He Ain't Heavy (He's My Brother)
I do not own X-Men: Origins or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or the song "He Ain't Heavy (He's My Brother)", and am making no profit.
It wasn't their first fight. With Victor, volatile Victor, it was inevitable that they'd get involved in fights, or start them. It wasn't their first battle. It wasn't even their first war. They'd both lost count of the wars they'd been in, mostly because Jimmy counted some of them as massacres. If he was honest with himself, as he sometimes was on the rare quiet night, so did Victor.
This, however, was the first time he was concerned about his brother's life. Some of the things he'd heard in soldiers' stories he'd brushed aside as fantasy. That was before two of them had grabbed Jimmy off of a night patrol.
Now he didn't know what to think. The stories were all different. Would these monsters try to drink Jimmy's blood? Would they eat his eyes? His entrails? His soul?
He slashed at a nearby tree. He'd lost his brother's scent again! In all their years of travels, this had never happened. Victor snarled and started off into the jungle again.
"You will not find them that way," said a voice to his left. It was a young woman, Asian, with hair cut just below her ears. Victor sucked in a startled breath. "The creatures that took James Logan Howlett, I mean. They don't travel as we humans do, although I am told there will be those who can dance between places like they do in the future, long after I am dead." She spoke perfect English, with only a little accent. She stuck out her hand to Victor. "Chiang Mei Li."
"Victor Creed," Victor replied, shaking her hand. For such a slight little girl, she had a very strong grip. "You know where my brother is?"
"I can help you find him," she said with a nod. "If you promise that, once we do, you'll grab him and run. You must not stay to fight them, Victor Creed."
"They took my little brother!" he said, rage building. "Give me one good reason I shouldn't cut them all down personally."
"I can give you two. Firstly, they have been drugging him, poisoning him these past three days. The faster you can get him away from them, somewhere far away from this jungle, the sooner he can start to recover. I will not lie to you, Victor Creed. Recovery from their poison would be impossible for an ordinary mortal, and it will still be very difficult for your brother, but given time, I believe he will be fine." She looked away. "The other reason is that there is a chance that… that you may lose the fight. I am destined to die by their hands, Victor Creed. Another Slayer will take my place after this night. You, however, have much before you, unless you lose a fight with them; then, the only future for you and your brother would be endless torment as slaves, as sources of food and entertainment," she said, giving Victor the distinct impression that she didn't mean he would be cooking for them and juggling. "You must not allow this future, Victor Creed."
“I’m not afraid of them,” said Victor.
“Perhaps not,” acceded Mei Li. “But you must promise me that you will run from them anyway.”
He thought about his rage. He thought about his pride. He thought about his brother.
“Follow me,” Mei Li said, reading his decision in his expression. She dashed off into the jungle and it was all Victor could do to keep up. They ran for an hour; the sun sank below the tree line, and the bugs came out. They stopped just short of a clearing. Victor could see flames dancing through the tree trunks.
He and Mei Li crawled up to the edge of the clearing and peered in to see what the monsters were doing. The creatures were hissing and writhing in a bizarre dance around the fire. Their bulging purple eyes kept flickering to a pile of rocks in the middle of the clearing. Victor couldn’t see Jimmy anywhere.
Their leader was not naked like the rest of them but wearing clothes – Jimmy’s clothes. He held up a hand. The dance stopped. The creatures’ eyes glittered strangely. He made a sound that was not quite speech, and the creatures surged towards the pile of rocks. The leader made another sound, and they vanished. The pile of rocks had been covering Jimmy, who was lying on the ground, pale and sweating, eyes glittering with fever, like when he’d been sick as a child, although never since.
“Will you be able to get him out on your own?” asked Mei Li.
“Of course. He ain’t heavy,” said Victor. “He’s my brother.”
The chief creature leaned over him and bit Jimmy on the arm, tearing out a chunk of his flesh. Jimmy cried out in pain. Victor saw red.
Mei Li put her hand on his arm. “You promised,” she said.
Victor growled. The chief creature’s bulbous purple eyes snapped to the clearing’s edge where Victor and Mei Li were no longer concealed, and he released a warbling cry. Victor burst forwards and grabbed his brother.
“That way,” cried Mei Li, pointing a sword towards the edge of the clearing. Without pausing to think, Victor bounded towards safety.
It took him two or three hours to escape the jungle, and a further half-hour to reach the camp. Their commanding officer took one look at him and his brother and cleared out a hut for them to use.
"We thought them things'd got you too," said one of the soldiers who had told the stories. "How'd you manage to get him back?"
"I had help. Little girl, called herself Slayer." Jimmy started to shake and Victor wrapped him up in a blanket. "Her name was Mei Li."
"She's dead now." He felt barely a pang of regret at that fact, and marveled that he felt that much. "She said there would be another Slayer." Jimmy's shivers were turning into convulsions. "Get me some rope to tie him down and something for him to bite on."
"What did they do?"
"They poisoned him. Now go!"
The men had seen Victor fight - with his brother and beside him - and thanking God that they and Victor and James were on the same side had become a common thread in most of the soldiers’ nightly prayers. The old soldier who ran for what Victor had requested, the one who brought it back to him, and everyone they told about the incident also thanked their lucky stars that they were not the ones stupid enough to separate the boys from each other.
James' illness, over the next few days, progressed from spasms to hallucinations, and from there to a sleep so deep they were worried he might die in it. On the day Jimmy woke up, weak and disoriented, Victor was visited by an old Asian woman. "You are Victor Creed?" she asked.
Victor sniffed the air. "You're Mei Li's grandmother?"
She smiled. "My little flower did well. She took the whole tribe with her into the next world. She would want you to have this," she said, pulling out Mei Li's sword.
"I wouldn't be able to use it," Victor said.
"Then carry it for a while. Give it to the next Slayer you meet."
Victor nodded solemnly and accepted the sword. Without another word, the old woman walked into the jungle and vanished from sight.
Victor and Jimmy were discharged from service and went to Greece for a few years, because that was as far away from that accursed jungle as Victor could imagine. Victor did find a Slayer there in their second year, and gave her Mei Li's sword, and never thought about her again.