Image by me. This chapter beta'd by the lovely and very talented Gmom (no lj account).
Previously on Felon Fodder:
Just as the door was closing behind the nurse, Xander caught a glimpse of the suits standing around a metal slab. On the slab was a body. Or what should have been a body. What laid there was a lump of red muscle. It looked as if the skin had been completely stripped off and every bone in its body had been removed.
As the door clicked shut on the horror behind it, he knew two things. One, Rico wasn’t killed by a prisoner or a guard. And two, Xander had finally come home.
Chapter 13 - Someone to Watch Over Me
Xander and Numbers were both in a terrific mood as they left Building B. Xander had himself a brand new eye patch and a brand new mission. A mission he had experience in. Something that he knew how to do. Numbers was chattering on about never having had a real job in his entire life and how excited he was to be going to spend every day with Jackie.
“See, me and Jackie, we was cellies the last time I was on the inside. I was hoping we could be housed together when I got rolled up this time, but when I got here they told me he was already sick. And now it’ll be like we’re cellies again! We can do stuff together like play cards and chess and I can bring him his lunch and--”
Xander had walked several feet before he realized that Numbers wasn’t beside him. He turned around and couldn’t help but laugh at the comical look of surprise on Numbers’ face, which included the raised eyebrows and mouth in a perfect O. “What’s up, man?” he asked, trying to curb his laughter.
“What about CK? What am I gonna do about CK?”
Xander forced his smile away and gripped Numbers’ shoulder. “Hey. I wasn’t lying to Jackie back there. We got each other’s back, right? I won’t let anything happen to you.”
Numbers looked desperate. “But how? How are you gonna protect me?”
Xander smiled at him again. “It’s what I do.”
They could hear Two Tear yelling as they approached Building 5. As soon as they passed through the door, the muffled shouts became clear.
“You can’t fucking do this, you fuckin’ motha-fuckers! He’s mine! He’s mine! You gave him to ME, Teeter! You can’t take him away now, it’s not fair! Come on up here, Tit! Come up here and face me, motha-fucker!” And so on.
The action was unfolding on the second tier. To the right, Spike, Gator, and BigBob stood outside cell 42, looking like a formidable wall with arms crossed and stone faces. On the left side of the second floor porch, Two Tear was trying to push his way out of his own house, but was being held back in the doorway by two large C.O.s, each pushing the prisoner back with their nightclubs, one held at the skinhead’s chest, the other at his neck. C.O. Teeter remained on the ground floor, cowering in his glass hamster cage.
Finally, Two Tear bellowed a series of grunts and pushed hard on the nightsticks holding him. One of the C.O.s went flying backwards, hitting his back on the walkway railing, and almost toppling over. The other C.O. stepped into a fighting stance and swung the end of his nightclub up, colliding into Two Tear’s chin. Blood splattered the doorway as the skinhead flew back into his house. Both C.O.s disappeared into the cell, there was a series of wet smacks and painful howls, then nothing.
The C.O.s soon came back out and slid the door closed behind them. One made a weird hand gesture down to Teeter. There was an thunk as cell 27’s lock was secured. As the guards descended the left stairs toward the Tit’s cage, Xander and Numbers took the right stairway up to cell 42.
When they reached their friends, Spike stepped up beside Xander and gripped his elbow gently. “Well, that went smoothly,” Spike grinned.
At the touch, Xander felt a comfort spread through him, replacing an unease he hadn’t even known had been there. For just a moment he was intensely disappointed that the two of them were not alone in their house, where Xander could quench this strong desire to touch him back. Xander’s skin began to burn, starting at his elbow where Spike still had his hand on him. By the time he felt his face start to go red, he had to step away, ending their contact. But he smiled at Spike as he did so, hopefully reassuring him that the touch was good and welcome. Spike nodded that he understood.
Stepping into cell 42, Xander found the guppy curled up on the bare top bunk, back firmly pressed against the wall and the same look of panic that he had seen earlier in the day. Xander turned to the others and asked if they could step out and give them some privacy. Spike told him they would be in Numbers’ house.
As soon as they left, Xander crawled up to the top bunk, sitting cross-legged as far from the guppy as possible. “I realize that sounded bad, me saying that I wanted to be alone with you. You need to know that I will never hurt you. You’re safe. Under the protection of me and my friends, and we’ll do everything we can to make sure you’re not hurt again. Do you believe me?”
The guppy’s look didn’t change. His lips were pursed shut like they’d been super-glued, and for a moment Xander thought that they might have been.
“That’s okay, you don’t have to believe me. Will you at least tell me your name?”
He stayed quiet for several minutes, waiting for the guppy to fill the silence. Finally the boy unsealed his lips and whispered, “P-pin?”
“No. Not the name Two Tear gave you. Your real name.”
“B-but he said th-that was my name now.”
“Doesn’t matter what he said. You do not belong to him or anyone else. What’s your name?”
The guppy blinked a few times, then slowly sat up, back still against the wall and arms wrapped around his knees. “Justin. Justin Schulman.”
“Nice to meet you. I’m Xander Harris.” He held out his hand, but the boy looked at it with confusion, so he pulled it back. “How old are you, Justin?”
“Eighteen,” he answered quietly, biting his lip. “My birthday was last week.”
“You were tried as an adult?” Justin nodded. “What was the charge?”
The panic that had been dissipating from Justin’s face flashed back for a moment, then fell away again. “Second degree murder.”
“I’m familiar with that charge. Got mine knocked down to manslaughter, though.”
Justin nodded, then added. “Two counts.”
Xander was shocked, but he hoped not visibly. This little boy had been convicted of killing two people. Xander knew better whether to ask if he really did it. Guilt and innocence were the same in here.
“Listen, we’ll show you the way things are around here, but there’s just one rule that you need to remember. Never go anywhere on your own. Not to the showers, not to the laundry, nowhere. You understandin’ what I’m sayin’?”
Justin gulped hard. “Yes.”
“Good!” Xander brightened. “Let’s go meet the rest of the gang.”
Later in the mess hall, their usual dinner of four had grown into seven. Along with Xander, Spike, Numbers and Gator sat Justin, BigBob, and Jesus, who had joined them in Numbers’ house earlier that day. Justin had stuck very close to Xander during the walk to dinner and was now sandwiched between him and BigBob on the skinny bench, gulping down his food like he hadn’t eaten in days.
Jesus seemed to be fascinated with how Justin was eating. “You gotta slow down, ese. No one wants the phrase ‘choked to death on turkey loaf’ in their obituary, you understandin’?”
Justin looked up from his tray and grinned a big silly food-filled grin. That cracked everyone up, but as the hysterics died away, a heavy laughter continued to boom, drawing attention to the gang of skinheads looming at the end of their table. CK, of course, stood up front, with the rest of the Car spread out behind him. Once CK was sure all eyes were on him, he stopped laughing abruptly, focused his gaze directly on Xander, and said, “Two Tear is dead.”
Justin did his best to disappear behind BigBob’s girth. Jesus and Spike stood up slowly, muscles tensed and glaring at the group behind CK. The news of Two Tear’s death was not a surprise to them. They had watched the body being carried away on a stretcher from Numbers’ crowded house.
Unimpressed with CK’s announcement, Xander ignored him and continued to eat. Everything on the table bounced as the Car leader slammed his hands down on the hard plastic surface. “You hear me, Harris?! I think you best be listening when I’m talkin’!”
Xander gently set down his spork and pushed himself up from his seat. “CK, you are one loud fucking Nazi, and I can’t help but hear you when you’re screaming at me. There’s a difference between hearing you and listening to you. You’re right, I’m not listening. Because just as what happens with my friends is none of your business, what happens to you and your merry band of bitches is none of mine. Two Tear is dead. Which, as far as I’m concerned, just means the world is finally rid of yet another evil demon. Now, I’m trying to enjoy my turkey loaf with the company of people who actually matter. You can leave now.” He sat back down, picked up his spork and dug into his apple-mush cobbler dessert.
Spike and Jesus sat down as well, and within a minute, Xander’s gang were all eating again. CK banged his fists on the table once more, but was promptly ignored. Xander snuck a glance over at Spike whose shoulders had begun to shake. To his great relief, however, he saw that the shaking was due to Spike trying to suppress a pretty serious giggle. Soon, he gave up the fight, and a loud guffaw escaped Spike’s mouth. That outburst got everyone else going, and soon the seven of them were in complete hysterics again.
When Xander finally took a moment to check on his nemesis, CK and the Car were gone.
After dinner, on the way back from the mess hall, Xander told Spike that he need to talk with him about something in private, and explained to everyone else that they would see them tomorrow. Justin looked terrified, but Xander reassured him that BigBob was a good man and would look out for him. The boy wasn’t completely convinced, but Xander figured one night of peace would curb his doubts.
The plan was to get Spike alone so Xander could tell him about Rico and the beastie menace. The plan was to form a mini-Scooby meeting, rally the troops, such as they were. They had a Big Bad to slay, so there was no time to waste. Anyway, that was his intention.
Spike entered their house first and Xander followed, sliding the door closed behind him. He immediately stepped up behind Spike and wrapped his arms around his waist. The contact was at once soothing and exhilarating. Spike grasped the arms as they slid around him and sighed heavily when Xander placed a soft kiss on his collar, just barely scraping his skin.
Xander stiffened a little, unsure of why he had just done that. But Spike leaned back into him and he relaxed again, enjoying the comfort that touching Spike gave him and trying not to analyze it too much. Instead he remembered his purpose. “Spike, there’s this thing,” he started.
But just then Spike turned around in his arms and the blue of his eyes flooded over Xander, drowning his thoughts and taking his breath. Xander was lost for what seemed like forever in the dimension of Spike’s eyes, before he was finally able to say, “How do you do that?”
Spike looked honestly confused. “Do what?”
“Make me forget. Forget what I was going to say, where I am,” Xander’s forehead fell against Spike’s, “forget how to breathe.”
They were quiet for several minutes. Their silence spread from them like a bubble until all the chatter in Building 5 was pushed away. Xander could have sworn that the only sound was their hearts beating.
When Spike finally spoke, his voice echoed in Xander’s ears. “You and me, Xander, this is the way it’s supposed to be. Right here and now. However you got here, and whyever I got here, we’re supposed to be here, together. I need you here. I don’t know why, but it feels right.” Spike slipped his hands from Xander’s hips up his back and pulled him in close for a tight hug.
As comforted and warm as Xander felt, he was also afraid. He was afraid of what he wanted. His hands started shaking as he caressed Spike’s back. Unable to comprehend what he desired, his fear transcended into being terrified of losing what he had. At this point, he didn’t want to imagine not being able to touch Spike. Not being near him. Xander had to agree with his cellie - this was right. It was like all of their experiences, both together and separate, had brought them here, to this time and place.
But, for Xander at least, it wasn’t just about being there for each other. For a reason that he couldn’t fathom, Xander needed to feel Spike, to be touching him, always. And even though it appeared Spike needed this same thing, Xander was still very unsure of what it all meant.
He kept telling himself that it was all about comfort and feeling safe. But his growing erection was telling him otherwise. Could this possibly be about…sex? His brain finally said the word. But as it did, he was also bombarded with thoughts of, This is Spike! He couldn’t possibly want this. From me. Although the hardness pressing into his own was contradicting that thought. Still, he couldn’t wrap his mind around it.
Spike started kissing the side of Xander’s neck with soft slow pecks. Xander wanted to say, More, please. He wanted to grab Spike’s head and press their lips together, initiating the kiss his body was craving.
But the Nevada desert had turned to quicksand, and their bubble had stolen the air he needed to speak. The pecks on his neck became wet as Spike mouthed Xander’s skin, licking and gently sucking at his pulse and jaw. Xander heard groaning and realized it was coming from his own throat. His own fingers were clutching at Spike’s short hair.
And then, right then, when Xander’s brain should not have been working at all, considering all blood flow had traveled south, he was hit with an image of Rico’s muscles pooling boneless on a metal slab and his stupid idiotic mouth chose to voice the most inappropriate word at that moment. “Demon,” Xander whispered.
A blast of cold air hit his front and the sounds of the prison slammed back into his ears like a car wreck. He was momentarily off balance, and when he opened his eye, Spike was as far across the cell as he could get, back against the sink and arms crossed tight over his chest.
The hurt on Spike’s face was crushing. “What the fuck did you call me?” he rasped out, anger masking pain.
Xander backpedaled the best he could. “No! No, no, I didn’t mean, I wasn’t, I was thinking about something else.”
“About something else?”
“No, no, I mean, I wasn’t thinking about you. No. I mean, I was, really, my mind just wandered for a second. Just a second. Please, Spike, I didn’t mean you.”
Spike’s expression didn’t change as he stepped toward Xander, stopping about a foot away. Without saying a word, Spike took Xander’s hand and placed the palm against his chest. Xander felt a pounding just under the skin. Spike’s heart, which had been dead for over a century, beat fast and rhythmically in the ex-demon’s chest.
Xander stared at the spot his hand was touching, then his eyes shifted up to meet Spike’s. The ex-demon’s face was expressionless, a look Xander was unfamiliar with. They continued to gaze at each other until Xander felt Spike’s heart slow down to a normal pace.
Spike let go of Xander’s hand and stepped away again. His face remained blank as he asked, “So, was there something you wanted to tell me?”
Xander stood stupidly in the center of their house, hands at his sides, and ridiculous boner still pressing against his jeans. “Um. Yeah.” He shoved his useless hands into his pockets. He made a point of standing up straighter and feigning the confidence he had developed in the last several years. “A demon got Rico. Took his skin and bones. I have a feeling he isn’t the first victim, but I don’t have anything to back that up just yet. We have to do something.”
As Xander stood there straight as a pole, Spike suddenly slumped like his spine had disappeared and had to grab the sink to hold himself up. Before Xander could make a move toward him, though, Spike staggered sideways and sat hard on his bunk. He squeezed his eyes shut, and Xander could tell he was struggling to control his quickening breath.
After a minute, Xander joined him on the bunk, sitting close, but not too close. Spike finally looked up at him, misery in his eyes. “I can’t do it, Xander. I can’t go back.”
Xander grabbed Spike’s hand and his cellie looked startled for a moment, but then stared directly into Xander’s eyes, ready for the speech. Xander didn’t disappoint. “Spike. You never left. Okay, maybe you’re a little out of practice, but this isn’t a job that you just quit.”
“Sure it is. I’m not a slayer. No calling, no mystical heritage. I’m just a man.”
“No. You’re wrong. Men like you and me, we know the way of things. That means that we have a responsibility. Our own calling. Our own purpose. When we turn our backs on that, people die.”
Spike shrugged. “So people die. What makes you think we have the power, or the right, to stop that? The world works a certain way, Xander. It makes no sense that we would be part of fate’s master plan.”
“It makes every kind of sense! There are two kinds of evil in the world. There is human evil. A badness that exists in people like Hitler and Saddam Hussein and CK. That evil is countered by goodness. Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Giles. Anne. Then there is mystical evil. The Master, Glory, Angelus, all powered by The First. They need their own balance. And there aren’t and will never be enough Slayers in the world. That leaves a select few to make their own lives mean something. You and me, Spike. Don’t you realize the kind of power we have? We help negate both kinds of evil. We have good hearts to counter human evil. And we have strong minds, knowledge, to counter demonic evil. That’s why we’re here. And if you ever turn your back on that -- they win.”
Spike raised a hand and smoothed his fingers across Xander’s cheek. Then without pretense or warning, he leaned forward and pressed his lips against Xander’s.
Xander accepted the kiss for what he knew it was. A coming together. An agreement. Solidarity. He felt Spike’s fear in that kiss and wanted to wrap up Spike’s soul with his own and make all the badness go away. But he knew that would take time, and right now Spike just needed reassurance that he wouldn’t be left alone. That was something that Xander could give him.
They broke the chaste kiss at the same time and Xander maneuvered them so they were lying down, Xander on his back, and Spike curled at his side. Spike wrapped an arm around Xander’s waist and laid his head on Xander’s chest.
The two demon-hunters fell asleep like that, wrapped in warmth and protection, Xander’s heart beating against Spike’s ear. In this time and space, they were safe.
The next morning, before the door was unlocked, Spike and Xander came up with a simple game plan to get more info about the recent deaths that took place in Ely. Numbers' new position in the Infirmary would be a help, and Gator was good for gathering info from both inmates and guards. Spike would attempt to document all their research, and Xander knew that it was time to call Giles. Although getting phone time was a challenge, as the phones always had a line at least ten-inmates deep and once you got to a phone, you only had ten minutes a day to talk. So this was going to take some time.
The informal gang met up on the front porch on the way to breakfast, and Xander fell into the habit of listening to Numbers' account of what had happened in the nine hours or so since he had seen him last. A voice floated up over the din of voices in the building. “Harris! Hey, Harris, get your worthless ass over here!”
Xander and Spike changed direction, and worked their way through the crowd to Teeter’s hamster cage. When they arrived at the little open window, The Tit looked Spike up and down and rolled his eyes, then turned toward Xander as he said, “C.O. Teeter. What can I do for you this morning?”
The Tit handed Xander a piece of green paper. “Looks like the Warden found a use for you. Report to the law library after breakfast.”
“What?” Xander quickly scanned the paper. It was a job assignment.
“Jesus, you’re as stupid as you look. Didn’t you use to work at some school, or something? Thought you could read. I’ll spell it out for you. You’ll be working at the law library. Report to Building D after breakfast. Ask for Otis Walker. He’ll be supervising you.”
“A job?” Xander turned to Spike who just shrugged.
“Read the paper, Harris.” Teeter sat back down in his creeky chair and hit the button on his desk, slamming the window to his cage shut. Xander folded the paper and stuffed it in his pocket, then he and Spike continued on to the mess hall.
Breakfast was uneventful. Numbers did his final drug run in the cafeteria, as he was planning on telling CK later that day that his new job at the infirmary would cause his early retirement as Yard Trick. Xander reassured him that he and the rest of the gang would be there to back him up.
Xander read over his job assignment a few times, but it said nothing more than what Teeter had told him. The green paper was also a pass to get into Building D, but it was only for himself, not Spike. The gang arranged for Spike to accompany Gator in Building 5’s store, in an unofficial capacity of course, which would help in the demon research. Xander and Spike would have to have a conversation later that night concerning what, if anything, to tell the gang about the demonic menace.
A short time later, Spike and Gator walked Xander to the administration building that housed the law library. Still confused about what brought on this sudden assignment, Xander reluctantly said goodbye to his friends, and entered his new job.
He only had to pass by one C.O. before he got to the library, which had the same gray metal doors and convenient block letting as the infirmary. As Xander pushed open the double doors, he was hit with a wave of nostalgia that smelled like history and mold. The library seemed larger inside that it should have been. Two stories of stacks, containing rows and rows of large books with dark blue spines that looked exactly the same. An eerie quiet rang in his ears that reminded him of his Spike-bubble, but the air was cool and dusty.
“Hello,” he called out and expected to hear the word echoed back at him, but instead the sound fell dead in the room.
He heard a creek to his left and turned toward a long work desk, complete with a computer and general office-paraphernalia. Behind the desk, a man stood up and extended his hand. “Alexander Harris, I presume.”
Xander stepped up to the desk and shook the man’s hand. He was an average-sized black man, perhaps in his mid-sixties, though that was just a guess. His hair was peppered gray and he held himself with an air of dignity that Xander was unfamiliar with in this place. “Yes. I’m Harris.”
“Pleased to meet you. Welcome to Ely State Prison Law Library. Where boring books come to die.”
Xander matched the man’s polite grin and they released their handshake. That’s when Xander noticed they were wearing similar clothes. Worn blue denim with exposed slightly off-white undershirt. He was a little confused. “You’re Otis Walker? My supervisor?”
“You’re an inmate.”
“Of course. You think a civilian would want this job?”
Xander shrugged. “Can you tell me why they assigned me here?”
“They didn’t. I requested you.”
“I’ve been hearing about you. You’ve made a name for yourself. When I found out about your little field trip yesterday, I felt it was time we meet. So I pushed the paperwork through. And here you are.” As Walker spoke, Xander could hear an odd accent slip into his speech, but he couldn’t quite place it.
“Alright, I’m lost. What field trip? Listen, it’s not good to be caught off guard here, Walker, so why don’t you start from the beginning.”
Walker sat back down behind his desk and folded his hands into his lap. “From the beginning is a very long time ago, Harris. But I guess we have to start somewhere. How about this. We can start by you addressing me properly. Call me Watcher.”
tbc in Chapter 14 - Exposition Song (and Dance)