Apocalypse Laterish


by
Metaforgirl



16

It was very warm in the tent. Humid. And the air had a damp, rotten smell, as if someone had forgotten to clean the fish tank. Xander could hear the hissing sibilance of demon voices just outside the tent. The tent was guarded, then, but there seemed to be no one inside. He rolled gracefully from his belly to a low crouch and peered through the gloom for Berynn.

A few feet away, the empath’s silhouette was delineated by the tent’s only light source: a low table covered with an array of jars and smoking pots. It looked like some Junior Mad Scientist’s version of a laboratory. Xander sidled up behind Berynn, glancing every half second back at the door of the tent. A billow of dense, mud-colored smoke bloomed from one of the jars and flowed around their heads. The odor in the tent went officially from unpleasant smell to stench. Xander clapped his hand over his nose and mouth and backed away.

Berynn seemed unaffected by the odor. He stood, swaying slightly, a sheen of perspiration on his arms. From his position by the tent wall, Xander could see the long slender fingers clenching and releasing almost rhythmically.

Berynn mumbled a number of words in his own language and reached for a jar on the table.

“Uh…” Xander rose slightly, hand raised in warning, “I wouldn’t…” he whispered. Too late, Berynn yanked his hand back with a hiss.

“Yeah, that’s sort of Scooby rule number two-three-eight,” muttered Xander to himself, edging towards the door of the tent. “If it smokes and glows in the dark, don’t touch it.” Outside the sounds of the guard’s voices had a note of urgency. Xander slipped his broadsword from its scabbard and crouched to the left of the tent flap. “Berynn,” he hissed urgently, “get down.”

Berynn appeared not to hear him. He mumbled some more words. Xander, the adrenalin and blood beginning to pound in his ears, again made out the word for ‘Wizard’. Outside, a wet hissing sibilance that was some demon’s voice and the definite sound of hands grasping canvas.

In Xander’s minds eye flashed the memory of the enormous thick skinned demons that he had last seen milling about this camp. He grasped the pommel of his sword in both hands. The tent flap lifted, a shadow poked through the opening.

Xander grunted, and swung his sword down hard. He felt the shock of the blow from his wrists to his shoulders. And then, amazingly, he felt the solidity he had struck give way. There was a muted thump and a messy hairy thing, like a worn out softball, rolled to his feet.

Xander stared down for a minute, sword still extended, blood pounding in his brain. The demon’s head stared back, bloody, glassy eyed and definitely dead. The body, from which the head had been severed, lay out beyond it. It was about three feet long. Feeling like he had manfully slaughtered a munchkin, Xander distastefully grabbed the corpse by the foot and dragged it quickly out of the way of the door. He glanced at the still immobile Berynn. The empath had found something like an oven mitt in the tent and was carefully lifting a small pink bowl from the ‘altar’. “Rupert,” Xander heard him say distinctly. “*What do I do now?*”

More voices outside. Then he heard something definitely calling to the creature he had just beheaded. Maybe that had been a little hasty, he reflected, taking up his position by the doorway again. Well, if they were all as easy to kill, as had been this last one, he’d be fine. He raised his sword and braced himself.

Another murky shadow slid through the tent door and once again Xander brought down his sword. The shock radiated up his arms again. But this time, the downwards motion of his sword halted as if it had hit cement. He jerked back and felt the pommel wrested from his grip. He looked up into the face of a very tall, very angry demon with a short broadsword sticking out of its neck. The thing snarled. Saliva dripped from one long tooth.

Xander gave it his lopsided grin. “Oops,” he said. “I think my sword slipped.”


~*~*~*~*~


“I have to say I’m surprised to see you here, Rupert,” said Ethan. He stopped about six feet away from Giles, eyeing the crossbow in his hands. “That won’t work, you know.”

“Why not?” asked Giles. He raised the weapon and ostensibly drew a bead on Ethan.

“Because I’m not really here, of course,” said Ethan. That secretive bitter smile of his briefly lifted the corners of his lips. “The same as you.”

Giles lowered his crossbow a bit. “Of course I’m here.”

Ethan laughed. “Really, Rupert? You decided to take a bit of a stroll through the future?”

“The Powers that Be…” began Giles.

“Horseshit,” said Ethan. “There are no such entities. Honestly, Rupert, I can’t believe you lived an entire life seeing the things you have seen and continue to believe in some ‘Greater Good’.”

It was Giles turn to smile. “Where are we then, Ethan?”

“You,” Ethan pointed, “are delirious on drugs, still on your deathbed. Any moment now you will wake again in terrible pain and realize this was all just another delusion.”

Giles smile faded. “Nonsense,” he said.

I,” continued Ethan, indicating himself with a graceful gesture, “am in the catacombs buried beneath the destroyed Council libraries, conjuring a spell that will finally rid this world of the human race…”

“But the catacombs were a myth,” Giles objected.

“…and make myself a god,” Ethan finished, smugly. He smoothed the already silky smooth sleeve of his dark tunic, like a cat grooming itself.

“Berynn?” said Giles, as if to himself.

“Is just another delusion. A fabrication of your mind, drawn from memories of your youth and feelings of guilt. Typical, Rupert, of your…”

“Stop,” said Giles. He lowered his crossbow. “Stop it, Rayne. You can’t confuse me anymore. It… it doesn’t work any longer. I know…”

“What do you know, Rupert?” said Ethan in a bored voice. He waved an effete hand at the gray Sleeping Beauty landscape around them. “What does anyone know of reality? Is any of this plausible, Rupert? Come now, what proof do you have that anything you experience is more than a dream?”

“I feel it,” said Giles. “And that’s enough.”

“So your notion of reality is that which you perceive through your five senses? What you see,” Ethan barely moved a finger and yet his image wavered, seemed to smoke, snapped back into focus. Giles fought the instinct to rub his eyes. “What you hear?” Giles could not help but jump when he heard a voice directly to his left whisper his name in Berynn’s soft voice. It warred with the intimate presence of Berynn in his mind and made him feel slightly off balance. “What you smell?” And the scent of roses, old English roses, sugary sweet and lemony, filled Giles nostrils.

“Stop it,” he demanded again.

“I hadn’t thought you were such a hedonist, Rupert,” said Ethan pensively. “If I had known perhaps I wouldn’t have…”

He took a step closer. The illusion of the long dark robe slipped away, revealing the naked young body Giles had loved and hated so many decades ago. “Perhaps I wouldn’t have let you go so easily,” said Ethan, taking a few more unashamed paces forward.

Giles took a quick step back and raised the crossbow again. “You didn’t let me go, I escaped. Put your v…virtual clothes back on, Ethan.”

Ethan smirked and was covered, once more, in immaculate black. “Escaped?” he purred. “As I recall, no one forced you to do anything, Rupert. You asked.” He smiled, eyes glinting. “Begged, on occasion.”

“I believe it is the pink one,” said Giles suddenly. “If memory serves.”

Ethan reached across the scant foot between them, and in a second had snatched away the crossbow, tossing it to the ground several yards away. He studied Giles with those intelligent eyes. “What are you up to, then, Rupert?”

Giles blinked. His focus switching rapidly between the dangerous figure before him and some internal vision. “Don’t let the liquid touch your hands,” he said suddenly.

Ethan stepped into Giles’ personal space, his head tilted to one side. Giles found himself unable to pull his mind away from that gaze. This close, Giles could see the utter torment, swimming below the mocking arrogance. “Rupert?” asked Ethan, and the vulnerability under that disdainful voice pulled Giles in like nothing else could. It was, perhaps, the only thing that Ethan could have done that would touch Giles. Allow him to see his pain.

Ethan raised his hand and almost touched Giles’ temple with long fingers. Giles ducked back too late to avoid the contact.

Ethan drew his hand back slowly, with a look of satisfaction. “My my my,” he said, appreciatively. “What are we keeping in there?” he indicated Giles’ temples again. “More than your little catamite up your sleeve, hey Rupert?”

Giles gritted his teeth and backed away from Ethan.

“Well, I had thought him as merely an interesting anecdote,” said Ethan. “Perhaps I underestimated.” His gaze became internal for a moment, then snapped back to Giles. More alert, calmer. “There.” said Ethan with satisfaction. “Crisis averted.”


~*~*~*~*~


The problem with an ax is you can’t use it at close quarters very effectively. Xander skittered backwards and almost ran into Berynn, still oblivious, holding the bowl before him and staring into space.

The demon, who was, happily, a lot dumber and slower than he was scary and intimidating, swayed in the doorway as if unsure what to do.

“Berynn!” Xander looked around the room for a weapon. All around him were jars of liquid and dry ingredients. Old scrolls, books even. Nothing even remotely sharp and pointy. But beneath one of the smoking jars there was a low bank of coals, like a primitive Bunsen burner. Xander used his ax like a huge bronze serving knife and slid it carefully under the pot of heat. He shoveled it in an easy arc through the air and into the befuddled demon.

The demon screamed and a scorched smell joined the other stinks in the tent. It flailed and screeched and batted at his furry hide as one of the hot stones caught its hair on fire.

Well, so much for the sneaky and quiet, thought Xander. It was time for the running like Hell. “Berynn!” he yelled, heading for their entrance point. Berynn stood firm. He was muttering words over the bowl in his hands.

“Fuck, Berynn!” Voices and the thumping of many large feet could be heard outside. Getting louder. “Let’s go!”


~*~*~*~*~


“Relax, Rupert,” said Ethan silkily. “Hallucinations can’t feel pain. The boy won’t suffer.”

Giles wasn’t surprised to find that Ethan could still hone in on his most vulnerable spot with accuracy and speed. What surprised him was that it could still affect him so easily. Still reduce him rapidly to a ball of fear and pleading.

“Don’t hurt him,” he begged.

Ethan seemed to be amused.

“Just close your eyes, Rupert,” he said in a syrupy, soothing voice “and go back to sleep. This will all go away, just another bad dream…” and the voice was so reasonable, so easy to follow, Giles found his eyes closing, his mind drifting off…

And suddenly there was a cool smooth presence standing in his mind. Steady and full of love, Berynn’s thoughts pressed against him with trust and assurance. “NO!” Giles said. And he reached with mental fingers to touch the clean wholesome being. “He’s … you can’t harm him you can’t…”

Ethan stilled. “Don’t challenge me, Rupert. You know how I love a challenge.”

Giles eyes fluttered closed. He fought the fear. And Berynn’s faith, like sweet mental kisses, peppered his mind. He took a breath. “Luzux tempor extaemptis…” said Giles as steadily as he could.

Ethan’s mouth froze on the way to a smile.

“Temptis oro lizt…”

“Now, Rupert,” said Ethan, suddenly friendly and boisterous. “Let’s not behave irrationally.”

“Liaxum ovola crux…” Giles recited, the strength of his voice increasing.

“You wouldn’t,” gasped Ethan becoming, if possible, even more white. “It’s murder, Rupert. You know you can’t…

” “I release you,” said Giles, calmly. “Go back from whence you came.”

And just like that. No earth tremble, no puff of smoke, not even the fading cry as the evil thing melted. Ethan Rayne simply ceased to exist.

And Rupert found himself standing unarmed in the midst of the revived battle.


~*~*~*~*~


“Holy Slushie,” said Xander.

He and Berynn were backed up against the canvas at one side of the tent. The laboratory table and the only chair had been overturned. Several demon bodies lay around them. There was pink foaming goop everywhere.

“It’s like someone blew up the Icee machine. What’d you do?” asked Xander. He nudged Berynn happily with his elbow. “*What was that stuff?*”

Berynn shrugged, and shook his head, equally amazed. He was literally hanging on to Xander. After he had shouted the odd words and hurled the bowl of pink goop, he had collapsed into Xander’s arms. Xander had barely had time to drop his ax and catch him. Watching in amazement as the pink Napalm like substance melted every demonic entity it touched.

Berynn felt incredibly light. His body was trembling all over and he was clammy and cold. Xander slid his arm more firmly around Berynn’s waist and kept him standing. “You wanna get out of here now?”

Berynn nodded. He turned and pressed his forehead into Xander’s arm.

“You gonna be okay?”

Another nod. Then a slow headshake. The trembling in Berynn’s body increased. He started to gag.

“Hey, no puking on the magic stuff,” said Xander gently, “That’s another Scooby Rule. Puke and magic stuff are definitely non-mixy. Besides,” he laughed shortly and hefted Berynn’s weight easily, “real men don’t puke until they’re back in their apartment, err… village.” He eased Berynn down and lifted the canvas carefully. “C’mon buddy, drop and roll.”


~*~*~*~*~


Giles ducked. He had a scant second of self-congratulatory feeling over successfully evading the flying sword and then was hit in the back by a flying object, or rather flying body.

Then he was on the ground, gasping for breath and struggling valiantly to release himself.

“Gah, Watcher, git yer elbow outta my eye.”

“Spike?” Giles managed to turn his head and glimpsed savagely bright blue eyes glimmering humorously in a demonic face. “Ow, or rather, get off of me!”

Sinew and hard muscle punched once into his torso and then Spike was jerking him aloft by one arm. Giles stumbled as he was catapulted back to one foot, that steely grip on his arm keeping him from pitching forward from the momentum. As he attempted to acclimate himself, Spike spun, still gripping his arm, and kicked a monster solidly in the throat.

Demon puke spurted straight at Giles. He jerked back.

“Fucking Yes!” roared Spike, and dragged Giles along, brandishing a sword with the other arm as he went. An unidentified body part, gushing rich yellow liquid, flew over Giles' head missing him by inches.

Feeling simultaneously indignant by the ‘damsel in distress’ treatment from Spike, and gratitude for that treatment, Giles struggled to remain on his feet as Spike speedily fought and hewed his way through the dense throng of struggling monsters.

Giles had been in his share of battles. He liked to think that for a man essentially cerebral, he had certain athletic skills. He could hold his own, so to speak. And given a weapon and reasonable odds, he felt confident of victory. But he didn’t enjoy battle. It was dangerous, horrible, desperate and to be avoided at all costs.

Held close to Spike, up against the vampire’s weapon encrusted chest, he had the opportunity for the first time in his life to witness battle from the point of view of one made to wage it.

Spike’s entire body seemed to surge towards the violence. The great flashing sword in his hand merely an extension of the musculature and skeletal structure that thrust, parried and flew into the fray with joy and assurance of victory. The faces turned towards them, at the last, were almost spiritual in their acceptance of defeat.

And this was not just survival. Spike carved his destiny from the midst of the demonic bodies. He determined the direction, intensity and results of every clash between himself and the enemy. He drew his bloody line down the field.

It was exhilarating, wonderful, incredible. If Giles hadn’t been held so tightly he could hardly breathe, desperately ducking body parts, he would have wanted it to never end.

After an interminable time, Giles found himself hurled from the thickest of the fray.

He fell against a tree, hard. Righting himself with bruised and scraped hands, turning to stare at a gore covered, muddy, bloody Spike who pointed a commanding finger at him. “You get back to yer bubble, Watcher,” said Spike. “And let us heroes do our jobs.”


~*~*~*~*~


Just because you are strong doesn’t mean you should do violence, Angel had taught her. The Powers that Be give you strength to protect the weak, he had explained. One doesn’t kill because it is pleasant, because it makes one feel deliriously wonderfully alive. Because it’s the only time when one feels completely and wholly oneself. One doesn’t kill because it feels good.

That would be wrong.

Hope felt herself spinning higher than she had ever been. The demons that fell before her were fuel to her increasing sense of peace and joy. Not since Angel’s death had she felt so happy, so well, so full.

And even when the battle was obviously won, she still didn’t stop. All around her the field seemed to be falling away, peace everywhere but her own little vortex of power and blood. She chased the remaining demons down, annihilating the species and more.

She barely felt it when they fell.


~*~*~*~*~


Dahla, Giles and Berynn sprinted across the battlefield as quickly as they could, but Spike passed them. They were all too late, though. Hope, in her self-made tornado of demonic slaying, had pitched off the edge of the cliff. Spike stopped at the cliff's edge, with a cry of anger, and stared down onto the plateau fifty yards below with an empty, shocked expression on his face.

Xander ran up, panting, followed by Giles and Berynn.

Spike turned to him, his face blind with grief, and Xander automatically wrapped his arms around him.

“I lost her, Xan. Angel would … I let him down, pet.”

Xander hugged him, peering over Spike’s shoulder, tensing at the expectation of the horror he would see below. “Uh, Spike,” he said after a minute. “Where are they?”

Spike seemed to shudder. Then he pulled away and looked where Xander was looking. “What? Hey.”

Giles stood looking over the cliff’s edge as well. Below, no bodies, demonic or otherwise. What at first appeared to be only a brightly colored stone, swelled and began spreading.

Dahla said something to Giles in her own language.

“Convergence?” said Giles. Xander was wishing for the thousandth time that everyone would just speak American when the stone below began to vibrate violently before bursting apart.

Color flooded the plateau and spread, like the heat of a nuclear bomb, to the horizon.

Across the plain, the narrow bright fingers of God seemed to simultaneously cease in their arching paths. They held still, shimmering, for an instant. Then broadened. Each band of light spread until it touched its neighbor.

Across the area below them, clouds opened and sunlight fell, like heavenly gold, across the earth.

Behind them a great shout as the villagers responded to the sight.

“Dear Lord,” said Giles.

“Bloody Hell,” said Spike, a little more vehemently. He backed out of Xander’s arms, instinctively away from the sunlight, glancing worriedly around the open area in which they stood. He shook free of his lover and strode in the direction of the dubious shade under the nearby trees. But Xander followed and stopped him with a hand on his arm.

“Look,” he pointed. “It’s stopping at that … that thing.”

A mass of land, arching and shaped like an earthen bridge, spanned the space between their location and the sun drenched field beyond. Moss hanging from its curved edges sprang into flower where the sunbeams hit it, remaining darkly olive colored where the shadows still rested.

“Weird,” said Xander. He looked around the muddy field. “Wait!” Goosebumps rushed up the back of his neck. “Where’re all the demons?”

Giles turned from gaping at the sunlit field below them to gape at the empty battleground behind them. Villagers, bedraggled, injured and exhausted, spotted the terrain. The ground was torn and gouged and drenched with a variety of liquids, but no demonic bodies or body parts could be seen.

“Dear Lord,” said Giles again. Dahla chuckled. He looked at her with raised eyebrows. “Convergence? Hmmm. It appears…” said Giles cautiously. “Hope seems to have absorbed them.”

“Cor,” breathed Spike in a heartfelt way. “Poor little tyke.” He set the tip of his sword against the ground and seemed to lean upon it. Xander instinctively stepped in and wrapped his arms around his shaken partner.

“I think she wanted it, Spike,” he said.

Spike’s shocky gaze came around to meet his. “Yeah, you think?”

“The Prophecy was very vague,” said Giles. “But there was mention of a ‘union’.”

“Someday,” said Xander. “You’ll tell me a Prophecy was very specific and I’ll pass out with shock.”

“We seem to have triggered an event,” Giles said.

“Great.” Xander watched the awestruck villagers as they approached the cliff’s edge. The fear on their faces was transporting slowly to joy. “Good or bad, G-man?”

“Yeah, Watcher.” said Spike, dropping his weapons belt to the ground so he could get a better grip on Xander. He nuzzled against the warm neck, kissed the marks. “What prophecy we bollucks into this time?”

Giles shook his head. He folded closer around Berynn. It struck Xander suddenly that he had grown accustomed in less than a day, to the sight of Giles and Berynn with their arms around each other. As if they had always been that way, he thought.

Spike’s mouth found his marks again and the little curlicue of desire began spiraling down his spine. He forgot about prophecies or apocalypses or anything else for that matter. “Home,” he said into the eager lips closing over his own.


~*~*~*~*~


Although it was very late in the evening, the sounds of traffic from the 405 could still be heard like distant surf, as Patricia opened the screen door. “He’s in the kitchen,” she said in a low voice.

Tara glanced worriedly down the hallway. “Did you tell him that I’m coming?”

Patricia bit her lip and shook her head.

“Honey…” Tara gave her a gently reproving look.

“I was afraid that if he knew, he’d leave. Or ... or lock himself in the bathroom again.”

“Has it been that bad?”

Now, with her friend here to help her, Patricia allowed herself to feel a little. To let go of some of the strength she had been maintaining. “I … I don’t know if it’s bad…” her voice belied the tears she fought.

Tara wrapped her arms around her. “We’ll help him, honey,” she said.

Patricia clung to the support. “He keeps talking about vampires…” she said into Tara’s shoulder. “Like … like they’re real …”

Tara hugged her friend. She gazed down the dim hallway to the light at the end where she knew the kitchen was. She seemed to be wrestling with a decision. “Patty,” she whispered finally. “Did Mr. Harris ever tell you what happened between my mom and him?” And when Patricia shook her head, Tara drew back and grasped her shoulders gently.

“Before we can help James,” she said carefully. “There are some things I need to explain to you.”


~*~*~*~*~


The best thing about being a hero is the bit afterwards, thought Spike, spreading himself out on the clean fresh sheets of the bed. He heard Xander’s voice in the hallway, felt his presence all through his body as a delicious tingle of anticipation. The best part was the reward from grateful humans.

Xander pushed through the door, carrying something. He had changed out of his battle togs, and bathed apparently. Wearing loose rayon slacks and nothing else, the longish, dark hair dripping down his neck. Rivulets encircled the claim marks and followed the dips of collarbones and muscle to run down Xander’s chest into the soft dark hair below his navel.

Spike licked his lips and inhaled the rich aroma of his mate.

Except the aroma was anything but aromatic. “What’s this, then?” asked Spike, nostrils flaring with the stench. He gazed askance at the bowl of dark liquid Xander held triumphantly before him.

“Swine’s blood,” said Xander happily.

Spike felt his glottal muscle rebel. “You are joking,” he managed.

Xander smiled knowingly. “Oh come on now, Spike. I know you’ve been feeling that pesky soul nudging you all these years. All that guilt you’ve suffered over having to bite people.” Xander lifted the bowl slightly, a big grin on his face. “See? Now you don’t have to eat human.” The awful stuff sloshed in the bowl a little.

“Fucking Hell,” said Spike miserably. He took the bowl from Xander, meeting his merry gaze. “Don’t ever let anyone tell you ain’t evil, Xan,” he said, tipping the foul liquid to his lips.

“From now on,” said Xander silkily. “The only human you’ll be drinking from… is me.”

The swine’s blood spat up onto Spike’s face when he sputtered into it.

“I’ve been thinking,” said Xander and Spike could have sworn his dead heart started thumping in his chest with fear. No, maybe it was indigestion from this vile pig’s blood… He frowned at the bowl. Xander advanced on him, waving his hands.

“Up there, on the field. You and Hope were the only ones that had any skills.”

“Could’na done it on our own,” said Spike graciously. “You humans helped a lot.”

Xander chose not to point out that the humans had essentially saved the day. “If I were stronger…” he said.

“You are stronger, Xan,” said Spike. He bit his lips belatedly. Ah, well, may as well point out the obvious. “Since we, err, since that night you’ve been gettin’ a lot stronger.”

“Not super-strong.” Xander sat down at the edge of the mattress and took the empty bowl from Spike’s hands. Set it on the bedside table. “Not like a vampire.”

“Well, course not,” said Spike, that sensation of hammering blood in his ears again. Could pig’s blood go bad?

“If I were a vampire…” began Xander in that reasonable voice that Spike felt sure all madmen could emulate.

“Which you aren’t,” said Spike. “And never will be,” he added clenching his jaw and glaring hard at the whelp before he could argue.

But the expression on Xander’s face was agreeable and charming. He nodded, an eyebrow raised, a calm considering look. He eased himself off the mattress and took a slow pace across the room. “Right,” he said. “You would never turn me.”

“Course not,” said Spike immediately.

Xander flashed him an inscrutable look. “Because it’s wrong, you know.” He waved a casual hand. “The whole vampire thing.”

“Oi, what do you mean, ‘wrong’, Harris?”

“Well, you know, evil demon.”

“Sure,” said Spike proudly.

“And turning me would make me evil, too.” Said Xander sadly. “I wouldn’t be pure and good anymore.”

“Oh, right, like you are the soul of innocence now,” said Spike without thinking.

“But I AM Spike,” said Xander. “I’m good and pure and wholesome…”

Spike made a rude noise. Then he laughed. “Short memory, Harris,” he said.

Xander played with the ties of his shirtsleeve. “And then there’s the free will factor.”

“Bloody Hell, kid, what are you getting at?”

“Well, you don’t have a free will, do you?”

“I’ve got me soul, don’t I? Same thing.”

“Is it?”

“Well, sure. I choose all the time. Choose not ta kill, not ta drain humans. Choose to fight the bad guys…”

“Man, some evil demon you are,” said Xander derisively.

“Plenty evil, Harris, just choose not to act it out.”

“You sound more like a human than a vampire to me,” Xander observed, his tone teasing.

“Oi, watch yer lip, boy!”

“If I were a vampire,” said Xander, his voice suddenly lusty. “I’d mow a path of destruction that would…”

Spike lay back on the pillows as he laughed. “Whoa, Oh my, Christ!” He caught his breath. “Harris, you’d be a pathetic vampire! You’d’ be all…”

“All what?” said Xander, eyes flaring.

“Dunno,” said Spike, still chuckling. He imagined Harris as a vampire for a minute. Pale soft skin glowing under long dark hair, those eyes flashing gold and black, that crooked smile with a touch of fang… Spike adjusted uncomfortably on the bed and was glad Xander didn’t have a demonic sense of smell. “You’d be soft,” he said weakly.

“Would not,” said Xander immediately.

“Oh, I think so.” Said Spike.

“You think wrong, Blondie,” Xander volleyed back quickly.

Spike made his standard derisive snort. “You’d never cut it,” he said.

“Bet you I would.” Xander sat on the mattress and crossed his arms, his face all challenge. “Bet I’d kick your ass, too.”

“Bloody unlikely,” cried Spike, offended.

“That’s what it is, isn’t it, Spike,” said Xander hotly. “You’re afraid I’d be bigger and badder than you, aren’t you?”

“Oh fer…” Spike was turning awfully red for a demon with no circulation. He sat up into Xander’s face and growled. “You’d be dust in a fortnight,” he spat. “Not. A. Chance, Harris.”

“I’d be bigger and stronger and faster…” Xander listed on his fingers, happily.

Spike batted at those taunting hands. “Takes years to learn the skills, pathetic minion you’d be…”

“Not if I were your Childe,” pointed out Xander smoothly. “Except you’re afraid,” he teased.

“Bollucks!”

“Bet you,” sneered Xander.

“Yer on, whelp.”

“Well then.” Xander leaned forward, both hands on either side of Spike’s hips, his face next to Spike’s ear, his musky sweaty neck with the soft pink claim marks suddenly inches from Spike’s mouth. “Let’s see.”

Spike backed hard into the pillow, but unless he forcibly shoved Xander away, he had nowhere to go. Pheromones and testosterone flooded the air. Xander’s scent, still ripe from the battle, the warm meaty smell of his lover. A vampiric raspberry truffle rubbing up against him.

“Arrrgh!” Spike roared and shoved hard. Xander fell back onto the mattress. A mysteriously satisfied smirk on his face.

“You see,” he said. “With that soul you’re less evil than I am.”

Spike rubbed his hand across his mouth. He felt dizzy and confused. The boy sitting across from him had an expression that Spike had only seen once or twice. While playing cards. And the kid had had a full house.

“What are you on about, Xan?” he said.

“I want you to turn me, Spike.” said Xander, as if discussing the weather.

“No.”

“There is no reason not to.”

“Course there is…” Spike drifted off, Xander’s expression telling him that that argument had been done, delivered, defeated.

“It’s what I want.”

“Yer daft.”

“As your claimant I have the right…”

“What? What kinda prattle is that? Claimant? Right?”

“Giles told me about it. As your claimant. It’s like a marriage contract. It gives me certain rights.”

“WHAT?” Spike’s memory ran as fast as it could down a dark alleyway and grabbed hold of a retreating Drusilla. Spun her about and shook her hard. “WHAT THE EFFIN HELL ARE YOU TALKIN’ ABOUT?”

“When you bit me and marked me and said those words,” and Xander’s voice had gone soft. A smile picked at the corner of his lips. “You made me yours. You put a claim on me. I’m part of the whole demon thing.” He laid a happy little kiss on Spike’s mouth. “And you, Mr. Badass, belong to me.”

This whole conversation was moving at a speed even a demon couldn’t track. Spike thought quickly, trying to get control of it. “Sounds like a feckin’ dog peein’ on a feckin’ tree, Xan. Can’t see as how you’d want that,” he said harshly.

“It gives me certain rights,” said Xander, pouting.

“Yer watcher’d stake me,” growled Spike.

“No, I think Giles might be more sympathetic lately.”

“And you’d never…” Spike pointed at Xander excitedly. “You’d never get to Heaven, brat. I’m pretty sure those rules are still kinda strict.”

Something flicked over Xander’s gaze, like the blink of a snake's invisible eyelid. “Fuck Heaven,” he said. “I’d rather be with you.”

Spike was struck breathless. Well, truthfully, he was breathless anyway, but if he had breathed, this would have stopped him and he almost wished he did breath so he could feel the full impact of his lungs halting, chest frozen in mid swell.

Xander slid off the mattress and got to his knees by the bed. He grabbed Spike’s limp with shock hand in his own.

“I love you Spike,” he said smoothly. “And I want to spend eternity with you.”

Spike had a wondrous moment in which he saw the future. A dark, mildly evil Xander Harris standing beside him in battle. Gore and destruction all around them. The flick of those mischievous eyes. Soft, perfect, eternally youthful skin brushing his cheek in a quick kiss before they dove back into the bloody fray.

“Hold on a mo’,” he said. “There’s somethin’ wrong here.”

Spike blinked hard and gave his head an exaggerated shake. “I’m havin’ one of those dreams again,” he said doggedly. “Like the ones where Angelus is smaller than me and beggin’ for mercy. Any minute now I’m gonna wake up tied to a chair.”

Xander raised Spike’s hand to his lips and kissed it.

“Things like this don’t happen,” said Spike.

Xander rose and climbed back onto the bed. He crawled over Spike’s legs so that he was hanging slightly over him and bent down to kiss him on the mouth.

“Somethin’ is bound to go bollucks up here…” said Spike before his mouth was sealed again by Xander’s.

“You don’t …” Spike was stopped once more by a kiss.

“Really…” kiss

“Want…” Spike slid down into the bed as the assault became more insistent and was followed by Xander’s hands.

“Oh, Pet…” moaned Spike.

“Ow,” he added.




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