Xander Harris was dying.
There was no way around it, not this time. Visibly broken bones and the inability to feel his hands or feet assured him of this. There was serious spinal cord damage. He was going to die, and soon. And a large part of himself wasn't even sad about this. He no longer feared death, but instead welcomed what would be the end of a hard life, filled with pain, injury, death and heartache. At the age of 26, he was broken and tired of life, an old man in a young man's body.
He'd been in Mali, searching for a Slayer among the Dogon people. He'd found her in one of the more remote villages. It was rarely visited by tourists, inaccessible enough that it was rather untouched by the outside world. Perched along the cliffs, the village seemed to live in a world all of its own, largely ignored by outsiders. Xander would have left the village quickly, but until the slayer hit puberty, Ambara had to remain in the village. The Dogon lived simply, making their homes in and around the dwellings carved into the sandstone cliffs long ago by the Tellem. The Tellem; Xander wanted to snort at his bad luck, except he couldn't even do that. The Tellem were a group of pygmies who had built the dwellings over five hundred years ago, and were said to have been witches. It was also said that their spirits still haunted the area at night.
Xander knew that a lot of cultures had stories and myths that were used to explain what had once been inexplicable. Yet on a quiet night, Xander could hear drums and chanting from the plains, bonfire flames licking up into the dark flesh of the sky. And in the morning, there would be no foot prints, no ash. So when night fell, the Dogon stayed within the village, and had strongly suggested Xander do the same. Given his experiences in Africa, it seemed to him that while the Dogon's beliefs could just be superstition, they could also be real. And given his experiences in Sunnydale, Xander had no desire to see if the spirits were real.
So he lay on the ground, having fallen from the cliffs, and now the sun was setting. He kept drifting in and out of consciousness, unable to focus. He looked up once to see Ambara kissing his forehead, promising to return with help. He faded into the darkness then, and later he opened his eye long enough to see the bright oranges and pinks of sunset cast shadows over the sandstone rocks. He closed his eye. When he opened it again, he could see the stars and faintly hear the sounds of the Tellem dancing and chanting. Reality shifted and slipped away as he closed his eye again. When he next rose toward consciousness, he could hear voices. They chattered in a language he didn't know, the speakers standing just outside his line of vision. He could hear their feet shuffling on the dirt, watching as dust clouds rose. A form appeared in the distance, walking toward him. He couldn't make out the features, but as the figure drew closer he could see that something was wrong with its body. He tried to focus, to listen, but he was just so tired. Exhaustion leeched his resolve, undermining his curiosity. So he closed his eye again. And that was the last time Xander Harris of Sunnydale would look upon the world.
Dawn was dead.
Well, at least she would be if she didn't fucking stop humming! Spike loved Dawn, he really did. She was his Niblet, his Platelet. He would die for her, kill for her. But she was driving him fucking insane.
"Shut the fuck up, Dawn!" he finally roared. He couldn't see her, but he could hear her laugh above the noise of the engine. The chaotic turn of events had started a week ago when Xander had suddenly disappeared from Willow's awareness. The Scoobies refused to believe the most likely explanation, that Xander had died. Once the Council had exhausted it's local resources without result, they'd decided to send someone to the village. Fearing that Willow might lose control, Spike and Dawn had been sent to investigate. They'd flown on the Council's private jet from London to Nairobi, and then from Nairobi to a small Mali airport in Mopti. Then they'd rented a battered, old jeep and driven to Bandiagara and the sandstone cliffs where Xander's slayer lived. It was still daylight, so Spike was stuck, curled up in the back seat. After a few more hours, the sun set and Spike took over driving. After another forty minutes, they arrived at their destination, a footpath. Shutting off the jeep, Spike and Dawn climbed out and prepared for their walk to the village Xander had last been at. Like many of the other Dogon villages, the one they sought had been built into the cliff face, isolating them from enemies.
It took almost an hour for them to reach the village nestled against the cliffs, the mud buildings blending in with the sandstone.
"So should we just walk into the village or what? I mean, it might freak them out if they see some lily-white guy with bleach blond hair materializing from nowhere," Dawn pointed out.
"Oi! Hello?!" Spike yelled. He could hear people talking from inside the village.
"I don't think they speak english, Spike," Dawn smirked. Spike glowered at her. Dawn smiled back at him.
"Don't worry your pretty little head, Spike; I'll ask."
"What, you speak Dogon now?"
"No, but most people in Mali either speak French, or know someone who does," she smirked, tossing her hair over her shoulder. "Bonjour. Nous cherchons ici notre ami. Il manque."
Spike could hear talking on the otherside of the wall.
"Pourriez-vous répéter que s'il vous plaît?"
Dawn shot Spike a saccharine smile. "Nous cherchons ici notre ami. Il manque."
"Qui cherchez-vous?" the voice asked.
Before Dawn could answer, Spike slapped his hand over her mouth and spoke instead. "Son nom est Xander Harris ; il est d'Amérique."
At Dawn's raised eyebrows, he smirked at her. "What, you think I never learned French?"
A small gate opened and a young girl, no older than twelve, walked out. Tears welled in her dark eyes as she spoke. "Xander est mort et maintenant son esprit demeure avec le Tellem."
Inside the village, Dawn and the girl, Ambara, spoke in rapid, hushed tones. Spike stared at the fire, listening as the Dogon slayer told them what happened during Xander's visit. After only a few moments, Spike could tell that Xander should have gone home, away from Africa. The Xander Ambara described wasn't the same Xander from Sunnydale. This Xander was reticent and solitary. He'd seen too much, been alone too much. But he'd done his job, teaching Ambara some rudimentary English and various fighting basics. Then late one afternoon, they'd been out walking and Xander had fallen down the escarpment, his body hitting boulders on the way down. He'd landed hard, and Ambara had rushed down to him. He'd vaguely responded to her voice, but didn't seem to be in pain, a dangerous blessing indicating spinal cord damage. She'd kissed him gently on the forehead, then run away as fast as she could to the sounds of his ragged breaths, each one taking longer to come.
When she'd returned with men from the village, Xander's body had been dragged away. She'd followed the trail and found a grave, stones resting over a freshly dug mound of red earth. Dawn's lips pressed together in a grim line as she absorbed the information.
"We have to be sure," Dawn whispered. Reaching into her backpack, she dug around before pulling out her satellite phone. She dialed and then waited.
"Giles? It's Dawn."
Willow appeared an hour later in a crackle of white energy, Giles and Buffy clinging to her. The villagers stared at her in awe and fear. Dawn stepped forward and rushed into Buffy's arms, repressed tears finally falling. Willow's face was ashen as she blankly looked at Spike.
"How far is the grave?" she asked. "Can we make it there and back before sunrise?"
"Yeah. Slayer says it's only a half hour away. But they think we should stay here. Apparently spirits live out there and they might hurt us."
Willow only frowned and nodded.
"We should take care of this now, then," Giles advised, his brow furrowed and voice scratchy. Ambara lead them out, the men and women of the village refusing to leave the safety of the cliffs. The Scoobies followed, quiet as they moved through the silent, clear night. When they reached the grave, they stood beside it. No one approached the pile of rocks; as long as no one knew the truth, Xander could still be alive. Wringing her hands, Willow's face crumpled. Tears started streaming down her face as she gazed at her friend's grave. Clenching her fists, she forced her face into a mask of serenity and stepped forward. Taking a deep breath, she held her hands out and the others watched as an almost imperceptible light moved out from her hands and into the ground. Willow's brow was wrinkled in concentration as she moved through the rocks and earth. Then the light faded once it found and encircled Xander's corpse.
With a guttural wail, Willow collapsed onto the rocks, her cries echoing into the night. Screaming Xander's name, she battered the rocks with her fists, not even bothering to stop when her knuckles started bleeding. Spike drew closer and pulled her away from the grave and into his arms. Buffy had one hand pressed tightly against her mouth as she stifled her cries, tears dripping off her chin while her other arm held a shaking Dawn beside her. Giles had his glasses clenched in his fist while he sobbed quietly into his palm. And Spike stood, frowning as an unexpected sadness flowed through him. Their heart was gone.
It had taken a while for the Scoobies to fall asleep. But a few hours after confirming Xander's death, Buffy, Dawn, Willow and Giles had cried themselves to sleep. No one had mentioned returning home as Willow was far too tired to pull off that kind of spell. Finally, the village was silent and still. Out across the hills and grasslands, Spike could hear chanting. He didn't know if it was the greatly feared spirits of the Tellem or another tribe. Frankly, he was beyond caring. Xander had seemed like a cockroach to Spike, an annoyance that would never go away. But now that Xander was actually gone, for good, Spike found himself feeling... odd, as though the shell of his skin had stretched until his soul and demon didn't fit. He would have thought he'd have been glad that Xander was gone, or apathetic in the least. But the world without the loyal, sweet boy seemed a darker place.
Standing, Spike put out his cigarette. There were still two hours until sunrise, but he felt so tired. Turning, he went back toward the village and gathered his things. Walking out, he climbed into a cave high on the cliff. It faced south and was deep enough that he should be safe for the day. He pulled out a sleeping mat made of thick foam and charmed by Willow. While it was by no means as comfortable as a bed, it was far better than sleeping on the stony ground. He stretched out, pillowing his head on his hands as he listened to faint noises outside. Shutting his eyes, he took a deep breath and released it, telling himself to relax. As his body did so, a noise drew Spike's attention. Something was coming. It was outside the cave, its movements silent. But whatever it was, it couldn't hide its heartbeat. Spike tensed, narrowing his eyes as he feigned sleep.
A figure crept into the cave, something human or human like. It crawled on its hands and feet with a sensual, inhuman grace. As it got closer, Spike got ready to attack. A fraction of a second passed and the creature was close enough. Coiling his body, Spike sprung into action, flinging himself toward the creature. But the creature cocked it's head to the side, and Spike found his body slammed back onto the ground by an invisible force. A pressure stretched his arms and legs out until Spike lay spreadeagle, helpless. Spike inhaled deeply. The creature smelled of animal blood and African earth, with a hint of something human, something familiar beneath it all. It was exotic and familiar, a combination that was proving to be rather arousing. The creature moved closer, the shape of the body human, the movements purely animal. The creature inhaled deeply, then exhaled and continued to scent the air with tiny sniffs. It moved closer in the darkness, growling softly as it moved into a crouch, straddling Spike's form.
It was Xander.
In the dark, Spike's demonic eyesight could see it. It was still an it. Xander was dead, buried in the ground. This wasn't Xander but a feral creature, staring down at Spike with two eyes that weren't dark enough. The scent was different, earthier, muskier. He smelled less than human, but that smell was so damn appealing.
"What are you?" Spike ground out.
It didn't reply, only cocking its head to the side again. Leaning down until its face was right in front of Spike's, the creature growled again.
"Dead," it growled.
Spike frowned; whatever this creature was, it certainly wasn't dead. It had a heartbeat, it breathed. It leaned closer and started sniffing at Spike's neck. A warm tongue darted out, tasting his skin. The creature then raised its head a few inches, looking down at Spike's face.
"Dead," the creature confirmed. Leaning down again, the creature continued its exploration. Sniffing, its nose hovering barely an inch over Spike's stomach, it slowly moved lower. Resting it's face on Spike's lower abdomen, it sniffed again, inhaling deeply.
"Smells good," it purred, eyes fixed on Spike. For a moment, it silently regarded Spike, its lips quirked up in a near smile. Suddenly, it recoiled, brow furrowed as it looked down at Spike. It cocked its head to the side again.
"Don't like you," it muttered hesitantly, confused. Slowly, it crept away before scrambling out into the night.
Clenching his jaw, Spike strained against the invisible force holding him down. As the sounds of the creature's escape faded, the bonds fell away. Rolling onto his feet, Spike dashed out of the cave and into the village. He raced down the dust foot paths, running around the buildings before crashing into the barrier guarding the small house the Scoobies were housed in.
"Red, Niblet! All of you!" he yelled. He could hear them waking inside and only a second later, Buffy was at the door. Her eyes were rimmed in red.
"What's wrong, Spike?" she asked, her body tensing. Willow, Giles and Dawn walked up behind her.
"There's something out there; not human, but it looks just like Harris."
Buffy's face went blank as fear, hope, rage and anguish flickered through her eyes. Around them, Spike could hear the sounds of the villagers stirring because of his cries.
"It looks like Xander?" Giles frowned.
"Yeah, except it's got two eyes, and they're not even the right color," Spike explained.
The quiet murmurs of the villagers were silenced by a shriek. A woman came running into the center of the village, speaking rapidly in Dogon. Ambara pushed her way through the crowd to stand near the Scoobies.
"Elle a dit que le Tellem vient dans le village. Et quelque chose d'autre est avec eux."
Buffy frowned. "Okay, can we have that again for the people that sucked at French?"
Spike, Giles, Willow and Dawn rolled their eyes.
"Hey!" Buffy cried, "I was slaying while learning; it's not my fault I didn't learn French!"
"She said the Tellem were coming along with something else," Dawn explained.
Giles turned and walked into the back of the hut before coming back out, a bag in his hands. He quickly pulled out weapons and handed them to the group.
"The tell-who-what-em?" Buffy frowned, swinging her short sword through the air.
"The Tellem. They built these dwellings into the cliffs before being driven out by the Dogon. According to legend, they were witches," Giles explained.
Once armed, the group walked into the center of the village where the Dogon stood crammed by each other, looking at Buffy and the others. Everyone fell silent, waiting. The quiet was once again broken, this time by the sounds of voices talking excitedly. Several torches had been lit, bathing the village in an orange glow. Slowly, several small figures emerged. The Tellem looked like African Pygmies, their short bodies decorated in woven clothing and bright red grass skirts. The only thing that gave them away as being something else was their eyes. Their eyes glowed red, the fearsome sight at odds with their carefree smiles and relaxed bodies.
Willow's eyes widened. She could feel their power; they were no longer living, but in life they had been magic users, and their skill had only grown in death.
But their power was nothing compared the creature that accompanied them.
The chatter of the Tellem died off as something moved through the crowd. The being was tall, nearing seven feet. Like the Tellem, it was dressed in brightly colored woven clothes and grasses. But this creature wore a large mask, painted in bright colors, its eyes glowing red. As it drew closer, its strange gait drew attention downwards to its feet, which were backwards. A few of the villagers cried out in fear, drawing away from the being.
"Oh good Lord," Giles whispered. "It's an Andumbulu."
"A what?" Dawn asked, her wide eyes fixed on the creature.
"A spirit, a very powerful spirit," Giles answered.
"No," a voice boomed. The voice carried several threads of sound, some high pitched, some low pitched, giving the voice a multi-tonal quality that filled its listeners with awe. "I am Andumbulu."
"Fucking Hell," Giles swore.
Willow, Dawn, Buffy and Spike turned toward Giles, their eyes wide.
"Oh God, it's the end of the world," Dawn whimpered. "Again."
"What is it, Giles?" Buffy whispered urgently.
"She's not a spirit, she's a god, a god of the Dogon underworld, to be precise."
"Oh shit," Buffy swore.
"I do not come here to claim," Andumbulu said.
"How does the god know English?" Dawn asked.
"Elle ne parle pas l'anglais. Elle parle Dogon," Ambara explained, frowning.
"I don't think she's speaking English," Giles muttered. "I think that's just what we're hearing."
Andumbulu fixed her eyes on the Westerners before she began speaking.
"After the god Amma created Earth, dark creatures covered her. When they left, a new breed was created, turning the Earth red with the blood of the innocent and she wept. The gods decided to create a child who would be born and grow strong to fight the darkness, to create a balance and give the light a chance to thrive. So the Earth took part of her strength and placed it inside an unborn girl. But some of the gods feared giving a girl such strength. Amma saw her power, her strength. He saw her future and wanted to control it. He took the power from the girl, and the girl died before she was even born. Amma tried to hold the power, but no man can ever hold it. It fell away to dust, so Amma sought to create it again. His acolytes, the Shadow men, found the strongest Dogon girl, certain that they could control her. They forced the strength of darkness into her, breaking her mind. And the Earth saw this and wept.
"So unknown to Amma, when the first slayer died, the Earth captured the power of the slayer and in the blink of an eye took it inside of herself and swallowed the darkness, allowing the power to be reborn with love. She protected the second daughter of the slayer line, the love of her heart keeping the slayer strong despite the control of the Shadow Men. Yours is the first generation in which the slayer line has been surrounded by love and kindness. Your friend gave all he was to the slayer line. Many years ago, he took the first Slayer into himself to protect life, and though she left, some traces of her remained. So when your friend came to Africa, the Earth recognized that a part of her had returned. And when he died, the Earth saw that he still had much to do, more of our daughters to protect," Andumbulu intoned, turning to look straight at Ambara. "So we buried him inside of the Earth, and now we return him to his family, reborn of the Earth to protect the line."
The Tellem parted as another creature crawled forward, it's body low to the ground. It darted forward before crouching beside the African Goddess.
"Oh my God, it's the Xander thing," Dawn said, her voice thin.
Andumbulu reached out with of her hands and ran it through the creature's hair. It arched into the touch, smiling.
"You brought Xander back?" Buffy growled, her voice low.
"He never left. The Earth held his spirit inside her while his body was being reborn," Andumbulu answered. "We gave him a stronger body, one that will last as long as it must, so that he may better guard our daughters."
Willow raised her hand, stretching it out toward Xander. Light surged out from the palm of her hand, circling Xander. When she lowered it again, tears started falling.
"Xander?" she asked tremulously.
Xander crawled forward, his head tilted to the side, scenting the air.
"His eyes are green, why are his eyes green?" Dawn asked. At her question, all studied Xander's eyes. They were a bright, emerald green. Xander's eyes crossed as though trying to see his eyes before he finally squeezed them shut. When he opened them again, they were brown. He slowly rose to his feet and shook his head before looking at Willow.
Suddenly, his face broke into a wide smile. It was like someone had returned the sun to its rightful place, and the world was suddenly bathed in warmth. Xander's eyes were filled with love, his stance changed from feral hunter to happy puppy.
"My Wills!" he cried, running forward to pull her into his arms. He easily twirled around with her in his arms while Willow cried.
"It's you, it's you," she wept into the curve of his neck. Xander stopped quickly and dropped a dizzy Willow onto her feet before gathering Dawn and Buffy into his arms. He also lifted them as he hugged them tightly.
"Hey, easy on the human!" Dawn choked out.
Xander's eyes widened before he released both sisters. He then turned to face Giles, pausing. Giles smiled and opened his arms, allowing Xander to pull him into a most undignified bear hug. Once the hug ended, Xander turned and pinned Spike with a dark, intent gaze.
"Hi, Spike," he whispered.
Spike acknowledged him with a wary nod, remembering Xander's earlier declaration about not liking him. With a burst of unnatural speed, Xander rushed forward and pulled Spike into his arms.
"Hi, Spike," he repeated, resting his head on Spike's shoulder.
Spike awkwardly reciprocated, tensing as he heard Xander sniffing delicately. Pushing Xander away in the least noticeable manner possible, he looked into Xander's eyes.
"Sorry," Xander murmured, a blush sweeping his face. "I couldn't help it; you smell good."
With one last glance into Spike's eyes, Xander's eyes flickered from brown to green, then back again. Turning away, Xander walked back over to Willow and the others, leaving a bemused Spike in his wake.
"Not the only one that smells good," Spike murmured, smirking as Xander suddenly turned to look back at him. Apparently the second eye wasn't Xander's only new feature.
The pilot flinched as arcs of harmless light crackled and surged through the cabin. It didn't matter that his daughter was a slayer; magic still wigged him out. But he watched, fascinated as one new slayer and the six highest placed members of the Watchers Council materialized in the middle of the private jet. As soon as they seemed to be alright and ready for the flight, Marcus spoke.
"The plane is ready to go, just take your seats and we can leave in just a few minutes. We'll be flying to Athens where we'll refuel before heading to London." As he turned to enter the cockpit and join his co-pilot, he paused and looked back at a dust-covered Xander, who was wearing nothing but a pair of cargo shorts and a smile. "I'm glad you're alright, Harris."
Xander nodded and watched as the pilot entered the cockpit and closed the door. Frowning, he turned to face the friends he could remember. "Do I know him?"
Willow smiled. "Yeah, his daughter was one of the first slayers you trained."
The frown melted from Xander's face, replaced by a wide smile. "Oh, well that's good. I mean, it still kind of sucks for him that his daughter is a slayer, but yay for me training her. Crap, she's not dead, is she? No, wait, Mischa, she's alive. Nevermind. My memory really sucks."
"Yes, well don't worry about your memory, Xander. According to the... Goddess, your memory will return as your soul acclimates to your reborn form," Giles explained, rubbing the bridge of his nose.
"I'm a born again, except it wasn't Jesus God, but Dogon Earth god and I'm going to shut up now," Xander babbled. Ambara tugged on Buffy's arm, pulling them toward a set of seats. In the day that they'd rested at the village and negotiated Ambara's move out of the village, Ambara had become deeply attached Buffy. Dawn claimed it was because Ambara had never seen a blond pygmy before.
"Poor Xan, there's going to be another chapter devoted to your luck in the Watcher's Journals," Dawn grinned. "But at least something awesome came out of this one."
As the group seated themselves, the last light of sunset lit the inside of the plane.
As Xander shifted in his seat, he looked at Spike who was seated across from him. "Uh, Spike, doesn't sun plus vampire equal dust? Or did that change?"
Spike opened his eyes. "I'll be fine; the glass has been spelled," he said, smiling.
Xander absorbed the information with a small frown before smiling again. "Oh yeah, I forgot."
Xander turned and studied his family as they settled in for the flight. Willow was by far the one who appeared the worst off, her skin thin and pale.
"Are you okay, Wills?" he asked, staring worriedly. "'Cause, you know, I remember that you shouldn't do lots and lots of teleporting because it sucks the energy from your marrow."
"I'll be fine, I'm just tired. I borrowed some energy from the Coven, but I've still done a lot of big magic in the last two days. And plus, like, twenty four hours ago, I thought you were dead, so, ya know, craziness..." She trailed off.
"God, it's been a really long day and an even longer week," Buffy groaned, reclining her seat. Ambara leaned on one of Buffy's shoulders, while Dawn took the other. Buffy rolled her eyes, but didn't protest.
Less than five minutes after the plane began to taxi down the runway, everyone was asleep.
Spike awoke to the sound of tearing plastic wrap. His eyes opened and scanned the plane for any danger. What he found was Xander sitting cross-legged on the floor near an open cabinet.
"What are you doing, pet?"
Xander turned and treated Spike to another beatific smile. It was almost frightening how easy the boy found it to smile at Spike, and a part of Spike was secretly hoping that Xander would never regain his full memory. His fear of never seeing that smile again was almost as surprising as when Spike had found himself mourning Xander's death.
"I woke up and the cabinet smelled good," Xander said. So far they'd confirmed that Xander had a good sense of smell, hearing and possibly some sort of telekinetic abilities, but other than that, no one was sure. Giles was practically drooling at the chance to learn more.
Spike found himself smiling back as he moved to join Xander on the floor. Reaching out, he plucked the unopened package of Twinkies from Xander's hands.
"You remember these?" Spike asked.
"Not exactly," Xander shrugged. "I mean, I know that I used to like them, but I don't know if I still do. I saw you and I remembered that I didn't like you before, but I think I like you now, so what if this is also different?"
"You said they smelled good, right? Smell and taste are related, so I think it's a sure thing you still like them," Spike pointed out, tearing open the plastic wrapping on the Twinkie and handing one to Xander.
"Well, you smell good," Xander mumbled, blushing before ducking his head as he accepted the snack food. He missed the surprised look that flashed across Spike's face. Xander instead studied the Twinkie carefully, sniffing before he finally took a bite. He moaned as the sweet flavor hit him. "Okay, I still like these."
"Good, 'cause I don't think anyone would believe that you're Xander if you didn't like Twinkies."
Spike watched Xander smile before looking at the dirt that streaked Xander's legs.
"You know, your mini-slayer grabbed your stuff before Willow popped us out of there; you could go shower," Spike pointed out.
"Oh yeah, I forgot there was a shower on the plane. Shower sounds good."
Spike led him into the vacant bedroom in the back. Giles had decided months ago that the bedroom would go unused unless someone was injured, claiming it was easier than listening to everyone whine. Spike opened the door to the small bathroom before handing Xander a towel.
"Hope you remember how to shower," Spike teased. "I'll go grab your kit and drop it off in the other room."
"Okay, thanks," Xander said, smiling gratefully.
Spike shut the door behind himself, then went and found Xander's bag. When he went back inside the bedroom, he tossed it on the floor before pausing to stare longingly at the queen sized bed. Compared to the rock he'd been on last night and the back seat of the Jeep from the day before, the bed looked like a cloud of sinful comfort.
"Fuck it," he snorted. He quickly kicked off his shoes and pulled off his shirt before collapsing onto the bed. It was heavenly, and between the white noise of the shower and jet engines, he was drifting off to sleep in a matter of seconds. What must have been only moments (but seemed infinitely longer) passed when he had a transient moment of awareness that something was different. Waking, he looked up and saw Xander staring at him. Brown eyes had turned green, pupils blown wide in desire.
"Well this is different," Spike noted.
Xander's cheeks flushed red, but his eyes never moved, his hungry gaze trained on Spike's torso. Spike saw the way Xander's nostrils twitched, scenting the air. Xander moved to kneel on the bed, the towel around his hips dropping imperceptibly and drawing Spike's eyes lower. Xander stretched out a tentative hand, watching as his fingers gently brushed against Spike's chest. Xander's breath caught in his chest, heart racing. Slowly, he moved his hand up, tracing the graceful contours of Spike's cheekbones and the soft arch of his lips. Swallowing hard, Xander leaned down, hesitance stuttering his motions. Finally, Xander pressed his nose against Spike's chest, inhaling deeply before burying his face in the crook of Spike's neck. Spike gently rested his hand on the back of Xander's neck, his thumb angling Xander's face toward his. The green faded from Xander's eyes, replaced with the self-conscious brown Spike remembered.
"Please," Xander whispered, eyes voicing what he didn't have the words for.
Any biting comments Spike could have voiced evaporated under Xander's gaze. Pulling him closer, Spike moved him until Xander was leaning over him, his lips hovering over Spike's. Spike arched an eyebrow, daring Xander to continue.
That sweet smile broke across Xander's face one more time before he closed the distance between them. Xander pressed their mouths together, lips testing, feeling. Spike's mouth slackened as he pressed forward, drawing Xander's lower lip inside. His tongue dragged over it, teasing. Xander moaned, pressing his body against Spike. The kiss deepened, breath mingling as their tongues moved together. Spike wrapped his other arm around Xander's waist, pulling Xander's body fully on top of his. He could feel Xander's stiff cock through the thick towel, pressing insistently against Spike's hip. He slid his hand under Xander's towel, grabbing his ass. Xander began to rock his hips, a small whimper escaping. Snarling against Xander's lips, Spike rolled their bodies, pressing his hips between Xander's as he blanketed Xander.
The kiss turned savage, teeth biting as their hips rolled together desperately. Xander tore his mouth free, gasping for air. His eyes were green again, feral, matching the growls that rumbled in his chest. Spike's demon surged forward, snarling as it sought control. Without slowing his hips, Xander whimpered and turned his head to the side. At the sight of Xander's arched throat, his submission, Spike's rational thoughts wrested back control; Harris would never submit. Stilling, Spike took a handful of deep breaths.
"Look, pet, we need to stop right now, because eventually you'll remember that you don't like having sex with people you hate."
"Hey, I remember that oral sex doesn't count as sex, so this doesn't either, so come on," Xander begged, rocking their hips together.
"Semantics aside, Harris, you hate me."
"Hated, Spike, hated, past tense. I like you now!" he pointed out, urgently rubbing himself against Spike's hip.
Spike glared down at him, eyes flashing to yellow as Xander arched his neck, submitting himself. Spike clenched his jaw, gripping Xander's hips in an iron grip. Gently but insistently, he pushed Xander away before sitting up.
"Come see me when you remember," Spike murmured, squeezing his eyes shut.
A high-pitched whine started in Xander's chest, a whine that quickly turned into a growl. "Man, this is so not cool, leaving a guy... pointing!"
"So go take care of it, then! I'm trying to do the right thing, here!" Spike growled.
Xander growled in response as he struggled out of the bed. He stomped off into the bathroom, slamming the door behind him.
With a sigh that was as much frustrated as it was relieved, Spike dropped down on the bed. Xander's arousal was so strong he could taste it, a combination of the boy's own natural scent and the animal musk that had overlaid his scent since being reborn. Over the mindless droning of the engines, Spike could hear Xander's heart racing and the choked-off cries that died on his lips. Spike groaned, grinding the heel of his palm against his erection. Fuck, he hated being the good guy. But then again, he'd turned down the sex bit, so one concession wouldn't be terrible.
Spike smiled, having absolved himself of this one sin. Listening intently to Xander, he moved one hand over his crotch, nimble fingers opening the fly. He slid his hand into his jeans, rubbing against the straining length of his cock. He hissed, arching into his fingers. Satisfied with his teasing, he pulled his cock out and began stroking it firmly, moaning. He didn't even pause when he heard Xander's movements still before starting up again. Xander was listening to him get off while he was listening to Xander get off. It was crazy, fucked up and hot. Spike sped up his movements as Xander's heart rate increased. Pulling on himself, Spike felt his balls draw up at Xander's low-pitched moan. A few seconds later, he could smell Xander's release, pushing Spike over the edge. He groaned, arching his hips as he came.
Panting, Spike opened his eyes and glanced around, spying a box of tissues. He quickly cleaned himself up before tossing the tissues in the rubbish bin and lay down again. A moment later, he heard the bathroom door open. Xander's heart beat drew nearer. Opening his eyes, he saw Xander standing beside the bed. Hurt resonated in those brown eyes. Spike shifted toward one side of the bed, creating a space. Neither of them spoke as Xander lay down beside him. Closing his eyes again, Spike tried to fall asleep while listening to Xander's heart breat. As sleep began to pull at him, Xander molded himself against Spike's side. Spike quickly opened his eyes and looked at Xander.
"Please?" Xander whispered. This time, his eyes were brown, holding no lust.
Spike didn't answer as he wrapped an arm around Xander.
The passage of two weeks' time found Buffy, Giles, Dawn, Willow, Spike and Xander on another continent once again. This time, they were just outside of Cleveland at the American Slayer Academy. Every few months, a small graduation ceremony of sorts would be held for the slayers ready to leave the academy. After the clinical, grudging acknowledgment of the old Council, it had been decided that all slayers would be lauded for each improvement, every milestone something to be celebrated.
The banquet room of the American Slayer Academy had been nicely arranged, the staff and Council members seated at regular tables, the graduating slayers and their families seated at the head table. At around nine o'clock, the party started to wind down, families and slayers heading to their accommodations. Slowly, the room emptied until only Dawn, Buffy, Xander, Willow, Giles, Faith, Robin and Spike remained. They, in turn, adjourned to the lounge.
"So, Xander, how's the new body? Break it in yet?" Faith asked, wriggling her eyebrows lasciviously. The expression seemed out of place given the conservative dress she wore.
"Uh, I don't think Robin appreciates me discussing this with you," Xander hedged, blushing.
Robin said nothing in return, merely arching an aristocratic eyebrow in return.
"Please, it's not like we're exclusive," Faith scoffed. No one argued the point, including Robin. Robin headed the Academy, while Faith served as the area's primary slayer, so they were often in contact. They still dated, though they were generally laid back about it, their official stance something along the lines of "everyone else is a one night stand." As far as anyone knew, Faith and Robin were faithful to each other. But as long as the relationship had an overall sense of being unrestricted, Faith was content with seeing only Robin.
"Hey, it would make sense," Faith continued. "I broke in the last body."
Spike arched an eyebrow, delighting in the blush that crept up Xander's face.
"Gee, Faith, twice with Xander? That would make it awfully close to a relationship," Dawn taunted.
"Yeah," Willow joined, "Robin might have to challenge Xander to a fight, you know, with dueling pistols and pointy things."
"Well I suppose I would be willing to be Robin's second should the situation arise," Giles offered.
"I wouldn't challenge Xander," Robin
"You wouldn't?" Faith asked, face caught between a smile and a frown. She didn't quite know if she should be offended or not.
"No," Robin grinned. "I've read Giles' reports on Xander' new abilities. I wouldn't challenge him to a fight; I'd wait and hit him when he wasn't looking."
"Well, since we're joking about me, I feel I should defend myself," Xander interjected. "Sorry, Faith, but I wouldn't sleep with you."
"Why, been there done that?" Dawn asked.
"No. She smells like Robin," Xander explained. The room fell silent.
"What?" Faith asked.
"You spend the most time with Robin, so you carry each other's scents. To the more, you know, growly part of myself, that tells me that you're off limits, so I won't go there," Xander declared.
"Really? That's rather fascinating," Giles commented, his eyes distantly contemplating the nature of whatever Giles was thinking of.
"So what, do you not want to date now or is there something specific that you want?" Buffy asked.
"I dunno," Xander shrugged, blushing again. "I mean, it sounds kinda wiggy, but, I want someone to smell like me, and I want to smell like them."
As Dawn jumped into the conversation, seeking clarification, no one seemed to notice the darting glance Xander shot at Spike.
But Spike did.
After chatting in the lounge for some time, Faith had suggested a fun, "late night" patrol. Spike had gone with Faith, Dawn and Giles, while Robin had escorted Willow, Xander and Buffy. The Hellmouth made for an exciting patrol, filled with lots of things to kill. Giles and Dawn walked a few feet ahead of Spike and Faith, talking about one of Dawn's assignments at Oxford.
"Damn, D is turning into a mini-Giles. Kinda scary, ain't it?" Faith quipped.
Spike shrugged; he and Faith kept in touch, being two of the more similar members of the group. But Spike hadn't been much for talking lately. Though if he was correct in his assumptions, Faith would be trying to change that just about....
"So Blondie, what was up with the school-girl look Xan shot you?"
Spike briefly considered playing dumb, but decided against it. "No fucking idea. Boy's gone off his nut since getting reborn."
"Okay, there is one hell of a story, here, Spike. I need details," she said, grinning and leering. "Including descriptions."
Spike reached into his pocket and pulled out his lighter and a pack of cigarettes. He offered one to Faith, who declined, before getting one for himself.
"Right, so I was the first to see him reborn in Africa. But I didn't exactly share the fact that he'd been... scenting me."
"What, like in a "studying your enemy" kind of way, or a "learning the scent of the guy ya wanna bone" kind of way?" Faith asked, scanning the graveyard.
"At first, I wasn't sure. But on the plane ride, it was sure as fuck the latter."
"Damn, what happened?"
"Boy made a pass at me."
"So he made a pass, but that it? You guys didn't fuck?"
"Nope. I couldn't do it. Sure as hell wanted to. I mean, you've seen how he moves now, right?"
"Yeah, like a predator. Pretty damn hot."
"Right, well the whole day, he'd just been so happy, so excited about everything. It was like everything was new again and he couldn't stop smiling."
"Oh, you mean his "super-happy-kid-in-a-candy-store" smile?"
"Yeah, and I just couldn't do it because I knew he'd hate me once he remembered everything. So we didn't do too much, but we slept in the same bed."
"Same bed, huh? That's a kind of intimacy I'm still getting to know. So what happened next?"
"The next day I woke up alone, and he could barely look at me. And I could smell it, he wasn't mad, but he was ashamed."
"Damn. Well, I ain't got a lot of advice for this kind of thing. But give it time. I did read a couple of pages from some of Giles's reports, and his body is a lot different. I think he's acting like it isn't a big deal, like he's the same. But he isn't, he's got instincts that don't match who he was and he's still trying to figure it out. Give him some time."
"And if it doesn't work, Dr. Love?" Spike smirked.
"Tie him to a bed and fuck his brains out. Then he'll smell like you."
A faint rustle sounded to their left. Faith grinned widely at Spike as a group of five vamps moved not-so-quietly through the bushes. Spike threw his cigarette to the ground, his smile matching Faith's.
"Fuck yeah," she said.
Spike went into the bedroom of the private jet. He hissed as he shrugged off his duster, the gash on his ribs pulling painfully on the healing skin. He made his way to the bathroom where he took off his shirt and started cleaning his wound.
Dawn and Giles were in the main cabin, settling in for the flight. As per Giles's injured decree, the bedroom was Spike's for the night. As he cleaned the shards of glass out of his cut, he heard Buffy, Willow and Xander board the plane. Finally, the cut was clean, though he didn't plan on bandaging it. Heading back into the bedroom, he stretched out on the bed. As Marcus made the departure announcement, the bedroom door slammed open. Xander stalked into the room, locking the door behind him. He scented the air, eyes flashing green.
"You got hurt," he growled. "You bled. Are you okay?" he asked. He prowled over to the bed, narrowed eyes studying the cut.
"Yeah, 'm fine. Just a cut; ran into some fledges who'd seen too many bar fight movies, thought using a broken bottle was a good idea. So you can toddle off like a good boy."
Xander dropped down on the bed, sitting cross-legged next to Spike.
"I'm sorry," he mumbled a few moments later.
"What?" Spike asked.
Xander picked at the cuff of his shirt, refusing to meet Spike's eyes. "I said I'm sorry. I remember everything, have since I woke up on the plane, you know, on the trip to England."
"Right then, that answers a few things."
"So there was that time you bashed me with a microscope and threatened Willow. Then you tried to kill us a bunch of times. Then you stole my money and conspired with Adam, and then there was all that Buffy badness and that time you slept with Anya," he recalled, nodding his head sadly. "And I remember how mean I was to you, how I made fun of you. And I'm sorry."
"Good to know, since ignoring me for two weeks isn't the best way to apologize."
Xander's eyes met Spike's then, brown eyes swimming in confusion and hurt.
"I wasn't ignoring you; you rejected me. You didn't want me."
Spike didn't say anything, he just simply stared at Xander in return. After a few long seconds of silence, Spike began to laugh. Xander dropped his eyes to the bed covers again, moving to get off the bed. Spike sat up quickly, hissing in pain as he reached out quickly to hold Xander in place.
"You git, you're really having trouble with all of this, aren't you?" Spike laughed, smiling fondly. Reaching out with his other hand, he cupped Xander's cheek, running his thumb over Xander's lips. "I know it might seem like I was rejecting you, but I really wasn't. I was just hoping that if I turned you down before your memories returned, I might get a chance to shag you more than once."
Xander frowned for a moment, processing the information. Then his face broke into another radiant smile.
Two seconds later, Xander pounced on Spike. Spike hissed as he twisted his body, tugging on his healing cut. Xander pulled back.
"Oh crap, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to," he winced.
Spike gingerly lowered his body to the bed, then pulled on Xander's arm until he was straddling Spike's supine form. Xander looked down at Spike's bare chest, a low, nearly inaudible purr starting in Xander's chest. Fingers pulling at buttons, Xander practically tore off his own shirt before moving further down the bed. Once his face was level with Spike's stomach, he began sniffing. He wandered from Spike's belly button to his groin, then up to his underarms before finally going over to the lightly weeping cut that stretched across Spike's ribs. A feral growl escaped Xander, his eyes flashing to green. Hesitant, Xander darted his tongue out, tasting the tiny drops of blood that welled from the cut.
"Taste good," he growled, looking up to meet Spike's yellow eyes. Matching Xander's growl, Spike grabbed Xander's shoulders and threw him down on the bed. Spike moved quickly, placing himself over Xander. Xander's eyes widened almost comically, a high whimper bleeding from his throat. He glanced pointedly at Spike's wound.
"Don't fucking care," Spike snarled. Darting down, he crashed their mouths together. Xander mewled, hands scrabbled for purchase on Spike's shoulders as Spike dominated the kiss. Neither noticed Spike's change into his demonic visage until he pulled back. Looking up into the bare need evident in Spike's altered face, Xander shivered and moaned before tilting his head to the side.
"Please," he whimpered.
Spike smirked down at him. "No, not yet, luv."
Spike dropped down to Xander's chest, using lips, fangs and tongue to torment Xander. He tasted Xander's chest, nipping at his flesh. Xander gasped and arched into the touches, begging wordlessly. Spike's demon purred, delighted at the beautiful creature under its power. His mouth moved lower, hands tearing Xander's pants open and pulling them off. At last, Xander's body was exposed, naked to Spike's eyes. A deep growl rolled through his chest as he took in the sight of Xander's thick cock, precum leaking steadily from the tip. Moving until his lips were even with Xander's cock, Spike opened his mouth, sucking the tip inside; Xander's taste exploded across his tongue. It was Xander's essence distilled into taste; sweet, musky and wholly addictive. Using skills that received far too little use, Spike relaxed his throat. Carefully, he bobbed his head up and down, taking more in each time he went down, then teasing the skin with his tongue when he pulled off. He tuned into Xander's body, attentive to each and every reaction. When Xander's hips tensed in preparation of a thrust, Spike pulled back. He teased Xander until whimpers and pleas were all Spike could hear.
Spike soon pulled off Xander's dick completely, licking his lips for any trace of him. One hand stayed behind, continuing his mission to drive Xander mad. Shifting his hips, Spike aligned their cocks, holding them in one hand. Using his free arm, he grabbed the back of Xander's neck and pulled him up to sitting. Their lips met again, tongues imitating the slip and slide of their cocks. Pulling back for air, Xander gripped Spike's waist tightly, panting against his lips.
"Please," he begged, offering his neck. Spike smelled good, smelled right. "Please."
Spike buried his face in Xander's neck, taking in the smell, tasting his sweat. Spike's tongue danced across Xander's pulse, teasing. He waited, poised to sink his fangs into the offered flesh.
He waited; then finally, he heard it.
Despite the ferocity of his need, the depth of his longing, Spike bit swiftly but gently. The taste was perfection, warming him like the rays of the sun. The first taste was enough, and Spike growled against Xander's throat as he came. Xander gasped, his body tensing into a bow of mounting pleasure. With a final swallow of blood, Spike twisted his wrist just right and Xander came, his come joining Spike's in the sticky mess between them. They didn't move for a few moments, just sat together in post-orgasmic bliss. Finally, Xander spoke, breaking the still moment.
"Now I smell like you," he murmured happily, smiling against Spike's shoulder.
"We're about to make out final descent to London. Welcome home."
Spike and Xander awoke to the sound of Marcus's announcement and the noises of the others in the front cabin.
"We should get up, 'cause clothes are good," Xander mumbled against Spike's chest.
"Fuck 'em, I'm fine where I am," Spike said. Neither of them moved again, too relaxed to be bothered.
The bedroom door slammed open.
"Hey, we're landing and I was thinking - OH MY GOD!" Buffy shrieked. "I didn't need to see that! I need brain soap! Giles! Brain soap!"
The relative quiet of the plane erupted into chaos. Dawn and Willow ran in, giggling, though only Willow was red-faced before a determinedly not-looking Giles pulled them away.
"See, I so told you!" Dawn crowed. "They were so eye-fuc - um, loving, eye-loving each other! I told you!"
Slowly, Spike and Xander separated and retrieved their clothes, lazily dressing themselves. Five seconds later, Dawn came barreling into the room, camera in hand. Buffy was right behind her, dragging Dawn out amid another chorus of "good Lords," "brain soaps," and "I told you sos!"
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