Stitches and Scars
She didn't know where she was, or how she'd gotten there. The only thoughts that seemed to course through Roxanne's memory were the sounds of gunfire, knives slashing, and screaming...so much screaming. There was also blood...rivers of red she'd never thought she would see in her lifetime. And then the running. Roxanne seemed to run from just about everyone and everything. Even when she was running toward the people who had pretty hefty bounties on their heads, it was just another way of fleeing from the choices she'd made, what had happened to her over the years. The consequences of which might never let her go.
Her eyes were still closed – they were too heavy to open – but Roxanne had the feeling she was lying on a mattress different than the one she'd grown accustomed to. She was not in her room, and she knew it. For a moment, she felt too wary to even move. But she felt a pair of hands lifting and bending her leg toward her. And it stung, sharply. Roxanne instantly remembered she'd been stabbed there, and the sting caused a moan to escape her lips.
"Oh shoot!" she heard someone hiss. That was enough to cause her to react, to try and pull herself up. Roxanne was quickly stopped when that same pair of hands grabbed her and held her firmly around her waist. But that caused a new memory to spark in her mind, one that had been the source of sleepless nights and random nightmares throughout the last year. It had been very similar to what was happening now. A dark room. Strong hands on her waist. Someone trying to make her stay where she didn't want to be. Instead of moaning, Roxanne screamed. And instead of just moving, she thrashed wildly, desperate to escape the history that was now repeating itself.
Suddenly she felt a hand on her mouth, forcing her to open her eyes – even if only slightly – to see who was doing this to her. She found herself looking up at a shadowy face and a pair of dark eyes that she had seen before. And not the ones that she thought would be there. While she'd seen this person before, it wasn't the one she imagined would be there. It made her stop trying to fight him, but she was still afraid of who he was and what he might do to her.
For a moment, he just stared at Roxanne with a serious face while she continued to breathe rapidly, his hand still over her mouth. "Listen to me," he then said, trying to regain control. "I know it hurts. But you're just gonna have to bear with me. So just calm down, and go back to sleep."
Her breathing and pounding pulse started to slow, but Roxanne still didn't do what he said. Part of her didn't want to give him what he wanted just to spite him. But another, stronger part, it seemed, didn't think she had any other options. She had been stabbed, and it appeared this guy was offering her help. But could she trust him? Could she now trust anyone ever again? The thought made her want to thrash again, but she didn't want to bring that memory back again.
When it became apparent that Roxanne wasn't going to fall back asleep on her own, the man with messy hair rolled his eyes and reached for something. He then lifted Roxanne's head and said, "Drink this." The tip of what felt like a bottle touched her lips. Not knowing if it was poison or God knew what – and just now deciding not to care – Roxanne drank a bittersweet liquid until she felt her head begin to cloud again. And before she knew it, she was out again like a wet candle.
When Roxanne once again felt herself coming to, she still lay on the unfamiliar mattress, but no one was holding her. Her eyelids still felt heavy, but less than before. Taking the chance, she slowly opened them. The room was still dark, but when she looked to the left she saw a soft stream of light coming through a small curtained window just below the ceiling. There was a musty smell. Apparently she was in an old basement that hadn't been used in a while. But she hadn't ignored the sense that she wasn't alone. Slowly turning her head, Roxanne saw the man she'd recognized before. He'd taken off his suit jacket, leaving only his shirt and tie, and was sitting on a chair against the wall and lighting a cigarette. After he blew his own cloud of smoke which blended eerily with the invading sunlight, Roxanne finally got the nerve to speak.
"I figured you'd do something like that," she managed to smirk, her voice strained.
The man – Spike, was it? – looked toward her with surprised eyes, and then shrugged. "Who doesn't enjoy a good smoke every now and then?" he asked sarcastically. "And besides, only I can choose where and when I can have one."
Spoken like a spoiled child, Roxanne thought, though she didn't say so. Instead, she only rolled her eyes and tried to sit up on her elbows, when a sharp pain shot through her leg, causing a hiss to escape through her clenched teeth.
"Ah, I wouldn't do that," Spike raised his hand before pointing to her leg. "You don't want to loosen the stitches. Oh, that reminds me, I need to change the bandage."
While he turned on the ceiling light, Roxanne lowered her leg, and her eyes widened when she saw her injured thigh was wrapped with a now red strip of formerly white cloth. But what made her heart race even more was that the pants leg had been cut short. Instantly, her face reddened at the idea that Spike had done more than he should have. Turning her face to him, she only managed to ask, "Did you...?!"
As if amused by her mortification, he smirked. "If it'll keep you from having a heart attack, I only cut your pants leg, that's all. Now lie still, unless you want to pop the seam that took forever for me to do."
Roxanne only sighed, reluctantly, and silently, admitting he was right. She laid back and propped her arms under her head to watch what Spike was doing. With surprising gentleness, he lifted her leg onto a nearby cinder block and slowly unwrapped the bandage. The sewn-up stab wound looked just about as ugly as Roxanne imagined, with dried blood surrounding the stained stitches. Spike took a bottle of whiskey – was that what he gave her earlier? – and poured some on a clean rag before proceeding to clean and disinfect the wound. It still stung, but not as much as before, so Roxanne stayed stock still.
"Where did you learn to do that?" she asked. Or was this just another skill in a seemingly endless list?
"Well, I'm not a doctor," Spike replied. Well, there was that. "But I've learned a thing or two about stab wounds and how to treat them. Yeah, you took a pretty nasty one."
Despite the explanation, Roxanne frowned. "You are officially the weirdest guy I've ever met."
Again, in spite of her expectations, Spike smiled. "I take that as a compliment. You gotta admit, we're all a little weird to some degree. Like those 'gentlemen' I had the pleasure of meeting last night."
Roxanne widened her eyes again, even more so than earlier. Her heart began to pound at the memory, and to her dismay, Spike noticed. "You know those men. Do they work for your ex-boyfriend?"
"What makes you think I'm gonna tell you?" Roxanne asked, mustering up the courage to bring up the most important question on her mind. "Come to think of it, tell me why I should trust you at all."
Spike momentarily stopped what he was doing, and looked at her with a gaze she immediately remembered. The one that made her freeze where she lay. "Well, I don't want to rub it in, but think about what else I could've done with you. I could've just left you with those goons, decided you weren't worth the bounty after all. I could've taken you to a hospital. You would've gotten better care but you also would've been found out. But I didn't do either. I went out of my way to bring you here – an old basement beneath my apartment building by the way – and decided your leg was worth saving. If I were you, I'd probably trust me at least a little bit."
Roxanne had to bite her lip to keep her mouth from opening. As much as she hated herself to admit it, this guy, this random bounty hunter, was right. If it hadn't been for him, she could've bled her life out. Worse, she could've been on her way back to the place she'd been running from for so long. This guy was such an enigma it almost drove her crazy. Who was he to defy her expectations every chance she tried to mentally pin him down? Oh, yeah, she remembered. The one who saved her life when he so easily could've done otherwise.
"Now I have the feeling we're gonna be together for awhile," Spike went on. "I don't like it, and I'm sure you don't either. But if we're gonna survive even one more day in this madcap crazy town, you're gonna have to let me know what we're up against."
For a moment, Roxanne didn't know what to say. Part of her wanted to do anything other than revisit the lowest point of her life after she'd been trying so hard for so long not to. But the words Spike had just now spoken kept repeating in her head. He himself said he didn't want to be in this position, but he had to have had some reason for helping her like he did when he could've just turned her in. There was really nothing for him to gain for doing the former. Unless...this was all a trap. Information he could use to turn her in later.
Yet a third part of Roxanne wanted to practically spew the words she found she desperately wanted to speak to anyone who would listen. To anyone who would care. And though Spike didn't seem like one who'd care that much, it definitely looked like he'd listen. And since he was a bounty hunter who'd set his sights on her, it seemed more than likely he knew who she was running from. And that alone was already setting her on edge. But still, despite a thousand and one oppositions that seemed to flood her mind, Roxanne took a slow, deep breath.
"Well, for starters, you're gonna have to know it's all pretty crazy," she began, each word an effort to get out.
After what seemed like forever, Spike's smile slightly returned. "I've seen a lot of crazy things, Miss Sadler. Believe me, you're pretty low on the scale."
Well, wasn't he a gentleman? But Roxanne sighed again. If the sentence before had felt like a trek, the words that followed felt like going up a mountain while Spike wrapped a new bandage around her thigh.
"I used to live on Earth, on the North American continent. When I was nine, I lost my parents in a fire, and for a while the police couldn't find me, 'cause I didn't want to go to an orphanage. I lived on the streets, scrounging for food, sleeping wherever I could. But then I tried to steal food from a guy named Red Xylander. He caught me, called the cops, and off to an orphanage I went."
Spike raised a curious eyebrow at the name she mentioned. Maybe he recognized it? But he didn't interrupt her.
"But then, what do you know, Red decided to adopt me. So I moved into his place, and before long, he began teaching me the tools of his trade, which was bounty hunting. He was tough but fair, making me do no more or less than what I was capable of, which, at the time, I didn't think there was much of. He wasn't the most affectionate guy but, he wasn't abusive. And by the time I was sixteen, I'd already caught my first bounty."
Spike blinked twice, making Roxanne wonder what was going through his mind, but he seemed to quickly go back to listening to her again.
"Then, when I was eighteen, I found myself being approached time and again by this one guy. Kept saying I was so beautiful and kept asking me out, but he creeped me out, so I said no everytime. I even threatened him. Told him I'd call the cops... Until I learned his name was Viper, and that he was the leader of the Black Snake syndicate... That was the day he burned Red's and my home down, and kidnapped me."
Again, Spike raised an eyebrow that said he recognized that name, and he seemed to be listening more intently now.
"He took me to his headquarters, and said I was his girlfriend now. I said I'd never be his lapdog, and sleeping with him was the last thing I wanted him. But he said he always got what he wanted, and that I'd warm up to him, eventually. For the next year he kept trying to get me in his bed, and I kept refusing him. Until... one night..." Not wishing to look at him anymore, and feeling the sting of the tears in the back of her eyes, Roxanne turned her head toward the wall on her right and forced herself to speak. "He tried to rape me."
Spike said nothing at first, and she only then realized he was probably done wrapping the bandage around her leg. "What'd you do?" he asked.
Roxanne sighed again before she continued, keeping the tears out of her voice. "I did what anyone else would've done. I grabbed a nearby weapon, which, in this case, was a knife, and I literally stabbed him in the back."
"I think I would've liked to see that," Spike then said, before going silent again, letting her go on.
"After I did, I ran out as fast I could and didn't look back. For a while, I hid in a town near where we were staying at the time. I thought he wouldn't think to look for me there. I ended up living the same why I did when I was a kid. That is...until Viper located me and let body snatchers take me away."
This time, Spike sighed in an undecipherable emotion. "Yeah," Roxanne said in response. "First it was an orphanage, now it was a madhouse. I guess it was his way to keep an eye on me until I learned my lesson and crawled back to him." To her own surprise, Roxanne let her lips turn up in a slight smirk. "Too bad for him, 'cause I escaped and made it all the way here on Mars. I soon landed a job and a home at Heaven's Gate, and now, here we are."
"Yep," Spike said in agreement, "Who knew?" Roxanne didn't respond this time. She only turned her head back to look at him again. His face was more blank than ever.
"Yeah, but, if he finds me, I...I don't know what he'll do." Feeling the sudden urge to sit up, and not caring what Spike said, Roxanne lifted herself on her elbows until she was finally in a sitting position, legs over the side of the bed. To her surprise, though she didn't look at him, Spike sat down beside her. She could feel him gazing at her during the long silence that followed, until he finally spoke.
"Well, you've definitely gone through a lot in twenty years," he said, about as sympathetic as he seemed capable of.
Feeling the tears now coming on, Roxanne blinked them away before she looked at Spike again. "Yeah, and you're the first person I've ever told."
Spike smiled, and somehow, it made her feel slightly better. "I feel honored. Guess it's my lucky day."
Despite her initial attempts, Roxanne frowned. "Let me make it clear though, I'm making a gamble with you. You say we need each other? Fine. But if you even think about turning me over to the Black Snake, I'll blast you to Kingdom Come and let God or the devil deal with you."
Spike neither frowned nor smiled. "I believe you," he nodded. "I would not want to be at the receiving end of your gun. But here's the catch: You're gonna have to believe me, too. I give you my word. As long as we need to stick together, we will. It's the only way we're gonna get out of here. After that, we can go our separate ways, and you'll never have to see me again."
Roxanne, if she was completely honest with herself, didn't know if she wanted that, but she didn't say. Instead, she nodded back and said, "Alright. We'll get out of here together." And what was already going through Roxanne's mind was how they would and when they would. But she didn't bring that up either, she'd had enough emotional talk for the day. And it seemed her new companion did too.