Preying On My Mind
Dremar looked at Spike, curiosity plain on his face. “Falling in love has improved your manners, vampire.”
“What? I’m not in – look, can you do it or not?”
Dremar waved a dismissive hand. “Of course. I can do anything. Well, except throw something away!” He chuckled, wrapping his arms around his knees and rocking back and forth, giggling. The laughter stopped abruptly as he squinted up at Spike. “It’ll cost you, though. No more favours, not this time!”
Xander glanced over at Spike. Now that he’d seen Dremar, the idea of threatening him seemed too much like bullying. He wondered what reverse charms cost. His savings amounted to, well, half of not enough, probably.
“How much?” Spike said, echoing Xander’s thoughts. “And no jacking up the price because you think I’m desperate. I know a witch who could probably do it for free; just coming to you first out of loyalty.”
Dremar raised his eyebrows. “Liar. Only I can undo what I did. You know that.”
Spike flicked a glance at Xander. “I do, yeah. Some other people took a bit of convincing.”
Dremar rubbed his hands together briskly, making a sound like a match being struck. “You want back three days of memories, yes?”
Spike shrugged. “More or less.”
Dremar tilted his head and gave him a quizzical stare. “More or less,” he repeated. “Which is it to be?”
Xander felt irritation replace amusement. “Tell him the price, demon,” he said.
Dremar and Spike both turned to look at him, Spike with concern, Dremar with fear. “Why is he different suddenly?” Dremar asked, his voice squeaking. “Make him go away!”
“It’s part of why I need the memories,” Spike said. “Hyena possession. You know how it is. I can’t stop him getting violent so unless you want the shop trashed, get a move on. How much?”
Dremar kept his eyes on Xander and replied absently, “One grade A memory.”
Spike made a complicated sound, something between a groan and a curse, before nodding reluctantly. “Deal.”
Xander felt the anger fade, to be replaced by worry. “What? No, wait. No deal! Spike, what does he mean?”
Spike reached out and laid his hand on Xander’s arm. “It’s O.K, pet. Just means I lose a memory of a specific event. Not a day, not even an hour necessarily, just has to be...special. It’s worth it.”
Xander shook his head. “It’s not. We’re just going around in circles. Why can’t we just pay him cash? How much do the ingredients cost, anyway?”
Dremar shrugged, “Oh, as to that...pennies really. In fact, I have the counter spell right here. I always make it at the same time as the memory charm; have to store the memories somewhere, you see. Can’t have them loose or the consequences would be catastrophic.” He smirked. “I have proper storage as well. Stay fresh until the end of the century, easily. I suppose you kept yours under your pillow, hmm?”
The rage was coming back again. Xander just had time to grab at Spike’s hand, squeezing it hard, trying to focus on calming down. “You mean,” he said carefully, “that you’re trying to get something for nothing? There’s a word for that. Stealing. What you would have charged for the first spell must have covered the cost of the counter spell; you’d have made sure of that. So he owes you nothing.”
Spike pursed his lips. “Lad’s got a point.” He grinned. “Hand it over, then.”
Dremar frowned, making himself still more hideous. “Shan’t. And you’ll never find it, so don’t even bother looking. Memory first, then the counter spell. Not budging on that.” He peered at Spike from under his bushy eyebrows. “If you loved him, you’d do it,” he said slyly.
Spike froze and then nodded, ignoring Xander’s spluttered protests. Dremar produced a simple glass globe and held it out. “Choose your memory, vampire.”
Spike closed his eyes. “Got it.”
Dremar wriggled with impatience. “Give it to me then,” he commanded in a hoarse whisper.
He held up the globe, murmuring a phrase that slid past Xander like soap in a hot bath, and it began to fill with a swirling red mist. When it was full, Spike’s eyes flew open and he swayed slightly, his face blank.
“Done,” said Dremar briskly. “Let me just check...”
He held the globe to his forehead and Xander watched, revulsion twisting at his stomach, as Dremar’s face went slack and then contorted as he moaned with pleasure. “I’m guessing that wasn’t you winning the under eight’s sack race,” he whispered to Spike.
Spike shook his head, eying Dremar with dislike. “Doesn’t look like it, does it?”
Dremar let his hand drop away, his eyes glassy. “Goodness me,” he gasped. “You certainly don’t believe in half measures.”
“What will you do with it?” Xander asked, his voice harsh. “Besides the obvious.”
Dremar looked puzzled. “Sell it, of course. Do you have any idea how much I can get for this?”
“For what?” demanded Xander. “What’s inside there?”
Spike said uneasily, “Xander, love...just leave it. I know what it is; just don’t know the specifics anymore. It’s something you’d be better off not knowing –”
“No! I want to know what you gave up. I want to know what was so special.”
Spike’s eyes flashed. “It’s not your concern!”
Dremar cackled, looking at them. “A lovers’ tiff? Don’t mind me.”
He tossed the globe back and forth between his hands like a novice juggler, letting it get higher and higher. It was like a miniature setting sun, ruddy and baleful, a dim flame in the dark room. Xander watched it arc high and smack against Dremar’s palm, his attention so focused that sliding past Spike, arm outstretched, placing his hand in precisely the correct place to intercept and catch the globe, and bringing it to his forehead took, well, no effort at all. Spike’s shocked face, Dremar’s indignant yelp and the cluttered room all faded and he felt the –
smell of smoky air, the roar of a panicked crowd and the taste of blood in his mouth. Drusilla smiled up at him and her lips fastened around his finger, wet with Slayer’s blood, laving it clean with a clever tongue, the look in her eyes as arousing as her mouth, as the kill, as –
The globe was struck from his hand and Xander was jerked away from the past. “You – what was that?” he stammered.
Spike clenched his hand around the fragile container and then forced his fingers to relax. “You know I killed two Slayers.” His voice was flat and he barely waited for Xander to nod. “That was the first. That was my memory of it.”
Xander shook his head. “There was no killing; just you and Drusilla.” His eyes shone with an unexpected hunger. “And the blood...I can still taste it...”
Spike sighed. “So could I, for weeks after, mate,” he murmured. Without taking his eyes off Xander he snapped, “You. Get me my charm. Now.”
“Oh, so we’re not using the magic word anymore, then?” Dremar said. Spike growled in warning and he flinched, scurrying away into the shadows.
Xander smiled. “You scared him.”
“Yeah? That bothers you?”
Xander shook his head, still smiling. “Why should it?”
Spike rolled his eyes. “You’re going to make me hit you again, aren’t you? Look, we’ll be out of here in a minute, just think of, oh, I don’t know. Waves crashing down on the sodding sea shore or fluffy clouds in a blue sky, or -”
“Fucking you until you scream?”
“Whatever works for you, pet. Just calm down.”
Dremar came back in just as Xander slid an arm around Spike’s neck, pulling him close enough to kiss. “Not in here! No, no. Too dangerous. Here’s your charm, vampire; now give me my payment.”
Spike paused, his mouth inches away from Xander’s. “Changed my mind,” he said in a lazy drawl. “Want that memory back. Want all of them back.”
“The door won’t open until you’ve paid in full,” Dremar snapped. “No deal.”
“You saw me and Dru, didn’t you? Saw what we were like?”
“Imagine that in here, because the way this lad’s squirming against me, I just don’t think he can wait. Am I right, Xander?”
Xander’s eyes were sparking from human to beast and back again and he turned them on Dremar, staring at him silently before starting to laugh, high and wild. Dremar paled, looking around at the laden, stacked shelves - precariously balanced, perfectly poised. “Very well,” he said in a sulky, grudging mutter. “Very well.”
He came close enough to pass Spike the charm and Spike grinned, pocketed it, and dropped the globe to the floor, crushing it under his heel and breaking the spell. “Nice doing business with you.”
“Never come back,” Dremar said sourly. “That way our friendship can stay a beautiful memory, because I swear, if I see your face again, I’ll -”
“Look, mate, I don’t like leaving behind bad feelings,” Spike said. “I’ll make sure the Slayer gives this place a miss on her patrols, how about that?”
“The Slayer never comes down here!” Dremar said.
Spike’s final words floated back to him, a warning and a threat combined. “Not yet...”
Dremar groaned and kicked out peevishly at a kite streamer, fluttering in the breeze from the alley as the door opened and closed. He missed and his toe tapped against a carefully constructed house of cards. The ace of spades slid down and the structure collapsed. Dremar’s eyes bugged out and he screamed, loud and high. Deep in the shadows, a glass jar shattered, and a hundred marbles rolled free...
The door closed and Xander grabbed Spike, spinning him around and shoving him against the wall. He was breathing in ragged gasps and his eyes were hot, his mouth avid. Without a word he began to kiss Spike, trailing his mouth from lips to neck and back again, digging his teeth in, calling the blood to the surface. Spike let him, riding the wave, realising that the memory of his kill had shattered Xander’s control and that he was dealing with the other Xander again.
Which reminded him...forcing Xander off, he reached into his pocket. “What are you doing?” Xander said, anger and frustration darkening his eyes. “I want you.”
Spike grinned. “Hold that thought, pet.” He swallowed the charm without hesitation, chewing it once and pulling a face at the bitter taste of herbs before adding, “Second thought; hold me...”
Xander caught him as Spike slid down the wall, following him down so that they lay in a tangled heap on the ground. Spike’s eyes were squeezed tightly shut and his hand was fisted in Xander’s shirt. Xander felt him begin to tremble and wrapped his arms around him, anger forgotten as concern welled up. Spike’s face suddenly changed, the vampire emerging, forcing its way out, eyes opening, fierce and yet bewildered.
Xander had never wanted him more. He had seen Spike like this before, but always with his face twisted with anger, fighting, threatening; an enemy. He had never seen him with his game face on looking lost and unsure. He kissed him, carefully, gently, brushing his lips against ridged flesh and razor-sharp fangs, resting his face against Spike’s and waiting for him to come back.
Slowly the trembling died away and Spike whispered his name. Any fear Xander had felt that Spike would change after his memories came back, was lost in relief as Spike said his name again, his voice stronger. “Xander. You –”
“You bloody better be,” Spike said, sitting up, his arm snaking around Xander’s neck, game face fading. “Come here. Come fucking here”
He stood up, pulling Xander to his feet with an impatient tug; eyes alight with arousal and amusement. “Now I get it,” he murmured. Clever, knowing fingers traced the outline of Xander’s cock, just as they had done when he’d met Xander in the street and offered him the charm. “Now I see why.”
“Why what?” Xander said, the words forcing their way out with difficulty. Spike had him against the wall now, their positions reversed, his hands flat against it, on either side of Xander’s head, his body close but not touching. Spike leaned in, so close that his words tickled Xander’s ear and whispered, “Why every time I’ve looked at you since we met, I’ve only ever wanted to do one thing.”
“Bite me?” Xander asked. Spike was kissing him right under his ear, slow, leisurely kisses that were moving south, still not touching him with anything but his mouth, no matter how much Xander’s hips thrust forward in mute appeal.
“Bite? No. Could have done, of course. Catch you on your own one night, somewhere like this...do you really think you’d have escaped?”
“No,” Xander admitted, his mind full of a tangle of images, screams and blood, heat and terror...
Spike bit down gently, exactly where he would have if he were feeding, and Xander whimpered as the images clamoured for release into reality. Spike’s voice was relentless, every word punctuated with a kiss as he moved across Xander’s throat. “Hated you sometimes, you know. Dreamed of having you begging, bleeding, at my feet.”
Xander felt the memory sear his mind. “We did that already.”
“So we did.” Spike’s voice was thoughtful. “Let’s do it again.” He finally touched Xander, one finger under his chin, pushing it up. “That thing I wanted? I wanted to play with you; fuck your mind, have your body, give you mine.” He smiled. “Like this...”
Xander opened his mouth to say something, to put into words how he felt, but it was too late. This wasn’t the Spike he’d known recently; defensive, bitter, lost; it wasn’t even the Spike he’d first met, arrogant and a little scary. This was someone new, someone drawing on the memories of a time when he had led Xander into a world of darkness and never let go of his hand, someone who knew, beyond doubt, that he was loved. Someone who was remembering what Xander liked and was doing it, falling to his knees, getting Xander ready with a flurry of busy fingers, taking him in, so deep and so fast that Xander’s breath left his body in one wail and he forgot how to do anything but beg and somehow he’d forgotten the words to that song, too.
He came fast, one hand in Spike’s hair, the other shoved into his own mouth, biting down, needing the pain to anchor him, wanting to taste blood as Spike was tasting him. He let it trickle into his mouth and pulled Spike up to kiss him, blood and come, spit and tears mingling and mixing. Tears? His own or Spike’s? It didn’t seem important because this time the animal - who had never left, no matter what Giles and Spike believed, merely stayed hidden - was forcing his way to the surface and as Spike vamped out, arousal and blood triggering his change, the hyena met him, snarling and smiling.
Spike thrust his cock up into Xander’s fist, seeking release; needing it, craving it. There was no room for thought when the air was laced with blood and one of Xander’s hands was wrapped around him and he was doing his best to mark every inch of Spike’s back with the other. They were hurting each other just enough. Spike was venturing further and further with every caress; teasing the chip, daring it to fire as his blunt nails dug in and his fangs tormented Xander’s flesh.
Then a knife was laid against Xander’s throat and a deep voice spoke soft words of warning and Spike’s treacherous body betrayed him,choosing that moment to come, leaving him helpless to fight, lost in fear and anger.
Xander stilled and turned his head to meet the eyes of his attacker. He saw who stood behind him and his eyes widened in shock. “Giles?”
Giles raised a gun and sent a dart deep into Xander’s neck, watching his body go limp in the arms of the man with the knife.
“This is he.”
There was no question in the words but Giles still replied. “Yes. That is what must die.”
Spike moved back to give himself room to fight or run and glared at Giles. “Rupert, you have got to be fucking kidding me.”
Giles spared him one flickering glance. “It’s killing Xander, you fool.” His eyes dropped. “And for heaven’s sake, put that away. This is all your fault, you know.”
Spike zipped up, lit up, and blew a cloud of smoke at Giles. “Of course it is. Nice to see things are back to normal.”
Giles threw Spike an exasperated look. “We really don’t have time to discuss this, Spike. Help me get Xander back to the car.”
“So chummy here can cut his throat in private? I don’t think so.”
“My intent is not to harm your friend but to save him,” the stranger said, sliding the knife into a sheath attached to his belt. He moved into the faint light from the street, studying the vampire with amused tolerance, towering a full foot above him. “My name is Matthew.”
He turned and walked away. “Why isn’t he sticking around to help?” Spike demanded.
Giles hissed with impatience. “It would affect the ritual if he touched Xander – look, are you giving me a hand or not? He’s bloody heavy!”
Spike said softly, “Take your hands off him, Watcher.”
Spike slid one hand under Xander’s shoulders and scooped him up easily into his arms. “You don’t get to touch him after what you did. Not until we’ve had a little chat.”
Giles met his eyes steadily. “Do you really think I would ever harm him?”
Spike shrugged. “Not planning on letting you try.” Giles reached for his glasses and began to polish them, his lips set in a thin line of hurt. Spike relented. “He trusts you.”
Giles looked up, his face hard. “He has never had any reason not to – until now. I assure you that what I’m doing is necessary.”
Spike began to walk towards the car. “Hope so, Giles. I really do.”
The drive back to Giles’ house had been mostly silent. Spike had opened his mouth and Giles, sensing the imminent inquisition, had said quietly. “I’d prefer to wait until we get home, Spike. Then we’ll answer your questions.”
“Got a fair bit to think about myself,” Spike said. “There’s a lot that’s making sense now.”
“Of course!” Giles said. “I forgot to ask...I take it you’re in full possession of your memories then? Good. I have a feeling that will be useful.”
Spike looked down at Xander, lying across his lap, his face slack and empty in his drugged sleep. “Is that right?”
Giles took advantage of a red light to glance back at Spike. “It might make all the difference to Xander, if that matters to you.”
Spike met his eyes. “It matters.” His hand rested against Xander’s chest, feeling the comforting thud of his heartbeat.
Spike carried Xander into Giles’ house and laid him down on the couch. Giles shook his head. “I’m afraid we’re going to need to restrain him, Spike. He’ll be awake soon.”
“You’re going to let him wake to find himself tied up?” Spike asked, his voice flat and expressionless.
“Yes. Because when he does, he might not be Xander.”
Spike digested that and nodded reluctantly, watching Giles bring out the ropes he had felt around his own wrists the week before. “Better hope your knots hold, then. He’s strong.”
“Stronger than you?” Giles asked, helping Spike place Xander on a wooden chair.
Spike grinned. “You’d better hope not. Could have broken this chair if I’d really tried, you know.”
“I’m glad you didn’t,” Giles said. “It’s a matched set.” He rubbed his forehead. “There’s always the bath tub.”
Spike sighed. “Use the chair. I won’t let him get free.”
Matthew spoke for the first time. He was leaning against the wall, a massive figure, dressed in dull grey and brown, his face deeply tanned, his eyes weary. “We must hurry.”
Spike shot him an unfriendly look. “Who is he, Giles, and how did he get here?”
Giles looked over at Matthew for permission and got a small nod. “I called him after you went down the alley with Xander. I thought he would be able to help.”
“You live in Sunnydale then?”
Matthew shook his head. “Scotland.”
Spike huffed in disbelief and then said, “Magic?”
Giles interrupted, giving Matthew an exasperated look. “He’s being pedantic, Spike. He does live in Scotland but he left there two days ago.” Giles turned back to Spike. “Can you guess when and why?”
“Can you just stop with the games and spit it out?”
Giles pursed his lips. “Oh, very well. He sensed the reawakening of Xander’s beast which coincided – except it wasn’t a coincidence – with the first time you and he, well –”
“Coupled,” Matthew said bluntly.
Spike looked between them, baffled. “I fuck Xander and people can tell thousands of miles away? Did we make the earth move for real?”
Matthew surprised them both by laughing, a deep, booming sound. “No, vampire. Not quite.”
Spike’s fists clenched. “Giles, I’ve heard you talk. You can use up five minutes telling someone what the bloody time is.” He turned to Matthew. “Can you do better? I’m not known for my patience at the best of times and trust me, this isn’t.”
Matthew shrugged. “Sit. Listen. Learn.”
Spike nodded. “I like you already.”
“Make that unconditional approval.”
Giles tutted but went to fetch glasses and Matthew and Spike exchanged amused glances. Once settled, Spike sitting as close to Xander as possible and the two men on the couch, Matthew began to talk.
“You wish for a swift story and yet there is much to explain...you know what happened to your friend two years ago?” Spike nodded. “That happened to me. I came close to losing myself in the animal; I killed and fed...the memories haunt me but I fought free of the beast.”
“I got in touch with Matthew two years ago,” Giles said quietly. “I was concerned about Xander.” He looked at Matthew ruefully. “You assured me that the spell had removed the animal spirit but of course we had no idea...”
“When you met the boy, you shared blood, a death,” Matthew said.
Spike looked pensive. “Yeah...it’s why I let him live. He wasn’t scared of me at all. He licked the blood from my hand...then I killed the woman it came from, and he fed on her.”
Giles shuddered, gulping at his drink to hide his revulsion, his eyes resting on Xander’s limp body with pity and regret.
“Blood...and then sex. You know how powerful both are, vampire, you know only too well...and the animal bonded with you, linked to your spirit. The spell that freed Xander worked well enough but the spirit was not completely banished. It retreated, using you to hide itself. It could not manifest within you; your demon is far too strong, but it could draw on that strength.”
“It hibernated, for want of a better word,” Giles remarked.
“Yes,” Matthew said, “but it was not spring that awoke it.”
“I can guess,” Spike said, his voice tight. He flicked his eyes over to Giles. “That’s why you said it was my fault, was it? If I hadn’t fucked him, he’d still be Xander?”
Giles studied him and then nodded. “It began the process, yes...and Matthew felt it happen and set off to warn me.” He raised an eyebrow. “You should have told me you were still monitoring the situation,” he said in mild rebuke. “Or at least told me you were coming. When I called you and you told me you were at Sunnydale airport...”
Matthew looked unrepentant. “You would have fussed.”
Spike laughed. “See you know our Rupert, mate.”
“He’s my aunt by marriage’s second cousin,” Giles snapped. “And I would not have...never mind.” He took a deep breath. “To make it short – which I am quite capable of doing – the animal spirit woke and that’s what caused Xander’s odd behaviour and the memory flash you got. The link was active again, you see. Xander probably bit you because the sex wasn’t quite enough.” Giles permitted a faint smile to cross his face as Spike looked crestfallen for a second.
“So; we do the spell again and this time we involve both of you,” said Matthew. “Simple enough.” He drained his glass, put it down and stood up. “Where shall I draw the circle?”
Giles looked around the room doubtfully. “Well...”
“This just suits you, doesn’t it?” Spike said, his voice bitter. He stood up and stalked over to Giles, vibrating with fury.
“What?” Giles frowned at him, genuinely taken aback. “Is this because I said it was your fault? I wasn’t really...”
“No! It’s because it was killing you to see him with me, wasn’t it? One of your precious Scoobies getting all snuggly with a vampire. Again. Because we all know how well it worked out with Angel and the Slayer. Now you can do the spell, get him back and he won’t want me any more, will he? Because it was the animal who needed me. Xander hates me, right? Always has done. Fuck it. Just fucking do the spell and –”
Spike’s voice broke and he hissed with frustration. Giles gaped at him. Spike’s face was alive with emotion, unguarded and vulnerable. Giles saw the deep blue eyes gloss over with tears before Spike shook his head and let his game face well up. “Spike! Stop that,” Giles ordered, gripping the vampire’s arms and shaking him slightly. “You’re being selfish and you’re quite mistaken.”
Spike’s human face returned and he looked at Giles with loathing. “Let go of me, Watcher.”
Giles hesitated and then shook his head. “Look at me, Spike. What do you see?”
Spike cocked his head to one side, his lips set stubbornly. “An enemy. Admit it, Giles; you hate me, too. I could taste it pouring off you every time you came near me when I was here.”
Giles smiled. “Really? And I thought my mother brought me up to be a better host than that. That chip must be affecting you in more ways than we realised.”
“Meaning?” Spike said, the word harsh, standing still in Giles’ grip.
Giles slid one hand down to take Spike’s hand and then took advantage of his surprise to slip the other around his neck, digging his fingers in. “Does this give you a hint?”
Spike choked out, “Only that you need a refresher course. Don’t breath, remember.”
“It’s symbolic, you dense pillock,” Giles said mildly. “I could have chosen here instead –” His hand moved from Spike’s throat to between his legs, cupping him gently and then dropping away. “Except I’m not quite certain which hand I should have used for that...” He stepped back, at ease in the face of Spike’s confusion, smiling faintly.
“I think he’s trying to tell you that he’s a conflicted man where you’re concerned,” Matthew said, topping up his glass. “You should have worked that one out yourself. You’re a crippled, helpless vampire but you’re not dust amongst the daisies because he doesn’t want to end you. Yet, still, you’re a vampire, so he hates you for that. I’ve a feeling he’s not blind to the fact that you’re easy on the eyes but I won’t presume...”
“No, don’t,” Giles said hastily. “Things are confused enough as it is.”
Spike said bluntly. “You want to fuck me, Rupert?”
Giles shrugged. “In my more insane moments, I’ve thought about it. It’s not really important now.” His eyes drifted to Xander. “Him, I love. He’s part of my life and he’s the one of all of them that I worry about most. Even more than Buffy, who, as you’re fond of pointing out, doesn’t quite need me anymore. You, I don’t love. Fancy you, maybe, but not to the extent of caring too much that you’re off limits now. I feel a certain...respect for you perhaps. As an adversary, as a fighter, as an individual. You’re irritating, indolent, insecure and immature, of course –”
“He likes you,” Matthew said confidentially. “I can tell. Now if you’ve finished chatting him up, maybe we could do this spell?” Spike turned. “Because laddie here’s been awake for quite a while, listening.”
The still figure in the chair did not move. Xander’s eyes were shut and he was breathing steadily. Spike frowned and then stiffened in shock. Xander’s eyes stayed closed but his lips were curving in a slow, sneering smile. The room hushed suddenly and Giles felt the hair on the back of his neck lift in an atavistic thrill of terror. Xander began to chuckle; a high pitched giggle, humourless and grating. Spike stepped forward, his face concerned and Xander’s eyes opened suddenly, wide and staring.
They were cold eyes, inhuman and cruel. “You knocked him out,” Spike whispered. “He couldn’t fight it like that. He’s not there anymore.” He spun around and glared at the two men. “Find him!”
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