Chapter 5: Big Empty

Driving faster in my car
Falling further from just what we are
Smoke a cigarette and lie some more
These conversations kill

I was used to getting strange phone calls by now but everyone in the universe gets nervous when the phone rings after 3 AM. I stared at it for a moment before taking a breath and picking it up. "Vicious?" I asked softly, knowing full well it was him and with most likely bad news.

"We're coming over," Vicious yelled into the phone. "Don't go anywhere." There was absolute chaos in the background, not one sound discernable from the others but all of them hostile.

"What's going on?" I shot up to a sitting position, fumbling for the light.

"We fucked up," he said shortly. Pause for gunfire. My foot began jiggling feverishly under the covers.

"Jesus. Are you all right?"

"No...Spike...we're dropping him off," his voice was strained. Panicked even. I immediately hopped out of bed and began pacing around the room. Vicious didn't panic.

"You can't bring him here," I said hurriedly, thinking about the consequences of Spike actually dying in my apartment. "It's too public. There's no way."

"There is no other way. We can't bring him to a hospital, Julia, you know that."

"What about Gerves?" Gerves was the guy. You know. The guy who fixed problems for people like us. There's one in every organization.


My stomach practically dropped to the floor. "Vicious..." I protested. "Julia, please."

If I wanted to argue further I couldn't have. They were already banging at my door. I sighed as I flung the door open and a few men, who weren't looking too hot themselves, carried an unconscious and profusely bleeding Spike into my apartment. They had already bandaged him up but not particularly well. Vicious followed, looking absolutely haggard. "I'm sorry about this but I don't know what else to do," he spoke very quickly and in a tone of voice about two pitches higher than normal.

I struggled not to freak out in the noise and blood that was surrounding me. God, he was practically shaking. That was the first time since I had joined that I was actually afraid. Bringing Spike here was risky. If Vicious was willing to do it then something went terribly wrong. "It's all right," I tried to be reassuring. I looked at Spike's damp, ashen face and found "reassuring" to be a difficult thing to pull off. "Just go. Do what you have to do."

"Vicious we gotta go now!" one of the larger men screamed from behind him.

"Go, go," I repeated. He glanced at Spike one more time before leaning in and kissing me softly on the lips. It was the first semi-public display of affection he had ever afforded me.

"Thank you," he whispered before he ran out of the apartment, door slamming behind him.

I heard the car speed off and then turned to examine my ward. He was shaking slightly and I did my best to re-cover the wound with whatever towels I had lying around. His breathing was so erratic. It looked as though every second was a struggle. I thought briefly of the look on Vicious' face when he came in, the tone of his voice when he spoke and I shuddered. How many others were dead? How many of our comrades were taken out for the sake of business? Spike suddenly convulsed violently for a moment before relaxing again, his face almost chalk white. "You're going to die right here on my sofa, aren't you?" I asked sadly as I brushed one of his thick curls from his forehead.

There was another knock on my door, this one distinctively nosey. "You all right in there?" my landlord squawked. "I heard ruckus."

"I'm fine," I called back, then added, "Thanks for asking." No reason not to be polite.

She waited a few beats before I heard her waddle off my stoop. God, the cops were probably going to be here the next morning. "It's all your fault," I said to the unconscious body next to me. "You and that ridiculous partner of yours."

Spike, obviously, did not respond. It occurred to me in that moment how depressing that silence was, because Spike always had a response. I imagined what it would be like to never hear one of his smart remarks again. To never see him smiling in the rear view mirror. To never watch with amusement as he pulled Vicious back down to Earth when he got carried away. I thought about the others we could have lost, and the things I would miss about them. I thought about the possibility that Vicious might not come back tonight.

I thought about where that would leave me. Alone again. Bored again. Miserable again. It was all I could think about even as I fell asleep in the rocking chair I had originally bought purely for aesthetics, listening to the strained breathing of one of the few friends I had left.



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