Gray


by
Litgal



Part Six

Xander shifted on the hard bench, and the chain around his waist rattled. Yep, they’d searched, handcuffed and chained him, and Xander would take it as a compliment that they felt threatened by him, but he was too uncomfortable.

“Just these books,” the younger of the two goons said, tossing Xander’s Supernatural books on the floor of the van.

“Hey, that’s all my worldly possessions there,” Xander complained. Giles gave him a glare cold enough to make a shiver go through Xander’s spine. Yep, this Giles definitely had more of the badass going for him.

“Nothing else?” Giles demanded. Taking the bag, he turned it inside out and searched the stitching like he would find a spell book in the lining or something.

“He’s clean,” goon number two said. The van took a corner, and the others braced themselves on the sides while Xander was nearly bent double as his body tried to fly off the bench. Instead the chain holding him to the wall just dug into the flesh of his stomach.

“Hey, feel free to let me out and I will happily never bother you again,” Xander offered.

“How many people know about slayers?” Giles demanded.

Both goons and Giles all turned and eyed Xander like he was going to sprout horns or something. “Wait. I thought you people didn’t have slayers,” Xander said as he realized that Giles was definitely keeping the secrets.

“It could be a trap,” the younger goon warned.

Giles gave him one of those looks he usually reserved for Xander when Xander had done something particularly and spectacularly stupid. “Yes, thank you. I had considered it.” Even the older guy who seemed slightly less psychotic than this Giles gave a good eye roll at that bit of stupidity.

The young guy shrank back, and for a second, Xander actually felt sorry for him. Of course, he had chained Xander inside a van, so the sympathy was short-lived, but still, Giles sarcasm was sharp, sharp weapon.

A bright blue light flashed, and Xander pressed his eyes closed as spots danced on the insides of his lids. “We’re secure now.” The older thug clearly had some magical mojo going for him, and Xander could feel the fear and the need to roar out his anger like a living beast clawing at his ribs from the inside.

“So, tell us what you know about slayers.”

Xander didn’t open his eyes, but he could sense a body near him and smell the cold and oily scent of metal. Cracking an eye open, he looked to see Giles holding an ornately engraved knife so that the tip rested against Xander’s thigh.

“Um, that’s not really very comforting.”

“Comforting was not my first inclination,” Giles agreed. Giles was not actually all that nice to be around when he thought you were evil. Xander made a mental note to avoid Giles’ bad side in any and all dimensions. “Now, what do you know about slayers?”

“Um, they’re the one girl in all the world destined to fight the evil. A bunch of shadow men shoved the power of a demon in her and she became the perfect fighter, only maybe not so perfect because they do tend to die young.”

“That’s impossible,” the younger goon blurted out. “Slayers are myths, fairy tales.” The older goon made a shushing gesture.

“Nothing’s impossible,” Giles said. “So, how did the shadow men perform this spell?”

“You’re asking me?” Xander’s voice rose to girly levels. “How would I know? That was like a million years ago. Seriously, you have slayer myths? Why would someone make up myths about girls getting their lives hijacked? Not that fairy tales are normally happy. In general, fairy tales are pretty evil and definitely not for children.”

Giles tightened his fingers around his knife and got a determined expression that scared the pants off Xander. “The spell.”

“No, really,” Xander hurried to say, “I don’t know how any of the spell happened, and considering that the men were putting the power into a girl they’d chained up, I really am not interested in trying to figure out what they did. Who gave them the right to ruin some fifteen-year-old girl’s life? Many fifteen-year-old girls’ lives?”

Giles leaned back and angled the knife back and forth so that it caught the glimmers of light that leaked in around the curtain that separated the back from the driver. “Our slayer line was destroyed. Evil won that battle, but that doesn’t mean that what was lost can’t be found again. So tell me, how do you know the details of where the spell took place if you are so ignorant?” he asked in a so-superior tone of voice. Yep, he thought he’d caught Xander saying something stupid.

“One of the slayers I know got a visit from the first slayer in a dream. My friend shared. She probably overshared because I know the details of every crush she had from age fifteen to twenty-one, but she was much with the sharing about her personal indignation that men were enslaving a girl, and then Willow went on the misogyny warpath and I pretty much tuned out from there. Look, in my universe, you’re a Watcher. You come from a long line of stuffy English people to train the Slayers and help them use their powers when they come of age, only sometimes Watchers are more with the manipulating of young girls.” Giles’ eyes narrowed. “But not you,” Xander hurried to add. “You pretty much told your family to jump in a lake and you sided with your Slayer, which was good because you saved the world. Your family, however, was not amused.”

“My family was slaughtered by demons, their blood used the paint the drawing room of my ancestral home,” Giles said coldly.

Xander shrank back. “Oh.” Xander wondered if that was better or worse than having the First blow your family up, not that he would be winning over any friends if he gave that bit of history. “Things aren’t going so well here, are they?”

“Not that you would notice.” Giles brought the knife close to Xander’s chest. “Now, I need every detail you know about slayers, and if I have to carve the answers out of your flesh, I will.”

Xander swallowed as he looked down at the knife that rested against his chest. “And if I just pretty much already told you everything I know?”

“I would assume you were lying.”

Looking into Giles’ face, Xander studied the man, watching as shadow forms started to gather in the mists that rose from his body. Men and women in suits smoked pipes and sat at tables where they flipped the pages of massive books. These definitely weren’t murder victims, so Xander had another reason to mark ghost off the list of possibilities. Hallucinations and mental illness were moving up to the top of the list because this didn’t make sense. All these people looked at Giles, and Xander could feel the weight of expectations. In the corners of the van, more and more people started to form, their clothing older and older until the men appeared in fancy collars and huge rings. Still, they all carried those books, and they all looked to Giles. One after another, they started whispering “slayer, slayer, slayer,” until Xander’s head throbbed with the beat.

“Well?” Giles demanded harshly, pressing the tip of the knife into Xander’s chest.

With a hiss, Xander plastered himself to the side of the van, and all the mist people vanished. “I don’t know. We just have a slayer. I don’t know how the power passes or why a particular person is called. I don’t.”

“How many did you know?”

“Three,” Xander said, which was a bit of a lie. He knew a lot of the girls who became slayers after the spell to activate all of them, but he didn’t want to get into the details because he did know part of that spell. He hadn’t approved of the spell in his universe, and he wouldn’t be part of recreating it here. That much power was trouble on any planet, not that anyone ever listened to his perfectly reasonable concerns that they might blow up the world by accident.

Giles leaned back and considered Xander. “Who?”

“Buffy Winters and Faith Polniaczek,” Xander lied, pulling out the last name for Jo from the Facts of Life. Hopefully this Giles disliked television as much as the other one.

“You said three.”

Xander gave an awkward shrug. “The third came in to kill some master vampire. I really didn’t know her, partly because she was all about the slaying and the tracking and really not much about getting to know a teenage boy,” Xander said, blending together truth and lies. His friends had been forced into a battle when they were too young to understand it, and he wouldn’t drag them into this battle. Well, not unless Giles started using torture and truth spells, and then Xander didn’t give himself very good odds.

“Look,” Xander said wearily, “our worlds aren’t the same. I mean, unless I’m wrong about those Supernatural books being real, you have vampires that can walk around during the day without getting more than a case of sunburn, and mine explode in a fiery ball of self-immolation. My Giles is more the sort to sit around with books and drink tea, and you’re looking like someone who is more likely to stab someone in the guts. And I’m pretty much just the comic relief, which you seem a little in need of, to be honest. My world has slayers, but I don’t know any magic that’s going to change that here if you don’t.”

“Don’t let him fool you, kid, Rupert would rather drink tea than torture people,” the older goon said as he gave Giles a long look. Mist rose, and Xander watched a younger version of the man take a child-sized Giles by the hand and show him how to use a crossbow. Giles couldn’t have been more than four or five, and the damn crossbow was larger than him, but yet Xander just knew that had been Rupert Giles. Xander blinked and the vision vanished.

“Which doesn’t change the fact that I will torture if need be,” Giles said with an equally unhappy look.

“Hey, how about we just talk, no torture required. I mean, in my world, we’re pretty much on the same side,” Xander pointed out. “At least when I’m not spilling food on your favorite books.”

The older goon leaned forward, his elbows resting on his knees. “If he’s from another dimension, it could explain the magical signature. You and I both know he didn’t read like a demon or a leviathan.”

“You thought I was a giant fish?” Xander knew that Giles wasn’t perfect or anything, but assuming Xander was a fish seemed odd.

Giles gave him a blank look and the older goon laughed. Hunter. The man was a hunter. The word crept into Xander’s brain like a caterpillar on little feet. Giles’ father hadn’t been a hunter, he’d been something else—something that thought of hunters as little more than beasts to be used in the field. Expendable. Yeah, some things never did change. Giles’ father hadn’t been big on the slayer respect either.

“Leviathan are monsters from Purgatory, designed to consume the world,” Giles said. “But unless you are from another universe, any hunter worth his salt would have known that. The supernatural universe has been flooded with these vicious monsters for over a year now.”

“Well then, I guess that’s proof I’m from another universe.”

“Or you’re a rather more clever ploy than we’ve seen before.”

That made Xander laugh. “Oh trust me. You have never called me clever, and I don’t care which universe we’re in, you’re not going to. Now daft, birdbrained, nit, pilchard and a half dozen other muttered-under-your-breath words which all required looking up on an English slang site, sure. But not clever.”

Giles jerked back, surprised, which didn’t make a whole lot of sense. He looked over at the older hunter, with a confused expression. It was the hunter who leaned forward and put a hand on Xander’s knee. Considering Xander was handcuffed and chained, he wasn’t really comfortable with the invasion of his personal space, but no one had asked him.

The hunter snorted. “So, you have a slayer and Rupert was her Watcher. I guess the Giles family are supernatural specialists in any universe.”

“I’m not the sort to watch. I’m more the sort to get into the middle of a ruckus and settle it,” Giles pointed out, and that was definitely not the Giles of Xander’s universe. “If you know anything of this world, then you know how close we have come to losing the battle. A slayer could help immensely, so if you have any way of helping us recreate the spell that created the line, that could mean the difference between humanity surviving this ludicrous war or the entire species being crushed like so many insects.”

“We have a slayer, and we’re still nearly crushed on a pretty regular basis,” Xander pointed out. “And I still don’t know anything about the spell. You’re the one who’s all spell-knowing in my world, and you don’t know anything about the spell. I mean, my you doesn’t know anything. Trust me, if you can’t figure it out, I’m not going to have any chance at all.”

Giles started to say something, but the hunter leaned back and put his hand on Giles’ leg. “Let the boy rest, Rupert. I don’t think he’s lying.”

“And if he is?”

The hunter gave Xander a nasty smile. “Then we kill him. Haven’t I taught you anything, Rupert?”

“You taught me to not trust random strangers,” Giles said as he settled in next to the hunter. The mists rose, and Xander watched the hunter as he taught Giles how to stalk prey—demons and monsters and vampires and werewolves. Giles hadn’t been a watcher—he’d been a hunter.

“You’re a demon hunter,” Xander said. The shock made the words slip out, and the second Xander said it, he regretted it immediately because he didn’t want to tell these guys about Eve or Purgatory or the visions. Xander had the feeling that this Giles wasn’t big with the open-mindedness.

Giles stared at him.

“I mean, of course you are with the weapons and the threats and the offer of torture, but…” Xander stopped and made a face. It was wrong. It was as wrong as the magical runes everywhere and the gray sky.

The hunter answered. “In your universe, his father raised him, didn’t he?”

Xander nodded.

The hunter patted Giles on the leg, a paternal gesture from the man who had raised Giles. “That explains why you’re such a plonker in his world, doesn’t it?”

Giles gave the man a dirty look and the younger hunter snorted out a quick burst of laughter. Giles took a second to glare at him too. “You’re assuming he’s telling the truth.”

“Insulting people who work for him while making them feel like they still owe loyalty… that sounds a lot like Cornelius Giles, and if the man had lived to raise you, I don’t doubt you would have turned out equally as stuffy and just as likely to use insults to keep the world at arm’s length.”

“You’re assuming a lot,” Giles said.

“I’m not assuming anything. I’m just keeping an open mind.”

Xander leaned forward to take the pressure off his shoulders, and all three men looked at him, making him feel like he had to say something. “Um, my Giles is really awesome. He stood up against the council when they weren’t treating Buffy right, and he’s really good at keeping the world from sliding into hell.”

“This Rupert isn’t bad at that last one either,” the hunter said with undisguised pride. “So, this council of yours… do they keep track of supernatural comings and goings?”

Xander nodded. “Usually. They had a council house in England where they kept a lot of research, but after Giles refused to get treated like a puppet they could yank around by the strings, they cut him off from the good research. And the good research librarians, which is why I ended up spending so much time with my nose in a book when I’m clearly not good at it.”

“Had.” Giles said the word in a flat tone. “They had a house. They’re dead, aren’t they?”

Letting his gaze fall to the floor, Xander nodded. “The First evil… he started to break free of his cage and he blew the Watchers up. All their houses, all their libraries. Thousands of years of secret societying all went boom in one night.”

“Do you think their First could be our Lucifer?” the hunter asked.

“The angel Lucifer?” Xander asked. “And no. Lucifer is Lucifer, assuming he’s not a myth in my world. The First doesn’t even have a name or a body or an anything. He’s just this giant force. He’s like a big magnet of evil.”

“Then how do you kill him?” Giles asked, and trust him to go to the least happy of all Xander’s world-saving endings.

“We didn’t,” Xander admitted. “We closed a door, but he’s still out there. I’m still thinking he’s not Lucifer. So, did your council guys get killed off?”

“The Learnéd Men,” the hunter offered. “In the new world, the branch was called the Men of Letters. A demon came after the members, hoping to steal a key to a vault of supernatural weapons. Rupert’s father died.”

“And you raised him,” Xander finished. It was a little on the obvious side.

“He’s trying to build rapport with us,” Giles said, and from the tone of voice he was using, rapport was a truly terrible thing.

“He can say whatever he wants. We’re not going to unchain him,” the hunter assured Giles. It was weird seeing Giles so willing to follow someone else’s lead. That wasn’t Giles. Or it wasn’t Xander’s Giles anyway. This Giles seemed perfectly willing to listen to his adopted hunter father. “If he’s lying, we keep control and lock him away.”

“And if I’m telling the truth?” Xander asked, with a little squeak in his voice. Given the circumstances, he had a right to squeak a little. This was not good, especially not if Eve’s spell was demonifying him.

“Then you don’t know enough about this world to be safe,” the hunter said with a casual shrug. “We’re doing you a favor by giving you a safe place to stay and three meals a day.”

“Behind a locked door with lots of chains involved,” Xander guessed.

“The boy’s fairly bright,” the hunter said with a big grin.

Groaning, Xander let his head fall back against the side of the van. Well shit.

Part Seven

Xander stared at the door as he tried to decipher the noises. Normally he heard a scratching noise that was probably a key, then a long slide of metal against metal and then the door opened and he was faced with two men--one with the gun and one with the food or the books or whatever else Xander had asked for. Except for the hacksaw he'd asked for. They'd never brought that.

But now the scratching went on and on. Xander gave the chain a good tug so he had enough slack to cross his legs as he waited. Locked in a room with a chain around his leg, he was getting pretty good at waiting.

Eventually the scratching ended and the long, familiar slide of metal and then the door started to slowly open. Xander's mouth dropped open when Spike slipped through the narrow opening. His Spike. Peroxided hair, leather coat Spike.

"Move it, Harris," Spike snarled, and that pulled Xander out of his stupor.

"I'd love to. Chained here," Xander snapped back, holding up the chain.

Spike pressed his lips together. "Bloody perfect," he muttered before he strode into the room, vibrating with fury.

"It's really you, isn't it?"

Eyeing Xander oddly, Spike crouched down to look at the lock on the ankle shackle. "How many times have you been hit in the head, Harris?"

"I mean, are you my universe's Spike? Because after seeing quantum mirror Giles, I'm not really sure I want to meet another version of you."

"Willow sent me. Now shut up so I can get you out of this." Spike applied his long fingers to the combination lock. Xander had spend days trying to feeling the tumblers the way people described in books. As far as he could tell, all the stuff about picking locks by feel were utter crap. However, Spike leaned close and twirled the face of the lock around several times, his head cocking to one side and then the other before he gave the lock a tug and it opened.

"Now move your arse," Spike ordered as he stood and headed for the door.

For a second, Xander wiggled his ankle, enjoying the feel of freedom, but knowing Spike's infamous lack of patience, he got up and ran to the shelf and started scooping up books. Pulling up the bottom of his shirt, he created a pouch to carry more.

"What the hell do you think you're doing, Harris?"

"Do you have a spell to get us home in the next hour?"

"You bloody ungrateful little git."

"Research, Spike. If we're going to be stuck here, I'd rather not get eaten."

"What are you on about? They're cheap paperbacks, Harris."

"About monsters, Spike. They're paperbacks about two guys who fight monsters, and this world's Giles' father says they're mostly real, even if the two hunters are stupid as rocks for some of the things they do."

"Stupid demon hunters. Imagine that." Spike snorted and glared at Xander, but he also grabbed the books away from Xander and shoved them in his seemingly bottomless pockets. "We need to move. This lot may have treated you alright, but I don't think they're going to like me much."

"Someone not liking you, imagine that."

Spike ripped the last book out of Xander's hand. "Most people love me."

"Keep telling yourself, blondie." Xander paused. "God it's good to see you again."

"You really have taken one too many hits to the head. Can we leave or do you want to hang around and thank the blokes with the guns and stakes?"

"Maybe we should leave."

Spike shook his head, but Xander smiled. This was familiar. In a world where everything was just a little off, Spike snark was like salt and vinegar potato chips--a little mouth-puckeringly sharp but addictive.

Spike pulled a short sword out of his waistband and shoved it at Xander. "Let's try to avoid killing the good guys."

"Right. No good guy killing, not even Giles who is a little scary in this world."

"I've been watching this lot for three days now. Rupert is more than a little scary. Not that he scares me." Spike wiggled his eyebrows at Xander, and then he was out the door and Xander hurried to follow.

"Stupid fast vampire," Xander muttered when he found Spike at the far end of the hall. Giles' HQ was definitely on the cool side.  It was a huge warehouse with the back portion divided into offices and hallways and the front half one big room.  The two halves were connected by an open roof structure that towered high above the inside offices.  Spike stood at the door that led into the main warehouse, his head cocked to one side, and Xander held his breath as he waited to see if things were clear. When Xander finally got to Spike's side, Spike gave him an odd look and then pointed up.

Xander tilted his head up and considered the network of rafters and braces and roof struts. Eyes wide, he shook his head madly. No way was he going up. First, that made them perfect targets for anyone who wanted to shoot at them. Second, no. Just no. He wasn't doing it.

Spike leaned close. "It's that or fight. I'm not killing because you're acting like a nit. Now move." Spike grabbed Xander's arm hard enough to make Xander flinch, and suddenly the ghosts surrounded them. A young version of Spike with curled, brown hair and glasses stood close to Spike's left side. Victims drifted in and out of focus--pale faces and bloodied necks were testament to how they died. A few women and one man actually stared at Spike like he was chocolate, even as they fingered their torn necks, and Xander so did not want to know what would inspire that sort of reaction.

Suddenly one shadow screamed and threw herself at Spike, her hands held out like claws. Xander sucked in a breath and jerked back against Spike's firm hold, but he couldn't escape and the woman with vivid red hair stained with mud crashed into Spike before scattering like dust.

"Bloody hell. What the fuck is the matter with you, mate?" Spike got nose to nose with Xander, his eyes flashing with yellow.

"Um, lots?" Xander offered an innocent smile, but Spike just looked at him oddly and then reached up to grab one of the support struts along the side of the warehouse.

"Climb or I'll drag you up," Spike ordered, pulling Xander closer to the wall.

"Has anyone ever called you pushy?"

"You. Usually when I'm trying to keep you from doing something stupid."

Xander couldn't exactly argue with that, so he started climbing up the side of the warehouse. Spike leaped up, passing Xander easily as he climbed up into the high roof structures.

"Show off," Xander complained. Moving in the shadows, Xander moved carefully across the main room of the warehouse. This was Giles' batcave, and from the looks of things below, they had just come in from a fight. Three cars were parked at odd angles, their doors all open. Yet no one was near them. And now that Xander concentrated, he could smell the scent of wet metal that normally meant he was nose deep in blood. The scent brought back memories of slayers dying in his arms, young women with guts torn out, and for a second, Xander really thought he might throw up. He wasn't entirely sure how these people would react to random vomit falling from their ceiling, so he closed his eyes and tried to ride out the nausea.

Spike stopped, holding up a hand, and Xander froze. Spike was going something on the beam, creeping closer to a spot where a steel beams met in a spoke-like pattern. Staring at it, Xander could see a smoke-ghost gather again, this time an image of Giles' father, which was weird because he wasn't dead.

Xander glanced down toward the floor of the warehouse two stories below them. He hoped Giles' father wasn't dead. Xander actually like the hunter. He believed Xander and brought him books, and explained which of the things in the Supernatural books were real, which pretty much came down to all of them. He also had a wicked sense of humor about all the stupid things the Winchester boys did. He seemed to be of the opinion that their father was all kinds of an idiot for not looking for older hunters who had more information about all the things that went bump in the night. As someone who had to figure out supernatural stuff on his own, Xander actually had a lot of sympathy for the boys. They'd had all sorts of suckage in their lives, so the fact they weren't at the bottom of a bottle trying to pickle their livers proved how strong they were.

However, if Xander was seeing Giles' father, did that mean the man had died in whatever had brought all the others running back to the warehouse? Xander watched the ghost hunter scoot farther up the strut before taking out a ghost blowtorch and starting to chant. A rune. There was a rune there.

Xander blinked, and suddenly the whole warehouse lit up. Runes and ghost figures painting runes filled the room, and Xander could see a ghost image of Spike crossing the floor, runes lighting up like Christmas trees as he crossed them.

Fuck. Giles' and his crew were way more badass than Xander's Giles. Actually, boobytrapping the headquarters was so smart that Xander suddenly wondered why they hadn't ever done that. They could have saved themselves some drama if they'd set up wards around Buffy's various houses.

Xander started moving closer, holding on to the upper struts as he crab-walked closer. There was another rune just to Spike's right, but he was focused on the one in front of him. He hadn't seen the other.

"Get back," Spike hissed when Xander got close.

"Runes. They're an alarm system."

"Think I figured that out on my own. Now stop before you go tripping into one." Spike had passed snark behind and he snarled the words with real anger. He didn't want to go to war with Giles. Xander could respect that.

"There's one in front of you and one about five feet behind you on the same strut," Xander said.

The yellow vanished from Spike's gaze and he studied Xander. "You can see 'em?" Oddly, Spike sounded like he might actually believe Xander.

Xander nodded. Looking at the roof structure, he could see the runes start to glow.

"Do you want an engraved invitation, ya nit? If you can see them, get us over them," Spike said, waving his hand toward the far end of the warehouse.

Xander nodded and moved slowly over to Spike's position, trying to slip around him. Spike caught him by the waist, holding him firmly as Xander passed. Xander's vision flashed like an overdeveloped photograph, and then the sense of there being too much light faded and he could see the runes again. Moving forward, he carefully picked his way over the glowing marks, detouring entirely around one that seemed to send up a soft mist that rose from the metal beam to drift slowly to the corrugated roof.

By the time Xander had worked his way over to the end of the warehouse, Xander could feel his balance start to fail a little. The world wobbled, and then Spike was at his back, slipping his arm around Xander's stomach. Xander's vision flashed again, and he sucked in a deep breath.

"Almost there, pet," Spike whispered. Xander nodded and looked back toward the rear of the warehouse. No one was in sight, and he started down the wall as fast as he could. Not surprisingly, Spike dropped down, landing gracefully on the ground before moving toward the door. Xander ended up dropping the last few feet, but he nearly fell on his face as the world wobbled.

Spike turned, and in a flash he'd moved to a spot in front of Xander, bending over. Just about the time Spike's shoulder touched Xander's stomach, Xander opened his mouth to ask bloodbreath what he thought he was doing. However, another wave of dizziness hit him, and Xander found himself tumbling forward, only to land across Spike's shoulder. He had the vague sense of movement as Spike headed for the door, but then the darkness swallowed Xander.

Part Eight

Xander woke slowly, his head stuffed with cotton. Or snot. It might be snot. Either way, his head definitely had too much of something in it. It felt hot and overstuffed and achy. Groaning, Xander tried to roll onto his side and that was his first hint that something was horribly, terrifyingly wrong. Something pulled tight against his wrist, preventing him from turning.

Cracking one eye open, Xander looked down to see a strap over his chest, and when he pulled at his other hand, that was also pinned to the bed. Okay, arms pinned to his side was bad, not as bad as pinned over his head, though. And whatever held him was soft, like padded leather. That was both more comfortable and more disturbing than handcuffs.

A quick tug at his legs revealed that his ankles were also cuffed, and this was so not good. He was in the world's tackiest hotel with hula dancer wall paper and rattan furniture that had escaped from the set of the Golden Girls, and he was chained to bed under a blindingly orange bedspread. This was perfect.

"Right then, you're awake."

"Spike?" Xander turned his head to find Spike leaning back in a chair, one boot propped up on the edge of the Xander’s bed. Worse, he stared down with a predatory look that definitely didn't make Xander feel any better.

"I'm not the sodding Easter bunny."

"Wrong ears for it." Xander grinned, but he didn't even get one of Spike's famous eye rolls. nope, one eyebrow twitch, and Spike was right back to his cold-hard bastard look. "Um, is something wrong? And actually, I'm hoping something is wrong because if nothing is wrong and you've just taken to tying me to beds, this is a little awkward."

Spike let the front feet of his chair hit the floor with a loud thump, and then he leaned forward. "You tell me."

Xander stared up. Okay, Spike could be a little hard to read sometimes. He had the whole enigma thing going for him, and he worked it well. However, this was a little too mysterious, even for him. "Um, what I am telling you?" Xander finally asked.

"I don't know. Wot do you need to tell me?"

Xander felt a little like he’d fallen into the middle of an Abbot and Costello routine. "If this is a riddle, we're going to be here for a really, really long time. Longer than human bladders can actually hold out sort of long time,” Xander warned.

"Do you have a human bladder?"

"What? Okay, I'm pretty sure I haven't had any alien organ transplants lately, so the answer to that would he a ‘hell yes.’ Seriously, Spike, what is wrong with you?”

Spike leaned closer and studied him so intensely that Xander squirmed. "Bloody hell, you don't know, do you?"

"I never was exactly good with riddles, so no. I don't know. All I know is that you're being weirdly presoulish, and presoul you scared the snot out of me. Well, actually souled you is pretty scary too, but the snot doesn't come out around souled you."
Spike snorted and leaned back in his chair. "It's you, alright. I don't' think there's a git in any universe that can string together as many illogical thoughts into one sentence."

"It's a skill," Xander agreed with a grin. "And I'm still feeling weirdly unlooplike here, Spike. Would you like to explain why you've suddenly decided to go for a little Xander-bondage?" Xander felt the heat rush to his face as he said that. Bondage definitely implied things that he had totally not been planning to imply. Xander expected Spike torture over that little slip. He waited for the gleeful teasing, but instead, Spike completely ignored the opportunity to verbally humiliate him. Something was definitely wrong.

"Would you like to explain why you're suddenly breathing optional?"

Xander blinked as his brain ran that one through a second time, just to make sure he’d heard it right. “Did you say… I'm what? Okay, breathing is not optional, and you are not making any sense."

"Really? Spike sucked air through his front teeth, which was never a good sign. That meant that Spike was feeling particularly confident in his ability to verbally or literally eviscerate someone. "So in that warehouse, you didn't decide to stop breathing?"

"Uh, no," Xander said in his most “no-duh” voice, and he might have said more, only Spike pounced. His hands came up to Xander's face, covering his mouth and nose. Xander squirmed and bucked and tried to bite Spike's palm, but he didn't have a chance of winning a fight under the best of circumstances. Tied down to a bed, there really wasn't much doubt as to the outcome.

Xander braced himself for the coming unconsciousness as his lung struggled and failed to bring in any air. And he waited. And waited. And the colors in the world started fading, a mist rose and ghost hands began to appear from the fog, but other than hallucinations, Xander was definitely not reacting to a total loss of air.

"I'd suspect you weren't my Xander, but Willow's tracking spell took alternate realities into account and from the stupid look on your face, you truly didn't know you'd joined the unbreathing masses." Spike suddenly let go, and Xander sucked in a breath that he really didn't need.

"Holy shit," Xander whispered.

"Not much holy about it, pet. So then, start talking."

A wave of lightheadedness crashed over Xander, leaving him clutching at the sheets under him. He had no idea if hunger, lack of air, or a sudden redefining of reality caused it, but he definitely didn't feel up to anything other than twenty of thirty years of healthy denial. "Any chance I could get something to eat first?"

"I don't know. Do you plan to eat me?"

Xander started to laugh, but the absolutely cold look on Spike's face made the sound stick in his throat. "Um. What?"

"In that warehouse, you drained energy off me, and suddenly you were throwing yourself from beam to beam like a regular demon, luv. So you tell me, what exactly do you plan to eat?"

"I'd thought maybe cheeseburgers," Xander said weakly. "Seriously? Like are you sure you weren't imagining things? You know, a flashback to the land of crazy Spike?" After the words came out, Xander realized that he probably didn't want to call the guy who'd tied him to a bed "crazy." Well, not until he was untied, anyway.

Spike eyed him for a long time before going over to a chair and picking up a plastic grocery sack. I've got cold burritos or a sack of apples."

"Burritos. Yum," Xander quickly said. Spike rolled his eyes.

"The shite you eat, I'm surprised you survived this long. I'm not untying you until you can explain what's going on, so you'll just have to live with getting fed."

"Awkward-land."

"Suck it up, Harris. I'm not letting a baby demon who doesn't even have a quarter century under his bloody belt eat me."

"I didn't—" Xander stopped when Spike's eyes flashed yellow. "Fine, but I didn't mean to," he amended his protest.

"That's the soddin' terrifying part. You're not in control of whatever's happening, so until I get some straight answers out of you, I plan to treat you like a fledge in bloodlust."

Xander's face flushed as he thought of all those books of Giles' that he wasn't supposed to read and he read anyway. He knew what Angelus had done to Dru, and what Darla had done to Angelus and what Angelus had done to Spike. Fledges definitely got the fuzzy and sexual end of the lollipop of life.

"Oh for... I'm not a monster, you pillock, and I don't plan to treat you like my fledge." Spike dropped into the chair next to Xander's bed.

"Hey, I didn't say anything."

"It was written on your face clear enough." Tearing open the wrapper, Spike pulled a chunk of burrito off and when Xander opened his mouth to defend himself, Spike shoved the food in. Xander glared as he chewed, but he really couldn't do much else.

"So then, a quick update." Spike smiled, clearly enjoying his ability to fill Xander's mouth every time he tried to join the conversation. "You went missing out of your room. Seeing as how Willow has that place sewn up tighter than a nun's britches, we figured there was something magical going on. Luckily, she'd put a tracker on you after you came home to visit from Africa and that let her track you here."

"Mmmhmph." Xander had a whole lot to say about that. Willow tracking him without his permission felt very invady, and he had issues with people invading his privacy. However, Spike kept shoving food in, so Xander kept his lips shut.

“She tried hauling your sorry arse home, but it seems like something was holding you here. Since we’re running pretty quiet, I offered to come and babysit while Willow figures out why her magic is going all wonky when she tries to access this one dimension.”

Xander chewed as he thought about Eve and her insistence that Xander had to be her new son. Did Eve have the mojo to block Willow? And clearly someone who was the mother of all monsters did have some street cred, but still. Blocking Willow was kind of scary.

“Right then. You look like you’ve come to some conclusions. Spit ‘em out.” Spike had shoved about half the burrito in, but he wrapped the rest up and set it on the bedside table. Xander chewed as fast as he could because he definitely wanted to talk to Spike about this stuff. Maybe Spike would be able to understand Eve’s game, although Xander was definitely not ever admitting how good it had felt to be near her.

“There was a woman named Eve.”

“A woman. Bloody hell, Harris. You and women are a dangerous combination. Between the ones that want to cut off your bits and the ones that want to take you home and tie you to a bed, you should know to steer clear of them by now.”

“I did ask Willow to gay me up at one point,” Xander admitted. “I do know my track record stinks, but apparently this one wanted me for a son.”

Spike frowned.

“Yeah, that was my reaction. I don’t really have a good track record with parents any more than with women, so having a strange woman want to parent me was feeling a little not-so-goodish. But she said she needed me to be her alpha and—”

“She what?” Spike’s hand darted out and caught Xander’s arm in a hard grip.

“Ouch.”

“Focus, nit. Did she call you an alpha?”

“That’s what I said.”

“You say a lot of things that are only tangentially related to reality.”

Xander frowned. “What?”

And that earned him a Spike eye roll. “There are some old legends, pet. Real old. So, are you one hundred percent sure she called you an alpha?”

Xander’s stomach did a flip. From the expression on Spike’s face, he was about to be totally and completely screwed if he said yes, but she had. She’d called him an alpha. Xander slowly nodded.

Spike exploded off his chair. “Fucking hell. I swear, when we get home I’m chaining you to my bed so I can keep an eye on you. You can’t even be trusted to sit in your own room in the most secure house on the fucking planet.” Spike paced furiously, only getting a few steps in the small room before he had to wheel around and reverse direction.

“Spike, you’re freaking me out here.”

Spike stopped and looked at him, and he was in full demon face—eyes, teeth, ridges and all. Yep, that was on cranky demon. “I know you weren’t an alpha before, so you tell me what she said.”

Xander repeated as much of the strange conversation as he remembered, and Spike slowly sank down into a chair. The demon features faded, and by the time Xander described how he’d accidentally killed the murdering truck driver, Spike looked utterly exhausted. It kind of scared Xander.

“Of all the blokes who’d kill to get chosen, and she’s got to get her claws into you.” Spike ran a hand over his face and sighed.

“Um, her who? Eve? You know her?”

“If she’s Tiamat the way she said she was, yeah. She’s been in our world.”

“Slayed? Banished?” Xander guessed.

Spike snorted. “Story has it she got bored and left to find a new world. Humans were so thrilled to be rid of her they started telling stories about how their hero had ripped her apart and shoved her body down into the void for the world to rest on. Not bloody likely; she was one of the old ones, like Illyria.”

“Your blue friend with the delusions of godhood?” Xander asked. He’d never met Illyria, but she’d taken over one of the Angel crew and apparently had some scary powers. Xander had suggested she’d be an interesting person to meet exactly once, and Buffy had nearly given birth to a litter of technicolored demons.

“She didn’t have delusion, luv. She’d been a god, and Tiamat was another of her sort. Some said Tiamat was the oldest of them, the mother. The others couldn’t find a way to destroy Illyria, only lock her away, so the odds of them destroying Tiamat aren’t exactly good.”

“That’s what she meant by calling herself the mother of all monsters,” Xander said softly.

Spike nodded. “Seems like. The Watchers have their legends about how the last demon on earth bit a human and passed a bit of the demon on before being banished, that it was some last curse on humanity. I don’t know a vampire alive who believes that. Most of the old ones, like old bat-faced Heinrich talked about the alphs.”

“Alphas?” Xander guessed.

“Alpha, the first letter of the Greek alphabet came from the Phoenician letter alph, which the humans lifted straight from a demonic language.”

“Your geek’s showing,” Xander warned Spike, teasing to lighten up the mood. It didn’t work. In fact, Spike’s glare made everything so much very worse.

“Alph means ‘ox.’ They were the first children, demons not as strong or as pure as old ones, but able to mutate into new forms, strong enough to defeat about anyone who went up against them, and capable of creating children they could control. Old bat-face always claimed he could hear the distant voice of the alph who had created the vampires.”

“Oh this is not good.” Xander’s stomach rumbled as the burrito threatened to come back up. She’d turned him into a really scary monster. This was so much worse than getting vamped.

“You never make it easy, do you?” Spike asked.

“Hey, I’m the one who got kidnapped and demonified. I think I’m the one with the right to complain.”

“I think we’re both in a mess,” Spike corrected him. “If Eve’s turned you into an alph, there’s no soddin’ way Willow can pull you back through into our dimension. It would be like trying to pull a musk ox though a hole big enough for a rat terrier.”

“Hey, you fit thought that dimensional hole too, buddy. Watch who you’re calling a rat terrier.”

“Says the man tied to a bloody bed.” Spike made a face. “No offense, Harris, but you don’t have the right skill set to be a demon.”

“You think I don’t know this? I suck at being a demon. I killed some guy by accident. My first big move was to track down a hunter and say, ‘hey, here I am.’ I didn’t even know I fed on you and I definitely didn’t know I’d stopped breathing. I may have been a questionable human, but you and I can agree that I am totally incompetent as a demon,” Xander hurried to agree. Strangely , that earned him a crooked smile from Spike.

“Right then, so we’ve got two goals. When Willow gets in contact, we try to see if we can undo whatever Eve did. If she tapped into some magic you have from being around the hellmouth, maybe Red can block that. Second, we need to teach you how to be a demon.”

Xander shook his head. “Oh no. I am not taking demon lessons, bloodbreath.”

“If you don’t, you may wake up with bloodbreath yourself, Harris. If you’re going to have powers, I’m going to make sure you can control them well enough that you don’t feed off me… or any innocent bystanders.” Spike got an almost gleeful cruelty on his face. Xander knew that look all too well. “You’ve got a whole lot to learn.” Spike wiggled his eyebrows and Xander just let his head fall back onto the pillow before closing his eyes.

Part Nine

"Okay, try again, and this time don’t cock it up,” Spike warned.

Xander glared at Spike but he held his breath. It was better than having Spike shove a pillow over his face again. The cheap hotel pillows were seriously itchy.

Xander held his breath as the second ticked past. In just a few minutes, Xander's lungs started getting twitchy, even if technically they didn't need oxygen. As the time stretched, the ghosts started to form out of the motes of dust. Every time Xander did this, human Spike... which would be William... always appeared first. With his soft curls and wire glasses, he was definitely not the same as Spike. But at the same time, Xander could almost see parts of Spike in him... or him in Spike. Xander watched as William drifted around Spike, his gaze always on his alter ego.

Maybe William was the soul.

Spike interrupted his train of thought. "Right then, are they back?"

"Yep," Xander said, and instinct made him breathe again and the ghosts scattered.

With a sigh, Spike glared at him. "You bloody little twit. You did that on purpose."

"Hey, it's normal. I've spent over two decades of breathing."

"And every time you breathe, you stop using those powers of yours. How can we test this if you bollocks it up every time?" Spike leaned close, yellow eyes glaring at Xander, and that was not a good expression.

Xander pulled at the restraints. "Oh, I don't know. You could untie me and we could do something like walk down to the cafe and test it in the real world."

"After you tried to eat me? Not bloody likely, mate." Spike snorted at he whirled around and headed for the hotel window to look outside again. Yep, the bleached one was twitchy about something, not that he was going to tell Xander. Xander could inherit all the super-powered Alpha coolness he wanted, and Spike was still going to treat him like a giant goober. It was like some universe rule of cool, as in Xander couldn’t have any.

"I never tried to eat you,” Xander complained.

Spike kept his attention focused out the window, watching from the crack between the puke green panels. "You fed off my energy."

"Not intentionally."

Spike snorted. "Right then, that makes it all better. I'll still be soddin' dead, but it won't count because you won't have meant it.” Glancing over his shoulder, Spike demanded, “Exactly where did you learn logic, Harris?"

"Hey, it's better than you. You were trying to eat me all though high school."

"I was not." Spike actually had the nerve to look offended.

"Yes, you were."

"Were not."

"You hit me over the head and dragged me to your secret lair. A secret vampire lair. That wasn't exactly friendly."

Spike turned and gave Xander his full attention. "I planned to kill you, you nit, not eat you."

"Oh, that makes it so much better." Xander rolled his eyes. He knew food groups, and Spike had looked at Xander like he was the sugariest most fattening food group in the world. He looked at Xander like Xander was that guilty late night snack that you didn’t want to admit you inhaled in one sitting. Actually, Angel had always given him the same look, which explained Xander’s Angel-issues.

"Bloody right, it does make a difference. Eating someone when you know their name is just rude. That's the sort of shite Angelus gets up to."

"Oh yeah, and you only kill people you don’t know. That’s totally better." Xander sighed and stared at the ceiling. "Why are we fighting about this again?"

Spike crossed the room and sat down in the chair next to Xander. "Because you're a stubborn git who won't hold his breath long enough to test out how far this streak of demonic goes. You're a bloody alph, love. I've never even met one of the old one's children. Even old Heinrich was a twelfth century vamp, and the old ones had been gone a good five thousand years before that. We don't know if you're going to lose control and start feeding on the world."

"Spike, the only think I have a craving for is Cheetos. I'm having a Cheetos craving that could drop a horse."

"I'm not going to the market again."

"But Spike...." Xander let his voice trail off in a whine.

"Not listening," Spike sing-songed.

"But I'm seriously hungry for Cheetos. Come on, I'm dying here."

"Forget it."

"But my knickers are really bunchy, here," Xander tried.

That earned him another Spike glare. "You don't have permission to use any British phrases. Ever."

Xander gave Spike a cheeky grin. "Hey, I'm an alpha. How do you plan to stop me?"

"Sit on you," Spike threatened.

“You can try, bloodbreath.” Before Xander could say any more, Spike had leaped on him, straddling his waist and bracing his hands on Xander's shoulders, pinning him even more firmly to the bed, as if being tied hand and foot wasn't enough.

"Don't care wot you are, you'll bloody listen to me before we have an accident." Spike snarled the words, all humor gone. Xander froze, captured by Spike's yellow gaze. For long seconds they stared at each other. The ghosts began to form, first William and then Darla, for some reason. She didn't normally show up, but she wandered the edges of the room, giving Xander that superior gaze that made it clear she considered him a lower life form. Minutes passed, and Xander flinched as Spike's fingers dug into the soft spot of his shoulders. Spike's victims started to drift through the shadows, half-specters that faded in and out of reality.

Spike sat up, stretching his neck from one side to another. Xander tried very hard to not notice that Spike was sitting right on his crotch. The pressure was doing very odd things that Xander really didn't want to think about. “Do not breathe. You bloody nod or shake your head, but if you so much as think about breathing, you’re going to find out how a sire disciplines a recalcitrant fledge, understand?” Pointing a thin finger in Xander’s face, Spike growled his words.

Xander nodded. Soulded Spike could inspire terror just as well as pre-souled Spike. Xander learned something new every day.

"Right then. Is William back?”

Xander nodded.

“Is Darla here?”

Xander sucked in a shocked breath.

Spike’s eyes turned yellow.

“Sorry!” Xander hurried to say. “In my defense, that was a little out of left field. I didn’t know you’d guess that she’d showed up.” Xander stopped. “Wait. How did you know she was here?”

“Simple, pet. She wasn’t actually here.” Spike ran his tongue along the inside of his lower lip. At some point in the last few years, Xander had learned to read Spike fluently because that meant that he was feeling superior.

“I really hope she’s not literally here because that whole school-girl thing she had going kind of creeps me out." Xander shivered as he thought about Darla’s Catholic girl outfit. There was something really wrong about a vicious vamp dressed up like a little girl. Then again, vampires probably thought it was really unfair to have an ass-kicking slayer called Buffy.

"Once a whore..." Spike let his words trail off. "So, what was she doing?"

"Do you mean other than looking at me like I'm a bug?"

Spike nodded and leaned back, which put more pressure in places that Xander really didn't want to think about. "Good."

"Um, is that a good that Darla thinks I'm a bug or good that you can scare me into breathing?”

“I’m trying to get you to focus.”

“Yeah, yeah, Xander sucks on the demon front. I already admitted that, Spike. So, how did you know Darla would show up?”

Spike turned and leaped off the bed before going back to the window. “Because I was thinking about her.”

“And…” Xander let his word trail off in a clear invitation for Spike to continue. Knowing Spike, if Xander demanded an explanation, Spike would take great pleasure in ignoring him.

“You’re seeing thoughts, luv. I think about Darla, and she appears in your visions.”

“No, I’m not. I mean, every time I hold my breath, you have all these victims…” Xander stopped when Spike turned and looked at him with an utterly dead expression.

Swallowing, Xander tried mentally sort through that fact. Angel, sure. Angel was obsessed with his crimes. But Spike wasn’t broody-boy. He was strong and confident and definitely not haunted by a hundred years of murder. That’s just not how Xander saw Spike. But if Xander was seeing Spike’s thoughts…

“All the time?” Xander asked softly.

Spike turned and glared. “I was a bad man, never denied it.”

“But you think about it? All the time?”

Spike made a strange face. “Don’t seem right to pretend they didn’t exist. I know what I did. I don’t need you talking about it.”

“Right. No talking.” Xander clamped his mouth closed as the need to talk about this nearly overwhelmed him. How could Spike think about all his victims all the time and not go bug-ass crazy? Turning his back, Spike went back to watching out the window. Right, that was a way safer topic.

“What’s with the window-watching, Spike?”

“Bloody hell, Harris. I broke you out of a hunter’s lair. I’m fairly sure Rupert’s coming after us.”

“Giles?”

Spike left the window and stood over Xander. “You’re demon, luv. You’re a soddin’ alph. And this Rupert Giles is a mite bit more militant than ours, and ours isn’t exactly a fluffy bunny. Exactly what do you think they’re going to do when they find you gone?”

“Um, say ‘good riddance?’” Xander said with a hopeful look. Spike’s cold glare pretty much said everything that needed to be said on that theory. “Should we be running, Spike? I mean, I really don’t want to fight with Giles, and let’s face it, seeing ghosts is not exactly a great superpower.”

“And draining creatures of their lifeforce.”

Xander cringed. “I’m trying to repress that one.”

“That’s what worries me.” Spike ran a finger through his hair. “You’re not safe on your own, but we’re not safe here. We wait too long and we’re going to end up having to go up against this universe’s Rupert.”

“Maybe not. Maybe he won’t find us,” Xander said. Spike didn’t even bother answering. “Right, because no way is Giles the obsessive do anything to get his demon sort,” Xander added wearily. “Okay, problem one is that you won’t unlock me from the bed. And while the lack of having to pee is both convenient and freaking me out a little, this is not going to work long-term if we’re running from hunters.” With that, Xander pulled on the shackles.

Sucking in his cheeks, Spike spent a long time considering Xander. Until the ghosts showed up, Xander didn’t even realize he’d started holding his breath. Angel was there… or Angelus anyway. He stood to the side of Spike looking at him with this hungry predator’s expression that made a cold shiver go up Xander’s spine. The victims were relegated to the edges of the vision, but Angelus seemed to grow larger and larger, his hand coming up to catch Spike around the neck.

“Um, Spike, what are you thinking about?” Xander asked, and for a half second, Angelus turned that scary leer toward Xander before he faded out of existence.

“If you can’t control those powers, you’re going to kill someone else,” Spike said.

“And that would requiring thinking about Angelus why?” There was definitely something rattling around in Spike’s head.

“Now you bloody use your powers.” With a dramatic sigh, Spike dropped into the chair.

“Um, is this something that’s going to freak me out?”

Spike pursed his lips.

“Oh god. How bad is this?”

Leaning back, Spike propped his foot on the edge of the bed. “You get out of hand, and people are going to die. If we’re on the road, you need to listen to me. No questions, no hesitation, pet.”

“And that makes you think about Angelus?” Xander could feel sweat gather along his spine because this was feeling like very dangerous territory.

“I’ll do what I have to, Harris.” Spike leaned in close, his boot pressing on the edge of the bed so that Xander tilted toward him. “I won’t have you turning evil, and if that means that I need to keep you in hand until you have control over these powers, I have no problem with that.”

“But Buffy…”

“Isn’t here. Besides, seeing as how you’re a demon now, that puts you in my court. So, let’s talk about the ground rules if I’m going to let you off that bed.”

Xander swallowed. This was so not how he’d imagined his rescue going. Totally not. Actually, Spike’s rescues looked a whole lot like Spike’s kidnappings.

Part Ten

Xander pulled at the ropes around his wrists. “This really isn’t necessary, Spike.” The heavy rope led down between Xander’s legs and attached to the bottom of the car seat. It wouldn’t be so bad except that one, the rope itched and two, Spike’s driving was as scary as ever.

“Better than having you snack on the local population.”

“Which I’m not going to do.”

Spike took time away from watching the road to really glare at Xander.

“Road. Road. Spike, there’s a road there. Crashes. Death.”

With a snort, Spike turned his attention back to the road. “We’re demons. Short of the car blowing up, a crash isn’t going to do us much harm.”

“You, Spike. A crash isn’t going to do you much harm. Me? I’m thinking I’m still pretty vulnerable. There’s no evidence that I’m anything other than Xander with a few upgrades.”

“You’re an alph, a demon created by one of the old ones. Do you really think a car accident is going to stop you?”

Xander frowned. Put that way, it did sound a little questionable. “I would rather not test out your theory. This is me, Spike. Think about all the bad luck I’ve had over the years.” Actually, Xander’s well documented bad luck had actually gotten him driven out of four separate villages in Africa. Witch doctors backed up by locals wielding machetes had chased him all the way to the next village so he could infect them with his bad luck.

“Let’s see,” Spike said. “You mouthed out to Angelus and lived. You got between me and my love spell and lived. You went up against an ascended demon and lived. You got magical syphilis and lived. You bloody went up against the First evil and soddin’ lived. You met an old one and got adopted, you git. That doesn’t sound like a bad track record. Hell, Harris, I’m not sure what you could survive with Tiamat’s power in you.” Spike actually sounded a little disgusted by that.

“You just listed about a dozen things that most people never have to suffer through.”

“And lots of happy meals in that little town never survived having even one of those things happen. Stop feeling sorry for yourself Harris or I’m going to start using another piece of bondage equipment.” Xander opened his mouth to answer before it occurred to him exactly what Spike might mean. Then he closed his mouth so fast that his teeth clicked.

Leaning back into the seat, Xander watched another sign for Chicago go by the window. “Bully,” Xander said softly. He spent some time seriously working on his visions, but practice was boring. He hadn’t liked practicing math equations as a kid, and this was feeling vaguely homework. “Why weren’t you surprised that I’m back to having two eyes?” Xander suddenly demanded.

“That’s what has your panties in a bunch?” Spike sounded incredulous.

“Hey, I went from one eye to two eyes, so you can’t say you weren’t surprised.”

“Red offered to replace that missing eye years ago.”

“Yeah, and I said I didn’t want a magicked eye.”

Spike took a long time to answer. “First, I was more focused on saving your sorry arse. Second, from the time I walked in that room, I could tell that something had happened. You smelled different.”

“I’d been locked in a room with no bathtub. Different is one way to put it.”

“Bloody hell, pet. I lived in your basement.”

“And?”

“And you weren’t exactly well acquainted with the washing machine.”

Xander snickered as he recalled Spike’s own adventured with washing machines.

“At least I tried to wash my kit,” Spike snapped, so Xander was pretty sure he was remembering the same disaster. “But you went months without washing those sheets, so the basement had more of your stink than it did mold. I know your scent, and it’s shifted. I was more concerned about that. I thought for a second that you were some sort of shifter playing Xander, but then you opened your mouth.”

“So the whole eye thing worried you less than my smell?”

“I’ve known blokes that could change their eyes out.”

“Seriously? Okay, that’s gross.” Xander made a face. He wouldn’t even use a glass eye because the thought of shoving things in the hole made his stomach churn. Spike didn’t have another comment, so Xander spent a little more time watching the empty road. Spike was using the smaller highways and at two or three in the morning, there wasn’t much traffic. Mostly it was farms, farms, little clusters of houses at crossroads and cows. There were a lot of cows in this part of the country. There wasn’t much to keep Xander’s attention, and Spike had firmly vetoed the country music station, so conversation was all they had. Xander tried again.

“So, do you think Willow’s going to be able to get us home?” Xander pulled against the rope. Fact was, Willow could get Spike home any time. He was the only one stuck. Spike grunted. Xander waited a respectable period of time before he tried yet another tactic. “So, do you want me to read more of those Supernatural books to you as you drive?”

“Bloody hell, no,” Spike snapped. “If those two hunters are real, they need a soddin’ keeper more than you do, Harris. Makes my gut ache the way those fools go rushing in like idiots.”

“Hey! I like them.”

“You bloody would. They’re all heart and not enough sense between them ta keep out of trouble.”

“They fight evil, and they don’t even have cool slayer powers.”

“They’re pawns in this war and they don’t have the good sense to take themselves out of the fight.”

Xander swallowed. That sounded a little ominous. “You can’t mean they should…”

Spike rolled his eyes. “Hang it up and take one corner of the world ta protect instead of shoving all over the country where they’re vulnerable. That Bobby has the good sense to settle in a place where he has a network to protect him, but those two boys are running around the country trying to con everyone they meet. Their luck is bound to run out.”

Xander frowned. He liked the way they weren’t stuck in some stupid little town with exactly one place to go at night. Although Sunnydale did have places other than the Bronze, most of them catered to things that ate humans, making them a little less than safe.

“They’re fighting evil.”

“Evil’s everywhere, luv. And if you start fucking a demon, you know you’re on the wrong path.”

“Hey!” Xander protested. “Ahn—”

“She’d already hung up her horns before you dated her.”

“And Buffy dated lots of demons,” Xander shot right back. If Sam had found a little love in the arms of Ruby, Xander got that. Totally. Sometimes it was hard to not fall for demons because they were sexy and hot and really sexy. Xander glanced over at Spike. Yep, wrong gender and he was still sexy as hell. That was one demonic power Xander would like to get, but he doubted it. He’d pretty much been a professional goofy boy since age twelve.

Spike sucked air through his front teeth. Exactly. Xander smiled in triumph at winning that round, but two seconds later, he frowned.

“Wait. Did I just defend demons?”

“You’re one of us now.” Spike’s cheekbones got sharper as he smirked. “But then I think Buffy has more than a little demon in her. Those two Winchester boys are playing with fire if they think they can swim in that end of the pool. Enough about them. I have my hands full with you. So, get to practicing.”

Xander opened his mouth, and Spike’s hand snapped up, a finger pointed right at Xander’s nose. “You’ve tried avoidin’ working with your powers about every which way you can. Enough is enough. One more word and you’re gagged.” And Spike didn’t even smile. Xander closed his mouth. Practice. Right.

Holding his breath, he watched while William appeared in the mist, a pad of paper and a pencil in his hand as he peered at Xander through his glasses and recorded little scratches before sucking on the end of his pencil. A strangled laugh slipped out of Xander as he realized that he was seeing Spike’s interest in him, Spike’s geeky science-obsessed self. William totally would have been one to pal around with Willow.

Spike mumbled some odd curses, and Xander decided to go with being quiet as a church mouse. While he didn’t think Spike would gag him, he hadn’t thought Spike could strap him down to a bed or tie his hands, either. Clearly the rules had changed some.

A bloody hand clawed at Spike’s face a second before the rest of the victim came into view. Xander jerked back as he realized he knew her. She was Sheila something, the hard-core bad girl who Spike and Drusilla had eaten when they first showed up in Sunnydale. Why would Spike be thinking of her? Xander lost himself in his thoughts until Spike shouted his name. “Harris!”

Blinking, Xander looked at Spike. He was getting good at the not breathing by accident thing because William continued to sit with his body inside the car’s dash as he took notes.

“Right then, start to slowly breathe, but don’t lose the visions.”

“Um, breathing makes them go away,” Xander pointed out. The second he started talking, his lungs insisted on breathing in and the specters vanished.

“I’m going to gag you, Harris,” Spike growled. “That demon mother of yours told you that you were going to choose the nature of your powers, so you’ll start controlling this or I’m going to take a more direct approach to this siring shite.”

Xander felt the blood leave his face at that threat. “No need to get cranky.”

“Then follow my orders without bollocking up.”

“Right. No more bollocks.” Xander made a show out of taking a breath and holding it. This time Angelus appeared even before William. Yep, Spike was so not joking. Spike kept driving while Angelus made completely inappropriate sex faces. Slowly Angelus turned his head until he considered Xander. Slowly, Angelus moved closer, his mouth moving, although Xander didn’t get much more than ‘boyo.’

Xander waited until Angelus’ hand came up, reaching for him, and then Xander blurted out. “Oh no. No, no, no and hell to the no!” The second he took a breath, Angelus vanished.

“What the fuck are you doing, Harris?” Spike demanded in a tone that made it clear he was not even joking this time. He jerked the wheel and sent the car flying off toward the shoulder.

“Hey! Angelus. I breathed on purpose because that was me saying ‘no’ to your Angelusy thoughts.”

Spike slammed on the brakes so hard that Xander flew forward. With his hands tied, Xander couldn’t catch himself on his dash, so his face and the car just sort of met in the middle. Xander yelped as stars filled his vision, but Spike had already thrown the car into park and reached between the seats into the back.

“Not cool! Seriously, Spike, where did you learn how to drive? Maybe we should, I don’t know, take a train?”

“Right, you with all your untrained demon powers on a train full of happy meals. Harris, you’ll start listening to me or I’m going to make Angelus seem like a fluffy puppy. Clear?” Spike dug around in the stuff in the backseat.

Xander swallowed, not able to answer as he considered just how far Spike might take this training stuff. “I didn’t want the ghost Angelus to touch me.”

“Then you use your powers to stop him. If you don’t get control of yourself, you’re going to make a fatal mistake, and it’s not likely that you’ll be the one dying. Get that through your head.”

“I know that.”

“Then act like it. You’re not some helpless tyke, Harris.” Spike pushed himself back up, a red ball in hand. “You’ve got a dark side, luv, and we both know it. You want to go home? Really? Tell me, the first time some random bloke hurt your Willow’s feelings, wot do you think you’d do?”

“Make fun of his hair?” Xander guessed. In the past, that’d been his first, second, and third lines of defense, followed by insulting stupid accents and bad fashion.

Spike gave him a cold look, and Xander dropped his gaze. Okay, if he had the power to do something more drastic, maybe he’d throw a punch or two. “I wouldn’t kill them,” Xander said softly.

“Maybe you wouldn’t mean to the first or even the second times, but you’d do it, luv. You’d decide that if others struck at you and yours, that you’d strike back. The only reason you didn’t gut half of Sunnydale is that you didn’t have the power to. Chances are, you have the power now.”

Xander glared at Spike. “You’re exaggerating.” So far, the whole demon thing had been less than impressive. Xander was still the loser getting captured, requiring rescue, and generally getting pushed around by his friends. Very little had actually changed.

“You’re an alph,” Spike said firmly. “It’s likely you’ll develop some pretty substantial powers, innit? I’ll see you get control of these powers or I’m going to get clear of this entire dimension before all those little hurts and injuries you carry around start to fester.”

Xander started to shake his head, but Spike reached out and caught his chin. “Don’t,” he said firmly.

“But Spike—”

Spike’s fingers tightened until they pressed painfully against Xander’s jaw. “Unless you want to remember what it’s like to kill an orphanage full of fucking anklebiters because that’s what your friends and your bloody lover want, you’ll get control, Harris. You’ll get control now before the needs overpower your common sense. Now open your fucking mouth.”

The anger poured off Spike, at least Xander thought it was anger. However, he’d held his breathe long enough that the visions appeared, and dead and mangled children littered the car. Xander started to gag, which was helpful because it forced him to breathe. Spike held up the ball in front of Xander’s face, and when Xander opened his mouth to promise… well… anything, Spike pushed it in.

“Now close your bloody mouth and keep it closed. Seal those lips, Harris. Seal them and don’t you dare even think of spitting that out. Because right now, I’m starting to question how serious you are about getting control of these powers, and you do not what to know what I’ll do if I start thinking you’re a danger to yourself or the rest of the soddin’ world. Clear?” Spike demanded, his fingers still pressing deep into Xander’s face.

Xander nodded. The ball filled his mouth, but it wasn’t painful. Sinking his teeth into it, the rubber squished down until he could close his lips over it. Okay, it was a little humiliating, but Xander and humiliation were old friends. For a long time, Spike stared into face for some time before he snorted and finally let go of Xander’s face. Xander leaned down far enough that he could rub his chin with his bound hands.

“Soddin’ little nit,” Spike muttered before he put the car back into gear. “Practice with those visions,” Spike ordered.

Xander flinched. Right now he didn’t want to know what Spike was thinking.

With a loud sigh, Spike flicked on the radio to a classic rock station. “I ever tell you about the time I saw the Sex Pistols and the Clash in London? There was a two day festival in 1976, and I got stoned off my arse with Johnny Rotten.” Spike grinned and ran a tongue along the inside of his lower lip. “Now that man had talent.”

Xander thought Spike was doing him a favor by turning to more positive thoughts, but then a nice looking young man with bleached hair, earrings, and blue eyes appeared between Spike’s legs. Waggling his strawberry blond eyebrows, he turned his attention to Spike’s crotch. Oh boy. Clearly Spike’s Johnny Rotten stories were X-rated. Xander’s face heated up, and he focused on geeky William, who also seemed to be avoiding the sex show going on in memory land.

Right. Focus on breathing and seeing visions at the same time. Xander was almost glad he was gagged because without the ball shoved in his mouth, he so would have been saying something embarrassing right now. He totally would have. Spike and Johnny Rotten. And oddly, Xander wasn’t even shocked. He was, however, grateful that the visions didn’t come with surround sound because when he glanced out the side of his eye, Johnny Rotten was truly enjoying himself and Spike hummed along with the song on the radio as he drove.




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