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And Ice For Your Wounded Heart

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"Jesse, come on! Please - I know you're in there!" Xander felt the wall at his back - smelled the earth and iron tang of the vampire. But he could smell Calvin Klein, too, and grape Now'n'Later, and that was Jesse, that was his best friend in the world, that was the first boy he'd ever kissed. That was the vampire, one fist knotted in his shirt, Xander's hand over that fist, trying to make him remember.

 

"It's like - like I'm connected to everything, Xander! I can hear your heart...." Jesse's face - demonic, alien - twisted and subsided and it was just him, just the black-haired boy Xander had seen nearly every day of his life. "Come with me, Xander -"

"But - but this Master - he's gonna destroy everything, Jesse! Help us, just - help us kill him and then - you and me, it'll be like it always was. Please." The stake in Xander's hand was cutting into his palm. Hastily carved, crude and rough, and he could see a drop of blood rolling slowly down to the tip. Jesse saw it too. He leaned forward and put out the tip of his tongue and tasted it. When he looked back up at Xander he was smiling - that wide, Jesse smile, black eyes sparking with laughter and...love.

"You really would. Xander -" The stream of panicked kids running past surged, swirled - and Jesse suddenly fell forward, pushed hard. And the stake slid in, as if he were made of nothing - as if Jesse were made of....

Dust, dust, he's.... Jesse's agonized, horrified face stared at him - his lips moved, 'No!' And then he was dust, collapsing back and down and Xander collapsed with him, the stake clattering to the floor, and Xander sprawled, hands and knees, grit under his palms and in his eyes; making him cry, making him cough.

"Jesse! Oh, God, I'm sorry, I'm sorry...no, no, no -"

"Xander! Come on!" It was Willow, eyes wide and terrified, her sweater ripped and her face bruised, grabbing his arm and hauling him up - yanking him out of the club. Vampires and humans ran through the shadows - Mr. Giles appeared out of them, his glasses askew and his face smudged, looking pleased.

"She did it! She killed the Vessel - the Master is trapped for another century!"

"Go team us!" Willow said, her voice shaky, and Xander wanted to scream.

"I say, Xander - are you alright?" Giles was peering at him, cleaning his glasses on a handkerchief, and Xander drew in a hard, hurting breath.

"J-jesse...I k-killed him. I staked - him." Willow's hands went up to her mouth, 'O' of shock and grief, and he grabbed her and hugged her, feeling her thin arms come around his ribs, feeling dampness on his chest through his shirt, from her tears.

"Oh, that is - that is very unfortunate, Xander, but you must remember -"

 

"- that that wasn't Jesse, it was the thing that killed him. I know. You keep saying that, Mr. Giles, but it... But I think you're wrong!"

"But he was a vampire, Xander!" Buffy snapped. She was irritated - on edge - because Angel was there. Lurking in the shadows of the library and making Buffy's exciting new Slayer senses go right off the scale. Like fingernails on a blackboard, Buffy said.

"I know he was a vampire! But - but he could have been good - he could have - he could have been like Angel!" Angel finally stepped forward, frowning, and Xander drew away. He didn't like Angel. He wasn't sure why - he just didn't. Too much lurking, too many cryptic remarks. And he'd been too scared to come and help them find Jesse. Xander, who'd been hyperventilating from the fear - shaking and sweating and his gut cramping from sheer terror - couldn't forgive him that.

"Xander, there's no way -"

"Look!" Xander got right up in Angels face and wanted to grin when the bigger man flinched a little, frowning. "You got a soul and you're all - helping us, Jesse could have -"

"Xander - my soul was a curse! Some - gypsy sorceress put it back into me - it's not something you can just do!" Angel looked astonished and uneasy, and Xander just wanted to deck him.

"But he was listening to me! He was -"

"No, Xander!" Mr. Giles pulled him around by the arm - shook him a little, his face strained and angry and white. "He wasn't listening - he was trying to trick you! Vampire's are soulless, evil -"

"That's not right, Giles! They do have souls!" Everyone stared in shock, and Xander listened to the echo of his shout die away, but he didn't care. He pulled his arm slowly out of Mr. Giles' grasp and took a step back. When he spoke again, he could feel his chest hitching with coming tears, and his hand was stinging, stinging, stinging where the stake had cut him and the dust had gotten ground in.

Fucking dust, all that's left of my best friend is dust and it's in me and all over me. God, God!

"You stood right here, Giles, and you told us - you told us that the last demon here mixed his blood with a human's blood, and the human had the demon's soul in it then! He had a soul, just not a soul like ours and we could have fixed it!" He was yelling again, and Angel was looking shocked and Giles furious, but what actually stopped him from screaming was Willow, who was crying with her head down on the library table.

"C'mon, Willow. I'm - I'm sorry. Let's go home, okay?"

 

At his house, Xander stood in the doorway to the living room, watching his parents. His mom was slumped over on the couch, her flowered robe open to mid-thigh, her mouth open, too. His dad was in his recliner, a beer-bottle half-slipping from his fingers, a sliver of pallid belly showing between stained t-shirt and baggy boxers.

"I killed Jesse tonight," he said, watching them in the weird, flickering blue of the static of an off-the-air station. "I killed him and he turned to dust and I breathed it. It went in my eyes and in m-my - my hand." Xander watched, and his father twitched - grunted - snored into heavier sleep. "Yeah, that's what I thought you'd say."

Xander went upstairs and bundled his clothes into the trash - got into the shower and scrubbed at himself, over and over, until the water was running cold and he was crying again. But he could still taste the dust on his lips - could still feel it on his skin, and in his eyes. He felt like the stake had gone into his heart, too - splintered and drove in deep and pinned it, dead and unbeating, to his spine. And it hurt, oh God, it hurt.

 

"Wanna have a bite? Before we go and kill the Slayer?" Xander tried to wrench free of Angel's grasp, twisting, but Angel's cold hands held him a little tighter, pinching his neck and cutting off his air.

"He stinks of the Slayer - he's in her little cheering squad, you know." The other vampire - Spike - stood there, a pole in his hand. Idly turning it, twirling it. White, white hair and snow-white skin - black eyebrows and a scar, and Xander couldn't help staring at him. Couldn't help wondering - as he always wondered now - how much of the human that came before was in there.

"I know - that'll make it that much better, don't you think?" Angel yanked Xander's shirt down a little further and Xander scrabbled at him, gagging for air.

"Fuckin' liar," he grated out, and Spike laughed.

"He's got some spine, anyway," Spike said, and Angel laughed too. And then Spike was leaping forward, the pole coming up and driving straight at Angel - straight into his chest. Angel gave a high, shocked bark of pain and flew backwards, his hands coming loose so that Xander went down hard on one knee, gasping.

"C'mon, people, this is not a spectator sport!" Spike yelled, and other vampires came streaming up the hall, heading straight for Angel who scrambled clumsily up and ran.

"You fuck -!" Xander screamed after him, and then was kicking and punching madly as another pair of strong, cold hands grabbed him.

"Settle down now, luv, settle down," Spike said, striding off down the hallway and dragging Xander effortlessly along in his wake. His long leather coat snapped and flared around him, licking over Xander's shins. "Got some questions need answering, and I think you know the answers."

Xander flailed but Spike was as strong as Angel and took almost no notice. The vampire dragged him down the hall and right out of the school, and Xander - bent almost in half, his neck aching from the vise-like grip pinching it - gaped in surprise. A low, black car - old and massive and somehow sinister-looking - crouched by the curb. "'Sides, Dru wanted to meet the boy her Daddy picked out, an' that'd be you."

Dru? Daddy? What the fuck...

"You're - you're just gonna - abandon them? You're not gonna kill Buffy?"

What in hell am I saying?

"Buffy?" Spike yanked him upright and Xander yelped, grabbing at one leather-clad arm, trying to ease Spike's grip. "You mean - the Slayer's name is Buffy?"

"Ow! Yeah. So? What kind of a name is Spike?"

"A name I earned." Spike looked him up and down - leaned over and yanked at the handle on the trunk of the car, lifting it. "Come along, ducks, in you go."

"No fuckin' way -" Xander said, but then Spike hit him and the yawning blackness inside the trunk swallowed him up.

 

Xander woke up in pain. Neck throbbing, wrists on fire, the left side of his face stiff and stinging. Someone was hovering over him - someone dark - and he squinted, licking dry lips.

"Little cuckoo's awake, now - little cuckoo's aaall better," someone purred, cool fingers stroking his forehead and he twitched away - blinked furiously. The face above him slowly swam into focus. A woman - pale and perfect and catlike, her long dark hair loose around her face. She was smiling at him, a soft smile, and there was white lace at her throat and wrists. Xander felt himself smiling back.

"Oh! Spike, look - he smiled at me! They don't ever smile at me!"

Spike? Spike! Oh, fuck, I'm still - she must be -

Xander tried to sit up but his wrists were tied painfully tight, somewhere above his head and he couldn't move. The - room? - was dimly lit, and he couldn't see the other vampire anywhere.

"Is that so, poodle? Show's he's got good taste. You'd make anyone in their right mind smile." The woman preened and Spike was there behind her - black coat taken off, revealing a red, silky-looking shirt open over a black t-shirt. He looked - rumpled - and Xander realized that his white hair was un-gelled and sticking up in spikey tufts. As he watched, the woman ran her fingers through it, smiling.

"My Dru's the prettiest thing there is, don't you think, boy?" Spike asked, and Xander clamped his jaw shut, knowing that whatever came out would probably be either a futile plea for mercy or an ill-considered threat. Silence would be better.

"Make him talk, Spike. I want to hear him say my name." The dark-haired woman - Dru - pouted, and Spike slipped his arm around her - reached down and put his hand - cold hand - flat on Xander's chest, and Xander realized his shirt was gone. For a moment nothing happened and then Spike dug his fingernails in - five lances of white-hot pain - and Xander gasped, trying to curl away.

"Say 'how d'you do, Drusilla?'," Spike instructed softly, and Xander wheezed in a breath.

"H-how d'you do, D-d-drusilla?"

"Dru-sill-a, silly, not D-d-d like a motor-boat." But she laughed, and Spike eased off, letting his hand slip up and cup Xander's sore jaw.

"Good boy, then. Now that you're talking, I've got some questions. Princess, I brought you a lovely treat, why'nt you go up and have it?" Spike purred, and Dru clapped her hands, bouncing a little on the balls of her feet.

"Oh! You always bring me the nicest treats, Spike." She leaned in and kissed him - a long, sensuous kiss, and then danced away, up a flight of stairs. Halfway up she stopped and turned around. "Now Spike - this is very much the cuckoo's egg in the nest. You must be very careful, and tend it just so, and then you'll get a lovely surprise."

"That so, Dru? I'll be careful then, and not crack the shell." Xander watched her go - realized he was lying on a canopy bed, and his arms were tied to the head-rail. His feet were cold, and he wiggled bare toes, wondering where his sneakers were.

Just got those, damnit, won't be getting any more.... Spike watched Drusilla go, a fond smile on his face. The same look that Willow had turned on Xander, countless times, and that Buffy's mother used. A familiar expression. Even through his fear, Xander noticed it.

"Now then," Spike said, and he sat down and swung his feet up onto the bed - barefoot too, Xander noticed - and stretched out beside Xander, pressing his body close all along their lengths. Xander was mortified to feel an erection being pressed solidly into his hip. "Just keep talking, and you'll be fine, luv." Spike smiled at him, lazy smile, and reached out to stroke his chest, making Xander gasp a little when he touched the bloody crescents his nails had left.

"What - what do -?"

"Shhh, shh. Haven't asked a question yet, have I?" Spike reached behind him to a side-table and grabbed a cigarette that had spilled from its pack. He brought it to his lips, and then dug into a pocket for a lighter, grinding against Xander. He lit up, grinning, and blew smoke straight up. Xander couldn't help but look at the long line of the vampire's white throat - at the silvery scar that showed when his shirt fell back, just where shoulder met neck.

"Now, what I want to know is...what exactly were you doin' with Peaches?"

"P-peaches?"

Fruit? What? Is this some secret vampire code? What the hell is he talking about?

"Yes, yes - Peaches. The great souled pouf. Angelus," Spike said, exasperated, blowing a lungful of smoke in Xander's face.

Xander coughed, and the pain in his neck flared. "Oh! Ow. Angel. He - he goes by Angel. He - you know about his soul?"

"Course I know about his soul. Was there when he got it, wasn't I? And then the great dolt went lumbering off into the night, never to be seen again. Well, not for a while," Spike added and tapped ashes over the side of the bed. "So - what's he doin' with you lot?"

"Well, he - he said he was here to help Buffy. To - make up for stuff he did before he g-got his soul back." Xander tried to subtly squirm away from Spike and his hard stomach and harder penis but Spike grinned and lifted his leg- threw it over Xander's thighs, pinning him close and driving his hips forward a little more; back and forth rocking, his thigh rubbing over Xander's groin, and Xander gave a mental groan.

Fuck! I'm sixteen - don't do that, he thought frantically, and Spike seemed to hear him and just pressed a little harder, his eyes going half-shut.

"Now, now, luv. I know it feels good, so just relax. So Angelus is now one of the good guys. Figures." Spike smoked for a moment, his hips just moving, lazy grind, and Xander shut his eyes and tried to will his own growing erection away. "So you know the Slayer. That's odd, don't you think? They're usually the Lone Ranger types."

"When you're best friend gets killed, you kind of wanna help," Xander blurted out, and Spike raised the scarred eyebrow at him, smirking a little.

"Oh, that it? Huh. Got more balls than most, then." Spike took a long drag off his cigarette and flicked the butt away, into the wall. Then he sat up and straddled Xander's hips, running his hands up Xander's ribs to his wrists. His hands were cool and very smooth, his nails painted a lightless black. Xander couldn't stop the small noise of pain that he made when Spike rubbed over the coarse rope wrapped around his wrists. "Hurt, pet?" Spike murmured, and Xander tried to buck him off.

"You know it does, you bastard," he snapped, and Spike laughed softly.

"Yeah. Want me to unite you?" Xander froze, looking up at the pale, pale face that seemed to shimmer above him in the gloom. "Course you want me to. 'Cause it hurts. And I will. If you promise me something, luv."

"Wh-what?" Xander breathed, and Spike smiled, rolling his hips in a slow, obscene grind. He leaned down, inches from Xander's face, and Xander could smell smoke and alcohol and something that was sweet - perfume, maybe, from Drusilla. But also - iron, earth. So like Jesse - exactly like Jesse, and he felt tears hot and unexpected in his eyes. "Promise what?"

"Promise me you'll be nice." Spike purred, and he dipped down lower, and his cool, soft lips just brushed Xander's cheek, smearing the tear-drop there into a cold line. "Mmmm," he hummed, and Xander gasped sharply, his fingers clutching uselessly at the air.

"Promise, I p-promise."

"That's a good boy, then." Spike sat up slowly - reached into his back jeans pocket and pulled out a straight-razor. He grinned at Xander, and then leaned up over him, his crotch inches from Xander's face. Xander turned his head to the side, and heard a low chuckle. Then his arms were falling down, limp and heavy onto the mattress, fire raging through them as the blood rushed to fill starved veins. Spike settled back to his former position and reached up - dragged one of Xander's arms down and started rubbing it.

"But a shame if you lost the use of this, yeah?" he said, and Xander just stared up at him.

"Why - what do you care? Why are you - are you going to kill me? Is this some game? I mean - is that what you do? Angel said -"

"Angel said? What could that ignorant bugger possibly have to say to you about me?"

"Angel said you were - a bad-ass. That you killed everything in your path to get what you w-want." Spike looked down at him, looking surprised, still briskly rubbing Xander's arm.

"That what he said? Well - it's true, most of the time. But sometimes you need to use a bit of subtlety. The Irish aren't known for their subtlety." Spike dropped Xander's right hand and hauled his left across his chest, starting to massage it, and Xander experimentally flexed his hand. It still hurt, and his fingers felt like sausages, but they moved. Moved right into Spike, and brushed against the inside of his knee.

"Getting a little fresh there, luv," Spike said, grinning again, and Xander felt a deep, hot blush suffuse his entire body. "Oh, it's all right, I like it." Spike shifted his leg a little closer, crowding Xander's hand into his own hip. "In fact - you just keep it up, yeah?" Xander stared at him, and Spike stared back - squeezed his hand suddenly, crushing grip, and Xander yelped. "Be good, boy, yeah?"

"Y-yeah," Xander gasped, and moved his hand - found the seam of Spike's jeans and rubbed along it, up and back, as far as he could. Knee to mid-thigh, over and over, and Spike took Xander's other hand and put it on his other leg.

"You are good. Well, but Dru said, and she's usually right." Spike shrugged the red shirt off and tossed it aside - pulled off the black t-shirt and then looked down at Xander. Xander stared back, taking in the gleaming expanse of flesh and hard muscle. Perfect skin, no marks on it except for the pale coins of his nipples.

Jesse would look like that. Perfect like that. "Spike...Giles said that - that there's nothing in there - in you. He said the demon kills the human and the soul - leaves and there's just the demon inside."

"Giles? Who's he, now?" Spike let his fingertips move slowly, slowly up Xander's arms to his shoulders and then stroke gently at the tops, where neck and shoulder met. Xander shivered and let his fingers dig into Spike's thighs a little.

"He's her Watcher. He.... Is it true? Is there any of the...of you? From before?"

"Well now, that's an interesting question," Spike said, looking down at him with his head tilted a little to one side. "A very interesting question, little cuckoo. Why do you ask?"

"Will you tell me if I say?" Xander asked, and he bit down hard on a scream as Spike's face morphed into its vampiric aspect and he bent down low again, his fingers digging sharply into the sides of Xander's neck.

"Say anyway," Spike hissed, and Xander nodded frantically.

"B-because my best friend got - got turned into a - into a vampire and.... And he was talking to me and - and I know he was listening! I know he - he would have helped me."

"You know?"

"We grew up together." Xander took a deep breath but his voice still came out cracked and soft - too close to tears. "He - we loved each other. He would have helped. But - he was - I had a stake and he was really close and somebody p-pushed him and he - he died." Xander closed his eyes and bit his lip so hard that he felt it split, and blood well up. But he was not going to cry in front of Spike. He wouldn't. Not again.

"Maybe he would have at that, luv," Spike whispered, and Xander felt the smoky breath on his cheek - felt Spike's mouth - wet and cool and delicate - moving over his face - over his lips. Lapping like a cat at the blood there, and Xander didn't care; he let his mouth fall open a little and let Spike just do it - rubbed his palms slowly up and down Spike's thighs until Spike pulled back. He was human again, and his eyes were dark and darkly gleaming in the low lamp-light and Xander felt a rush of blood to his face - to his groin.

"Is there anything of the old you in there? Is there?" Xander whispered, and Spike reached down between them - quickly and neatly opened Xander's fly. His hand caressed inside and then he was scooting down the bed and tugging as Xander's cargo pants and underwear, pulling them to his knees - pulling them off. He shed his own jeans in moments and Xander stared at the lean, arched body that prowled like a cat back up the bed towards him. White, white cat - snow leopard - with those burning blue eyes and slash of blood-red for a mouth. Mouth that curled in a sweet smile as Spike dipped his head down and made one, slow lick up the underside of Xander's cock. Mouth that whispered to him:

 

"Sing we for love and idleness,
Naught else is worth the having.
Though I have been in many a land,
There is naught else in living.
And I would rather have my sweet,
Though rose-leaves die of grieving,
Than do high deeds in Hungary
To pass all men's believing.

 

"Now there's a bit of the old me, luv," Spike said, as he settled his hips onto Xander's again - as he leaned back on his heels and put Xander's hands onto his thighs, high up. "There's what came before, and if some of that me wasn't in here, why, then the demon would have had your blood in its belly and your bones for bread hours ago."

Xander slid his palms up and down over Spike's thighs - let his fingers flutter over the arch of hipbone and the tender skin where torso met groin. Spike's cock was palely flushed, gleaming with moisture at the tip, and Xander watched as Spike's hand reached down and languidly stroked, once and then twice. And then the long fingers gathered them together and Xander's mouth went wide - his back arching - at the sensation of cool flesh against hot, and friction all along his length.

Spike stroked them both; slow, slow caress, smearing the moisture from his cock and Xander's together, his other hand roving here and there over Xander's body. Cool fingers slipping between Xander's teeth and Xander tasted their mingled flavors - salt and smoke and savory and sour. He didn't question it - didn't even think about it. His head was spinning and Spike was like a creature out of some fantasy, his too-white skin and eyes of blue flame - his low, purring voice that lulled and soothed and seemed to make every thought simply disappear.

Magic...vampire's must have magic...God, I want, I want...shouldn't want but I do, I do....

"Or I could be lying, luv. I could be telling you just what you want to hear...pretty little cuckoo…." Spike's hand sped, twisted, pulled, and Xander bucked under him, his breath sizzling through his teeth as he came over Spike's hand - over his cock. Spike's eyes were gleaming, vulpine and eerie in his fallen-angel's face and then he came too, grumbling moan deep in his chest.

"How do I know what the truth is?" Xander asked when he could talk, and Spike looked up at him, his fingers drawing idle patterns through the cooling fluid on Xander's belly.

"Only one way to really know, luv," Spike murmured, sharp-edged grin, and Xander shuddered.

"I don't - don't think I want to know...from that side," Xander whispered, and Spike laughed. The vampire swung up and off - picked up a discarded shirt - too big to be his own, and bloodstained besides - and wiped cursorily at his hands and genitals.

"Don't know what you're missing," he said. He picked up his clothes, dressing quickly, and then lit a cigarette and watched as Xander levered himself upright and off the bed. He was stiff, sore, and exhausted, and when he stood up everything went black for a moment. His vision cleared slowly and he found himself on the edge of the bed with Spike holding his head down.

"I'm okay! I'm - okay," he gasped, squirming away, and Spike shrugged.

"Guess I clocked you kinda hard," Spike said, nothing like apology in his voice.

"You and Angel both. Fuck." Xander rubbed his neck - picked up the same shirt Spike had used and wiped himself sketchily clean and then dressed as well. His shirt was nowhere to be seen, so he dug around in a pile of discarded clothes near the wall. A lot of the shirts were torn, and a lot had blood on them, and he realized after a moment that these were the discards of dead people, and he backed off. Spike was watching him, a sardonic expression on his face.

"I suppose you think I'm just going to let you go?" he said and Xander felt his heart slam into a panicked stutter, the blood draining out of his face. Spike laughed. "Oh, calm down. Dru said not to hurt you, so I won't. For now. Let's go."

"Won't? Why - I mean...I need my shoes." Xander tried to be calm but he really wasn't sure if Spike was telling him the truth and if he had his shoes on at least he could try and make a run for it.

"Oh, in the corner somewhere. Let's go."

Spike went over to a tall dresser and chair that were in one corner and picked his coat up off the chair - swung it on. He picked up something from the dresser and slipped it into a pocket, and Xander scrambled to find his shoes in a tumble of more clothes, broken dolls, and what looked like half of a motorcycle. He found them at last and shoved his feet in - yanked the laces tight. Spike was waiting by the stairs, tapping his fingers impatiently on the railing and Xander trotted over - followed him up and out. The part of the building they walked through seemed deserted, although Xander could hear sounds from the gloom - sounds that made him shiver and walk faster.

"Don't suppose you'll keep this place a secret," Spike said, looking at him as if the thought had just occurred to him and Xander opened his mouth and then closed it, thinking. Would he tell? Or not?

"Why - are you in town? Why now?" Xander asked, and Spike looked surprised and then frowned.

"Got business with Angelus, me and Dru.... Why do you care?"

"Just - leave my friends alone, okay? I won't tell anybody where you are. I don't care what you do with Angel. The fucking jerk."

"He just makes friends where ever he goes," Spike said, looking amused now instead of pissed off. "Right, then. Don't need any complications, anyway, although I would like my hat-trick...." Xander just stared at him, puzzled, and Spike reached over and ran his fingers through Xander's hair, tugging a little. "Never you mind, cuckoo. Let's fly then, shall we?"

The front seat of the car wasn't much better than the trunk actually, because Spike drove like someone - heh - possessed, and at least unconscious in the trunk Xander hadn't noticed the awful driving. He was, in fact, so grateful to be out of the car that he didn't realize he hadn't actually told Spike where he lived until the black monstrosity had roared away into the night.

 

 

"Xander!" A red-haired missile plowed into him and Xander almost fell back down the steps in front of the school. Willow clung to him, babbling into his chest and Xander winced. The cuts Spike's nails had made were sore as hell. Xander gently took Willow's shoulders in his hands and eased her back.

"Hey! Willow! It's okay - I'm okay - are you okay? I'm okay!" Willow snuffled and wiped at her nose with a crumpled Kleenex - looked up at Xander with a scowl.

"Why didn't you call? Why didn't you - come back! What happened!" Willow's voice was getting higher and louder and Xander grabbed her arm and steered her over to a bench.

"Listen - Angel grabbed me last night and tried to use me for - for bait or something! And that other vamp - that Spike - he grabbed me. But - after awhile I got away." Willow stared at him.

"He did? You did? Oh my God! Are you okay? Did he bite you? What was Angel thinking?" Willow yanked at the collar of his shirt and Xander grabbed her hand - patted it softly.

"I’m not bit. He got - distracted. I'm okay. I don't really know that Angel does think. What happened with you guys?"

"Well, Buffy Slayed most of the vampires after Spike - ran off, or whatever. Talk about easily distracted. Do you think vampires get ADHD? 'Cause if they do I bet Spike is. And I was stuck in the janitor's closet with Cordelia for half the night and my God, does she never shut up?"

Willow made an exasperated face and blew upwards, blowing a stray hair out of her eyes. "And - Buffy and her mom made up 'cause Buffy saved everybody and Mrs. Summers told off Principal Snyder. Oh, and Giles said that St. Vigeous was ruined, so I guess that's one for us." Willow blew her nose on a fresh Kleenex and wiped her eyes - hitched her book bag up higher on her shoulder.

"We're gonna be late. Next time - call. I was worried sick about you."

"Yeah, I know, I'm sorry." Xander ducked his head - did the little internal shift he had to do, to lie to Willow. "I got home late and...you know.... Dad was kinda pissed," he said, inwardly cringing. That was the worst sort of lie, because it was something that he knew hurt Willow to hear. But he couldn't - he just couldn't - tell her what happened.

"Oh - Xander...." Willow's face went set and furious, even though her lower lip was trembling, and Xander shrugged and looked down - glanced up and tried a small smile.

"I'm okay. He was just - you know...yelling. I promise next time I'll call, okay?"

"Okay. Yeah. He's just - yeah. Okay." Willow held the Kleenex hard to her nose for a minute and then nodded once, sharply. Resolve-face, and Xander knew it was over.

"C'mon - let's hurry. Giles will give us a note." They both stood up and trotted to the library, and Xander couldn't help but feel guilty. But mostly, he just felt relieved.

 

 

"So, have you thought about it some more?" Voice out of the blackness and Harris spun, weapon up and ready. A soft chuckle, and the flare of a lighter, and a pale, sharp-boned face appeared in the gloom. Cigarette lit, the person moved forward into the streetlight.

"Thought about what? Don't come closer - I won't hesitate to shoot."

"About our conversation...ohh. This is all part of it, isn't it?" The man seemed amused and stood at his ease, slowly smoking, just watching him.

That girl said the monsters were really children. He's no child.... "Do I know you?" Harris asked, and then jerked, gasping, as the man moved faster than thought and was behind him, cold white fingers easily holding the barrel and stock of his rifle - holding it so tight against Harris' chest he couldn't quite draw breath.

"You don't remember me, but we had a little talk about...what's inside the monster. Is this what's inside you, little cuckoo?" Harris held very, very still, shivering against the cold leather of the man's long black coat. There was something sharp at his throat, and he couldn't begin to imagine what it was, since the man seemed to be putting his face there - cool lips and the tip of his nose and the needle-prickle of....

Fuck - teeth? Are those - he's one of them!

"Fuck!" he gasped out, as the prickle became a stab and the man's mouth fastened onto his throat, tongue slicking his skin and - "What are you - you doing? Jesus...." Harris struggled but the man held him effortlessly, the barrel and trigger mechanism of the rifle pressed hard across his chest, digging in sharply at pectoral and ribs, making him wince.

"You taste good, cuckoo," the man murmured, tongue licking and stinging across his neck. And then the man was jerking the gun away, spinning Harris around. He looked the rifle over for a moment and then slid the ammo clip out and into a pocket. He aimed the weapon carelessly and discharged the round in the breech and then handed the rifle back. "You keep that, yeah? Now c'mon - Dru wanted to meet you while the night's all - topsy-turvy."

 

Towed by the arm as if he were six, was fairly humiliating, but the grip on his wrist was like a steel manacle, and Harris was just confused enough - and freaked out enough - to not really care. The other monsters seemed to be running wild; growling and snarling and attacking anything that moved. This monster - had a plan. And a human face, and Harris wondered if that was all it took, for him; dress the monster up all pretty and he would be okay?

Fuck, he is pretty, isn't he? Too pretty for 'don't ask, don't tell'....

It was something to think about as they strode through the chaos. Harris wondered briefly if the red-headed girl would be okay, but then - she'd been a ghost, so the monsters probably couldn't touch her.

They made their way over several blocks, the man? ignoring the chaos, Harris wishing he could have his ammo clip back. They went into a park, and a woman ran past screaming, being chased by several monsters. The man made no move to help - he just flicked the butt of his cigarette into the sand-pit and dragged Harris on, towards the swing-sets. A woman was swinging on the center one, her long white dress flaring and floating around her, her hair just sweeping the ground as she leaned back and pumped up , going impossibly high.

"Spike! Watch, Spike! Oh, watch!"

"I'm watching, poppet! Touch the moon, you will," the man - Spike - called, settling against the side of a slide and watching the woman. She swung higher and higher and then suddenly she was flying. Harris flinched, but she'd simply leapt off the swing. She landed gracefully and twirled once or twice, then made her way over to them. She seemed to glide - to dance - as if she didn't quite touch the ground, and Harris thought that she looked like a Fairy queen. She got up close to them and reached out to trace one finger lightly down the barrel of the rifle.

Dru. He called her Dru.

"Oh, is this the cuckoo? But he's so fierce now! Like a bulldog." Dru made a little growling noise, snapping her teeth and Harris had to smile. "You see, Spike? He smiles. I told you - hatch this egg and you'll get something so special. Something to rival the stars." Dru looked up at the night sky, her arms out, revolving slowly. "Something to rival...me." She stopped dead, lowering her head and looking at him and Harris stopped smiling. She looked....

"Now pet, no one will ever rival you. We're destined to be together forever, love." Spike sounded faintly worried and the woman didn't move - and suddenly she did and her face was warped all out of true, and Harris was slammed back hard into the ladder of the slide, head ringing and a sharp pain shooting through his back and elbow and head where it had connected. Her hands were on his shoulders, her nails digging in painfully.

What is she? God, she - fangs - is he the same? Oh shit.

"No, no, not so, Spike.... Oh, take him away? Why would you take him away?" Dru's inhuman face snarled, baring sharp fangs and Harris looked wildly for Spike, panting. God, she was strong, so strong.

"Dru, sweet, I'm not going anywhere -"

"I promise - promise I don't want to take - take him anywhere -"

"Quiet, cuckoo, no-one wants to hear you sing." She glared at him, then abruptly her face smoothed out - went back to the narrow, pretty human features and she stepped back, a sly smile twisting up the corners of her mouth. "The red witch. She'll poison you - she'll make it all better." She turned away, her hands going out to stroke Spike's arm. "Spike - where's daddy? You said we'd go find him tonight." Dismissed from her attention as if turned off, Harris sagged back against the ladder, barely noticing Spike's hand on his wrist, hauling away again.

"He's round about somewhere, love." Spike started walking, back out of the park. "Got the Slayer to protect, doesn't he? Like you said - she's weak tonight."

"She's dreaming she's a princess tonight, but she hasn't got a fur slipper to her name. Or a pea," Dru added, nodding seriously, and Spike took her hand in his and gave Harris' arm a jerk.

"Keep up, Yossarian. People to kill, mayhem to commit."

"It's Harris," he muttered, hitching his rifle up onto his shoulder. If he got out of this in one piece he was going to request a transfer.

 

"See, Spike? He's not on the side of the devils, anymore, he's on the side of the angels. Grandmamma should have chosen a different name." Dru was looking unhappy, twisting a fold of her skirt in her fingers and Harris shifted uneasily, not liking the press of Spike's body all down his back, or the iron-hard arm that circled his ribs.

"Suppose she should have, pet." Cool mouth brushing over his ear - cool, smoke-tinged breath. "Now, see there? He should be taking that bint out, not....cozening her," Spike murmured, and Harris wondered what 'cozening' meant. They were watching a big, dark-haired guy fight off several kid-monsters while a girl in a 'princess' dress and one in a catsuit cowered against a wall. The catsuit girl had a piece of pipe that she'd found somewhere and was brandishing it in shaking arms. The princess crouched beside her, looking faint. The red-headed ghost girl Glad to see she's okay! was flitting around through the monsters and trying to distract them. The big guy took a bad hit and fell to one knee, his forehead bleeding and all of a sudden the princess stood up and flung off her wig and joined the fight and -

Oh my God! Buffy - Willow!

Xander tried to run to them but an arm - Fuck! Spike and...and Dru! was squeezing the air out of his lungs and a cold, smooth hand had clamped across his mouth. He heard his plastic-again gun clatter to the ground, but Buffy and Angel were doing their best to console seven hysterical under-12 trick-or-treaters, and Cordy was complaining loudly about a tear in her costume, and none of them noticed. Willow had disappeared.

"Now he comes back to himself. Shall we take him home and give him tea, Spike? Cakes and tea and watercress sandwiches, just like Mummy made for when the vicar came by.... Daddy smashed all her pretty tea-cups." Dru shot a smoldering look of hate at Angel, and Spike tugged Xander back further into the shadows, pulling him backwards down the alley and away from the warehouse.

"I think we'll have to give him tea another time. Did you see, Dru? Angel's gone over. We'll have to get him away from the Slayer before we can make you well." Spike finally let go his crushing hold and dropped his hand and Xander gasped, hand to his ribs. Drusilla was examining the moon's reflection in a pane of broken glass, her eyes wide.

"Fuckin' tryin' to kill me or what?" he wheezed, and Spike smirked at him.

"Better ways to do it than that, cuckoo. Is that all Angelus does these days? Follow the Slayer around like a little whipped dog?"

"Well, that and lurk in the shadows. Look - I didn't tell anybody where you were staying; can't you just - just grab him and get out of town?" Spike reached over and pulled him close, arm around him again but this time caressing instead of squeezing, and Xander shivered. He felt the slow kindling of arousal start in his groin; heat spreading out and making him sweat - making him go very, very still.

"Why don't you come with us, pet? I think you'd like the vampire life. Could show you all kinds of things...."

"No! No. I - I don't think -"

"Don't need to think," Spike purred, and his cool hands slipped inside Xander's jacket and under his tank top, sliding slowly up and down his ribs and over his belly. Making him shudder, making him feel...cold. Cold and hot and tingling, like that peppermint soap Willow liked, and Xander let his head fall slowly forward until it was resting on Spike's shoulder. "Just feel, luv. Feel this...." Spike's thigh, slipping between his, and Spike's cock, hard through his jeans, pressing against Xander's. Xander pushed into him unthinkingly - gripped the slick leather of the duster in his fists and took a ragged breath of the mingled scents of leather and iron, earth and smoke and something musky and sweet, like incense.

"Why would you want me to come with you? You don't like me.... Giles says -"

"How do you know what I like? And Giles.... Your Giles doesn't know anything. Not like my Dru. Isn't that right, poodle?"

"Never look into a mirror after midnight, cuckoo," Drusilla said, very close - too close - and Xander flinched away from her hand on the back of his neck, petting the getting-long hair there.

"Why shouldn't I?" Xander whispered, and Dru laughed, soft.

"You'll see things you don't want to see, little pretty." Abruptly her voice changed tone, to wheedling child. "I want to go home, Spike. Walk me home?"

"Of course, darling," Spike said. His fingers found Xander's chin and tipped his head up - kissed him slow and deep. An owning sort of kiss, and Xander bucked helplessly into the grind of Spike's body against his.

"Could have hunted your Slayer down, tonight," Spike murmured, pulling away and trailing soft little nibbles along Xander's jaw. "Could have had my third Slayer easy as that. But you kept your word, and I kept mine. Just like someone with a soul, yeah?"

Xander could hear the laughter in Spike's voice, but then sharp teeth - like icicles - were prickling over his throat as Spike mouthed the point of Xander's thundering pulse, and Xander forgot all about the laughter. Forgot that Dru's hand was still there, absently caressing the nape of his neck like you would a dog.

"Would you get your soul back, if you could?" Xander asked, and Spike pulled back and looked at him, his eyes gleaming in the moonlight, the slopes and shadows of his cheeks and the sharply angled brows making him look like a pen-and-ink sketch brought to life.

"Don't need it now, do I, cuckoo? I've got my lovely dark Princess, and we love each other like no mortal does.... I don't need a soul to love, and I don’t need a soul to do this." Another kiss, and then Spike was pulling away - letting him go - and Dru was trailing her thumb lightly over Xander's lower lip. And then they were walking away, her arm tucked in his, his bright head bent down to her dark one, soft laughter floating back. It didn't actually feel like they were laughing at him, and Xander wanted to chase after them. But he didn't.

 

Going to find Giles or Buffy seemed pointless now and anti-climactic, so he headed home. He idly kicked a shattered jack-o'-lantern into the gutter, hands shoved deep into his pockets, head down. He really had wanted to go after the vampires, but now he wasn't sure why. It just seemed...easier. Spike - could take care of him, like he took care of Dru.

But who says he would? He's just trying to...get to Angel, and hasn't figured out yet that I'm not...anybody But God, Spike's hands, and his mouth...his voice that told him things...things he wanted to hear.

Things nobody else says, except....

"Willow, hey!" Xander jogged across the street to a funky, zebra-striped van that Willow was standing next to - a Willow in a short skirt and shorter top and wow. "Willow, you look - hot!" Willow ducked her head, smiling, and the guy in the van smiled, too.

Oz, that's that guy Oz. Cordelia's been hanging out with his friend.... He's like...cool.

"Hey, uh, Oz." The guy just bobbed his head, spikey red-gold hair and a ladder of black leather thongs - bracelets - up his arms.

"Xander, are you okay? What happened? You ran off and I had to get Giles, and Angel had to rescue Buffy and Cordelia, my God, did you see what she was wearing? And - and it was that guy at the costume store, Ethan! Giles said he knew him and -" Willow paused as Oz put his hand out of the open van window and on to her arm.

"Hey, Willow, I think Xander's okay," he said, crooked little smile and a lift of dark brows.

"Yeah, I'm okay. Are you okay?" Xander touched her shoulder too - felt the shiver that went through her and the quick, nervous glance she darted at Oz.

"I'm good. I'm really good. I was going to - Oz was going to -"

"I'm giving Willow a ride home," Oz said, pulling his hand back. "Want a ride?"

"Oh, I - ummmm, no, I'm okay, I’m almost home. Thanks, though." Willow frowned at him - home was at least eight blocks or more away - but he smiled, and did a little salute, clicking his heels together. "Good night, Ma'am!" he barked, and Willow giggled.

"Yeah, Halloween, it's - it'll be okay, now that, I mean -"

"Now that the spell on the costumes is gone," Oz said, laughter in his voice, and Willow relaxed marginally.

"Yeah. Xander - you sure? It's no trouble."

"I'm sure, Wills. I just feel like walking. All those crazy soldier things are still kinda...in here. I wanna just...think a little." They were in there, but they felt natural - felt like they'd always been there, and he was pretty sure he wouldn't have to really think about them much. But for some reason he didn't want to get in the van. Didn't want to intrude on the little vibe Willow and Oz seemed to have going. He walked Willow around to the other door and opened it for her - put out his hand to help her up and she grabbed him in a tight hug.

"Are you sure you're okay?" she whispered, and he hugged her back.

"I'm sure. Don't stay out too late," he added, grinning, and Willow blushed and climbed up - tugged her skirt down and smiled over at Oz.

"'Night, Xander," Willow said, and Xander waved as the van pulled away, some kind of music starting up with the engine, plinking guitar. The walk home seemed to take forever.

 

He stood in the driveway, looking at his house. The porch light was on and there was a mostly-empty bowl of candy on the top step. His dad wouldn't allow any actual trick-or-treating - he said the doorbell buzzing all night gave him a headache - but his mom had always put some candy out. More to keep the house from getting egged, he was sure, than any real wish to get into the spirit of things.

They were shouting in there; his dad's hoarse bellow and his mom's shrill whine, rise and fall with the thud of angry feet and the occasional crash of a thrown object. He climbed up and sat on the top step, looking down at his hand. There was a dark mark in the middle of his palm where he'd cut it on that stake. The stake that had killed Jesse. Jesse's dust had gotten into the wound and it had healed with a smudge of ashy black, like candle-soot.

Like a stigmata. Right there...that's where nails would go.

Xander's mom read the Enquirer and the Globe and he'd seen smeary pictures of insipid 'saints' with maybe-real stigmata all his life.

Should be on my forehead. Mark of Cain. Brother-killer...

He shook his head, rubbing slowly at the mark with his thumb. He was pretty sure Spike and Dru didn't have any guilt over things like that. He was pretty sure guilt was a soul-thing. They sure didn't seem to have any problem with killing Angel, who - from what Giles had said - had made Drusilla.

That's why she calls him Daddy all the time.

There was a particularly nasty thud from inside, and his mother's voice rose to a wail. Xander hunched a little, closing his eyes. Remembering Spike's kiss, and the pressure of those silver-needle fangs.

Didn't do it, though. Wonder...what it would be like....

He ended up climbing the long-denuded trellis in the back yard to his bedroom window, and spent the rest of the night in a state of restless half sleep. In the morning, he helped his mother sweep up the broken glass and didn't say a word.

 

 

"What are you doing here, little cuckoo?" Drusilla's hand on his neck was cold and pinching and Xander froze.

"I - I need to talk to Spike. It's important!" He shivered in her grasp, waiting for her to sink her nails - or her fangs - in, but she did neither. Just stood behind him, her cool body pressed to his, her hand gentling - stroking his neck and threading up through his hair.

"What are you going to talk to him about? About...shoes and ships and sealing-wax? About the walrus and...."

"And the egg-man? Koo-koo-ka-joo?"

Drusilla laughed, a silvery peal of genuine amusement. "No, silly thing. The carpenter. Not lobsters, anyway - oysters. With vinegar and pepper, just like I like. But no cabbage." Drusilla stepped around him then, and looked up, smiling. She looked - different. Paler, somehow, and thinner. Not as ethereal. She looked brittle. Xander frowned at that, and Dru pulled sharply away from him, her smile fading.

"Don't you be trying those sad eyes on me, cuckoo. I'm not your priest."

"Are you sick?" Xander blurted, and Drusilla turned away from him, walking into the depths of the factory.

"I ate a surfeit of lampreys," she snapped. "Spike's watching telly." She stopped and turned, suddenly, smiling again. "He's very tired - he's had to plan and organize so many things - a big party, just for me! And all the king's horses and all the king's men will be there... And Daddy - is going to play Humpty Dumpty!"

She held her hand out, waiting for him, and Xander walked slowly over and took it. "And then I shall be put back together again." She tugged at him and he followed her into the shadows and down the stairs, to the bedroom he'd woken up in weeks before. Spike was there on the bed in nothing but a pair of old jeans, smoking. A large television had been bolted to the wall opposite and was blaring a soccer game.

"Spike! Look who came for a visit," Dru sing-songed, and Spike slowly turned his head, most of his attention on the game.

"Who, poppet? Oh - it's you, little bird. Come to take me up on my offer, then?" Spike blew a plume of smoke at Xander and Drusilla pulled him closer to the bed, her hand tight around his.

"What? No! I'm - I'm not here for - for me."

"Why are you here?" Spike scooted over on the bed, putting his cigarette in an ashtray. Drusilla gave Xander's hand a yank, pulling him off balance and then pushing him so he sprawled down on to the bed.

"Hey!" Xander tried to get up but Spike pounced, dragging him up to the headboard and the pillows mounded there; getting one leg over Xander's thigh - arm across his chest. His whole body was pressed up close to Xander's and Drusilla was on the other side, stroking his cheek and cuddling close.

"Oh, Spike, he's warm - you didn't tell me he was so very warm...." Drusilla crowded closer, her head on Xander's chest and her hand worming up under his ratty thermal shirt. Xander tried to twitch away from her but Spike was right there, head resting on his fist, other hand languidly tracing the waist of Xander's jeans. Xander felt little tremors shivering through his belly and thighs. Fear, definitely. But excitement as well, and traitorous lust, which he tried hard to ignore.

"Course he's warm, pet. He's still alive, isn't he? Warm, and soft...." Spike's hand dipped lower, brushing the edge of Xander's fly - working his fingers under the flap of it a little and Xander gasped softly. "Well, not too soft. Smells good too, doesn't he?"

"Spike, I -"

"Shhhh, love. Let the lady talk." Spike's eyes were half-lidded, dark - his mouth was open just a little, wet and lush-looking and Xander wanted to kiss him again - wanted to taste the smoke on his tongue. Dru's hand was sliding slowly up his ribs to his nipple, and once there it circled and tugged and pinched, gently.

"He does smell good, Spike. Like treacle tarts." Dru smelled like dill and roses and iron, and she was squirming now - getting Xander's arm out from between them and around her shoulders. Xander wasn't sure if he should do that - not sure at all - but Spike was leaning in closer; trailing his tongue along Xander's jaw and chin - his lips - and Xander breathed in sharply, his fingers tangling in the spill of Dru's lustrous, earth-brown hair.

"Does he?" Spike asked, low and rumbling voice, his eyes on Xander's. Spike let his mouth rest on Xander's - let his tongue just delicately trace the edge of Xander's lower lip. "Mmmm...tastes like honey and spice. Like mulled wine," Spike murmured and Xander closed his eyes, arching helplessly into the dual touches on his body - into Spike's hand, that had undone the button and zip of his jeans and eased inside.

"He's got something in this throat," Dru said, her head on him like a sleepy child, her hand deft and lewd beside Spike's. "Something's choking him; dog with a bone - fish on a hook. Better let him talk," she said, and Spike drew back and Xander opened his eyes to find him looking at Dru with a little smile on his lips.

"Out with it then, cuckoo - sing your tune."

"I - it's...it's...." Dru giggled into his neck - nipped at him - and he flinched and twitched away into Spike, who bore down on him a little more, pressing him into the bed - pinning him there. Dru's leg was over his shins and suddenly he felt very, very trapped. "You said - you had business with A-angel. You said you'd leave my friends alone. But those assassins - Willy said you sent for them!"

"Willy said? Troglodyte. I'll have his guts for garters." Spike looked angry, but not overly so. He rolled off Xander a little way and reached for his cigarette - took a last puff and ground it out. Then he settled again, his hand going back to its teasing stroking of Xander's cock. Dru had pushed his fly open further and was running her hand along behind Spike's, copying his pattern. Xander shivered harder, the tremors of flight/fight subsiding and being replaced by ones of arousal.

"You promised! I haven't told anybody -"

"Hush, love," Spike said, doing something with his hand, and Xander twisted, trying to be still - trying not to beg. Dru was up on her elbow now, like Spike - looking at Spike with an expectant expression. Spike paused in his caress to reach over and cup her cheek. "I've been tryin' to get this cure for Dru sorted. And every time I turn around - there's the Slayer. Startin' to get irritating." Dru bared her teeth and snapped at Spike's hand and he patted her cheek - went back to his slow caress of Xander. "So, yeah, I called 'em in. They might take out your Slayer - but I won't. Promised, didn't I?" Xander stared, dumbfounded, into Spike's face - into his half-smile and sparkling eyes and started to struggle.

"That's not - fuck you! That's not the same - ow!" Drusilla's hand had closed on him, too tight for comfort, and Spike leaned close again, chest to chest and his hand going up to grasp Xander's jaw - to squeeze it a little.

"Don't tell me what it is, cuckoo. You need to remember where you are." The demon rose and regarded him with unblinking, amber-colored eyes and Xander lay there panting, shivering - obscenely hard and wanting, oh God did he want.

"Full moon's two days off. We'll do it then. You keep your Slayer away from us, and she'll be none the wiser. 'Sides...." Spike's head dipped down, toward his throat, and Drusilla's hand went easy again, curling around his balls and then trailing up to stroke his hip bones. "I told 'em if she's not dead by the time Dru's all fixed, they have to go. That make you feel better, love?"

"Ju-Giles knows," Xander stuttered, and Spike stopped, looking at him warily.

"Giles knows what?"

"He knows what you're trying to do. About - about Du Lac and the c-cross. He knows the ritual's gonna k-kill Angel."

"If Daddy'd been nicer we wouldn't have to kill him," Drusilla pouted, nuzzling into Xander's chest. She slid lower on the bed, her hand pushing Xander's shirt out of the way so she could touch him - lick him. Xander felt her hair slipping along his arm and stroked it once, gently. Her tongue touched him again and again, little cold licks that made him gasp. Spike's hand had dropped to his cock again, stroking slowly - smearing the fluid at the tip and pressing down, worrying the slit.

"So what? Can't imagine a Watcher gettin' all sentimental over Angelus." Spike leaned in the rest of the way, nuzzling into Xander's throat, the alien contours of the demon's face hard and strange against Xander's jaw and the underside of his chin.

Xander was panting now, trying not to move, trying not to writhe and clutch and beg because that's what he wanted to do. Wanted Spike to kiss him - to touch him - wanted Spike's hand and Dru's to push off his clothes and feel every inch of him. He squeezed his eyes shut, fighting for control.

"Oooh, Spike...." Dru said, and Xander tried to look at her but Spike had his chin pushed up to high - was sucking at his throat and letting the fangs just prickle, here and there.

"What is it, poppet?" Spike mumbled, and then he made a little noise down in his chest. Xander could hear the buttons on Spike's jeans popping open.

"He wants to feel you, Spike - wants to give up to you...in to you...to us. Can you see how he shows us his belly and whines? Little beast inside, wanting a master...." Her voice trailed off as her mouth fastened around the tip of Xander's cock and he jerked, crying out.

"Is that so? What's in you, cuckoo?" Spike's hand, which had stilled, now took up the slow movement again, bumping against Dru's mouth. Spike shifted and Xander gasped as the vampire's cock pushed wetly at his hip - at his belly.

"N-nothing in me. Got it out - Giles - got it out -" Xander stuttered, but he knew that wasn't exactly true. Like the soldier, he remembered - remembered 'pack' and the intense, almost dizzying feeling of inclusion - of family. Longed for it, in his dreams.

"Don't lie, cuckoo," Dru said, her lips buzzing against his cock-head, and then he felt her mouth moving and Spike's cock was pressed against his and she was licking them both while Spike's hand gently squeezed his balls - drifted lower, to stroke back between his legs. Xander moaned, and finally worked his arm free of Spike's body and got it up into Spike's hair - pulling his head up and kissing him, heedless of the fangs. He felt Spike stiffen for a moment - shock or offense - and then kiss him back, fang-tips digging in here and there, his tongue lapping for the blood that Xander could taste.

"He's a goer," Dru murmured, and then she sucked him down into her throat and he was arching up into her, hard, and Spike's finger was pushing into him, and his tongue, and Xander clutched fiercely at Spike's neck, whimpering - shaking through an orgasm that was almost too much. He barely registered the rose-thorn prickle all around the shaft of his cock until Spike pulled away, licking his lips and looking down at Dru.

"Dru, love, don't take too much," he murmured, and Xander lifted his head muzzily to see Dru - demon-faced - slowly sliding her mouth off of him, blood on her fangs - on her lips - and on him.

I should run screaming. Oh God. This is - fucked up, this is -

"D-don't -" he whispered, and Spike glanced up at him, little grin on his face.

"Give us a taste, love," he said, and Dru slithered up until they could kiss. Xander lay there and watched them, something in his belly curling like talons. Fear, or anger. Or jealousy. Something.

"Tastes like treacle tarts, doesn't he?" Dru murmured, and Spike chucked her under the chin.

"You're so right, poppet. Now - what do I taste like?" he asked, and Dru grinned, her demon's eyes gleaming gold.

"Oh, Spike, I already know what you taste like," she teased, but she wriggled back down again, and Xander caught a glimpse of her red, red lips sealing around Spike. And then Spike was leaning on him again, blocking his view - human again.

"Now then, cuckoo, you came all the way over here to tell me off for sending the Taraka after the Slayer? Or was there something else you wanted to tell me?" Spike's eyes were fluttering, open and shut, and Xander could feel Dru's hair on his stomach - on his groin. He could feel her small breasts pressing into his thigh, and one of her hands was still on his hip, just resting. And he could feel Spike's hips, slow undulation as he responded to whatever Dru was doing.

"No, I - I wanted to tell you that - that Buffy and Angel.... She's not gonna just let you kill him, Spike. She's like - in love with him or something." There was a hissing sound from Drusilla and Spike twitched.

"Mind your fangs, love," he said absently, staring at Xander. "In love with him? She's the Slayer. Is she daft?"

"I think he's in love with her, too," Xander said, and suddenly Dru was up, off the bed, halfway across the room.

"He is not! Daddy doesn't love her!" She put her hands into her hair and twisted it, moaning.

"Dru, come back to bed, poppet -" Spike said, holding out his hand, but Dru was backing away.

"No, noooooo.... Oh I see it, I see it," she whispered, rocking, her hands like claws in her hair, her eyes tight shut. Then she stopped, head a little to one side. Suddenly her eyes popped open and she was human again, and her mouth was smiling, sweet and happy. She had a smear of blood on her cheek.

"He does love her. He loves her so much.... Oh, Spike! Daddy's coming back." She smiled at Spike - at Xander - turned and did a skipping little dance across the room and up the stairs. "Must get ready, must make things all ready. He's coming back and I don't forgive him for what he's done but he'll make it up to us, he will, he will...."

"Dru! Bugger." Spike sighed impatiently - looked down at Xander and grinned. "Guess you'd better finish what she started, love. All your fault, anyway."

"What?" Xander didn't resist Spike dragging his hand down to Spike's cock; cold and slippery with saliva and blood. Spike arched his back, eyes going closed as Xander gripped him, and Xander stroked, light and then hard, twist and pull, watching Spike's face - watching the pleasure twist his features. Spike's hand was chilly and heavy on his chest.

"Come in here, smelling of lust and misery, 'course I'm fuckin' hard. Can't resist you, cuckoo." Spike opened his eyes - leaned in close and nipped at Xander's lower lip, and Xander pulled him closer, getting his own hand up under Spike's t-shirt. "Don't wanna resist you, pet. So...sweet...." Spike moved in close again, kissing him - kissing his breath away and stealing the heat from him - stealing his senses.

Is this what it would have been like if Jesse...? I'd have let him. Let him turn me, if he'd just.... If he'd have stayed. Don't care. Not so bad. He loves her - doing it for love.... Hasn't hurt any of us and he could, he could...

Spike was panting now, gasping into his mouth and Xander pushed him back, suddenly - slithered down his body and - after a moment's hesitation - put his mouth over the head of Spike's cock. Cool flesh, tasting of musk and lemon and blood. Spike made an inarticulate, mewling sort of noise and his hips came up hard - his hand twisted in Xander's hair and then Spike was coming, choking pulses of fluid that Xander frantically swallowed. Cold and salt - the briny water of a winter sea - and Xander drew away and lay his head down on Spike's thigh - closed his eyes and just rested for a moment.

He's had my blood, and now I've had...something of his. Wonder if that means...anything.

He'd skipped class today - too anxious to pretend to listen, too tired from worry and anger. Spike's thigh was muscled and hard, his jeans smelled like smoke and blood, and Xander hadn't even done his own jeans up - was shamefully exposed here in the lair of the monster. But he closed his eyes and hugged Spike a little closer and simply...let go.

"Idiot creature," he heard Spike say, but the cool, gentle fingers that slipped through and through his hair felt good - felt comforting. Sleep came quickly.

 

Two Slayers! Jesus Christ!

Xander clutched at the armrest of Cordelia's car as it careened along the road, speeding towards the church. Crushed in the back, Giles, Kendra and Willow all grunted and groaned as they were squashed against each other.

What'll Spike do when he finds out? What if he kills her? Or Buffy? God -

Xander had done his best to make them late: transposed the address of the church, 'accidentally' spilled a soda over Giles' notes - dropped hints to Willow about a possible counter-spell that had kept them researching an extra hour. He didn't really want Angel to die (not really not...completely. Just a little. The jerk....). But he did really want Dru to get better, so she and Spike could go - wherever it was they were going next.

Go and leave me.... Will they leave me? I - want them to. Oh, but....

Thinking of Spike's hand on him - of Spike's mouth. Thinking of being trapped between those two chill, silken bodies - snakes, or sea-wet otters. God, he wanted that - wanted that numbness - that release. Wanted that certainty, because everything else....

Nothing's black and white. Parents are supposed to love you but...I don't know if mine do. Vampire's are evil, but Spike loves Dru, and Angel loves Buffy.... Magic is good, but sometimes it's bad and you don't know until something tries to eat you. Nothing's right. Not even just one Slayer!

He looked down at his hand, where Jesse's ashes had made a sort of tattoo in the long-healed cut.

Did I change a little, having vampire ashes in my body? Maybe it's like the blood, only...slower.

 

They stopped with a jerk, and he tumbled out of the car and ran, watching as Kendra kicked in the door of the church open, and they all rushed inside. The Taraka were there, and Buffy was; fighting them in a whirl of blonde hair and patent-leather kicks. Someone was chanting something and Xander ducked a flying bit of debris and got ready to battle with the bug-guy; he and Cordelia had jumbo cans of Aqua Net and lighters. The assassin's little maggoty self went up in flames very satisfactorily.

 

Angel hung from ropes, a knife pinning his hand to Drusilla's like some bizarre, fleshy cross, and Xander wanted to be sick at the sight of it. Spike stood behind them, one arm around Dru, holding her up, the other in Angel's hair, stroking it. He was talking into Angel's ear, and Angel swung, dazed, his dark eyes tracking over the room - over Kendra, and then Buffy. Spike said one last thing - twisted Angel's head around and kissed him, hard, and then he was flying over the rail that was before the altar, piling into Kendra as Buffy fought the police-woman Taraka.

Cordelia was burning the last bits of the bug-guy, and Willow was dodging and weaving, waiting for the moment to stake the vamp that was grappling with Giles. Willy, bug-eyed, was scuttling out and Xander slammed him into the wall, fists in his shirt.

"You were supposed to be on our side, you bastard!" he growled, and Willy scrabbled at Xander's fist, panting.

"Wha'dya want from me, huh? I got Miss Sunnydale and Bob Marley's sister on one side, bustin' my chops, and I got Spike and his fuckin' crew on the other side, lookin' at me like the main course! I'm between a rock and a hard place, here!"

"You're a lying asshole who deserves whatever he gets," Xander said, and thumped him hard into the wall - let him go with a shove and hurried to help Willow. Just as he approached, the vamp Giles was fighting exploded into dust, and Giles sat down heavily, coughing. Willow looked alternately pleased with herself and concerned that Giles had inhaled too much vamp-dust. Xander picked up a broken piece of board - part of a shattered pew - and started hitting in wild circles, keeping the last two vampires away from Giles as he recovered. Willow was staring towards the front of the church in horror, and Xander risked a look that way. Kendra was fighting Spike - fighting hard - but it didn't look good for the new Slayer. Spike - was good.

Killed two Slayers already, that's what Giles said. God, please, please - don't let him kill her.

His makeshift weapon connected with a vamp and jolted out of his hands and then Giles was there, tackling the vamp to the ground.

"Go help Angel!" he yelled, and Xander grabbed the length of wood back up and ran towards the altar. Kendra and Buffy did some sort of thing - gymnastic move too bewildering to follow - and now Spike was fighting Buffy, a huge grin showing his fangs, his duster like black wings around him.

"Oh no, no no no -" Xander whispered, not even sure who he was frightened for. He leaped up the three shallow steps to where Angel and Dru hung, both seeming unconscious. Angel looked - grey, and when Xander grabbed at Drusilla, trying to lift her, his eyes fluttered a little.

"Xander - get -"

"I'm trying," Xander snapped, not sure what Angel wanted and not caring. Drusilla was light as feathers in his arms, limp and smelling of blood, and cinnamon and the burning-sulphur smell of magic. He cradled her close, lifting her small frame upwards so that she no longer hung by her impaled hand. Spike had wound ropes around their wrists and Xander worked his utility knife free of his belt - pulled the blade open with his teeth and started sawing at the thick hemp, Drusilla's hair cool and silken across his throat. Her head lolled forward, resting on his shoulder but he'd seen, in that moment, the gleam of malice and laughter in her half-shut eyes and he knew she was awake - was aware. He could feel her lips, cool and nibbling, at the point of his jaw and he fought a wave of arousal.

Fuck, not now, damnit, not here - where in fuck did he get this damn rope? Never gonna cut through it -

Xander could hear Buffy yelling something - could hear Kendra yelling too, and saw a fresh wave of vampires run into the church. One knocked into a stand of candles and they went down - fell right into a heap of dust-sheets. Flames leaped up, licking hungrily at aged wood and paint, and a couple of the new vamps panicked and ran back out.

"Hurry, little cuckoo, or we'll all be blackbirds, roasting in the pie," Dru whispered, licking the edge of his ear and Xander gasped softly, sawing desperately at the rope. It parted with a sudden snap and Dru fell limply onto him, fangs pressing into his throat but not biting. Angel went heavily to his knees, their pinned hands lying over his shoulder. "Oh, that was clever, cuckoo, that was good -" she whispered, and Xander braced his foot on Angel's body and yanked the knife free of their hands.

"Xander! What are you doing? Stake her!" Buffy yelled, and Xander tossed the knife away, shuddering at the blood that slicked his hand. Spike looked over at them and leapt, snatching Dru away and up into his arms.

"Bloody hell, he's not dust?" Spike looked down at Angel and then up at Xander - leaned in close and kissed him, blood on his lip from a punch. "You did good, pet. Best get out, now, before you can't anymore."

He whirled and strode away, ignoring the Slayers, who were battling the last of the other vampires - ignoring Giles, who looked to have taken a hard punch and was being helped to the door by Willow. The fire in the dust-sheets had spread up half the wall and the roaring noise it made was a shivery sound. A moment later Spike was out the door and gone, not even sparing a glance for the vampires who were fighting for him, and Xander sighed and leaned down - hauled Angel up with some effort.

"What did he say to you?" Angel mumbled, and Xander started dragging him out, past the last of the vampires and Kendra, who seemed to be critiquing Buffy's style.

"Said he'd kill me if I came around - what else?" Xander answered, and weaved a little under Angel's staggering weight, watching sparks fly up from the growing flames. "What else would he say to me?"

 

Outside, they stood on the sidewalk and watched the church burn, waiting for the fire trucks that Cordelia had called on her cell phone. Angel was on the ground, hunched weakly in the grass, and Buffy was bandaging his palm, her own hands deft and delicate and streaked with blood. Giles and Kendra appeared to be comparing notes about - everything, and Willow was trying to get vamp dust out of her hair. Xander combed his fingers through the back - brushed at her sweater.

"You okay, Willow?" he asked, and she nodded, gulping a little.

"I got a vamp! Well, I got two, after Giles knocked that one out." Xander smiled at that and Willow smiled back. "Did the hairspray work?"

"Oh, yeah - it worked great. Those big cans can really get a good flame - must have been three feet long!" Cordelia was mumbling something about the reek of burning bugs and brushing at her dress, frowning.

"Xander? Why did you - grab Drusilla?" Willow was hugging herself, looking at him with a mixture of curiosity and puzzlement, and Xander shrugged, shoving his hands into his pockets, trying not to think about Dru's cool hand that had stroked his back, or the taste of blood and smoke that still lingered on his lips from Spike's kiss.

"I dunno. She's smaller then Angel - seemed easier to just - hold her up. Get the ropes off that way."

"Why didn't you just - just stake her?"

Xander shrugged again, looking down - looking away from Willow's troubled gaze. "I didn't know if - if it would do something to Angel, you know? They were - that knife was in them both and -"

"Oh," Willow said, nodding, and Xander finally looked at her, trying on a small smile. They could hear sirens coming closer, and Angel looked as if he wanted to get up and go, but Buffy was holding his arm, talking softly to him.

"Hey, how 'bout we have Cordelia take us to the Espresso Pump, huh? Get some hot chocolate. My treat," he added, and watched as Willow thought it over and then smiled back, nodding.

"Okay! And we can talk to Giles about the spell. Do you think it worked? Giles said it would kill
Angel -" Willow talked on and Xander just nodded, trying hard not to think about Spike or Drusilla at all - trying not to remember. Buffy declined coffee or anything else - went off with Angel, snugged under his arm but helping him walk all the same. Giles looked concerned but he didn't call her back, and Xander wondered why he let Buffy do things like that.

 

The hot chocolate was too sweet, and Giles was grumpy and sore, and as Xander walked home later that night he wondered if Spike and Dru were already gone. When he got home, the house was ablaze with light, and his Uncle Rory's Bel Air convertible was parked half-way up the sidewalk, the engine still running. Xander reached in and turned the car off - slipped the keys into his pocket and settled on the porch steps. The TV was on inside - a ball-game, it sounded like - and his dad and Rory were yelling enthusiastically, voices slurred and peppered with curses.

Guess the home team is losing. Or, who knows, from the sound of it the home team could be winning and they're rooting for the wrong team. Wonder if mom's home? Wonder if there's any dinner?

It was getting chilly, but Xander didn't want to go in; Rory liked to grab him and tell him about his many hookers and deals and dog-race bets that had paid off big, but he'd given the money to 'a friend' for something and wasn't he a stand-up kinda guy? And then his dad would chime in about the thing he'd done at work, how the owner had come down to shake his hand - a lie, Xander knew, but one he couldn't call his Dad on. Then they'd both ask him about school, and his dad would tell Rory how he'd flunked the last chemistry test, or how he'd failed in gym class one year.

Just not up for that. Just want...some quiet.

Xander put his arms on his knees and rested his forehead on his arms, closing his eyes and trying to tune out the sounds from the house - the scenes from the fight at the church.

"What's the matter, pet - head hurt?" Soft voice - soft fingers stroking through his hair and down his neck and Xander shivered all over, leaning into the body that seemed to simply materialize beside him.

Something like that....

"No, my head's all right," Xander murmured, sighing a little as Spike's other hand joined the first and gently kneaded his neck and the top of his shoulders.

"What hurts then, cuckoo? My Dru said you were hurting."

Xander rolled his head to the side, looking speculatively up at Spike, who looked - tired. "I thought - thought you two were gone, already," he said, and something like surprise crossed Spike's face before a different expression showed there. That soft, fond look - the one he'd turned on Dru before. Only this time it was turned on Xander, and he felt his stomach clench tight - his breath catch and hitch a little in his lungs.

"Is that so? No, still here, love. Gonna take a few days for Dru to be back in fighting form - that spell was wicked, yeah? 'Sides - wouldn't just leave, cuckoo," Spike murmured, and tugged at him - made him sit up and then lean over, and Xander sighed in weariness and contentment as Spike's arms wrapped around him and held him close. Tucked up under Spike's chin, his cheek resting on the cool solidity of Spike's chest felt...wonderful. Felt better than anything had felt all day and Xander wound his arms around Spike and just rested there, smiling to himself when Spike's mouth brushed his hair, again and again. Cool flesh and cool leather and it soothed the hot, raw ache in his heart. His own skin cooled in the night air until they felt...almost the same.

Almost the same...

 

 

Ms. Calendar was dead, really dead, and the little urn of ashes being slowly buried under a rose-tree was the proof. Xander stood in stunned silence next to Cordelia, who was clutching a handkerchief but hadn't cried enough to smudge her eyeliner. Willow was sobbing on Buffy's shoulder, and Buffy had a look of stunned horror on her face that hadn't changed for days. Giles... Giles was like some pillar of dark smoke; black-burning flame, and Xander didn't dare look at him - talk to him. The hate and despair, the helpless rage, terrified him. Giles was a man possessed, and Xander stood there in the mild sun and fragrant grass of a California Spring and smelled burning.

 

"I heard Giles kinda lost it last night - tried to kill Angel," Willow said, sliding into a seat at the table, tray of lunch in her hands and Oz beside her, solemn in his deeply-blue hair.

"Well, yeah. I mean - Angel killed Ms. Calendar - 'course Giles wants to kill him." Xander shoved his corn around and around on his plate, angry for some reason he couldn't determine.

"Angel didn't - do anything, it was Angelus -" Willow started, but Xander interrupted her, looking up furiously from his tray.

"It's the same thing, Willow! Don't try and pull that same lame crap Buffy does! Angel and Angelus are the same."

"But they're not!" Willow said, eyes wide, and Oz leaned back in his chair, looking at Xander - little frown drawing his eyebrows down.

"Yes they are!"

"Angel has a soul. He's not - not in control right now! Angel would never hurt anybody!"

"No?" Xander pushed his tray sharply away, fighting to keep his voice steady. "Tell that to the guy who got offered up to Spike as a snack. And then he ran. And he was too scared to help me and Buffy find Jesse - he just let us go in there alone! Angel's no hero. He's a soulless monster with a curse, Willow - he didn't ask for his soul back - what makes you think he likes having it or that he'll want it back now?"

Willow just stared at him, and Xander knew he was being unfair - he knew he was. But he didn't care. Buffy had dithered and moaned and cried over Angel for days and days and now this - now Ms. Calendar dead and Giles almost getting killed. She was the Slayer. But she wasn't slaying, and people were dying, and she just - didn't seem to care.

But she'd have killed Jesse without thinking twice about it - nobody even thought about not killing Jesse....

Xander put his head down into his hands and squeezed his temples, eyes tight shut; barely noticing when Willow got up and beat a hasty retreat, saying something about getting ready for the class she was temp-teaching after lunch.

After a bit, when the throbbing in his head had settled in for good and all, and Xander knew that nothing was going to make it go away for now, he lifted his head. Oz still sat there, picking apart the taco the lunch lady had served; eating the pallid tomatoes and lettuce, ignoring the greasy hamburger.

"You really think they're the same?" he asked, and Xander slumped back, staring at the ceiling.

"I - dunno. Yeah. I do. I mean - Angel...he's still in there. He's knows all this stuff about us. He knows - Buffy. He just stopped caring. And a soul - never made anybody care. I mean - serial killers have souls. Him having his soul doesn’t mean...."

Oz looked up at his silence and reached for his milk. "Doesn't mean what?"

"Doesn't mean he wouldn't hurt us anyway," Xander said, slowly. "If a person - a vampire - that doesn't have a soul doesn't hurt you - what's that mean?"

Oz studied him - drank his milk through a straw and ate some of the cubed Jell-O on his tray, grimacing just a little. "I - dunno. Maybe it means.... Souls aren't what we think."

"Yeah. Maybe." Xander shook his head. "I gotta get out of here. Don't - don't tell Willow I ditched, okay? She'll really be mad at me."

"I won't," Oz said. He stood up, collecting his tray. "You need a ride someplace?"

Xander looked into his eyes - darkly green, calm - knowing. Slowly shook his head. "Nah, that's okay. I'm just - just gonna go to the beach, get some quiet, you know?"

"Yeah sure."

Xander got up and got his own tray - dumped it off and went to his locker, grabbing book-bag and overshirt and escaping the campus via a hole in the fence by the gym. A small group of goth-looking kids were hanging out there, smoking a joint. Pale powdered faces and black liner - black clothes and piercings, and one guy with a strand of barbed wire tattooed around his neck. Xander walked by them, wondering. Did they want to be vampires? Or did they just want to be...soulless?

 

Xander pretended he didn't have any destination in mind - spent until five wandering the streets. He actually went to the beach and sat in the warm sand, but he couldn't settle. The mark in his palm - Jesse's ashes - seemed to itch and burn. Seemed to resent the sun, and the quiet. And Xander was just stalling - trying to resist the inevitable.

Been a month. A fucking month….

A month since the spell, three weeks since Angel had lost his soul. An eternity, it seemed, since Xander had seen Spike or Dru. An eternity of time, and all he'd thought about had been Dru's hands - Spike's mouth. Cold skin and cold mouths and warm, laughing eyes.

God.... I am so fucking...stupid.

He stomped down the sidewalk, furious with himself - desperate.

Giles had said he'd burned the factory to the ground - had he? And - had the vampire's gotten out? Xander didn't want to care (monsters, they hate us, want to kill us), but he did. He cared...too much.

Came and checked on me - said he wouldn't leave without...without seeing me. Holds me....

Xander shivered all over, remembering that. Remembering touch that was - so, so hard to get. That he didn't have enough of, ever. That he....

Would I die for it? If I keep messing around with them, I'm going to die. They're going to...kill me or...turn me.

His stomach dropped at the thought, but his heart pounded in excitement and he stopped dead on the sidewalk, panting. Wanting, wanting so very badly.

Is it wrong? Am I wrong? Jesse...loved me. I loved him and we could have.... We could have been okay. I don't - believe what Giles says. They just want to kill vampires - how can they know anything about them when all they do is kill them? Spike is different...he's different...

The factory was blackened - cracked like an egg by the fire, and Xander stood for a long moment and stared, sweat creeping down his back.

What if Angelus is in there?

Buffy hadn't killed him - again. She said he'd run away (just like before). It was nearly six; the sun would be down soon, and he wouldn't have any safety at all. After a minute or so of silently nerving himself, Xander slipped into the door that was hanging open, half way off its hinges. The inside reeked of burnt wood and plastics - of scorched metal. Heaps of debris were still smoldering, here and there - the Sunnydale Fire Department had evidently not been called.

"Spike?" he croaked - cleared his throat and tried again, louder. "Spike? D-Drusilla? Are you here?" His heart jumped and pounded as his voice echoed back to him, but nothing - nothing else.

God - are they dead? I'd never know - nothing to find - ashes and shit everywhere here, anyway, oh God, God....

"Spike!"

There was noise at that - a sort of slithery, scraping sound, and a moan and Xander jumped, gasping. "Who is it? Spike?"

"Hh - help -" Scratchy, raw voice off to his right somewhere and Xander darted that direction. The stairs were there - the stairs to the bedroom - maybe they'd been in bed? "Spike? Is that you? Where are you?" He stopped and waited - listened - and the voice came again, agonized.

"Please.,.."

"I'm coming! I’m coming -" Xander ran to the half-collapsed remains of a wall of machinery and finally - finally - something. Shape of a head - shoulders - arm - arms....

Oh, God -

Xander thought he might be sick. The arms ended in stumps below the elbow. Frantically he looked away, and saw that one leg was nothing but charred bone - the other was gone, right up to the thigh. "No - no - please don't be - please -"

"Help -" the voice whispered, and Xander's eyes darted up to the face - to a face. Not Spike - not Drusilla.

Thank God, thank God, thank God -

For a moment Xander was so lightheaded he thought he'd pass out, but then he took a deep breath and crept closer. He stared at the fire-crisped skin and hazel eyes that swam with pain - at a mostly hairless skull that was peeling and bloody - raw.

"Where - are they? Where's Spike?" The vampire writhed, reaching for him, and Xander flinched away - steeled himself and crouched down, watching the disfigured face ripple into its demonic aspect; that much more hideous for the terrible burns.

"I need - blood, just - a little blood -"

"I know. Tell me - where's Spike? Did - is he alive?"

"F-found a new place. Angelus - found a new place, m-moved everything out last night, said - come back f-for me. Please - please -"

"Yeah.... " Xander set his book-bag down and started going through it - looking. "Where's the new place? I need to talk to Spike." Finding what he wanted, he turned back to the vampire who was inching closer with agonized little twisting movements, his truncated arms slipping on the filthy concrete.

"House. Big - house. C-c-crawford Street. Please, just - a little - won't - hurt you -"

"I know. You have to change back. I'll give you blood but - you have to be human, okay? I don't - don't want you to bite me." The vampire blinked, staring at him in confusion then the demon-face smoothed down and away, gone. "Okay...here we go.... What's your name?" Xander opened his knife, Buck knife, that Jesse had given him for his birthday three years ago. His Uncle Rory had shown him how to sharpen it once, and the edge gleamed, razor-thin and deadly.

"W-walt. I'm Walt."

"'K, Walt. Remember - don't bite." Walt nodded frantically and Xander duck-walked a few inches closer - carefully cut into his hand, the fleshy part just under his thumb. Walt surged upward and Xander put his hand to the vampire's mouth, letting him drink. Shuddering at the sensation of flow - of connection.

The burned skin was sticky-hot under Xander's fingers and he let them curve gently, cupping the vampire's jaw. Walt made a groaning noise, licking and mouthing frantically, his eyes fluttering shut. Xander laid his knife down and pulled the stake out of his bag - brought it down, hard and precise. Walt jerked - dissolved - and Xander fell back, sitting down hard. He sat there for a long time, staring at the man-shaped layer of dust where Walt had been. Staring at the spattering of blood from his hand. The cut stopped bleeding after a while, and Xander got up stiffly - put stake and knife away, and shouldered his bag - turned and walked out. He knew where Crawford Street was, and he wanted to find the new place before it got dark.

 

"You're mad if you think she's not hunting you, Angelus. The Watcher nearly got you -"

"Fuck off, Spike. Of course she's hunting me - she's hunting all of us! And I'm not going to just sit here when the game's going so well."

Xander crouched in the weedy bushes that crowded around the foundations of the house, as close as he dared to a broken window. The swathing of dusty velvet drape obscured most of what was going on, but Xander had caught glimpses. Angel, limping and bruised; Spike shirtless, arm and back burned and Drusilla, who looked to be untouched. She was holding a doll, and singing softly.

"Bell horses, bell horses, what time of day?
One o'clock, two o'clock, time to away.,.."

"Going well? Look at yourself, Angelus! You'll be days mending, and so will I! And it's sheer bloody fortune Dru wasn't hurt -" Spike's voice cut off abruptly, and Xander edged carefully, carefully closer, trying to see more. Aware that the sun was rapidly setting - that soon the other vampires would probably be coming out of the house, if not Angel and Spike and Dru. He couldn't be there, but he...wanted to be. Had to be.

Just want to know, just want to...to see. To touch, that little voice whispered. Traitor-voice that made him shiver. But he did.

"I'm hungry. And I want to know what she's doing. I'm going. If you're too scared to come -"

"Oh, leave it, Angelus." Spike's voice sounded tired - tired to death - and Xander ducked and squinted fiercely - saw him, finally, indistinctly. Leaning wearily against the edge of a table, cigarette smoldering in one hand, the other slowly, slowly stroking through Dru's hair.

"Just leave it. Go and do whatever you like. Maybe try killing the Slayer for once, yeah? Just - give me some peace." Xander watched Dru's slim hand come up and touch Spike's shoulder where he was burned - saw him shiver, and then lean forward to kiss her forehead.

 

"Time to away, my love," she said, and pushed her face into his, a little. "Time for little birds to come home to nest." She looked up at Spike - let her gaze wander over the room and settle for a moment on the window. She seemed to be staring straight at Xander and he froze, holding his breath. But then she looked away finally - slipped gently away from Spike and swayed across the floor, to Angel, Xander supposed. Her red skirt and bodice were edged in black, and she looked like a gypsy dancer - moved like a slide of water over stone. "I'll bring you back something sweet and tender, Spike. A nice treat for tea to make you feel ever so much better."

"Thank you, poodle," Spike said, but his face was drawn with pain and tension - his voice hard.

"Come along, Daddy - we've things to do." Drusilla's voice turned wheedling and light - little-girl voice that made Spike wince. "I read the ashes last night, from all the burning - there's a secret - a surprise! Waiting for us. Time to go and get it."

"I love it when you do that," Angel said, laughter in his voice. "Can you just see that in your head? Like pictures?" Drusilla came back into view, hand in hand with Angel who smirked over at Spike and pulled her close, kissing her lingeringly. Drusilla leaned against Angel, gazing up at him.

"Blood will tell, Daddy."

"I'll paint the town with blood for you, Dru-darling. Make it scream." Dru giggled - looked fleetingly over at Spike who waved his hand, looking away. Xander watched them go - watched Spike smoke his cigarette. Another vamp - one with a burn across his face - approached slowly. Spike whipped his head around, snarling. Demon-face and demon-fangs, and the other vamp cringed, freezing on the spot and lowering his head.

"What the bloody fuck do you want?" Spike snapped, and the other vamp looked frantically around.

"We - uh - sun's down and we - we were just gonna go -"

"Yeah, right." Spike interrupted him. He looked around himself - sighed, shaking his head. "Just go. Do what you have to do but don't make a bloody spectacle of yourselves. Keep an eye out." The vamp nodded and scurried away, others following and after a moment Xander could hear them, coming out of the door at the back of the house, where Xander - circling to find a place to look in - had seen a sunken garden and a fountain. After a few minutes everything was silent again. Spike just smoked - tossed the butt away when he was done and sighed, leaning back on the un-burnt arm and staring up at the ceiling. Xander slipped away from the window and went around the side of the house - hesitated at the double French doors.

"You don't need an invite, little cuckoo," Spike said, and Xander went inside, dropping his book bag. He walked slowly across the room - stone floor and tall ceilings and heavy, dark furniture.

"I know. I just...didn't...." Xander stopped a few feet away from Spike, looking at the burns - looking at the rest of Spike's skin. How white it was, next to the redness of the damaged skin. (Wanting)
"Didn't know if...."

"If what, pet?" Spike turned his head finally - looked at him, and Xander couldn't breathe for a moment.

"If...I should. You - haven't been around...." Spike just kept looking at him and Xander felt the blood rushing to his face - felt hot and miserable and stupid. He willed his feet to turn him around - get him out - and then Spike tipped his head to one side a little, contemplating him. Held out his hand, and Xander thought he might be sick.

"C'mon, pet. Come here." Xander walked slowly, slowly to him - stood there, while Spike's fingers reached out and gently combed through his hair - petted it, just as he had petted Drusilla's hair not long before. "Been tryin' to keep Angelus from getting us all dusted, haven't I? He's come back...all wrong, pet. Not himself. Doing things that...." Spike sighed and his hand fell away, and Xander moved a little closer - reached out, very slowly, and laid his hand on Spike's knee.

"You don't...want him around?" Spike snorted softly - took Xander's hand and tugged him closer, until Xander was standing between Spike's thighs. Xander let his hands settle lightly on Spike's hips, his fingertips just brushing the cool skin right below his ribs.

"No, I don't. He's...makin' Dru unhappy, too." Spike seemed particularly angry about that, but the kiss the other two had shared made Xander think that 'unhappy' was maybe not the word.

"Buffy's going to kill him if she can." Xander leaned just a little, looking at the burns that ringed Spike's left shoulder and bicep - licked around behind, over his shoulder blade and ribs, just a little. Red and rippled and blistered, but not too awful.

"If she can. Do you think she can? She hasn't yet." Spike's hands were on Xander's waist, as well - pulling him a little closer. Sniffing delicately at his neck - his hair. "You smell like burning. Where have you been?"

"I went to the factory. I wanted to make sure that -" Xander choked on the thought of that vampire, Walt. Imagining if it had been Spike. Or Dru. Could he have killed them? "There was - you left s-somebody -" Spike went still and then he pushed Xander back, just a little.

"You saw somebody there?" He looked - pissed off.

"Yeah, there was - another vamp and he was really hurt. I - I -" Suddenly Spike grabbed Xander's hand and yanked it up - stared at it, then put his mouth over the cut, his cool tongue lapping over the tight, burning line. Xander shuddered, his eyes going closed and then fluttering open.

"You gave him your blood?" Spike's voice was soft but his eyes had gone the color of old gold, and fangs prickled at Xander's hand, holding him very still.

"He - he was really - fucked up. I let him have a little and while he was - was drinking I - staked him." Spike just stared at him, and Xander felt that same miserable feeling - humiliation and fear - longing. "He told me where you'd moved to."

"Shouldn't ever get close to a vamp that's that hurt, cuckoo. He could have killed you."

"He didn't - have any hands, he -" Xander stopped, shuddering, because that could have been Spike, that could have been Dru, hair burnt off and dancing limbs gone, just gone.

Like Walt's gone - like Jesse is, nothing left but ashes and dust, nothing to show....

His eyes were burning, and he squeezed them shut - started in surprise when he felt cool lips on his own. Spike kissed him then; slow invasion of cold lips and tongue, teeth like ice-slivers pressing into his mouth. Spike's arms came up and around him - hiss of pain into Xander's mouth and then kissing again, slow and sweet. Cool arms enfolding him, cool chest under his, and the heat and misery and confusion seemed to sluice away, and Xander just rested there.

He's alive. He's here. With me....

 

Kendra was dead, just like Ms. Calendar, and Buffy was running from the police. Xander was sitting in the Summers' kitchen with Mrs. Summers-please-call-me-Joyce, and Willow, trying not to be go out of his mind.

God, Dru - killing her like...like she was nothing, just....

Xander had lain in the wreckage of a splintered bookshelf in the school library, trying to get up, his head throbbing, his arm on fire. Willow beside him, nearly unconscious - weakly grabbing at his hand. And then Drusilla had walked in, and he'd....

I froze, and, I just lay there, and…. I could have stopped it, maybe I could have stopped her....

He'd watched - horrified and fascinated - as Drusilla and Kendra had fought. As Drusilla had done... something. Weaving like a snake, looking the other Slayer in the eye and then - her hand flashing out, and Kendra falling, her neck pouring out a thick gout of bright blood. Dru had crouched down and touched her fingers to the scarlet flow - raised them to her lips and licked, contemplatively. Great cat at a bowl of cream.

"What's - happening? Xan...." Willow, her eyes tracking just wrong, her head bleeding and her voice slurred. Xander had gathered her close, shushing her - hoping Dru wouldn't notice. His arm was useless at his side - screaming with pain. But the vampire had noticed. She'd sent a couple of other vamps scurrying with a wave of her hand and then walked slowly over to them, her head to one side, an odd little smile on her face.

"Cuckoo - what are you doing here? You shouldn't have anything to do with her kind...do nothing but break your heart, they will," Dru had said, flicking a glance over her shoulder at Kendra. Her fingers had hovered before her mouth and her tongue had flicked out, licking the last traces of blood away.

"Please - Drusilla, please don't - don't hurt my friends. Please. Spike promised -" Dru had smiled at him - nodded at some question from one of the other vamps and reached out, touched Xander's cheek. He had been up on the stairs - she had been on the main floor - and they were level, the remnants of the smashed balustrade between them.

Stake - one of those railings - could stake her...God, Spike would kill me, he'd - kill us all, can't do that, can't do that....

"I'm not Spike, though, am I, cuckoo? I didn't promise...." Drusilla had studied him - glanced at Willow, her fingers caressing Xander's cheek and his hair - his lips. Willow had been a dead weight on Xander's side, unconscious. Drusilla chanted softly:

"Say over again and yet once over again - that thou dost love me.
Though the word repeated should seem a cuckoo-song, as though dost treat it...."

Drusilla had moved closer, her oddly pale eyes half-shut, her mouth smiling. Her hand on Xander's cheek had been like snow - like a cool cloth when you had a fever and Xander had shuddered, pushing into her caress for just - one moment.

"Do you love me, cuckoo? Tell me, little sweetling....

'Say thou does love me, love me, love me - toll the silver iterance!
Only minding, Dear, to love me also in silence with thy soul....' "

"Dru - please don't, " Xander had whispered, and she had leaned in very close and kissed him, cool lips, cold tongue - salt-iron of Kendra's blood making Xander shiver.

"Say you love me, cuckoo, and I'll go and leave you be," she had whispered, and Xander had stared at her - stared in shock and hope and reached out to touch a lock of her silken hair with one finger.

"Love you - love you, Drusilla, I d-do," he had whispered, and she had smiled at him - put two fingers up to her eyes, and then pointed them at Xander.

"Sleep," she had whispered back, and that was all Xander remembered. Until an EMT woke him, was talking to him, feeling for his pulse. Willow being wheeled away on a gurney, and his arm throbbing in agony, and Principal Snyder telling the police it had been Buffy - Buffy had killed Kendra. They'd shushed him when he'd tried to talk, and then sedated him when he'd started yelling.

Fucking hate hospitals. It had taken until he and Willow were on their way out to realize Giles - was gone. Did Drusilla take him? God - is he dead? She promised...but Angelus didn't - Buffy, where are you?

 

Joyce was making hot chocolate - something to do, she said, smiling a shaky smile. Willow was trying to help her but she said her head hurt, and she kept stopping to rub her neck and Xander just wished she'd sit down. His own arm throbbed and itched in a cast - half-remembered ache of a broken bone, and he tapped it absently with his fingernails. Willow had a sheaf of papers and notes spread out on the kitchen island - a re-souling spell, she said. Legacy of Ms. Calendar. But she didn't know if she could do it.

"Well, well, well. You lot look like someone's died." Cocky voice - devil's own grin - Spike leaning in the doorway with a cigarette and Xander stood slowly, his heart hammering in his chest.

"Oh my God -!" Willow squeaked, and Joyce looked puzzled.

"Someone did die," Xander said softly, and Spike frowned - pitched his cigarette behind him, into the yard.

"Yeah? Who, then?"

"Kendra did. The other Slayer. Dru - did it."

Spike grinned, straightening from his slouch. "Dru bagged a Slayer? Bloody hell - good on her!" Xander clutched the edge of the island so hard his fingers hurt, and he felt like he might throw up.

Don't be happy. Don't be happy about that, Spike, please don't...say anything else….

"What's a Slayer?" Joyce asked, bewildered. "Who's Kendra, who's - Dru, and who is this?"

Spike looked over at her, still grinning. "She doesn't know? Bloody hell -"

"Spike. What do you want?" Xander asked, and Spike looked serious finally - looked Xander in the eye, head tipped a little. "Oh, I want all sorts of things, love, but for now I want to talk to the Slayer. Make a deal."

"What kind of deal? Buffy wouldn't make a deal with a vampire!" Willow blurted, and Joyce gaped at her.

 

"Willow, I think you need to go back to the hospital." Joyce looked frightened, and Xander just stood there for a moment, so confused and so lost. So angry with Dru and with Spike he just wanted to scream at the vampire - find Buffy and see him dust.

Spike took on a sort of school-boy pose - hands behind his back and his head down a little, looking innocent and, fuck - looking concerned - and Xander felt the heat of his angers draining out of him. Replaced with a coolness.

Promised he wouldn't hurt anyone and he didn't, he didn't, only Dru did and she's...she's not all there. Fuck. Spike, please....

"Now - you're Buffy's mother, am I right?" Spike asked, and Joyce smiled at him - nodded.

"Yes, but I don't know you - do you go to school with Buffy?"

"Not...really," Spike said, and smiled. "But I know what's going on - would you like me to explain, Mrs. Summers?"

"Oh, I -" Joyce looked at Willow, who looked like a little rabbit, all hunched and huge-eyed. At Xander, who was frozen in place, shivering. "Yes, yes I would. Won't you come in....?"

"I'm called Spike," Spike said, and stepped inside.

 

"Do you have any of those little marshmallows?" Spike asked, and Xander kicked him under the edge of the island. He shot Xander a look, and then smiled at Joyce as she got up, bustling to the cabinet.

"I'm sure I do - those are Buffy's favorite, too. Yup! Here we go." Joyce came back over with a bag of marshmallows and handed them to Spike, who sprinkled a handful into his cup.

"Thank you so much. Now - you got it all straight in your head, Joyce?"

"I'm pretty sure I do. But...Spike - Xander? Demons and...and vampires...? It's all so -"

"It's a lot to take in, Mrs. Summers, but it's true," Willow said, her gaze skating over Spike and then back to Joyce - sitting up from her hunch and gripping her mug of hot chocolate tightly in both hands. "Buffy's a - a hero! A champion. She - she rescues people and - and kills the bad guys and - and she's passing Chem. Lab, too!"

Spike made a choking sort of noise and Xander kicked him again, and Joyce smiled tiredly.

"I just wish that she'd told me! I would have...understood so much of what's been happening. Of what happened in L.A.! I.... Spike, are you sure you're a vampire? Have you tried not being a vampire?"

"He could show you," Xander said, and this time Spike kicked him. Xander felt like he was floating on a cloud - like the time he and Jesse had stolen a six-pack out of the back of Rory's car and split it between them. Swooping and flying, falling and spinning, his arm forgotten. Nothing quite real, and Spike's hand on his thigh under the island edge, stroking gently. Spike's voice in his ear, whispering, as Joyce had stood over the stove, stirring the milk so it wouldn't scald.

"Gonna make a deal, cuckoo. Gonna help the Slayer take Angelus out, and then me and Dru - we're leavin' here. Going to go south - down to Rio, maybe. Have some fun." Then Spike had touched his face - traced one cool finger over his lower lip. "We want you to come, cuckoo. We want you with us. Will you?"

And Xander had felt the blood in him all go to soda and pop-rocks - sweet and fizzing and utterly intoxicating as Spike's words had sunk in. Willow had tugged on his shirt-sleeve but he'd ignored her, staring at Spike and Spike had ducked his head - looked at him from under dark lashes as long as Dru's.

Kendra's death had faded, and he'd just remembered the touch of Dru's fingers on his cheek - Spike's kiss the week before at the Crawford street house. Remembered the cool press of those bodies to his in the bed in the factory and how the coolness had sunk into him and made him feel...so calm. So calm, and so very still. Cold pushing into him and freezing him, and making all the hurts go away - all the stings and aches dulled to nothing.

"Do you really want...me? I - I want -"

"Really want you, cuckoo. Dru's seen you - seen what you are, inside. We want you."

 

 

Crouching at dawn in the bushes outside of the house on Crawford Street, Xander could see several minions scurrying around, dodging sunlight and shutting the house up. A white face, framed in dark hair - Dru - peered out of an upstairs window and then curtains and shutters were drawn, and the house was mute - blind - shut against them. A hidden and secret hive, harmless until you touched it.

Buffy was next to him, holding the hilt of a sword that she'd been given by some sort of...messenger. 'The Powers That Be', she'd said, and Xander and Willow had exchanged puzzled glances. Buffy didn't know much more except that it she had to use it to close the portal if Angel opened it. Had to use it to cut him, because only Angel's blood would close the portal once it had been activated. Secretly, Xander wondered if that meant Angel had to die, but Giles' notes seemed to indicate otherwise. Spike had offered to kill him, but Buffy had clamped her jaw shut and shaken her head - reminded Spike that he had to leave and never come back. Spike had looked straight at Xander and grinned, and Xander....

Going away and never coming back. Never, ever coming back.

Now the sun was up and the vampires were trapped, and Willow would be doing the re-souling spell. Xander gripped the stake he'd brought from Buffy's house and swallowed - stood when Buffy did and walked on shaking legs to the back of the house.

What if he's already opened the portal and we can't stop it? What if Giles is dead? What if Buffy kills Angel and then...then tries to kill Spike? He's killed two Slayers, Dru's killed one...Buffy can't beat them....

The back door swung open easily under Buffy's hand and they moved silently, pushing through heavy curtains of dusty red velvet. A vampire - concentrating on something going on in front of him - collapsed into dust as Buffy swung the sword and decapitated him.

"If they're all like that, this is gonna be a piece of cake," Buffy whispered, and Xander nodded - clutched the stake tighter. "Go find Giles and get him out of here, don't get in the crossfire, okay?"

"Yeah - okay. Be careful, Buff." Buffy nodded, grim-faced, and strode into the main room. Angel was standing in front of a blocky, ugly statue - some sort of demon - and he looked over and grinned when he saw Buffy.

"I don't have time for you, Slayer."

"Better make time, lover," Buffy said, and Xander shuddered. Her voice was sharper than the sword she carried - colder than Angelus' smile, and Xander just wanted to get out. He slid along the wall, heading for the room Spike had said Giles would be in. Drusilla saw him, her eyes going wide and Xander froze, hoping she wouldn't alert Angel.

But Angel was curling his bleeding palm around the hilt of a sword that jutted from the statue - was pulling it out, like Excalibur in that movie, only Xander knew there was no cranky owl or long-bearded wizard to help. Dru bounced on her toes a little, clapping her hands.

"The crows, the crows, the crows are coming home to roost, Daddy, do you see?" Angel tipped his chin up at her but didn't answer. "Now whatever shall we do?" She turned to Spike, who was lounging against a door jamb, smoking. "Shall we sing Bede's song? For there's a question of souls in this, my sweet Spike....

'Before the necessary journey
No one is wiser than he should be
Who consider before his going hence
What may be judged of his soul
For good and evil after the day of his death..'

Shall there be death, Spike?"

"There usually is, poppet," Spike said, and Xander forced himself to move - made it about two feet and stopped to watch again, transfixed. Angel swung the sword over his head and Buffy launched herself at him, and Spike moved, too. Closed the space between himself and Angel in the blink of an eye, and swung a length of pipe that had been hidden behind his back; connected solidly with the back of Angel's head, sending the older vampire to the floor. Another vamp leaped from the shadows, snarling, and Buffy whirled, sword flashing. Spike lifted the pipe and swung again and again - three, four, five times.

"Hurts, doesn't it? You bastard." he muttered. He threw the pipe aside and turned, golden-glowing eyes finding Xander. "Do what you came to do, cuckoo - 'bout time to fly." Xander nodded - unstuck himself from his position against the wall and ran on shaky legs into the room where Giles was.

The Watcher was tied with rope to a chair, blood-streaked and bruised, his shirt shredded around his waist, his head lolling to one side, eyes shut. Xander looked hastily away from the wounds on his body and knelt behind the chair, hacking at the ropes with his knife, talking fast.

"Giles - Giles? It's me - it's Xander. I'm getting you out of here. Buffy's gonna take care of Angel and we're gonna go. Giles?" Xander unwound the rope from Giles' wrists - looked in horror at the crooked, swollen fingers.

Broken fingers. Oh God, God...fucking bastard, fucking Angel....

"No," Giles moaned, twitching away from Xander's hands; slumping forward and nearly off the chair, before Xander caught him and got his own shoulder up under Giles' arm - hoisting him to his feet. Giles was heavy - was nearly dead weight, and Xander gritted his teeth and braced himself, swaying.

"Giles - damnit, wake up! We gotta get out of here!" He could hear Buffy's sword, ringing off stone and other metal - could hear the mansion's other vampires growling as they attacked.

Just cannon fodder - that's what Spike said. Nothing she can't handle. Gotta get Giles someplace safe and then....

And then...Xander was coming back. And Spike would be waiting, and Dru would, and everything would be...better.

"No, just...just a trick - an illusion -" Giles mumbled, and Xander shook him.

"Giles! I'm not an illusion! Come on - Buffy's killing the vamps out there and we have to go!" Giles seemed to wake up a little then and he took on more of his own weight - peered near-sightedly at Xander, and winced when Xander got a fresh grip on his wrist, jostling his broken bones.

"Oh - yes, I -"

"Are you leaving so soon, my love?" Dru slid into the room, blood on her mouth. She lapped at it like a cat and Xander felt Giles stiffen - heard him gasp in a choked breath. "But you have to, yes - like the cuckoo, you fly with the dawn...." Dru minced over to them, her hands folded before her in a school-girl pose, her eyes dancing with some inner glee.

"I shall miss you, my sweet pilgrim," she murmured to Giles - reached up and traced his lip with her fingertip. "You kiss by th'book. Now, cuckoo - mind me," she said, and her other hand was on Xander's neck, pulling him close, and Giles was shaking, and Xander just wanted to get him out.

"Dru - Spike said we could go - please let us go," Xander whispered, and Dru sank her fingers into his hair - pulled his face down to hers.

"Listen, cuckoo - there's something you need to know. She said it, once upon a time, and I say it now, too." She pressed her forehead to his and Xander was vaguely aware that her other hand was pulling Giles closer as well. "There's a secret - a word. And if you discover it you shall be your own master, and I will make a present of the whole world to you. Do you understand? The whole world...and a pair of new skates. If only you know the secret word." She tipped her head up a little and kissed him, mouth of snow and licorice and iron. "Don't forget," she whispered, and then she was slipping away - dancing out of the room and Giles let out a harsh, strangled sound - a sort of a laugh.

"Xander - bloody h-hell, you've -"

"I've got to get you out of here, Giles. Come on." Xander hauled and Giles stumbled, cursing, and they made their way out and across the main room. Spike was staking a vamp - Buffy was fighting with Angel, sword to sword - and there was a glowing, rippling void centered over the statue in the middle of the room.

"Oh - God - he's woken Acathla," Giles muttered, his voice faint and shaky and Xander felt sick.

"Spike! You have to stop it!" he shouted, and Spike snapped a neck - dusted his hands together and looked at the portal that was shivering to life.

"Thought Slayer's were supposed to be tough!" he sneered, and then he picked up his pipe and joined the fight, swinging recklessly and clanging the thing off Angel's ribs, thigh, sword. Grinning like a feral dog, his coat flaring around him. Xander tugged at Giles, trying to get him to walk again but Giles resisted, his gaze glued on Buffy.

God, please - Willow, do the spell and stop him, they'll never get him to close the portal this way!

Dru was watching the portal, swaying slightly in her red dress, snake watching the charmer's pipe, her eyes golden and glittering. Angel was like a bull - baffled and raging - being stung again and again by the matador's sword. Spike had a gash across his chest, a scratch down one cheek, and Buffy was panting, driving Angel back into Spike; being driven back when Angel retreated away from the whirling pipe that Spike wielded. And then he crashed to his knees, his head going back and a sound of purest agony groaning out of him. Spike lifted the pipe again but Buffy caught it on her sword.

"Don't! It's the spell - the re-souling spell!" Spike snarled but backed off, throwing the pipe down and wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. He went to stand beside Dru, who curled into his arms and licked the cut on his cheek, smiling dreamily.

"Every night when I go out, the monkey's on the table
Take a stick and knock it off…
Pop! goes the weasel.."

She rested her cheek on Spike's shoulder, her fingers dipping into the blood that seeped from the slash across his chest. "No more of the City Road for Daddy, now - no more in and out of the Eagle. It's all rice and treacle for him; got no teeth, our little weasel...."

Spike laughed shortly, nuzzling into her hair. "That's right, darling - no more teeth, and no more slippery slope into hell. He'll stay here in his sackcloth and ashes, and we'll go where it's warm - where the boys and girls are all full of pepper and sunlight, just for you." He lifted his gaze when he said that - looked across at Xander and Xander nodded.

"C'mon, Giles - you gotta go to the hospital."

"No, wait; I want to see -" Giles protested. Buffy was on her knees beside Angel, talking to him in a low voice, her arm curved protectively around him. He was panting - ashen - and then he nodded and struggled to his feet, leaning on Buffy. They made their way to the statue and Angel stood swaying under the portal. Dru hissed and pulled back - tugged Spike away.

"Let's do it - now," he grated, and Buffy lifted her sword - swung it in a silver arc. The skin of Angel's throat parted like gossamer and his blood furled out of him; flew in a twisting thread across the air and into the portal where it spun and writhed, blackening. As Angel began to sink to his knees, white as milk-glass, the portal shuddered - warped - and snapped shut, gone.

"Thank Christ," Giles muttered, and fainted.

 

In the emergency room for the second time in twenty-four hours, and he was starting to recognize some faces. They'd told the staff Giles had been mugged, and they'd called the police, and for once Xander was glad that Buffy wasn't there. She'd taken Angel home, supporting the fainting vampire and looking close to fainting herself. Xander had tried to talk her into going back to her own house but she'd frowned and shaken her head - insisted Angel needed her.

"Your mom needs you more, Buffy! She doesn't even know if you're alive!"

"You go and tell her, okay? I just - just can't deal with her questions right now, Xander! I can't - believe you told her."

"What was I supposed to do, Buffy? Spike was right there and he was gonna tell her anyway - don't you think it was better that me and Willow were there?"

"Oh God, Spike." Buffy had passed her hand over her face, looking angry and lost. "She invited him in! What if he goes over there -?"

"Made a deal, Slayer," Spike had said, standing by the lump of rock that had been the end of the world only twenty minutes before. "I don't break my word. Get your little covey out of my house, now. Soon as the sun's down me and Dru will be gone."

Thin fingers like wands of bone had lifted a cigarette to his mouth - face as expressionless as a mask and the smoke had drifted up and around, furling halo of blue-white.

 

"Hey, William the Bloody, news flash! I don't actually trust you," Buffy had snapped, and she had taken one angry step forward. Angel's hand on her arm had stopped her, and he'd heaved a sigh, tugging her closer.

"Buffy - it's okay. He really won't break his word. That's the one...honorable thing about Spike. I know him, Buffy," Angel had insisted, and Buffy had relented finally. Spike had just watched them - flicked a glance to where Xander was kneeling next to Giles.

"Promise," he had mouthed, and Xander had let go the breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding.

Then Oz had come in with Willow, saying he had Giles car, ready to get everyone safely away. And Xander had walked out, not daring to look back, smoke and blood and leather smell in his nose - taste of Dru on his lips.

 

Giles, it seemed, would be staying overnight. Oz had already taken Willow home, snuggling her under his arm and putting a warm hand on Xander's shoulder - looking at him, and asking him if he needed a ride. Xander had just shaken his head; said he was gonna walk home, get some sun, get some doughnuts. Oz had nodded and smiled faintly at him - led Willow away. Xander had almost - almost - stopped him. Called him back and....

And what? Confess everything to him? Ask for his blessing? He knows, anyway - he knows already and he didn't say a word. He's half demon, himself, he...knows...

Xander walked, head hunched down between his shoulders, thumb rubbing slowly, slowly over the black mark on his palm. Jesse's mark.

Start of it all. Got his dust in me and...nothing was the same. In my lungs, in my blood - made me see...a lot of things. See things differently.

 

"Yeah. Different." Xander stood on the sidewalk outside his house; looked at the ragged lawn and the faded paint and felt a swell of disgust go through him.

Doesn't take any time to mow the lawn. I should know - I've done it enough. And paint costs less then all that fuckin' booze.

He was suddenly so tired, and he stumbled up the walk and up to the door - pushed it open. Stale air, rancid food smells - liquor. Sickness, that he hadn't registered before; maybe just hadn't wanted to acknowledge. As he walked past the living room there was a sudden cough, a shifting of worn springs, and Xander froze.

"The school called. Said you ditched. Care to explain?"

Xander turned and leaned in the doorway; looked at his father. The figure of nightmare for so many, many years, sitting in the blue-grey cave of the living room. Curtains drawn, TV flickering. Saw him - differently. A big man, but going to fat. Lines in his face from outdoor work, sure, but the broken capillaries of the hard drinker, too, that gave him a permanently flushed look. Stained t-shirt, the cuffs worn out on his slacks; thick, yellow toenails on his bare feet.

"It's not even noon - guess you ditched work, huh?" Xander replied, his voice so low and so soft he wondered if his dad even heard him over the Oprah show.

"I'm sick today, and that's none of your fuckin' business. You just came in - where've you been? Out all night? Causin' trouble? If the police come here looking for you I'm not gonna vouch for you," his dad growled, fingering the tab on an unopened beer.

Xander shrugged. "I didn't think you would. Don't worry, the police don't want me; I've just been out...looking at things. Thinking about things."

"Don't break a sweat," his dad snorted and the can tssssed open. Xander listened to the beer sluice down his dad's throat - watched him wipe his mouth with the back of his hand and shift in his recliner.

"You either," Xander said finally, and went away upstairs.

Their bedroom door was closed, and Xander knew that meant his mom was in there, asleep. Her best defense against her life. He hesitated for a long moment, his fingertips on the door knob. But then he walked away, went to his room and packed up his backpack; changes of clothes, his favorite comics. The paperback copy of Star Wars that Jesse had bought him because 'Dude! There's extra scenes in here!'

The dreidel that he'd smuggled out of Willow's house one Hanukkah. He'd been invited to join her family; first and last time, since his dad had called the next day and shouted at Willow's dad about 'indoctrinating his son into the cult of the Jews'. They'd played the dreidel game - a blast for eight-year-old Xander - and he'd actually won the pot; won a little sackful of candy that had broken open and scattered on the floor when his dad had slapped him.

He looked around the room, gave up trying to find anything else. There was nothing else. His life wasn't here, had maybe never been, and it was time. Time to move on. He went back downstairs and outside - breathed in deeply, glad to have the oppressive, overheated air of the house out of his lungs.

Time to go, time to go, time to go, like a mantra in his head, and he hurried, backpack bumping his hip in time to the racing of his heart.

 

The mansion was silent - deserted looking - and Xander stood in the sunken courtyard, staring in. Hot and sweaty because he'd finally just run. Miserable, because the doubt was creeping back in. What did they really want with him? He was a novelty, the Slayer's friend, or...something. But he was just...Xander Harris. Nothing special and how could he keep the attention of two vampires - vampires who'd been alive for over a hundred years? More, really. He had nothing to give them but his blood.

"Cuckoo? That you, standing out there?" Spike faded into view from the green-black gloom of the shuttered house. Smoke drifting through a patch of light, reflecting white as snow for a moment before thinning out into nothing. Spike naked, like a statue - shining pearl and snow in the murk. Not even approaching human, and Xander felt his heart skip and catch and race on; felt his lungs hitch and pause for one long, awful moment.

And then he was swaying dizzily forward and Spike was coming to meet him, cigarette arching past Xander's head to skitter over the leaf-littered courtyard. Spike's hands were coming up to brace his shoulders, and Spike's mouth was ghosting over his.

"You all right, then? Look white as a sheet, little bird."

"I - I - I'm all right, I -" Xander's teeth were chattering, he couldn’t catch his breath, and Spike pulled him closer and tucked Xander's head down into his neck; stroked soothing circles over Xander's spine.

"Hush now, cuckoo. Hush. You're here like we wanted, and we're here, like we promised. Come and lie down with us, yeah? Come and rest." Something in Spike's voice - sweet, dark promise that Xander couldn't puzzle out.

"Oh-okay. Okay, I.... I brought my...stuff," he added, burrowing closer into the (smoke iron earth) of Spike's neck.

"Did you now? We'll get you some new kit, cuckoo, when we go. Got nothing suitable for Rio, I'll bet." Spike kissed his temple - his ear and the curve of Xander's neck under his hair. Kisses like mint and ice, all shivery hot-cold and tingling. "Mmm...you taste good, love. Warm and salty and sweet...."

"Treacle tarts," Dru said, fading in as Spike had; naked as Spike was, her hair a dark cowl around her face and shoulders, dark fleece at her groin.

"I'm all - sweaty, I'm not c-clean," Xander murmured in protest; vain protest as Dru slipped his pack off his shoulder and Spike slipped his shirt off, and then he was between them again on the crisp cotton and satin of the bed. Dru pressed all along his front, ice and mist, Spike at his back, snow and smoke. Naked as they were, and lost in their touch - in their mouths on his and on his throat, his chest, his back.

"You taste like the sea, little cuckoo," Dru murmured, licking a slow stripe up his arm - curling her arm over his ribs and pulling Spike closer. "Remember, Spike, the crossing? The Mauretania...we stood on the bow and the spray flew up - rainbows in the moonlight. That's you, little cuckoo. You're all fractured and faceted - you're seeing through a kaleidoscope."

"It's the dust," Xander said, and pulled Spike's hand to his mouth - kissed the long fingers and raised his leg, so Spike's knee could slide between his thighs. "Jesse's dust, it - got in my eyes and...in my blood."

"Yes, love," Spike said; ran his cool mouth up Xander's back and bit gently at his throat, just under his ear. "Dru said - you let the dust in. Now you'll let us in, yeah? Let us in, little cuckoo," Spike whispered.

Xander found himself upright, astride Spike's thighs, Spike's arms pulling Xander back into his chest, Spike's chin on his shoulder. Spike's cock, slowly breaching him and it hurt - God, it hurt so much and Xander tried to pull away, tried to push him out, but Spike just slipped deeper, icy fire that coiled through Xander's belly and stole his breath away.

"Please, Spike -"

"It's a birth, cuckoo," Dru said. Dru kneeling over the both of them, and lowering herself onto Xander, clasp of chilled silk around him, and Xander gasped - tried to move - clutched fiercely at Spike's thigh and Dru's shoulder as Dru's weight forced him down.

And then they were still, and Xander was shivering, shivering - tendrils of cold snaking through him and Dru's eyes like wells - Spike's teeth prickling over his neck like icicles.

"You're being reborn, my sweet boy. All births hurt. Hush, now, shhhh...." Dru kissed him, and he lost his breath - hung dizzily between them and keened softly as Spike moved, sending jolts of acid pain through his gut.

"Remember the word, cuckoo? Say the right word and we'll make everything better. Just one little word, sweet...."

Xander lay his head back on Spike's shoulder - felt Spike's mouth on his jaw, and Spike's fingers where Xander's body joined Dru's - Dru's thighs hard and cool like marble, Spike like chilled iron under him, inside of him. Cold spreading out from cock and cunt and sharp-toothed mouths, and Xander thought about a love that was a century old - more. Thought, as best he could about what he was being reborn as. Felt the word in his mouth as he felt fangs in this throat; Spike on this side, Dru on that, both of them writhing over and under him, enfolding and invading and taking....

"Forever. It's forever," he whispered, and Dru laughed into his neck, and Spike's fingers stroked his chest, and Xander just held on, his vision gone to spangles and tear-drop shimmers. Fracturing and freezing as the heat of his humanity flowed out and cool, spiced wine (that's blood...Dru's blood, Spike's blood...), was poured past his lips and the hurt became something entirely different.

He drank the blood down, every drop.

 

 

Waking was...different. It was like coming up from down deep in a pool of water - like breaking through a layer of ice, and being thrust up into the air, gasping. Xander dragged a hard, harsh breath into his lungs, sitting straight up. The air...glowed. Every mote of dust and reflection sparkled with rainbow refractions - shimmered with glowing coronas of silvery white.

"What - what is it? What is it?" he gasped, and Spike was there, fingers cupping Xander's face - his thumb rubbing over Xander's lower lip and Xander could feel every whorl - every line.

"It's the moon...the moon...." Low, throaty voice, and Xander could see Dru near the courtyard doors, wearing a long, pale dress and slowly revolving, her arms up and out like a crucifix and her hair across her face. Pillar of salt and ink - indescribably beautiful.

"The - m-moon?" Xander pushed into Spike's caress - looked with something like awe at the gleaming lines of bone and muscle in Spike's face, chest, arms. Frozen milk, polished ivory, and Xander's hand on Spike's thigh seemed too dark; seemed...wrong.

"I'm not - I don't look the same," he said, and Spike picked Xander's hand up and brought it to his mouth - kissed his fingers.

"No, love, you don't. You look like honey and sunlight. You look...." Spike closed his eyes - opened them again and pulled Xander closer, kissing him with slow deliberation until Xander thought he would pass out. He sucked in a breath that tasted of earth and molasses and mint, shivering.

 

"How do I look?" he whispered, and Spike smiled at him.

"You look beautiful, Xander. Better without this, though." Xander watched, fascinated, as Spike cracked the edge of the cast - tore it off in three hard jerks and tossed it aside. The lately-broken, newly-healed bone didn't even twinge, and Xander flexed his hand, smiling.

"Don't fret, cuckoo - you'll bleach your bones soon enough; the moon will wash you until you gleam like glass." Dru swayed over to them, the gossamer panels of her dress floating around her and Xander held his hand out; felt a surge of wild joy when she took it and settled on the bed with them, wound her arms around both him and Spike and kissed them.

"Now we're done, now we've finished - you've the whole world at your feet, little cuckoo - what shall you do first?"

"I'm hungry," Xander said, and Spike laughed.

"Of course you are. We'll get you fed, pack our things and go. Sun's just down half an hour ago; we'll be in Mexico by dawn. You'll like Mexico, cuckoo; they taste like lemon and Cuervo there."

Laughter in Spike's voice still, sparkling in his eyes and Xander laughed, too; pulled Spike to him and hugged him hard, snuffling into his neck and breathing deeply of the scents that were…(home family mine). Spike's arms tight around him, Dru's over them both and her voice crooning in his ear.

"Who can fear too many stars,
Though each in heaven shall roll,
Too many flowers,
Though each shall crown the year?
Say thou dost love me, love me, love me...."

 

He could hear the DeSoto's grumbling purr from halfway down the block, although he supposed no one else could. He stood outside the house, watching the shadows move behind the glass. Cold, in the very core of him. A coldness that had spread all through him, until he was still and calm - so very calm. No more doubts, and no more hurt. The dust had settled, finally - had merged with him, flesh and bone.

He closed his eyes for a moment, thinking of smooth, cold hands and laughing eyes; welcoming arms and sharp-edged mouths. He stepped up to the door and knocked softly - smiled when it opened, smiled when she did.

"Willow -" he said.

Forever would begin right now.