Title: Cold Comfort
Author: babies stole my dingo (agilebrit)
Fandom: Angel
Rating: PG
Words: 981
Disclaimer: Joss is the genius behind these characters; I am but a lowly follower. I make no money from any of this, so please don't sue me.
Written for: LJ Community Firstlines1000's Challenge #26: "The room smelled of stale cigarettes and beer."
Notes: Spike and Illyria, post NFA.
The room smells of stale cigarettes and beer. I wrinkle my nose as I awaken. The sensation of a soft cloth bathing my face is pleasant, however, and I lie there for a moment before memories send me leaping off the bed into a defensive posture.

"Whoa, Bluebird. Calm down. No danger here. Not yet, anyway."

Spike's familiar accent breaks through my momentary panic. He stands beside the door, looking at me warily, and I recognize my surroundings as the bedroom in his apartment. A pair of candles on the dresser suffuse the room in a soft glow, and darkness at the small, high window tells me it is still night. "Where are the others?" I ask.

The muscles in his jaw work before he grinds the words out. "They didn't make it. I grabbed you and skipped, otherwise you'd be lying there dead too. There were too many. 'He who fights and runs away lives to fight another day,'" he concludes ironically. "Bad doggerel, but there's truth in it."

"You abandoned them." Not a question or an accusation, just a statement.

"They were dead. What's left of Angel will fit in an ashtray, and Gunn lasted about five soddin' minutes longer than you said he would. Nothing I could do for them, except survive and come at the Senior Partners some other way, later."

"You took the coward's way out." Now I am accusing him.

"Too bloody right I did. Rather be a live dog than a dead lion, pet. The sooner you learn that lesson, the longer you'll live. Besides, I prefer to think of it as a 'strategic retreat.' Hard to fight when you're a big pile of dust."

"You are injured." My gaze takes in his torn and bloody clothes and his obviously broken arm.

He barks out a humorless laugh. "Nothing wrong with your eyes. I'll heal."

"As will I." I tilt my head. "You should rest. You are tired, and you need sustenance."

His legs buckle a little, and I see that he was holding himself up by sheer willpower. Across the room in a flash, I seize him before he can fall to the floor and half-carry him over to the bed. I deposit him there, gently for me, and he sits with his head between his knees, gasping in useless oxygen. He is obviously injured more badly than it seemed at first glance. Suddenly worried lest I find myself completely alone in this still-alien world, I search the apartment for the blood I know he needs, finding one lonely bag in the refrigerator.

He drains it in just a few seconds, but does not look any better to my concerned scrutiny. "Spike?"

He puts his hand up. "I'll be all right, luv. Just gotta rest." He collapses over onto his side, still breathing heavily.

"You need more blood. I will bring you some." I must do something. Anything. Inaction is suffocating me. The blow to my head that rendered me unconscious has made me achy and restless and tired all at once. I do not like the sensation.

"This time of night? I'll last until morning..." He trails off and closes his eyes.

I assess his condition. The half-breeds of this time and place are weaker than those of mine, more human, less demonic. This one, especially so. I briefly contemplate going out and finding him a source of human blood, which, if I recall correctly, would heal him more quickly than animal blood. His wounds are not mortal, however, so I subside. I feel there is some task I should do for him still. He looks terrible--shivering in his thin shirt, still bleeding from several wounds. He did, after all, save my life, and that fact makes him worthy of my regard.

Very well. I sit on the bed next to him and pick up the cloth he was using to bathe my forehead. The shirt is destroyed anyway, so I tear it from his body, ignoring his feeble protest and rolling him over onto his back as I do so. His pale flesh is crisscrossed with cuts, welts, and bruises, and I marvel that the puncture wound above his heart left him in a non-dusty condition. I begin with that, since it is still bleeding. He flinches and moans a little, and I make the soothing noises I imagine a human would make in the same situation.

His breathing slows. Why is he breathing? He is a vampire; he requires no air. I continue to tend the injuries on his torso, and his breathing gradually stops altogether. I wish to work on his back, and I am sure that his legs also require attention, as his jeans are in sadly tattered condition, but I am loathe to move him. The shell's memories tell me that moving a person hurt this badly is not a good idea.

He still shivers. Vampires shouldn't shiver. The narrow bed will hold us both, and my high body heat may help him. I tell myself that it is simply out of consideration for his comfort that I lie on the blanket and pull him close. Certainly I have suffered no bereavement this day--these puny humans, with their demanding and confusing emotions, meant nothing to me. I need no solace from this half-conscious half-breed, who grasps my waist as a drowning man would. I rest my cheek on the wild curls that have escaped from their prison of hair gel and tell myself that he is the one who needs consolation; that he is the one whose bonds to his friends were broken by death; that his spirit, as well as his body, is the one that suffers. I do not wish for vengeance, do not feel grief, or rage, or loss.

Yes. That is what I tell myself as tears fall from my eyes.