Preying On My Mind
Xander pulled on his jeans and watched Spike not moving. “I think Giles had that “I’m going to eat all the donuts if you’re not there to stop me’ sound to his voice,” he said, opening the door.
“Newsflash, mate. Vampire. Does not live on donuts alone.”
“Then why do you like the sprinkles?”
“Crunchy. Sort of miss a bit of texture. Everything I have in my mouth is liquid – well nearly everything...”
Spike smiled over his shoulder, inviting Xander to react to the innuendo. Xander couldn’t help grinning back. “You’re so predictable.”
“Bored of me already?”
There was a hint, just a tiny suggestion of hurt in Spike’s voice and Xander reacted instinctively, moving towards the bed and reaching out to touch Spike’s shoulder as he buried his face in the pillow. “No! God, no, Spike. I didn’t – you bastard, you’re laughing! You devious, disgraceful...”
“Depraved and debauched,” said Giles from the hallway, making no attempt to come in. “I’m sorry to interrupt the laudable attempt to improve Xander’s vocabulary but breakfast is ready. Downstairs now, please.” His voice managed to combine a deceptive mildness with the inflexibility of granite and Xander grimaced, recognising the signs that Giles was out of patience.
Breakfast over, Giles looked across the table at Spike and Xander, his face serious. “I’ll understand if you don’t wish for my help but I’ll offer it nonetheless. Spike, before you go to see this demon, I want to research the charm you used. It might be that we can reverse it ourselves if you’re sure that’s what you want to do.”
“I’m bloody certain, Watcher. How many more times do I have to –”
Xander glared at Spike and smiled at Giles in a complex series of facial contortions. “That would be great, Giles. Honest. So – what do you need? Point us at the books.”
“Not me. I’m not one of your tame research geeks. Demon’s help is good enough for me.”
Xander sighed. “Spike, if you’re done being the poster child for petulance, perhaps you’ll forgive Giles and believe him when he says they were sold out of sprinkles.”
“Might. Might not.”
“Oh, for God’s sake! Xander, go home and bring me the charm. I want to see it. Spike, keep out of my way until he returns or I won’t be held responsible.”
Xander stood up, looking out at the beautifully sunny day and then at Spike, wavering. “Giles? You won’t do anything?”
His meaning was clear, his anxiety palpable, and Giles sighed, regretting his hasty words. “No. I won’t. Go.”
The door closed behind Xander and Spike eased back in his chair and eyed Giles speculatively. He waved his hand around vaguely. “This helping thing...it’s on the level? Not going to accidentally do a spell and oh, whoops, Spike ended up dusty, what a pity?”
“It’s tempting,” Giles said, an edge to his voice, beginning to clear the table. “My only concern is the effect it might have on Xander.”
He took the dishes into the kitchen and returned, leaning against the wall, arms folded. Spike pursed his lips and hooked a chair towards him to put his feet on. “I’m not getting staked because you don’t want to break Xander’s heart? Never took you for the sentimental type.”
Giles walked over, swept the chair away, letting Spike’s feet thud against the floor, and sat down on it himself. “I don’t give a toss about that. I want Xander to still be alive to be heartbroken, that’s all. These...hints about you being linked are bothering me and neither of you are being forthcoming; you through your memory loss, Xander through a combination of ignorance and embarrassment.”
“Ah, so that’s what you were up to this morning? Trying to get Xander to see you as a friendly ear? All mates and yes, fuck Spike with my blessings, dear boy? Thought as much. Not that I’m complaining about the end result, mind you.”
Giles gave him a look that would have stripped paint. “I am Xander’s friend and have been for some time. Does that trouble you in some way?”
Spike considered the question and finally shook his head. “No. Lad needs someone looking out for him. Get the feeling the Slayer and Red are too busy for him right now.” He cocked his head to the side. “You’re a bit out of the loop too, aren’t you?”
“Oh, spare me the sympathy. Yes, my situation has altered and I’m finding life a little dull but somehow I don’t see that state of affairs continuing much longer.”
Giles gave him a slow smile, loaded with meaning. “It’s not crossed your mind to wonder what the Slayer’s reaction will be to all this?” He sighed theatrically. “I’ve tried but she still has this worrying impetuosity, a tendency to stake first and apologise later...”
“Bloody better not! Giles, do something.” Spike looked petulant rather than perturbed, clearly not overly concerned.
“I rather thought I was,” Giles said pointedly. “I’m not staking you and I’m devoting my day to research.”
“What? Oh. Yeah. Thanks.”
“Please, Spike. Don’t get effusive. It embarrasses us both.”
Spike grinned and for the first time Giles returned it without considering the source. Then his face went hard.
Giles swept off his glasses and polished them on his shirt. “When you get the memories back, by whatever method, it will alter the dynamic of your relationship with Xander.”
“Do you have to talk all fancy like that? Just say it, spit it out.”
Spike’s voice was impatient but Giles noticed that his hand was clenching into a fist. “I mean that you met in unusual circumstances; that Xander was attracted to a person who in a very real sense no longer exists.”
“Seems happy enough with this version. And he wasn’t exactly himself, remember? Should’ve thought you’d be glad I was different too. If I wasn’t, I’d be thinking about turning him; you know that right?”
Giles bit his lip, willing his body to stay still when his instincts were clamouring at him to remove the threat to Xander. “If I thought there was even a remote possibility of that, I’d stake you now, Spike. Believe that.”
Spike nodded. “You’d have to try. But if I could turn him, I could take you, remember. No chip.”
Giles laughed shortly. “I think we’re getting a little hypothetical here, though I confess I’m curious at to why you didn’t turn him when you could. But you can’t anymore and so I won’t be staking you just yet. Let’s leave it at that. Now, Xander should be back soon so I think I’ll just make a start on finding some books that might be relevant.”
“What do you want me to do?”
“Oh? Stopped sulking now?”
Spike stood up and walked over to the bookshelves. “Never started, mate. Just wanted to distract the boy a bit. If he’d blushed any more when you asked if I was sitting comfortably, you could have made toast on his face.” He turned and stared at Giles, his lips curving with sardonic amusement. “You’re a right bastard, you know that?”
Giles ducked his head to hide an unrepentant smile. “Sorry.”
“You tease him again and I’ll make you mean that.”
Giles jerked his head up. “Are you threatening me, Spike?” he asked softly, his eyes curious, watchful.
“Call it a warning. Xander’s got enough to deal with. He doesn’t need to be laughed at too.”
Giles raised his hand, going over to join him by the bookcase. “Peccavi,” he said, the Latin word coming automatically to his lips.
Spike’s eyes widened in surprise. “Absolve,” he replied in kind.
Giles looked at him speculatively but didn’t comment. “If you like, you can begin to read through these books,” he said, passing two over to Spike. He got out paper and pens and they settled down at the table in a silence broken only by Spike’s fidgeting. Giles wondered if Spike knew how many times he turned to look at the door, how his face sharpened with anticipation at every sound in the courtyard.
“He’ll be back soon,” he offered eventually.
Spike glared at him. “What?”
“Xander. He’ll be –”
“I know that. What makes you think I care if he’s gone a while?”
Giles shook his head. “Never mind.”
“Stupid wanker,” Spike muttered.
“Don’t be so hard on yourself, Spike,” Giles said amiably.
Spike snorted and bent his head back to the book he was reading. Giles began to count silently. Spike’s head had turned before he reached three.
Xander’s return with the charm came as a welcome relief. Spike was out of his chair before the door opened, his face relaxing. He stepped towards him eagerly and then paused. Giles frowned, puzzled, and then saw that Xander was still framed by the sunlight spilling through the open door. Walking over, he casually closed it and sauntered over to the stairs. “Just going to check some books I have stored upstairs,” he said, not looking back.
Xander went to Spike, reaching out his hand unthinkingly. “Well, I’m back,” he said. “Got the charm and –”
“Stop talking,” Spike said, his voice ragged. Before Xander could react to the sudden flare of emotion Spike’s hands were cupping his face, barely touching his skin, Spike’s lips were on his mouth, brushing it softly, insistently. Xander’s arms were by his side now and Spike was standing far enough away that their bodies weren’t quite touching. Xander’s eyes closed as the cool hands held him still, gossamer light, spider web strong, and the hungry mouth sent him flying, floating, free. Three points of contact and his body was aching for more, but he couldn’t seem to move, could only kiss back, the need he felt spinning higher as the kiss grew avid, desperate. He was waiting, just waiting for Spike to move forward, to break the spell that held him still, that weighed down his hands so that they couldn’t reach out but Spike seemed as helpless as he was. Xander had to look, had to see...his eyes opened and blazing blue, like a sun scorched summer sky, filled his vision as he looked directly into Spike’s eyes. Then Spike swayed forward, his hands dropping to Xander’s waist, and pulled him close. Xander felt the need rise within him and stopped fighting it.
Giles gathered together three books from the neatly labelled boxes and looked around at the discarded lumber intended for his shelves. So much had happened in a day, but life as a Watcher on a Hellmouth had made his priorities shift. No one was dead. It could have been worse. Deciding that he’d given them long enough to get over the hell of being apart for almost an hour and marvelling at his own forbearance, he started to walk down the stairs.
Glancing down at the room below, feeling awkward rather than embarrassed, Giles saw the two figures locked together tightly and flushed with annoyance. “Will you please control yourselves,” he snapped. “This will get done much faster if you just – oh God –”
Tossing the books on the stair above him, Giles hurried over, grabbing Spike’s shoulders and pulling him away from Xander. The vampire’s eyes were glazed but still human, his mouth clean. Pushing him away, Giles turned to look at Xander. He looked dazed, almost sleepy and as Giles watched in horror he licked at his lips, tasting the blood that was smeared across them.
“It’s from me, Watcher,” Spike said quietly, his hand going to his wounded neck.
Spike pulled his hand away and stared at the blood on his fingers. “Well, now.”
Giles said quietly, “What happened?” Spike stepped towards Xander and Giles reached out and took his arm. “Better not.”
Spike’s attention was focused on Xander, who was standing with his head bowed, his shoulders curved inward. “Let go, Giles,” he said absently. “Think I know what’s happened.” He stepped close to Xander and brushed his blood stained fingers across his lips, frowning with concentration. Xander’s head came up and he breathed in deeply before sweeping his tongue across the fingers, tasting what his teeth had drawn from Spike’s neck. Spike let him, murmuring to him softly, too low for Giles to hear. Xander finished cleaning the blood from Spike’s fingers and frowned at him, blinking and looking confused.
Giles glanced at Spike’s face and saw the confusion mirrored there. “What is it?” he asked, keeping his voice soothing and low.
“This is – I’ve done this before. Blood on my hand and he’s tasting it...can’t remember it right!”
Spike’s frustration was tangible but his attention returned to Xander almost at once. He was swaying, his face contorted, his movements jerky. “Going to be ... sick,” he said, his hand going to cover his mouth. Pushing past Giles he stumbled into the kitchen and threw up in the sink. Giles and Spike exchanged glances and mercifully left him alone.
“I’m sorry, Spike,” Giles said unexpectedly.
Spike tilted his head, considering the man beside him. Giles had done plenty to him that Spike thought rated an apology, but not recently. “What for exactly?” he asked, listening to the sound of Xander with his head under the tap, frantically swallowing as much of the gushing water as he could.
“When I came down the stairs, I assumed, well, I thought you were hurting him. I forgot about the chip, just went with my instincts, I’m afraid.”
Spike gave him a pitying look. “Nothing to do with the chip. Wouldn’t hurt Xander any more than I’d have hurt Dru. He’s mine.”
Giles’ lips tightened but he said nothing. Xander appeared in the archway that led to the kitchen, his face pale. “Sorry about that,” he said, walking over to the sofa and collapsing on it without looking at anyone.
“Not your fault, love,” said Spike going over to kneel beside him, looking up into Xander’s face. He touched Xander’s cheek, forcing him to meet his eyes. “I felt it too.”
Xander’s eyes were haunted. “I thought you were...her. I could smell your blood and I wanted it. I hurt you. God, I hate this!”
“’Her’?” Giles asked. “The woman in the alley?”
Xander nodded wordlessly.
“Do you think your memory flash is related to that moment, too, Spike? It could explain why you experienced it if there is a link of some kind between you both.”
“You think?” Spike’s voice was bitter. “Not a whole lot going on here that makes any sense.” He moved to sit beside Xander, close enough to touch but keeping his hands folded.
Giles sighed. “What happened, then? You were...kissing and -?”
Xander looked at him directly for the first time. “I came in the door and it was fine. Then everything seemed to change. Spike –” he turned to him, “you came to me and I couldn’t move, it was so intense I – and we were kissing, yes, but you tasted like...I just wanted more.”
“So you bit me.” Spike’s voice was reassuring, even mildly amused. “Can’t fault you for that, love.”
Xander gave him a pained look. “Not my idea of a snack, Spike, sorry. Tasted good for a moment but then, well, not so good.”
“We noticed,” Giles said, relieved that Xander seemed to be recovering his composure. “Spike? Do you have anything to add?”
Spike shrugged, “I missed him. Felt wrong with him not being here. When he came in I just went to him, that’s all.”
Giles looked at them both and shook his head. “This isn’t right,” he murmured. “Neither of you are behaving as you should.”
Xander and Spike exchanged glances. “Thought you were cool with it, Giles,” Xander ventured.
Giles glared at him. “Then you thought wrong.” He stabbed a finger at Xander and then Spike. “Human. Vampire. Do I need to continue?”
“Then why did you let us, I mean, this morning?”
Xander looked painfully embarrassed. Giles said wearily, “Xander, I’m not your parent. Your love life is none of my concern. I have no right to comment and no inclination either.”
Xander stood up, walking over to Giles. “You’re my friend, Giles. Friends get to comment. Or did I get that wrong, too?”
Giles arched an eyebrow. “About us being friends? No, of course not. You, Buffy, Willow, all of you have become very...important to me. It’s not what I expected when I took up my duties as Buffy’s Watcher, but there it is. I’m still not going to assume that I have the right to meddle though.”
“I wish you cared enough to do it anyway.”
Xander’s voice was almost inaudible but Giles was close enough to hear the words and recognise the plea behind them. Acting on an impulse he reached out and pulled Xander to him for a hug as he had done the day before. Xander returned the hug gratefully and then jerked back, looking scared, his arms falling away. “Giles, don’t! Suppose it happens with you?”
Spike was watching them, visibly tense but making an effort not to interfere. This roused him from his role of observer and he said curiously, “Good point. Sniff him. Do you want to take a nibble or is it just me?” Giles glared at him and he shrugged. “What? Worth knowing.”
That caught Giles’ attention and he nodded slowly. “True. Until we find out what’s happening, we can’t risk this happening to someone who matters.”
“Well, thank you so much!”
“Save it, Spike. If you expect sympathy for a bite on your neck, well suffice it to say, you won’t get it from me.”
Spike grinned. “Don’t want sympathy. Just like the old days, really.”
Giles looked disgusted but resigned. He turned back to Xander who was standing beside him, silently, his face still pale. “Xander, I’m not suggesting that we replicate your actions precisely –”
“Bloody better not,” Spike snapped.
“But if you could just attempt to, well that is –”
“I know what you want me to do. I’ll try.”
Xander’s voice was empty of emotion but his hands were trembling slightly. He moved closer to Giles, biting his lip as Giles flinched. “Sorry,” Giles murmured. “This is surprisingly difficult.”
Spike came over to them. “I’m here. Won’t let anything happen.”
Giles wasn’t quite sure how to take that but he shook his head. “You can’t stand too close, Spike. It might confuse...things.”
Spike stepped back a little and folded his arms. Xander closed his eyes for a moment and then moved forward, his hands by his side, his face relaxed. Giles stood still and tried to empty his mind but it was difficult. Xander was walking around him now in tight circles, brushing against him with his body, taunting him. Giles gasped soundlessly as he discovered that Xander was hard, and forced himself to stand still. With a sick fascination Giles realised that even if Xander didn’t attack him he was still seeing him exhibit atypical behaviour, and he took his mind off an experience that was frankly disturbing by considering the reasons for this regression.
Xander was behind him now, leaning in and smelling Giles, nuzzling into his hair and along his neck. Giles shuddered and caught Spike’s eyes, seeing them gleam with a growing arousal that matched Xander’s and was echoed in his own body to a certain extent. It was impossible to concentrate when his senses were wiping his mind clear of anything but the simplest thoughts. It wasn’t Xander himself that was provoking his reaction, more a primitive response to being touched (how long had it been?), another body so close (too close, not...civilised, not done), his scent taken and tasted by a predator (dangerous, deadly, exciting...). Xander licked slowly down his jaw line, his tongue leaving a cool dampness and nipped at his throat suddenly, the sharp pain triggering a confusion of emotions, and Giles broke away, turning to face Xander, seeing with horror that the boy was smiling with a cruel amusement at his fear and dying, evanescent arousal.
Struggling to find a balance that had fled in the space of a few minutes, Giles found his eyes turning to Spike. The vampire was swaying slightly, eyes half closed, lips parted. His face was still human but he looked feral, wild. Giles made a choice based on instinct. “Spike!” he said sharply, urgently. “Xander needs you.”
Spike’s eyes opened fully and he shook himself out of the trance that held him captive. His gaze raked over Xander and he looked wary for a moment and then, shrugging, he took two swift strides and punched Xander hard on the shoulder. Spike’s shout of pain was music to Giles’ ears and triggered the return of Xander’s own personality.
“Giles? What did I -? Oh, God, I’m so sorry-”
Giles shook his head. “No. It wasn’t your fault; it was, well, not even mine really.”
“If you blame me,” Spike said, rubbing his aching head, “I’ll not be responsible for my language.”
“It’s no one’s fault and thank you for acting so promptly, Spike.”
Xander rotated his shoulder. “I forgot to say thanks. No, wait. I forgot to say ‘oww’. Oww. There. Now I feel better.”
Giles gave him an exasperated if indulgent look. “Spike not only jarred you out of whatever it was that was making you act that way, he also confirmed that you’re not possessed by a demon.”
“True, but it still hurt.” Xander smiled at Spike. “You can –”
“If the words ‘kiss’ and ‘better’ emerge from your mouth I’ll get –”
“Tetchy?” Spike offered.
Giles glared. “At the very least.”
“Stop talking English,” Xander complained. “You’re in America now.”
“You have a point,” Giles said mildly, “but trust me, I’m too old to change my ways. Now shall we get down to business? You managed to find the charm, I hope?”
Xander took it out of his pocket and passed it to Giles who held it gingerly in the palm of his hand. “Hmm. It feels heavy. I’m assuming it’s the standard mix of ingredients. What did they use to make it specific to you, Spike?”
Spike’s look was indescribable. “If I knew that, Rupert, we wouldn’t be in this fix.” His voice rose. “I don’t bloody remember, you senile git!”
Giles came as close to abashed as Xander had ever seen, removing his glasses and polishing them for an inordinate amount of time. “Ah, yes. Of course. Then best we begin researching.” He waited for them to settle at the table and then said casually, “And Spike? Senile or not, I would appreciate a modicum of respect from you.”
“You earn respect, Giles,” said Spike, not turning around. Xander’s foot must have lashed out because Spike jerked in his seat and added hastily, “Which of course, you have mate. Oh, yes. No problem there and I’ll tear the guts out of anyone who says different.”
Giles rolled his eyes. “I’m touched.”
“So’s my shin,” muttered Spike.
Two hours later and Giles gave up. “I can’t reverse it without knowing what’s in it and I don’t have the facilities to analyse it. Willow might be able to, but –”
“No!” Xander said forcefully. “I don’t want her involved in this. She’d freak if she found out about Spike.”
Spike glanced at him and then looked back at the book he’d been pretending to read for the last twenty minutes, keeping his face still. Xander gave him a stricken look and began to babble but Spike cut him off with an impatient wave of his hand, slamming the book down and standing up. “Forget it. And forget this too. When night falls, I’m going to Dremar’s and get him to reverse this.”
Giles looked resigned as he shrugged. He hadn’t expected Spike’s patience to last for long. “Perhaps that would be best.”
“Last time he had to cut you up. Your arm was a mess. And he doesn’t owe you a favour anymore, so how will you pay him?” Xander’s voice was flat as he fought to hide his concern.
Spike stared at him for a moment and then held up his arms. “See any marks?”
Xander came to him and ran his fingers over the bare skin of Spike’s forearm. “They were here. Symbols carved into you.”
“Really?” Giles sounded interested. “Can you remember them at all? That might be helpful.”
“No,” Spike said before Xander had chance to reply. “Told you what’s going to happen.” He grinned at Xander, touching his fingers briefly to Xander’s face. “And you’re wrong, pet. He does owe me a favour.”
“If he helps me out, I won’t kill him. I’d say saving someone’s life was a big favour, wouldn’t you?”
Xander stared at him, shaking his head. “You are so –”
“Incorrigible,” muttered Giles.
“Practical,” countered Spike. “If he needs some blood, fine, but I’m all out of cash.”
Giles pursed his lips and then shrugged again. “I’m sure you’ll manage to be persuasive, Spike.”
“I’ll make sure he behaves,” said Xander.
“What? You’re not going with him!” Giles said. “I absolutely forbid it. This is Spike’s problem and he can damn well sort it out himself.”
Spike glared at him and then said reluctantly, “Watcher’s got a point. Not keen on taking you with me. Rough bit of town and for all I know he’s moved. Might take a while to track him down.”
Xander looked at then both and said quietly, “You’re both forgetting something. Two things really. First is that when we’re split up, I turn into Hyde, and the second is that the counter spell will probably need my blood, not Spike’s. He has to get the memories of me back, remember?”
“It didn’t need your blood before,” Giles objected. “Or if it did, you unaccountably failed to mention it.”
Spike shook his head. “Can’t help you there.” He looked at Xander enquiringly. “Did I make you bleed?”
His voice was matter of fact but Giles felt fury rise within him. He still hadn’t quite accepted what Xander must have endured at Spike’s hands. Pleasure, yes, but there would have been pain and fear and shame as well. The idea that Spike had hurt him to the point of drawing blood made him feel sick with anger.
Xander looked uncomfortable. “Well, yes. Got a little...rough now and then the first time, when I was still...but you didn’t feed off me or anything.”
“You’re sure?” Spike said. “Because thinking about it, the spell would have needed...oh.”
“Fresh out of it,” Xander said, with an attempt of humour. “Can do you a good deal on Z’s though.”
Giles folded his arms and waited silently, his eyes never leaving Spike’s face.
“I didn’t know you then!” Spike said, the words defensive, his eyes wary. “I did the best I could for you, got Dru off your back and all that...but the only way Dremar could have worked it is to have taken your blood himself. Tracked you down after I ordered it.”
“But he didn’t,” Xander said. “I’d remember a demon in a Red Cross outfit! And how would he know where I lived?”
Giles’s voice was soft, his eyes hard. “He’d know if Spike told him. Isn’t that right, Spike? And as to your lack of memory of the event...he’s a demon specialising in editing memories. I don’t think we really need to look any further for an explanation.”
Spike didn’t back away from the implicit threat. Giles looked as if he was on the verge of starting a fight and was just looking for an excuse. Spike might not have seen himself in a mirror for over a century but he’d felt that look on his own face too many times not to recognise it. “Could be,” he said. “Only one way to find out, isn’t there?” He glanced out of the window. “Sun’s set. You coming, Xander?”
The question hung in the air as Xander stared at Spike, disillusionment fighting desire. Spike sighed and turned away as the silence went on too long for him to expect an answer.
He’d made it to the door when Xander took two steps towards him. “Wait. I’m coming with you.”
“Changed my mind,” said Spike without looking at him, “Might be more surprises you won’t like.”
“We’re all going,” Giles said abruptly. “ Xander, get some weapons. Spike, stop making a grand exit and tell me what species this demon is.”
Spike turned around. “I don’t get it.”
Giles smiled tightly. “It’s not necessary that you do. You and Xander can go into the demon, I’ll provide back up. Now. Tell me what we need to kill it if it comes to that.”
“It doesn’t take anything special to kill him. Sword through the guts, chop off his head...but it better not come to that, or we’ll never get this spell sorted,” Spike warned, his surprise giving way to suspicion.
Giles looked at him steadily. “I think I can safely say that of the three of us, I have the most pressing need for you to get your memories back.”
“Oh? Why’s that then?”
Giles accepted the axe that Xander held out to him, testing its balance in a downward sweep that came very close to Spike’s arm. “Because once I find out exactly what happened I’ll be able to decide exactly what to do to you in return.”
Spike stared at him for a long moment. “Could be you’ll have to stand in line, Watcher.” His eyes drifted to Xander and then back to Giles. “Think you can do that?”
“We’ll have to see,” Giles replied. “Shall we go?”
“Yes, let’s go,” Xander muttered, pushing past them. “Before you two decide it’s past my bedtime or something.”
Xander wasn’t quite sure why he ended up in the back seat while Spike sat next to Giles, but it felt like more of the protectiveness that was beginning to irritate him. Like a bug bite he knew he shouldn’t scratch, his thoughts kept returning to the threats Giles had made against Spike. From there it seemed a natural step to extend the anger to Spike, who might well have put him in danger, whose motives might never have included a shred of concern for the boy he’d fucked hollow and then filled with longing.
As Spike gave Giles directions that led them down streets that got progressively narrower, Xander stared at their backs and let the resentment burn through him, clearing away the emotional dross, leaving him empty and clean. Leaving room for the predator to return.
“Think this is it, Giles,” Spike said. “Go on a bit; right, this’ll do. It’s just down this alley, but you’ll never get the car down here. Not that a few scratches wouldn’t be an improvement, mind you.”
“It gets me from A to B,” Giles said tersely, laying a reassuring hand against the dashboard as the car shook violently in response to a gear change. “I’ll turn the car around and wait for you here, then, shall I? Keep an eye open, listen for screams, that sort of thing?”
“Whatever,” said Spike, sounding a little distracted. “You still awake Xander? Not your usual chatty self. Lack of suspension made you feel car-sick, did it?”
“Fuck off, Spike.”
An uneasy silence fell. Giles glanced down at his empty hands and tried to remember where the weapons were. Most were in the trunk but hadn’t Spike slipped a knife into his coat pocket? Spike was obviously picking up the same signals because he turned around, reached through the seats and grabbed Xander’s shirt in his fist. “You’ve got maybe a sentence to convince me you’re still you, pet,” he said, “Off you go.”
Xander giggled. They were both so funny. Scared. He could smell it coming off them. He’d scared Giles. That was ... suddenly Spike’s face was very close and his head exploded into a pain so intense he welcomed the darkness that followed.
He woke to find his arms tied behind his back, his head throbbing and an interesting discussion for entertainment.
“–didn’t have to hit him that hard!”
“Oh, so you fancied sharing a ride with someone who’d rip your throat out, as soon as look at you?” Beat. “Someone besides me, then? I’ve seen him feeding and it isn’t a pretty sight. Messy. Lad needs a bib. Not to mention the fact that my head hurts worse than his, I’ll wager.”
“Interesting that the chip didn’t fire at once. You don’t think?”
“Nah. I didn’t nut him as much as slam his forehead against mine. Probably confused it.”
“Spike?” Xander’s voice was weak. “It’s me.”
Spike swung around and glared at him. The car was dark but a faint orange glow from a street lamp shone through the windows, enough for Xander to see the suspicion fade to concern.
“Can you let us know when you start going furry on the inside, love? If it’s not too much trouble, that is?”
“Xander, it might be as well if you stay here with me,” Giles said gently. “Give yourself time to recover –”
“No, see, that’s what started me off, made me angry,” Xander said, forcing his voice to remain calm. “Protecting me, not letting me decide for myself. Oh, God. Spike? I can feel the anger, it’s too much, and I can’t stop it from coming...”
Spike was beside him in moments, holding him tightly, kissing him with frantic, badly aimed kisses that landed all over Xander’s face, until he was laughing so hard there was no room for the anger. Giles stared steadily out of the windshield, his fingers tight around the steering wheel, his thoughts his own.
“Better?” asked Spike, when Xander’s laughter had died down, his hands busy with the knots that tied Xander’s wrists together.
“Better,” said Xander weakly, his hand cupping Spike’s cheek as soon as it was freed. “For Giles’ sake, let’s get out of here.”
“Oh, don’t mind me,” said Giles. “I like having the windows steamed up so I can’t see any demons approaching, really I do.”
“If we’re not back in an hour, it’s the third house on the left,” said Spike. “Knock three times and for the love of cream teas, don’t go mentioning that your job was to make the Slayer better at hers. It’s a conversation stopper in these parts.”
“I never would have guessed that, Spike. What would I do without you to advise me?”
“Lowest form of wit, Giles, lowest form of wit.”
All three got out of the car and walked around to the trunk to retrieve the weapons. Giles wondered privately about the wisdom of arming Xander but decided that the risks were outweighed by the benefits. As Spike thought that visible weapons might lead to trouble, he took just an axe small enough to slip inside his duster and a knife. Xander studied the collection and shrugged. “A stake’s good enough for me,” he said.
Spike nodded, clearly not too concerned that Xander might try to use it on him, and handed Giles a hefty axe. “Best keep this by you. You’re going to be a nice target just sitting here.”
Giles took it with a nod and watched them leave, noting the time. He got back in the car and sat for a moment in case they found the place deserted and came back. After a few minutes he turned the key, heard the engine splutter to life, and then moved off slowly, looking for a good place to turn around.
Xander followed Spike in silence, feeling his skin crawl. The alley was empty but he still felt as if he were being watched and was in danger. Years of fighting beside the Slayer had honed his awareness of danger, if not the ability to deal with it.
“And here we are,” murmured Spike, turning to face a wooden door, smaller than normal and lacking any kind of lock or handle. Spike rapped on it sharply and stepped back. There was a pause and the door shimmered and dissolved, revealing a dark passageway. Xander swallowed nervously and followed Spike inside, resisting the urge to turn and see if the door was back in place. Somehow he knew it would be.
The narrow hall opened out into a room so full of clutter that Xander gaped in wonder. His bedroom had reached heights of mess that were legendary, but this was something beyond that. In a room three times the size of his basement, there was barely room for him to stand with his feet side by side. That took artistry.
Spike stood just in front of him and looked around. “This is the place and this is his stuff. Now all we need is...” He reached out and delicately prodded at a stack of books, even his light touch making them sway dramatically.
“Don’t do that!” screamed a voice that seemed to come from the ceiling. The ceiling that was so festooned with – was that a stuffed kangaroo?- various items that Xander could only guess at its height. A collection of kites, gaudy and streamer-bedecked, unfolded like an origami puzzle and a head poked out. “One more touch and you are banned! Banned, I say!”
“Keep your hair on, Dremar. It’s me, Spike.”
There was a suspicious pause. “Spike the vampire? Are you sure?”
“Of course, I’m bloody sure! Why wouldn’t I be?”
“No reason, no reason.”
A tiny figure, no bigger than a monkey, slid down one of the streamers and landed on a heap of cushions, sending up a cloud of dust motes. Xander sneezed and then glanced around in panic as his elbow jarred against a shelf stacked high with boxes of microwave popcorn. The creature sighed with relief as the boxes settled down again and contented himself with a glare at Xander that changed to a look of wary recognition. “Ah. I see,” he said quietly.
“You always were quick,” Spike said. “Bet you know what I want before I ask, don’t you?”
Dremar glanced up at him, bushy eyebrows drawing together. Xander thought that he looked like a living illustration from a fairy tale book, a gnome or a dwarf maybe. He’d never been into them much but Willow had loved them. “I’m thinking a reversal of a spell, but what puzzles me is how you know there was one to reverse.” He looked between them sharply. “Is it a refund you want? Dissatisfied customers?” His voice rose with his indignation. “Nothing but the finest ingredients goes into my memory charms!” he declaimed grandly.
“Including my blood?” Xander asked, folding his arms for safety and glaring back.
Dremar lounged back on the cushions, the outrage gone. “Nice drop it was too, young man and I thank you again for your kind hospitality. The fruit rolly things; wondrous inspiration! I added them to my stock and they sold like hot cakes.”
“I fed you?’ Xander asked. “You came to steal my blood and I fed you?”
“I didn’t steal it!” Dremar said, a picture of affronted virtue. “The spell needed it and you gave it gladly. For his sake.”
He nodded at Spike and Xander flushed. “Then why don’t I remember?” he asked weakly.
Dremar looked wise, which consisted of tapping his large nose with a finger and nodding slowly. “That would be my little secret, young sir.”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake! You shoved a charm down his throat. Admit it. The way he eats, if you covered it in chocolate he’d have had your fingers off, grabbing it.”
Dremar glared at him, his annoyance plain. “What? You expect me to leave hulking humans knowing about me? Secrecy is my middle name.”
“I don’t care what your bloody parents called you. I took the charm, he didn’t. Fix it. Give me back my memories.”
Dremar stared at Xander. “You didn’t take it? Do you know how long it took to- how much it cost – how – why, you ungrateful little whippersnapper!”
“Whipperwhat? I didn’t take it because – well, I had my reasons, O.K? Not a reflection on your, uh, skills or anything. You can have it back if you like.”
Dremar shook his head briskly. “It’ll be well outside its shelf life by now.”
“It will?” Xander asked, thinking of the times he’d almost taken it, nearly slipped it inside his mouth. “What would happen to someone who used it?”
The bulbous eyes widened until Xander began to wonder if they would pop out on stalks. “Did you eat recently?”
“Not really,” Xander said, flashing back to throwing up in the sink.
“Hmm. Even so. Best not say.”
“Oh, stop trying to scare the lad,” Spike said impatiently. “He’s not your average human; he’s seen worse than that every day and twice on Tuesdays.” He turned to Xander. “Probably just give you a belly ache. Doesn’t matter anyway, does it?”
The look he got back was cool. “No, of course not. You gave me something that turned deadly after –”
“Three days, tops,” Dremar chirped.
“And never even warned me. That’s just so trivial, it’s not worth mentioning.”
“I thought you’d take it straight away! Well, I think I thought that.”
Xander shrugged. “Guess we’ll find out soon.” He looked at Dremar and smiled brightly. “Do you do truth spells as well?”
“I wouldn’t lie to you!” Spike said through his teeth. “Not now. Look, Xander – oh, the hell with it. First things first.” He rounded on Dremar. “Reverse it. I want my memories back.” He hesitated, staring down at his boots for a moment and then looked directly at Dremar. “Please?” he asked, the word giving him difficulty, the emotion behind it plain.
Giles peered out into the darkness and then looked up into his mirror to check behind the car. All seemed peaceful. He gripped the axe tighter. Peaceful was never a good sign in Sunnydale. The shadows gathered closer, the night grew darker and the car began to shake as a large fist slammed against the windshield. Giles opened the door, stepped out, and tilted his head back.
“What kept you?” he asked, tossing the axe back inside the car.
“I thought it best to eat first.”
“He is with the demon?”
“Yes. Do you think you can do it?”
The laughter was blade sharp. “When did I ever have problems killing things?”
“He’ll resist. I think he’s become quite attached to it, strange though that might seem.”
The figure turned its head and spat. “Such creatures sully the sweet earth. It will be a pleasure to rid it of one this night.”
Giles smiled. “I knew you would see it that way.”
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