Cross posted to sickchicks and my regular journal.
Out of a worthless lump of clay, willa_writes and sangpassionne have made a chapter today! ETA: Can't forget evilmaniclaugh's help, either! **smooches you all**
Hell Is In the Details – Chapter 9 – To Be Or Not To Be
Lorne awoke to the odd sensation of being watched. Slowly and cautiously he rose from his rocking chair and headed over to the bed. Spike hadn’t moved an inch from the position Lorne had left him in.
He tried to remain calm and soothing. “Hey, it’s okay. I’ll just bet you were checking out Uncle Lorne when my eyes were closed. It’s all right, Spike. I’m just here to help. You can trust me.”
He sighed. “Didn’t think that would be enough to convince you, kiddo – but you have to give me points for trying. I’ll be back in a flash. Just gonna heat up some breakfast downstairs. You’ve got to be hungry.”
When he was sure the demon had left the room, Spike opened his eyes. He was weak – weaker than after that church organ had consigned him to a soddin’ wheelchair for months. He’d be unable to defend himself if this one wanted to hurt him.
But Spike knew he’d been with… Len? No, Lorne – that’s what the other being called him – for hours already. He hadn’t taken him or hurt him once since he’d regained consciousness. Pret had never allowed him so much rest between appointments before.
He attempted to test his limbs, to see his range of movement and muscle strength.
Not so much as a bloody twitch.
What the fuck had they done to him?
Exhausted from his feeble attempts to move his body, Spike barely heard the green-skinned demon re-enter the room in time to shut his own eyes.
Lorne laughed, softly. “It’s okay, Spike. I’m not going to hurt you. It’s safe for you to open your eyes. C’mon, sweet-cheeks. Open up those baby blues and see if you recognize me. We’ve met before, you know. Briefly.”
Spike opened his eyes again, and returned Lorne’s gaze as the demon stood to the side of the bed, holding a mug of ~human, by the smell of it~ blood. Spike was ravenous.
Lorne reached for a straw, and sat down on the side of the bed, next to Spike. “Do you want to try and feed yourself, or do you want me to hold the mug for you?”
Spike tried to do two things. First – to raise his arm. Spectacularly unsuccessful. Second – to ask for the proffered help. The resultant croak surprised both men.
“Never mind, sugar. You’ll be your old self in no time,” Lorne soothed.
Spike’s eyes widened tremendously and he began to shudder. Lorne blinked in surprise. An odd reaction – why would he be shaking his head ‘no’ at the mention of getting his voice back? Could they have damaged him more than…?
He pushed on, trying to calm the beleaguered creature. “If you can suck this goop up through the straw, fine. If not I’ve got a spoon here with your name on it. You can thank me, later.”
Fear, then resignation skittered across the vampire’s face, registering in the droop of his head and rigid body language.
Realizing that he’d been totally misunderstood, Lorne rushed to set the vampire’s mind at ease. “Oh, Spike! No, no, no – I didn’t mean what… oh hell no. No monkey business, I swear. I just meant you can show off your party manners when you’re able to speak. So you can tell me what happened.”
Spike swallowed convulsively, trying to calm down. He’d been prepared to vanish within himself again. There was no way he’d be able to survive another round of ‘hurt me – fuck me’ the way he was feeling.
Lorne could see the incredible effort Spike was making to stay with him. Such a bad choice of words to have panicked him so badly, though he wasn’t sure what or why. Placing the mug down on the night table, he fluffed a few pillows , and helped prop the vampire up into a reclining position – all the better to drink if he was able.
Lorne held the straw to dry lips, pleased when Spike managed to open his lips to take it in. With an obvious effort, the sable haired vampire managed to suck down half the contents, before closing his eyes from exhaustion.
“You done, kiddo?” the empath asked, moving the mug away.
Spike slowly shook his head ‘no’ and opened his mouth once more for the straw. The rest of the mug’s contents were consumed rapidly.
“Good job, mi amigo. You sleep now and let all that yummy goodness work its magic on you. I’m off to the showers, then downstairs to try and figure out our next step here, and I’ll be back to see if you need anything, soon. Sleep well.”
Food and rest.
It would have been so easy just to slip away again.
Who was this Lorne, and why does he seem familiar?
Don’t care right now. Want to trust him. Need to trust someone.
Sleep is… good.
Freshly scrubbed and dressed – totally blood and other substances free, Lorne felt like a new man. A little breakfast settled his nerves. A few moments reprieve from his patient upstairs were all he asked for.
It wasn’t as if Spike was much trouble. Outside of the whole Nurse Lorne routine, with the added perk of removing the most horrific body accessories he’d ever seen, Spike was not difficult to care for. Heating up a couple of mugs of blood wasn’t an imposition.
No, what stressed him out wasn’t the physical work involved in caring for the vampire – it was the emotional toll of seeing his suffering due to the actions of another. A man he’d called a friend without hesitation less than three days before.
If he felt betrayed by Angel, he could only imagine how crushed Spike must have been upon learning of his Sire’s treachery.
Lorne also knew that he couldn’t avoid Angel forever. The best defense is – hell, the best defense would be running away, but since that wasn’t an available option – the best defense is a good offense.
And so, though plenty nervous, the empath called in to the office, in hopes of heading off any angry vampire vibes from the boss.
“Hello, Angel-kins,” he chirped before Angel could start talking – or ranting. “Just wanted to tell you how so so sorry I am for not getting to party with you and your little twinkie last night. My poor Ramone was just a mess, and he needed me to…”
Angel’s glower could be felt through the phone. “Look, Lorne – that was an important party for me. Buffy’s giving up the whole slaying deal to be in my life again. I need my people to show a united front. To show Buffy that Wolfram & Hart is more than just its evil reputation – that it’s about family and friends.”
The emotionally overwrought demon snapped; the absolute hypocrisy in Angel’s words made him ill. “What the hell do you want from me, Angel? I’m tired. I’ve been up all damned night between Ramone puking his guts out and askin’ for his mama. I’ve already apologized for not being there to greet the little woman. Give me another week or so and I’ll mount a damned musical number for everyone’s enjoyment.”
At the anger from the normally placid Lorne, Angel backpedaled faster than a biker in traffic. “Whoa, big guy – calm down. I didn’t mean to imply that you’re not entitled to a little personal time. And tell Ramone I hope he feels better. You’ll have to bring him around sometime, maybe to our next fundraiser,” Angel demurred.
Lorne wilted. God, it all sounded so fake now. “No, I’m really sorry, Angel-cakes. It’s been… a really long night, and I just need to crawl into my little bed and…”
The door swung open at that moment; Lorne waved his hands frantically, hoping Gunn would keep quiet until he got off the phone.
“Sorry for the interruption – the mailman was at the door. Ramone, fundraiser, yeah – sounds good. Another time then, boss?”
Paying no attention to Lorne’s farewell cue, Angel continued. “Tell you what. I need a favor, and it’ll make things copasetic between us. I’m going to be stuck in meetings all Friday, and since your schedule is already freed up and if Ramone feels better in three days, I’d like you to take Buffy out on the town for the day. Some shopping, a little lunch – you know, schmoozing. As a favor to me.”
~Shit, he should have known he’d get stuck chauffeuring Angel’s trophy girl around like a glorified babysitter. He’d have to get Spike to a healthier place before Friday if he had any hopes of leaving him alone for hours.~ But what use fighting it? “Fine, babe. Just tell me the when and where and I’ll pick the little lady up and squire her around. Gotta go now, lamb. Nature calls. Ciao.”
He barely had time to close out the phone call when Gunn grabbed his shoulders.
“Man, I thought you’d never get off the damn phone. I’m tellin’ ya, we’ve got a big problem. You an’ me were all over Spike. And last night, despite several showers, Angel was sniffing me up and down like I was the only available fire hydrant around for miles. It freaked his little girl out.”
Jamming his hands into his pockets, along with his phone, Lorne couldn’t contain his curiosity. “So dish, cookie. What’s the what with little Miss Buffy Summers?”
Both men were startled by the crash from upstairs, complete with breaking glass. Bounding up the stairs two at a time, worried as to what they would find in Spike’s room, they were met with one very pissed off vampire leaning back against the pillows, and the bedside lamp, knocked down and shattered on the floor.
Gunn smiled broadly. “Look at you, man! A bath, a night’s sleep and a little blood and you’re a whole new vamp.”
Spike stared at the man. His eyes flashed from blue to amber and back again, a low growl emanating from deep within his chest.
Gunn held up his hands in mock surrender. “Take it easy, dude. I’m safe – promise. Lorne and me? We’re the ones who got you out of that hell hole. Not gonna hurt you now.”
Lorne moved cautiously to the bed. “Come on, dumpling. You want me to tell you where we met before?”
Spike nodded, slowly.
“You’ve got to keep calm about it – I promise I’ll explain fully, and you really can trust us, okay?”
Once more, the vampire nodded.
“Gunn and I work at Wolfram & Hart, for Angel. We were there when you first popped out of that amulet in his office.”
Spike’s growling resumed, louder now – irises a solid amber but gameface held at bay by sheer will; his body tensed for betrayal.
Lorne was stumped. What could he possibly say to ease the agitated vampire’s mind – to disassociate themselves from Angel’s deeds and to prove they were on his side?
“Alright, Spike. I understand we’ve got a bit of a lack of trust situation here. I suggest a truce for the time being, until it’s all sorted out. Can you handle a truce? Understand neither me nor Gunn will hurt you in any way, or inform Angel that you’re here?”
Spike hissed, possibly in an effort to actually say ‘yes’ and nodded in acquiescence.
Lorne motioned for Gunn to come closer to his side of the bed, so the vampire could see them both at the same time.
“Before we get into the questions – both yours and ours, are you hungry? Would you like another mug of blood?”
Spike managed to hold up two fingers. Obviously that last mug of blood had done him some good.
Gunn snickered. “Man, after working with English for so long, I need you to clarify your response. Do those two fingers mean you want two mugs, or you want us to fuck off?”
It was the humor that finally broke the ice. The amber bled from Spike’s eyes, leaving them a deep shade of blue – as his lower lip curled up in the subtlest of smirks. This time, he held up one finger, indicating Gunn’s first choice.
“Cool, dude. Be right back with the liquid refreshment.”
When they were alone, Lorne turned back to face Spike. “It seems as if your healing’s kicked in, boy-chick. You certainly weren’t able to move the last time I saw you. Question is – can you talk? Say something to me, crumpet – anything.”
The vampire’s good mood vanished abruptly, as he thumped his hand against his chest, eyes flashing amber once again with his agitation. With a voice as raw and creaking as a rusty hinge , he gritted out a single syllable – “ike,” almost too softly to be heard.
Lorne edged closer. “Would you mind repeating that, kiddo? I know it’s been awhile, but I’m not sure what you’re trying to say.”
Faster than the empath thought possible, Spike grabbed onto his shirt, fisting the material and not letting him go. “Spike,” he said, still rough, but clearly this time.
He tried to remain calm, unwilling to goad the vampire’s demon with a show of fear. “I know you’re Spike, crumpet. Real clear on that fact.”
Surprisingly strong arms shoved Lorne away and he staggered a few steps, just far enough to be clear of the flying debris when Spike hooked his arm around the nightstand and yanked it away from the wall.
Spike – still yellow eyed – again jabbed his fingers towards his chest, then pointed at Lorne. Lungs heaving from the effort of drawing in enough air to form words, the vampire snarled “You. Call. Me. Spike. M’not food,” as tears coursed down his face, from both frustration and not a little pain.
Serendipitously, Gunn chose that moment to arrive with the vampire’s heated blood, and immediately noted the tension in the air and Spike’s tear streaked face.
“There a problem here guys? Something in particular set off the weepy?”
Abashed, Lorne took the first mug from Gunn’s grasp and held the straw out for Spike. “Just me sticking my size too big foot in my mouth. Sorry, Spike. Ask anyone – pet names are just so me. Wolfram & Hart is one big bakery where I’m concerned. Confections and endearments are just second nature to me, but I promise to try and remember to use your name, since it so obviously upsets you.”
His head never lifting from the straw, Spike nodded his acceptance. He drained the contents of the mug quickly, then turning to Gunn, rasped, “More, please,” and reached out for the remaining mug.
“You sure you can handle this yourself, Spike?” Gunn was dubious, but unwilling to refuse the rapidly healing vampire anything.
“Need to try.”
“You got it, dude. Don’t worry if it drops – there’s plenty more downstairs.”
Two shaking hands reached out and grasped the mug, its contents sloshing slightly, but not spilling over. Carefully grasping the straw between his lips, Spike managed to drain the second mug.
Lorne grabbed the mug before it fell from the exhausted vampire’s grasp.
“Can you talk for a bit, swe.. Spike? I know you’re pooped, and I’ll stop if you need to sleep, but I’d like some answers if you can.”
“Yeah. Try to.”
“What happened with my poor lamp? Was it sacrificed to get my attention?”
Spike managed a small smile at the demon’s mournful expression. “Yeah, sorry. Heard you two talk – party?” At Lorne’s incredulous expression, he added, “Vamp hearing,” pointing at his head.
“Eeeesh, that’s scary – no hiding things around you, then.” A twinkle in his eyes assured Spike of his good humor.
Gunn crossed his arms and thought before speaking. “You wanna know what’s the what regarding that party you know who had last night?”
“You ever heard of Buffy Summers?”
The vampire cocked his head, looking at the man as if he’d grown a third eye in the middle of his shiny forehead.
“Bloody hell... bastard never told you? Me an’ the Slayer – six years. Knowin’ an’ fighin’ – helpin’.”
Gunn was visibly upset. “Since the day you disappeared, Spike, he’s not mentioned your name. Told us you’d toddled off to find your good times elsewhere.”
Spike’s bravado faded at that last lie, the remnants of his strength deserted him and he seemed to vanish back into the pillows.
Gunn and Lorne exchanged glances. Something more going on here than met the eye, and they’d have to find out what. Lorne picked up the blanket from the foot of the bed, settling it over Spike’s body and tucking it around his shoulders.
“You need your sleep now, cru – Spike. Sorry, habit, as I might have mentioned. Before we leave you to your beauty rest – is there anything we can get for you?”
Looking up at him with unfocused eyes, already halfway asleep, Spike murmured a single word: