I love ya, Bear, and I think ever so much of you. This fic is for a hell of a lot more than the icons . . . but the icons were damn cool =D

*blows [info]mirasol trans-Atlantic kisses*

Pairing: Snyder/Clem--who else? Spike/Xander, people! Sheesh!
Rating: R, so far (dude, that, like, totally rhymes)!
Disclaimer: I play, I pose, I pretend. That is all.
Concrit/Feedback: Tell me you love me, tell me you hate me; so long as you tell me.
Notes/Spoilers/Warnings: For [info]mirasol, who asked for: “Spander. Really, you can't go wrong with that. I'd love to see what you'd make of schmoopy - you know, cheesily romantic. And just to be ultra-difficult, can we have the word spamjangled?
Archive: Sure. Just drop me a line.
Summary: I rewrote the S4 ep “Something Blue” the way it shoulda happened . . . do somethin’, Joss!

Some of the dialogue I lifted straight from the ep; some of the dialogue I fiddled around with. Some of the stage direction I took great liberties with. But at the end of the day, this’s still the ME crew’s baby. My thanks to www.buffy-vs-angel.com for the excellent transcripts.





Something Borrowed


by
Beetle



Part One


“So . . . you saw their faces but you can’t describe them?”

Xander’s tone is dripping with sarcasm, disbelief and dislike. He’s sitting on the edge of Giles’s bathtub inquisitioning a smug, chained up vamp. He’s not in the best of moods.

Spike smiles almost coyly. “Well, I seem to remember they were human. Two eyes each, kind of in the middle. . . .”

“Yuh-huh.” Xander stands up, resisting the urge to pace. There isn’t enough room to pace properly.

Pace properly. Heh.

“And the lab?”

“Told you already, you stupid piece of white hat flotsam, it. Was. Under. Ground,” Spike enunciates, dripping some sarcasm and dislike of his own. “I came out through an air vent. Dunno exactly where.”

“Well, you’re just all kinds of useful today, aren’tcha, biteless?”

Spike’s chin tilts up haughtily. “Right. That’s it. I’m done. Put the telly on.”

Xander’s just decided to give Spike a very cold, very wet response when Giles steps into the bathroom. He’s carrying a "Kiss the Librarian" mug--the one Xander had given him last Christmas--with a straw protruding from it.

Three guesses what’s in there and the first two don’t count, Xander thinks queasily. Spike, on the other hand, is licking his lips in anticipation.

“It's about time! Hope you got it warm enough--” Spike trails off when Giles ignores him and hands the mug to Xander. Then the Watcher’s gone, as silently as he’d come.

Xander tries not to make a face as he holds the mug close enough to Spike so that he can get a good whiff, but not glom onto the straw.

“Oi, move it closer, git!” he orders. Xander smiles sweetly.

“What’s in it for me?”

For a moment, Spike looks confused. Then, for several moments, he looks utterly horrified. “Bloody hell, you don’t mean you want me to--” Spike’s round eyes dart down to Xander’s crotch.

“What? Eew! No!” When the realization of what Spike thinks hits him, Xander scrambles back away from the bathtub quickly, nearly slopping blood on Giles’s floor. “Your warped mind would immediately go there. No, I don’t want any part of your skanky, dead-man self touching any part of my anatomy, Spike.”

Not doing a terribly good job of hiding his relief, Spike leers. “I think someone in this bathroom is protesting a bit too much.”

“You are sick and evil and wrong--and did I mention sick?”

Spike tries to lean forward, but the heavy chains prevent him from leaning very far. “Now, Xander, don’t act so dainty and innocent. I remember the way you used to look at Angel--”

“Gah! Don’t even finish that sentence because there was no looking!” Xander stalks out of the bathroom, but is back a few minutes later. Spike is still chuckling, but that stops as Xander lets blood dribble over the cup’s edge and into the sink.

“Hey! Give it!”

Spike rattles his chains trying to jump up and stop the awful, awful waste. Xander rights the cup, wearing his own smirk. “The invalid-amnesiac routine stops, Spike. The kitchen is closed till you tell us something useful about these commandos guys.”

Spike’s sigh is way too deep for a creature that doesn’t need to breathe. “Look, I'm tryin' to remember, but--it was very traumatic.”

Xander heaves a sigh of his own. “Come on, fangless, how long are you gonna pull this crap?"

“Well, let’s see. . . .” Spike makes a show of thinking, which Xander secretly finds ironic and amusing. “How long am I gonna live once I tell you?”

Not very, Xander’s about to admit when Giles strolls back in, looking every inch the stern librarian-guy.

“Spike--we have no intention of killing a harmless . . . er, creature--”

“We don’t?” Xander interjects. Giles glares at him before turning back to Spike.

“No, we don’t. But we have to know what's been done to you. We can't let you go until we're sure that you're . . . impotent--”

“Hey!” Spike exclaims angrily. Xander starts giggling so hard, he actually does slosh some blood onto Giles’s floor.

Giles takes off his glasses. There’s a handkerchief ready to clean them. “Sorry, poor choice of words.”

“I think that was some of the best damn word-choosin’ I’ve ever heard,” Xander says, but Giles ignores him.

“Until we're sure you're--you're--”

“Flaccid?” Xander suggests innocently. Spike lunges at him but, secured as he is by the chains, has to settle for glaring.

“You just better watch it, little missy.”

“That’s Mister, to you. Not-so-little Mister!”

“You are one step away--”

Xander pulls a melodramatically frightened face. “Oh--oh no, oh Giles, help! He's gonna scold me!”

Spike tries to lunge again and is held back by the chains again, which Xander is starting to find pretty entertaining.

“You know what? I don't think you want us to let you go. Maybe we made it a little too comfy in here for ya.”

“Comfy?” Spike laughs and it sounds more than a little desperate. “I'm chained up in a bathtub drinkin' pig's blood from a tacky novelty mug . . . this isn’t exactly a vampire Club Med, pet.”

“You want something nicer?” Xander carefully sits the mug of blood on Giles’s clothes hamper and saunters to the tub, kneeling in front of Spike, who eyes him suspiciously. Xander tilts his head back, exposing his throat. “Wow . . . wouldja ya look at how exposed my poor, tender neck is?”

Spike’s jaw drops in disbelief.

“. . . all bare and vulnerable and warm . . . all that blood just pumping away. . . .” Xander says softly.

“Oh, please,” Giles mutters in exasperation, walking out of the bathroom. But neither vampire nor human notice.

“Like I’d--like I’d ever bite you.” Spike’s struggles against the chains have all but stopped as he stares at Xander’s neck. Xander smiles, tilting his head to one side.

“You know you wanna have a taste, Spike . . . I’m all moist and delicious. . . .”

“Yeah--you’re a real nummy-treat,” Spike breathes--breathes?--obviously trying for sarcasm, but falling far short. And he’s doing that lip-licking thing again, which sends a shudder through Xander. (Said shudder feels less a-frighted and more a-naughty, but Xander easily overlooks that.)

Spike licks his lips once more, slowly, before closing his eyes, shaking his head and growling. “Giles, make him stop!”

“Oh, well . . . no o-pos for you, then.” Xander stands up and walks out of the bathroom, shutting the door. Spike’s frustrated voice drifts after him:

“Oi! At least leave the pig’s blood where I can get at it!”

Maybe next time, fangless . . . The Zeppo: 1. The Annoying Undead: 0.

“--about a truth spell?” Willow is asking Giles as Xander enters the living room. “I'm not positive it would work on a vampire, but we could try. Make him 'fess up?”

Giles smiles--the proud one that lights up his eyes and makes Xander wish his own father had been a British librarian. “A truth spell, of course. Why didn't I think of that?”

“‘Cause you had your hands full with the undead English Patient?” Xander offers, sitting across from Willow, barely able to see her above the ginormous pile of books.

“Yes . . . and if you and Spike don’t kill each other before sundown, I might have to lend a hand,” Giles says crisply. And he’s probably kidding, but that Ripperish smile? Not so reassuring.

“I was thinking something like this.” Willow hands Giles the spellbook she’d been paging through. Giles takes a look and nods.

“Splendid. We'll have a go.”

“Looks pretty simple.” Willow stands up, smiling as she slings on her backpack. “I'll stop by the magic shop tomorrow.”

“Excellent.” Under his stiff-upper-lip facade, Giles seems more pleased than a mere truth spell would warrant.

Of course, Xander thinks, this is the first time Willow’s smiled or been excited about something since Oz blew town. I guess even lying, undead assholes have their uses.

And Xander is pretty sure he isn’t imagining that some color’s finally returned to Willow’s face, that she looks less--devastated than she did, even just a day ago.

“Alright, I'll be back in the morning with donuts and motherwort.” Familiar, problem-solving, Willow-enthusiasm? Check. “Bye, guys!”

“Later, Wills!”

“Yes, thank you, Willow. See you tomorrow.”

When the front door closes behind her, Giles and Xander look at each other.

“That was a very helpful idea. She seems to be coping better with Oz's departure, don't you think?” Giles asks.

“Well . . . she still has a ways to go, but yeah--I think she's dealing. My Wills is a brave little toaster,” Xander says, feeling proud of her, as well.

An obnoxious, loud voice from the bathroom ventures it’s own unsolicited opinion: “What--are you people blind? She's hangin' on by a thread! Any ninny can see that!”


~*~*~*~*~


That night is a relatively quiet one in the UC Sunnydale dorms.

Buffy is sleeping soundly and Willow is sitting in the midst of a circle of red candles.

In front her are the tools of her trade: a censer, a goblet and a pentacle with a bowl in the center and tree trays containing various herbs.

The only sign of wavering determination, or perhaps something as simple as nerves, is a dry tongue swept across her lips. But this momentary uncertainty is just that; momentary. There are risks, true enough, but finally being able to crawl out of the neck-deep despair she’s been in more than outweighs the risks.

And really, it’s not a dangerous spell . . . even if it is, the danger would certainly only be to herself.

Willow can’t even close her eyes without seeing Oz’s miserable face, which had looked as miserable as her own had felt. This has to be done, if only so she can get a decent night’s sleep.

She takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly.

Harken all ye elements, I summon thee now.” Willow drops a pinch of bitter herbs into the bowl. “Control the outside, control within. Land and sea, fire and wind. Out of my passions, a web be spun. From this eve, forth, my will be done.

Willow empties the goblet into the bowl electricity flashes from one candle to the next, forming a circle that then moves inward to Willow. The candles’ flames rise high.

So mote it be.


~*~*~*~*~


Even without his glasses on, Willow’s face looks strained, tired and guilty as she paces her dorm room restlessly.

Rupert sighs and puts his glasses back on. “Willow . . . I know that you're going through a very difficult time. But, shirking your responsibilities--”

Willow’s pale, miserable face gets a bit paler, a bit more miserable and Rupert feels awful for having brought it up at all. “But I didn't shirk! I did the research, and I picked up the motherwort, I just forgot the doing the spell part!”

“Well, that isn't like you at all,” he points out gently.

“I know. I've been off, lately. I--I even tried to do a spell last night. To have my will done. I was hoping it would make me feel better. But it just went all ker-flooey, instead.”

Rupert frowns. “A spell? Willow--I don't think it's wise for you to be practicing magic alone right now. Your energy's too unfocused.”

Anger flashes in her red, tired eyes. “Well, that's not true. I said I was off, not incompetent.”

And of course, in her current emotional state, even constructive criticism would sound like a personal attack. “I only meant that you're grieving, and it might be wise if you took a break from doing spells without supervision for a time.”

“So I get punished ‘cause I'm in pain?” That flash of anger has become a flare. Rupert doesn’t think he’s ever seen level-headed Willow respond so unreasonably to a well-meant and reasonable suggestion before.

“It's not punishment. I'm only saying this because I--”

“Oh, you care. Yeah, everybody cares. Nobody wants to be inconvenienced. You all want me to take the time and go through the pain, as long as you don't have to hear about it anymore,” she accuses.

“Willow, now you know that's not fair--”

“Isn't it? ‘Cause I'm doing the best I can and it doesn't seem to be enough for you guys!”

“I see how you could feel that way, I do--”

Willow turns away, her body one long, tense line. “No, you don't. You say that you do, but you don't see anything,” she says softly.

“I know this may seem hard to believe, but I’ve suffered heartbreak in my own life--”

Rupert stops talking; between one blink and the next, his vision has become oddly blurred. He removes his glasses, cleans them with a handkerchief and takes a quick peek through them.

Still blurry. How . . . odd.

And in the meantime, Willow’s resentment--though not directed entirely at him--means that his welcome has become a bit over-stayed. His when-I-was-your-age stories would probably not be appreciated.

“Er . . . perhaps I'd better be going, then,” he says awkwardly, standing up. “We can continue this conversation later.”

“Sure,” comes Willow’s listless reply. He can’t quite make out the expression on her face, but he can guess it isn’t a wide, open smile.

He lets himself out of her dorm room, reflecting that, for the time being, it would be best not to ask Willow to cast spells. There’s no telling how her emotional state would effect even something as relatively simple as a truth spell.

Rupert is so deep in his worry, he doesn’t notice the approaching student until they’ve already collided with each other.

“Look where yer goin’, dude!”

“Oh! I'm sorry . . . terribly sorry,” he mutters distractedly, putting his hankie away and his glasses back on.

Still blurry.


~*~*~*~*~


Elobe, enemy, be now quiet. . . .

Chained to a chair, now--a step up, he supposes--Spike watches the Watcher shuffle around him waving a bundle of burning herbs and squinting at a spellbook.

Squinting at a spellbook?

To Spike’s way of thinking, this does not bode well.

“You know . . . not too keen about this spell stuff. Tends to be a bit unpredictable.”

The Watcher gives him a superior look. “Yes, well, you might have thought about that sooner.“

At that, Spike instinctively gives in to the urge to trip the old boy as he passes in front of him again.

Both he and Jeeves wind up on the floor, writhing in pain and swearing.

By the time Spike’s own pain has let up, the Watcher’s back on his feet, glaring down at Spike. Spike sticks out his tongue.

“I can’t wait till you’re of no further use to us,” the Watcher sighs and looks back down at the spellbook. “Er . . . let your deceitful tongue be. . . be, er--let no . . . untruths be spoken.”

The man’s obviously having trouble making out the words. Very shortly, he gets frustrated and puts the book down. Out comes a handkerchief and off comes the glasses.

Near-sighted pillock’s gonna turn me into a toad if he’s not careful.

Spike lays his head on the floor dejectedly and that’s when he notices it, not five inches away from his face.

The key to the chains.

Every bad deed gets it’s reward.

“Hey, what's that all about?” Spike asks, inching toward the key slowly while the Watcher--hah!--rubs his eyes.

“Hm? Oh, nothing. I just got ash in my eye.”

“Well, I won't have you doin' mojo on me if you can't read properly. You might turn me into a stink beetle or what all.” He can just about reach it. . . .

The Watcher sniffs and picks up the spellbook again. “T'would be a generous ending for you, Spike.”

Self-righteous bastard, Spike thinks, smiling as his fingers finally touch cold metal. Don’t think my ending’s gonna be any of your doin’, mate.


~*~*~*~*~


“I mean, I'm going through something. I just don't see why Giles was getting down on me,” Willow whines, playing with Amy, the rat.

Buffy sits on the edge of Willow’s bed and scratches between Amy-rat’s pointy little ears. “Giles just worries. Spells can be dangerous, Will . . . it doesn't mean he thinks you're a bad witch.

“But I am a bad witch.”

“No, you're a good witch. The goodest witch. You are Glinda, good witch of Southern California,” Buffy insists.

Willow smiles a little, then sighs. “Ah, who am I kidding? If I had any real power, I could have made Oz stay with me.”

“Will, you wouldn't have wanted him to have stayed--” Buffy starts to say, but Willow isn’t really listening.

“I didn't have the guts to do the spell on Veruca, and my I-Will-it-So spell went nowhere. The only real witch here is fuzzy little Amy.” Willow lifts Amy-rat up and rubs noses with her. It’s both the cutest and most pathetic thing Buffy’s ever seen.

“I think you're being a too hard on yourself.” She takes Amy-rat away from Willow and puts her back in her cage. Amy-rat squeaks and runs pell-mell for her wheel. Both Buffy and Willow watch her for a few minutes.

“Sometimes I miss being Buffy-rat,” Buffy says wistfully; but Willow’s switched from whining to ranting.

“Amy’s got access to powers I can't even invoke and even she couldn't control the magic. I mean, one night, she’s tied to a stake, about to burn for being a witch--”

Just as Buffy turns away from the cage back to Willow, Amy-rat disappears from her cage with one fearful squeak.

“--then poof! She's a rat and living in a cage in my room!” Amy-rat reappears in her cage, visibly panting; her fur is singed and smoking. Neither Buffy nor Willow notice. “I could never do something like--”

The phone rings, startling them both. With an apologetic shrug for her moping best friend, Buffy answers it. “Hello. . . ?” She listens for a few seconds and frowns, glancing at Willow. “Uh-huh. I'll be right there.

“What?”

“That was Giles. Spike escaped.”

Willow pastes on her most pathetic face, yet, and that’s saying quite a lot. “A-and you're going? Now?

“Sorry . . . it’s a duty-thing.” Buffy’s already pulling on her comfiest patrol sneakers, the ones with the pink laces.

“Well, I mean, what's the rush? Spike can't hurt anyone, right? And I figured since I'm kinda grieve-y, we could, uh . . . you know, have a girl's night. We could eat sundaes and watch Steel Magnolias and you can tell me how, at least I don't have diabetes.” Willow’s smile is pathetically eager.

“Will,” Buffy goes over to Willow’s bed and sits next her. “I can't hang out with you until I get Spike back to Giles, you know that. I promise--I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

“Well, I just don't see the big,” Willow pouts, as Buffy gets up to root around in her closet for the patrol halter. “He's probably hiding from those commandos. And--and Xander was over at Giles’s, earlier. He’ll probably find Spike before you do! He’s probably already found him!”

By the time Buffy turns to look at her again, the blue glow has already faded from Willow’s green eyes.


~*~*~*~*~


Just after Giles’s call, Xander opens his front door, sliding a stake into his jacket pocket.

Finding his quarry standing on his front porch, looking very confused is enough to startle a meep! out of Xander.

“Okay, I thought this’d take a little longer,” he says, when his heart’s stopped racing.

Spike looks around himself suspiciously. “Yeah . . . me, too. Musta got turned around. . . .”

“I’ll bet. So whatcha doin’ here, Spike? Stalking me? Carrying out some crack-brained scheme to kill us all, oh, impotent one?”

But Spike isn’t even listening to Xander; he’s dropping to his knees to prod at the porch's creaky wooden boards.

“This isn’t right,” he mutters. “Wasn’t here a moment ago, I was there . . . on the lawn. Right where. . . .”

“What was right where?”

“The--the lab! The commando lab! The vent was right there under the lawn! Where I escaped!” Spike pounds the porch, further splintering the rotting wood.

Xander crosses his arms and leans on the door frame. “A secret commando lab under my front lawn? Yeah, I don't think so, fangless.”

Spike’s shaking his head. “No, there was grass right here and a secret entrance and then--everything was different and I was here and--sodding open up! I'm gonna kill you!” Spike roars.

At the porch.

Xander rolls his eyes. “Spike, we both know there's nothing under there, so just drop the act.”

“Let me in!” Spike punches a fist-sized hole through the porch. “Fix me!”

Knowing he’s gonna hear about this from his parents--especially dear old dad--Xander grabs Spike by the arm, tries to yank him up before he puts any more holes in the house. But Spike pushes him away.

“Get off me, you wanker!” A flash of yellow eyes and fang, gone as quickly as they appeared. Then Spike’s back to yelling at the porch.

“That is it--that is so it! I'm gonna gag you--” Xander tries to yank Spike up again, but before he can, Spike hauls back and punches him in the mouth . . . then falls down the porch steps and onto the lawn, holding his head and howling in pain.

Carefully probing his split lip with his tongue, Xander descends the rickety steps slowly, watching Spike roll around in the grass like a crazed dog. The urge to kick the mass-murdering prick while he’s down is nearly overwhelming.

But after a bit of consideration, Xander takes a step back and gingerly massages his aching jaw.

“You’re not even worth the energy it’d take to kick your undead ass,” he says, turning his face away. He spits out a mouthful of blood and goes back inside to call Giles.


~*~*~*~*~


“Hey! Watch it!”

Xander pushes Spike into Giles’s apartment ahead of him, wishing he’d made good on his promise to gag the Walking and Talking Undead.

“One more word out of you, bleacho, and I swear. . . .”

“Swear what?” Spike sneers back at Xander over his shoulder. “You're not gonna do anything to me, Harris. You don't got the stones.”

“Oh, I got the stones. I got a whole bunch of stones,” Xander says flatly, rethinking the whole ass-kicking premise.

“You're all talk, mate.” Spike flops down on Giles’s couch smugly.

The beginnings of a headache Xander’s been feeling all day? Are threatening to turn into a full-blown migraine. “Giles! I accidentally killed Spike! That's okay, right?!”

Xander is advancing on Spike, taking the stake out of his pocket--and Spike is inching down the couch, and away from Xander--when Giles’s distracted voice drifts out of the bathroom. “Oh--er--uh--just a minute!”

Xander pauses, stake poised just over Spike’s heart.

“No. Stones,” Spike mouths with a satisfied smirk. He shoves Xander’s hand away.


~*~*~*~*~


“Okay, guess you were right about Xander having a better shot at finding Spike,” Buffy says, looking confused and wary as she hangs up the phone. “In fact, Xander found Spike on his front porch.”

Willow's pacing back and forth, still--oh, joy--complaining about Xander.

“. . . I mean, I'm going through something! You'd think every once in awhile Xander would make his best friend a priority.”

Watching Willow pace is starting to make Buffy dizzy. The next time Willow goes past her, Buffy pulls her down to the bed and looks her in the eye. “It's not like we could just leave Spike free to run around and kill . . . okay, insult people.”

“But that’s just tonight! Xander’s been Mr. Not-showing-his-face guy for months, now! Since school started! But I figured with--with everything that happened, he’d make some time to be with me--I mean us.” If Willow’s bottom lip were pooched out anymore, it’d fall off. “We’re his best friends.”

“Will, sometimes friends’ lives take different paths and they drift apart for awhile,” Buffy says, channeling her inner-Joyce. “Xander’s life is kinda different from our lives; but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t love us and miss us and isn’t making as much time for us as he can. And I’m sure he would’ve dropped by tonight if Spike hadn’t escaped.”

For a second, Buffy is sure that rational-Willow is about to pull her head out and realize that even though Oz left, the world--and all the nasties in it--is still turning. That as much as they all care about her, they have too much on their plates to coddle her 24/7.

But then Willow’s pitiful martyr face comes back. “Spike's more important than me. I get it.

Taking a deep, not-very-calming breath, Buffy tries one more time--the absolute last time--to get through to her friend. As it is, she should be out patrolling or beating some answers out of Spike. “Willow--I know that you’re hurting, but right now--we need Spike to tell us whatever he knows about these commando creeps. And for some reason, Xander seems to have a way with him--”

Willow bounces up off the bed angrily and goes to look out the window. “Well fine, then! If Spike’s so much more important than me, why doesn’t Xander just go marry him!”

Buffy doesn’t see the flash of blue reflected in the window.


~*~*~*~*~


“I get my bite back and they'll be finding your body for weeks!”

Rupert fumbles with the medicine cabinet, putting back the useless eye drops he’s been all but main-lining for the past several hours. His vision isn’t getting better. In fact, it’s grown steadily worse, if anything. He’s starting to think that perhaps he should ask Xander to drive him to the emergency room--after chaining up Spike, of course--when the young man in question’s voice drifts in angrily from the living room.

“Oh, make a move--please. I’ve been itching to drive a stake through your heart for years!”

Closing his medicine cabinet, Rupert blinks at his blurred and trebled reflection. One would think that after sniping at each other all day, they'd eventually tire of it. But one would be wrong, wouldn't one?

“. . . chunk here, chunk there--chunks all the way down the bloody coast!”

“I can’t even begin to illustrate how non-threatening you are, William the Remarkably Unbloody! I wish I had a nickel for every time you--”

Rupert finally snaps. “If the two of you could remain civil long enough to--”

He storms out of the bathroom, expecting to see the pair of them at each others’ throats. What he sees--and this surely proves there’s something terribly wrong with his vision--is Xander kneeling in front of Spike, holding his hand and gazing up into his face.

“Bloody hell!” Spike is saying breathlessly. “It's just so--so--sudden! I dunno what to say--”

Rupert can’t make out either man’s expression, but it turns out he doesn’t need to, as Xander’s next words clarify--so to speak--everything.

“Just say yes, sweetheart, and make me the happiest bartender on earth,” Xander replies in a voice that’s choked with emotion.

Spike throws his arms around Xander. “Oh, love! Yes! Yes! A thousand times, yes!” He exclaims, sounding rather choked up himself.

“Are you two having some sort of bizarre joke at my expense?” Rupert asks, still trying to blink away the blurriness. Because it looks like Spike and Xander are hugging and snogging each other and that simply isn’t right at all.

Rupert puts on his bloody useless glasses, feeling quite nonplussed.

Xander breaks the kiss to catch his breath and the pair finally notices Rupert.

“Hey, G-man!” Xander’s grin is big enough for even Rupert’s fading vision to make out.

“Oi, wanker! You'll never believe what’s just happened!” Spike holds up his hand and waggles a now be-ringed ring finger at Rupert.

“Sweetie, he’s gonna be your Watcher-in-law . . . you can’t call him a wanker, anymore.” Xander pulls Spike’s ringed hand to his lips for kissing and . . . licking? “I mean, I’m pretty sure that's not a term of endearment.”

A besotted sigh from Spike. “Right. If it’ll make you happy, Xandy-pet. I’m not callin’ him ‘Dad’, though.”

Rupert merely gapes, sure that on top of going blind, he’s also going insane.

Xandy-pet? Dad?

Then Spike is pulling Xander up onto the couch--and himself--for more snogging and more . . . more.

“Want you so bad, love. . . can’t wait till the wedding night . . . gonna do such lovely, wicked things to you--” Spike says between kisses and Rupert is ever so glad he can’t make out what Spike’s hands are doing.

“Jesus, Spike. . . .” Xander groans happily. The couch is starting to creak.

Then there’s giggling, and gasping and--other sounds which follow Rupert all the way to the cordless phone and the dubious safety of the bathroom.





2
Something . . . Borrowed



It’s starting to look like I put on the patrol halter for nothing, Buffy thinks restlessly, twirling her stake like a baton.

Willow’s finally stopped talking and is now looking at Buffy like she expects an answer of some kind.

“Uh--I know it's hard to see it right now, but everything you're feeling is because of you and Oz. Not because of Xander, or me, or anybody else. But eventually you'll meet somebody and it'll be--better.”

And puh-leeze let me go patrol, just for an hour!

Willow flops down on her bed, arms crossed over her chest. “Yeah, ‘cause most relationships are great and trouble-free? I don't think so. I think we're all doomed to badness.”

Remembering the earnest look on a certain corn-fed TA’s face, Buffy can’t help but disagree. “We're not doomed--”

“Oh, yeah?” Willow’s glaring holes into their ceiling fan. “Let's take a look at your track-record. Angel, Angelus, Angel again--not to mention that jerk Parker--you're the Slayer, Buffy, and that makes you pretty much a demon magnet. You of all people have to know that happily ever after is just a bunch of hooey.”

Buffy wilts in the face of Willow’s surprisingly tactless--if dead-on--assessment.

“Well, Riley seems--”

“Oh, Riley. . . .” Willow laughs cynically. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he turned out to be--Beelzebub, or something!”

Biting off a reply that would definitely be un-take-backable, Buffy loosens her grip on the stake before she snaps it in two.

“And on that note, I’ve really gotta go kill something,” she says, up and out the door in double-time, so Willow’s collection of miserable faces can’t stop her.


~*~*~*~*~


“Willow? Buffy? It’s-it's me. Do pick up, if you’re there. . . .”

When there’s no answer, Rupert sighs. “Something's happened. I need your help. I can't see very well; everything's blurred. I'm certain it's a spell of some kind, because . . . well it seems that something else has gone, er--” Rupert peers out of his bathroom.

Spike is just handing Xander what looks like one of Rupert’s imported ales.

“Oh, Spike--you didn’t have to. . . .” Xander sounds absurdly touched, considering that ale is not even Spike’s to give.

“Bollocks.” Spike sits on Xander’s lap and steals a kiss that turns into nuzzling and hugging. “This old swill? It’s the least I could do to make my Xan-love more comfortable.”

Rupert shudders. “. . . gone horribly wrong.”


~*~*~*~*~


“There's just so much to decide. Ceremony, guests, bachelor party. . . .”

“Spike . . . baby,” Xander kisses away his honey’s frown of concentration. “Why not just have a small, quiet ceremony. Why not elope?”

“Bite your tongue! I’ve been waiting for this day for over a hundred years! If you think I’m gonna just run off to some low rent casino-slash-wedding chapel, then you’re in for an unpleasant surprise, let me tell you--”

“Alright, alright,” Xander laughs, hugging Spike closer to him. Spike cuddles up in his embrace like a big, sexy kitten. “No wedding is too big for my studly snuggle-bunny.”

“Knew there was a reason I fell for you, Mr. Harris.”

“You just like getting your way, Mr. The Bloody.”

Spike smirks. Xander can’t see it, but he can sense it. “Won’t deny that. And the first thing I'd say--we're not having a church wedding.”

“No big, there. I’m not even sure what religion the Harris’s are. Ooh! Let’s have a morning ceremony at the park on First and Van Allen!” Xander’s got some great memories of some great summers spent at that park with Willow and Jesse. . . .

Spike tenses up. “Yeah, great. Fabulous. Enjoy your honeymoon with the big pile of dust, pet.”

Oh, yeah. “Well, we’ll have it under the trees. Indirect sunlight, only. Very indirect.” Xander promises, trying to massage away Spike’s tension. Giles strides out of his bathroom, eyes closed. “Heya, G-man.”

“Hello. . . .” Giles makes for his liquor cabinet slowly, and pours himself a generous glass of scotch. He then disappears into the kitchen. All without ever cracking open an eyelid.

“Under the trees, eh?” Spike snorts. “Warm breeze tosses the leaves aside, and again--we're registering as Adam and Steve Big-Pile-of-Dust.”

Xander starts snickering and Spike straddles his lap, pinning his hands on the couch. “I like that! Discussing our upcoming nuptials and you're laughing at the idea of my possible immolation?”

“I wasn’t! I was just--” Xander’s about to babble out an apology when he’s struck all over again by Spike’s angry-kitten cuteness. He feels a sappily happy smile invade his face. “Oh, pouty! Look at that lip. Gonna get it! Gonna get it!”

He leans in to nibble Spike’s bottom lip and Spike lets him, giggling.

Xander . . . we’re not married yet; you were the one who said he wanted to wait,” Spike murmurs as Xander’s hands somehow make it past belt and down the back of sprayed on jeans.

“Well that’s because I’m a fool--” kiss. “A foolish, foolish man,” nibble.

“Xan--pet, don’t start somethin’ you’re not gonna finish. . . .”

“Okay, okay . . . but that doesn’t mean I don’t wanna lay you down on a bed of roses and worship your beautiful, alabaster body all night long,” Xander replies around Spike’s earlobe.

“Not fair, love,” Spike groans and wriggles when Xander starts grinding up against him. Xander doesn’t know what horrible compulsion made him say he wanted to wait till their wedding night, but he’s so starting to regret it.

“Love you so, so much, Bleachy-bear.”

“. . . not fair, stop. . . .”

“Yes, please stop,” Giles begs, startling them both as he reenters the living room. Xander reluctantly removes his hands from the back of Spike’s pants, blushing.

“I certainly hope that when I open my eyes I won’t see anything untoward.” Giles feels his way over to his chair and sits heavily, already gulping a mouthful of scotch. Spike glances at Xander, a mischievous smirk on his beautiful face.

“What? Like me being bent over the back of this couch and ridden into next Tuesday--?”

Oh, God. “Spike! Shut up!” Xander risks a glance at Giles--and Giles does not look happy at all. His eyes are now clinched shut as if his very life depends on them staying that way.

“Or what about Xander on his knees, taking me into that wet, warm mouth of his?” Spike’s voice is low and rough, his eyes burning like blue flames. “And I mean bollocks-deep . . . how’s that sound, Watcher-in-law?”

“Absolutely nauseating,” Giles sighs in an aggrieved voice, cleaning his glasses with his tie.

“Well, how abou--”

Xander shuts Spike up the only way he knows how. Eventually, however, he remembers Giles’s presence--and his own pesky need for oxygen--and pries Spike off of his face. “Uh--nothing untoward going on, here, G-man.”

One eye opens warily and focuses on them. “Ah. Splendid.” Both eyes are open now, and squinting. “And don’t call me G-man.”

“Oi, Watcher.” Spike holds his hand out to Giles like how Xander imagines the Queen of England would hold out her hand to a peasant. “Did you see the ring my Xanny-pie got me?”

“Thankfully, not very well,” is Giles’s disinterested reply as he leans back, rubbing his eyes.

He’s been doing that a lot all evening. Huh. Xander thinks, taking Spike’s elegant hand in his own--enchanted by the difference in their complexions--and pulling it up to his mouth for some smoochin’.

“If you two start swallowing each others’ faces again, I’ll have to ask you to leave,” Giles says sternly.

“No face swallowing going on here, G-ma--Giles,” Xander promises. Spike leans in to whisper: “Go ahead, pet, ask him?”

“Now?”

“You know a better time to ask?”

Xander can’t think of a better time, so he takes the plunge.

“Uh, look, Giles, I'm not dumb, and I know that you probably don't approve--and Wills should technically be the one to throw--but this night is about guys being guys and having some damn manly fun, so--I would like you to throw my bachelor party.”

Giles is stunned and blinky, though the blinky part isn’t so unusual considering the past few hours. “I beg your--but I’ve never--Xander, I don’t know what to say, other than I’m honor--oh, for God's sake! This is nonsense! Something is making you act this way! Don't you realize what you're doing?”

Xander smiles contentedly at his father-figure, then looks at the cuddly puddle of vampire in his arms. “Living a dream, Giles.”

“He's gonna have to take a bit of time to get used to it, love,” Spike murmurs, stroking Xander’s face tenderly.

Xander sighs. “I guess . . . but they weren't too crazy about Angel at first, and eventually--I mean--” he unsuccessfully back-pedals when Spike tenses up again.

“You weren't gonna say that name.” If the scary tonelessness is any indication, Xander is firmly ensconced in el casa de perro.

“Hey, why don't we talk about where we're going to have the bachelor party, huh?” Xander turns a pleading gaze on Giles, who’s gotten up to pour himself another scotch.

“Well, where would Angel like to have a bachelor party?” Spike snarks, pulling out of Xander’s arms to sneer. “And can we get the stripper Angel would've wanted? And the poncy beer Angel would’ve liked, too?”

“Hey! You think I don't live with the shadow of Angel over my head?” Xander demands. “That I'm not wondering if you're going to be thinking of him on our honeymoon, when I’m--” Giles clears his throat loudly and Xander edits his next words “--making sweet, sweet love to you?”

“Oh, Xander, my Xandy-pet. . . .” the sneer melts away and is replaces by loving concern. When you push that big, gorgeous cock of yours into me, I won’t be thinkin’ at all, let alone thinking about brood-for-brains.” Spike kisses away Xander’s frown.

“I’m not nearly drunk enough to be hearing this conversation,” Giles mutters to no one in particular.

“And neither will I.” Xander leans his forehead against Spike’s. “Don’t you get it? I’ve been yours since the moment cave-vamp gave me to you, Big Bad.”

“Oh, dear--!” Scotch suddenly splatters all over Xander and Spike’s heads.

“Hey! Watch where you’re going, wank--er, Watcher!”

“You okay, Giles?” It’s hard to ask, since Spike has decided to lick the scotch off of Xander’s face. And it’s no use trying to budge Spike off his lap--the cuddly puddle of vampire only moves when it wants to.

“I tripped over a length of Spike’s chains.” The Watcher rights himself and sits on the edge of the couch, as far from Xander and Spike as he can get.

“Well, that was stupid of you, wasn’t it?” Spike ends his cleaning with a lick to Xander’s nose.

“I think not, considering that I seem to be rather--rather blind. Completely blind, in fact.”

“What? When did that happen?” Xander asks, as Spike goes over to Giles and waves a hand in front of his face. When Giles doesn’t snap at him to move his hand, Spike looks over at Xander, wide-eyed.

“My vision's been fading all day. It’s a spell, I believe,” Giles says, almost cheerily, but Xander suspects that’s the scotch. He and Spike exchange a look.

“We'll get you fixed, Giles. Don't worry.” Xander jumps up. “Just tell me what you need me to do. I am ready-for-action man.“

“What we need is a general reversal spell, love. I can draw up a list of supplies and ingredients for the magic shop,” Spike offers.

“Are you . . . helping me?” Giles sounds incredulous and a little frightened.

Spike claps Giles’s shoulder awkwardly. “Well, it's like my cuddle-monkey said: you're m’ Watcher-in-law. And William the Bloody takes care of family.”

Despite the awfulness of Giles going blind, Xander’s heart fills with warm gushiness and pride at his Blondie-pooh’s big heart. “See? This is how family should be. Spike'll even take care of you while I go stock up on eye of newt and bat tongues, or whatever.”

Xander pulls his immediately pliant and pleasantly clingy vampire into his arms. “From now on, we're a family.”

“Your mouth really is bloody lovely, Xan . . . gonna be even lovelier wrapped around my cock. . . .” Spike sighs happily.

“Spike--not in front of G-Y-L-E-S!” Xander gasps as Spike nips at his throat. Giles sighs.

“For heaven’s sake, we’ve known each other for three years and you still can’t spell my name?”

But neither of the affianced couple is listening, arc-welded as they are to each other’s mouths. Xander’s hands are already sliding up the smooth, cool skin of Spike’s back and Spike’s purring contentedly.

Giles sighs. “Why, oh why did I have to spill the scotch?”


~*~*~*~*~


Twenty minutes later finds Xander exiting the magic shop with a Medium Brown Bag.

Halfway back to Giles’s place, he stops in the middle of the sidewalk, mesmerized by a beautiful wedding gown in the window display of a trendy shop. He wonders if he could possibly get Spike to wear it . . . not on their wedding day, of course, but on their wedding night. . . .

Sliding acres and acres of frothy white satin up Spike’s pale thighs . . . removing a garter that’s attached to nothing because Spike doesn’t wear underwear. . . .

Which of course leads to the very appealing picture of fucking Spike while he’s wearing the dress, all bunched up around his waist. . . .

“Xander! Where have you been? I’ve been trying to reach you all evening!”

Momentarily startled, Xander glances at Anya, then back at the wedding dress Spike has to wear on their wedding night. “Heya, Ahn . . . look at that one with the lace and ruffles . . . isn't it beautiful?”

Anya takes a closer look at the display. “I suppose. A little dressy for taking me to a movie--which you’re three hours late for, by the way--but you do look nice in white.”

“Thanks. And no, not for me, for Spike.”

“Oh. Well . . . yes. Though I personally think he’d look better in black leather and silk . . . Xander, what’s going on? You were supposed to meet me at the six-plex hours ago.”

Xander sighs and turns away from the display. Anya looks flushed and slightly annoyed. “I really like you. I hope you know that you mean a lot to me, and if things were different--”

“Different than what?” The annoyance has become confusion. Xander takes her hand gently, trying to find the right words. “I want you to promise me that we can always be friends, in spite of what’s happened. I mean, I'd really like you to be there on ‘The Day’.”

“What day?”

“The day of my wedding,” Xander says, completely unable to suppress his smitten smile.

Now Anya really looks confused. “Wedding? What wedding?”

My wedding! I'm getting married!” And okay, Xander knows the bouncing is a little girly, but he doesn’t care. “Can you believe it?”

Anya opens her mouth, then shuts it, frowning more thoughtfully than unhappily.

Perhaps they will still be able to be friends. . . .

“You’re getting married?” Xander nods. “To Spike?” Another nod. Anya lets out a breath, shaking her head. “I don't think ‘no’ is a strong enough answer to that question, then.”

“I know! Isn’t it wild? I mean, we fought for all these years, and tried to kill each other every time we ever met, but then . . . sometimes you just look at someone and you know . . . you know?”

Anya thinks about it carefully, then shakes her head. “No.”

“I think maybe we fought because we couldn't admit how we really felt about each other,” Xander muses, remembering the naughty-tingles of earlier that day--hell of the night Angel used him as bait to lure Spike out. He never had, nor has he since met anyone that immediately electrifies every nerve ending in his body the way Spike did and does.

Anya’s seems downright puzzled, now. “Wait--can we start again? Xander--why were you late for our date and why are you marrying a vampire.”

“Not just a vampire,” Xander corrects. “William the Bloody, Ahn. William the Bloody wants me to be his cuddle-monkey.”

“But--aren’t I your cuddle monkey?” The hurt look on Anya’s face sends Xander toppling off of cloud nine and crashing back to the Hellmouth.

“Oh--uh--for a time, yes. But that was before I realized my destiny was to be with Spike.” Xander pulls Anya into a heartfelt hug, closing his eyes before any tears fall. He’s found Spike; he can only hope Anya finds her own Spike, somewhere down the line.

“This is all very sudden, Xander,” Anya says and it sounds like she’s having trouble wrapping her mind around Xander’s happiness.

“Believe me, Ahn, I’d never have purposely hurt you, but I just now realized that I love my bleachy-bear.”

“So you want to have orgasms with Spike, now?”

“Not just orgasms, but, well--yeah. He’s my soul-mate. Sort of, I mean, he doesn’t actually have a soul. . . .”

Anya leans back to look Xander in the eyes. Her eyes are shiny and wide.

Wills isn’t the only brave little toaster I know, Xander thinks. If I wasn’t with Spike, and if I wasn’t so very gay, I could see myself not breaking up with her. . . .

“Are you sure you want to be with Spike?” She asks, brow cutely furrowed. Not as cutely as Spike’s brow furrows, but a distant second. “Last I heard, you hated vampires. Especially that vampire.”

“I know, it’s just so--wacky, you know? Only on the Hellmouth,” Xander chuckles.

“Don’t you thinks it’s a little odd that you all of a sudden like Spike, and want him to be your orgasm buddy--”

“--orgasm-hubby, Ahn. And, well I don’t really like him.”

“--didn’t know better, I’d say someone made a wish, or cast a spell. Or maybe you’ve sustained a head injury.” Anya puts her hands on her hips, eyeing Xander’s skull and their surroundings very suspiciously. Her concern for his welfare is touching and humbling, but totally unnecessary. He and Spike are made for each other, like chocolate and peanut butter. Or peanut butter and chocolate.

Xander smiles, lost in his contemplation of the man he’s gonna marry. “No one really likes him . . . not even other vampires. ‘Cause he’s such a lone wolf--”

“Xander--”

“--but I love him. I really, really do,” Xander gushes, unable to stop beaming, although he knows it could come across as gloating to Ahn, who is technically his ex, now.

“You don’t even know his last name!” She points out.

“Do, too!” Xander blushes because it’d never occurred to him that Spike would have a last name.

“What is it, then?” Anya demands, hands still on her hips.

“Uh . . . Spikerson . . . William Spikerson.”

“Spikerson’s not a real name!”

“Look, Ahn, don’t be jealous--”

“I'm not jealous!”

“You sure sound jealous. And mad. Which is totally my fault, I know, but it’s better that you find out now, as opposed to when you get your wedding invite in the mail.”

Anya closes her eyes and takes a very deep breath. “Does he at least have some means of contributing to your joint finances?”

“Spike?” Xander laughs. “Spike is my manly, macho muffin-o’-lurve, but no way in hell could he keep a job! I’ll just have to support us both. I don’t mind. And hey, at least he’s already a soulless fiend, so there’s no chance he’s gonna hate me just ‘cause he got turned, like my last boyfriend did.”

Last boyfriend?” Anya asks as if she’s not sure she wants to know.

“Yeah, Jesse . . . well Jesse and I weren’t dating, so much as we were suck-buddies.” Xander admits. “But he was still my best friend and it really hurt my feelings when he tried to kill me both those times.”

Anya looks befuddled and unhappy. “Okay. You’re much more dysfunctional than I previously thought and I'm--I'm very tired now. So, I'm just going to go far away and be . . . away.”

She shakes her head and walks past Xander in a dejected daze.

“But--” Xander starts after her; Anya turns and put up a hand to halt him. “No, you stay here. Or, don’t stay here, just--don’t follow me.”

Xander nods, sniffing back tears as she walks away quickly, glancing back once to make sure he isn’t following.

“You're ruining my happy day,” he sulks, shoving his hands in his pockets. A few seconds later, something white and shiny catches his attention and he turns back to the window display.

He smiles.

Anya forgotten, Xander’s fantasy picks up right where it left off--the dress bunched up around Spike’s waist and Spike’s legs over his shoulders. . . .


~*~*~*~*~


Anya’s walking along, lost in her own misery that she still doesn’t notice Buffy, walking toward her.

“Hey, Anya.”

“Oh. Hello, Buffy.” Anya doesn’t even slow down, or look up, just keeps on walking.

“So, how’re things?”

“How’re things? How‘re things? Oh, just peachy! Xander’s dumped me because he’s engaged to a vampire--the world’s just puppies and roses, tonight!” Anya explodes, walking even faster. The last thing she needs is one of his friends feeling sorry for her.

Unless Xander had already told his friends and Anya was the last to know . . . isn’t that what always happened on Jerry Springer?

“Oh, I--what?” Buffy shakes her head. “Did you just say Xander’s engaged? To a vampire?”

Oh, don’t act like you don’t know! Anya wants to say, but the prettily confused expression on Buffy’s face stops her.

“Yes. Apparently he’s Spike’s cuddle-monkey and Spike’s his soulmate. And I’m out an orgasm buddy.”

“Anya, your mouth is moving, sounds are coming out, yet--the sounds make no sense at all.” Buffy says.

“Yeah, tell me about it,” Anya mutters, not letting Buffy’s deceptive, dumb-blonde routine distract her. “I blame you, of course. You’re the one who didn’t just stake Spike and have done with it. And who has to suffer the consequences of your wishy-washy leadership? Me, that’s who!”

“No, hey--I’m sure there’s been some misunderstanding--you haven’t been human for very long and while it may somehow seem like Xander and Spike are engaged, I’m sure you’re mistaken.”

“Oh, you’re sure, are you?” Anya laughs. “Well, I’m sure that when the words ‘Spike and I are getting married’ come out of someone’s mouth, it means that that someone is probably getting married to Spike!”

Buffy shakes her head again. “No, that’s not possible--maybe you misheard--”

“We can’t live in denial anymore, Buffy!” Anya stops walking and grabs hold of Buffy’s arms. “Xander is gay! Gay, gay, gay! And he wants to be gay with Spike!”

“That’s . . . awful, I guess, but are you sure you heard--ack!” Anya hugs Buffy, unable to bear the wounded-ruminant look in those big, blue eyes.

“And you know what the worst part was? He didn’t even invite me to have a three-way with them!” It’s all Anya can do not to weep.

“Look, this is--some weird--Hellmouth misunderstanding--and when it gets sorted out--Anya, ease up, I can’t breathe--we’ll all have a good laugh about it, ‘kay?”

Anya is noticing, for the first time, that Buffy’s body, though firm, is still very soft and warm and feminine.

“So come on, let’s go to Xander’s, then you two can talk this out, and I can finish my patr--”

“Wow, you smell really, really good,” Anya says. “Like some kind of fattening dessert that I just have to taste, no matter how many calories it has.”

It’s apropos of nothing they’ve been talking about, but it had to be said.

“Well--thanks . . . it’s this new body wash I’m trying, Vanilla Explosion--”

“And your hair is so bright and yellow, like freshly cut hay!” Anya’s lets go of Buffy just enough to look into her eyes. The smile that stretches her face feels goofy, and very much like ninety-eight percent of Xander’s smiles look. “Only softer. And much more gorgeous and touchable.”

“Um, again--thank you.” Buffy blushes, looking pleased. “My secret is a daily cream-rinse. Doesn’t even matter which brand, just so long as it’s dail--”

As if the words cream-rinse are some sort of catalyst, Anya leans forward and kisses the secret of soft and shiny hair from Buffy’s lips.


~*~*~*~*~


It’s kinda hard to extol the virtues of any beauty regimen when your best friend’s girlfriend’s tongue is down your throat.

An hour into her patrol, Buffy had already slayed ten fledges and a pair of Skeilurs. She’d been walking down Main Street, on her way to the other side of town--and Shady Rest Cemetery--when she spotted a familiar and distracted figure trudging toward her.

Preoccupation? After midnight? On the streets of this town? Not so good for anyone's health.

Buffy hadn’t wanted her best friend’s girlfriend wandering around the Hellmouth, miserable and oblivious. What were the odds that she wouldn’t get eaten in a state like that?

The plan had been simple. Walk Anya home, or to Xander--either place was on Buffy’s patrol route--and continue on to the cemetery.

Now, with Xander’s girlfriend grinning goofily up at her from the ground, Buffy realizes that was a stupid, stupid plan.

“What the hell was that?!” she demands, wiping her lips. Had Anya been eating Fruit Roll-Ups all night?

“I kissed you. That was a kiss.” Anya stands up and brushes off her dress. Her smile is bright and predatory.

“I know what a kiss is! But--gah! Anya-lips! Lips-of-Anya!” Buffy wipes her mouth again. Not that she doesn’t like Fruit Roll-Ups, but--ew! Lips of Anya! “I do not go that way, and--and even if I did, you’re Xander’s girlfriend! You and I can’t have smoochies!”

Ex-girlfriend,” Anya says, stepping toward Buffy, who backs up a step. “And anyway, Xander’s old news. He’s chosen to explore an alternative, but legally permissible lifestyle. I think he may be onto something.”

Buffy scrambles back a few steps when she realizes Anya’s been moving closer and closer while she was speaking. “Hey, personal space! It’s not just a rumor!”

“Think about it, Buffy--who knows more about what a woman needs than another woman. . . .” Anya says. There’s a strange expression on her face, like she’s trying to swallow something gross.

“Anya--what’s wrong with your face?”

“I’m being sultry. Is it working?”

“Uh, no. . . .”

“Perhaps we should try kissing again--” Anya launches herself at Buffy with a speed that’s impressive even to a Slayer. Buffy barely gets out of the way of those fruity lips.

“Come on, Buffy, don’t be such a prude,” Anya’s in full pout mode. “Let’s go back to my place, have some Sangria and give each other lots of orgasms?”

“Nuh!” Buffy makes the sign of the cross, then remembers Anya isn't a vampire. “You stay back! I know kah-rah-tay--!”

Suddenly a loud screech from above cuts through the night, startling them both. Buffy tackles Anya to the ground just as a large, winged--something swoops at them.

“What the hell was that?” Buffy gasps, staring after the giant, albino-man-bat thing that’d just tried to dive-bomb them. It wheels around in a loose figure eight, screeching.

“That’s a Yershka demon.” Anya is still grinning and squirming around under Buffy. “Usually, they steer clear of humans--can’t stand ‘em.”

Buffy gets up and pulls Anya to her feet. “But this one’s suddenly hanging around a heavily populated Hellmouth?” Sounds like a sign of yet another impending apocalypse.

“Hmm . . . that is strange. They also don’t like mystical energy of any kind. A Yershka hanging around Sunnydale is like someone with dairy allergies joining a cheese-of-the-month club.”

“God, Willow’s right. I am a demon magnet,” Buffy sighs. Which means Riley probably is Beelzebub. . . .

“Well, you’re certainly magnetic--”

“Hey! Hands in naughty places!” Buffy spins around to face Anya. The ex-vengeance demon smiles innocently. “Look, how do I kill this thing?”

“A crossbow bolt to the third eye--”

“I can do that--”

“But the bolt has to be made of thrice-forged lanthium and blessed by a Priest of the Order of Muraa,” Anya finishes, then points up at the sky. “Hey, I think it’s coming back this way.”

Another eery screech tears through the night.

”Of course it is,” Buffy groans. She grabs Anya’s hand and runs.


~*~*~*~*~


Spike examines the cake-topper Xander had brought back with the supplies.

The groom is a brunet and the bride--damn this provincial, jerk-water town--is a blonde. Spike marches the figurines up Xander’s thigh.

“Duh-dum-da-da. Duh-dum-da--you do know I’m not wearing a bloody wedding dress, right?” He looks at Xander, who’s blushing furiously; that blush is an answer in and of itself.

“Let’s get one thing sorted right out of the gate. Only one of us is wearing the dress in this family, pet, and I guarantee you, it ain’t gonna be me. Bet you’d look good in white, though.” Spike leers, the cake-topper inching ever closer to the distended crotch of Xander’s jeans. “Can imagine bending you over the hood of the DeSoto . . . you all done up in white silk and lace--”

A throat is cleared harshly.

“So the plan is to cure my total, incapacitating blindness . . . tomorrow?” The Watcher asks, sounding more than a bit miffed.

Xander’s breath hitches as Spike brushes the topper over his fly. “They, uh--were all out of Tagas root at the magic shop. They'll have more tomorrow. I'm--gah!--completely on top of it.”

“Wanna be on top of something else, love?” Spike asks just a tad too loudly.

“Bloody priceless,” his Watcher-in-law mutters, adjusting the damp towel that covers his eyes. Spike smirks, but it turns into a smile as he looks at his pet again.

“Aren't they a perfect little us?” Xander asks, trying not to squirm or buck under Spike’s unique brand of torture, but they both know it’s a losing battle.

“I suppose it’s the best we’ll get in Sunnyhole . . . the bloke’s alright, but I don't like the bint, though. She's insipid and clearly human.”

“We could smear a little red paint on her mouth--blood of the innocent.” Xander smiles hopefully and Spike falls in love all over again. His boy is brilliant. He’ll make an excellent consort and an even better childe, if Spike ever figures out how to undo whatever those bloody commandos did to him.

“That's my Xandy-pet,” he murmurs, grabbing Xander’s ears and pulling him into a long, warm, wet kiss.

“Stop that right now! I can hear the smacking!”

Wanker-in-law, Spike thinks when Xander breaks the kiss apologetically. It’s impossible to stay annoyed at that sweet, goofy grin and big, puppy-eyes. Spike doesn’t even try, just gives Xander’s crotch another light brush with the topper before letting him take it back.

“Oh, just remembered--” Spike digs a frayed cocktail napkin out of his pocket and consults it for a moment. “We should talk about the invitations. As far as I’m concerned, the entire Order of Aurelius can go bugger each other, ‘cause they’re not invited. Though I did wanna invite a few demon blokes I know from way back.”

“I think it’s safe to say that except for the other Scoobs and my Uncle Rory--and wife number whatever--that my family won’t be showing up even if there’s an open bar.” Xander sighs sadly.

Spike tucks his face into the hollow between Xander’s neck and shoulder. “Poor pet. How a couple of sots like that made a wonderful man like you is beyond me. Sod ‘em, they don’t deserve to be invited, anyway.”

“Ah . . . just as well. When my folks have had a few, they say things that are . . . kinda mean. I could forgive them for not coming to my wedding, but I don’t know if I could forgive them for showing up only to say something hurtful to you.”

“Oh.” Spike feels tears sting the backs of his eyes. Must be some of that ash that was bothering the Watcher from earlier.

Or maybe it’s that until now, no one but his mother had ever loved him so much.

“Anyway,” Xander says brightly, an obvious attempt to change the subject. “Do you wanna be William the Bloody on the invitations, or just Spike? ‘Cause, either way, it's gonna look kinda weird.”

“Whereas the name Xander gives it that touch of classic elegance.”

“What's wrong with Xander?”

“Huh . . . such a good question. . . .” the Watcher says sarcastically. Spike ignores him.

“Well, Xander’s a silly name.”

“It’s short for Alexander, as in The Great!”

Spike snorts.

“And--and my mom gave me that name!”

Such loyal defense of the woman who’d probably disown him as soon as she got her invitation.

“Your mum, yeah, she's a genius.”

“Don't you start in on my mom, Spike, she’s--”

At that moment, the Slayer and Demon-girl burst into the apartment. The Slayer slams the door and moves a bookshelf in front of it.

The Watcher sits up, towel falling off his face. His pale eyes roll without focus. “What's going on?”

“So say we all,” Spike mutters cagily, pushing his pet behind him. The Slayer looks extremely wigged. Not a look any of them are used to seeing on her, so it has to be something bad.

“We’ve got a problem,” she says.

Demon-girl nods frantically, panting. Her eyeballs seem to be glued to the Slayer’s arse. “Yeah--this Yershka kept attacking us!”

“A Yershka? On the Hellmouth?” The Watcher says incredulously.

“I think we lost it, but I’m not one-hundred percent--” The Slayer’s roomward glance ends up on Spike. “Spike! He's--all untied, he’s . . . okay, you guys probably noticed that already.”

“Buff, calm down, okay? If you gave it the slip, that'll give us some time to strategize.” Xander steps from behind Spike, who slides a possessive arm around his waist. “Maybe this Sherpa-demon has something to do with Giles being blind.“

“Giles is blind?” The Slayer and Demon-girl say at the same time.

The Slayer walks over to her Watcher and starts waving her fingers in front of his face.

“Please stop whatever you're doing,” Giles asks. “You smell like vanilla extract and Fruit Roll-Ups.”

The Slayer blushes and stuffs her hands in her pocket.

Spike laughs in utter disbelief, hanging his head. “This is the crack team that foils my every plan? I am deeply ashamed.”

“Oh, baby--no. . . .” Xander pulls an Spike into his arms and kisses him tenderly.

“What? How the--what?” The Slayer asks no one in particular.

“Three excellent questions,” her blind Watcher agrees.


~*~*~*~*~


“Why are you guys making out?” Buffy gapes at her best friend and her worst enemy like they’ve gone completely insane. “Will someone tell me what the hell has been going on here?!”

“Told you Xander and Spike were orgasm buddies,” Anya says, slipping her arm through Buffy’s. Buffy’s too shocked to object.

“It’s true.” Xander’s dark eyes meet Buffy’s defiantly. “Spike and I love each other and we’re getting married. But now’s really not the time to have an intervention about it, okay?”

A few quiet seconds tick by and Buffy stops gaping. “Uh--yeah, right. for now, we should get organized--but there will be talking later,” she warns with the patented Slayer-glare.

“Oi! Don’t you order my Xander around like he’s the dirt beneath your feet, Slayer!” Spike growls. “He’s not your lackey, he’s Alexander, consort of William the Bloody, and you will treat him with respect.”

There’s total silence in the wake of that announcement. Xander is the first one to break it.

“Cool,” he breathes, his eyes shining brighter than Buffy’s ever seen. She shakes her head, trying to process.

“I--sorry I snapped at you, Xander, this is all--kind of a shock. Later on, after whatever apocalypse we’re dealing with is averted, I’d like to talk with you about . . . all of this.” Buffy gestures at the two of them, arms around each other.

“Sure, Buff,” Xander says easily, his eyes never leaving Spike’s face. He looks like a man in love and Spike--looks like he’s only barely controlling the urge to launch himself at her.

Note to self: when apocalypse is averted, look into alternative universe theories. . . .

Spike, still in bad-ass mode, turns to Xander, who’s gazing at him worshipfully. Hungrily. “What are you lookin' at, pet?”

“The man I love,” Xander immediately replies.

“Damn right.” Spike pulls him close for more kissing.

A lot more kissing.

“Wow,” Anya says. Buffy shudders and looks at Giles pleadingly.

“Can I be blind, too?”


~*~*~*~*~


“C’mon, Buffy, that’s pretty hot . . . I wonder if they’d be interested in a four-way. . . .” Anya says, watching her ex’s current grope and fondle Xander’s many grope-able and fondle-able parts.

And though having lost Xander as an orgasm-buddy is somewhat painful, seeing him with Spike somehow makes the loss hurt less. Anya’s seen this kind of love before; it’s like a runaway freight train. It’s impossible to stop and anyone who tries to gets pulverized.

“Their marriage--well, their civil union will certainly be a happy one,” she says wistfully.

“Wait--married?” Buffy says, frowning.

Anya squeezes Buffy’s hand, more willing to kiss that thinky, but sexy frown away. “Not married, civilly united. Same sex marriage is still illegal in the United States.”

“Yeah, I know, but--Xander and Spike and marriage is weird--yet weirdly familiar, too . . . work, brain, work! Oh! Uh-oh! Willow!” Buffy exclaims.

“What--about Wills?” Xander tries to push Spike of him. “Mmf, honey get off.”

“‘S what I’m tryin’ to do, pet,” Spike says, tightening his grip on Xander and going for his second base.

“Willow and her grief-y-poor-me mood swings--I was so, so tired of it--”

“You mean I don't have to be nice about her anymore?” Anya asks hopefully.

“Well, we're all tired of it, but what does that--Spike, stop--have to do with what's going on?” Xander smacks the hand trying to slide up under his shirt.

“She--told me I was a demon magnet--”

Giles stands up, realization dawning on his face. “And she told me that I didn't see anything.”

“She did a spell,” Buffy says ruefully. Giles nods.

“Yes, a spell to have her will be done, she said so herself . . . whatever she says is coming true.”

“And you both were both affected. Huh . . . sounds like I was damn lucky to escape. Or maybe I have some kind of ordinary-guy natural immunity to her magic.” Xander’s says. His voice is completely irony-free.

“Yeah, right. You're marrying Spike because you're so right for each other.”

“Buff--” Xander begins, only to be cut off.

“That's it--you're off the bride’s maid list!” Spike decides.

“Some much for you guys’ runaway freight-train of lurve,” Anya mutters, happy that at least she's got her very own Slayer to share orgasms with.

“What the bloody hell are you on about--”

“People! Willow is out there and she probably has no idea what she’s doing and no idea of what she's done.” Giles is determined and rather formidable, now that there’s a rational explanation for his blindness.

There’s something so masterful about his take-charge intelligence and classy English accent, Anya thinks regretfully. But I’ve already settled on Buffy as my new orgasm-buddy. Though maybe a three-way isn’t out of the question . . . if there’s one thing men love, it’s lesbians--

“--gotta find her before somebody gets really hurt,” Xander is saying while Spike clings to his side like a sexy leech.

Giles nods in agreement and starts forward, falling over his couch and tumbling down the other side.

So much for that masterful, take-charge attitude. . . .


~*~*~*~*~


Just another quiet night in Stevenson Hall, Willow thinks ruefully, making her way down the hall in her most comfortable pair of ‘jammies.

A long, hot shower had not made her feel any better. Neither did her new, mintier toothpaste or her favorite ‘jammies. The will-be-done spell had also not worked--big surprise, it was performed by the world’s most mediocre witch--and Willow has given up on ever feeling happy again.

She lets herself into the dorm room and locks the door. There’s a good chance Buffy won’t be back till just before dawn, anyway.

Remembering the last time she’d left the door unlocked all night--and woken up when the terminally drunk and accurately named 'Party Marty' had stumbled in and passed out on Buffy’s bed--Willow shudders.

Yes, she’d learned the locked-door lesson very well.

Willow’s just put her toothbrush and toothpaste away and is about to climb into bed when she senses someone standing behind her. Before she can turn around, electricity flashes around her head and the dorm room disappears.





3



The Scooby gang, minus one, makes it's way down the clean, quiet, well-lit dorm hallway.

“This is a college dormitory?” Spike snorts. “There’s another illusion shattered. Shouldn’t there be parties and loud music and what-all?”

Buffy gives Spike a mistrustful look and he flashes a bit of fang at her.

“We should’ve chained you up and left you at Giles’s.”

“For someone who can’t stand me, Slayer, you seem to like the idea of tyin’ me up. . . .”

“Xander! Did he have to come with us?”

“Spike is gonna be my husband, Buffy. If he’s unwelcome, I’m unwelcome,” Xander insists, switching places so that Spike is on his right side, instead of between him and Buffy. A few feet ahead, Anya is leading Giles along just as nice as you please (though the word three-way does drift back quite frequently, as do Giles’s pained sighs).

“I agree with Slutty, Xan. Seems like I’m goin’ to a lot of trouble for people who kill my kind,” Spike mutters, taking Xander’s hand possessively and casting a smug look at Buffy, who pointedly ignores him.

“Spike, these are my friends. Besides, I’m kinda Buffy’s sidekick.”

“For now,” Spike says; the perfectly wicked smile in his voice raises Buffy’s hackles.

“It’s this one!” she calls to Anya, stopping in front of her dorm room.

“Oh, thank heavens,” Giles groans with the kind of relief Buffy totally understands.

“So, you’re saying you want me to stop fighting evil?” Xander is asking Spike. Buffy unlocks the door to the room and steps in, followed by Anya and Giles.

Spike, uninvited, remains outside, as does Xander. They continue arguing.

“Let's see--do I want you to give up killing all my friends? Yeah, I've given it some thought.”

“Don’t be snippy, Spike, you know I hate it when you do that. . . .”

Inside the room, Buffy is examining a circle that appears to be burnt into their carpet. A whiff of scorched synthetic fibers reaches her nose.

“Okay, this is definitely burnt,” she says wrinkling her nose. “We are so not gonna get our cleaning deposit back at the end of the year.”

“D'hoffryn!” Anya seethes, pacing around the charred circle. “That bastard! He opened a portal here!”

“Who?” Buffy asks. Anya starts to answer, but Spike and Xander’s argument is getting louder.

“--don’t want her at our wedding if she’s gonna be slaughtering my half of the guest list!”

“Well don’t invite a bunch of scumbags to our Big Day, then!”

“Have you forgotten that I’m evil, little boy? With the exception of you and the bloody Gingersnap Brigade, the only people I know are scumbags! You knew that when you proposed to me, love, so don’t you dare try to change me--”

“--is it so wrong not to want our wedding to be a catered free-for-all for evil--”

“Will you two shut up!” Buffy, and Giles shout. Xander, at least, looks sheepish; Spike just glares at them defiantly and wraps his arms around Xander.

Smoothing her hair, Anya goes on. “D'hoffryn. He made me a demon 1120 years ago.”

“Um . . . so why would he attack Willow?” Xander asks from the protective circle of Spike’s arms. He seems suitably chastened; Spike, however, is still glaring at them all murderously while squeezing Xander’s ass.

Anya looks down at the charred carpet and sighs. “I don't believe he did.”


~*~*~*~*~


“You have much anger and pain. Your magic is strong, but your pain, your rage--it's like a scream that pierces dimensional walls. We heard your call.”

Willow looks around the shadowy room that is ringed by assorted demons. She’s not sure which one of them is the one who’d addressed her.

“I-I'm sorry?” she stutters fearfully because--spooky dark room full of demons. But she plasters on a big fake smile. “I-I'll, um, try for a quieter rage. Bye, now!”

She turns to leave--even though she has no idea how to go about that--but all directions are completely blocked by the ooky-looking demons.

“Our intention is not to quash your potential--quite the contrary.”

Willow finally spots the demon who’d spoken before. He doesn’t look that scary at all, relatively speaking. . . .

He smiles, and without realizing it, Willow moves closer to him.

“What do you want?”


~*~*~*~*~


“I'd been dumped, I was miserable, making a few random wishes that I didn’t really expect to come true--you know, boils on the penis . . . nothing fancy,” Anya sits on Willow’s bed.

Xander shudders, recalling that he’d recently dumped her. He resists the urge to drop trou and examine the goods. “Please skip ahead?”

“Well, there’s not much more to tell . . . D'hoffryn got wind of me. He offered to . . . elevate me.”

They all exchange glances, except for Giles, who’s sitting on Buffy’s bed as if he’s afraid the slightest motion will send him toppling to the floor.

“Okay, ‘elevated’, meaning--?” Buffy asks.

“Meaning, he made me a demon.” Anya shrugs.

“Oh, no--not Willow!” Xander looks from Buffy to Anya. Spike holds him tighter.

“Do somethin’, Slayer!” he hisses. Buffy squares her shoulders and kneels in front of Anya, who looks like she’s about to cry. Buffy takes her hands and squeezes them gently.

“Ahn . . . is there a way we can summon this--D’hoffryn? Get Willow back from him?”

Anya nods. “There is, but D’hoffryn’s probably making her an offer she can’t refuse as we speak. She’ll say yes, of course.” She lowers her eyes. “They all do.”


~*~*~*~*~


The clearing is beautiful in the moonlight.

A gentle breeze stirs the leaves on the trees and a sad, sweet song spills from the throat of a lonely night bird. . . .

Three teenagers and a dead man tramp into the clearing and stop before a lone crypt. Their shadows are sharp-edged.

Their racket frightens off the bird.

“And you’re absolutely sure we need to be at a crypt to summon this Hoffman-guy?” Xander asks for the millionth time, clutching his ax and looking around anxiously.

“Pretty sure.” Anya sounds grimmer than she had when she’d found out about the mayor’s plans for ascension.

“Then let’s summon him and make him let Red go--oh. My. God!” Spike walks around the crypt--white marble, covered with creeping ivy and shining in the silvery moonlight--a look of amazement on his face. “Xan--wouldn't this be a perfect place for wedding photos?”

“Hey, yeah--”

“Uh-oh. Vampire,” Anya says. Buffy and Xander look at Spike.

“No, no not Spike! Him!” She points at the dirt-covered fiend that saunters into their midst.

“Well, well, looky here,” the fledge grins, immediately going for Buffy, who kicks him, sending him crashing against the ivy-covered crypt.

“Oi, Slayer! Could you please kick his arse without making an utter wreck of the foliage? Thanks!” Spike breaks the lock on the crypt, shoves Xander and Anya inside then darts in, himself.

“Gee, thanks for all the help!” Buffy dusts the fledge easily, but movement near the cemetery fence catches her eyes. Big movement.

Big, tentacled movement.

“Oh, crap.”

She strategically retreats into the crypt, levering the door shut and leaning on it.

“Anya, make it quick . . . we’ve got company coming!”

Anya kneels near the far wall. She draws a circle around herself in the dirt and opens the spellbook, taking a shaky breath. Xander, wielding the ax, stands guard in front of her.

Spike is already moving a sepulcher towards the doorway. Buffy’s helping him.

“You can do it, Ahn,” Xander says, eyes on the door, ax at the ready. “Bring her home.”

Anya nods once and begins the summoning:

Blesséd, be the name of D'hoffryn. Let this space be now a gateway to the world of Arash Ma'har, where demons are spawned. . . .


~*~*~*~*~


“The pain and suffering you brought upon those you love is inspiring. You are ready to join us.”

The head demon’s--D’Hoffryn’s--smile loses some of it’s not-scariness and Willow swallows nervously. “Pain? What pain?”


~*~*~*~*~


The first demon--it’s tentacles, rather--breaks down the crypt door before Spike and the Slayer can get the sepulcher in front of it.

The Slayer takes it on--it and all of it’s tentacles--sword swinging like a blur of death, but one tenacious tentacle makes it past her and goes straight for Xander’s throat.

“Xanny-pie!” Spike leaps to his pet’s defense.

“Not--doin' too well here--sugar-dumpling!” Xander rasps out, clawing at the tentacle closed around his throat. Spike snatches up the ax and swings at the three other tentacles going for Xander’s legs.

Demon-girl’s voice rises, thin and uncertain from the back of the crypt:

. . . we come in supplication. We bend as the reed.. in the flow of the, uh . . . no, wait--we--we come in the flow of the, uh . . . damnit!” Anya takes another breath and starts over. “Blesséd, be the name of D'hoffryn. . . .

Spike is having no luck with the tentacle around Xander’s neck and his future hubby is turning an alarming shade of purple. His struggles have lessened.

Suddenly a hand jerks Spike away from tentacle and fiance. He growls into gameface as the Slayer hacks at the tentacle. Whatever it is makes a horrible noise and withdraws it’s remaining tentacle from the crypt.

There’s a moment of silence, broken only by panting. Then Spike catches his poor boy as he staggers. “Love--love are you alright?”

“Fine, fine . . . help Buffy. . . .” Xander chokes out, rubbing his throat. He nods toward the Slayer, who’s resumed pushing the sepulcher in front of the entry-way.

“Right,” Spike says; a burst of vampire-speed and he’s putting his shoulder into helping the Slayer moving the sepulcher.

When entry-way’s as blocked as it’s going to get, the Slayer leans against it shaking, her eyes closed. In that moment, Spike sees her for what she really is: not a superhero--the latest in a line of superwomen with super-strength and a super-destinies--but a girl. A human girl, less breakable than most, but still painfully fragile.

She’s someone’s daughter, that’s all she is. Just a college-aged chit . . . one who probably won’t live long enough to graduate. . . .

Turning away from the mortality she wears like death-shroud--and if the Slayer is mortal, then his Xander is doubly so--Spike rushes back to his fiance, who’s shakily resumed guard duty in front of Demon-girl.

. . . we bend as the reed in the path of the wind. We turn as the sea at the whim of the tides. As water flows downhill, so we come to you, D’hoffryn. Blesséd be the weak, the scorned, the down-trodden. Blesséd be the wish. And blesséd be the name of D’hoffryn, through whom all is made right. . . .” Demon-girl pauses to turn a page, then resumes her chanting in a clear, steady voice.

Spike lets out a sigh when Xander sags gratefully in his arms.

“Almost got you, love. That bastard thing almost got you.”

“I’m so sorry, Spike,” Xander says guiltily. “God, you must be so disappointed.”

Spike frowns. “What the bloody hell are you talking about?”

“I dropped the ball with that tentacle-demon. If it wasn’t for you and Buff, I’d be corpse!Xander.” Xander buries his face in Spike’s neck. “I don't know if I can protect you,” he admits.

Spike looks at his future hubby as if he’s gone insane.

“You think you have to protect me?” Spike laughs incredulously. “You’ve got that backwards, pet. It’s me who protects you.

“But baby--your chip. . . .” Xander traces the edge of a cut on Spike’s cheekbone and Spike shivers. “Bleachy-bear, vamp-power isn’t all it’s cracked up to be when neutralized by black-ops commandos--”

“Oh, but zeppo-power is a marvel to us all, is that it?” Despite the amazing sparks of pleasure-pain Xander’s touch is sending through him, he pushes Xander’s hand away from his face.

“Well, at least I can hit things without doubling over in pai--” Xander’s eyes widen and he takes Spike’s hands excitedly. “Baby--you attacked that demon! The tentacle-thing! You hit it with my ax!”

“Yeah, so? I . . . hey, I did, didn’t I?” Spike looks at his hands, then back at Xander. “You think maybe--”

At that moment, doorway and sepulcher give with a horrible crash.


~*~*~*~*~


Turns out, the only must-see t.v. on Arash Ma’har-vision is the Monsters Are Trying to Eat Your Friends! show, and so far? Willow’s not a fan.

Via D’hoffryn’s nifty dimensional rift, she’s watching her friends get their asses kicked in relative comfort. Buffy’s trading fisticuffs with something that has at least eight fists. Spike’s swinging Buffy’s lucky sword at the Gmorrix that’s trapped in the doorway. Anya’s trying to read from a spellbook and doesn’t notice the kobold that’s stepped through the wall just behind her--

--then Xander is screaming at Anya to duck. She does, just as Xander swings his ax, lopping the kobold’s head off.

Willow turns away from the rift, shuddering. “Oh, Goddess! I didn't mean to!”

“But you did. This is the result of your power.” D'hoffryn’s puts a hand on her shoulder. “You will make a fine vengeance demon.”

“No, please! You have to help them!”

D’hoffryn shrugs. “It is not my concern. You are my interest in this matter.”

Willow has to fight back tears. The last thing she wants to show in a crowd of probably blood-thirsty demons is weakness. “Really, no offense intended--I mean, you've been super-nice and everything, but--I don't wanna be a vengeance demon! I just wanna go back and help my friends!”

“That is your answer?” D’hoffryn’s voice has gone cold. Willow makes her resolve face, even though she’s trembling inside.

“It--it is.”

D'hoffryn’s smile is still bland and harmless, totally at odds with his voice. “I'm sorry to hear that.”

Willow braces herself for the blast of magic, or swipe of claws that she’s sure is coming, but D’Hoffryn only shrugs again.

“Ah, well. Here is my talisman. If you change your mind, give us a chant,” he says dismissively.

“Uh . . . okay.” Willow smiles and cautiously takes the talisman with a shaking hand, still sure she’s about to be eaten or flayed or something really painful. But D’Hoffryn simply waves his hand and Arash Ma’har disappears.


~*~*~*~*~


Buffy round-house kicks the demon that’s she’s mentally nick-named ‘Muhammed Ali’ and it staggers backwards, it’s many arms flailing. Ducking them, Buffy darts in and with one quick, left upper-cut, collapses it’s wind pipe.

Another demon that had been stuck in the ruined doorway--it’s all ugly green-grey scales and yellow mucus--finally bursts into the crypt. It has three heads and more teeth than available mouths-space. Spike charges it and gets swatted aside like a gnat, bouncing off a wall to fall to the floor, unconscious.

The demon hesitates, it’s eyes ticking back and forth between Buffy and Xander, trying to choose whom it wants to snack on.

“Sorry, pal, kitchen’s closed for the night!” Buffy punches through the demon’s thorax; when her fingers encounter something that throbs slowly and arrhythmically, she grabs hold and yanks . . . ripping out it’s still-beating heart.

It howls once before disappearing in a puff of noxious yellow smoke. She drops the heart on the ground with a smile that disappears, once she notices the state of her clothes.

“Okay . . . eew!” Buffy waves away the smoke; stinging ichor and heart-goop drip from her hand and sleeve. “How come all the gross crap on my jacket didn’t disappear, too?” She demands to whoever is in charge of the Hellmouth’s wacky physics.

When she gets no answer, she grumbles and kicks the useless demon heart out into the night.

Nothing else is trying to get into the crypt for the moment, but she can hear crashes and roars in the not-so-distant distance.

“Damn!” A glance shows Anya trying to blot something that might be blood off the spellbook.

Xander’s laying on the ground, trying to sit up without much success.

“Xan--are you okay?”

“Except for the all-over-owie, I’m gravy,” Xander says, making it upright with Buffy’s help. “It’s Spike I’m worried about. Go help Spike.”

Buffy rolls her eyes and goes to check on Xander’s--ugh!--fiancee. Already getting to his feet, Spike looks--well, dead, but still lively, if a bit dazed.

“You okay, Spi--?”

He shoves her out of the way in his haste to get to Xander. “Xandy-pet?!”

“Oh, bleachy-bear!” Xander bursts into tears and Spike goes to his knees heavily, pulling him in for a cuddle and a kiss. “I was so scared I’d lost you. . . .”

“If you’d lost him, you’d be making out with a big pile of dust right now,” Buffy mutters, feeling under-appreciated and sticky. She removes a membrane of some kind from the front of the patrol halter. “You’re welcome, by the way.”

The happy, oblivious couple is still kissing. And groping. And sliding to the floor, hands caressing naughty places--

Buffy looks away. “Anya, can you try the summoning spell, again? There are more demons coming and--”

--and Anya’s watching Spike and Xander go at it with way too much interest.

“You people are all crazy--Anya!”

“Sorry! The blood on the pages is corrosive--it’s eaten through the ink. It’s starting to eat through the paper, too, and I can’t make out the rest of the spell! I think--”

Just then, an armored snout the size of a small T-rex pushes into the crypt, rocking it to it’s foundations. Spike and Xander are still humping on the floor and don’t even notice.

A tongue as prehensile as a frogs darts out of it’s mouth, barely missing Buffy.

We are so screwed, she thinks, dodging and diving for Xander’s forgotten ax.

Let the healing power begin!” A powerful, familiar voice suddenly calls out. “Let my will be safe again! As these words of peace are spoken, let this harmful spell be broken!” Thunder and lighting rock through the crypt, throwing Buffy and Anya to the floor.

The demon-snout disappears with a gurgling roar.


~*~*~*~*~


“Bleachy-bear--!” Xander gasps, throwing his head back. His body goes completely still.

The crypt suddenly rocks like an earthquake’s hit; the scent of their combined pheromones is suddenly joined by the scent of--

“Oh, bloody hell, Xandy-pet. . . .” Spike moans, bucking up under Xander’s warm, welcome weight. The game is lost and he doesn’t even try to fight, coming in his pants like some teeny-bopper.

Like the teeny-bopper that’s currently sprawled atop him.

Spike opens his eyes and is gazing up into Harris’s surprised, nervous dark eyes--eyes that just a few moments ago, had been his universe.

“Well, fuck,” Harris’s says breathlessly, then proceeds to turn eight different shades of scarlet.

“Spells off, then. . . .” Spike notes, feeling like an utter git for stating the bloody obvious.

“Yeah . . . yeah, it is,” Harris agrees tensely. He doesn’t sound too happy about it, either. “Don’t suppose you still wanna get married?”

It’s not quite a joke, and Harris looks away when he says it, pushing himself up and off of Spike.

Before he can think too hard about what he’s doing, Spike grabs Harris’s hips and pulls him back down.

“What--?”

“Not the marrying type, me,” Spike declares with a scowl, just so Harris doesn’t go getting any more romantic ideas. “But I’ll be buggered if I walk away from a decent shag.”

Harris’s wide eyes get wider and he blushes. “But--but--I’m not gay! And--and even if I was, I’d be stupid to be gay with you! You’re the enemy! A vampire, a killer--not to mention how much I really don’t like you--”

Spike wraps his legs around Harris’s and snogs him good and hard. It’s the only sure-fire way to stop the babble, he reckons.

When he breaks the kiss to let Harris breathe, that goofy grin Spike remembers being so enchanted with reappears.

It’s still bloody adorable, Spike thinks, but he says: “Now, what was that you were sayin’, Harris?”

Harris blinks dopily, all the tension flowing out of his body till he’s sprawled on top of Spike like a happy rug.

“Bleachy-bear,” he sighs, leaning in for another kiss. Spike is more than happy to oblige.

And that’s definitely not the sound of swelling violins Spike seems to hear in the background.

Maybe someone’s disemboweling a cat nearby.


~*~*~*~*~


Willow smiles sheepishly and waves at her friends. “Hi, guys.”

“Wills? You’re--okay.” Buffy sounds torn between relief and screeching. “You stopped the--insanity?”

“Yep. I reversed the spell--everything is back to normal.”

Buffy looks at Anya who smiles reassuringly. “While I still find you attractive, I don’t find you orgasm-buddy attractive. I won’t be kissing you again.”

“Thank the Goddess. No offense,” Buffy adds. Anya shrugs. “None taken.”

“Wait--you guys had smoochies?” Willow asks. “Okay--I’m pretty sure my will didn’t want you guys to make out! At least I don’t think it--” she blushes when Buffy gives her a look. “I mean--yay! Everything’s back to normal!”

“Not so sure about that,” Buffy says. Willow follows her gaze and her eyes nearly fall out of their sockets when she sees Xander and Spike getting hot and heavy on the crypt floor.

“Um, Xan? You guys can stop now--spell’s over! You’re no longer affianced!”

Seemingly oblivious to all the tentacle-bits, entrails and demon-gak they’re rolling around in, they just keep making with the kissing and naughty touches.

“Maybe it’s a gradual reversal,” Anya says.


~*~*~*~*~


“How long are you gonna keep making these?” Buffy asks as Willow slides more cookies onto yet another plate.

“Oh,” Willow thinks about it for a moment. “Until I don't feel so horribly guilty. I figure about a million chips from now. Also, I have to detail Giles's car.”

Taking the plate from Buffy, Willow walks into Giles’s living room. Anya is sitting on the couch with Giles, holding up a clock.

“Time?” Anya asks, stifling a yawn.

“A-ha! Five past two! Thursday!”

“Actually, it’s seven past three on Wednesday, but that’s close enough, because I’m getting bored,” Anya tosses the clock at the couch.

“Hey, everybody, look! Cookies!” Willow takes the tray over to Giles and Anya. “A very not-evil thing I did. Oatmeal raisin?”

Giles puts on his glasses and takes a cookie, frowning. “Yes, very funny; they're chocolate chip. I can see them. I still need my glasses, though. You could have been more specific and given me 20/20 vision.”

Willow smiles apologetically and goes over to Xander and Spike. Spike is once again chained to the chair and Xander’s sitting Indian-style at his feet. Spike’s sullen frown keeps twitching like it wants to be a smile, or at the very least a pleased smirk.

“Eat a cookie; ease my pain?” Willow offers Xander the tray. Xander grins and takes one, demolishing it in two bites.

“Mm-mm, chocolatey goodness . . . feel better?”

“Well, baking lifts about thirty percent of my guilt, but only seven percent of my inner turmoil. Guess that'll just take awhile.”

“Aw, cheer up. It'll happen. Probably when Giles sees what a good job you do with his car.”


~*~*~*~*~


So . . . this is the crack team that’s foiled my every plan . . . it all makes bloody sense, now.

Spike sighs, shaking his head.

But Xander’s back is warm against his leg and, despite the chains and the embarrassment, he has to fight a smile. “Hey--don't I get a cookie?”

“No,” The Slayer and her Watcher say.

“Well, then, I’ll just sit here and tell you all what Harris and I will be doin’ once these chains are off, shall I?”

Demon-girl leans forward attentively, but the Slayer looks unimpressed.

“You’re a pig, Spike.” She lobs a cookie at Spike, nailing him right on the forehead.

“Oi! Did you see that?” Spike demands of Xander and Red. “That bitch threw a cookie at me!”

The Watcher clears his throat. “Buffy, please refrain from throwing cookies while in my living room . . . nice shot.”

“Thanks.” The Slayer is all but glowing under the Watcher’s praise and isn’t that just cozy?

“There will be no calling Buffy a bitca and no discussing our sex-capades with my friends,” Xander informs Spike.

“Oh, really? And who died an’ made you the Queen of Sunnyhole, mate?”

“Spike, you are so low-class, and coming from a Harris? That’s saying a lot.”

“Yeah? Well I'm not the one who wanted, ‘Stand By Your Man’ for the first dance,” Spike says just loudly enough for everyone to hear.

They all turn to stare at Xander and he meets their gazes without blushing.

“It was the spell,” he says loftily. Everyone nods and says of course except for Spike, who snorts, but doesn’t say anything else.

Xander stands up and regards Spike steadily. Spike starts to fidget--or as close as he can get in fifty pounds of chains.

Finally, Xander leans very close. So close Spike’s sure he’s going to get a kiss. Instead, he gets a whole cookie shoved into his mouth. Spike glares daggers at his smiling boy.

“Full mouth gathers no foot, vampy-pie,” Xander whispers with a smile.

Spike rolls his eyes at the axiom and the endearment. But then Xander straddles his lap to nibble at the cookie, his arms winding around Spike’s neck. The nibbling turns into kissing that has everyone clearing their throats and looking away.

Soon, Spike is rattling his chains in frustration.

“Bloody--sodding--why am I still being chained up?” he asks around a mouthful of chocolate chip cookie and Xander.

“Because despite Xander’s . . . affection for you, you’re still a soulless fiend and not to be trusted,” the Watcher says sternly, cleaning his glasses for the umpteenth time. “However, once we’re certain you really have been rendered impotent--”

“He’s definitely not impotent,” Xander murmurs; Spike smirks, but everyone else pretends not to have heard.

“When we’re absolutely sure that you’re incapable of physically harming innocents--and after you’ve told us everything you remember about where you were held and experimented on--we will, of course let you go. At which point, do feel free to leave town,” the Watcher adds.

Spike looks into Xander’s uncertain eyes and smiles a bit. “Dunno. I reckon I could be tempted to hang around for awhile.”

Xander smiles back and Spike wonders what the hell he’s gotten himself mixed up in.

As soon as these chains are off, I should get as far away from this town as I can--my luck’s been shit since I got here and it only gets worse. . . .

But then his Xandy-pet is hugging him and kissing him and--bloody commando-mojo aside--Spike starts thinking that perhaps his luck’s finally changed for the better.


~*~*~*~*~


Buffy follows Willow back into the kitchen.

“Are you sure you broke the spell?” she asks again, glancing back at Xander and Spike. “They’re still all snuggly-wuggly.”

“I’ve never been surer of a spell,” Willow says, putting her empty tray down on the counter and donning Giles’s oven mitts. “Any snuggly-wuggliness is their own doing.”

“Maybe there’s some leftover mojo, making them act like--” Buffy gestures at the living room. “I mean--they loved each other. They were betrothed. That’s gotta leave some kinda gross, handsy, make-out-y residue.” Buffy shudders.

“Nope, ‘fraid not,” Willow takes her next batch of cookies out of the oven. “That’s not how magic works. Like I said, any handsiness or make-out-iness is all their own will, not mine.”

Buffy eyes the latest batch of cookies, wanting them to be cool and munch-ready now. “Bug-lady, Mummy-girl, Faith, Anya--Cordelia.” Buffy shudders. “Hasn’t Xander had enough scary squeezes to last him a lifetime?”

“Yeah . . . Xander’s track record is more demon magnet-y than yours, come to think of it. Can you imagine if I’d said he was the demon magnet?” Willow slides piping hot cookies into the tray.

“Then I’d have probably been the one engaged to Spike! Gah!” Buffy shudders again. “I just don’t get it. I mean, I get the whole being attracted to the bad-boy thing. Okay. But sudden gayness aside, I thought Xander’d settle into a nice relationship with a decent, reliable, Riley-ish sort of person. Although, someone recently said something about him turning out to be Beelzebub. . . .”

Willow blushes.

“Xander and Spike . . . Spike and Xander . . . no matter how many times I say it, its power to wig does not diminish. I don’t think it ever will.” Buffy sighs

“Well, look at it this way: at least they’re getting along. So the spell wasn’t all bad.” At Buffy’s horrified expression, Willow stops smiling. “And did I mention about the sorry part?”

“Maybe you should look into a forgetting for spell later.”

“Aw, come on, Buffy--at least you and Anya only had the one smoochie. Though the whole girl-on-girl thing could’ve been an interesting experience and--right, look into a forgetting spell for later. Check.” Willow busies herself with a bowl of cookie batter, carefully ignoring Buffy’s glare.


~*~*~*~*~


In the Containment sub-level of the military installation beneath Lowell House, Dr. Maggie Walsh watches Hostile 37, who twitches and groans in his--in its sleep.

It’d taken an entire team and every tranquilizer that team carried to bring it down, but bring it down, they had. It’d been running around campus, menacing students with a pitchfork and roaring angrily.

“Dr. Walsh?”

She looks up. Agent Forrest has been standing next to her for who knows how long, looking into the Hostile’s holding tank. He looks shocked and horrified, but she knows he won’t fall apart. She’d hand chosen Agent Forrest, herself, along with Agents Finn, Graham and a hundred others.

Her boys are survivors.

“How long since he--”

It, Agent Forrest. It,” Dr. Walsh corrects him almost kindly. It’ll take some time for her to get used to, as well.

“How long since . . . it reverted back to its . . . humanoid form?”

“According to the surveillance cameras, the reversion took place at 02:11 hours.” She watches the Hostile yawn and stretch. She wonders briefly, if they dream. “It was very sudden. One minute, it was a leering, capering Hostile with red skin and eyes and--wings. The next. . . .” Dr. Walsh trails off and gestures at the seemingly human occupant of the holding tank.

The hostile is awake, now, and sitting up. It looks around blearily. When it’s green eyes meet the Doctor’s, it staggers to it’s feet and tries to salute.

When it realizes its naked it covers its genitals quickly, affecting a blush.

They seem so human, sometimes, she thinks sadly, turning away from the tank.

“Dr. Walsh? Forrest?” It sounds confused. “What am I doing in here? The last thing I remember is walking to Lowell house and--and then everything got--” a nervous laugh. “Everything got pretty spam-jangled. What happened?”

“Should--should we answer it?” Agent Forrest asks tentatively.

Dr. Walsh mentally shakes herself out of her reverie and looks at him. Despite his training, deep down, he’s still just an innocent. Like all of her boys, he’s still so very naive.

“You can do as you like, Agent Forrest,” Dr. Walsh briskly informs him, ignoring Hostile 37 as it pounds on the triple-reinforced glass of it’s tank. “But you’d better do it quickly . . . this Hostile is scheduled for surgical implantation of the chip at 18:30 hours.”

“Professor! Let me out of here, I--I don’t know what’s happened, but you’ve gotta let me out of here! I’m not a Hostile!”

“Why does it bother to keep up the pretense?” Agent Forrest asks, the beginnings of a hatred bred by betrayal on his dark face. “We know it’s not human.”

“Exactly, Agent Forrest. It's not human, so how can we possibly fathom its reasons?”

Turning on her heel, Dr. Walsh walks down the sterile, starkly-lit corridor, past tanks that contain Hostiles that could never pass for human, let alone infiltrate the U.S. military.

If only every detection was always that easy. . . .

“Professor!”

She can feel the Hostile’s frightened, accusing gaze follow the her down the hall.

Later that night she hears it’s desperate cries as she battles a persistent bout of insomnia.

“We cannot possibly fathom its reasons. It's not human,” she tells herself. But sleep is still a long time coming.




The End




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