Apocalypse Laterish


by
Metaforgirl



13

Giles was irritated. Like a business man interrupted by a fire drill, pulling on his metaphorical jacket and checking his pockets to realize with annoyance that his cell phone was still on his desk. Giles was not at all pleased with this current apocalypse.

All his other End of World crises, he recalled, had had a proper timetable. After the initial discovery of its imminence, the apocalypse would wait a respectable period of time during which each of them would have come to terms with its significance. And, of course, after a few dramatic speeches. Finally, when they were ready, they would pit themselves against the evil, in a satisfyingly climatic event.

But as Giles ran into the village he realized that here and now, unplanned, unexpected and for no discernible rhyme or reason, the apocalypse was upon them.

This apocalypse had no proper sense of drama.

Giles headed towards a light emanating from the center of town, then veered wildly off course and ran behind a close building when he realized that the light was actually the Town Hall on fire. He wondered if the patrolmen had managed to remove their weapons before the demons had destroyed their arsenal. He looked around and saw no obvious signs of resistance from the villagers. But perhaps that was a good sign. Perhaps they were planning their moves.


~*~*~*~*~


“*So what’s the plan*?” Xander hissed into Berynn’s ear. They were literally lying in a small puddle of mud behind the Town Hall, watching it burn. Several of the patrollers and a few children crouched and lay in various stages of shock around them.

Berynn looked up at him with huge, pale eyes and shook his head rapidly.

“Okay,” muttered Xander to himself. “No plan. Well, I can work with that. Hell, I did my whole life like that.” He turned back to Berynn. “*Weapons?*” he asked.

Berynn grinned and pointed. Several of the people around them wore crossbows. Berynn dared to raise his body enough to pull back his soaking muddy shirt and reveal the small sheathed broadsword beneath it. So the villagers had managed to arm themselves, thought Xander with unbelievable relief. That left only two unanswered questions.

“*Did you bring my ax?” he asked Berynn. And, searching the gloom worriedly, “Where the Hell is Spike?”


~*~*~*~*~


Spike did two things very well. Love and Death. And today he was doing both.

He crouched behind a tree, grinning madly. He was muddy and already covered with demon blood and looking forward with a great deal of hot expectation to shedding more. His body was buzzing still with post sex endorphins and a bit of Xander blood. And he was looking forward to more of that also. He only had to take care of this tiny apocalypse first. Kill a few thousand demons.

Piece of cake.

Behind him a respectable pile of dead demon bodies had already mounted. Taking them out one at a time, though, was far too slow. Spike was impatient, as always. And besides, the innocents he uncomfortably admitted to wanting to protect, were still running about being captured and such. He had to stop that sooner than later.

He was looking around, trying to formulate some plan to eradicate more of the monsters at a time, when he saw that Bloody Watcher crouching behind a building.

Spike ground a curse out and resisted the urge to fling about in a temper. Stupid, bloody, interfering Rupert Giles. Now he’d have to rescue the prat before he could get back to the business at hand. Which just meant more time wasted. More innocents taken and possibly hurt.

More time before he could get back to shagging Xander.


~*~*~*~*~


Xander tisked more in annoyance than worry. He was strapping on his ax as he and Berynn huddled on the far side of a large, practical looking building at the other end of the village. They had managed to herd their little troupe there and safely shuffle them inside, where Dahla met them and led them to an obscure and dark corner. In the gloom, she carefully opened a door so small, that Xander had to duck to pass through it. They followed her down a steep set of cement stairs and suddenly emerged into a huge hall brightly lit with solar lanterns.

Xander spun on his heel as their rescued villagers marched past him and stared at the high tech equipment, the well stocked shelves. Rows of cots, stacks of blankets. It was a bomb shelter.

Berynn tugged at his shoulder and motioned with his thumb back towards the stairs in a gesture he had learned from Xander.

As they hurried out topside, Xander looked around the rooms they passed through. The place appeared to be some sort of manufacturing center. Great twenty foot long bolts of the rayon which he and the others wore, were suspended from ancient looking metal chains high over their heads. Machinery. Xander skidded to a halt and had to be prodded forward by Berynn.

“But what runs all this?” he asked hopelessly as he was pushed unceremoniously out the door.

He, Berynn and one of the twins were to take turns watching the town hall and circling around the buildings looking for more patrolmen, and dragging back the occasional lost and hiding villager.

Xander had not had a single glimpse of Spike. He tisked his annoyance again and grumbled to Berynn, “He’s out there having the time of his unlife and we’re back here chewing our nails.”

Berynn shrugged and looked like maybe that arrangement suited him somewhat. Xander grinned. “Don’t know what it is,” he said, wriggling his shoulders, “but I’m all itchy and I kinda wanna fight.” He poked his head around the corner and scanned the dark for signs of errant vampires. He didn’t see Berynn’s face, nor his reaction when he whispered back to him,

“Let’s just see what kind of trouble we can stir up on our own.”


~*~*~*~*~


Giles was beginning to worry a bit. He hadn’t any weapons. He had no idea where anyone was. He could see and hear the demons and the occasional cry of a villager. But he could do nothing.

“Hsst, Watcher,” came from just behind his ear and he jumped wildly and would have screamed if a cold hand hadn’t rather ungently clapped over his mouth.

Spike held him still, pressed tight up against him, and hissed, “Shut up, you prat. and follow me.”

Giles would reflect later, with a certain grim amusement, that his desire to stake Spike had completely disappeared when the vampire had come to his rescue. He stumbled along behind him, disoriented and grateful. Spike moved rapidly, not glancing back to see if Giles kept up. Giles sensed that Spike’s heroic obligation was taxed by the act of leading Giles from danger. Any further consideration would be too much to expect.

They had just made it to what Giles thought resembled a factory, when Spike came up short with a curse and stood straight up. Giles slammed into him and was shoved back hard.

“Bleedin’ child,” hissed Spike, and took off at a run. Giles looked up and saw what Spike was running to. Across the street, brightly lit by the fires. Xander and the tiny villager whom Giles had befriended were surrounded by a small pack of demons.

Thoughtlessly he, too, ran to help them.


~*~*~*~*~


Spike had fought so many creatures in so many places for so many centuries that it was like a job to him. He approached it as would any professional. Assessing the situation. Six demons? Right then; take ‘em out in twos. Army of similar demons all about? Do it fast and silent, before they can raise an alarm. Big mothers? Then use their weight against him. It was easy. Except now it wasn’t. Because one of them had hold of Xander, and as a doctor cannot treat a relative, Spike could not think like the professional killer he was, could not plan strategy, when two hundred pounds held his whole world in its arms.

He went berserk.

The demon holding Xander died instantly. A splatter of guts and skin on the pavement where he had been standing. Spike foolishly let the smallest and fastest demon escape so that he could viciously pummel the demon that had presumed to grab at Xander when his now-dead companion had released him.

Giles chased down the escaping demon and he and Berynn managed messily to dispatch it, but the scream and racket of Spike’s attack was already attracting other demons from nearby buildings.

Xander was lying on the ground. Alive, but obviously dazed and possibly injured. Giles had sprained his elbow stabbing through the demon’s thick hide and could no longer use his fighting arm. Berynn seemed more dazed than adrenalized for battle. They needed to retreat, and Spike wasn’t stopping.

Giles attempted to grab hold of the whirlwind that was Spike, and was flung backwards. He looked wildly up and down the street. Even a centuries old master vampire could not take the number of demons that could be in this town. Giles pushed Berynn towards the shadows, hissed “run”.

But Berynn didn’t run, he scrabbled over to Xander instead. Helped him to his feet. Xander rose slowly, still looking dazed, his eyes only on Spike.

“Xander.” Giles shook him. “Xander!” he yelled. “We have to stop him!” Xander’s eyes came into focus. He seemed not to get the situation, but just watched Spike, grinning appreciatively. “God look at him,” he whispered.

Giles shook Xander violently, pointing down the street, until Xander noticed the demons there, coming towards them. Xander shook his head hard, as if coming up from under water. “Shit,” he said. “Spike!” yelled Xander. And it was like magic. The vampire stopped immediately and spun around, mid pummel.

“Xander?”

“Too many,” Xander gestured.

Spike looked around, clarity returning to his eyes. “Right.”

They all ran like Hell. Following Spike, who knew like any demon should, how to lead others astray, they ran the opposite direction they were going towards, then through an empty house, circling around and coming back to slide quickly and safely through a rear door of the old building in which Dahla was holed up.

They slid the door to. Everyone collapsing, gasping, against a wall. Except Spike, who didn’t need to catch his breath and who was in a temper that knew no boundaries.

“WHAT WERE YOU THINKIN’?” he screamed at Xander, shaking him so hard Giles swore he could hear the boy’s teeth rattle.

Xander, Giles was surprised to see, merely grinned saucily into the screaming vampire’s face. “You were great, Spike,” he said, his voice coming out wobbly from the shaking, but with puffs of laughter mixed in. “But Berynn and I could have taken them…”

“Flamin’ Idiot!’ pronounced Spike in outrage. He shoved Xander back against the wall. But it was a gentle shove, Giles noted with surprise. As if even in his rage, Spike knew and took care with Xander’s fragility. “You were about to get yer neck snapped when…”

“Nah, we were handling it. Weren’t we handling it, Berynn?” Xander nodded at the smaller man who looked like he would rather not get into the middle of this argument.

Spike needed something to hit. Finally swinging around and planting his fist in his own palm. “A few minutes later,” he said, “and I could have … they were…” He shook his head, seeing Xander in danger before his eyes again. “Xander…?”

“Hey.” Xander pulled Spike towards him, looking around in some embarrassment as a dozen curious villagers watched the Master breaking down. “Hey, commeer, let’s, uh…go into this room here.” He looked pleadingly towards Dahla, who nodded and gestured towards a smaller alcove off in the corner.

Giles slumped against the wall, fighting the adrenalin still surging through his heart. Berynn’s hand appeared on his arm and he suddenly felt quite calm.

“*Thank you,*” he gasped, not knowing what the villager had done. Berynn smiled into his eyes and looked towards the little alcove Xander had disappeared into with Spike.

“Ah, yes,” said Giles uncomfortably. “I daresay it will be just a matter of moments before…”

A loud moan filled the air.

“Dear Lord,” sighed Giles unhappily.


~*~*~*~*~


“Keep it down, Spike,” Xander laughed, nuzzling away at Spike’s neck.

“You say that, then you oooohhh,” moaned Spike as Xander drew his tongue hard over the bite he had left on Spike’s neck.

“Now you know how it feels,” said Xander nastily. He sat back on the little cot they had found and looked at Spike seriously. “What are we going to do now, Spike?”

Spike sighed. “WE ain’t doing nothin’, Harris. I am gonna go up there and kill a few hundred demons. Thinkin’ the trick is ta get them all in one place, and maybe Dahla has some explosives…”

“You’re not going out there by yourself,” said Xander, matter of factly.

Spike growled a bit, just to make it clear to whom Xander was talking. “Don’t think you should argue with me, whelp.”

“And I’m starting to think you should stop calling me that, you know? I’m not some puppy. You need help. We can help you.”

“It’s no help at all if I’m wastin’ all my time rescuing yer sorry arse.”

“Oh, hey, look who’s talking about rescuing all of a sudden. I recall a certain vampire who was definitely not going ANYWHERE until…”

“Are you goin’ ta give that a bleedin’ rest anytime soon?”

Their voices rose as did their tempers.


~*~*~*~*~


“Well that is somewhat better,” breathed Giles when he heard the sounds of passion rapidly turning to sounds of war.


~*~*~*~*~


“You don’t respect me.” Xander was standing against the wall sulking, his arms folded tightly across his chest. And he was quite deliberately, Spike was sure, making The Face.

Spike wanted to beat his own head on the mattress. The tiny alcove in which they sat was apparently some sort of makeshift medical ward. It housed a cot, a metallic tray covered with impressively sinister looking instruments, jars of Dahla’s herbs tidily organized on shelves. And something that looked very much like an IV drip rig. It bounced and squeaked as Spike jerked around on the cot, quelling his frustration.

“Yer acting like a bloody bint again, Xan.”

“See,” said Xander petulantly. “No respect, I heard no respect in that statement.”

“I respect you,” Spike growled. “Feckin’ child,” he had to add.

“I am not a child, Spike. I am a grown man. I am an old man!” Xander gestured at himself. “Me. I survived over seventy years.”

“And I’m a six hundred year old demon,” roared Spike, “so mebbee you should respect yer elders, pup…”

“I am not a puppy! God, Spike, all you do is order me around and talk to me like I’m stupid!”

“Xander!” Spike stared.

Xander was almost immediately sorry. “Well, maybe not,” he said.

“I don’t think you’re stupid, Xander,” Spike said quietly, frowning at the floor.

Xander shifted uncomfortably where he stood, but he didn’t drop his defensive posture. He shrugged towards the door to the alcove. “You yelled at me.”

Spike’s shoulder moved in a tiny dismissal. “I yell a lot.”

“Yeah,” Xander found himself smiling. “You’re a yeller.”

Spike caught the reference. He glanced at Xander. A glint of bright blue. The scarred eyebrow twitched. “You make me shout,” he said slowly, and his tongue touched his lower lip.

“Yeah?” Xander dropped his arms.

“I meant what I said before,” said Spike, quietly. “Up at the tent.”

Xander could feel his insides softening. Just like that, one hundred and eighty pounds of melted Xander-taffy. “Yeah?”

Spike looked up again and Xander could see it all in his eyes. Six hundred years of loneliness and hopelessness, one second of joy and then a random demon takes it all away.

“I’m sorry, Spike,” said Xander impulsively. “I wasn’t thinking.”

“I respect you, Xan,” said Spike. “Yer a hell of a pain in the arse most of the time, but you’re not a bad fighter. For a human,” he amended.

“Now you’re lying,” said Xander, grinning. He held up his hand. “No, no, I’ll take it. Lie to me, please.” He approached Spike slowly, letting his hips do a little dip and swing.

“You must need it really badly if you’re willing to lie,” he said in a husky voice.

Spike began to grin as well. “I do,” he said, low. “I really, really do, Xander.”

Xander plunked down on the mattress. “Say something else,” he said, his head dipping to caress Spike’s throat, finding that bite mark again and following a memorized path up to Spike’s ear.

Spike shivered. “Yer a formidable warrior, Harris. Demons tremble. Your name strikes terror…aaahhhh,” as Xander found that spot beneath his chin where there should have been a pulse.

“Mmmm,” said Xander appreciatively. “Now tell me how well hung I am.”

“Oh, Xander,” said Spike in his most honest and sincere voice. “I don’t have to lie about that.”

Xander raised his head and regarded him narrowly. “You’re a shitty liar for a demon, you know that?”

“Not lying, pet,” said Spike. He oofed when Xander slugged him lightly, then grinned. “I’d cross my heart on it, but it’d probably leave a mark…”

“Don’t care.” Xander’s mouth closed over his. His hands moved down and found parts of the silenced demon that could never lie.


~*~*~*~*~


Giles sighed when the moans and rhythmic rattle and thump of a bed frame against the wall became too loud to ignore. He looked around the room at the wide-eyed children scattered amidst the refugees.

“*Erm, who would like a story?*” he said loudly. The children’s faces turned to him with happy expectancy. Giles stood, gesturing towards a far corner of their space. “*Why don’t we move over there?*” He followed the children to their story hour, shaking his head.


~*~*~*~*~


“Don’t … oh… yeah, that … ah, ah ...” Xander allowed his mouth to make words. He lay on his belly on the narrow cot, his knees digging into the thin lumpy mattress for purchase. Behind and draped over him, Spike worked, his hips twisting and pumping to push the head of his cock over and over against that spot inside of Xander. Strong fingers dug into his thighs, cool lips pressed against the back of his neck.

“What?” panted Spike against Xander’s neck, his words punctuated by effort as he thrust. “What. Do you. Want. Love?”

“Oh, Gaaahhhd,” moaned Xander loudly. He was so in love with his prostate. He shoved back harder and felt Spike just there, felt the heat and fullness of him. Felt some higher, better sensation just out of reach. His hand grabbed blindly behind him and grasped the cool skin of Spike’s ass, feeling the powerful muscles bunching and flexing to drive him mad.

“Now,” he panted rhythmically, arching his head back. “now now now,” Spike’s tongue seductively carved a curved shape across his neck. “Now,” Xander demanded, feeling his balls tightening, his cock rubbing hard into the scratchy mattress. His voice pitching to a whine. “Spiiike.”

Spike’s frustration had no release. He was afraid to pound into Xander too hard. Couldn’t let himself bite him. He was so hard and so close he wanted to scream, and Xander’s channel clenched at him. Its warm wetness throbbing around him, his blood-hot torso twisting beneath him, demanding that he take what was his…

“Can’t,” Spike sobbed into Xander’s neck, grinding his hips in a fury of denial. “Can’t take Xan, can’t”

His will-power slipping from his grasp, he rubbed the tips of his fangs against the sweet, beckoning marks. Xander shuddered and groaned and arched his neck and Spike felt his fangs just slide in. The tiny bites seemed to clench around him even as Xander’s channel clenched around his cock and Spike had to gag himself with his own tongue, something like holding ones breath, to keep himself from drinking.

They both came in an agony of crying neediness. The orgasms physically draining, but emotionally not quite there.

Afterwards they lay kissing softly. “Sorry, Xan,” said Spike. He watched the boy’s mouth, unable to meet his eyes.

“I don’t understand, Spike,” said Xander. “You don’t take enough to hurt me.”

“Not sure about this biting, Xan. Not sure what we’re up to here. I’d never… I couldn’t stand it if I hurt you, luv.”

“What harm could there be?” Xander snuggled closer, his hands traveled down cool muscular flanks and squeezed. “and it’s really really a turn on…”

“See, that’s it, pe… Er Xander.” Spike’s forhead brushed Xander’s as he allowed his body to move in response to the caress. “your not acting like yourself since the biting started.”

“What’s not me?” said Xander, his fingers sliding up and down that small hollow from the base of Spike’s spine to his crack. The hair there was soft and fine as a baby’s.

Spike made a low noise against his shoulder. “Well, like the fighting, you know?”

Xander’s movements stilled. “Are we gonna start with that again?”

“No, no, fuck, Harris, just think. Why did you go off and chase down those demons?”

Xander chuckled and gathered Spike’s body closer to him on the narrow cot. He rubbed his cheek against Spike’s hair. “You don’t get to have all the fun.”

“Fun,” said Spike flatly. “Gettin’ pounded by a coupla three hundred pound demons is fun?”

Xander laughed lightly, his breath tickled against the back of Spike’s ear. “Okay, so maybe I was a little bored…”

Spike struggled to push Xander back. He made the boy look him in the eye. “Do you hear yourself, Harris? That is not a normal statement for you to make. You like boredom.”

“Hey!” said Xander good-naturedly.

“Seriously Harris. Same old same old. That’s what turns yer crank. Tell me it ain’t true.”

Xander thoughtfully traced Spike’s lower lip with the pad of his thumb. “Lots of things turn my crank, blondie,” he said huskily. “I’m not as White Bread as you think.” He drew his hand back. “Okay, I do feel different. But you know what? I like it.”

“Course you do,” said Spike, studying him worriedly.

“No, really, Spike. Its all good. I feel alive. Tingly. Excited.” He wiggled suggestively on the mattress. “Very. Very excited,” he added unnecessarily.

Spike smiled slightly and allowed himself to be handled. He oozed into all the little warm crevices of Xander’s body. “Yeah?”

Xander pressed their foreheads together. “You bring out the demon in me,” he said gruffly, leaning into Spike’s mouth.

Spike laughed and found his mouth full of hot lively tongue.


~*~*~*~*~


Well the noise had finally stopped, thank God for that, thought Giles, determinedly not imagining Xander with a vampire sucking on his neck. He scanned the group of eager faces and felt a lightening in his chest. At least he had successfully distracted the youngsters. And it had been unexpectedly pleasant.

“*Why did the God want shoes?*” asked a small girl with enormous serious eyes. She was studying her own feet, the ends of the soft rayon boots moving as she wiggled her toes. Giles smiled and impulsively stroked the top of her head.

“*She was very vain and very stupid,*” he said easily. “*she didn’t care about anything important.*”

“*But she was a God,*” said a tall boy standing near his shoulder.

“*Not all God’s are good,*” said Giles. He saw the children absorbing this bit of information as if it were the first time anyone had suggested such a thing. The serious little girl looked up at him worriedly.

“*But how are we supposed to tell them apart?*”

How indeed, thought Giles.

Dahla put out plates of some treat and the children rose en masse and abandoned him. Giles sat back, smiling at the vision of himself he suddenly had as the ancient village storyteller.

Berynn slid quietly into the seat beside him. Giles felt once again that sense of well being the smaller man exuded. But when he looked at him, he saw a face tired and drawn with worry.

“*Are you all right?*” he asked solicitously.

Berynn looked up and nodded unconvincingly. Instinctively, Giles wrapped an arm around the narrow shoulders. He could feel the man’s frame trembling under his arm.

“*What is it? What’s wrong?*” he asked, resisting the urge to draw the dark head more closely against him.

“I’m okay,” said Berynn in an eerily close approximation of Xander’s accent. “*Everyone is so afraid,*” he added quietly.

“Yes, well…” sighed Giles. The slim shoulders under his arm were still vibrating. “It is quite normal to be afraid.”

“You are not,” stated Berynn, the dark head tilting up, the pale eyes studying him with a serious openness so much like one of the children,

Giles smiled. “What makes you so sure?”

Berynn shrugged and turned his head so that Giles could only see the smooth back of it. He noticed the hair lapping slightly over the top of one ear and fought an urge to straighten it.

“*Is… forgive me,*” said Giles carefully, “*but is your family safe?*”

Berynn nodded. His head bowed and the sheath of silky hair fell to either side, revealing his pale slim neck.

Giles found himself wondering how these people tracked the passage of time, and in that context, how old Berynn might be. “*Do you… do you have a wife?*” he asked awkwardly.

“No,” said Berynn softly in English. He looked up at Giles, his eyes, darkening to a grassy green, danced beneath the thick black lashes. “No one wants me, I’m too ugly.”

Giles seriously doubted this. The young man held in the crook of his arm had that ethereal beauty that all young men possess during that brief period of late teens to early twenties. He was slender but well muscled, his beautiful eyes held a world of emotion. His mouth promisingly mobile, frequently smiling to reveal even white teeth, and a dimple on either side. Small, kissable freckles scattered over his nose. Even in this town of attractive men and women, Berynn’s charms were distractingly obvious.

Giles wondered again at Berynn’s seeming isolation. At the distance that seemed always maintained between himself and the other villagers. Except for the twin brothers and Xander, Berynn seemed almost ostracized.

It brought out Giles’ protective instincts. “Never mind,” he said warmly, hugging Berynn closer. “I was too ugly, too.” He was pleased to see the boy laugh.


~*~*~*~*~


Some time later Giles noticed that Spike had emerged and was sorting through the small arsenal of weapons the patrolmen had amassed. He approached him.

“Ah, Spike,” he said. “I wanted to speak to you.”

Spike did not look up from his task. “Welcome back to the world, Watcher,” he said, applying his focus and a cleaning rag to a small hand ax. “Now bugger off.”

“Yes, well,” said Giles, not obeying the command. “I suppose I’ve made no secret of my feelings about you either…” One of the children he had been entertaining came toddling up to him. Spike glanced over at the intruder, and the child flinched back, wide eyed, and immediately scurried off.

“That was rude,” said Giles.

“Can’t help if they’re skittish,” said Spike lazily.

“Perhaps it comes of you drinking their blood.”

Spike set down the weapon he had been cleaning and leaned back against the wall, arms folded. The eyes that met Giles’ were cold and Giles suddenly remembered, as he was often wont to forget around Spike, just how old the vampire was. And just how many Watchers he was purported to have killed.

“We gonna have a problem here, Rupert?” asked Spike.

“I hope not,” said Giles honestly.

“The boy was upset earlier,” Spike mentioned, dropping those unnerving eyes to study his nails. “About some things that were said.”

“That’s between Xander and I.”

“Nope, don’t think so.” Spike stepped up into Giles’ personal space, and leaned in close enough so that Giles could feel the air stir as Spike spoke. “Any problems Xander has become my problems. I think I should make that clear.”

“I believe Xander’s relationship with you is unwise and dangerous. I believe you are taking advantage of him. I will continue to advise him to that affect. I think I should make that clear,” said Giles calmly, not backing down.

Spike regarded him for a moment. “You got a set of ‘em, Watcher,” he said.

“Your esteem means so much to me, vampire,” Giles retorted.

“Guess we should let Xander tell us what he wants, then,” said Spike, leaning back and refolding his arms, with a cockiness he did not feel.

“Perhaps if you could stop biting him long enough, he would be able to make up his own mind,” said Giles sharply.

Spike felt an unfamiliar hot burn in his cheeks. He opened his mouth to retort, but Hope chose just that moment to approach the two men. She stood by Giles, her eerily pale eyes trained on Spike. Spike raised an eyebrow and appeared, to Giles, to kind of bow an acquiescence to the small girl, and back away somewhat.

Giles took the object that Hope had brought. Nodded and thanked her and urged her to leave. He and Spike needed to discuss this now, he felt. Before Xander was any more deeply involved. But Spike had become distracted by Hope. He watched her go, glanced at Giles. Laughed and shook his head.

“Figures she’d hone in on you,” Spike said cryptically.

Giles was surprised by Spike’s interest and his comment. “Yes,” he said. “But, oddly, I feel a connection to the girl. I have no idea why…”

Spike laughed. “Course you do,” he said. He shrugged a lackadaisical shoulder in the general direction of Hope. “Bleedin’ kid’s a Slayer, ain’t she? Course you feel drawn ta her.”

“A… what?” Giles stared.

Spike made a small raspberry with his lips. “Don’t tell me you didn’t know.”

“I can assure you, Spike. I did not.”

“Angel knew,” said Spike wisely, realizing this even as he spoke the words. “That’s why he did it, you know? He killed himself protectin’ her.”

Giles was watching Hope with a look of dawning comprehension. Like all the cherries were lining up in the slot machine. Spike came up to him and spoke softly at his left shoulder. “Reminds you of somebody, don’t she?”

When Giles didn’t respond, he prodded, “Spunky little blonde girl with a yen fer bloodshed?”

Giles felt tears uncontrollably filling his eyes.

Spike turned back to his small arsenal and casually lifted an ax. “Wants to stake me, she does. But she knows we have a connection. Knows we’re alike in a lotta ways. Just like her.”

“But…” Giles regained his mental faculties enough to think about this information. “But she is far too young. And she hasn’t been called…”

“Last Slayer died in the Apocalypse,” said Spike in a brisk voice that spoke of years of regrets, then years of burying those regrets. “Angel never forgave himself,” he added sadly. “Sent him over the edge, it did. This un,” he shrugged that uncaring shoulder again and Giles could now see how badly Spike needed to not care, to not feel an attachment this time, “this un sprung forth sort of full grown. From a cave.” He frowned at a long knife as he drew it from its sheath. “Don’t think she’s completely human. If any Slayer is,” he added.

Giles nodded numbly.

“’Spect she’ll want training,” said Spike.

Giles leaned against the wall behind him.

“Gonna go check on the whelp,” said Spike. “Mebbee I can talk him into resting for a little while.” He began to walk off, but then he paused and looked back at Giles, his face sharp and hostile. “Mebbee bite him a bit. If he begs me.”


~*~*~*~*~


Another group of villagers, led by a blood spattered and shell-shocked patroller, found their way to the factory. They were questioned thoroughly. It seemed the demons were settling in above, methodically going through the town house by house searching, pillaging, killing and burning. Spike had soon heard enough and headed towards the door.

“Whoa,” said Xander hastily, gathering up his things and following. “Wait up, pal.”

Spike paused, one foot on the bottom stair and turned, his jaw clenched. “Not gonna get into another fight with you about this, Xan…”

“Well, good then,” said Xander, trotting up.

“Yer not goin’ up there again.”

“And you aren’t going off alone again.” They glared at each other.

“Perhaps some form of strategy would be wise,” Giles volunteered from the little circle gathered around the new arrivals.

Spike gave Giles his grudging attention. “What do you suggest, Watcher?”

“Well…” said Giles, a bit surprised to be asked. He looked around the room of frightened, innocent faces and realized how little these people knew of war. They were all gazing at him expectantly, waiting for pearls of wisdom, no doubt, to fall from his lips. It was rather daunting. And terribly poignant. He glanced back up at Spike. Saw for the first time the grim exhaustion, that determined strength. If nothing else, Spike felt an obligation to these humans. He was in it for the long haul.

And Xander. Who of course would always jump in with no questions asked if the people he cared for were in danger. He stood at the foot of the stairs below Spike. A worn and used looking battle ax strapped comfortably against one hip. One hand on Spike’s arm in a kind of casual possessiveness.

They were it for these people, Giles realized. They were the war chiefs. And they had better get along.

“I suggest you wait five or ten minutes, Spike. So that you and Xander and,” he scanned the room, “the patrollers and I, can come up with a plan.”

Xander nodded eagerly. Giles thought he saw a kind of guarded relief in Spike’s eyes.

“You got five minutes, Watcher,” he said, swinging back to the floor. He slid an arm easily around Xander’s waist and drew him towards the big table in the center of the room.


~*~*~*~*~


It was a simple plan but those can be the best. Spike and Dahla would take a group of fast runners up to the back of the village and begin to methodically herd off small groups of demons and dispatch them. The idea would be to isolate the horde to one area. Which then would probably have to be destroyed.

Xander and Giles and the remainder of the patrollers would first lead the villagers to a cave that was defensible against large creatures, then sneak down to the old demon camp, working their way slowly back towards the village. Reconnoitering and ascertaining the lay of the opposition’s army.

They were all given the anti-magical device bags. Plus a lot of something Xander identified as magical gunpowder. It seemed it would ignite with words, not fire, but the effect was the same. Cross bows were set aside and large swords, knives and any other tool that could stab and wound was found and somehow strapped on.

Spike had a feeling the vampires were out there. He expected they’d meet up with them soon. This whole thing smelled like blood to him. But for now they would deal with the infestation. At his insistence, everyone was armed with a stake as well.

Giles led the people up the stairs. Xander stood at the bottom, counting heads. Spike slid up and grabbed his boyfriend close.

“Don’t do anythin’ stupid now,” he said, his nose touching Xander’s. “Remember that.”

Xander smiled and leaned into Spike’s lips.

Giles looked down the stairs and sighed. Xander and Spike were blocking the stairway and oblivious to the whole world. In any other place, under any other circumstances, with any creature but Spike, he would have thought the two were in love.

But, of course, that was nonsense.

“Coming Xander?”

Xander looked up, as if startled. His cheeks crimsoned and he extracted himself from Spike’s arms. Ran up the stairs towards Giles, casting one more look back at Spike.

“Meant what I said, Xan,” said Spike.

Xander nodded.

Spike watched Xander go. It was the safest job for the boy, he felt. Far from the worst of the fighting, and under the watchful eye of Rupert. But still, he would have rather gone with him. He sighed and turned back to Dahla. She was busily tying packets of gunpowder to a wide belt, her mouth a determined, thin line. Her hands moving quickly and efficiently.

Angel would be proud of her, Spike was surprised to find himself thinking. He moved to her side and hoped his Sire would be proud of him too.


~*~*~*~*~


The cave was one that Angel and Spike had dug out of the cliff many years ago for just such an event as the one they were having. Halfway up a sheer cliff face, it could only be reached by one long ladder, which would then be pulled up and stashed along the wall.

Long, sharp pikes guarded the floor, which thrust out from the cave entrance, so any creature rappelling down from the edge high above, would be in imminent peril of impaling themselves. And a battery of crossbolts and spears were stored there to repel any further assault.

Giles and Xander followed the last villager up the steep ladder and rested there for a bit. The patrollers taking that moment to get some food from the storage rooms deep in the cliff, say goodbye to relatives or just sit dazedly trying to come to grips with the situation.

Xander went off to a corner by himself and thought about Spike.

“Were you injured, Xander?”

Giles squatted down next to him. He picked up a bit of the cinder that made up the floor and crumbled it between his fingers, studying the charcoal and ash as it fell from his hand.

“When? You mean those demons? No, just a bruise or two…” Xander studied the cave wall intently. He had been sort of avoiding Giles since their little conversation up at the camp before all this had begun.

“I’m sorry I reacted so badly,” said Giles.

Xander shrugged.

“You can understand my concern,” Giles said, He saw Xander’s jaw set, his brow come down.

“Sure, Giles, I understand. You hate Spike and think he’s a bastard.”

“I think he’s a vampire, Xander. And wait…” Giles said as Xander looked as though he was about to deliver a heated retort. “I am NOT being a bigot. A demon is not a misunderstood minority. Humans are a vampire’s prey, Xander. We are their food. If one is kind to you, I’d say it’s more of a master-pet relationship, not one based on true companionship.”

He thought he saw his words hit home. But Xander shook his head. “Spike’s not like other vampires,” he said.

Giles nodded, giving him that. “Yes, of course. You’re right. But Xander…” He edged closer and dared to put his hand on Xander’s arm. “How much of this is just about the bite? Do you even know? Maybe Spike isn’t doing this intentionally but you must realize that this is how a vampire seduces a human to become his Childe?”

Xander had that look on his face of a man beleaguered from all sides. “I don’t know, Giles. I just know… I just know how I feel,” he said helplessly.

“You don’t understand,” he added unhappily. “So you can’t know.”

“You think I don’t understand about love, Xander? About passion and hunger and need?”

Xander continued glaring at the ground.

“I am not without feelings, Xander.”

“I know that, Giles. “D’you think I don’t know every argument you’re about to throw at me? D’you think I haven’t said them myself, to myself? This is different.”

“Yes, of course. It is easy to forget that you are actually NOT a teenage boy in need of guidance,” Giles said, just managing to keep the sarcasm from his voice. He paused. “Well, Xander, drawing upon that wealth of experience, I’m sure you recall that at the beginning of any ill-advised venture there is a certain amount of conviction that the current situation is different…”

“And a certain amount of studied, well-meaning advice from people who don’t know what they’re talking about,” Xander interrupted angrily.

“I’m just trying to be sensible, Xander.”

“I’ve done the sensible thing my entire life, Giles,” said Xander. He took a deep breath, then sighed. “Okay, maybe this is crazy. But I’ve got a pretty good track record with crazy, don’t I, Giles?”

This made Giles smile. “You do seem to manage it quite well, yes.”

“I mean, I’ve followed my instincts into some pretty bad situations, I’ll admit. But I survived them, didn’t I? Maybe with a little help, but still…”

Giles considered this. “Perhaps because your instincts have always been essentially heroic.”

Xander was taken aback. “Wow,” he said., “that almost sounded like a compliment.”

Giles shook his head, grinning. “Are you trying to make me feel guilty, Xander?”

Xander let his lip curve up in a small smile. “Learned a few tricks from my son, I guess. Is it working?”

“Do you mean, is it distracting me from the issue at hand? Then, no, it isn’t working.”

“The issue at hand,” said Xander slowly. Listen, Giles,” he said. “I know you’re only trying to help, but…”

“All I ask is that you consider this,” Giles interrupted gently. “ Perhaps step away for awhile. Just…just resist the bite. Get over the craving and see how you feel then. If Spike really cares about you…”

“He does, Giles. This is huge for him, you have no idea…”

“Well, then I should think he’d want you to be sure, also. I should think he’d be concerned about the long range effects of these actions.”

“Yeah,” said Xander after a while. “He has said stuff. I guess.”

“Well, then, perhaps you should move into the village for a time. When this is all over.”

Xander was looking at the cave wall again. “I’m not leaving him alone up there, Giles. He couldn’t survive it.”

Giles knew better than to ponder out loud just why Xander should care about Spike’s survival. “Just promise me you’ll think about it, Xander?”

Xander nodded.


~*~*~*~*~


Well, this was easy, thought Spike. He swung out in an inside roundhouse, came down into a jumping kick and back slapped a demon’s head into a wall. The sounds of gooey body parts splattering, echoed around him for a few minutes after he landed. He looked around happily.

The sprinters would dart in front of a group of demons, the demons would give chase. They would be led back towards the little corral of buildings, fence and magical barriers Dahla had constructed and between Spike and the shaman, they would be exterminated.

The only escape was a small barricaded building in which several dozen demons were now trapped. Spike had a little interrogation planned for later in the day.

The heaps of dead demons were rising rapidly and they had not lost a man. Spike had barely begun to feel the thrill of fight. This was so easy. This was too easy. As the thought occurred to him he felt the prickle up his neck and whirled around to see Dahla, head jerking up like an alerted rabbit, wide green eyes meeting Spike’s with realization.

Spike barely heard it coming.


~*~*~*~*~


“What was that?” whispered Xander, raising his head and looking around with flared nostrils. As if he could scent the air, thought Giles disturbingly.

“I didn’t hear anything Xander,” he said quietly.

They were trudging through a particularly thick, darkened part of the forest. An area with sticky, twining roots and branches that curled around their arms and legs. Something like mushrooms squishing underfoot and giving beneath the palms of his hands when he leant against the trunks of the damp, spongy trees.

Berynn and one of the twins were slipping through the complex undergrowth with ease. And Xander seemed to just tear through it, absently grabbing hunks of the white clinging stuff and tearing it off his arms and legs as he walked. But Giles was getting hung up in it again and again.

Xander rubbed, for about the thousandth time, at the scar tissue on his neck. “Something doesn’t feel right,” he said.

Beginnings of withdrawal, thought Giles to himself.

And then he heard the sound as well.

In a place where there is no life but one’s own, silence is so profound and so much a part of existence that the sound of undergrowth rustling and feet moving quickly is chilling and odd.

Everyone froze, looking around.

And then everything was a chaos of confusion. Xander’s body came up against Giles’ hard and he felt himself shoved to the ground. Nearby, one of the villagers screamed in that particular way a man does when in great pain. Xander was crouched in front of him, ax withdrawn, so Giles barely saw the attacker.

Hairy and low to the ground, red eyes and pink nostrils flaring. The crooked and filthy tusks waving threateningly in the air. It dug its cloven hooves into the foamy ground and snorted.

“Boar!” yelled Giles, pushing to his feet and trying to drag Xander back. “Wild boar!” The air whistled, Giles would recall later. And like something from a child’s fairy tale book, the bronzed ax sailed in a perfect elliptical arch through the air and landed squarely and with a loud, wet thunk in the middle of the creature’s skull. It stared at them with frozen eyes for a moment then collapsed.

Xander ran to the fallen man while Giles absorbed the fact that Xander had just accurately hurled an ax from twenty paces.

“Berynn? Oh Christ, Giles help us.” Xander was cradling the man on the ground.


~*~*~*~*~


There was blood in places it ought not to have been. This alone was confusing to the demon. Blood has certain properties, certain behaviors. It flows, it pumps, it pounds. It doesn’t burn, or evaporate into the air from the heat. But he smelt burning blood, demon’s blood and human’s, mixed together. It was all around him. Trying to pull himself into consciousness, the wrongness of the blood was disorienting.

Spike’s hand made contact with his face and he felt blood there. It smeared across his lips and he knew it wasn’t his own. Parts of his body were making themselves known to his brain, as well. They were not happy with their status.

His ears were parsing and carrying sounds to his brain. Translating until he realized that all around him creatures moaned with pain. Spike thought one of the voices he heard might be his own.

And his brain wisely suggested that further attempts at contact with the rest of his body be avoided. His brain recommended a nice little lapse back into unconsciousness. But Spike could still see Dahla’s face the instant before the explosion. He saw in his minds eye, too, the young men that had been nearby. He bared his metaphorical fangs at his reasonable brain and forced himself somehow up on his side to look around.

It was worse than it had smelt. Finding focus, Spike recognized an object on the ground near him as a hand. There was no arm attached to it. Spike recognized the shape of the hand, a peculiar slender ring on the finger. Pain worse than anything his body could generate shot straight past his nerves and pierced his dead heart with its narrow point. He purposely looked beyond the remains of the young patroller.

Dahla’s long skirt protruded from under a pile of debris. Spike crawled across the dead and their blood and found Dahla’s foot. With a kind of instantaneous prayer to the nothing he believed in, he wrapped his fingers around her ankle and felt with unbelievable relief a steady, if weak, pulse.

“’Ang on luv, gonna get you outta here,” he promised, focusing his will on the living.


~*~*~*~*~


“*So much blood, so much blood*,” Berynn was clawing and chanting hysterically. Xander could barely hold him still as Giles tried to tie off the puncture wound in his thigh.

“Xander, please,” he ground out as Berynn jerked once more and Giles lost his knot.

“The wound isn’t that deep,” said Giles, pulling aside the torn material. “And there isn’t that much blood. I’m surprised…” Berynn twisted and his arm barely missed Giles’ face. “Really! I’m surprised he is so affected.”

“Something’s wrong, Giles. Berynn isn’t like this, whoa!” As a knee came around and clipped him.

“We should get him medical attention,” said Giles.

“*so much…*” Berynn chanted. And Xander looked up at Giles, as if suddenly struck himself.

“Xander?”

“We have to get back, Giles. Something really bad has happened.”


~*~*~*~*~


Someone had blown a hole in the world.

Spike stood crookedly amongst the rubble and ash and looked around. Like a great broken molar, the remains of the building jutted up around him. The caved, rotten insides bloody at his feet. Spike was barely aware of it, but his own injuries were extensive. He had tied his shirt closed over the parts that kept protruding from his abdomen and ignored the blood running steadily down his left leg.

If he noticed the blood he’d go mad. Dahla was still unconscious, but he had cleared the rubble from her body. Spike’s knowledge of human physiology was extensive, for unfortunate reasons, but he ran his hands over her and was able to ascertain that the majority of her injuries were mendable bones.

He had found a few, a very few, whole bodies. One other barely survived villager. When he had come across one of the patrollers, still alive, Spike had had to stop and hold his insides to keep them from falling out as he sobbed. He uncovered a live demon who would regret his entire existence when he was conscious again, and … Spike looked around desperately… a kind of pounding panic surged into his frontal lobes. As if his dead heart were beating with fear. He was surrounded by the tissue and liquids of exploded creatures.

The heat was fantastic. Whatever had exploded had been incredibly powerful. Steam rose from the ash and gravel around him. It stunk of cooked flesh. A thin silt of ash continued raining down around him. It, too, had that dampish smell of flesh and blood. Having no circulation, Spike could not go into shock, but his brain wanted to shut him down. His brain had had enough of this place, this knowledge.

Spike stumbled against a bit of fallen stone and let his brain have its way.


~*~*~*~*~


Berynn was unconscious again. A remarkably heavy weight that Giles and Xander carried between them.

“This happened the last time,” said Xander, panting a bit with exertion. “I didn’t get it then, but Berynn can feel it when somebody…when somebody is in pain, Giles.”

Well-oiled cylinders clicked into place. “Oh,” said Giles. He was amazed he hadn’t realized this before. “Of course. How interesting.” One of his feet slid on a bit of damp. They were very near the main approach to the village. “The empaths are mentioned in the texts, of course…”

Xander would have laughed, if he hadn’t been concentrating on carrying Berynn backwards through the woods in the dark. Trust Giles to refer everything back to his prophecies.

Tybor had been running ahead and behind, scouting for the rest of the troop as they slowly accompanied Berynn. He stumbled back into their visible space, his face so white the freckles seemed to hang above the surface.

“Oh my God,” said Xander. You didn’t need to be an empath to know what Tybor was feeling. Tybor’s mouth opened and closed as he waved his hands behind him. He looked like a pained mime.

“Somebody…?” Xander carefully eased his share of Berynn’s weight into another man’s hands. He jumped and ran as Tybor preceded him. A couple of other patrollers ran behind him.

He knew it was selfish but all he could think of was Spike.


~*~*~*~*~


“Dear Lord.”

It was the first such expletive to have emerged from Giles’ lips.

The sight of the village had silenced them all.

It wasn’t so much the presence of destruction as the absence of what should have been. There was a blackened crater where several dozen buildings had stood. As if an enormous giant had stubbed out his cigarette there. There was no debris in its center, only towards the crisp edges; rubble, shards of buildings like bits of broken glass stood up here and there.

The air was still thick with the ash.

Like mindless antibodies, in a host suddenly ravaged by disease, the men didn’t think. They surged over the decimated ground, throwing their puny ineffectual selves at a disaster so overwhelming their individual minds could not understand it.

They looked for wounded buried under the debris. Found the dead, instead and moved on.

Towards the outer edge, on the northern road that led to the factory, Xander and Giles found an entire wall still standing. All around it, debris had been pulled aside and piled, almost compulsively, in neat stacks. A row of injured and dead lay in front of the wall. Like dolls lined up in a child’s bed.

While Giles knelt beside the first prone figure, Xander stumbled along the cleared trail. Every few steps coming across another individual. They were men he knew, some distant still waking part of his brain informed him, although he couldn’t put a name to the faces, coated in beige ash, painted with dried blood.

He came to the end of the crooked cleared path and found its maker. Seeming very small, Spike was curled around his spilling guts, one broken hand still clutching the remains of a shirt to himself, the other splayed out in the puddle of blood in which he had fallen.

From the moment he had seen the blown apart village, Xander’s mind had been stepping though what it encountered one blink at a time. He couldn’t hang onto anything firmly enough to give it a name. But some inner cell had been seeking Spike constantly, wondering at every drift of dust or ash if he was stepping though his lover, watching him dissipate and blow away. So the sight of Spike in any condition was a relief.

Which was half the reason he vomited.

Giles came up behind him and saw the torn mess that was Spike and uttered the expletive.

“He needs blood,” Xander crawled across blood and muddy ash, pulling his body as close to Spike’s face as possible.

“Xander.” Giles’ hand on his shoulder as if to restrain him. Xander shook him off. Although the violence of his movement was distant, not conscious really. He heard, rather than felt, Giles body fall away, as if some great strength had hurled him.

Xander also heard a voice making a whining sound. Like a puppy he had had once, when left outside at night.

Spike’s face felt too soft, the usually tense muscles completely flaccid. Bent over in the mud and blood, Xander pulled Spike’s head until his blunt human teeth were pressed to his claim marks. The mouth remained unresponsive, the teeth dull. Xander could hear that whining sound going on and on.

Giles cursed again and fell over blasted masonry. Spike looked almost blown in two. His dry and empty intestines spilled out of blue and gray torn flesh, the filthy remnants of his clothes twisted into the mess. Xander was wrapped around his corpse, covered also with blood and the filth of the ground. He had his neck pressed into Spike’s face and as Giles watched, almost immobile with this additional horror, the disgusting mess of a corpse rippled and transformed into a gray skinned demon with claws whose filthy face turned into Xander’s proffered neck and savagely bit down.

The sound of the teeth entering Xander’s throat was loud and crunching, as if he broke through tendon. Giles turned his eyes away. Behind him, beside him, men and women writhed and moaned in emotional and physical pain. They had need of him. And the triage in his mind abruptly left Xander to foolishly feed the dead while Giles tended the still living.


~*~*~*~*~


Everyone has demons. They people our nightmares and plague our lives. They drive us to cut off travelers on the freeway and snap at our children. We spend money and time in an effort to control them. With chanting, prayer, juice fasts and yoga. And still they circle and snarl, like mad dogs, in the cellars of our psyches.

Spike’s demon could have squashed any of ours like a bug. The injuries were so extensive that Spike’s human persona had withdrawn and the stronger, survivalist demon had risen to take full control.

The demon was somewhat comforted when the blood began to behave itself. His claimant had found him and had moved him to a building underground. Cool and dark and safe, cooed the demon contentedly. His claimant was trying to give him more blood, but the demon refused to take from him. His senses told him that the taking would harm his claimant. Something in the blood was still too weak, after the last taking. So although he ached for the new rich hemoglobin to flood his dead cells and restore this corpse in which he walked, the demon withheld itself.

“He won’t drink anymore,” Xander said desperately. He cradled the bandaged, unconscious corpse in his arms.

Giles stood wearily beside him. So exhausted with shock and grief and twenty-four hours of hospital duty he could barely stand. He had come to check on Xander and Spike before collapsing on a cot in the corner somewhere.

He was disturbed by what he found. Xander had apparently completely neglected himself since he had found Spike. He lay on the cot next to the vampire, holding him. His own clothes still filthy with mud and blood and ash. His skin, under the grime, had a sickly pallor. The eyes that turned to Giles were black and dull, like dusty marbles. The whites were yellowed, as if Xander had jaundice.

“Perhaps you shouldn’t try to give him anymore,” suggested Giles, careful to keep his voice neutral. “I’m sure it takes a while to heal, at any rate.”

“Is that how it works?”

Giles sighed. He had no idea how to heal a vampire. He had spent his life learning to exterminate them. But he knew something about how to protect a human from a demon. He stepped closer to the limp corpse. “What have you tried?” he grimaced, “besides feeding yourself to him? Really, Xander, that seems quite…”

The demon smelled new blood. It rose fast and vicious and desperate and reached for it.

“Whoa, Christ!” screamed Xander, barely holding on as Spike flashed into gameface and surged towards Giles.

Through his exhaustion, Giles felt a feeble lap of anger. “He tried to bite me.”

“He doesn’t know what he’s doing, Giles.”

“Nonsense, he’s a vampire. He is, quite reasonably, attempting to feed because he needs blood. He is dangerous right now, Xander. You should restrain him.”

“I’m not tying up my boyfriend while he’s hurt and unconscious Giles.”

Giles carefully removed his glasses and rubbed at his eyes tiredly. His temper was frayed and his nerves were shot. “It is somewhat ridiculous to continuously refer to a vampire as a ‘boyfriend’ or ‘lover’, Xander. Spike is a powerful demon and could eat anyone here. You and I would be hard pressed to stop him. I think he should be restrained and you should get some rest.”

Xander tightened his arms around the struggling demon. He said loudly, to the mattress beneath them, “Giles, you’d better move on before I let him go ahead and attack you.”

“Xander!”

“Right now,” Xander took a breath, “I have an overwhelming urge to just feed you to him. D’you hear what I’m saying? I mean I feel almost compelled to do it. I can barely restrain myself.”

“That isn’t amusing, Xander.”

“I’m not trying to be funny, Giles.”

Giles stood another full moment, watching Xander. “Very well,” he said sadly, and walked away.

The blood moved away and the demon writhed painfully. But his claimant restrained him and he obeyed, turning back into the comfort and warmth and ignoring the hunger as best he could.

“It’s okay, buddy,” said Xander, carefully laying Spike back down on the mattress, smoothing back a damp bit of hair. “I’ll take care of you. If I start eating flies, though, pal, you are gonna owe me big time.”


~*~*~*~*~


Giles found his way to another cot and had barely lain down. No blanket or pillow, just his hands folded across his chest, when Berynn appeared suddenly beside him.

The young man limped noticeably, but seemed otherwise well. He lay a blanket gently on Giles knees and stepped back quietly, as if to go.

“*Wait*” said Giles, struggling to sit up. Berynn flinched and drew back. Giles was surprised, and then he suddenly understood. He gestured in a non-aggressive manner. A beckoning motion.

“*No. No you don’t have to touch me.*”

Berynn’s eyes were dark and still. His mouth was drawn into a thin line. He smoothed his filthy shirt against the bandaged thigh and Giles could see him trembling. He gestured again.

“*Please, sit. For a moment. Are you better?*”

Berynn regarded him solemnly. He did not answer.

“Xander *explained*,” said Giles carefully. Berynn’s eyes reacted to this. The iris flinching. Like water touched by wind, or water bugs, little reactions of the color. Giles wondered if Berynn’s ‘gift’ was considered a blessing or a curse in this village.

“*It must be very painful,*” whispered Giles.

The green depths darkened again. Berynn nodded.

“Why do you endure it?” asked Giles gently.

Berynn’s raised his head and his eyes scanned the room of injured and mourning people. He looked at each one in turn with compassion and regret.

“Yes, of course,” said Giles. “One does what one can.” He could see now that Berynn was shivering. Giles wanted to take wrap his arms around the young man, and warm him, but he suspected the contact would drain the empath more than comfort him. He thought for a second. “*I might be able to help,*” said Giles.

For just a moment, something very small and wild appeared in Berynn’s eyes. Like a wish from his boyhood. He blinked and it vanished. He shook his head, eyelids lowered.

“No, really,” said Giles. “I learned some techniques a long time ago.”

Berynn looked up at him. The skepticism in his face making him look suddenly old.

“Sit down,” commanded Giles. He awkwardly assumed a semi lotus posture on the cot, spread his hands, thumb to ring fingers circled, across his knees. “Take a deep breath.” He waited while Berynn sat on the floor. Assumed the same posture, and looked up at him with an expression of full of both cynicism and hope.

“*Now this may take a while,*” said Giles. And slowly, carefully, he pronounced the Sumerian chant.


~*~*~*~*~


Xander had been in thrall, and he had been possessed. He had also been a parent. On the scale of 100, in protectiveness and compulsion to serve another, parenthood was a ninety nine to the other experiences’ tens and twenties.

He didn’t want to mindlessly obey Spike. Hell, half the time, he wanted to punch him in the nose. And he didn’t feel that Spike controlled his actions, made him do things he would not normally do.

He just couldn’t imagine being alive without him.

It was a lot like being a parent, he reflected. Like the time James had broken his arm and Xander and Patricia had spent the night sleeping in chairs next to his mattress. Unable to leave him, as if they could somehow bleed their strength into the little body.

This time he had literally put his strength into Spike, and still it wasn’t enough.

Xander had finally fallen asleep with exhaustion. He was still curled around Spike. Partly protective, partly to give himself comfort. His marks ached and itched and burned with need. He wanted to feed Spike blood. His own and others. He wanted it so badly, he had had a few bad minutes during which he had run through his mind all those villagers he might not mind sacrificing to his vampire. He had gotten control of that insanity finally when he had imagined Spike waking to find that he had drained one of his innocents.

His own blood would have to do, but Spike would take no more.

On some deeper level, Xander understood. It was as if he and Spike were standing on a seesaw, holding hands. Keeping each other from falling backwards or forwards, keeping each other moving up and down, by their own equal give and take.

He knew he was weak with blood loss. When he raised his shaking hand, or tried too quickly to stand and felt the gray dip into his vision. He knew. And somehow he knew that Spike would not take from him because of this.

But he also knew, because of that shared instinctive balance between them, he also could feel that Spike was still needing blood. And there was no one Xander could ask. They had all given everything they had, the villagers left here. Those that were still whole in body were too weak in spirit. There was no one who could afford to donate to Spike.

He lay, shivering with cold and blood loss and exhaustion. He had been too afraid to leave Spike’s side, and his blood sugar levels were dangerously low as well. His arms draped around Spike’s still and chilly body. His lips pressed against his cold flesh. He could feel the helpless tears pressing at the corners of his eyes when he heard a soft step behind him. He rolled his head back and half opened his eyes, his arms closing protectively over Spike.

Giles stood beside their cot, rolling back his sleeve. “I have had a conversation with myself. And we have come to a conclusion,” he said. He held out his strong, steady arm. “I understand that in this village there is a rite of adulthood, that involves the giving of blood to the vampire who protects us.”




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