Part Twenty-Six

Spike hesitated in the middle of the corridor. “Dorsey?” he called out. The soldier came out from a half-open door, his machine gun leading the way.

“Spike? Was level sixteen compromised?” Dorsey looked down the hall until he saw Xander. “You two okay?”

“Peachy,” Spike said dryly.

Dorsey ignored the tone of voice. “Get in here before one of those things catches you.” Xander hadn’t even needed to give him a push to get the invite. Xander watched as Spike seemed to think it over for a second before passing Dorsey and heading into the lab where Dorsey had holed up. Willow was still working on the wiring behind one of the wall, but as Xander followed Spike into the room, she stood up.

“Too late. We took one out back there,” Spike said, poking his pipe back toward where they’d come from. Xander noticed that the weapon was badly bent.

“You took out a klainiz bug? With a pipe?” From Dorsey’s tone of voice, Xander got the impression that he didn’t really believe them. He looked over at Willow, but she didn’t look like she was big with the believing, either.

“Hey, I helped,” Xander said.

“Right, pet. You were a huge help when you jumped too high and brained yourself. I’m sure the machine was dying of laughter before I beat it to death.”

“I held the legs back so it couldn’t defend itself,” Xander protested. He stopped as he felt Dorsey’s shock and fear roll though him. Xander looked over, and Dorsey had the gun pointed at him. “And that is not really okay, so maybe you could point the gun at the bad guys,” Xander suggested.

“You held the klainiz’s legs?” Dorsey started calculating pressure in pounds per inch, and Xander suddenly realized why Dorsey was freaked out.

“Um, yeah. It was the least I could do because Spike was sort of right about me hitting the ceiling, which is a little embarrassing, but the whole having superhuman strength thing is new, and I really don’t always handle it well.”

“Which is why you’re supposed to follow my lead, ya nit,” Spike pointed out. “So, who are these blokes, and why are they trying to kill us?”

Willow spoke up. Maybe she was less afraid of them or maybe she hadn’t really thought about what it would take to hold an alien machine-bug thing. Xander couldn’t read her mind, and he really didn’t want to. He was having enough trouble with balancing his reality with Dorsey’s. “The Asgard are kind of buttholes when it comes to trying to get genetic samples for their testing, and they get a little unreasonable when we try to say that ‘no’ they can’t have our DNA. The klainiz are sort of like shock troops because they don’t have people to send on away missions. Well, sort of.” She made a disgust face.

“This is pretty aggressive, even for Loki and Fenrir,” Dorsey said, his fears easing as the topic changed. The Asgard were a familiar enemy.

“Loki like the guy from the movie with the mask who turns all green?” Xander asked. He and Buffy and Willow had watched that movie all curled up together on Buffy’s couch.

Dorsey gave him an odd look. “What kind of movies do you have in your universe?”

“Weird ones, generally.”

“Loki is an Asgard, one of the main leaders of a technologically advanced race,” Willow explained before she went back to the raw wires she was soldering together in a new pattern. “They used to take humans and experiment on them to try and create a human-Asgard hybrid that would fix some of their health problems, only we stole transport inhibitor. We reverse engineered it so that most of the cities and major military bases are safe from Asgard transports, but Loki is still a little fanatical about gathering genetic samples from anyone he finds interesting.”

“The Asgard have a problem reproducing naturally, so they go in for cloning big time,” Dorsey added. “And cloning has weakened their race.”

“Have they heard of Viagra?”

Dorsey snorted.

Willow ducked her head in a way that meant she was trying to avoid laughing. “I think it’s more about unstable genetic lines and the effects of cloning than… you know.”

“Getting it up?” Xander guessed.

Willow gave him a look that was so classically Willow that it warmed Xander’s heart.

Dorsey interrupted the moment, and Willow went back to work. “We need to let the general know you’re here,” Dorsey said.

“Why?” And that was Spike—ready to assume the worst, and right now he was definitely big with the assuming.

“Because the last time Loki staged an attack against the base, he was after genetic samples.” Dorsey glanced over toward Xander. “And we know that someone on base has been feeding him information, so he might have heard that we have a potentially interesting genetic donor on base.”

Xander held up his hands. “Me? Oh no. There will be no genetic sampling of me. I am really done with having people I don’t like poke me.”

Dorsey ignored him and reached for his radio. He gave some coded phrases, and after some back and forth, a familiar voice came over the radio. “For cryin’ out loud. Does anyone on this base know the meaning of escape proof?” General O’Neill demanded.

“I don’t think so, sir. You included,” Dorsey answered.

Xander thought a general would get cranky about something like that, but O’Neill just asked, “Can you hold position?”

Dorsey checked the corridor. “We’re in as good of a position as any,” Dorsey answered.

“Stay put. We’re working on a solution,” O’Neill said.

Dorsey agreed and traded some more coded messages with the general. For all Xander knew, they were talking about ways to disembowel him, but Dorsey seemed pretty calm, so Xander didn’t panic.

Xander wandered closer to Willow, stopping when he felt Dorsey’s anxiety rise. “So, are you doing something to stop them?” Xander asked, trying to glance over Willow’s shoulder. She had a panel open and she was working to rewire something that looked really complicated. He’d always thought of her as a computer nerd on the keyboard end of things, but she was getting down with a soldering iron.

“Me? Oh heavens no. I’m drawing energy and making a good show of doing something interesting just to give Major Carter some cover. It’s hard for them to pin her down if there are a whole bunch of geeks making with the rewiring. Generally Sam saves us when it comes to the Asgard and General O’Neill or Colonel Mitchell or Major Dorsey save us when it’s the Goa’uld.” She crossed two wires, flinching when they threw up a few sparks, but then she got back to work.

“Who saves you when it’s the demons?” Xander asked.

She gave him a guilty look. “Um, we didn’t actually realize they were world endingly bad. Mostly we thought of them as more a problem for people who made really bad choices and got themselves sent to hell.”

“Nits,” Spike said softly.

“Well, now we know that those idiots and their bad choices can destroy the world. We’ll adapt,” Dorsey said.

“Yep,” Willow agreed cheerfully. “We’re pretty adaptable.”

“Um, Spike,” Xander said. He squirmed.

“Bloody hell, do not say it, Harris.”

“I smell chocolate,” Xander admitted. He hated admitting it, but the scent was starting to drift down the hallway, and Xander could feel the itching need to go and find it. The chocolate was calling him.

“Ow!” Xander looked down and Spike’s fingers were digging into the fleshy part of his arm.

“What does that mean?” Dorsey asked, and wariness had replaced the raw fear of earlier.

“Mostly it means he’s smelled some big bad that he’s thinking of making a meal out of,” Spike said, and that was a little blunt. Dorsey’s fear surged. “But he’s going to sit his arse down and play at being a good little follower.” Spike shoved Xander toward a wall and Xander obediently slid down.

“Those bug things would definitely not be giving me the chocolate craving,” Xander pointed out. “There’s a living, breathing bad guy down here.”

“So, you only hunt bad guys?” And again, Dorsey wasn’t even pretending to believe them.

“I don’t know what sets him off,” Spike said. “It could be that he’s smelling things that have more power than humans. It could be that he’d been a white hat long enough that the new powers can’t shake him free of old habits. I don’t much care as long as that nose of his keeps him away from humans.”

“Oh.” Dorsey stepped closer to Willow.

“Spike…” Xander let his voice trail off, but he could feel himself shifting as the smell of chocolate nearly overwhelmed him. “Oh I am hungry, and I am not talking about cheeseburger sort of hungry or even cow draining of life force hungry.”

Spike pressed his fingers into Xander’s shoulder so tight that it really hurt. Xander hunched up his shoulders and started breathing fast. Hunger. He was hungry. No, he was starving.

Dorsey moved to the door and used a small mirror on a metal rod to check the corridor. “We’re clear.”

“I’m trusting the boy’s senses on this. We’ve got something heading our way,” Spike said.

Dorsey gave him an odd look, but he reached for his radio. “Un-Als report live enemy moving into section C, level 13. No confirmation,” Dorsey reported.

“Roger. Hold position,” the voice answered.

“Not really doing good on the holding thing,” Xander confessed. “It’s… it’s not as yummy as the leviathan, but it’s really close.”

Spike cuffed him upside the head. “Stay put.”

“Right. Staying.” Xander closed his eyes and pulled his knees up so he could rest his forehead against them.

“Is he okay?” Willow asked.

“No,” Xander answered for himself.

“Oh.” She didn’t have much to say after that. The room fell so silent that Xander focused on the sound of Willow working on the electrical panel and his own heartbeat. It kept slowing, and Xander would focus until it sped back up, but then he seemed to speed it up too much and he could feel his whole body get jittery before the heart started to slow again. Xander had no idea that being a demon was so frickin’ hard.

Xander felt Dorsey’s alarm before he said anything. “Two niz bugs incoming,” he called, and then he opened fire. The sound echoed through the room and through Xander’s head, and he jumped to his feet.

Willow had given up her wiring work and pulled a shorter version of a machine gun. Willow was holding automatic weapon. Yep, Xander’s brain needed a restart. She hurried to Dorsey's side, but he yelled for her to stay back.

His gun gave a few more barks and then fell silent. Dorsey cursed and unclipped it from the strap, handing it to Willow before he took her machine gun.

However, Xander couldn’t wait anymore. A long machine leg appeared, and Xander leaped forward.

“You fucking nob!”

“Clear the firing line!”


Xander ignored all of them as he grabbed the leg and used all his strength to force the bug toward the far end of the hall. It resisted for long seconds, and Xander could feel people moving behind him. But then suddenly all the bug’s legs seemed to lose traction at once, and the whole tangled mess of legs flew at him. Xander threw the bug as hard as he could and then dropped to the floor to avoid getting cut to pieces as the thing went flying over him.

Fingers reached for Xander, clinging to his arm, but Xander threw himself forward. The bugs weren’t smelling of chocolate, but something was. Behind him, more machine gun bursts echoed, but Xander raced toward the place where two corridors crossed. There. He could smell it there.

Xander skidded to a stop in front of a creature wearing black armor. It had an oversized head and thin limbs, but it must have been at least six and a half feet tall with huge black eyes and a small mouth lined with sharp teeth. It was saying something… something Xander didn’t understand… and Xander started racing toward it. The creature fired some weapon, and Xander felt the heat envelop him. The warmth made him lethargic, but laziness has never stopped Xander from going after chocolate.

The creature turned to run, and Xander crashed into it from the back. He could feel the energy soaking into him. Xander pulled at that wonderful powerful, forced the flow of energy to run faster until the fire of life under his hands dimmed more and more. Long fingers ineffectually clawed at him, and Xander let his eyes fall closed in pleasure.

As least until something hit his head hard enough to make his skull ring like a bell. Xander hit the wall and looked up at Spike. “What did you do that for?” he asked as he rubbed his sore head. Spike lowered his pipe and growled.

Okay, maybe Xander knew why he’d done that.

“Oh dear.” Xander turned to find Willow standing at the crossroads with her machine gun. Dorsey stood behind her, watching the other three directions. “That’s a grey hybrid.”

“I thought you said these guys had health problems,” Spike said.

“Um, the actual Asgard do. The hybrids are part Asgard and part pretty much any other species they can cross it with, and they only last for a few weeks or months. Mostly they’re biological versions of the niz bugs—shock troops of destruction.”

Dorsey was already calling the position in on the radio. “Is it dead?” he asked.

“Close to,” Spike said with another nasty glare in Xander’s direction. “You planning on finish it off?”

“Um, no?” Xander guessed. The smell had almost totally faded, and Xander could resist a little hint of chocolate just fine.

“If they sent a hybrid…” Willow let her voice trail off, but she looked at Dorsey and he seemed to follow her just fine. Xander focused and slipped easily into Dorsey’s mind, sorting through for the information he needed.

Xander turned to Spike. “The hybrids are used when the Asgard really want something. They can think and adapt in the field, and the niz bugs are preprogrammed. So if they sent a hybrid or multiple hybrids through, that means they’re hugely with the wanting of something, which is most likely me. Spike, I really don’t want some alien species with delusions of being justified to be cloning a bunch of mini-me.”

“Not going to happen, luv,” Spike said. He held his hand out to Xander and helped him to his feet. “It’s time for us to leave.”

“Wait.” Dorsey stepped forward, his weapon aimed at them, and Xander could feel the conflict there. Dorsey wanted to protect them and hated that being in the base had put Xander at risk, but he had a duty to perform. But he felt guilty about the fact that he felt like the bad guy and he knew that his inability to control the situation in the park had led to Xander’s attack, but he didn’t want to think a creature with all Xander’s powers and all Xander’s bumbling was running around loose in the world. Xander could feel that balance tip precariously, and Xander gave it a little nudge. Dorsey let his weapon sink down.

“Major?” Willow asked softly.

He looked over at her. “It’s not right,” he said, “holding them… putting them in a position to get sampled… it isn’t right.”

“What are you doing to do?”

“Nothing,” Dorsey said. He straightened up. “Rosie, head back to the lab and lock yourself in, and do not under any circumstances keep fiddling with those wires.”

Her mouth fell open. “You’re helping them out.”

Dorsey took a step toward her. “You don’t know anything, Rosenberg. You can’t know anything, clear?”

“Oh no. That is the opposite of clear,” Willow said. “I’m helping too.”

“No, you aren’t.” Dorsey felt a flash of panic as Willow’s resolve face set in. Yep, he knew that face just as well as Xander, although he had a whole different set of experiences. Willow setting in her heels and refusing to abandon a village, Willow holding onto intel even when a goa’uld tortured her. Yep, Willow in every universe had a streak of stubborn about three miles wide.

“Try and stop me,” she said with a sort of gleeful abandon that was a little scary. “The service conduits are the best way out if you have explosives strong enough to take a blast door. So, do you think you could take out a blast door?” she asked Xander as sweetly as if she’d been suggesting pizza toppings.

Xander looked to Spike.

“He’ll do just fine. So, let’s get a move on, then.”

“But…” Dorsey found himself left behind as Willow trotted off down the hall with Spike a step behind. “Crap.”

“Um…” Xander looked at the guy, not sure what to say. “Go on. I have the rear,” Dorsey said, gesturing toward the others. Xander took off running.

Part Twenty-Seven

Xander stopped when he felt the first tendrils of fresh air. “Um, Spike, is it night or…”

“It’s fine, now move your arse,” Spike growled.

“Right. Moving.” Xander finished climbing to the top and reached for the hatch. This one wasn’t anything compared to the one lower down, and he put his shoulder to it and braced his feet as far apart as he could so he wouldn’t snap another ladder rung. He gave a hard shove and the metal groaned.

“Put your back in it,” Spike complained.

“I am,” Xander said. He had to swallow down his complaint about being hungry. Clearly one Asgard hybrid wasn’t enough to fuel a whole spree of superpowered escape. The metal finally snapped and the hatch popped open. Xander figured about a million alarms had just gone off, but it was going to be hard to distinguish them from the million alarms that were already going off. Xander climbed out of the hole in the ground and out into the cool night air. Through the trees he could see a guard station, but there didn’t seem to be any guards in it. Xander supposed they were busy with the bug things.

Spike followed him out into the night and he crossed his arms and gave Xander another unhappy look. At this rate, Spike was going to break his glare with overuse.

“What?” Xander asked as Willow climbed out into the night air.

“Shhhh,” she hushed him.

Xander repeated himself, more quietly. “What?” he asked Spike.

“Go on, then. Tell ‘em,” Spike ordered as Dorsey climbed out of the hatch.

Xander’s mouth turned into a desert, and he lost all ability to form words. Dorsey looked at him, and Xander could feel the rising anxiety, but Xander really didn’t want to confess. Worse, he didn’t want Dorsey to have to deal with all the demony stuff because good guys weren’t exactly great at turning demon. It messed with your head.

“Xander?” Willow asked. She took a step forward, but Dorsey caught her arm and held her back.

Clearing his throat, Xander focused on Dorsey. The man seemed to be developing more than a little concern that this was about him. “I have something to tell you, and I’m afraid you’re going to want to shoot me.”

“Oh?” Dorsey shifted his gun around so he could rest his arm on it. “Why would I want to kill you?” He sounded calm, but Xander could feel the emotions rolling under the surface.

“You remember when General O’Neill said that maybe Willow wasn’t on the side of good in my universe?”

“I’m not good? Seriously? I turned evil?” Willow looked ready to hyperventilate.

“Hey, whoa. Only for a really little, tiny, itsy, bitsy period there,” Xander reassured her.

“Bloody hell, move on to the main event, mate,” Spike suggested. Xander waved him off. He’d had three weeks to practice how he was going to say all this, and he needed to do this his way.

“More interesting is how you knew the general said that,” Dorsey pointed out.

“Oh bloody hell. Just tell ‘em,” Spike snapped.

“Right. Telling. I’m getting there.” Xander cringed. He really didn’t want to get there, but Dorsey deserved the truth. “Okay, at one point, the love of Willow’s life was murdered right in front of her.” Xander skipped the lesbian bit because this Willow was not really supportive on that front. “And she kinda went off her rocker in an, ‘I’m in so much pain it would be better if I was dead and maybe I should save the rest of the world by taking them out with me’ kind of way.”

“What?” Willow’s eyes got big. Bigger.

Dorsey slipped his free arm around Willow’s shoulders. “I think he’s saying you tried to end the world, Rosie.”

“Yep,” Spike agreed. “Came right close to doing it to. Woulda worked if the boy wasn’t all sorts of stupid.”

“Hey. Noble. I was noble and self-sacrificing,” Xander defended himself.

Spike snorted.

“It worked,” Xander hissed.

“Maybe you two could let us in on your little secret here and then take off before the general shows up and we’ll all in the more shit than we know how to handle,” Dorsey suggested.

“I told Willow that if she wanted to kill everyone that I had earned the right to be first, and I stood between her and the portal that would open up and destroy the world,” Xander blurted out. “She kinda tried to kill me, and there was lightning and magic and pain and all sorts of badness before she decided she couldn’t do it, and if she couldn’t kill me then she couldn’t kill the world.”

“Is she dead now?” Dorsey asked, his voice flat. He pulled his Willow closer.

“What? No!” Horror washed through Xander.

“She couldn’t be angry anymore, so she moved on to grieving,” Spike said.

“Which would be great except for the part where I had all this magic dumped into me, and apparently because I was a non-magical sort, it was like pouring water into a bucket instead of a sink. No drain,” Xander explained.

“I turned you into a monster?” Willow’s voice went up at least two whole octaves.

“No!” Xander rubbed a hand over his face. “I suck at stories.”

“You do, luv,” Spike agreed. “The boy had the magic, so when a baddie from your universe went and got herself neutered and wanted to make a new monster, she reached through and plucked Xander out of our universe. Because he had the power in him, she only had to make a few tweaks and the power did the changing for her. But I don’t think she can control the energy because Xander’s powers have been less than stable, and I’m guessing that she hadn’t meant for him to start snacking on other non-humans.”

“They smell like chocolate,” Xander defended himself. “And before anyone asks, no humans don’t. Usually. There was this truck driver who was a serial killer, and it wasn’t chocolate, but it was kinda not bad, and most humans smell really bad, like I’m not eating that if it’s the last thing in the house bad.” Xander sighed. Stress was making him sound about fifteen, and he was dangerously close to babbling. “Which is still not the really horrible thing that I need to tell you about,” he said softly. “And in my defense, I didn’t know I was doing it, I didn’t mean to do it, and I’m not one hundred percent sure that I did do the thing I’m ninty-nine percent sure I did.”

“Bloody hell, just pull the plaster off, mate,” Spike said wearily. “When the boy was feeding on you, he took too much without meaning to. When he tried to put you energy back, he didn’t stop to think that maybe draining ya and then pushing his own energy back into you was the best way to make a childe. There’s a reason I keep him on a leash, and it’s not because he’s kinky. He doesn’t stop and think things through.”

Dorsey had gone almost gray. “I’m a monster?” he asked softly. He tried to pull away from Willow, but she reached out and caught his arm, holding on even as she looked at Xander with huge, wounded eyes. Soon enough, though, she started to narrow her glare until she had that really dangerous look that usually meant magical badness in his world.

“You’re not human,” Spike said. “I can smell the difference, and you don’t have the juice Xander does, but in that fight back there, your reflexes weren’t human. It could be that like the boy you have to grow into the powers, but one way or another, you’ve been turned.”

“You did this to him.” Willow glared knives at Xander.

“Not on purpose,” Xander said, holding his hands up. “It was purely an accident, because trust me, I don’t know what I’m going right now. But really, major, you should probably come with us because General O’Neill is not going to be amused, and trust me, it’s a little hard to hide it forever.”

Dorsey blinked at them like he couldn’t get his brain around reality. In fairness, Xander had done a whole lot of flailing when he first found out, so Dorsey was probably entitled to a little freaking out.

“Right then, let’s go,” Spike said. He jerked his head toward the woods.

That seemed to bring Dorsey out of it. “No,” he said firmly. He looked down at Willow and then over to Spike and Xander. “I’m an Air Force officer, and I will not desert my post.”

“You’re a bloody monster. Do you know what that lot will do to you?” Spike demanded as he poked a thumb in the direction of the base.

“Put me in quarantine, study me, question my loyalty, and maybe if I can prove that I am still Major Dorsey, they’ll put me on a team again. Teal’c isn’t human, and he’s on our best frontline team. If there’s any chance of me doing some good with this, then I have to take it.” He looked around for a second, his eyes almost wild, and Xander could see the streaks of red start to appear in his hair.

“Okay, red hair is generally not a good sign.”

Willow put a hand on her hip and gave him a vicious glare, but Xander gestured toward Dorsey. “Red hair and red eyes generally mean really, really freakily upset, and the fact that you weren’t that upset with the Asgard invading is kind of sad.”

“I’m fine,” Dorsey said, and his hair stopped turning, although he did keep that streak of red.

“Right, cause you look it,” Spike said with more sarcasm than really needed. “You need someone you trust ta really hold the leash mate, someone who can hit you upside the head with a two-by-four when those instincts of yours get out of hand, and it has to be someone who can hit you like that without you harboring any homicidal feelings for them.”

Dorsey’s gaze slipped over to Willow, but immediately the hope there turned to guilt.

“Oh no, mister.” Willow grabbed his arm with both hands. “Don’t you even go getting guilty. You’re not dragging me into this. I am choosing this because if someone is going to hit you over the head for going all monstery, it’s going to be me and no one else.”

He shook his head. “Your career…”

She snorted and poked him in the stomach, and Xander’s stomach twitched in the memory of those hard Willow pokes. She looked all soft and helpless until you scratched the surface and then his Willow was made of stuff strong than steel. Maybe that was true in all universes. “If I put my career ahead of some team mate, then I’m the biggest monster standing on the side of this mountain.” She gave him her resolve face before turning toward Spike and Xander. “What sort of monster are you?”

“Don’t really have a name for him,” Spike said, poking a thumb in Xander’s direction.

“Well, you guys keep calling us un-als.”

Dorsey cleared this throat. “Un. Al. Unidentified Alien Lifeform.”

“Oh.” Xander frowned. “Okay, the telepathy you guys think I have is actually more of being able to see pictures, but every time you think un-al, you think about us, so I thought…” Xander handwaved the rest away. “Hey, maybe we could be Un-evs, you know, un-evil. Which is not the same as good because good is a choice, but we’re not hardwired evil. Uneaves.” Xander tried it on for size. Given this was his first shot at naming a demon, it wasn’t a half bad name.

“I think we should stick with un-al,” Dorsey said slowly.

Xander nodded. “Okay.” He wasn’t really sure what else there was to say. He really wished Dorsey would come with them, but he totally understood why he couldn’t, and not just because he could feel all Dorsey’s emotions.

Willow said softly, “You two really need to head for the hills… other hills far, far away.”

Spike gave her a quick nod and turned to leave, but Xander stood staring at Willow and Dorsey. He could feel the tendrils tying him to Dorsey, and he reached out to shake the man’s hand. Dorsey gave him a small smile. “Sorry about the ambush, kid.”

“Sorry about turning you,” Xander said as they shook hand. Following his instincts, Xander grabbed Willow’s hand and pressed it against Dorsey’s. His own threads to Dorsey snagged against her flesh, tangling between her fingers and Dorsey’s. Xander stared at their three hands all joined and slowly started backing away, careful to not disturb the threads that now stretched between Dorsey and Willow.

Willow blinked at him, looked down at her hand and then looked back at him. She knew he’d done something, but Xander didn’t understand it himself, so those two would have to figure it out for themselves.

“Are you still looking for the Winchesters?” Willow asked.

Xander sighed. “Maybe. We don’t have anything better to do, and I’m guessing they’d handle a visit from the government even less well than they’d appreciate a visit from the friendly neighborhood monsters. But someone has to give them your number.”

“Look north of Lafayette, Louisiana. I don’t know if the lead is any good, but I found credit card activity that I’m about twenty percent sure is related to Dean Winchester in a little town on highway 49 called Carencro. I can’t give you better than that.”

“Thanks, Willow.”

He turned to leave, but suddenly she pulled him around and caught him up in a giant Willow hug. “Don’t be a giant booger and get yourself killed,” she said, her voice strained.

Xander hugged her back. Closing his eyes, he pretended for a moment that this was his Willow holding him and he could go home. Soon enough, her grip loosened, and Xander took a step back. Dorsey watched silently, but Xander could feel his concern for Willow. Funny. He was the same sort of monster Xander was, and he still worried about Willow being too close to Xander.

“When you feel demony hungry, practice on cows. Spike would take me out and make me practice taking only a little, and when I couldn’t stop, he’d smack me upside the head, which is kinda good for teaching self-control. But most of the time, human food works. If you stop having to… um… poop, don’t worry though.”

“And the ghosts. If you start seeing ghosts, don’t panic. It’s how we mind read, only it’s not really mind reading as much as seeing what people are shoving out into the universe, and sometimes objects will have the thoughts of the last person who touched them sort of clinging, especially if there’s a lot of emotion associated with the object.”

“And runes. I can totally see demon runes, so if you see weird glowing letters, you might want to check with Willow before you assume that they exist in the real world. And—”

“Xander,” Willow cut him off. She reached out with her left hand, and Xander instinctively reached for her, holding it with his right hand as they stared at each other across the few feet separating them. “If he grows into more powers, we’ll figure it out.”

Taking a deep breath, Xander tried to make himself feel okay about this, but he didn’t. He didn’t want to leave these two—they were home in some strange way. If it weren’t for Spike, he knew he’d never be able to walk away, but Spike was his true home. “Take care of yourself,” Xander said, and then Spike was yelling, and Xander bounded off into the woods, his demon speed carrying between trees fast enough to make some of the leaves shake and fall off the branches.

Part Twenty-Eight

Spike pulled their stolen car over to the side of the road after they passed the round blue sign that annoyed “Welcome to Carencro, Louisiana.” Xander stretched, arching his back off the seat.

“You still hungry?” Spike asked.

“Nope,” Xander said. “Well, not for cows.”

When Spike’s eyes started to yellow, Xander held his hands up in surrender. “I was thinking pizza, Spike. Pizza.”

Spike harrumphed.

“Geez. Mr. Grouchy,” Xander said quietly. He wasn’t willing to complain too loud because he really didn’t want Spike to go for the bondage gear. Xander was fond of being able to move all his limbs.

“Any idea where we’re going?” Spike asked.

For a second, Xander could only stare at him. “Me? Why are you asking me?”

“You’re the one with the powers, luv.”

“Me? You’re the vampire.”

“You’re the alph.”

Xander opened his mouth, but after a second, he closed it again without saying anything. That was true. “You’re supposed to call me names and imply I’m worthless,” Xander complained.

Spike snorted.

“You’re doing odd things to my self-esteem here.”

“We can deal with your issues later. Right now, find us some place with a lot of supernatural energy.”

Xander looked around. So far, Carencro pretty normal with browning grass lit by weak street lamp and shops lining the road. It was hard to tell where Lafayette had left off and where Carencro started, and nothing hit Xander’s weird meter. “I don’t see anything,” Xander said. He thought Spike might complain, but he just started the car and started down E. Gloria Switch Road. Someone really sucked at naming things.

Spike spent half the night driving back and forth as they wandered out into less populated parts of town where the houses looked less houselike and more shacklike and large areas of woods and fields lined the roads.

“This is feeling… Um… creepy?” Xander guessed as they passed an area with more trees than people. The air smelled funny, but Xander was almost sure that had nothing do with any supernatural forces.

Spike pulled off to the side of the road and looked around. “Any particular place?”

Xander looked at the greying sky. “We need to find shelter.”

“Focus, nit. Is there a particular place that feels creepy?”

Since he wasn’t winning this fight, Xander looked around. There was a beat up old building with a neon sign on the front, but it was dark. All Xander could see was the outline of a goofy alligator in a hat. “There,” Xander said. “I feel something weird there.”

“Right then, we come back as soon as the sun goes down,” Spike said as he pulled back onto the road. They’d passed a hotel a while back, and Spike did an illegal u-turn and headed back that way.

“In the history of finding people, this seems a little sketchy,” Xander pointed out.

“You’re the one who wants to find these Winchesters. I don’t much care.”

“Aren’t you a little curious about why Sam isn’t in hell? I mean, at the end of the books, Sam throws himself into hell, taking Lucifer and Michael with him.”

Spike glanced over. “Angel got out of hell, so did Fred. I could name a dozen more.”

“In our world,” Xander pointed out. “In this world, it seems to be a pretty big deal. Dean is the only other one.”

Spike rolled his eyes. “You’re too bloody naïve to be turned loose on the world, Harris. If one person did it, then others have too. Those books tell the story as the Winchesters see it, that doesn’t make them the truth.”

“But… the author is a profit.”


“And he’s a profit.”

“And Angel listened to every bit of rot the powers tried shoving down his gullet, too. Just because some tosser claims to be fighting for the white hates doesn’t mean you can trust them.”

“But…” Xander stopped. Okay, that was oddly logical, but Xander didn’t like it. “Good guys are supposed to be trustworthy,” Xander complained quietly.

“Right.” Spike laughed. “And you never lied to your mates, maybe telling Buffy to kick Angel’s ass. Sound familiar?”

“I was trying to keep Buffy from getting herself killed,” Xander defended himself hotly. He’d done what he had to, and he was really fed up with having that thrown back at him. Besides, Spike had been a bad guy back then. He had no room complain considering he’d been helping Angelus.

“And you were right, luv. Buffy didn’t have her head on right, but my point is that the good side is just as likely to lie as not. They have their agendas, just the same as the black hats.”

“And you think that the white hats are lying to the Winchesters?”

“I think those two are too soddin’ trusting.”

“Funny, I thought they were the sort that didn’t trust anyone.”

“If that were true, they’d say ‘shove it’ to all the prophesy rot and take care of themselves. Instead, they’re getting pushed from pillar to post, always reacting to some myth or story. They remind me of… well… every slayer I ever stalked before I ran up against Buffy.”

“That would be two, Spike.”

He pulled off into the motel parking lot before turning to give Xander a truly unhappy look. “No, I killed two, pet. I stalked plenty more and decided they weren’t worth the trouble.”

“And Buffy was?”

“She was young, reckless. I thought I could nip in, break her neck and get away.”

“Yeah, that worked out real well.”

Spike pursed his lips before he shrugged.

“Someone should probably say all that to the Winchesters, huh?”

Spike pulled the keys out of the ignition and turned to really look at Xander. “Is there another reason for finding those two?”

Xander shrugged. “I did want to introduce them to Giles and get them help, but I’m not sure I like Giles in this universe.”

“He certainly would go along with their theory that all monsters are evil.”

“But they aren’t,” Xander said softly. “Which is where I get kinda stuck because I don’t know what to say to them, so I don’t really know why we’re finding them.”

“Other than you want to,” Spike finished for him.

“Right. Dumb idea, huh?”

“Harris, you’re a demon. You’re going to be around for the next several hundred years assuming you don’t do something truly stupid. Given that you’re an alph, you might be around a few thousand. When you live that long, you learn the only thing that matters is doing what you want.”

Xander snapped his head up and looked at Spike. Whoa… he’d expected recriminations and discussions of stupidity and blaming, which Xander was 80% sure was the same thing as recrimination.

“The only two ways of being a demon are doing what you want or getting sucked into some clan or other,” Spike said. “Other than that, there are no guidelines for demons, no societies, no laws, no rules. You do what you like, you follow someone else, or you go slowly insane and end up hiding in some cave. I like the telly too much for a cave.”

Xander had trouble finding the right words, and before he could get any words at all out of his mouth, Spike had gotten out and was trotting toward the office. Thousands of years? For some reason, that reality hadn’t actually sunk in until this moment. Xander was going to live thousands of years. Thousands of years where he wasn’t really part of the world. He was a demon, exempt from the whole death and taxes thing.

Staring at the old siding on the motel, Xander thought about how many human generations that would be. If Dawn didn’t have a kid until she was thirty-five, and then Dawn’s kid didn’t have a kid until thirty-five, how many generations would it be in a thousand years, or even a hundred years? Four in hundred. Maybe. Xander’s brain wasn’t up to thinking in math.

Spike came back and pulled the door open. “We have room 112 at the end. Leave the car here and grab the bags.”

Xander did, but his brain was still stuck. If there were four generations in a century, that meant forty in a thousand years… or was it four hundred? Either way, that was a lot of generations. He would watch Dawn grow old and die, and then Dawn’s kid and then Dawn’s kid’s kid, and then Dawn’s kids’ kid’s kid, and his head was really hurting now.

He followed Spike down the walk, watched as he unlocked the hotel room door and threw his bag into the room and waited for Xander to go in first. Xander cringed as he caught sight of the netting hung from the walls and the old fishing signs and puke green bedspreads. Sadly, this still rated one of their better hotel stays in this universe.

“We’re going to watch Dawn die, and Willow and Buffy… they’re all going to die.” Xander blurted the words out before Spike could even close the door. For a second he stood with one hand on the knob as he just stared at Xander.

“Just now figured that out, did you?”

Xander sank down onto a dusty hotel bed. “You’re supposed to tell me that it isn’t true.”

“So, lie?”

“Hell yes,” Xander agreed. “Tell me that I’m making a big deal out of nothing and that I’m stupid and that Dawn is definitely going to outlive me because I’m an idiot. I’m an idiot that keeps catching the attention of really scary women.”

Spike closed the door and came over to sit next to Xander. It was kind of weird the way he went all quiet, and Xander blinked until the visions appeared. William was sitting against the wall, his expression twisted with pain, and a limp looking Drusilla lay across the other bed and an older woman in even older clothes sat next to a ghost fireplace.

Spike reached over and put a hand on Xander’s knee and all the visions scattered. “You don’t get used to it. That’s why most monsters try and steer clear of humans. They’re not exactly long-lived.”

Xander pressed his eyes tightly shut. He didn’t want to hear that. Nope. Not listening.

“The first time I realized Dru wasn’t getting better after that mob attack, I felt like a bloody ponce. She was dying, and I couldn’t do anything about it. It didn’t seem fair because she was a vampire. And then not long after that, I found out my yoda had gone and changed—gotten himself a bright, shiny new soul.” Spike sucked air through his teeth, and Xander cracked his eyes open just enough to look over at him.

“You’re going to see plenty of ‘em die, Harris.”

Xander shook his head. “I can’t. I’m the normal one. I’m supposed to die before all of them.” Xander felt something inside crack a little. “I was supposed to die before Anya. She wasn’t… she wasn’t the one who went out and did stupid things. That was me.”

Xander leaped up and brushed at his eyes. He wasn’t crying, but he was coming close. “Willow could find a way to undo this.”

Putting his hands behind him on the bed, Spike leaned back. “What will happen to all that magic under your skin then?”

“I don’t know. Something. I’ve had it in me for years now, so…”

“So something was bound to happen eventually,” Spike finished for him when Xander’s words trailed off. “Too many creatures will be attracted to that sort of power, particularly if you’re not using it.”

“So I should stay a monster? Newsflash, Spike, I’m not good at being a monster.”

Spike grinned. “Yeah, well I suppose I know something about that. But the first rule is that the world changes. People come and go. Dawn’s going to turn into a white-haired old woman and then you’ll be standing next to her grave. Of course, that’s assuming that we ever get home. We might be here until long after every person we ever knew is gone and buried.”

Xander felt the wall at his back, and he started sliding down it.

Then Spike was there, kneeling down in front of him. “It’s the way of the world. There will be new people to love, children, grandchildren. There’s always the telly, and when all else fails, a good whiskey.”

Xander buried his head in his arms. “This is stupid. Why am I panicking about Dawn dying? She’s not dying.” Xander threw out tendrils, seeking Dawn. He found Dorsey, sitting in a cell with Willow on the other side. They were watching TV and laughing. Xander felt the moment when Dorsey suspected that Xander was there, and he ripped himself away and lifted his head to look at Spike. “I can’t do this.”

Spike got his hands under Xander’s arms and lifted. “Sure you can, same as you do every other impossible thing you manage. The trick is living in the now. Do what you want now. Feel good about now. That’s all you can do, pet.” Spike guided him to the bed, and Xander let Spike arrange him on the ugly bedspread and then climb in behind him. Xander curled up and let Spike pull him close.

“This is stupid,” Xander repeated softly.

“I’ve been waiting for this particular breakdown since ya found out, pet. It’s part of knowing that you’ll outlive your family.” Spike sounded so sad, and when Xander blinked, the old ghost woman was standing next to the ghost fireplace. “The pain passes, luv.”

Xander wanted to cry. If he was normal, he would have cried. But he couldn’t. The truth drained him so much that he lay in Spike’s arms and let Spike croon to him until long after the sun had risen.

Part Twenty-Nine

Xander woke feeling like someone had rubbed sandpaper over his eyes. He’d ended up on his stomach, and Spike was practically using him for a pillow, but Xander didn’t shove him off. It seemed rude, especially after last night.

The sorrow was still there, nagging at the edges of his awareness and waiting for him to pull it into the light, but Xander made himself focus on something else. He started thinking about Sam and Dean, and something clicked. They’d lost everyone. Pretty much any human being that crossed their paths died, and all they had was each other.

And Spike had been with Drusilla for a hundred years while the rest of the world changed and people died. The two facts sort of got tangled up as Xander thought about what it would mean to have someone with you even as the rest of the world slipped away. All his other friends might die, but Spike would still be there for him. They could have a thousand years together, especially if Xander got powerful enough to protect them.

Dorsey would still be around unless he got killed fighting some aliens.

For the first time, Xander understood why vampires made nests. Yeah, some of it was the whole power in numbers thing, but vampires tended to be on the less than reliable or loyal side, so it never made sense to Xander that so many of them made childer, even knowing those childer were probably going to stab them in the back. Now he got it. In two hundred years, everything else might be gone, but hopefully Dorsey would still be there. Xander could search him out, look in his dark eyes and know that one thing had stayed the same.

Of course, Xander had the advantage of having Spike, too. So that made two things that would never change. That was more than most demons got. Maybe. Xander didn’t actually know a lot about demons and their lifespans. He knew they weren’t all immortal, but they all seemed to outlive humans.

Spike shifted, his knee poking Xander in the ass, which wasn’t nearly as weird as the fact that his leg was between Xander’s knees. “Morning,” Xander said. “Or already pretty late in the evening, in this case.” Not a bit of daylight crept in around the edges of the curtains.

Spike grunted, the sound sending air across the back of Xander’s neck. Little Xander might not have to pee first thing after waking up anymore, but Xander was still having some trouble with morning wood.

“You better then?” Spike asked before he rolled away.

“Less with the wailing and acting like a nincompoop,” Xander agreed.

Spike stood and stretched, and Xander watched him. What would they say to each other in a hundred years?

Spike twitched an eyebrow. “Something you want to say then?”

“No?” Xander guessed. “Except thank you for not running away as fast as you could when I got all weird. I don’t know why I felt the need to have a total mental breakdown.”

Spike sat back down on the side of the bed. “Because it was the first moment when you didn’t feel like you were being chased or tied up or bullied.”

“You? Bully? Never,” Xander said with enough sarcasm to make his real feelings known. However, he also grinned.


“Yep,” Xander agreed. He might have a thousand years of life ahead of him, but he wasn’t going to waste one minute arguing about that.

“I wouldn’t have to bully you so soddin’ much if you weren’t so talented at getting into trouble.”

“Hey, this is not my fault. I was just sleeping in my room when Eve grabbed me.”

“Right, and when you got that huge reservoir of power shoved into you, that wasn’t your fault at all.”

Xander thought back to that day, to standing on the edge of that cliff while Willow slammed him with wave after wave of energy. He remembered feeling like his whole body might explode, and the heat gathering under his skin. “Nope, that was all Willow… well, Willow and Warren. Given that Warren sent her off on her little trip into big bad land, I’m blaming him too.”

“I’m thinking that all the good little happy meals run away from potentially world-ending conflicts, but there you were standing at ground zero, luv.”

“It’s not like I had a choice,” Xander protested.

Spike shook his head. “You had a choice. You just aren’t interested in making sane choices, is all. You’re about to test the theory that vampires can’t age because you’re already giving me gray hairs.”

“How can you tell under all the peroxide?”

“Watch it.” Spike reached over and caught one of the D-rings around Xander’s collar and gave it a tug.

“Right, just go ahead and bully me for no reason,” Xander said in his most long-suffering voice. Spike rolled his eyes.

“We’re late. Shift your arse out of bed because I want to go check out that place you spotted last night.”

“Well I need a shower.”

“I was meaning to tell you that exact thing,” Spike said. Xander threw a pillow at him before grabbing his bag and heading into the bathroom.

Spike shouted at him as he closed the door, “Oi! You’re supposed to bloody submit, not attack me with the bedding.” Xander grinned as he turned on the water.

They pulled into the parking lot for the Guidry Cajun Café long after it’d gotten dark, but the neon sign was still lighting up the night. Spike slipped his hand around Xander and rested it on the small of his back.

Either someone had tried to age the outside of the building to make it look more authentic, or the building had been around since Thomas Jefferson had bought Louisiana. They headed inside, and the aged wood and rust theme continued, but Xander noticed that the chairs were fairly new and sturdy, and the kitchen equipment behind the lunch counter was all stainless steel and clean. So most of the age was for the tourists. Then again, maybe the same people who had decorated all the hotel rooms in this universe had gotten ahold of this café.

A pretty woman with long brown hair and an apron stood behind the lunch counter. “Evening, boys,” she offered with a nod.

“Evening,” Spike answered. Xander just smiled at her and followed as Spike chose a seat at the counter. When Spike gave him a little sidelong look, Xander shrugged. He still thought he could feel something supernatural, but he didn’t know what it was.

“What can I get for you two?” the woman asked as she dropped a one-page menu page in front of each of them.

“Food?” Xander guessed as he looked down at the options.

She laughed. “Okay, I can do that. What sort of food are you in the mood for?”

“I’ll have something fried,” Spike said. “The boy here eats like an ox, so whatever you have extra of, you can sell him.”

“Not okra,” Xander protested quickly as he spotted it on the menu. He did not like slime. He didn’t want to step in slime or slay slimy creatures, but most of all, he didn’t eat slime.

Spike rolled his eyes. “Fine, the boy will eat anything except okra. Happy?”

Xander smiled. “Yep.”

The woman laughed before she turned to the stove and started cooking. “That’s a deal.”

“Isn’t Roy around?” an old man in the corner asked.

“He took the evening off. He works too hard, and I don’t pay him enough for the work he does, so I’m not complaining,” she answered before she moved to the fryer. French fries went in one basket, and something else went in the other. Xander strained to see what she was cooking, but the angle was wrong.

“As hard as he works, he must be sweet on you.”

The woman turned around and shook her finger at the man. “Don’t you start. Roy has never treated me disrespectfully.”

“If he’s trying to make an honest woman outta you, he shouldn’t,” the old man said. “He oughtta show you how hard he can work, show you he can take care of you. That’s the way it uster be done.”

“Well it’s not done that way now.” She shook her head. “Ignore that old coot. My regular cook is a drifter who needed a job and he’s grateful enough to work hard. I’m Elizabeth.”

“I’m Xander, and this is my Spike.” Xander flushed brilliant red when he realized what he’d said. “I mean, this is just Spike. Not my… that’s his name. Really, his name is Spike.” Xander stopped. Spike was laughing hard enough that he was holding the edge of the counter, and Elizabeth was definitely trying to hold back laughter. “Crap.” Xander let his head fall down to the counter and he covered it with his arms.

“Sad thing is, that’s his version of eloquent,” Spike offered. Xander raised a middle finger. “You’re twenty-three, and that’s still as smooth as you can get. It’s sad, luv.”

“Twenty-four,” Xander muttered from under his arms.

“Right then, that makes it so much better.”

Xander sat up and smacked Spike with the back of his hand.

“I’m wounded,” Spike said, his smirk still in place.

“Bite me.” And again, Xander’s brain caught up with his mouth two seconds too late. He flushed brilliant red.

“Bloody hell, breathe before ya pass out,” Spike said, and that was the first time Xander realized he’d forgotten to breath. He took a deep breathe, and the ghosts all scattered. Weird. He hadn’t even noticed there were ghosts.

“Now don’t pick on him. I think he’s adorable,” Elizabeth said. Up to this point, Xander had assumed she was a normal human, but if she liked him, that did suggest evil and demonic.

“Adorable, just what every adult male wants to be called,” Xander said weakly.

“That he is. Cute as a button, this one,” Spike said with a nasty smirk on his face.

“I’m going to…” Xander paused. Spike’s eyebrow went up in that way that meant he was going to take the next words out of Xander’s mouth way too seriously. Xander understood. He did. He was way more powerful than Spike, so Spike was going to feel a need to force Xander’s submission any time Xander had so much of a passing thought of rebellion. “I’m going to sit here and eat my food,” Xander finished.

“That’s what I thought,” Spike said. He draped his arm around Xander’s shoulders, but now Elizabeth was looking at them with some alarm.

Spike wouldn’t hurt him, but Elizabeth was looking more than a little alarmed that he might, and Xander did not like getting cast as the long-suffering wife. “His bark is worse than his bite, but I am not starting a war of practical jokes with him, because that is the path of the loser with green hair and black teeth and underwear full of itching powder,” Xander told her.

“Are you calling me immature?” Spike demanded, all mock indignation and horror.

“Yes, yes, and hell yes,” Xander agreed.

Spike laughed. “Seems better than getting old.”

“Says the guy who reads poetry when he thinks no one is looking.”

Spike narrowed his eyes and glared at him, but Xander gave him a bright smile. Elizabeth laughed, and that distracted Spike from his cranky.

“You two put on a nice show. Either you're brothers or you’re something more.”

“Something more,” Spike answered before Xander could say anything. They were something more, but probably not the something more Elizabeth meant.

The old man gave a loud harrumph that made his opinion on the matter pretty damn clear.

“Cletus, don’t you start.” She gave them a smile. “All sorts are welcome around here. So, we have some fried pickles with our specialty, fried alligator. And for you,” she told Xander, “we have a fried shrimp po boy. That’ll fill you up.”

“I doubt that,” Spike said, but he was too busy giving the old man the hairy eyeball to really tease Xander too much. Cletus decided that he didn’t want to hang around the cranky gay guy, so he gathered up his newspaper and headed out the door with another huff. That left one man in the place. He was a bald guy having a nearly pornographic moment with a piece of pie, his cell phone up to his ear. Xander glanced over, and froze for a half second before quickly turning back toward Elizabeth. Chocolate. Oh, it was a faint smell, but Xander was definitely picking up on chocolate.

Spike and Elizabeth verbally sparred some, but Xander lost most of their conversation, and Spike had to elbow him to get him tuned back in. Elizabeth was giving him another strange look, and Xander had the feeling she was the mom sort, the sort like Joyce who would jump into a situation in a heartbeat if they thought they needed to, even if it meant going up against a vampire with a frying pan.

“Low blood sugar,” Xander explained weakly. “I’m not feeling well.”

Now Spike was giving him a concerned look, turning in his chair and leaning close to get a good look into Xander’s eyes.

“I’ll get the food,” Elizabeth quickly offered. She turned and pulled a bag of French bread off a shelf.

“Harris?” Spike asked in a whisper as he leaned close.

“Is he human?” Xander asked softly, giving his head a quick little jerk back toward the bald guy in the old leather jacket and plaid shirt.

Spike didn’t have to look over at him. “Through and through,” Spike said. “Why?”

“I’m getting some chocolate smell,” Xander confessed. Spike’s eyes started widening. “Only a little, a little, tiny itsy bitsy bit,” Xander blurted out before Spike could drag him out and hogtie him again. Elizabeth turned to look at him, and Xander improvised. “I let my blood sugar get a little out of hand, which always makes Spike overprotective and twitchy.”

She pushed a plate in front of him. It was piled high with fries and a twelve inch sandwich so overly full of shrimp that they were tumbling out. “He should get twitchy. You have to take care of yourself,” Elizabeth said firmly. Yep, definitely the mother-type. She watched him, arms crossed until Xander gathered up the oversized sandwich and took a bite.

“It’s my job to worry about you, luv,” Spike said. It was unfair of Spike to go and get all serious when Xander had his mouth full. “He doesn’t pay attention to his own needs until it’s too late more often than not,” Spike complained to Elizabeth. “Don’t worry, ducks. I have him now, and he’ll eat up and get his blood sugars back where they should be.”

She grabbed the other fryer basket and shook it before tipping the fried food out onto a new plate. She took that plate and slid it in front of Spike. “Just make sure he does. I don’t let men pass out in here, understood,” she pointed a finger at Xander.

“Yes, ma’am,” he agreed, his mouth still full. She smiled at him and then headed for the back. “I’ll get you a couple of cokes.”

Xander waited until she was gone before looking at Spike. He expected threats, the third degree, maybe even a Spike-sized hissy fit. Instead, Spike leaned close. “Got trouble, pet. Should have known you’d land us in the soup with a hunter.”

Xander’s eyes got big. A hunter? The weird looking guy was a hunter? Shit.

Part Thirty

“Hurry up then, places to go and all that rot,” Spike said with a gesture toward the sandwich. Xander took another bite and chewed as quickly as he could. It really was a monster sandwich, no pun intended.

Elizabeth came back with the two drinks, and Spike offered her a “ta” and a nod before accepting. “So, how much do I owe you?”

“You’re leaving? Already?”

“Hate to eat and run, but the boy and I have business,” Spike said in a soft voice.

“Northerners, you’re always in such a rush. I suppose that all total that’s going to be sixteen dollars.”

Spike pulled a twenty out and slid it across the counter. “You keep the change. Xander, you about done?”

“Trying,” Xander said as he took another bite and washed it down with Coke. “This is really good,” he said around a mouthful of shrimp.

“You’d think he was raised in the woods by wolves with those manners of his,” Spike despaired. Xander kicked him.

“Abuse, that is,” Spike complained loudly. Xander knew this game. This was Spike’s version of inconspicuous. He made himself as loud and obnoxious as possible so that when people did look at him they couldn’t actually see past the loud and obnoxious.

Xander rolled his eyes, and Elizabeth just laughed as she started to wipe down the counter.

“Just wait until we get back to the hotel, pet. I’ll show you how to treat me right.” Spike slid off his stood and moved closer to Xander, wrapping his arm around Xander’s waist. With his mouth full, Xander couldn’t say much, but he started coughing, which was awkward with a mouth full of po boy.

Spike patted him on the back with one hand, and let his other hand slip down toward Xander’s cock. Talk about mixed messages. Xander was going to choke on his tongue at this point because his cock was definitely taking notice. Too much.

Quickly swallowing, Xander said, “Bad touching in public, Spike!”

Spike buried his nose in Xander’s neck. “Yep,” he agreed.

“Bastard.” Xander hissed the word as he grabbed at Spike’s wrist. He felt the moment when Spike realized his real problem. The stupid vampire went utterly and perfectly still. And Xander got even harder. This had to be a side effect of the whole getting whammied because Xander had never been interested in Spike before. Much. Okay, so he’d noticed how lean and attractive Spike was, but that had been in a purely heterosexual, eyeing-up-the-competition sort of way. Probably.

Xander could feel his face turn brilliant red.

“Problem?” Spike asked. He rested his chin on Xander’s shoulder and pulled him close so that Xander’s back was pressed against his chest.

“An asshole is hugging me,” Xander pointed out unhappily. Spike’s arm tightened a little more, and Xander could almost feel the blood diverting into his cock. This was a level of hell, and Xander was in it.

“Finish your sandwich, luv. We have business to take care of,” Spike said as he moved his hand up until he rested his palm against Xander’s stomach and spread out all his fingers.

Xander glanced over his shoulder, but Spike had on his inscrutable face. “Right. Eating.” Xander finished as fast as he could, and Spike helped by stealing a few shrimp that escaped from the end of the French bread. “Okay. Done,” Xander said right before he gave a huge burp. “Um, sorry. I ate too fast.”

Spike rolled his eyes. So maybe Xander wasn’t winning any etiquette contests, but it was Spike who had told him to hurry. Hurrying plus huge quantities of food equaled champion quality belching. And Xander was definitely focusing on that and not on how his body had just staged a coup.

Spike turned to head out the door, and Xander scrambled to follow, still completely confused about this business they had to do. So when Spike suddenly grabbed the bald dude and sent him flying into the cash register face first, Xander could only stand and stare in shock. Elizabeth whirled around, a cleaning rag in hand, but before either of them could do anything, Spike pulled on the guy’s arm.

When random dude pulled his hand free of his jacket, he had a huge machete in it.

“Get off me, monster,” the guy yelled.

“So you can kill the girl? Not a chance, mate.”

“Spike?” Xander asked weakly. He had definitely missed something. Hugely missed.

“This wanker was on the phone with someone called Benny. I heard him say that Benny had 45 minutes to get here before something bad happened to the nice girl.”

Elizabeth moved to the far end of the bar. “I… what?” She was keeping up about as well as Xander, which meant not very well.

Spike slammed the guy’s arm down on the counter twice before the machete dropped free. Xander darted in and grabbed it, and Elizabeth stared at him with huge blue eyes. She was quickly moving past shock and into scared, and that was not fair. She didn’t deserve to get threatened with a machete in her own restaurant.

“Um, maybe hold this or hide it or… something,” Xander finished as he held it out to her handle first. She grabbed it and clutched it tightly. Yep, she was ready to start swinging if anyone tried hurting her, and Xander backed away.

“Who’s Benny? I loaned him my phone to call a friend,” Elizabeth said. “He said he left his cell phone somewhere.”

“So, you used her phone?” Spike slammed the guy’s face down onto the counter.

“Hey!” the guy protested, but Spike reached into a pocket and confiscated the phone.

“Here ya are, luv,” Spike said as he slid the phone down the counter. She grabbed it and started going through the memory. “So, who are you, and what problem to you have with the woman?”

“Nothing. Let me go.” The guy tried kicking at Spike’s legs. Yeah, that worked great.

“Just a hint,” Xander said, “you’re really not going to be able to get away from Spike, so telling him the truth would be a very good idea right about now.”

Suddenly Spike jerked. The guy squirmed madly, and Spike had to slam him back down onto the counter. Oh yeah, that was bruising. “Ow. You fucking nob. What the hell was that?” Spike pulled a hypodermic needle out of his leg and tossed it onto the counter. Xander looked closer, and something had stained the inside of the need reddish brown.

The guy started laughing. “Ha! You’re in for it now. That’s dead man’s blood. Now who’s afraid?”

Xander didn’t realize how afraid he was until the fear all rushed out of him at once. There were lots of things that could hurt a vampire, more than Xander wanted to think about. However, shoving blood into a vampire wasn’t exactly big on the smart scale. “You stuck him with dead man’s blood? Okay, that’s a whole new level of creepy. Seriously, who does that?” Xander gave a shudder. “If he tries sticking someone else’s blood in me, I’m hurting him. That’s just not right.”

“But… you should be collapsing, you undead creature, you.” The guy struggled harder, and only then did Xander remember the Supernatural books. Their vampires were incapacitated by dead man’s blood. So whoever this was, he’d figured out that Spike was a vampire. The lack of body heat might have something to do with it seeing as how Spike had his fingers curled around the guy’s neck. However, that meant that when the guy was shoved face down on a counter, he was still smart enough to start collecting clues to try and figure out who had captured him. This was not good. This was monumentally not good.

Spike started patting him down and searching his pockets. When he found a billfold, he tossed it at Xander. Xander opened it.

“Martin Creaser,” Xander read off the license. “Do you know him?” he asked Elizabeth.

She shook her head. “No. He’s a customer and he’s been coming around for a few weeks, but I don’t really know him.”

“Know anything about him?” Spike asked.

She held up the phone to show Xander a number he didn’t recognize. “He called Roy.”

“Your cook?” Xander asked. Maybe he was missing something, but that seemed odd.

She nodded. “You say he threatened to hurt me if Roy didn’t come back?” She turned to Martin. “What’s your problem with Roy?”

“He’s a monster!” Martin cried out. He tried kicking Spike again.

“Bloody hell, stay still,” Spike said as he gave the guy a good shake.

“I’ll call the police,” Elizabeth said, and she already had the phone in her hand, so Xander stared at her, the panic growing in his chest as he tried to find words that would stop her. He didn’t want the police involved, not even a little. He and Spike were monsters, and Xander figured he really didn’t want to get the authorities involved, not with the superhuman hearing and the badness that would come from having a big arrest record. Someone would notice him not aging.

“I wouldn’t, missus,” Spike said, “not until Roy comes, anyway.”

“Um, guys,” Xander said as he held up a paper that he’d unfolded. Martin had it tucked into the pocket meant for bills.

Spike was busy trying to hold a madly squirming Martin. “That’s mine. Leave it alone,” he shouted. “You have no right to read that.”

Elizabeth took a step forward, the machete still in her hand. “Is that…?”

“Aftercare instructions from Glenwood Springs Psychiatric Hospital,” Xander said, reading the letterhead.

“Oh, well that explains a few things.” Elizabeth sounded relieved as she turned back to the counter and put the machete on it. “We should really call the authorities and have them pick him up. Clearly whoever let him out needs a refresher course on how to spot dangerous behavior.” Maybe supernatural blindness was a human genetic trait, because she was as quick to believe a good cover story as anyone from Sunnydale ever had. And unfortunately, that meant she was dialing.

“Spike,” Xander said, desperation in his voice.

“Benny’s a monster. He’s a vampire. And this one is some sort of monster too. They’re all around us… monsters.” Martin definitely wasn’t helping his own case with ranting, but Xander didn’t know how to keep Elizabeth from calling the police. And if Benny was a vampire, he didn’t understand how threatening a human would get Martin anywhere.

“Let’s wait ‘til Roy comes back. He might have something to say about all this,” Spike said before she could finish the third number.

Elizabeth frowned at him. “Why?”

Spike shrugged without letting go of Martin’s neck. “Might be that the man has one or two secrets.”

Elizabeth frowned, but she turned off the phone and slipped it in her pocket, so clearly the possibility of getting her cook in trouble was enough for her to want the police out of it. She wanted to protect him, which did suggest he was probably some sort of monster other than vampire… or he was one of those weird vampires who had decided that hunting humans was too dangerous. Xander had read about those sorts in the books. “You know him,” Elizabeth accused Spike. Then she looked at Xander.

Xander held his hands up in surrender. “Not me, at least not personally. But I’m on Spike’s side because if he is who I think he is, then he really will not thank you for getting the police involved.”

Elizabeth grabbed the edge of the counter. “Oh god. He’s a criminal, isn’t he?”

“He’s a monster!” Martin yelled.

“Bloody hell, one more word and I’m going to reconsider my ban on ripping out people’s tongues,” Spike said, yellow bleeding into his eyes. That was definitely his cranky voice, and Martin’s eyes got all big. Weirdly, Xander felt a little sympathy for the guy. Getting manhandled by Spike was never fun, but when you weren’t sure whether or not Spike was going to literally rip out your tongue, it was way less fun. Xander remembered a time when Spike had tried to honestly kill him, and Xander had the microscope-shaped bump on his head for a good week after.

“He really isn’t going to hurt you as long as you stop trying to kill us,” Xander said. “So, if Benny is a vampire, why do you think he’d come back for Elizabeth?”

“I don’t think it’s a good idea to feed into his hallucinations,” Elizabeth protested, but then she didn’t know what was going on.

Martin cackled. “He likes her. He’ll come back for her, and I’ll cut his head off.” Believing in vampires was clearly the least of Martin’s mental health problems.

“If he’s a monster, he won’t walk into your trap,” Spike said. Martin was shaking his head, but Spike kept going. “And if he does come back, then he’s having some pretty human emotions.”

“No,” Martin said firmly. “I don’t care what Dean says, he’s not a good guy. Vampires need to be killed.”

“Dean?” Spike pounced on the word. “Dean Winchester?”

Martin sucked in a breath and then made a big production out of pressing his lips closed.

“Oh for…” Spike growled. “Well, we know that Benny knows Dean Winchester, so I suppose that’s a start,” he said. He pulled Martin upright and shoved him toward one of the booths.

“Who’s Dean Winchester?” Elizabeth asked. “And what does any of this have to do with Roy?”

Spike manhandled Martin into the booth and then slid in next to him. At this rate, Martin was going to die of a heart attack without Spike ever doing anything to him. Xander wasn’t sure if that counted as murder or not, but he really didn’t approve of killing humans who were trying to do the right thing, even if they were idiots.

“Maybe I should sit there,” Xander suggested with a smile.

Spike rolled his eyes. “Not a chance in hell, luv. He’s dangerous, even if he is ‘round the twist. I figure the best thing here is for all of us to sit down and wait for this Roy or Benny or whatever name you want to call him. And no one is going to be doing any killing, got it?” Spike demanded as he pinned Martin with a glare.

Martin didn’t answer, but he kept swallowing so that his Adam’s apple was practically doing pushups.

“Waiting. Waiting is good,” Xander said as he looked at Elizabeth. “Especially if that means that Roy gets a chance to explain this all for himself, right?”

“Waiting,” she echoed, and from the tone, she wasn’t exactly sure that was the best choice.

“It’s that or let Roy walk into a room full of cops,” Xander said, and he could see the way she tensed. She was loyal to Roy, and if that meant putting up with a few homicidal maniacs until he could get back to the café, she was going to do it. She stood at the end of the bar and made a production out of curling her fingers around the handle of the machete.

“Fine, we wait, but only until Roy gets here.”

Spike graced her with a brilliant smile. “No problem, luv. We’ll all sit here quiet, all safe as houses.” Spike patted Martin on the shoulder, and the man flinched back. And a happy time was had by all. Feeling very much like this was a potentially horrible idea, Xander slipped into the seat across from Spike and Martin. Silently, he slid the wallet and paper back to Martin, and the man snatched them up and started folding his paper. He wasn’t crying, but he looked like he just might start. Yeah, Xander was not getting a ‘mentally healthy’ vibe from him.

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