Pairing: Spike/Xander
Rating: R
Feedback: Yes, please, just no permanent damage, k.
Disclaimer(s) can be found here
Beta: [info]phnx_reader anything remaining is probably me ignoring her advice
Warnings/Squicks: a lot of implied abuse (this is Angelus ppl), some graphic deaths, major and minor character deaths- neither of the boys, nor any of the Scoobies, a goodly amount of angst
Summary: Xander thinks his losing his mind, or perhaps gaining someone else’s, either way, he wants help and it comes from the most unexpected of sources.

AN1: My gods this thing has been a long time in coming! And I’m deeply sorry to [info]geek_girl33 for that.
Anyway, this was based on this prompt from [info]geek_girl33, and I just want to thank her for letting me claim it some two years ago and putting up with my fandom angst and my getting lost in a new fandom and the muses just generally drying up like the bloody Sahara, thank you for not losing faith that I’d actually get this done.
AN2: This loosely follows S2, but goes fairly widely AU after “School Hard”
AN3: The layout Dru uses in the Prologue is based off of the Romani Star.
AN4: I had a hard time with Spike in this, so hardcore fans of ‘Original Spike’ may not be pleased, but there are reasons for my Spike being the way he is and I stand by them.
AN5: …there’s gotta be a 5, I don’t write stuff this long or involved with so few ANs…





Arcana


by
Cobalt Mystic



1 The Major Arcana

Dusty yellow light fell over the well-worn tabletop, the flickering candlelight caressing the pale hands shuffling cards. Giggling the dark haired woman laid out the first card, the Fool, “Sweet Kitten has a hidden past,” then the second, the Hanged Man, “my Prince shall find it for him.” As she continued laying out each card, she spoke in her sing-song voice abstractly explaining their meanings. The High Priestess, “It becomes clearer, our Kitten is learning,” the Lovers, “oh, my Spike, he’s beginning to understand!” The insane vampiress clapped her hands excitedly, a bright manic smile on her gaunt face. The next two cards- Death, “So recently awakened,” and the Wheel, “so many transitions”- were turned. Followed by the Magician, “One is lost, the other found.” The Empress, “It’s good the Kitten is strong- the heart so often ignored,” she tsked, turning the Chariot, “yet remains unwavering.” The next card, the Hermit, had her screaming, “No, no, no!”

Quickly, Spike was at Drusilla’s side, muttering soothing words and stroking her luxurious hair.

“Spike, my Spike, he mustn’t go, mustn’t be abandoned.”

“Shh, finish the reading, luv, then Spike’ll fix it- right as rain.”

Making eerie cooing sounds, she leaned into Spike’s strong form, “I know, my Spike. Miss Edith told me. She said my Prince would mend heart and soul, but we must guide him.”

The blonde vampire kissed his Sire’s head, “Then guide me, pet.”

Large dark blue eyes looked up at Spike, then over to Miss Edith; she cocked her head as if listening to something. After a moment, she smiled coyly, “Yes,” and returned to her reading.

The Emperor appeared next, “Daddy?” It seemed more a question than a statement and she began tilting her head from side to side as if viewing the cards from another angle would suddenly make their message clear. Confusion was written plainly on her pale face as she looked imploringly at her lover and protector, “But Daddy has never played with the Kitten.”

Spike scoffed, remembering the incident at the high school, “Angel maybe, but not our Sire, not Angelus.”

Still confused, Dru dutifully turned another card, the Hierophant, and started giggling, “Our Kitten sees Daddy’s true self in his mind. That’s where Daddy plays with him.” The Moon, “Daddy always did love to play there,” her mad eyes turned on Spike, “didn’t he, my love. But such a bad Daddy, breaking and abandoning his toys,” she sing-songed as she laid the Tower in its position.

The final eight cards were laid out in quick succession, the insane vampiress looking over them excitedly before speaking. “Kitten wants to understand,” she caressed the Justice card, “else he leaves and the dollies come to play.” Her hand moved fluidly to the next card, Strength, “He has the courage, but lacks the faith.” Then to the Devil, “Failure plagues our Kitten,” followed by the Star, “you, my Spike, must direct him, give him what he needs.” The sight of Judgment and the Sun caused Dru to smile almost sweetly, “Only then can the Kitten heal and know. Balance is everything- grey the colour of the world,” she gingerly fingered the Temperance card. “But this, my Spike, this is the sum of the stars, the dollies, even Miss Edith,” reverently she stroked the World. “He will know, our Kitten will be healed, and my dear Spike will be happy and safe.”
Turning to her lover, her golden demon eyes shining with a fire her human guise concealed, “You must promise me, my Spike, promise Mummy you will protect the Kitten. He is ours; he needs you.”

Even if he hadn’t loved her, even if she hadn’t been his Sire, Spike wouldn’t have been able to deny the vehemence in her voice. He still didn’t understand, but what his Dark Princess wanted, his Princess got, so unhesitantly he agreed, “I promise, Princess, I’ll keep the Kitten safe.”

Dru calmed and her eyes returned to their human blue, “’m tired Spike, take care of Miss Edith.”

“Of course luv, let’s get you t’bed now,” the blonde cooed, gently escorting the frail woman to their bed.


********* The Fool *********

Despite his demonic nature, Spike was not one for uncertainty and confusion- it was messy and reminded him entirely too much of the shambles his human existence had been. But sometimes when Dru got these ideas in her head, he felt every bit as befuddled and overwhelmed as William ever had. At least with Dru he had something, someone, to focus on, and that was usually enough to steer him through the chaos.

This time though there were… complications. First and foremost in his mind was the presence of his Grandsire, or the poncy ensouled version of him. Then there was the boy; he knew the kid Angel had ‘offered’ him was the “kitten” his Princess was on about. What he didn’t know was why the whelp was so important to her. Dru was never one to play with her food, least not the way Angelus and Darla had. Spike wasn’t blind, the boy was stunning, all darkness and warmth and golden skin that under different circumstances he would have been jealously protective of- he wouldn’t have hesitated to take the boy then and there if he’d thought for a moment it was truly Angelus offering him. At least then his bastard Grandsire wouldn’t have been able to destroy such a lovely creature.
None of that however, explained Dru’s interest in the boy.


~*~*~*~*~


Tossing and turning, Xander tried to force himself to sleep, but every time he neared sleep amber eyes and razor fangs filled his vision. God, he hated vamps- some more than others.

At first, the nightmares were easily explained away. After all, when you find out you live on a Hellmouth, that vampires and demons do exist, and you stake your best-friend, you’re allowed a certain quantity of nightmares to accompany the “period of adjustment.” But these had been a constant for over a year and it was becoming harder and harder for him to know the difference between dream and reality. So many nights he awoke terrified only to find himself still in his nightmare being confronted by an all too familiar vamped-out face.

That fear was what he recalled most vividly. The stark, all-encompassing fear. The fear of knowing, yet not; of being awake, yet dreaming; of those glowing yellow eyes; of Angel.

The others assumed Xander’s dislike of the guilt ridden vamp was mere jealousy- a view the young man didn’t go out of his way to dissuade. Better for his friends to believe he suffered petty jealousy, than to know the vampire haunted him in the most terrifying and intimate ways. Besides, at this point, if he did tell them, they’d probably think he was trying to rationalize his hatred.

For having such a high concentration of estrogen, sometimes his girls really lacked in the intuition department.


~*~*~*~*~


“Hey Wills, got a minute?”

The young redhead looked up from her book, smiling brightly, “Of course, Xan, what’s up?”

Xander looked around the quad warily. He knew Buffy was training with Giles, but knowing that didn’t ease his nerves. He swallowed hard, sitting next to his best-friend, “I need your help and I need you not to tell Giles, and especially not Buffy.”

“Oh… okay, but you know if it’s something vampy or demony they’d be better with the dealing, not that I can’t. I think I’ve been pretty good with the dealing, we both have. Haven’t we?”

The dark boy took his friend by the shoulders and looked straight into her eyes, “Yes, Will, you are very good with the dealing- now focus!”

“Oh, yeah, sure, focusing… sorry.”

Xander couldn’t help but chuckle at the sheepish look Willow was giving him, “It’s okay, Will.”

Smiling, “Alright, I’m Miss focus-girl, what’s the problem?”

“What do we know about Angel?”

Willow looked as if she was about to lecture her friend on jealousy and unhealthy obsessions, but Xander’s raised, placating hands quieted her.

“I mean before… before the soul.”

She opened her mouth to answer, but stopped abruptly when she realized she didn’t have an answer to give. Instead, she asked, “Why?”

Again, he looked around making certain neither Watcher, nor Slayer were nearby, “I’ve been having these ‘dreams’? …nightmares? …memories? God, Willow, I don’t know what they are. I just know it’s Angel being all ‘grr’ and creepy- well creepier- and they’re getting worse.”

“Worse how?”

“More real, more often… Sometimes… sometimes, I can’t tell when I’m dreaming and when I’m not.”

“Xander,” she squeezed her friend’s arm. “We should talk to Ms. Calendar.”

“But Giles, Buffy!?!”

“Xan, she knows about this stuff and we don’t have to tell her it’s you.”

He knew it was pointless to argue with Willow once her mind was made up. If he did, he’d be met with ‘resolve face’ and give in anyway, so he allowed himself to be dragged to the teacher’s classroom.


~*~*~*~*~


A young woman sat at a desk, intently studying the screen before her. Her dark hair was stylishly tucked behind one ear, the lively glint in her eyes a fierce contrast to the pasty hue lent to her features by the blue-white light off the computer’s monitor.

“Ms. Calendar,” Willow chirped from the doorway.

“Ah, Willow,” the computer teacher smiled at the redhead, “waiting for Buffy and Mr. Giles?”

She stepped into the room pulling an increasingly reluctant Xander with her. “Not exactly, we were discussing dreams and the symbolism of recurring ones,” Willow looked hopefully at the elder witch, hoping she’d understand what the redhead wanted without her having to go into detail.

Laughing good naturedly, “Recurring dreams are usually just that. No big mystical meaning, just the mind processing information.”

“So it wouldn’t be past lives or repressed memories or anything?”

“Doubtful. The kind of trauma or emotional upheaval that could cause those experiences to bleed through is improbable at best. Not to mention how deeply rooted and powerful the triggers would have to be in order to bring those memories to the surface.”

“You mean like getting vamped then finding out the vamp who did it is dating one of your best-friends?”

“Xander,” Willow growled under her breath, even as her eyes widened in shock over her friend’s bluntness.

“What?” he asked innocently. “It’s a fair question.”

Ms. Calendar studied the young man carefully, “Xander,” she soothed, “you want to tell me about it?”

The boy shared a sidelong glance with his best-friend, then nodded.

“Just can you maybe not say anything to Buffy or Giles,” the redhead asked sheepishly.

Reaching out and squeezing one of their hands in each of hers, “As long as no one’s in danger, I won’t go to them- unless you agree to it. Alright?”

The two friends nodded.

“Good! So, tell me about these dreams.”

“They’re more impressions than dreams, I guess- feelings, like when you know something deep down. Like I know my family’s dead, along with everyone I cared about, but it’s not my family. I mean, I can think about Willow and know it’s not her- that she’s not dead.

“Then there’s Deadboy all bumpy and demony and laughing- laughing, didn’t even know he could laugh. Don’t think I’ve ever even seen him smile.”

“You said your family was dead, any idea who or how?”

“Angel and bloody,” Xander answered automatically, a chill running through his body. “I’ve tried to figure it out, tried to make sense of it, but whenever I think about them and how they died I get overwhelmed- like being trapped in a TV with all the channels on at once.”

“Xan,” Willow’s arm draped over the boy’s shoulders as she tried to provide some small measure of comfort and support.

“Xander, you’re doing great. Anything else? Any other feelings or impressions?”

The dark boy shook his head, feeling incredibly drained after putting words to his dreams and voicing the fears. “Just hopelessness and guilt, like I could’ve stopped it- the killing.”

“One more question, then I think Willow should get you home-” she raised a hand as the pair prepared to protest, “-I’ll talk to Rupert. You said these ‘dreams’ are getting worse.”

Xander nodded.

“When did they start?”

“The dreams or the getting worse? ‘cause they started right around the time Buffy showed up, but it’s been the last month or so it’s been harder to tell which is which.”

Ms. Calendar smiled sweetly at the scared teen, “Okay, Willow, take Xander home, he needs rest. I want to check some things and we can talk tomorrow alright?”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“Thanks Ms. Calendar.”

“Whatever it is, we’ll figure it out.”


~*~*~*~*~


Willow barely slept, she was worried about her Xander friend. At first, she had assumed Xander’s dreams were simply a way to rationalize his animosity towards Angel, but after hearing the pain and fear in his voice and seeing the haunted look on his face as he told the dark witch his tale, she was no longer convinced that was the case. In fact, the more she thought about it, the more sense it made.


~*~*~*~*~


At school the next day, as soon as she was able, Willow sought out the computer teacher. “It’s real, isn’t it,” she declared without preamble. “They’re not dreams, not just an excuse to hate Angel.” The redhead sounded small and sad, but sure in her words.

Dark eyes met hers, “Yes, I was hoping to find a clue as to who, but there are so many. Angelus was a true monster.”

“What about his family? Xan said Angelus killed his family. Doesn’t that narrow it down?”

“Unfortunately, no. Angelus and Darla made a habit of massacring families- it was one of their ‘games’.”

Willow rested her chin on her hands, confused and defeated.

“If I had a timeframe or location, then maybe…”

“You want me to talk to him? See if he remembers anything else?”

“It would help.”

The girl nodded and scurried off to find her best-friend.


~*~*~*~*~


Damp, cold blackness.
Alone but not- things scutter and claw over stone. Every muscle and nerve burns
A lock rattles, iron hinges creak, and he’s returned.
Dark brown eyes, empty and black as the pits of Hell smiled malevolently.
A voice that at one time could’ve been comforting, now chilling with its sinister resonance, a thin mask between man and monster, spoke, “Lovely Childe.” A hand caressed soft skin with false tenderness. “Beautiful insanity. Tell me, do the stars still sing to you? Or have they left you in the screaming silence of a broken mind?” A feral chuckle rumbled from his throat before he twisted a hand violently through dark locks forcing stunned eyes to look into his bestial face snarling with mirth.


“…then I’m screaming, and don’t know whether I’m awake or not. I think I must be dreaming still since no one hears- Mom’s not thatdrunk all the time.”

“Oh, Xan,” the small girl wrapped loving arms around her best-friend, a pained look fixed on her face.

The dark boy closed his eyes and leaned into Willow’s hug. It felt good to have it out and even better to have his Willow understand.

“Is it okay if I tell Ms. Calendar? She said the more we can give her the better, and this- this is definitely ‘more’.”

Silently, Xander nodded, hoping the witch would be able to find some answers before he was forced to explain everything to Giles and Buffy.


~*~*~*~*~


After Dru’s little episode, Spike decided the ‘kitten’ needed looking after- if only so he could understand her fascination with the boy. So every night, Spike would make sure his Princess was safe, fed, and under the watchful eyes of minions who Spike may not have trusted but knew that so much as a scratch to his Princess would make their unlives forfeit, then head out into the darkened streets of Sunnydale to check on the boy.

And the kid needed it.

It only took a couple nights of watching the boy’s haunted sleep and his pathetic excuse for parents ignoring their troubled son for him to see the strength Dru spoke of. Oh yes, Spike would watch over this boy and as he promised Drusilla, he’d keep their kitten safe.




********* The Lovers *********

Tonight he was supposed to get his Princess back, get the kind of affection and love he knew lay beneath her insanity. Then the Slayer had shown up with her groupies. They’d interrupted the ritual before it could be completed and he had no way of knowing what, if any, good it had done.
Instead, he held her dark frail form to him as he whispered her name.

Her deep eyes shone with a sanity he had never seen. An honest smile crossed her pale face as she spoke, “The kitten will be whole now; remember your promise, my Spike.” And with that she was gone; so much ash amongst the rubble.

Spike howled, bestial and pained, the loss of his love and Sire shaking the foundations of his world. He was only vaguely aware of the shrieks and cries from the churchyard and would have only gained slight comfort from the knowledge that the screams were from the Slayer and her band of do-gooders.


~*~*~*~*~


In the churchyard, four figures crouched over a fifth.

“Willow, what happened?!” Buffy demanded still supporting Angel on one shoulder.

“I… I don’t know, we were running, then he screamed and just collapsed.” The redhead cradled Xander’s head in her lap, brushing her small fingers over his forehead.

“Giles, take Angel?” Buffy was already shifting the injured vamp’s weight to her Watcher so she could carry their unconscious friend.

“Buffy!” Willow exclaimed as the dark boy was lifted out of her protective grasp.

“Will, we need to get out of here, to some place safe where we can find out what’s wrong.”

“Yeah, right, of course,” the redhead scrambled to her feet, falling into step with the others.


~*~*~*~*~


Back at the school, Giles examined Xander for injuries while Buffy wrapped Angel’s wound and the two made sickening goo-goo eyes at each other.

“I don’t understand it,” the librarian’s voice was concerned and more tense than usual. “I can’t find any physical injury.” His fingers twitched as he tried not to reach for his glasses.

“So it’s mystical?” Willow’s hazel eyes gleamed with moisture.

“Perhaps.”

“Well, couldn’t Ms. Calendar help then?”

“She might be able to help us narrow down what kind of magic was used,” Giles admitted.


~*~*~*~*~


Xander’s mind was filled with images. Sunny days in the garden with sisters laughing at his side, cold winter nights in front of the warm glow of a roaring fire, and all of it shared with a family that loved him unconditionally.

But there were other images- bloody images. The contorted features of those same smiling, laughing faces blood drenched, throats torn open, the crimson fluid bubbling and gurgling as their last breaths escaped the gaping wounds.

Still there were more images, horrible things and he was doing them, and worse, he enjoyed it.

Xander tried to pull away, to block the memories, but the harder he fought them the more the horrifying graphic Technicolor pictures exploded in his mind’s eye. The tidal flow of confusing and conflicting emotions began to overwhelm him, a familiar madness tingled along the edges of his senses, welcoming and safe.

Just as he was about to allow himself to slide down into the enticing arms of insanity, a pair of eyes- trusting, caring, tender, and lit with such passion and desire- came into his vision. Like a mountain climber’s security line they held him, preventing his mental free-fall.


~*~*~*~*~


He should have been at the warehouse. He should have been wallowing in grief, mourning his Dark Princess, plotting revenge on the Slayer and his Grandsire, but he wasn’t. Instead, he was hovering outside the witch’s house, waiting for the boy. Spike knew he was in there; he’d tracked the kid’s scent. Only thing he didn’t know was why the boy hadn’t left. The Slayer’s other minions had left hours before, leaving only the witch and his boy inside.

When the first tendrils of morning sun began reaching through the trees, Spike surrendered his vigil for the safety of the sewers. It didn’t take long for him to find demons filled with rumours and reports of the church fiasco. Apparently, most of the vampires’ minions and fledges were dust, not that Spike minded that much- ‘bout all they were good for as far as he was concerned. What did concern him however, were the reports of the Slayer’s dark-haired pet collapsing just outside the church. It certainly explained why the boy hadn’t left the witch’s. Unfortunately, it brought up more questions- if the boy was hurt, why not take him to hospital, if it wasn’t that severe, why not get him home, unless it was magical, but then why weren’t the Watcher or the Slayer pounding the demon community for answers if it was beyond their witch?
This was not good.

Spike had already lost his Princess, he wouldn’t lose their kitten.

With newfound determination, Spike made his way back toward the witch’s home. He wanted to be there to make sure his boy got everything he needed.


~*~*~*~*~


Xander thrashed violently, screaming, trying to escape the images in his head. At least, that’s what his body thought it was doing. In reality, he did little more than moan and roll his shoulders. Though, as the hours passed, Xander’s moans grew louder and more intense, and the rolling motions of his shoulders became a vicious wracking of his entire body. Then suddenly, the noises and movement all but stopped- moans turned to whimpers and shaking turned into gentle rocking.

Both the degree and speed of the changes drew the attention of the dark witch watching over him. Ms. Calendar had been set to tell Giles all about Xander’s secret when the group of Slayerettes arrived at her house the previous night, but a pleading glance and a quick chat with Willow had her agreeing to hold off until tonight. It was a decision she found herself constantly second guessing. But if Xander’s memories and dreams weren’t related to his current condition, then no harm would be done by remaining silent. However, if as she feared, his condition was somehow linked to the memories and the casting of the Rite of Eligor, then saving Xander could hinge on the added information. If only she knew more. More about the dreams, about Angelus, about the Rite, about-

“…William…,” Xander breathed, the blissful sound barely above a hum.

The name simply popped into his head as those comforting blue eyes pulled away, allowing their owner’s face to come into view. His features were strong and warm, yet sharp and chiseled- like a fine porcelain doll with prominent cheeks and brow, soulful, knowing eyes, and a face that begged to be stroked with love and kindness. His tousled mop of golden-brown curls only added to the impression.

Xander sighed internally, a little voice in his head repeating the name like a mantra.

The dark haired teacher stood stunned, that one word an answer to all her questions. In a flash, it all made sense.

She needed to talk to Willow and to Giles. She had no idea if this sort of thing was precedented, but she knew it could be bad.


~*~*~*~*~


“It’s Drusilla!” Ms. Calendar declared before the library doors had fully closed behind her.

“Where?” Buffy asked excitedly, she was still fuming over the whole trying-to-drain-her-boyfriend.

Giles responded with a more concerned, “Jenny?”

While Willow’s thoughts went straight to her friend, “Xander!?!”

Brown and hazel eyes met. The witch gave a nod that spoke more clearly than any of the great orators.

“But how? She’s still alive, or undead,” the small redhead furrowed her brow trying to come up with the proper term.

Ms. Calendar smiled, opening her palms in a gesture of realization, “She had the Sight before she was turned. It’s how Angelus drove her mad.”

Willow’s hand flew to her mouth and her eye widened, “That’s why some were only impressions.”

“Exactly.”

“Would someone be so kind as to speak in complete sentences?” The librarian asked as he fumbled for the well-worn cloth he used to polish his glasses. “Only impressions of what?”

“Angel.”

“Well, Angelus- technically,” the brunette teacher corrected.

“Don’t think that really matters much to Xan.”

Giles stiffened as a horrifying picture began to form with chilling clarity, “Good Lord, the Rite of Eligor.”

“What’s the big? We stopped it, opened a can of Slayer whoopass on Bleach for Brains, rescued Angel, got the cross-thingy,” the Slayer shrugged and hopped up on a table. “Sounds dealt with to me.”

“Well, yes, but if I’m understanding Willow and Ms. Calendar correctly, the Rite may be at the root of what’s befallen Xander.”

That got Buffy’s attention. “You mean Spike did this to Xan?” Her voice was cold and hard- no one hurt her friends.

“Not directly,” Giles cautioned. “We need to find out what happened to Drusilla.”


~*~*~*~*~


The witch had left hours ago and the sun had finally fallen low enough for Spike to approach the house without getting fried. He followed the boy’s scent to the back of the building, where it was joined by pained sounds Spike had become all too familiar with since Dru’s reading. Spike let the sounds lead him to a partially open window on the opposite side of the small house.

Inside, Xander whimpered and his body shook, while Spike kept watch- the invisible barrier preventing him from doing more.

With each bout of dream-memories, Xander felt more lost and each time those crystal blue eyes pulled him from the brink, he saw a little more about their owner.

William was beautiful, amazing and strong of heart- full of passion and devotion. Xander wanted nothing so much as to melt into William’s arms and feel safe and secure; for William to anchor him outside the dreams and to protect him from Angel. Even when Xander realized his William was a vampire, a demon, Xander still wanted him and felt comforted by him. William was peace.

“William,” he sighed trying to hold the image and the feelings to him.

Spike couldn’t believe what he was hearing, the boy couldn’t mean him, yet some part of him knew he did- what’s more, some part of him wanted it. Unconsciously, Spike put his hand to the open side of the window, his palm pressing against the air as if it was the glass itself.

“No! William, please stay,” the panic was clear in Xander’s voice. He couldn’t be left alone with the dreams again.

From the window, Spike called, “I’m here, pet, right here. Not leavin’.” Spike pounded his head against the window pane, “Stupid invites,” he muttered under his breath.

“Hold me, William. Please, come hold me.”

The words were plaintive and barely audible, but they were enough to send Spike’s palm crashing to the interior side of the windowsill. The vampire wasted no time climbing through the open window and to his boy’s side. Long pale fingers gently brushed sweat dampened hair from the young man’s face. A shock of power surged through his fingertips taking him back a hundred and sixteen years to a darkened alley in the cold streets of London where another dark beauty touched him with the same power and changed his life forever. Looking down at the boy he’d sworn to protect, he remembered Dru’s words from the reading- ‘One is lost, the other found,’ -and from her death- ‘The kitten will be whole now’ -and he understood. He understood why this boy was so important to his Princess, why the mortal called to him as well, and why nothing mattered more than caring for this beautiful creature. Gracefully, Spike slipped out of his duster and his Docs, and slid into the bed behind his boy. As he settled in, arms possessively encompassing his boy, he whispered, “Gonna take care of you, pet. You’re all I got left, and no one’s gonna hurt you.” Spike kissed the dark head and finally let himself sleep.


********* The Devil *********

The rattle of keys and the click of a bolt sliding open caused Spike to wake. He looked down at the boy in his arms and smiled sadly. He didn’t want to leave him, but he doubted the witch would be terribly understanding. Darting a quick kiss to his boy’s head, “I’ll be close, pet,” he snatched his boots and duster, and ducked out the window.

True to his word, the blonde vampire remained nearby. Mentally cringing at every whimpered cry, every thrashing moan, Spike wished he could be inside comforting his boy.

As soon as he was sure the dark witch was asleep, he clamoured back into his boy’s room and more importantly his bed. “You’re safe now, pet, Spike’s got you,” he cooed softly. His warm voice instantly calming the boy.

Xander felt safe. He swore he could feel his William’s arms around him; hear his sultry voice whispering words of comfort.

Xander knew his William was a vampire, a demon, one of the creatures he helped to slay. And he couldn’t bring himself to care. All that mattered was that William kept the monster away.

Too soon, the feelings faded. With a frightened whimper, Xander reach out blindly, “Don’t go.”

Spike took the boy’s hand and knelt by the bed. Petting the young man’s face, “I ‘ave to, pet. But I’ll be back,” he kissed a flushed, tear-stained cheek. “Promise.”

The blonde vamp was barely out the window when the horrifying images began their assault on Xander’s mind. He only hoped they would follow the now familiar cycle of terror and azure sanctuary.


~*~*~*~*~


Willow and the dark witch took turns sitting with Xander, holding his hand through the roughest parts of his dreams and trying to get him to drink during his calmer periods.

As Ms. Calendar returned from her most recent vigil, Willow asked, “How is he?”

“The same.” She shook her head, “I thought he was getting better. He seemed to actually sleep last night.”

“He’ll be okay- he has to.” Willow tried to hold back her tears, but when she felt the arm around her shoulders the fragile dam broke and she cried. “I can’t lose him, too.”

“Shh, we won’t lose him. Buffy’s gone to find Angel, hopefully he can give us some answers.” To herself she added, ‘Gods know he has a lot to answer for.’


~*~*~*~*~


Surrounded by books, texts in demon and ancient languages, Giles sat dissecting the Rite of Eligor in hopes of finding a clue to Xander’s ailment. When Buffy arrived, Angel in her wake, it was a welcome distraction from the mounds of paper. “Ah, Buffy. Angel. Any news?” There had been no sign of either Spike or Drusilla since the incident at the church, still he felt it worthwhile to examine all possibilities for Xander‘s malady, and that included the insane vampiress.

“Dru’s dead,” Angel replied coolly, “and no one’s seen Spike since the ritual, or if they have they‘re not talking.”

“He’s missing?” The librarian shook his head and pinched the bridge of his nose, “Well, first things first- Xander.” Giles looked to Angel, “Was Drusilla capable of anything that could’ve caused this.”

“Not the way she was.”

With a huffed sigh, “I was afraid of that,” Giles turned to his books and the notes he’d taken.

“Wait, isn’t that good news?”

“It certainly eliminates one possible source. Unfortunately, it would’ve been the simplest to deal with.”

Buffy fidgeted, she liked having things to kill, a target. “So, where’s that leave us?” The young blonde asked as she began to absently flick open and closed Giles’ books, glancing at each as if the ticks and scratches that passed for languages would suddenly give her the answer.

The Watcher rubbed his brow, “It leaves us analyzing the ritual and determining if Drusilla truly is at the heart of what’s befallen Xander.”

“And we do that how?”

“Let me talk to him.”

Two sets of surprised eyes swung to the vamp.

“What? If it’s Dru or something she did, I should be able to sense it,” he explained.

“I’m not sure that would be a good idea,” he raised a hand to forestall Buffy’s protests. “From what Je-Ms. Calendar and Willow have told us, Angel’s presence could do more harm than good,” the older man explained.

Buffy slumped against a table, “So what do we do?”

“Call Willow and Ms. Calendar,” the vampire suggested. “You said, they’re the ones who know the most details of what Xander’s experienced. Maybe if we compared notes we can find some answers.”

Giles nodded approvingly, “I’ll call them.”


~*~*~*~*~


Spike watched from his concealed and sun-protected hiding place as the witch and the redhead left. As soon as they were in the dark haired woman’s car and headed down the road, the vampire made his move. Avoiding the lingering patches of sunlight the blonde vamp made his way to his boy’s window. Slipping easily inside, Spike went straight to the writhing form of his tortured human. Taking his boy into his strong arms Spike spoke in soft lulling tones, “I’m here, pet. William’s here. Won’t let them hurt you, Xander.” The name rolled off his tongue as if he’d been saying it all his life, when in truth he’d only learnt the boy’s name today. It felt good, it felt right, so he said it again, “Xander. My Xander,” and nuzzled the boy’s head.

As he sat holding Xander to him, a low purr radiating from his chest, he heard two words that could’ve stopped his heart had it still beat.

“My Spike.”


~*~*~*~*~


After Xander’s too short, William-induced respite, the images bombarded him as if making up for lost time, and they were growing in intensity, yet again. Sights, sounds, smells were so clear and so strong that Xander was no longer sure it wasn’t him suffering these atrocities and committing these horrors. The one thing that made it almost bearable was the presence of his William, even blood-soaked and vicious his eyes only ever shone with love when turned on him. And William was so tender, even in the throes of violent love-making, he still made him feel loved and cared for. It was yet another thing Xander adored about his vamp.

Only, when it got too much, when Xander would start slipping into that dark realm of insanity some almost foreign part of him loathed William and his tenderness; it craved something harsher, cold, and angry. A face- the monster, a name- ‘Daddy’. Xander was falling, screaming, laughing, and underneath a sound, musical and warm, slowing his descent. Then he felt it, a smooth vibrating caress covering his body in only the way his vampire could.

Xander clung to that feeling and let it slowly pull him back. That part of him that wanted the darkness and the hatred screamed, bloodcurdling and pained, ‘Spike!’ While a voice from the little box in his mind where he shoved the dreams of Angel and death, cooed, ‘Spike,’ and threw up images of his William and the Master Vampire he’d so recently been offered to- Spike.

This time, Xander wasn’t afraid, this was his William, his Spike, the one who kept the monster away. “My Spike,” he murmured as the black abyss of insanity fell away, once again.


~*~*~*~*~


Angel paced in front of the library’s checkout desk. This may have been his idea, but he wasn’t enjoying it. He’d spent the past hour listening to Willow and Ms. Calendar recount one of the cruelest periods in his existence. It didn’t matter that it was third- and fourth-hand information, he recognized his deeds. Grudgingly, the ensouled vamp nodded, “It’s Dru.”

A collective exhale swept the room, at least they were on the right track.

“Angel, is there anything else we should know?” Giles asked seemingly unphased by the details of Dru’s turning.

The vampire shook his head, not meeting the women’s eyes. He heard the harsh sound of a chair scraping angrily over the floor and looked up to see the retreating form of the computer teacher. “Think I should go.”

“Angel,” Buffy called her hazel eyes filled with confusion and anguish.

Angel shook his head and walked out the door.


~*~*~*~*~


Betrayal was all she felt, betrayal and disgust. She’d actually believed him, believed in him. She’d lost sight of the fact that whatever his actions since the soul, Angel was still a monster. That he was responsible for what was happening to Xander, and that the things he did hundreds of years ago were still causing pain and destruction to those she cared for.

“You bastard,” the witch snarled at the approaching figure. “You had me fooled, you know. I was ready to stand-up for you; to go against everything I was taught.”

“Jenny, I…” the vamp began.

“No,” her voice rang with a commanding power. “Just stay away from me you gods damned bastard. Stay away.”


********* The Hermit *********

Spike wasn’t sure how long he’d held the boy, but he was in no hurry to leave. Especially when he could feel Xander’s hot breath against his chest, his hands were fisted in his shirt, and those kissable lips were mouthing the words ‘My Spike’ over and over.

“That’s right, pet,” he combed his alabaster fingers through his boy’s coffee brown hair, “your Spike.”

Spike’s thoughts wandered as he continued to card his fingers through Xander’s silken locks- the sensation a comfort to both of them. There was so much involved in caring for a human. Did he even want to keep his boy human? Yes, for a few more years at least. How much of the boy was the Drusilla he knew? How much was Dru before Angelus destroyed her mind? And how much was the sweet, stubborn, and stupidly brave (what else could he call a mortal who fought side by side with the Slayer) boy he had been watching over?

The vampire felt as much as heard the mortal’s increase in breathing and heart rate. He felt the slight tilt of head and looked down into beautiful, soulful, brown eyes full of absolute adoring trust. Spike smiled, realizing the answers to his questions didn’t matter- he had someone to care for; someone who cared for him.

Images and memories jumbled together in Xander’s mind. A picture of a smiling Willow amid the bloodied faces of his family, being violated and tortured by Angel, Jesse’s eighth birthday, killing his precious William, Angel offering him to Spike, realizing his William and Spike were one and the same; they all swam together. Xander’s brain a melting pot of memories.

He knew he should be slipping, falling into that dark place, but he wasn’t. Whatever was anchoring him, he wanted to use it, to wake up, but what he saw couldn’t be real- a pair of unmistakable sapphire eyes set in the chiseled face of an angel. William. Spike. His.

“Hey, pet,” the vampire delicately traced a cool finger along the boy’s jaw line. “Feeling better?”

“Spike?” Xander breathed questioningly as he pressed a hand against the blonde’s chest to see if this figment was solid.

A warm chuckled rolled from the vampire, “’s me, pet. Very real and very here.” He took the hand pressed to his chest, brought it to his lips and kissed it, “See?”

“Spike. My Spike,” Xander’s smile was tinged with a hint of mania. “Knew you’d come. They said so.”

“Who said, Xander?” Spike had a sinking feeling he knew the answer.

“The others, of course. They showed you to me. Told me you’d keep him away.” Xander nuzzled into Spike’s chest letting out a contented sigh.

Spike went back to carding his elegant pale fingers through Xander’s hair. This would need to be dealt with carefully, but after a hundred plus years of caring for his Dark Princess there wasn’t much Spike couldn’t handle. “Xander, pet, do you know who you are?”

Xander giggled like a mischievous child, “I am the one.”

“Pet?”

“The one who was, the one who is, and the one who shall be,” he giggled harder at the truth of his joke.

This could be more difficult than he thought, at least he’d understood the circles Dru’s mind travelled in. Spike took a deep breath, reminding himself that there was a time when he was newly turned and his Princess was a complete mystery. Now, he was a Master Vampire and his boy may have been a mystery but not a complete one.
Spike took the boy’s face in his hands, forcing the mortal to look at him. In a soft firm voice, “Xander, you need to focus on me, pet. Look at me, look at your Spike.”

A flash of recognition sparked in the boy’s dark eyes. “Spike?”

“That’s it, luv,” he pet the boy’s face.

Xander knew he should be scared, that he should scream and try to get away. But those eyes. He knew them, knew the look of caring and devotion. They had kept him anchored and saved him from the monster- Angel. “William?” Xander asked hopefully.

The vampire smiled and nodded, “Been a long time since anybody called me that, but yeah.”

Xander smiled back at his vampire and fisted his hands as tightly as he could in Spike’s shirt. He had no intention of letting the vampire go.

Spike heard the soft sound of the front door opening. Sadly, he cast his eyes at the frightened boy, “I have to leave, pet.”

“No!” Xander shook his head violently.

“Xander, I have to. The witch is home; don’t think she’ll take too kindly to a demon in her guest room,” though why he concerned himself with the witch he wasn’t sure. He supposed it was because she was caring for his boy and human or demon that was worth something to Spike.

“Nonononono,” the dark boy whimpered. “They’ll come back. He’ll come back. Please…”

“Pet, your witch won’t understand, but she’ll take care of you. I’ll be close, luv.” Spike slipped the ever present chain from his neck and wrapped it around Xander’s hand, pressing the small bauble into the boy’s palm, “Was my mum’s, haven’t been without it since she died.”

The young man tried to smile as he nodded and released his vamp.

With a final kiss Spike was gone.


~*~*~*~*~


In her bedroom, Ms. Calendar could hear the sounds of her charge whimpering. She quickly finished changing and went to check on the boy.
Opening the bedroom door, she was met with a chilling scream as Xander sat bolt upright in the bed, his open eyes wild with terror, hands clawing at something only he could see.

Ms. Calendar approached the screaming form warily, trying to avoid his angrily flailing arms.

“No. No, can’t. Can’t see. Not again,” the boy cried curling in on himself.

“Xander? Can’t see what? What is it you’re seeing?” The teacher spoke in soft gentle tones, moving closer to the bed.

“Blood, so much blood. Were beautiful once. Meat now.”

Suddenly, the boy’s back arched and he screamed in pain. After the last scream, Xander passed out once again, his body twitching in reaction to unseen forces.

With the movement Ms. Calendar noticed the silver chain wrapped in Xander’s tightly closed fist. Carefully, the witch sat on the bed and gently opened Xander’s clenched fist exposing the antique locket.

“Lovely, isn’t it?” There was an unnerving lilt to Xander’s voice and his wide, open eyes were more feral than before. “Gave it to me. Prove he’ll come back,” the dark boy smiled madly, then tilted his head to the side examining the woman before him. “You must go. He won’t come if you’re here.”

Xander’s eyes turned from feral to sad and frightened, “I need him; he’s coming. Daddy’s coming.” Tears rolled down Xander’s flushed cheeks, “He protects me, keeps Daddy away, keeps the pictures and the blood away- all gone, all gone.” The boy closed his eyes, clutching the pendant to his chest and cried.

“Xander?” The quietly spoken question was coloured with more than a hint of her own fear. She couldn’t help but wonder if their Xander was still there, or if Drusilla and her insanity had taken over. Reaching out, she stroked the boy’s hair; she had to believe he was still Xander.

As if in answer to her unspoken prayer, Xander began muttering, “Spike keeps Daddy away, my William.” Sniffling, “She likes when Daddy comes. I don’t. Don’t want him to come,” the boy let out a pained sob.

“It’ll be alright, Xander, I promise.” She tucked the blankets up around the shaking form and walked to the window. “This may be the biggest mistake of my life, or at least the last one,” the dark woman muttered to herself. Taking a deep breath she called out in a strong voice, “Spike, I know you can hear me. If there’s one thing the stories about you agree on, it’s your absolute devotion. You’d stay close to Xander in case he needed you.” The witch paused, waiting for a response. When none came she continued, “Well, Xander needs you. If there’s anything you can do to help him, please do it. I won’t stake you. I won’t. I won’t call Buffy or Giles or anyone else- just help Xander.”

Spike crouched on the roof of a nearby house, listening to his boy’s cries and fighting his instinct to go to him and to hells with the consequences. Then the witch called to him, bless her. He had been right when he told Xander she would care for him. The question now was if he could trust her word. Cautiously, the vampire made his way to his boy’s window, keeping his senses open and alert for any sound or movement.

Silently, Spike opened the window and slipped inside- the brunette witch too engrossed in comforting his boy to notice. Softly he spoke, “Let me.”

The warmth in the vampire’s quiet words both shocked and calmed the witch. Still, she quickly stood and backed away, never taking her eyes off the demon.

Spike smirked, stripping his boots and duster. Sitting on the edge of the bed, he tenderly caressed Xander’s face, “Xander, pet, ‘s me, luv.” The blonde vampire continued to pet the boy’s face, “Come on, Xander, come back to me, to your Spike, your William.”

Xander nuzzled into the vampire’s cool touch, and after a few moments opened his eyes, the frightened, wild look gone from them. “You came.”

“’ course I did, luv. Your witch even asked me to. She’s a keeper that one.” The vamp turned a smirking smile at the woman in question.

Throwing his arms around the vampire, “Stay. Don’t leave again. They come when you’re gone. He comes.”

“I’ll stay as long as I can,” his pale fingers almost glowing as he raked them through the boy’s near black hair.

Carefully, Ms. Calendar approached the pair on the bed. Setting her hand on the vamp’s shoulder and smiling when he turned his attention to her, “Thank you.”

Spike didn’t answer, burying his face in Xander’s neck and hair instead, and getting lost in the warmth and scent of him.

Taking in the tender scene before her, Ms. Calendar shook her head and left the room giving the two men some privacy.


~*~*~*~*~


Sitting at her kitchen table, her hands warming around a cup of hot tea, the dark witch wondered at the bizarre turns her life had taken. From being sent here to prevent Angelus’ return, to helping the Slayer and dating her Watcher, to welcoming William the Bloody into her home. She sighed and brought the tea to her lips, chuckling upon discovering it was now stone cold. Taking that as her cue, she went to check on her guests.

When Ms. Calendar entered the room, she found Spike propped against the wall, Xander held snuggly to the vampire’s chest and sleeping peacefully.

Spike looked up when the witch entered.

She smiled at him and pulled a chair up to the bed. “We need to talk,” she said quietly.

The vampire chuckled, “Ya oughta know those are the four words a bloke never wants to hear.”

She gave the vamp a sardonic look, then nodded at Xander, “How is he?”

“Frightened, tired, confused.”

“Sane?” Ms. Calendar asked hopefully.

Spike ran his hand over Xander’s face, “He can be.”

“How?” She tried to keep the excitement from her voice.

The vampire’s eyes focused on Xander’s face and the hand stroking his dark hair. “She was supposed to tell me. Said I would heal him, and she’d guide me.” Spike turned incongruously sad eyes on the teacher, “Bit lost now.”

“Spike, look at Xander. Look at him.”

The vampire did as he was told. Looked at the soft smile free of anguish, the lines of his forehead smooth and relaxed instead of tightly crinkled, the slow, steady breathing that replaced the rapid gasps of his dreams.

“Two days ago, he was unconscious and incoherent. An hour ago, he was screaming, crying, and raging. I think you know what to do. You took care of Drusilla for over a century- maybe she already showed you.”

Spike continued to watch and stroke the precious mortal in his arms as he considered the witch’s words. He thought about the ways he’d calm his Princess and bring her out of her delusions and back to him. There were many things that the vampire couldn’t and wouldn’t do to his human, but there were others… Maybe the witch was right, maybe Dru had shown him how to care for the boy. Cocking his head to look at the woman, “You really are a keeper.”

“Thanks, I think.” She turned narrowed eyes on the vampire, “There’s not going to be any biting or fangs, is there?”

Rich melodic laughter rolled from the vamp, “Wasn’t planning on it- ‘less you’re offering,” Spike curled his tongue tantalizingly behind his teeth and raised his eyebrows suggestively.

“No,” she answered the vampire with a laugh. It amazed her how comfortable she felt around the demon, even knowing what she did of his blood drenched past. Pulling herself back to the matter at hand, “How do we help him?”

Spike let out an unneeded breath and let his head loll against the wall behind him, “I don’t know. Dru always had her tarot and Miss Edith, no matter how far away her mind went she still held on to those.”

“Miss Edith?”

“A soddin’ doll,” the vamp replied chuckling sadly. “Sometimes, when she was bad off and I’d have to leave ‘er, you know, dealing with the minions, hunting, that sorta, only way she’d let me go was to put Miss Edith in her arms.” Spike tightened his hold on the young man, “Her eyes would light with more recognition for that bloody doll than they would for me.” The vampire grit his teeth, angry with himself for showing such emotion. He knew his emotions were the main reason Dru would always return to ‘Daddy’; Angelus had destroyed her mind so completely that the cold indifference and punishing blows of her Sire were more loving to her than the tender caresses of her Childe. Spike knew without doubt that he would do anything, even give up his unlife, to protect Xander from that.

Ms. Calendar had to stop herself from comforting the blonde, instead she tried to focus on how the vampire’s tale could help Xander. “That’s why you gave him that locket.”

The vampire nodded, but offered no further explanation. It was one thing for his boy to know what a poncy git he was, it was another for Esme here to know it. “Thought it might… help.” Spike scowled at himself, at the admission. “Fat lotta good it did.”

“No, no,” Ms. Calendar shook her head excitedly, “It did work. He knew what it was and that you gave it to him- and why. On some level he made the connection. If…,” the witch began then trailed off as she stood and began pacing the room in thought.

Spike tilted his head thoughtfully, “you’re thinking we could use it to ground him.”

“Mmm. If we can strengthen the connection, use it as a focus of sorts- it could anchor him.” The dark witch vibrated with enthusiasm, “This could work, I need to check some texts; maybe run it by a couple of the coven- Michelle and Eric I think.” She was already at the door before she absently asked, “Need anything?”

The vampire shook his head.

“Okay, good. I’ll be,” she gestured at the rest of the house, “somewhere.”

As soon as the door closed, Spike released the laughter he’d been holding in. “Oh, pet, your friends,” the vampire rolled his eyes, “they do love you though- not that I can blame ‘em for that.”




********* The High Priestess *********

Spike’s eyes shot open, a low growl rumbling in his throat, his demon face to the fore. Someone else was in the witch’s house; one of the Slayer’s band if the scent was anything to go by. He listened closely, ready to protect him and his.

“He’s resting, Willow; he finally stopped having the nightmares,” Ms. Calendar to the young redhead.

“Can I see him? Just a quick peak, he won’t even know I’m there.”

“Willow…” the teacher sighed, “Hold on. Let me see if he’s awake.”

The redhead beamed.

“You wait here. I don’t want him upset by surprises. He’s come too far.”

“Yes, okay, staying here,” Willow offered vigorously.


~*~*~*~*~


The brunette slipped into the spare bedroom, closing the door firmly behind her.

Spike was already pulling on his boots, “’m going. Jus’ give me a mo’.”

“What!?” Ms. Calendar didn’t believe what she was seeing or hearing. “You can’t go. Xander needs you. If you leave…” Imploring eyes begged the vamp to find another way. “Besides,” she whispered, “it’s daylight.”

The blonde quirked his eye at the witch, “What do you suggest we do about Red out there?”

“We should tell her.”

“Excuse me? And have the Slayer here in two seconds flat, don’t think so. Try again.”

“Spike, you told him you trusted me to take care of him. Well, right now that means me trusting you and us,” she gestured between the two of them, “trusting her.”

Spike was silent as he thought over the witch’s words.

“She’s his best-friend. I know her. Her first priority is going to be him.”

The blonde looked over at the dark mortal who was already beginning to shake and whimper. He sighed, closing his intense blue eyes, then nodded. “Okay.”

“You won’t regret it.”

“Yeah,” he waved the witch off. Once she left, Spike kicked off his boots and climbed back into the small bed, soothing his boy, and muttering, “Remind me of that when ‘m dust.”


~*~*~*~*~


“So?” Willow bounced on the balls of her feet, excited at the prospect of seeing her friend doing better.

Ms. Calendar took the young girl’s hands and led her to sit at the kitchen table. “Willow, you know I would never do anything to hurt any of you.”
At Willow’s nod, she continued, “I need you to trust me and my judgment. I also need your word that what you are about to find out won’t get back to Rupert or Buffy, and especially not Angel.”

The redhead’s brow furrowed as she considered the implications of the teacher’s words. “Whatever this is, it’s making Xan better?”

“Yes, right now, I think it’s the only thing that can.”

“Then yes,” she replied without hesitation.

Ms. Calendar squeezed the girl’s hand, “Come with me.”


~*~*~*~*~


A brunette head stuck through the door, its owner smiled at the vamp protectively cradling the young human.

The gasp when Willow entered the room was barely audible, but enough for the vamp’s crystal azure eyes to snap open startling the redhead.

“Spike?”

“Red.”

The dark witch tried not to chuckle at the simple exchange as she took a seat in the chair she’d left by the bed. “He stopped shaking.”

“And whimp’rin’.”

“Does that help?” She pointed at the vampire’s softly rumbling chest.

“Seems to. He doesn’t fidget as much.” Spike shrugged. “Not all that surprised. Used to have the same effect on Dru.”
He quickly turned his attention to Willow, who was still staring from the center of the room. “You plan on standing there gaping, Red, or you going to sit down and help us with Xander?”

As if she was given an order, not asked a question, Willow scurried forward grabbing the remaining chair and joining the others at Xander’s bedside. She took a moment to watch the improbable couple. “Why?” was all she said.

“Doesn’t matter.”

“Oh, I think it does, mister. My best-friend is being cuddled and petted by one of the most infamous blood sucking, mass-murdering demons in the history of history. Not that I’m judging, ‘cause, hey, me, big with the not judging. But I think it warrants some answers!”

Spike kept a straight face for as long as he could, but when Willow’s terrified hazel eyes met his, the deep chuckles rolled out of him. “Fair enough, Red.” Turning serious when he looked down at the sleeping boy in his arms, “Made a promise, didn’t I.”

“Wha-what kind of promise?” she asked warily.

Spike stroked a lock of hair from his boy’s face, watching the soft breathing of the mortal rather than face the woman when he was being such a ponce, “Promised to protect him and heal him.”

“Heal?” the redhead asked nervously, images of the church debacle flitting through her mind.

Feeling something between anger and amusement, Spike smiled wryly and shook his head. “Not like that, Red- either way you were thinkin’.”

Willow released the tension in her shoulders, “Okay, good, as long as we’ve got that settled,” her eyes darting everywhere but at the smirking demon.

“Your friends are a trip, pet.”

“Mmm, I know,” was quietly murmured over the blonde’s reverberating chest, “…loud, too.”

“Xander!” the redhead squeaked all but throwing herself on the dark boy.

For the next hour and then some Willow poked, prodded, questioned, and hugged Xander, trying to understand what was going on and why the blonde vamp seemed to help so much.

“Wait, so you think that when Dru, um, died that she somehow joined the unturned part of herself already a part of Xan?” Willow asked, hoping one of the three had an answer.

Ms. Calendar was the first to reply, “It makes sense with him having Dru’s human memories, and it would explain why he collapsed outside the church.”

The girl looked at her quizzically.

“He has ‘living’ Dru’s memories.” She waited for a nod from the redhead. “So there would be a natural connection between Xander and vampire Drusilla.”

“Would also explain some of the things Dru said to me,” Spike offered.

Xander’s brow furrowed, “You’re saying that not only do I have kinda, sometimes sane Dru in my head, I’ve got freaky, tea party Dru in here, too?”

“Exactly,” Ms. Calendar said excitedly, like a teacher whose pupil has just learnt a difficult lesson.

A thousand questions zipped around Xander’s brain, but the one that came out was, “How come they go away when Spike’s here?”

“Don’t know about the other, but my Dru always calmed and quieted when I was with her. ‘s why I had to be so careful when I left her.”

“That actually helps.” The witch turned so she faced Willow and Xander more directly. “Xander, you said the images went away once you were truly awake, right?”

The young man nodded.

“Perfect, that means you already have some measure of control over her.”

“No offense Ms. C, but I’d rather have her gone than controlled,” Xander told her as he snuggled against his vampire.

Sighing, “I know Xander, but until we understand what Drusilla did, that’s about all we can do.”

“Don’t worry, pet, we’ll get it sorted. ‘til then, it sounds like Esme came up with a plan.”

Xander turned hopeful eyes on the brunette.

“It’s just a theory right now, but you knew Spike’s locket even when…” she trailed off not wanting to say ‘you were completely insane’ or worse ‘when Dru had you’.

“How can a locket help him?” Willow asked.

“It’s something he knows in both his ‘Dru’ state and this state. It could be what he needs to control her.”

“You mean it could keep her from making mulch of my mind, such as it is.”

Willow giggled and swat Xander’s leg, “At least, I know this you is you. Only my Xander friend would insult himself in a situation like this.”




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