Preying On My Mind
Giles looked dubiously at Spike. The vampire was as close to losing control as he’d ever seen him. “We’ll start the spell at once,” he said quietly. “Once the hyena spirit leaves, I’m sure Xander will be fine.”
Matthew began to say something, but a warning glance from Giles silenced him. Spike snorted. “Your friend seems to think it’s not that simple, judging by the look on his face.”
Matthew cleared his throat. “There have been cases where the spirit left and the human soul was taken too. The bodies lived but they were...empty.”
“Not going to happen,” Spike said immediately. “Not with Xander. He’s a fighter; right, Giles?”
“He has great courage,” Giles agreed. He looked over at Spike. “You might be at risk too, you know. I don’t want to worry you, but you should be prepared for that.”
Spike showed his teeth in a fierce grin. “Prepared for a fight? Never been anything but, Giles. You know that.”
The giggling from the figure in the chair died away and it spoke. “I don’t want you to do the spell, Giles. I like being like this. I’m strong. I’m happy.” It turned to look at Spike. “You met me like this. It’s how you want me. I’m just like you. You know Xander doesn’t like you; why risk losing the first person to love you for yourself?”
“Don’t listen to it,” advised Matthew. “It will try to trick you, but that’s not your friend talking.”
“I think we worked that one out by ourselves, mate,” Spike said. He stared down at Xander’s body, not getting close to it. “I remember meeting you now. You were fun. Selfish, violent; just what the doctor ordered. Wouldn’t have killed you myself, but you know what? I wouldn’t have stopped Dru going after you either.” He stepped back. “I was pissed when I found out the spell had been reversed but you owed me another go so I went after you. Wasn’t you though, was it? It was him. Xander. He wasn’t scared of me either, but it wasn’t because he was too stupid to know he should be, like you. He just – wasn’t.” Spike smiled down, a sneer on his face. “One kiss from him and I’d forgotten you ever existed - and it didn’t take a bloody charm to do it either. No way Dru was sinking her teeth into him. No fucking way.”
Giles caught Matthew’s eye and jerked his head. They moved out of earshot and began to talk in low whispers as Spike carried on, his eyes glittering, his voice gathering strength and certainty.
“And you weren’t there two days ago, either, mate. You weren’t anywhere about when Xander made me see what I was too fucking stupid to see for myself. He wanted me. He needed me. He kept the memory of feeding on a human, kept the taste of blood and warm flesh in his mouth, rather than forget about me. He did that. Not you. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying I’m in love with him –” Giles overheard this and rolled his eyes. “I’m a vampire, evil to the core...but choose you over him? In your fucking dreams, dog breath, in your –”
“I think you’ve made your point, Spike,” Giles said hastily. Spike was quite capable of forgetting the chip and doing something that would leave him in agony and Xander’s body somewhat the worse for wear. Not his fault of course; the vampire was just a little impulsive. Not to mention melodramatic.
“He won’t be back. Not ever. You’ve lost him,” the hyena said, its voice a whining, vindictive growl.
Spike grinned. “Then I’ll find him again. You don’t know what I’m like when I’ve got my heart set on something.”
Giles heard this and his head jerked up from the book he was leafing through. Words long forgotten surfaced in his mind... ‘Once he starts something, he doesn’t stop, until everything in his path is dead.’ Angel had said that of Spike and looking at the vampire’s face, seeing the brash certainty blazing out, he didn’t doubt it. Then Spike turned his back on the hyena and looked over at Giles and the mask slipped. Giles caught his breath. Spike looked as he had when he came to them for help after the chip had been put in his head; skeletal, desperate, pleading...
“The vampire is fighting too, but he doesn’t know it,” Matthew said quietly. “We must hurry.”
“Right.” Giles shook off the unease caused by Spike’s vulnerability and began to assemble the ingredients for the spell.
It didn’t take long to prepare the circle, scatter the herbs and recite the incantations. It took about ten seconds longer to realise that it hadn’t worked.
“What went wrong?” Spike said, anger and disappointment struggling for ascendancy.
Matthew shook his head, grey hair standing up as he ran his fingers through it in frustration. “Nothing. We did it perfectly. It should have worked.”
They looked back at the figure in the chair. The hyena peered out of Xander’s brown eyes, a malicious, satisfied smile twisting his features. “Well, it didn’t,” Giles said bitterly. “And that thing is digging its claws deeper into him with every minute.”
Matthew frowned. “It has to be your involvement,” he said to Spike. “It’s affecting the spell’s influence.”
“I was in the circle too,” Spike objected. “It should have worked on me.”
“It wasn’t strong enough,” Matthew said, his voice rising with a sudden excitement. “Of course!”
“Double up the ingredients? Do us both separately?” Spike suggested.
Giles smothered a smile. Spike trying to be helpful was oddly endearing. Then he caught the predator’s eye and his smile faded, replaced by implacable hatred of the thing threatening Xander. A cool hand was laid against his wrist, pulling him back, and he glanced around in surprise, realising that his fist was clenched so hard his knuckles were stretched white. “Don’t let it get to you, Giles.”
Giles managed to nod to Spike, biting down savagely on his lip. He’d been on the verge of going over to that taunting figure, consumed by the need to hurt it, to lash out at the sneering smile. I doubt Xander would thank me if he came back to find himself with a black eye, he thought wryly. Perhaps Spike’s not the only impulsive one...
“I think we might render our friend unconscious again,” Matthew said. “It doesn’t matter for the ritual and I don’t think it would hurt Xander.”
Giles shrugged. “Possibly not.” He prepared an injection and walked over to the chair.
“I’ll do it,” said Spike. He looked at Giles. “Let me. Please.”
Giles gave him the needle and Spike drove it home, watching the light in the hyena’s eyes die away, his own face sombre.
Matthew had been muttering to himself, sitting at the table and searching through a stack of books, discarding them with impatient grunts and finally exclaiming with relief.
‘”Eureka?” Giles asked dryly, automatically tidying the books again, his hands closing around them protectively. Matthew had been flinging them around like frisbees...
Matthew looked up, his eyes shining. “Listen to this,” he ordered. “’The predatory act will vary from case to case, but will in general be grounded in malice, forging a natural link to the awakening beast. In those rare cases where the act is performed by an innocent, the beast’s hold on the victim can only be broken by a corresponding act.’”
Spike frowned. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Giles tilted his head and thought. “Xander followed the four other members of the pack to stop them hurting a boy. They were aggressors; he was a defender. They were all possessed because Xander was prepared to fight to rescue the boy and that was enough to include him; he wasn’t seen as prey. He qualifies as an innocent from that point of view.”
Spike opened his mouth and thought better of it. They didn’t need to know that Xander qualified in just about every way. If it was important, he’d mention it, but not until. He smiled sourly. Now he was getting all protective of Xander’s reputation? A wave of impatient need made him grit his teeth. He wanted this over, wanted Xander back, wanted to drag him off somewhere and yes, fuck him until he couldn’t walk, but just be with him. Talk to him, hang out at the Bronze, fight - now he’d found out he could kill demons...just be with him without the hostility. The pleasure his thoughts gave him was shattered as two feminine voices screeched in his ear. Red and the Slayer...they’d have kittens when they found out. Giles hadn’t taken it too badly, if you ignored the wanting to stake him, but those two...Spike shuddered and then, as usual, let worries about the future slip away. No sense fretting over it. Might be dead by then. Or they might.
“So, he’s pure as the driven; fine. Still don’t get what it means.”
“I think in addition to the spell, there has to be a –”
“Sacrifice,” Giles said quietly, completing Matthew’s answer. He had carried on reading from the book and he laid it down gently. “Some form of willing sacrifice. Xander risked himself to save Lance and it will take a similar risk, voluntarily taken, to free him.”
“He risked getting punched,” Spike said. “Don’t mind you taking a swing at me, Giles. Go for it; you know you want to.” He grinned but his eyes were shadowed, anticipating Giles’ shake of the head.
“It can’t be you, Spike. You’re part of the spell. It’s also going to take more than that, I think.”
“This doesn’t make sense,” Spike said. “He did something good and someone else has to get hurt? Where’s the logic in that?”
Matthew sighed heavily. “Magic and logic aren’t always strangers, but they’re rarely friends.”
“Oh, well done! Give the man a fortune cookie to shove that little gem in,” Spike snapped.
Giles held up a hand to halt the hostilities. Matthew was a tolerant man who knew about Spike’s recent history, but he was far from inclined to trust a vampire, let alone put up with abuse from one. “I’ll do it,” he said firmly. “There is no one else. Oh, don’t look so stunned, Spike; we’re not talking life threatening, I’m not being particularly heroic.”
“You save Xander and I swear I’ll never...” He thought for a moment. “What would you like me not to do again, Giles?”
Giles burst out laughing. “Give me time to draw up a list,” he said, his shoulders shaking.
“One thing,” Spike said. “Just one.”
Matthew looked at Giles. “What do you plan to sacrifice?” he asked bluntly.
Giles pursed his lips. “I don’t have the faintest idea,” he said finally. “Doesn’t it have any suggestions; preferably ones that leave me physically intact?”
“I can think of something...” Matthew said slowly.
Dremar refused to let Spike in at first, his voice hysterical, almost tearful. “Haven’t you done enough? Do you know what happened in here? Do you? Have you seen the mess? Have you –”
“Dremar, do you know who I am?” Giles asked, his voice calm and measured.
There was a brief pause. “The Watcher? You brought – take him away!”
“I have money and I promise you the Slayer is better as a friend than an enemy. I can make sure which she decides to be.”
“I don’t trust your promises,” Dremar said bitterly. “He cheated me.”
“That’s beside the point,” Giles said firmly. “You’re dealing with me now and I need one of those memory saving globes.”
“Shan’t! You can’t get past my door and –”
Giles sighed. “Of course I can.”
“How? It’s bespelled to open at my voice alone!”
Giles grinned wolfishly. “I find a chain saw does good demon imitations.”
Spike stepped out of the way with an admiring bow of the head and Giles reached for his weapon. The door opened before he had time to use it.
The three gathered around and the ritual began. Spike stood, his hands on Xander’s shoulders, waiting for the moment when he would truly be touching him. The hyena, awake again, began to struggle but strong fingers held him still. Giles was outside the circle, a glowing sphere in his hand, his face peaceful, even happy. Matthew stood, book in hand, his eyes watchful.
“– depart and leave, dissolve to dust,” he chanted, finishing the incantation. Giles moved forward and flung the globe down, letting it shatter inside the circle. The red mist sank down, absorbed into the chalked diagram, vanishing utterly. Spike felt Xander’s shoulders tense and the hyena shrieked loudly, thrashing in the chair. There was a sense of darkness rising within the circle and then it disappeared, fading like a dream, leaving empty air, ringing with silence.
Xander turned his head, craning his neck to look upwards. “Spike? Not that I don’t like it when you get enthusiastic with the hands but - oww.”
Spike smiled and loosened his grip, meeting Giles’ eyes for a moment and seeing his own relief reflected in them.
“And if it’s all the same to you guys, I prefer to save the ropes for more private moments.”
Giles winced. “I could wish you hadn’t shared that,” he said.
Spike reached for the ropes, began to untie the knots, and then growled impatiently and snapped them, releasing both Xander and some of his own tension. Xander stood up, staggering slightly as his stiff legs gave way. Spike grabbed his arm and helped him over to the couch. Xander looked up at the three faces peering anxiously down at him and smiled, flushing slightly. “Well, that was...what was that?”
“You don’t remember?” Giles asked.
“Lot of that going around,” Spike muttered.
“I remember the alley and then this guy came out of nowhere –”
“That would be me,” Matthew said gruffly, his eyes intent. “I helped Giles capture you so that we could free you of the hyena.”
Xander looked around at them all and tried to speak. Spike hesitated and then sat down beside him. “Don’t worry about it now. You’ve got two doses of knockout drugs in you and you’re fine, trust me.”
Xander turned to look at him and Giles found himself holding his breath as his face puckered with uncertainty. Then Xander slid his hand behind Spike’s head and pulled him towards him, kissing him hard and releasing him a second later.
“You –” Spike seemed at a loss and Giles found himself blinking away, not tears, no, just a sudden prickling in his eyes. All this bloody chalk all over the floor, he thought defensively.
“All’s well, then,” Matthew said heartily. “Now, where’s your good malt, Rupert?”
“He has more?” Spike said with interest, his arm around Xander’s shoulders, keeping him close. “Thought I’d found most of it.”
Giles glared at him. “If I were to look behind the collected works of –”
“Kipling?” Spike suggested. “Now there’s a man who knew his stuff.” He smirked happily. “Good hunting, Giles,” he quoted.
“Spike, you thieving, ungrateful – this bottle was full!”
“Enough left for a toast,” Matthew said pacifically.
Giles narrowed his eyes, poured out three measures and then sighed and let the last drops trickle into a fourth glass. Handing them around, he paused and then said, “’Lest we forget...’”
Xander left Spike and Matthew squabbling happily about a soccer game that had taken place before he was born and followed Giles into the small kitchen.
“We should get out of your way,” he said.
Giles looked up from watching the kettle boil for tea and smiled. “There’s no rush but I can understand that you and Spike have a lot to discuss.”
“Tomorrow will do for that. Or maybe next week. Never mind. Giles – I have to know. What was it? What did you give up for me?”
Giles took off his glasses and rubbed at his eyes before sighing. “Does it matter? I did it willingly, Xander. I’d have given up far more than that to save you. I’d really rather not dwell on it.”
Xander hesitated, looking at him doubtfully and Giles forced himself to smile reassuringly. It must have worked because Xander’s face brightened. “Is this where we hug?” he asked.
Giles laughed. “Or exchange a manly handshake.”
Xander thought about it. “Hug,” he decided. “And we never tell anyone we did it.”
Giles patted his shoulder. “Now go, and take your vampire with you,” he said. “I want to catch up on the news with Matthew.”
Spike stood up eagerly when Xander came back and they both made their way to the door. Spike paused, his hand resting on the handle. “Almost forgot,” he said casually. “Decided what you want me to never do again, yet, Giles?”
Giles looked at him steadily. “Yes.”
“Never force me to leave the house unshaven and barely awake in search of sugar-laden donuts I don’t want to eat.”
There was a short pause as Matthew looked puzzled and Xander blushed.
“I don’t get ...oh. Fair enough.”
“Told you he wouldn’t like it,” said Xander.
Giles’ door closed behind them and Spike turned to look at Xander. “Where to now?”
Xander yawned. “I’m tired.”
Spike fought back disappointment. It was late and Xander had every right to be tired, but he’d hoped they could –
“So let’s go to bed.”
“To sleep?” Spike said cautiously.
Xander looked at him quizzically. “That’s the first thought that comes into your head? Has the passion gone from our relationship already?”
His tone was light but there was a questioning note in it, a plea for reassurance that puzzled and pleased Spike. “You said you were tired.”
Xander sighed and began to walk slowly out of the courtyard, Spike by his side. “Let’s start over. This has been one hell of a night and yes, I’m tired. Doesn’t mean I want to go to sleep right away. I want to – ” He paused and shook his head. “If I say ‘make love’, is that too girly?”
Spike studied him solemnly, fighting down a surge of amused tenderness. “Maybe. What’s wrong with telling me you want to fuck me?”
“It doesn’t leave much room for misunderstandings but – this’ll be our first time with me not possessed and you with your memories.”
“So, I’m nervous. God, make that terrified. And I’ve got stuff to tell you, questions to ask you, a dozen problems waiting to leap out and grab me and –”
Xander stopped walking as he babbled, the words spilling out. Spike put his palm, not gently, against his lips, silencing him. “That’s tomorrow, all of it. Tonight, the only thing grabbing you is going to be – oh for fuck’s sake!”
Xander found himself thrust to one side as Spike launched himself at a vampire who had been about to attack them. “I am trying to have a conversation here!” he howled. “Is a little privacy too much to expect?”
The vampire, who must have died before he reached twenty, didn’t look all that scary even with his game face on. He held up his hands placatingly, whining, “Didn’t know you were a vamp, too – sorry. Kill him, go ahead, just...I’m kind of hungry; can I share?”
“He’s not on the menu, you pillock! He’s my fucking –”
Spike paused, trying to think of the right word. Xander chuckled. “Now see how you like it. What am I? Boyfriend, lover, partner?”
Spike locked his fingers around the vampire’s throat to hold him in place and turned his head to look at Xander. “No,” he said mildly. “Don’t get fancy, pet. You’re mine. Simple as that.”
Xander didn’t move, didn’t say a word, but Spike felt the air between them turn to syrup, sweet and heavy. Without taking his eyes off Xander, he dragged the vampire in front of him, let go, and whispered, “Run.” The vampire gulped and backed away, melting into the shadows.
They were separated by more than a few feet of sidewalk, held apart by years of soured expectation and disappointment, spells and secrets, but Spike knew that if he beckoned and said, “Come here,” Xander would. He saw it in his eyes; he remembered how it had been before. Xander hadn’t endured; he’d enjoyed. Every test, every trial, every chance he’d had to go farther, he’d taken. If he had limits, Spike hadn’t found them then. Now? It was different. Spike didn’t want that from Xander, not now. He wanted ...
Three steps, and he was close enough to stretch out a hand and have Xander reach out to touch it with his own, but he didn’t. Four, and his hand could have rested on Xander’s shoulder, against his face, but he kept his hands by his side. Five steps and he was so close that – and Xander kissed him and all thought fled.
Xander watched Spike walk towards him, his face intent, his eyes unfocused, as though he were dreaming. The word, ‘mine’ was thrumming in his head, getting louder with every repetition until he wanted to scream or kneel to silence it. Either. Both. Spike did that to him; challenged him and tested him as he had done that morning, a handful of hours ago that felt as distant as Christmas in July. Xander had refused to surrender control, had drawn a line in the dirt and dared Spike to cross it, knowing he would and knowing he wanted him to, just to see...He’d seen, he’d won, but so much of him had wanted to give in. Two years ago he would have. Two years ago, it would have been Spike’s hand on his ass, punishing him for reluctance in a way that drove everything from his head but the need to come. Just that, nothing more. Not then.
He would have gone to Spike, spurred on by that single word, just as his years of dreaming had been fuelled by a single sentence, a quotation he’d meant to look up and never had – “My only love, sprung from my only hate”. There had been plenty of both emotions but one had burned out; silver ashes all that remained of blistering, scalding, scarring hatred. He would have taken those steps, fallen to his knees if Spike had touched his shoulder just so, let the relief and worry slide away as he was ordered, instructed, bound to obey.
Then Spike came towards him. Stood without touching, patiently waiting, refusing to force the decision with a caress or a command, telling Xander mutely that this was how it was going to be – and Xander kissed him gently, kissed him hard, kissed him until they were swaying together like trees in a storm, bodies locked, hands roving, kissed him until Spike’s mouth yielded and his body relaxed, leaning away from Xander enough to look up at him with satisfied, gleaming eyes.
“You’ve done it again, Harris,” he said. “What is it with you and the open road? Too good for a bed, is that it?”
“You...talk...too ...much,” Xander said, punctuating each word with an action. Belt, button, zip...Spike shuddered against his hand and Xander grinned mercilessly as his fingers - busy, deft fingers, eased out Spike’s cock and wrapped around it, with a practised, swift slide of palm and flick of thumb.
Spike’s hands gripped Xander’s shoulders hard, biting bruise deep, but he managed to whisper, “Can’t wait then?”
Xander squeezed hard and jerked his wrist three times fast, forcing out the incoherent moan he knew was lying just below the whisper. Then he leaned forward and kissed Spike again, a teasing, loving kiss. “Can wait. Just don’t want to.”
Sometimes kneeling was just convenient.
They woke together, eyes heavy with tiredness. “We need to stop waking up,” Xander murmured, the words shaping themselves slowly in his mouth, emerging as a strangely slurred whisper.
Spike snuffled against the pillow, his hand already blindly reaching out. “Why?”
“Need to sleep. Not fuck.” That had been much more eloquent and logical in his head. Spike’s head lifted and he turned his face enough for his mouth to be visible. “Oh God, I want you.”
The lips curled up. “Here, aren’t I?”
Xander wasn’t sure he could move sleep-weighted limbs and his cock had been kissed better so often it hurt just to think about it getting hard, but somehow Spike was fitting against him and they were kissing, eyes shut, drifting on a sea of sleepy satiation, pulled down away from the brassy glare of the sun, fathoms-deep, where the sunken waves did no more than rock them gently and ...
“What did he give up?”
“Giles. You were there at the demon. You know. Tell me.”
“Shit. You remember all of it, don’t you? Said you didn’t but you do. Not just Giles, everything.”
“I was going to tell you –”
“Why didn’t you? Why did you lie?”
“Think about what I was listening to, what I was saying when I was awake...”
You know Xander doesn’t like you; why risk losing the first person to love you for yourself - One kiss from him and I’d forgotten you ever existed -You want to fuck me, Rupert? Him, I love.
“He wouldn’t tell me.”
“Now you’re lying.”
“What if I am? Man made a choice. Did it to save you. If I could have, I’d have done it. You know that?”
“I know. But Giles...never thought he –”
“You’re an idiot sometimes.”
“That’s what I thought he thought.”
“Hey, we’ve been awake for six minutes and we’re not – ”
“Oh, yes we are.”
“That hurts...no, don’t stop...”
And somewhere else Buffy was staring at Willow, as slipping towels, borrowed T shirts and suspicions were poured into her disbelieving ears in a belated, bewildered torrent. Soon after that a Watcher and his Slayer were arguing, with victory – for once – not with the Chosen One.
Somewhere...but not where Xander lay beside Spike, propped up on pillows as they talked and squabbled, kissed and fucked, and then did it all over again.
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