Rating: NC-17 for brief violence and sexual content
Pairing: BtVS Spike/Xander
Author’s Note: Yes, I am aware that the timeline is a little screwed up and that Giles didn’t own the Magic Box until after Adam and after Dawn arrived. But in my reality, who’s Dawn? Adam what? Also, a huge spanking thanks to kitty_poker1 for still agreeing to be my official L2BL beta, even after so much time has passed.
Disclaimer: These character’s aren’t mine, never were; I don’t get any profit for this hobby, so don’t sue – Thanks.
Warning: Brief violence, nudity, and hetero and homo sexual content and situations. And some h0t man-luvin.
This can also be found in my LJ Memories, as well as on my revamped website: Forget It.
By the time they split into groups and left the flat, the rain had finally tapered off. The mist and fog that had followed Spike and Xander into town shrouded Sunnydale in a hazy false dawn, though daybreak was still hours away. The dampness surrounding them seemed to absorb sound too, casting an eerie silence over the town. No sounds of traffic or splashing of puddles. Normally a constant white noise, there was not even a whisper of the ocean waves. The sloshing beneath their feet could barely be heard.
“Okay,” Buffy explained, “Spike and I will make our rounds and see if we can get some info from his demon bud – er - contacts.” Spike, standing beside the Slayer, rolled his eyes and let out a groan. Ignoring him, she went on. “Riley, you take the cemeteries and Xander, check out the hospitals and see if you can figure anything out.” Tara had opted to stay behind to continue researching and keep an eye on Giles.
“So we’ll meet back here in a couple of hours?” Riley asked.
“Right,” Buffy confirmed. “We’ll say…five? Xander, will that give you guys enough time to get back?”
“Should be fine. The way Spike drives, it’s only a ten minute commute.”
“You’ll pay for that, pet.” Spike glared as Xander stuck his tongue out at him.
“Anyway,” Buffy said, sighing. “We’ll meet back here five-ish and compare notes.”
“‘Five-ish does not mean sunrise,” Spike insisted. “I don’t fancy being a pile of ash, thank you.”
“Alright! Five on the dot. Jeeze!”
Spike nodded with a smirk and winked at Xander. Xander grinned back at him.
Everyone got their cells?” Buffy asked, glancing at the round of nods. “Alright, stay in contact. If anyone finds anything, pass it along. I think we’re good. Riley, Xander, be careful.”
“Careful, luv,” Spike said, tossing the Jeep keys to Xander. With that, the two blondes escaped into the fog, leaving Xander and Riley looking awkwardly at each other.
“Well, uh…” Riley rubbed the back of his neck, looking towards the direction Buffy and Spike had just stalked off in. “I guess I’ll head out too.”
“Yep,” Xander nodded, looking down and kicking a pebble into a puddle. “Good luck!”
“Yeah, you too.” Riley laughed nervously. After a beat, he gave a half-hearted wave and started jogging in the direction of the nearest cemetery.
“Gotta love the military types,” Xander muttered as he made his way towards the Jeep. He clicked the button on the key and was rewarded with two short chirps as the door locks disengaged. “Everyone knows they’re the gayest ones of all.”
St. Michael’s was proving to be as devoid of leads as the other three hospitals Xander had snooped through in the last couple of hours. One long hallway after another, filled with the same bored and tired nurses and sick and tired patients. Between the three of them, the other hospitals housed only a few dozen patients suffering from the mysterious ‘sleeping disease’ which none of the nurses or doctors seemed to be able to explain. Question after question, and the answers all came up, “they’re just sleeping.” One young resident at Community General had gone so far as to note that some her patients were “just sleeping to death.”
Xander had been up and down nearly every hallway here too, glancing through open door after open door at patients sleeping normally or staring at silent TV screens, caught up in the muted infomercials or old M.A.S.H. reruns. At this time of the night – or morning, depending upon which side of the sunrise you slept – most of the nurses’ stations were completely abandoned or manned by a yawning trainee. Even on-call residents were scarce, off trying to catch some sleep or finish their paperwork before the next shift plowed in the front doors. He was about to throw in the towel and give up, having come to the last stop at St. Michael’s, the east wing of the fourth floor. He was surprised to find an actual nurse manning the station here, humming along with the golden oldies that churned statically out of an ancient radio propped on a stack of binders behind the desk.
“Hey!” he called out excitedly, realizing he should probably bring it down a couple of notches. “What do you know, there are nurses working here!”
The short and pudgy – er… round – nurse startled, her turquoise half-glasses wobbling precariously on her wide nose. She gasped, clutching her expansive chest with a meaty hand. “Heavens to Betsy, but you scared me!” A thick southern accent stretched her words and for just a moment, Xander thought she’d been drinking.
“Sorry, Nurse – uh, Candy,” he apologized, glancing down at her seemingly dwarfed name tag. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”
“Oh, you’re fine, darlin’,” she assured him, reaching across the desk and turning down the radio. “I’m just not used to people sneakin’ up on me around here.”
“Again, sorry. I was wondering, though, if maybe you could help me? I just have a couple of questions, and hopefully you can answer them…”
“I s’pose I could try, couldn’t I? Now what are your questions, hon?”
“I’m actually wondering about this, uh, ‘sleeping disease’ that’s been going on.” Xander prayed she knew something, anything.
“I’m afraid I don’t know much about it, hon. Around here the docs call it the ‘Super Sleep.’ Otherwise, it’s pretty much…”
Xander felt his hopes drain away again as Candy filled him in on all the details he’d heard three times already tonight. Nothing new. At least he’d gotten to see a few of the patients at the last hospital. Most of them were contained in one large wardroom. It had been eerie to see them all lying in exactly the same position, their lips moving silently at precisely the same time. In unison, all eleven slumbering patients had rolled from their right side to their left, like synchronized divers. Xander had guessed that Giles had probably just rolled over in his own bed as well, and that thought haunted him even now. He shivered, realizing Candy was continuing, apparently not registering that he had checked out for a few minutes.
“Anyway, since it seems to be some kind of epidemic or something, the doctors starting putting them up here in my ward with the other coma patients. I guess they figure it’s close enough, but I gotta tell ya, hon, it’s getting a little cramped around here. They just keep piling them in. I went from five patients to nineteen just this week!”
Xander nodded, pretending that he was absorbing the information, but it was the same here as all the other places he’d been. It was obvious to him that Candy didn’t get many visitors on this shift in this ward. He started inching away from the desk, smiling and nodding politely.
Like an answered prayer, the pocket of his jeans started jerking violently and singing the theme to Scooby Doo. Thank you, Buffy! Xander gave a mental cheer as he dug his cell phone out of his pocket and glanced at the incoming caller ID.
“Hopefully they’ll figure out something soon! I gotta take this, but thanks for all of the information, Candy.” What the hell, Xan, turn on the charm. “You’ve been a real peach, and I appreciate it!”
“Anytime, sugar!” Candy called after him. “You come on back and visit me if you’re ever…”
But he’d already spun and all but darted back down the hallway as he flipped open the phone and answered.
“Xan Man at your service,” he answered, passing under bank after bank of flickering “lowlight” fluorescent tubes.
“Xander it’s me,” Buffy’s voice screeched into his ear. In the background, Xander could hear a familiar thump thump pshhh as the deafening beat threatened to swallow her voice.
“Hey, Buff!” Xander shouted back and immediately remembered his surroundings. Softer, “Are you at the Bronze?”
“No,” Buffy replied. She certainly didn’t sound happy. “We’re at this creepy weird demon club. Your favorite club, apparently –”
“Hey, kitten!” Tuna yelled around a tussle of noise and rattling. Oh, shit.
“…break your face,” Buffy was practically growling, apparently wrestling the phone back from Tuna. “As I was saying, me and Spike got nothing, and Riley just checked in and said he didn’t have any luck either. So we’re headed back to Giles’ and calling it a night.”
“Sounds good to me; I’ve had enough of hospitals for one night.” Lifetime, even.
“Alright. As soon as I can pry this drink from Spike, we’ll meet you there.” The thumpa thumpa was fading out in the background, but Buffy was still shouting. Spike’s voice could be heard yelling obscenities at the slayer, and Xander laughed to himself.
“I’m on my way.”
“Hey, Xander? Don’t think we’re not going to talk about this.” Her tone shifted from annoyed to serious in the blink of an eye.
“Hey, Buff, it’s cool…” Xander couldn’t think of anything else to say. Even his mind was stuttering.
“See you at Giles’.” And before he could respond, she was gone.
He sighed, sliding the phone back into his pocket. Great, looks like another ‘Come to Jesus’ conversation…fantastic.
He was about to round the corner to the elevator alcove when one of the rooms he passed caught his attention. Room 418 had no name on the door but, unlike the other rooms on this floor, there was only one steel chart propped up in the document holder next to the door. Simple white surgical tape adhered to the front bearing the name, written in black Sharpie, “Harris,J.” Xander’s feet halted beneath him, and he felt his knees quiver for a moment. It can’t be! but even this thought blended with another: It has to be.
His mind flashed back to the conversation he and Spike had had with Tara back in the club that had convinced them to come back in the first place:
“There’s…there’s other stuff, too, Xander,” Tara said, dropping her head again.
“More?” he asked.
“Your parents…” She trailed off. “They both fell asleep, too. At the beginning. Your mom is still sleeping, but your dad…I guess his heart couldn’t take it. He’s gone…”
Xander’s hand shook fiercely as he reached out and slowly unlatched the door. It swung open silently, revealing a room awash with shadows and blue sodium vapor light from the parking lot outside. There was a steady humming and eclectic mix of electronic beeps and chirps from inside the room, the familiar and revolting sounds of machinery measuring a body’s will to live.
His hesitating footsteps led him into the room, past the small bathroom and tiny closet next to the doorway. His eyes instantly snapped to the figure in the bed. He felt himself melting to the floor when he finally registered what he was seeing. A breathing tube was stuck between her pale and cracked lips and bandages graced her bruised and cut cheeks and forehead. Even after several weeks, one eye was still bruised and swollen shut, and the other was closed as if in peaceful sleep. Hands folded on her stomach, with an IV streaming from one arm and a cast covering the other, she looked calmer than Xander could remember her ever being. Having seen the other victims, he knew she wasn’t sleeping, wasn’t under this strong spell. This was something worse.
“Mom?” he whispered, as the floor rushed up to catch his fall. He heard the door click behind him as he fell on hands and knees on the cold tile and the tears sprang forth from somewhere deep inside.