Gray


by
Litgal



Part Eleven

Spike pulled off onto a half-circle worn into the grass at the side of the narrow road. Xander raised an eyebrow, but given Spike’s mood, he wasn’t prepared to spit out the gag and ask any questions. The longer he’d sat silent, the more he realized that he had been trying to use jokes to avoid having to deal with the nearly overwhelming fear that would catch at him when he wasn’t careful.

Spike was right. He had a mean side. He had an absolutely cruel side. When Oz had eaten O’Toole, Xander had felt a deepset satisfaction. And yeah, O’Toole had been a zombie bad guy, but Xander hadn’t even told Oz about the kill, and Oz was his friend. And when the hyena had taken over, Xander’s sudden urge to rape Buffy had sort of been totally him. And normally he repressed that so hard that even his subconscious didn’t think about it, but it was true.

And considering that he hadn’t been alive all that long, he had a pretty long list of people he’d like to see dead.

Spike got out, and the interior light of the car came on. Xander’s patience snapped and he opened his mouth to spit out the ball gag. Or he tried. Xander’s lips stuck together, and panic started to rise as Xander squirmed and struggled to get his mouth open. All he managed to do was make his jaw sore because his lips were superglued together only without the superglue.

Xander screamed for help, the air coming out through his nose and very little sound at all following it.

“Keep your knickers on. I’ll be there in a second,” Spike said as he rattled around in the trunk.

Xander screamed again, and now Spike seemed to be ignoring him. He pulled against the rope holding his wrists, but despite Spike’s fears that Xander was going to turn into some supercharged alpha, the rope held. So instead Xander brought his foot up and started kicking at the dash.

Spike ripped the passenger side door open. “Bloody hell, I’m going to hog tie you and shove you in the trunk if you keep this up, Harris.”

Xander looked up at Spike and screamed, “I can’t open my mouth.” Between the closed lips and the ball gag, it came out more like Mm mm mmm mm mmmmmm. Spike frowned and leaned closer.

Tilting his head back, Xander tried to get Spike to really look. It took a few seconds, but Spike’s fingers traced the edges of Xander’s lips and then pressed against them. Xander blinked as the feeling of soft hands over his face made him shiver. Okay, it had definitely been too long for him in the sex department if Spike was hitting his trigger.

Spike finally stood up and considered him with pursed lips.

“Mmmmmm?” Xander demanded.

Spike vamped out, going all ridges and fangs.

Xander glared.

“Lots of demon can control their own flesh, pet. It’s not a surprising power.” With that, Spike seemed pretty unruffled. Xander though still had plenty of ruffling. He pulled at his hands and moaned loudly since moaning was about all he could do.

“Fledges get stuck in game face all the time, not that I did, mind you,” Spike said with a smirk. “I never did have a problem getting my human face back on, but Drusilla picked up a few pets along the way that would get themselves in a tizzy over trying to change back.”

“Mmmmm?” Xander had to hope that Spike could correctly translate that into a request for information on how to fix the problem. Problem-having Xander knew well. Problem-fixing was a little harder.

Spike tilted his head and considered him. “I could chain you up and whip you until you change back, or in your case, open your mouth.”

All the blood left Xander’s face.

“Or I could just wait it out. You’ll change back eventually.” Reaching down, Spike pulled the end of the rope free from the car.

“Mmmmm.”

“Nope, those are about the only choices. Right then, if you want to go with the first choice, strip off those jeans and lean over the car. I’ll give you a whipping that will bring you to heel and get that mouth open.”

Xander glared at Spike.

“That’s what I thought.” Spike pulled Xander out of the car by the rope before winding it around his hand several times. This was hell. This was hell and he was in it. Xander knew all the shitty things he’d done in his life, but he didn’t think he deserved this.

With his other hand, Spike picked up a metal bucket and started across the low ditch that separated the road from the barbed wire fence. Xander wanted to know what the hell they were doing, but clearly Eve hadn’t given him the psychic powers upgrade so he was left trailing after Spike. The stupid bleached one was probably enjoying this.

Scratch that. He was definitely enjoying this. Xander grunted his annoyance.

Spike stopped at the barbed wire and put the bucket down.

"So then, here's the deal, pet. You're going to practice feeding without killing anyone."

Xander tried to pull back. He was not interested in feeding on anyone, but Spike used the rope leash to jerk him back. Xander complained, but with the gag in his mouth, he couldn't do more than grunt a few times.

Spike pulled him close and then looped the rope around Xander's waist before threading the end between Xander's wrists. "So, here's how it works. You're going to practice, and if I think you're not stopping in time, I'll give your leash a good hard tug."
Spike demonstrated by jerking the leash. The rope slid between his wrists, tightened around his waist, and pulled his hands into his stomach. The second Xander got his mouth open, he was cursing Spike out with every bad word he knew, and he’d learned a lot of bad words in Africa.

“So, let’s see if we can’t get you some practice,” Spike said as he picked up the metal bucket and started shaking it. It made a soft rattling noise and one of the cows made a low call into the night.

Xander’s eyes got big. Oh no. He was not sucking lifeforce from cows. When Xander tried to back away, Spike sidestepped into his space so Xander ended up back to chest with him.

“I’ve seen you shove three hamburgers in that gob of yours in under ten minutes, so I know you don’t have any objections to having cows die in service to your appetite. But remember, this time, the goal is to feed without killing ‘em.”

Xander wanted to point out that he never looked his hamburgers in the eyes when they still had eyes, but Spike was shaking that pail and using his body to herd Xander closer to the fence. Yeah, Spike kept talking alph-this and alph-that. But as far as Xander could see, he was still getting-shoved-around boy. Not much had changed.

“Right then, you focus on that hunger you have in your belly for something more than food,” Spike suggested as the dark shadows of cows started to press close.”

“Mmmmm.”

“Articulate as ever, luv.”

Xander growled.

“Right then, we’re going to be here until you get to practicing, so get started.”

Xander sighed. He’d try getting stubborn, only Spike had always been able to out-stubborn him. He looked at the cows with a faint sense of disgust. Great. He was a cow killing monster. This was disgusting and embarrassing.

However, Xander had to admit there was a spark of something hot and hungry in his belly. It was like when he had a really bad Twinkie craving. Now that Xander had noticed the hunger, it grew until Xander whined in pain. His belly felt like it was turning inside out.

“The animals are right there,” Spike said as he stood at Xander’s back. Xander reached up with his tied hands and grabbed the wire between the little sharp barbs. Spike leaned forward and put the bucket of grain right beside the fence, and the cows started shoving at each other with their huge shoulders. A cow stuck her large brown head through the strands of barb wire and stuck her head in the bucket with a snort.

Xander reached out and let his fingers brush across her ear. She immediately stilled, and Xander could feel the warmth travel up his arm. It was like standing in chocolate. Warm chocolate sliding over him. Only his skin could taste every bit of rich, creamy chocolate as it ran over his body. Xander let his eyes close, but without warning, something punched him in the gut and the chocolate was ripped away.

Xander tried to curse through the gag, and it took him a second to realize he’d actually punched himself in the stomach because Spike had pulled the leash so hard. Bastard.

“The goal is to learn how to stop, ya gormless plonker.”

Spike was really pissed if he was pulling out those insults. Usually he stuck with prat and pillcock and a bunch of other words that Giles said way quieter. However, Xander couldn’t exactly apologize or even explain why he whole feeding thing was so damn good. Too good. This was a monumentally bad idea because Xander was way safer never feeding on anything except pizza and Twinkies.

However, Spike didn’t give him a choice. He uprighted the bucket that the cow had tipped over when Xander had finally broken contact. Soon enough, another cow stuck her head through, and Spike forced him to the fence. They repeated the whole feeding and jerking back over and over and over until Xander stomach was a massive bruise. However, as the gray of false dawn first started appearing, Xander had learned to force himself to pull back, even when he had that chocolate power dripping over his fingers.

“Right then, that’s good enough for tonight. We’re staying in a house right up the road, so let’s pack up,” Spike announced. He took the bucket and flung the last bits of grain out into the pasture with the shell-shocked cows.

“You’ve right ruined them for milking for the next few days. Some farmer John is going to be put out,” Spike observed. “And you’re overflowing with power that’s got nowhere to go. As much as you annoy me, I’d rather not have you explode into tiny little pieces of meat and bone.”

Xander jerked and tried to turn around to face Spike. He was joking. He had to be joking. And yeah, Xander felt a little shaky and hyped up on sugar—like a dozen Halloween nights all at once hyped up—but exploding was out of the question. Right? Xander was desperate to ask, but he couldn’t. Worse, Spike wrapped an arm around Xander’s waist and wouldn’t let him turn.

“This is to keep something bad from happening, understand?” Spike asked. Xander rolled his eyes. Exactly what did Spike expect him to say when he couldn’t say anything?

Xander was so distracted with annoyance that he didn’t catch Spike’s meaning until teeth slid into his neck.

Shock.

Fury.

And then the warm slide of blood and the feel of a strong body holding him. Xander squirmed as the feeling of Spike’s teeth sunk into his flesh turned into something erotic. Feeding was chocolate running down his body, but this… this was strawberries and lemonade and tart candies that exploded. Xander started sucking air in through his nose as his cock got harder and harder.

Still, Spike fed with obscene sounds that sent shivers through Xander’s body. By the time Spike stopped, Xander was lightheaded. He needed Spike’s arm around him to keep his sense of balance. However, his cock was humiliatingly hard, and he brought his hands down to hide it.

“Natural reaction, that. When demons feed off each other, it just happens.” Spike cleared his throat, and Xander was almost sure that he was adjusting his own jeans. This was beyond mortifying.

“So let’s head to the house where we’re staying.” Spike grabbed the bucket and led Xander back up toward the car.

Xander’s feet felt like concrete, and when Spike got him into the passenger side, he collapsed into the seat, too tired to even care that Spike retied the end of the rope to the underside of his seat. Nope. Xander was too busy hiding his giant boner.

The universe just loved to humiliate him.

And if he ever found Eve again, he was going to… Xander sighed and admitted to himself he was going to run like hell, and this time he was going to keep running no matter what. This whole being an alpha thing was not all that much fun.

Part Twelve

Xander yawned and tried to turn over. Yeah, not so much with the turning since Spike had brought his handy under-the mattress bondage kit. Xander was strapped down at the wrists, ankles and chest, just like in the last hotel.

“Hey. Wait. I’m talking boy,” Xander said as he stared up at the ceiling. Beside him, Spike stirred. “Oh boy do I have a few things to say to you great bleached one of the mighty annoyingness.”

Spike rolled over and opened one blue eye. “The sun’s not even down yet.”

“And you dragged me up here tied up. You told the lady at the desk I was your getting-tied-up-boyfriend.” Xander’s voice rose to girlish heights, but he was too pissed to care.

Both of Spike’s eyes blinked open now and he groaned. “It’s too bloody early for this rot.”

“Too fucking bad.” Xander snapped his mouth closed. Yes, he was an adult and he had a right to use the f-word. He just generally didn’t.

Spike’s expression turned almost amused, and Xander really hated that. He hated amusing Spike and earning that shit-eating grin. “Right then, when you’re running from someone, you have to keep them from figuring out how you decide where to lay up. If they can predict you, you’ve already lost the battle.”

“Oh great wise one of the having been hunted often,” Xander said with a snort. “You do more of the hunting than the getting hunted.”

“Bloody hell, luv. The way Angelus and Darla played games with hunters, I spent my first three decades slipping from one town to another with some hunter on my tail. It was soddin’ idiotic the way those two would kick the nearest hornets’ nest and then go dancing away. Masochistic at heart, both of ‘em.” Spike snorted and sat up. Meanwhile, Xander’s brain was having to do a little rewiring. Masochistic? Angel?

“And the kinky gay thing?”

Spike grinned. “Face it pet, this place doesn’t get many of that crowd.”

Considering that this was a dude ranch with rooms decorated out of some 1970s Urban Cowboy flea sale, Xander figured that no self-respecting gay man would set foot in the room. While Xander had spent a lot of time travelling, and some of that time travelling in areas with actual hotel rooms, he’d never seen so many ugly hotels in his entire life. It was like this universe had a hotel curse or a lack of professional decorators. Maybe they didn’t have Queer Eye for the Straight Guy in this world. Whatever the cause, these hotels were making Xander’s eyes bleed.

“And by telling her we were gay and kinky, and marching me past her desk with my hands tied, you pretty much guaranteed that she’s going to tell everyone about us.”

“Doubt that, luv. She’s not going to want people to think she’s got gay cooties on the fresh sheets. And if she does, she’s going to talk about the two flaming queers who came sashaying through. Now, what sort of description do you think Rupert’s going to give?”

Xander frowned. “He thinks I’m dangerous enough to kill, so I’m guessing he’s not going to use the word sashay.”

“Exactly. Use people’s stereotypes against ‘em. Make them see what you want them to instead of what’s right in front of them. So when we leave, make sure you give her a little finger wave.” Spike raised his hand and wiggled four fingers. “Right then, let’s have a look at your mouth. Feel sore?”

“I’m fine.” Xander tried to pull his head away from Spike, but being tied down did limit his movement. Spike easily caught him and ran his thumb along Xander’s lip, inside and out.

“Told you that it’d go back to normal. Now, let’s see what else you can do with that power of yours.”

“Oh no,” Xander cut him off. “We’re going to talk about you being eating boy last night. You bit me!”

Spike pulled his hand back and considered Xander, his expression hard. Oh shit. Xander held his breath and waited until the visions started forming out of the shadows. Oh hell no. That was Angelus standing in the middle of the bed, whip in hand as he stared down at Xander.

“Spike, that is creeping me out. Tell me why you’re having Angelusy thoughts.”

“You’re a demon, Harris.”

“Yeah, I’m starting to get that,” Xander snapped.

Spike reached out and grabbed his chin, hard. Xander felt the fingers digging into his flesh. “Every demon I’ve ever known is about hierarchies. It’s about power. A sire makes his fledge beg for every mercy so that the adult vampire remembers its place, even when it’s strong enough to fight on its own. You’re strong, pet. I saw that last night.”

“And…” Xander demanded because he could hear the other shoe about to drop.

“And I plan to make sure you know that your mine.”

“Problem Spike. I’m not. I’m not yours.”

“Buffy’s not here.” Spike let go of Xander’s chin, not that it helped much in terms of making Xander any more comfortable. He pulled at the wrist cuffs. “She’d take you in hand and set rules about not eating the locals. But she’s not here, and I’m the only one let to take you in hand, so yes, you are mine. And until Buffy shows up to tell me otherwise, you’re going to keep being mine. And even after we do get home, she’s not going to know how to handle a new-made demon. Hell, she might even call in Angel.”

“Oh hell no,” Xander blurted. No way was he going to deal with Deadboy and getting demonified all at once.

“He’d kill you if he saw how much power you’ve got running in you,” Spike said. He sucked air through his teeth while Xander had a slow and quiet freak out. “The prat seems to think that no one can resist power. Of course, you aren’t exactly known for your restraint, so he might have a point.” Spike gave Xander a really nasty glare.

Xander opened his mouth to defend himself, but there was entirely too much ammunition Spike could use to drive his point home. He’d proposed to Anya when he didn’t want to get married. He’d nearly run off and joined the army because Spike made him feel useless. He’d been part of the whole resurrect Buffy plan, and even after Spike had warned them that spells always had side effects, he’d pretty much ignored reality. And of course there was the wedding that wasn’t. Yeah, he’d done some pretty stupid shit. And that wasn’t even counting the number of times he’d jumped into something in Africa before finding out what was going on. He’d nearly killed a witch doctor before figuring out he was threatening the good guy, and the guy giving him the intel was the bad guy. Yeah, restraint and patience were not his first or second personality traits.

“It’s not like you’re any better,” Xander said mulishly.

“Sometimes I rush the plans at the end,” Spike agreed, “but until I ran into you lot, I did pretty well. It’s just that you never did follow the rules. I would have had Buffy that first night, only her mum and friends jumped in, and that had not been on any of the tapes I’d studied when I watched her fight. And trust me, none of the other slayers ever had sidekicks.”

“So, we surprised you out of winning?”

“Knowing the enemy is key, and after a century, I thought humans didn’t have any more surprises for me.” Spike shrugged. “Arrogance gets ya killed, pet. Either that or it gets you chipped and then set back on the right path, but generally it just gets you killed. Now, getting back to the issue of the bite… I’m going to do that a whole lot more.”

“Red, Spike. Red as in full stop. No and more no. Bad touching.”

Spike pursed his lips and considered Xander for a time. Xander wanted to pull up his visions, but frankly he was a little scared to.

“If you were human, I’d respect that. But when you’re brassed off at someone and determined to eat them, do you really think you get a choice? If I stay stop, you stop. This isn’t a game, and you don’t get to say ‘no,’” Spike said firmly. “The bite is a good way for my demon to make sure your demon knows his place, and it’s less painful than other ways of showing dominance.”

Xander swallowed as he thought about Angelus holding the whip. “And if I promised to not get pissed off enough to eat anyone?” he asked hopefully.

Spike snorted. “Luv, you’ve been that brassed off at least twenty times that I’ve seen. Sooner or later, you’re going to want to eat someone.”

Xander opened his mouth, but again, he couldn’t exactly deny the charge. The thought of Willow going all dark rose up in his memory. His Willow had a lot less darkness and hate in her heart than he did, and she’d still gone and ripped off all Warren’s skin. And Xander could almost call that justified, only then she’d tried to kill the rest of them. While he’d never admit it out loud, Angel had a point about power.

“Last night, you figure out how good it feels, didn’t you?” Spike asked quietly.

Xander swallowed. He really did not want to admit any of that out loud.

“First time I fed, I never wanted to stop,” Spike said in that same soft voice. “Felt good, it did. Felt bloody wonderful. It was like the richest, warmest pudding, and I wanted to sink into that pleasure.” He cleared his throat. “It takes some time before you can get control of that hunger. Now, back to work. If you can control your own flesh, it’s going to make it a good deal easier to hide.” Spike knelt up on the bed and caught Xander’s head between his palms. “Focus on your eyes. I want them to turn blue. Think about blue eyes, like Tara’s. Remember her eyes? Focus on that.”

Xander wasn’t focusing on that, though. He was focusing on Spike’s clear blue eyes staring at him. Felt something inside him shiver, and then Spike let his face go and sat up.

“You’re going to need a mirror for this,” Spike said as he jumped off.

“What? Why? What happened?” Xander blinked and squirmed in his cuffs, but he had to wait until Spike came back and held up a small mirror. Xander’s brown eyes were streaked and splattered with blue like some three year old had gotten into the water colors. “Oh yeah, that’s not going to attract attention, not at all.”

“Then fix ‘em.”

“How?” Xander demanded.

Spike gave him the dirty look to end all dirty looks, and it still took Xander three seconds to catch how stupid that sounded. If he’d messed up the color in his eyes, it seemed pretty reasonable that he could fix them.

“Hold the mirror up,” Xander said, ignoring his own stupidity. Luckily, Spike seemed willing to let it drop. He held the mirror up and Xander watched as the blue slowly spread until the brown vanished. However, the blue kept spreading until the white vanished, too. Xander blinked at the completely alien eyes that stared at him in the mirror. “Oh shit,” he whispered.

“We’ll work that, yeah?” Spike commented with a sigh. Yeah, Xander sucked as a student. And sadly, this was him doing his best.

Part Thirteen

“Well, the cows are safe,” Xander said as he looked out at the dirty streets and boarded up windows. This Chicago was way worse than his. Xander was starting to have a little sympathy for Giles and his desperate need to save his world. Their apocalypse seemed to have way more apocalypty damage to splash around.

Spike huffed. “That’s not a good thing, pet. We’re going to have to find a way for you to feed.”

“Or not,” Xander suggested.

Spike turned a yellow-eyed glare his way, and Xander held up a hand in surrender. They’d finally ditched ropes, but Xander now had heavy padded cuffs literally locked around his wrists and ankles. One click of one of the locks Spike carried, and he could have Xander hogtied in seconds. He’d demonstrated. More than he needed to, actually.

“I’m just saying that if I am developing powers, I would like to develop the power to live off human food for nice long periods of time. I’m not saying no to demon feeding forever.”

Spike frowned as he turned his attention back to the road. “Might not be a bad idea,” he said, and that was enough to shock the crap out of Xander. Spike listening to him. Pigs were flying somewhere in this world.

“In cities, there are a lot more choices for lairs. Public works like water treatment plants or electric substations can have some quiet corners, and people generally don’t think of them when they’re searching for hidey holes.”

“Because you can get dead by electrocution in a substation.”

“Humans can,” Spike said. “You and I would just get a real nasty jolt that would teach us to be more careful next time.”

Xander cringed. “First, that’s an assumption because we don’t know what would happen to me, and second, no, we aren’t testing it.”

Spike smirked, his cheekbones sharper than ever. “Now luv, how are we supposed to know the limits if we don’t push a little?”

“Now oh mighty annoying one, how are we supposed to know what kills me until after I’m the dead sort of unbreathing?”

“You might have a point there.” Spike glanced over. “I’m still almost sure that you’d be fine.”

“It’s the almost part that worries me, Spike. Let’s stick with things we’re absolutely sure won’t kill me.”

“Then we should cut you off the Twinkies.”

“But Spike, they have them in this universe. They have Twinkies. No bankruptcy, no interruption of the yellow cake goodness. No hoarding of gooey filling and overcharging on Ebay. Twinkies, Spike. Twinkies. I’m even willing to forgive this universe for not having any Doublemeat Palaces because they have Twinkies.”

“Daft,” Spike muttered as he turned the car onto a street that looked even worse than the last.

“A man has to have his priorities,” Xander said firmly. Of course, he was also firmly not thinking about where all the Twinkies went because Xander had definitely stopped needing to use a bathroom for anything other than a hot bath. It was creepy. Spike could talk efficiency and demonic consumption of energy all he wanted. Xander was still putting the lack of poo into the creepy column.

“Right then, start checking out the empty houses.”

“Um… for what?” Xander asked.

Spike rolled his eyes. “We’re looking for an empty house, some place that we can slip in undisturbed. If we were good little evil vampires, we wouldn’t care about any squatters because we could feed on ‘em, turn ‘em or if they really smelled high, just break their necks. Since we’re not evil, we need to find a place that others aren’t using. Usually that means a house or business boarded up so good humans can’t get in easy. Old businesses are the best bet for us.”

“And you want me to check for empty buildings?” Xander asked.

Okay, sure, he could check to see if there were any thought-ghosts running around, but the problem was that Xander could now see the thoughts and emotions that had attached to objects. A little girl’s favorite bunny trapped a memory of a child with red hair and a crooked smile. A rocking chair kept alive a ghost of a woman who rocked and rocked and rocked, her dead baby’s dress in hand. Spike said it was normal—that talismans only worked because thoughts and emotions did attach to things, but Xander was starting to worry that he was going to end up on that show they’d discovered the other day—Hoarders. If every object had a memory, how could he throw anything away? And then how was he supposed to explain why a broken rocking chair on an abandoned farmhouse’s front porch made him break down in tears? Yeah, he was screwed.

“The image from a talisman and the image from a human being can’t be the same. Search for living images.”

“Easy for you to say,” Xander complained, but he did it quietly. Spike’s willingness to use the ball gag was a little disturbing. He slowed his breathing, settling into a quiet inside his own mind that allowed him to watch the world through ghost glasses. Every person on the street—every kid leaning against a building, every woman carrying bags, every man hunched down on the sidewalk—had a small army of ghosts around them. Some appeared and disappeared, changing with the person’s thoughts. Others were more persistent.

Spike stopped at a red light, and Xander studied a young woman with dreadlocks pulled back into a wild ponytail. She had a strength to her, but a weariness as she pulled a boy along after her, and Xander watched a tall woman with a spear and a heavy iron collar follow behind, an invisible honor guard, ready to strike at any danger. The woman wore a… a necklace. It had a small wood disk that an ancestor had brought from Africa. The woman had earned it for success in her first hunt, and she would not part with it, even when the bastard white devils stole everything else. She swallowed it.

That woman walked behind her descendant now, and as they passed the car, the ghost’s eyes turned to consider Xander coldly. Okay, that was new. Xander got the feeling that this particular ghost wasn’t as helpless as most. However, he noticed that she was firmer. Okay, maybe firmer wasn’t the world. She didn’t fade in and out with the drifting thoughts of others. Her form was her form and not a single atom strayed. Normally these ghosts kind of trailed off around the edges and then randomly dissolved into smoke.

When the light turned green, Spike hit the gas. “Mate, if you go staring at women like that, you’re going to invite trouble.”

“Hey, you’re the one who told me to look for ghosts.”

“Specter.”

“Same thing.”

“No, it isn’t,” Spike said firmly. “So, did that one back there have a specter?”

“Oh yeah,” Xander agreed. “A scary spear-wielding specter that looked at me like she would be very happy to skewer me if I even looked at her descendent wrong.”

“Huh.” Spike sucked his cheeks and seemed to think about that for a time.

“Huh what?” Xander finally asked. He still wasn’t big with patience, and some days Spike seemed determined to annoy him to death.

“Some talisman’s do carry curses or blessings. It could be that you’re picking up on objects that carry an intent like that,” Spike said. “Like that trucker… you said that he had a necklace of women’s teeth, and it had tried clawing him.”

“Um, yeah?” Xander shivered. Considering he’d gone up against a hellgod and the mother of all monsters, the fact that a human was the creepiest thing he’d ever met really said something about his species. His ex-species.

“Pet, you couldn’t see talisman specters until we’d practiced a good bit. It could be that the women died so horribly that their deaths turned that necklace into a cursed object.”

“And the curse then fell on the truck driver by reaching out to me so I would…” Xander let his words trail off. So he would kill the guy, and Xander had. Xander had killed him, not that he was feeling guilty about it. He’d been a raping, murdering asshole. But Xander did feel bad that he’d killed someone without meaning to, which was also slightly assholish.

“These powers of yours might turn out useful after all,” Spike teased.

“Yeah, yeah. Considering that you keep telling me how powerful I am and how you have to sit on me to make sure I know my place in the pecking order, trying to downplay my demony mojo now is kinda late, Spike.” Xander pulled at the heavy cuffs. They were brown leather with heavy steel bands that connected to even heavier clasp locks by a pair of thick links. One extra heavy lock and three D-rings were evenly spaced around the cuff, and Xander pulled on one of the rings. He knew from experience he couldn’t get the cuffs off, but he couldn’t stop pulling at them anyway.

“What has your knickers in a twist then? Spike asked, but before Xander could answer, he added, “and if ya lie to me, you’ll be gagged and hogtied the rest of the day.”

Xander immediately swallowed the ‘nothing’ he’d almost said.

Spike came to another red light and stopped, and that let him turn his attention to Xander, which was not of the good.

“Lean forward, hands behind your back,” Spike ordered.

“But—”

Spike’s eyes yellowed, and Xander put his hands behind him. Spike reached over with a padlock and quickly clicked it shut. Sighing, Xander leaned back into the seat.

“You’re a bully, you know.”

“I know when you start trying to figure stuff out in your own head, you always come to the wrong conclusion. You’re not good at being a demon, Harris.”

“Yeah, hey, I already figured that out. I tried to get Eve to focus on you instead because of that.” Xander clamped his mouth shut. Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid.

“Ya did, did you?” Spike gave him a long look. “You probably should have avoided saying that.”

“Probably,” Xander agreed.

Spike pulled the red ball out of his coat pocket.

“But hey, you need me to look for specters so we know where we can lair up,” Xander offered brightly.

“Open,” Spike ordered.

After sighing, Xander opened his mouth and let Spike push the ball in.

“I’ve been finding lairs since before your grandfather was born, so you sit there like a good baby demon and think about what you’re going to say the next time I ask you why you’re upset. Keep in mind that if you’re not very honest and very thorough, you are not going to like what comes next.”

Xander sighed again. He didn’t like what he had now. He pulled against the wrist cuffs, but nothing gave. Yeah, for all his demony power, he couldn’t break one bondage cuff designed for a human. And okay, it was clearly designed for a massive human, but still, it didn’t inspire confidence.

Worse, Xander didn’t know what he was supposed to tell Spike when he finally decided to let Xander talk. Hey, Spike, let’s not make that scheduled call home to Willow because I don’t want her to know I’m a demon now. In fact, let’s never have anything to do with back home at all. In fact, running sounded good. Yeah, that’d go over like a bean fart in church.

Part Fourteen

“So, are you ready to talk?” Spike asked after he’d gotten them settled into an empty Radio Shack storefront. The windows were already boarded over, and the shelves were dusty, many of them knocked off their supports so they leaned at impossible angles.

Spike had already taken the lock off the cuffs, so Xander reached up and took the ball out. “I’d rather talk than have this in my mouth, which is not the same as actually wanting to talk,” Xander pointed out.

“I’m not asking, pet. I’m ordering you to talk.” Spike made an odd face. “Bloody hell. I’m ordering Xander Harris to talk. I spend soddin’ years dreaming up ways to shut you up. Life’s always enjoyed toying with me, but this is just unfair.” Spike went back to setting up the spell that would let him talk to Willow.

“We didn’t do this last week, so the weekly calls are not as much weekly as when we can get around to them, right?” Xander asked hopefully.

Spike eyed him like he was a bug that had crawled out of a big pile of crap. “Spit it out, Harris.”

Xander opened his mouth to make a joke, but the look on Spike’s face made the funny sort of wither up and die. “I don’t want Willow and Buffy knowing that I’m… you know.”

“A demon,” Spike finished for him.

“Exactly. Me and demoniness are not buds, and you know Buffy’s stance on all things demon.”

“You think she’ll sleep with you?” Spike asked.

Xander blinked as he tried to figure out if that was a joke. Was Spike really joking about Buffy’s inappropriate sexual partners, and if so that was pretty rich considering he was one of them. “Um, no,” Xander said slowly. “Sex with Buffy is like sex with Willow—every sisterly and overly creepy.”

Spike nodded. “Right then, what has your knickers in a twist. It isn’t like you went and asked to get turned into a demon.”

“Yeah, but I…” Xander stopped. From Spike’s yellow eyed glare, he was guessing that he running out of time. “I killed someone,” Xander blurted out. “And you remember how Buffy is about the killing of people.”

Spike rocked back on his heels. “You killed a serial killer who had a gun in hand because he’d been planning on killing you. Now, either you tell me what really has you tied in knots, or I’m going to hang you from the rafters and leave you to suffer until you get your head on straight.”

Xander cringed. When he’d been human, he could have counted on that to be some sort of empty threat. Now, not so much. “I’m not the same. It’s not the same now.” Xander could feel the words stick in his throat. Spike set aside the candles and watched intently, so intently that Xander felt like his thoughts were all on display. He blinked into his visions, and William was there with his notebook in hand. He peered over his glasses. The lack of Angelus was a relief.

“I like feeding,” Xander whispered.

“You mean you liked feeding on that bloke with the truck?” Spike asked, and oddly he didn’t have any emotion in his voice at all.

Xander shook his head. “I didn’t know then. I mean, I didn’t have time to feel anything.” He took a deep breath, and Spike still waited. “I like feeding off the cows.”

“And?” Spike leaned forward, and William took several steps forward and raised a pencil as though preparing for some timed test.

“And now I wonder what it would feel like to feed off a human,” Xander snapped. He froze, his guts turning to absolute ice. Sharp, jagged ice that ripped at him. He was damned. Eve had damned him to the deepest most damned corner of hell.

Spike sucked air through his teeth, and William vanished altogether. In his place was a vampire William with dark blond hair and blood splattered over his mouth. The scar in his eyebrow was actually an open bleeding wound, but vampire William still looked joyous in a way Xander had never seen Spike.

“You seeing him?” Spike asked.

Xander nodded.

“I was young then, and when you’re a young demon, the world is like an overripe plum begging you to sink your teeth into it.”

“But… I’m one of the good guys. I shouldn’t want…” Xander let his voice trail off.

“We are what we are, luv. Our good intentions don’t change our nature.”

“But Eve said I could choose my nature,” Xander said. “So if I’m wondering…” Xander was not have an easy time finishing sentences.

Spike stood and carefully picked his way over the runes he’d drawn. “Luv, you’re a demon. You have the power of an old one running through you, so you can’t help but feel some of those same urges. It doesn’t mean that either one of us is going to go out and massacre an orphanage full of kiddies.”

Xander flinched, and sure enough, the bodies of dead children were scattered across the floor.

“How do you live with it?” Xander asked in a whisper.

“Not much choice, pet. I can’t change the past. But you never did let your demon loose like that, and feeling guilty about your feelings is downright Catholic of you. Unless you want me to start calling you Peaches, you need to remember that you don’t have anything to feel guilty about. Bloody hell, you’ve never even killed a cow.”

“I’ve tried,” Xander whispered. And he really would have killed many, many cows if not for Spike.

“I’m not about to let you go off killing the local happy meals,” Spike said firmly. He reached out and caught Xander’s shoulder, pressing his fingers into the flesh. “You’re mine, luv. You don’t have permission to kill, so it doesn’t matter how much wondering you do.”

“But it would taste good, wouldn’t it?” Xander asked in a horrified whisper. He had no idea why he’d even gone there.

Spike moved closer. “Yeah, luv, it would. And then you’d tear yourself to pieces after.”

Xander nodded and tried hard to just keep his mouth shut. He actually wanted to be gagged, and wasn’t that weird to admit to himself.

“Right then, let’s get ahold of Red and let her know what sort of mess we’ve fallen into.”

Xander nodded without saying anything. The guilt and fear still gnawed at him like a really pissed off pit bull that refused to let go. But maybe the teeth felt a little less sharp. Maybe. Maybe that was all wishful thinking. He played with the cuff locked around his left wrist as Spike finished laying out the most complicated spell Xander had ever seen.

“Ready?” Spike asked as he finally stepped back. A dozen candles sat in the middle of a sprawling series of runes that Xander couldn’t even hope to understand. He could, however, see the runes stretching and writhing like dogs trying to escape a leash.

“No,” Xander said.

Spike moved to his side and wrapped his fingers around Xander’s arm and held tightly. Spike read the spell off a little spiral notebook, and the air above the runes shimmered as the lines stretched up into the air. Xander blinked to push away the visions and he could see the air turn waterish right before Willow’s appeared, her body distorted like she was on the other side of an aquarium.

“Spike! Xander! Thank the goddess. We’ve been worried about you! Buffy! They called,” she yelled, but there wasn’t any answer. “Go get Buffy,” she ordered someone outside the spell.

“We have a little problem, Red.”

Immediately, Willow’s smile faded. “Oh uh. Are we talking little as in elephant or little as in nuclear bomb?”

Spike glanced over, but given how much trouble Xander was having with complete sentences, there was no way he wanted to talk about any of this. Spike sighed and focused on Willow again. “Have you heard of Tiamat?”

Her eyes got big. “Oh goddess.”

“Oh goddess? That sounds ominous.” Buffy stepped into the picture. “Hey, you. What’s up with this getting kidnapped out of the council house?”

“You know my luck with women,” Xander said with a weak smile.

“Oh uh,” Buffy said, and she looked over at Willow, and yep, Willow had the scrunchy face on.

“I take it you've heard of her,” Spike said to Willow.

“Her? Who her?” Buffy looked around, and even through the distortion, Xander could see she had her slayer face on.

“I’m pretty sure the her in question is Tiamat who was one of the old gods who escaped when the others like Ilyria were trapped in the well,” Willow said, and she looked at them like she was begging them to disagree.

“Yep. It seems like the boy caught her eye,” Spike offered.

“A god?” Buffy looked faintly horrified. “You caught the attention of a god? Why can’t you ever attract good old fashioned human serial killers and psychopaths?”

Xander cringed.

“Xander?” Buffy asked in that tone of voice that Joyce used to have—the one that said she knew you were holding out on her, and she wanted details.

“Boy’s dealing with enough right now,” Spike quickly said. He stepped forward, and Xander actually found himself pretty happy to slink into his shadow.

“Like Tiamat?” Buffy demanded, and that was definitely her slayer face.

Spike nodded. “She said she couldn't have any more children because of getting poisoned by Phoenix ash.”

“Oh, that's not good,” Willow said, “Or it is good because Tiamat is the mother of monsters. They were her army in a war against Marduk. So a pregnant Tiamat wouldn’t be a good thing.” Willow suddenly stopped. “Wait. They have Phoenix in that universe?” Her eyes got big.

“I haven't run across one myself, no, but that's what she told Xander.”

Buffy pushed forward. “Told as in Xander was having a conversation with the mother of monsters?”

“Not like I had a choice, Buff.”

“So, I take it Phoenix ash could poison her?” Spike asked.

There was a long pause that pretty much meant that Willow didn't know. "Um, maybe?" she finally settled on. “What does that have to do with Xander?”

“Seems like she decided to adopt him.”

Xander flinched.

“Adopt?” Willow’s voice went up at least an octave and Buffy retreated several steps. Oh yeah, this was going just great.

“Xander's a demon now,” Spike said and he even managed to have this totally casual tone. The weather is great, the job market for carpenters is actually quite good and Xander’s a demon. Right now Xander just wanted to creep into the smallest hole he could find and pull dirt in over him.

Instead of a little silence, there was a huge old massive chunk of it. Xander swallowed, and Spike reached back and grabbed his neck, fingers pressing into the sides of it. It shouldn't feel good, but it did. It felt like Spike was holding him together.

"Is Xander...” Willow stopped, her hands coming up to her mouth, and Xander could practically read her mind. That was more a side effect of knowing someone twenty years rather than a superpower, though.

"I'm standing right here, Will. I'm demonified, not changed.” Xander frowned. “ Well, I'm changed, but not really different.”

Clearly his powers of Willow soothing were on the fritz. “Oh goddess. Oh my lord. Demonified? Like a vampire?”

Xander opened his mouth to agree. Yep, he was like a vampire. A boring old vampire. Yep, totally vampire-like. Unfortunately, Spike got there first.

"More like an alph."

Willow made a choking sound and Buffy looked from Willow to Xander and back again, her concern rising with every second.

“Okay, I’ll bite, what’s an alph?” Buffy asked.

Willow whispered in a horrified voice, “A father of monsters.”

Yep, this was going great.

Part Fifteen

“You alright, pet?” Spike asked as they walked down the street.

“Peachy.” Xander didn’t even try and pretend any honesty. Willow and Buffy were terrified he was going to start spawning and yet angry that Spike was pushing him around. They wanted Xander home, but they didn’t want him home when he was all demony. And someone had definitely forgotten to tell him about the whole magic thing.

“They mean well.”

“She fucking lied,” Xander snarled. Immediately, Spike grabbed him by the neck and hauled him into an alley where Xander quickly found himself slammed face first into the brick. Spike locking his hands behind his back wasn’t even a shock at this point.

“You get control right now,” Spike snarled, and from the sound, he had his fangs out. Xander stood trembling, Spike’s whole body pressing him into the rough brick.

“She should have told me.”

“Yes, she should have,” Spike said. He grabbed Xander, yanked him off the wall and spun him around and then slammed him back into the wall so that Xander’s cuffed hands and shoulders were tightly up against the brick. “She should have told you about the magic, but what would you have done? You got that magic dumped into you saving the bloody world, Harris, and if you remember, Red wasn’t exactly herself at the time.”

Xander remembered the feel of dark Willow’s magic pouring into him, burning him from the inside. The pain had caught him like a vice and held him so tightly that he felt like every cell in his body might pop open at once, and wouldn’t that be a mess. But Xander had still loved her.

“Right then, calmer?” Spike asked.

Xander nodded. “She still should have told me that I still had that magic in me,” he said, but now he was more weary than angry. He was sure he’d be angry again later. His emotions seemed to be circling like that. Yep, his emotions were circling the drain, just like his life.

“Yes, she should have, but she didn’t. Besides, it’s not like you could have done anything about it.”

Xander made a face. He wasn’t ready to forgive her yet. He would be in a day or two, but right now he was still pretty much okay with being in his mad place.

“On another note, your demon form is starting to show,” Spike said.

“My… what?” panic crawled up Xander’s spine.

“No worries, luv. You’re still just as handsome. You just had a bit of a red-eyed moment there.”

“Great.” Xander sagged back against the building. “So I can’t even get mad without outing myself to all the little hunters. This is just wonderful.” Xander closed his eyes and tried really hard to avoid thinking about what Giles would do to him now. He was officially a full-fledged demon, and his quantum-mirror father figure would behead him in about two seconds. It was hard on the self-confidence.

“It just gives us another power to practice,” Spike said firmly. “Now I’d rather not escort you around Chicago cuffed, but if I need to—”

“I’ll behave,” Xander said. Oddly he was less and less aggravated with Spike’s sudden penchant for bondage, but getting picked up by the Chicago police would be awkward.

“We need to see how you’ll react to demons.”

“I feel like a dog you’re training,” Xander complained.

“You’re not far off,” Spike said without much sympathy. Xander understood Spike’s whole need to dominate, and if he didn’t, the visions of dead orphanage children were usually somewhere in the background to remind him. He nodded, even if the whole dog metaphor aggravated him more than the actual bondage.

Spike manhandled him around again and opened the padlock. “Behave,” he ordered sharply, and then he tugged on Xander’s arm to get him moving.

“Were you this pushy with your minions?”

“Nope. If they got killed, I didn’t much care,” Spike said cheerfully. “I did get pushy with Dalton, but that’s because it’s hard to find a minion who’s still good at research after the turning. He had more human in him than he rightly should have.”

“Dalton… guy with glasses back in your world-ending Drusilla days?”

Spike rolled his eyes. “I never tried to end the world.”

“The Judge,” Xander said with a bit of sing-song.

“Bloody hell. Did Rupert tell you lot that the Judge would end the world?”

“Well, yeah,” Xander said, and suddenly he wasn’t so sure. “The book said—”

“One of those end of the world tomes he had with all the dust and Latin writings?”

Xander nodded.

“Here’s a lesson for you. Every person who ever put pen to paper claimed that the local big bad was the end of the world. What every person means is that *their* world would end. Maybe that was enough for those blokes. After all, it wasn’t like people travelled much, so if you took out land the size of Vermont, they’d consider their world gone.”

“So, no hell on earth with all humanity destroyed?”

Spike shrugged. “He probably would have taken central and south California… maybe a bit of Mexico. There comes a time when even a demon that big is sated and he doesn’t want to walk far enough to go find another meal.”

“That makes my brain hurt,” Xander said. Now he had to rearrange at least half his childhood memories.

“Nothing is truly world ending in any global sense unless it messes with dimensions. There are so many different worlds out there that if there’s a tear between dimensions and demons find it, the world could be looking at a full-scale invasion. Other than that, most evil is local.”

“In our world.”

Spike snorted. “Seems like the only world ending this world is looking at has to do with tearing down walls between heaven, hell, purgatory, and earth. The rules haven’t changed, only the players.” Spike got an arm around Xander’s back and moved closer as they walked. This wasn’t a great part of town, and more than one person stopped to glare at the man-on-man touching, but no one seemed willing to actually try and say anything. These people were smarter than the ones in Xander’s world.

“Would Angelus’ statue have ended the world?”

“Acathla? Yeah, that bugger would have. Only stupid gits mess with mojo like that, but then Angelus never was the brains of the family. I don’t know anyone stupid enough to mess with dimensions the way he did.”

“Except Eve,” Xander said quietly. Eve had definitely done the dimensional mojo. Well, and then there was the whole Buffy and heaven thing “And Willow’s spell.”

“The one sending me here?” Spike asked.

Xander blinked. “Actually, I meant the one that brought Buffy back, but yeah, she messed with dimensions sending you here, too.”

“Angel and company opened a dimensional rift after the cheerleader went missing,” Spike said quietly.

“Anya opened them all the time. She really was obsessed with bunnies and shrimp, which makes me kind of wonder what kind of bunnies and shrimp they have in other worlds. And of course Glory and the portal.”

“Warren and that bloody spell that turned Buffy into some chit in an insane asylum.”

“Buffy and her college roommate,” Xander countered.

“Old Heinrich, 1937.”

“Huh. We know a lot of stupid gits.”

Spike laughed. “That we do.” He leaned close, his breath tickling Xander’s ear. “How can you tell this is a demon bar?”

Xander gave him an odd look. “Oh, I don’t know. The big, honking, glowing demonic runes all over it, maybe,” Xander guessed.

Spike frowned. “Right then, we’ll add that to the list of powers we’re having you practice.”

Xander closed his eyes. “Don’t tell me, you can’t see them, can you?”

“Of course I can.” Spike snorted. It was the sort of sound he made when he was truly annoyed and upset. Xander looked over, and Spike had a disgusted look on his face. “If I look close and really concentrate, I can see some shimmers around the edges of ‘em,” he admitted. “Just move.” Spike gave him a shove toward the door, and Xander went.

Okay, time to meet the cousins. Xander frowned as he realized that in this world, all demons were cousins of a sort. Eve had given birth to all their alphs, so demons were sort of familish. Weird. Xander definitely preferred his demons. Well, not his demons as much as his world with its demon rules.

Xander just stopped thinking as he headed into the darkened bar.

The music wasn’t as loud as it had been in the Bronze, but it was the same sort of ‘appeal to the young’ rock. In fact, the people in the bar looked a lot like the sorts of people you would see at the Bronze—young, trying too hard to be attractive and not hard enough to watch what was going on around them. Other than the fact that Chicago had a lot more minorities and a lot less hellmouthy fun, Xander might think he’d just been dropped into Sunnydale.

“Spike, is it just me or…”

“I see, luv,” Spike kept pushing him toward the back. “It could be a cover.”

That made some sense. If you were going to be a demon, you probably wanted a good cover, and having lots and lots of humans around would be of the good.

A thin man with a wide smile stepped right into their path. “Totally awesome, the whole alternative lifestyle,” he grinned as he looked down at Xander’s cuffs. “If you ever want a third, I definitely wouldn’t mind getting fucked by either of you… or both. What the hell?” He laughed and threw his arms wide. Okay, they definitely sold better drugs in here than at the Bronze. At most, people traded a little marijuana back home. This guy was on something with a whole lot more punch.

“Sod off,” Spike suggested before guiding Xander around him.

“What he said,” Xander yelled over his shoulder, but Spike had already shoved them far enough away that their potential suitor had wandered off. “Spike, I’m having some WTFery moments here.”

“You mangle the language enough without adding those stupid acronyms to your list of sins.” He sounded almost absent-minded, but then he seemed pretty busy looking around.

“Okay,” Xander said slowly. “Let me rephrase that. What is going on?”

Spike glanced over, and before Xander could blink, he was shoved in the corner on his knees. “Eyes!” Spike snapped.

Xander slapped his hands over his eyes as he tried to calm down. Damn, damn, damn.

“Hey, this isn’t that sort of club.”

“Take a walk, mate.”

“But you can’t—”

“I don’t have my willy out, so until you see my short and curlies, you can sod off or I can put you on your knees.”

“Hey don’t hassle the gays.”

Xander groaned as the fight went on around him. At least it was distracting him. He could feel his emotions start to settle, the aggravation at finding an entire bar full of humans in a demon club slowly faded until Xander was left with a sort of weary amusement. He tried to find demons, and he couldn’t. He tried to avoid them, and they kidnapped him out of his bedroom. Yep, the universe loved him.

Xander carefully looked up, and Spike was watching him while two goth chicks ripped on the bouncer about alternative lifestyles and respecting others. This was… this was weird. And coming from Xander, that said a lot.

“You better then?” Spike asked.

Xander swallowed and nodded. “Yep. Feeling hugely with the stupid for getting annoyed so easy, but better,” he agreed.

Spike held out his hand, and Xander let Spike haul him up to his feet. “That’s not exactly unexpected, either, mate.”

“Great, I get the temper upgrade along with everything else. Can we maybe go somewhere else?” Xander said. The crush of bodies and the smell of so much humanity all jammed in a small space was making him a little crazy.

Spike gave him the hairy eye and then started pulling him toward the nearest exit.

Outside, the air was just as hot and muggy, but at least Xander kept getting lungs full of car exhaust instead of body odor. And oddly body odor didn’t smell nearly as bad as it used to. “Okay, is it just me or was that oddly unodd in there.”

“It wasn’t what I expected,” Spike agreed. He looked around the street and seemed to pick a new direction at random. “Do you see any more markings?” he asked as they started down the street.

“Way too many,” Xander said. Mostly they were small things tucked up under rooflines. “This city is full of runes, but then, New York was too. And don’t even get me started on Giles’ offices. Rune central. These people are way more into spells than folks back home.

Spike made a moue of disgust, so apparently he wasn’t a fan of runes. Or he wasn’t a fan of Xander having the power to see runes, that was an option. Xander scratched his arm. His skin felt too small for his body, and he was really hoping that was not literal. He could not handle any more weirdness, and popping out of his skin would be weird.

With a hand on his back, Spike kept him moving. “Could be the place got too hot—too many hunters had figured out they had easy pickings on this street. We’ll try another one. If ya see more of those glowing runes, give a shout.”

“So, this is another test?” Xander was really getting tired of tests. He felt like he was back in high school, and he wasn’t doing any better the second time around.

Spike gave a quick nod. Only Xander was suddenly not convinced he was telling the truth. The way Spike’s gaze scanned the street and the way he moved with this demonic grace that was way more about fighting than about blending in with the humans suggested something different.

“Um, Spike, why are you twitchy?”

Spike glanced over to where Xander was still scratching. “What’s wrong with you, mate?”

“What? Nothing. I just feel a little—” Xander froze. Oh shit. Shit and more shit.

“It’s a powerful bugger, whatever it is,” Spike said, agreeing with Xander even though Xander hadn’t actually said anything yet. They wanted demons and they’d found one.




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