.”

Once again Xander listened. Once again he heard Spike’s voice, “Stay with me, pet. That’s an order.”

“Spike!” Xander gasped and smiled finally believing what he was hearing.


*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*


It was another hour before Fred’s light knock interrupted the soft litany of Spike’s voice whispering to Xander. Spike had been talking non-stop going from ribald stories to admonitions for Xander to stay with him.

“May I come in?” Fred asked as she peeked her head inside the door.

“Tell me you have good news, luv,” Spike said as he waved her inside Xander’s room.

Fred came in and shut the door. She smiled.

“It took longer than I had anticipated. It took several ‘flushes’ before the nanites’ regeneration program seemed to understand they needed to regenerate cells off a new pattern….off of Xander’s blood...”

“Fred,” Angel said halting Fred’s explanation.

“Oh! Sorry,” Fred said as she pulled out a syringe. “They did it. Here it is; the vial of Spike’s nanites in a sample of Xander’s blood they produced.”

“So now wot?” Spike asked as he again began carding his hand through Xander’s hair.

“Now I inject him with it and take a blood sample from him in six hours,” Fred answered.

“Six hours?” Angel asked.

“If I’m right and the nanites begin to self-replicate,” Fred said, “we should begin to see the new nanites in Xander’s blood.”

Spike looked back at down at Xander. “Then how long…?”

“I don’t know, Spike,” Fred said. “If they begin to replicate…we should start to see improvement anywhere from twenty-four to seventy-two ship rotations.”

Fred moved over to Xander and pulled a sterilizing swab from her pocket.

“Give us a moment, luv?” Spike asked.

“Of course,” Fred said as she stepped back from Xander and moved back to Angel. Spike looked at Angel and Fred and cocked an eyebrow.

“Oh..uh, Fred, Can I see you in the hall about that…?” Angel faltered.

“About that thing,”Fred said nodding her head.

“Yeah, the thing,” Angel agreed turning and holding the door open for Fred. “We’ll just be in the hall, Spike…”

“Oi! I got it,” Spike said, “and…thank you.”

Spike watched Fred and Angel leave. Then Spike leaned over Xander and whispered into Xander’s ear, “Xander, pet, I’m sorry I wasn’t there when you needed me. But I’m here now and I’m going ta do everything I can ta make it right. I love you, Xander.”

Spike then gently kissed Xander’s forehead. Then he resumed carding his hand through Xander’s hair.


*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*


“You look tired,” Angel said to Fred.

“I’m all right,” she replied.

“Look, after you give Xander the shot, why don’t you get some sleep? It’ll be at least six hours before you know anything.”

Fred looked at Angel. “Only if you promise ta get some too.”

“I can’t,” Angel said. “I have to stay with Sp…,”

“I can get Faith to stay with him,” Fred interrupted.

“I don…,”

“Look, Angel,” Fred interrupted again. “Whether this turns out good or bad, Spike is going ta need you. Sleep would do you good. Even Biogens weren't designed to go non-stop.”

“Faith has had some sleep?” Angel asked, weakening.

“I think she managed ta get some,” Fred smiled. “Doctor’s aren’t always in the doctor’s lounge.”

Angel laughed. “Ok, you send Faith in after you give Xander the shot. I’ll get some sleep.”

Fred smiled and then turned back to knock on Xander’s door.

“Yeah,” Spike called from inside.

Angel opened the door and once again held it open for Fred. Fred moved over next to Xander. She looked at Spike. Spike nodded. Fred once again pulled the sterile pad from her pocket and this time sterilized a spot on Xander’s arm. Then very slowly she injected Xander with Spike’s nanites.


*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*


“A change is coming,” Jesse said to Xander.

“Oh goody,” Xander said as he took another drink. “Just what I need; more change.”

Jesse picked at the label on his bottle of ale. “Yeah, you’ve had it rough lately.”

‘I guess I shouldn’t complain,” Xander said. “I’m still alive….well for now anyway.”

“All the change hasn’t been bad,” Jesse observed.

Xander thought of the way Spike grinned when he had Xander pinned and squirming underneath him. Xander smiled and acknowledged, “No, not all bad.”

“The thing about change,” Jesse said, “is not that it happens but it’s about the choices you make when it happens.”

“Somebody must have forgot to send Xan-man that memo,” Xander replied. “Seems I haven’t had too many choices lately.”

“You have, Xan,” Jesse argued. “You could have let Spike take the cargo from The Snyder. You didn’t have to try and be heroic.”

“I thought he was a kille…,”

“You could have continued to be the good soldier; never given Spike or the DeSoto crew a chance. Could have just stubbornly clung to your attitude about Biogens. You know the whole ‘I don’t like Biogens. I’m going to make a stand and say they’re not good,’” Jesse said as he made quote marks in the air with his fingers.

“You heard that, huh?” Xander said.

“Instead, you gave Spike, and yourself, a chance. You let out some of the pain, let him in and found something new.” Jesse paused to take another sip, and then continued. “And you could have told Caleb anything. You could have chosen to give him information in hopes he’d ease the torture or at least let you die.”

Xander looked back down at his ale.

“Xan, I’m not promising the changes are going to get any easier,” Jesse continued. “But I can promise that you can deal with them.”

“I don’t know if I can go back to what’s left of me,” Xander whispered.

“Well that is your choice,” Jesse said.

“Is it?”

Jesse nodded. “But is it what you want?”

Xander grew silent again. He was tired and it would just be nice to stay with Jesse drinking ale.

Then Xander heard Spike’s voice again from far away and yet achingly near say, “Xander, pet, I’m sorry I wasn’t there when you needed me. But I’m here now and I’m going ta do everything I can ta make it right.”

“Spike,” Xander whispered and then looked back at Jesse. Spike, Xander thought and nearly cried, I want Spike!

Jesse smiled, finished his ale, stood up and then looked at Xander.

“Do me a favor?” Jesse said.

“Sure,” Xander said furrowing his brows.

“Cut Faith some slack. As far as I’m concerned, she’s still my girl,” Jesse said before turning and heading for the door.

“Wait!” Xander cried standing up. “Where are you going?”

“Not far,” Jesse promised. “See ya around, Xander.”

Then before Xander could say anything else, Jesse was gone.


*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*


After five and a half hours of sleep Angel once again stood outside Xander’s door with Fred. They both looked worried, but less haggard. Fred lightly knocked on Xander’s door and it was quickly opened by Faith who held a finger to her lips. Angel peered around Faith to see Spike asleep in the chair next to Xander’s bed. Spike’s arm was stretched out and resting on the bed so his hand was holding Xanders.

Faith opened the door and let Angel and Fred inside. Fred went to move toward Xander but Angel put his hand up and shook his head. Angel then stepped over to Spike and softly touched Spike’s shoulder.

Spike sprang awake and out of the chair. He spun around putting Xander behind him. Spike was in full game face.

“William,” Angel said firmly. “It’s ok. We’re just here to check on Xander.”

Spike blinked a moment and then shook his head.

“Sorry about that,” Spike said as he slipped back into his human face.

“It’s ok,” Angel replied.

Spike looked to Fred. “So luv?”

Fred smiled and moved next to Xander. “Just need a little sample of his blood and then I’ll do a quick count.”

“Do you need to go back to the lab?”

Fred shook her head. “I’ve modified a ‘Gen tracker. Normally they measure the rate of decay in nanites to determine how long a Biogen has been dead or how old the blood trail is. I’ve just reversed the programming so…,”

“Oi, luv, I just woke up,” Spike complained as Fred rattled off her explanation.

“Sorry,” Fred shrugged and smiled. Then she leaned over, sterilized a spot on Xander’s arm and withdrew a sample of blood. Then Fred withdrew a small device from her pocket and used it to examine the sample. Fred’s eyes grew wide and she looked at Spike.

“Well?” Spike asked.

“It worked!” Fred said with tears in her eyes and the biggest smile she’d had for almost two days. “It worked, Spike! I’m detecting significant traces of nanites!”

Spike turned to Xander and squeezed his hand. “That’s it, pet! That’s my boy!”

Then Spike turned, grabbed Fred and spun her around. Fred laughed. Angel jumped when he felt arms wrap around him and then relaxed when he realized it was Faith. Angel returned the hug.

“Fred,” Angel finally said when he felt the lump in own throat dissolve, “how long before Xander can be moved?”

Spike put Fred down and held her steady until she got her balance. She looked back at her device. “I’d say the sooner the better.”

“Fred?” Spike asked.

“These numbers are really good,” Fred said. “I’d say in another six hours we’ll see some significant tissue regeneration.”

“That quickly?” Angel asked.

Fred nodded. “That’s not all.”

“Wot?” asked Spike.

“Well, soon the nanites will begin to decrease the time it takes for the drugs in his system to metabolize.”

“In English, luv,” Spike growled.

“Biogens process drugs in their systems faster than pure humans,” Fred said. “That’s why Gunn won’t drink with you, Spike. You can always drink him under the table.”

“So…,” Spike began.

“So it means we’ll either need to give Xander a stronger dose of sleep juice,” Faith interrupted, “or we let him wake up.”

“But the nurse said that kept him from feeling pain,” Spike said.

“He may not need it in six hours,” Fred said.

“Can we get him moved on the DeSoto,” asked Angel, “and then see how he is in six hours? If he’s uncomfortable…,”

“We can always give him another dose, yes,” said Fred.

“Let’s do it,” Angel said.

Spike turned back to Xander and whispered, “We’re going home, pet.”


*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*


Consciousness was just a glissade from unconsciousness and yet Xander still hung back from making that final gliding step. He floated in a calm limbo of no pain, no fear and most of all no Caleb. However, there was also no Jesse, nothing to do, and no relief from the annoying itch on his right thigh.

Xander thought he moved his right hand towards the itch but all he felt was his thumb brush against his leg.

“Pet?” Spike asked frantically. “Xan?”

Xander tried again to get the itch.

“That’s it, pet! C’mon! Come back to Spike!”

Spike! Xander thought. Scratch there for me will ya?

“Xander,” Spike said again, “C’mon. Wake up. Show me you’re there.”

“Mppph,” Xander said.

Xander heard Spike laugh. Laugh later! Xander thought. Scratch now!

“What was that, pet?”

“Scraatc,” Xander muttered as once again he tried to get his hand to obey.

“Still not getting it,” Spike said.

“Leg!” Xander shouted as he finally got his hand to move. “Scratch mmlg!”

Spike saw the hand and grabbed it.

“Spike!” Xander shouted.

“No scratching,” Spike said. “It’s healing. Let it alone.”

“Itches,” whined Xander as he tried to jerk his hand free.

“Lie still,” Spike ordered.

“Bossy,” muttered Xander.

“Cheeky,” Spike replied.

There was a long pause and for a moment Spike thought Xander might have fallen back asleep.

“Spike?” Xander finally whispered.

“Yes, pet.”

“You really here?”

Spike nodded on habit before realizing Xander couldn’t see him. Xander still had a bandage on his right eye.

“Yes, pet.”

“Where am I?”

“Home.”

“The ‘Dale?”

The DeSoto,” Spike said barely keeping the growl out of his voice.

Xander smiled and then frowned. Smiling hurts, Xander thought. Pain reminded Xander.

“Caleb?”

“Dead.”

“Dead?”

“Just another fucking soulless…heartless..Biogen,” Spike said.

Xander smiled despite the pain and locked his fingers with Spike’s hand.

“Thank you,” Xander whispered and made the dance step back to unconsciousness.

“Anytime,” Spike quietly replied as he kissed his pet’s forehead.




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