Alternate Reality Bites



by

Whichclothes



Part Five

The store was crowded. He hated shopping here at this time of day, when everyone else had just got off work too, and everyone was scrounging for dinner. And he wasn’t all that fond of Safeway to begin with. But it was on the bus route on his way home, so that’s where he went. He’d been eating less fast food lately in an attempt to save up more quickly for a car. As a result of that, plus the extra walking he’d been doing, he’d managed to keep off the weight he’d dropped in the hospital, which was satisfying. Not that he was going to attract anyone anyway, what with his horror-show face and his crappy life and less-than-sparkling personality, but he felt healthier and that was good. He’d been drinking less as well: there weren’t any bars within walking distance of his apartment, and beer was heavy to carry home.

Tonight, Xander bought a roasted chicken and some potato salad and a loaf of bread and some tangerines, and he pretended not to notice the way the cashier avoided looking him straight in the face, or the way the sticky little boy hanging out at the gumball machine gaped at him. But his time in line had been long enough that he missed the next bus. He had to wait at the bus stop, clutching his bags, ignoring the way people stared at him as they drove past. It had been a long day and his feet hurt.

The bus finally lumbered up and wheezed to a halt in front of him. Xander climbed on board and fumbled awkwardly to pull out his pass; he flashed it at the driver, who started driving again while Xander was still making his way down the aisle. Xander lurched and almost fell. The bus was fairly full. Most people didn’t look up at him at all, those who did appeared surly. Nobody scooted over to give him a seat. Xander finally stopped next to a thin man wearing a Raiders jacket. “Excuse me,” Xander said. The man scowled but moved over.

Six stops later, Xander got off. A light drizzle had started and he hunched his shoulders as he walked down the sidewalk. The rain dripped down his neck, under his collar, chilling him. By the time he made it the three blocks to his apartment, Xander wanted only to get inside, eat something, and crawl into a nice, warm bed. He trudged across the parking lot, up the stairs, and then around the corner.

The crazy guy was there, hunched against the wall next to Xander’s door. When he saw Xander, he got to his feet. “Xander, please,” he said.

Xander wanted to tell him to get lost; he was in no mood for lunacy right then. But maybe because the guy looked as exhausted, as beaten-down and defeated as Xander felt, or maybe just because Xander didn’t have the energy to argue, Xander held out his grocery bags. “Hold these,” he said.

The guy—what was his name? Wesley Something-Hyphenated—eagerly took the sacks. As Xander fumbled for his key, Wesley said, “Thank you. You’ve no idea how much this means to me. I’ve been trapped here, you see—”

“Tell you what. How about we get some food inside us and then you can rave at me all you want, okay?”

Wesley nodded and trailed after him. He hovered anxiously while Xander took out a couple of plates. How funny. It had been a long time since he’d needed more than one. He pulled out some silverware as well, and a couple of glasses. “Want some water? It’s all I got.” He very much wished he had something stronger.

“Water will be fine.”

Xander handed him a glassful. “Hang on. I’ll be right back,” Xander said. He went into the bedroom and kicked off his shoes. He pulled off his jacket and his damp shirt, and pulled on a sweatshirt instead. When he came back out, Wesley was sitting at the table. He’d taken the food out of the bags and was waiting fairly patiently. Xander had a sudden image of the man kissing Coredelia Chase in the Sunnydale High School library, and how odd was that? Xander hadn’t thought of her in years. Besides, as far as Xander knew, she’d never stepped foot in the library. He rarely had either, for that matter. He wasn’t exactly the scholarly type, and anyway, Mrs. Rodrigues, the librarian, kind of creeped him out.

Maybe the crazy was contagious.

Xander sat down opposite Wesley and began to serve the chicken. Wesley watched him intently. Finally, in a soft voice, Wesley said, “What happened to your eye?” He sounded genuinely concerned and sympathetic, and instead of reacting angrily, Xander found himself blinking back tears.

“Car wreck.”

“I’m very sorry.”

Xander shrugged and wiped at his remaining eye. “My own damn fault.”

“Still, I am—”

“Thanks. You might as well spit out your story now.” He took a big bite of chicken breast and waited.

Wesley nodded. “Yes. This is going to sound very improbable, I know, but….” He sighed. “It’s true.”

“Hit me.”

“I’m from an alternate universe. One quite similar to this one, actually, except in mine things exist that do not here. Magic.”

Xander blinked. “Magic? Like rabbits out of hats and sawing ladies in half?”

“Like witchcraft and supernatural beings. Demons. Vampire slayers.”

“Vampire slayers?”

“Yes. Young girls, one chosen in each generation to.... Well, that’s not really important right now. In any case, I got mixed up with some evil demon lawyers, and—”

“Evil demon lawyers?” This was more entertaining than he’d expected.

“Yes,” Wes replied with slight irritation. “They wanted to temporarily rid themselves of me, so they sent me here.”

“And you want to go home.”

“Of course.”

“Have you tried clicking your heels together three times?”

Wesley narrowed his eyes. “This may seem amusing to you, but I assure you—”

“Yeah, okay, I’m sorry.” Xander really was, a little. The guy was so earnest. “So you want to return to Magicland, and you haven’t managed to catch a ride home on a flying unicorn. How the hell do you think I can help?” He shoved another forkful of food into his mouth.

“Because I know you. Well, not you, precisely. I know the Xander Harris in my world.”

“Yeah? Am I some kind of big-time wizard or something there?”

“No. Actually, the last time I saw you, you were in high school. Afterwards, I believe you had a job in construction. And then you...well, I know this sounds unlikely, but you and your friends helped avert an apocalypse. I’m not sure what happened to you after that; I was rather caught up in my own matters. I believe—”

“Wait. I saved the world?”

Wesley looked steadily at him. “Yes. You were instrumental in saving the world more than once, actually.”

Xander laughed harshly. “Well, obviously your Xander Harris is nothing like me. He’s some kind of superhero or something.”

“No. He’s quite ordinary. I believe that when he was faced with problems, he simply made the right choices.”

Xander snorted. The right choices. He’d never do that. He ate a spoonful of potato salad, followed by a big swallow of water. “Okay,” he said, putting down his glass. “So your Xander is Mr. Action Hero guy. I’m obviously not.”

“Xander, I believe that if my colleagues knew where I was, they might be able to bring me back. I’ve been trying to find a way to send them a message. I attempted to track down other people I’d known, but some of them are dead in this world, and some I couldn’t find, and others would have nothing to do with me. It’s been quite difficult. I don’t officially exist here, I have no papers at all, so getting a job, traveling, those things have been challenging for me. I was running out of options. I hadn’t even thought of you, to be honest. We didn’t know each other well.” He took off his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “And then, several months ago, I dreamt about you.”

“Oh?” Xander felt a little uncomfortable about that.

“Your other self, I expect. You were living in a hotel in Los Angeles where I once lived, along with my friends. You were wearing an eyepatch, actually. And as unlikely as it was, you were kissing someone else I’d known. Someone I never would have partnered you with, not even in the wildest fancies of my subconscious. I thought perhaps it wasn’t a dream after all, but a vision. So I began to look for you.”

“Who was I kissing?”

“Erm….” Wesley looked uncomfortable. “You were kissing a vampire.”

“A vampire? Like, the bride of Dracula? Or maybe more like Catherine Deneuve, ‘cause she was pretty sexy, actually.”

“No. This vampire is male. His name is Spike.”

Xander’s reaction was very strange. He should have dismissed Wesley’s entire story as the rantings of a madman. He should have been creeped out by the guy’s suggestion that Xander would make out with a manpire. But when Wesley said the vampire’s name—Spike; what the hell kind of name was that, even for a monster?—Xander’s heart ached, like he’d been reminded of something important that he’d lost long ago. And suddenly, as surely as he knew that his middle name was Lavelle and that clowns gave him nightmares, Xander knew that Wesley’s tale was true.


~*~*~*~*~


“We’ve made contact,” Xander mumbled.

“Stop doing that!” said Spike.

“Didn’t really do it on purpose, baby.” Xander groaned slightly as Spike helped him to his feet. This time he’d blacked out in the Laura Ashley suite, right in the middle of installing a towel bar in the floral-wallpapered bathroom. Luckily Spike had been there, watching out for just such an occurrence, or maybe just watching because he enjoyed it. He seemed to have moved Xander out of the bathroom, onto the softer surface of the carpeted main room.

“You nearly bashed your head open on the bathtub.”

“Wouldn’t be the first time I got conked in the head, Spike.” He walked into the bathroom. The rack was hanging off the wall, half-installed. Xander bent and picked up his electric drill.

“Yeah, and it’s lucky the bloody thing is hard as a rock. Pet, tell the sodding Council to let you go.”

“C’mon. We both know I’m not gonna leave Wesley stranded. Besides, now Wesley has convinced the other Xander that something’s going on, and the other Xander wants to help, too.”

Spike sighed. “Of course he does. He’s as big a berk as you are.”

Xander was quiet for a moment as he installed the screws to hold the rack in place. “There. That’s better. Hey, do you know if that faucet I was waiting for came?” Kyna had picked it out of the Insanely Expensive Bathroom Fixtures catalog, and, judging by the time it had taken for the package to arrive, the company was located in suburban Ulan Bator.

Spike ignored his question. “Percy’s a good enough sort, but you don’t owe him anything. Besides, is that world really so horrible?”

“No, it seems okay. But it’s not his home, Spike.” He set the screwdriver into his tool box and rested his hands on Spike’s shoulders. “You know why the other Xander’s playing along? Because when Wesley said your name, he recognized it—I recognized it—and he…I…we—whatever!—went all gooey inside.”

Spike pulled Xander into an embrace and snuffled into the crook of Xander’s neck. “Couldn’t go on if I lost you, Xan.”

“You’re not gonna lose me.” Xander stuck his nose in Spike’s hair and inhaled deeply. “This is no big—”

“Don’t say it!”

“Sorry.” He smacked a loud kiss onto Spike’s cheek. “Come on. Let’s tell the crew what’s up.”


~*~*~*~*~


Lindsey had spent the day in physical therapy, and didn’t look too happy about it. He was lying on his back on a small couch someone had dragged into the library, groaning theatrically.

“Could just chop ‘em off and save you the trouble,” Spike grumbled as he and Xander entered the room. Spike collapsed into a chair and pulled Xander down into his lap.

“Weren’t you two supposed to be working somewhere?” Angel asked, not even bothering to look up from his book.

Xander was annoyed at the implication that he and his vampire were incapable of doing research, even though the truth was neither of them really liked sticking their noses in dusty old books, and Xander, at least, was less skilled than average at the task. But still, Angel didn’t have to be so snotty about it, especially since Xander was the one wavering between dimensions. “We were working,” he said, although the pronoun was pretty much a stretch, unless Xander-sitting counted as working. “Got the bathroom almost done. A few more things and Kyna can bring in the canopy bed or the stuffed bears or whatever it is she plans to furnish the room with.”

Now Kyna was giving him dirty looks and he felt a little bad about it. But not bad enough to apologize. Spike squeezed Xander’s waist. “My boy’s feeling a bit out of sorts. He had another spell.”

Everyone looked at Xander, even Lindsey. “What happened?” Giles asked. So Xander told them, all the while thinking that he was getting tired of playing this interdimensional game of telephone.

When Xander was finished, Giles nodded. “This is good news, I think.”

Angel said, “Just because Xander’s agreeable on both sides doesn’t mean Wes is any closer to getting home. How are we going to pull him back?”

“I’m working on that right now.”

Xander stood. “Great, you work on it. Spike, let’s go kill something, okay?”

Spike stayed put. “What if we’re in the middle of a fight and you—”

“I won’t. Come on. Please. I’m feeling itchy and I need to get my teeth into something.”

Spike waggled his eyebrows. “We don’t have to go anywhere for that, pet.”

“I wanna bite something living, Spike. Fight first, shag later.”




Part Six

Wesley was staying at a cheap motel, the kind where people cooked meth in the bathrooms and hookers went wobbling across the parking lot and knife-wielding drunks chased their girlfriends. But he had a car, an elderly Ford Focus with mismatched doors and a cracked windshield. So he and Xander negotiated a deal—Wesley could sleep on Xander’s couch, and in turn he’d chauffeur Xander to and from work. The arrangement worked out pretty well. Wes had a laptop, too, and he spent his days on the internet, trying to find some way to get home. In the evening they talked, comparing the versions of their worlds. Wesley’s was a lot stranger than Xander’s, yet Xander found himself yearning for it. At least there he was someone, he had someone.

Xander had never had a roommate, and if he had, he probably wouldn’t have picked a crazy English guy. But he found himself enjoying the company, and even if Wesley’s stories were pretty wild, they were interesting to listen to.

“So if Spike was with you guys in LA and Xander was in Africa, how did they hook up?”

“I have no idea.” They were sitting on the couch, neither of them watching the basketball game that was on the TV. “I don’t even know how Spike survived the fight with Wolfram & Hart. It was looking pretty grim.”

“Maybe someone stepped in to help. Witch Willow, maybe.” Xander tried to picture the Willow he’d known in high school doing magic, and couldn’t. She’d been a pretty practical girl.

“I doubt it. Angel had alienated them fairly thoroughly. They didn’t trust him.”

“Well, occasionally souled vampire, yeah, I can see why the trust would be difficult.”

“Yes, it would be,” Wesley said, and he looked so overcome with sorrow for a moment that Xander patted his shoulder. Wesley gave him a small, grateful smile.

“Um, your Xander. Was he always gay?”

“I know he dated girls. Cordelia, for instance.”

Xander nearly choked. “”Cordelia? Cordelia Chase?”

“Yes. In high school.”

“Cordelia Chase would have rather bought her clothes at Wal-Mart than go out with me.”

Wes shrugged. “You two apparently found some…chemistry. And then later, I understand Xander was engaged to a girl called Anya. She used to be a vengeance demon. But the wedding was called off.”

A vengeance demon? Somehow, that was more believable than Cordelia, so Xander didn’t question it. “Your Xander’s seen a lot more action than me. Maybe I’d get luckier in a world with demons in it.”

“Perhaps. I wasn’t all that fortunate in love myself.”

Xander remembered what Wes had told him about that girl and how she’d been possessed somehow by a god. Wes hadn’t said as much, but Xander had the fairly strong impression that Wes had had it bad for Fred. But that gave him a thought. “Have you tried looking for Fred here?”

Wesley frowned. “Yes. She was one of the first…when I’d realized what had happened to me. She’s a professor at the University of Texas in Tyler. She’s becoming quite well known in her field, I believe. She’s married and she has a young son.”

“Did you…did you ask if she can help you?”

“No. She went through so much in my world, and here…here she’s happy. I let her be.”

Xander nodded and for a while he watched the men in shorts run back and forth across the court, their shoes squeaking the whole time. And then something else occurred to him. “You came to see me because of that dream you had, or vision, or whatever.”

“Yes.”

“Why didn’t you look for Spike? You knew him a lot better than you knew me, right?”

“Xander, in this world, the man who would have been Spike was born in the 1850s. He’s been dead a very long time.”

For no reason, Xander’s stomach clenched. “Oh.” He picked at a small fray in the fabric of his jeans. “I thought maybe he was your ticket out of here instead of me.”

Wesley grew very still. Then he turned and grabbed Xander’s shoulders. “Of course! You’re a genius!”

“Now, there’s a sentence nobody’s ever said to me before. Unless they were being ironic. Or sarcastic. I’m a little fuzzy on the difference between the two.”

The other man ignored his babble. “A person cannot physically pass from one reality to another if his counterpart is alive in the other world. If he were to try, it would cause all sorts of temporal-spatial anomalies…possibly destroy one or both worlds.”

“Well, that’s bad.”

“And if his counterpart is not alive, he could pass over, but then he’d be stuck. It’s a one-way journey.”

“Also bad.”

“But if the person were dead in both worlds…as I am…he might be able travel both directions. The fact that I lack a body in my original world keeps me from doing it by myself. But if the deceased person did have a physical presence….”

“So, what? You want to try to catch a ride back home on a cadaver?”

“Not a cadaver. A vampire.”

Xander scratched at his neck as he took a few moments to mull this over. “Okay. So how do you lure a vampire to this world?”

Wesley grinned. “Perhaps with a man who has been described as a demon magnet.”


~*~*~*~*~



For once, Xander woke up in his own bed, in the arms of his own vampire. “You were calling my name, love.”

“I missed you. The other Xander’s never met you—he’s not even into guys—and he still misses you.”

“I expect that’s the bit of him that’s you, Xan.”

“Maybe.” Xander didn’t want to think about the whole duality thing. It made his head hurt. “But he’s really lonely.”

Spike clutched him closer. “Don’t like to think of a lonely Xander, even if he’s not really you.”

“Hmm.” Xander squirmed around so he was facing Spike, and he looked into that familiar, beloved face. He didn’t have to say anything. He could keep his mouth shut and Spike would never know, and life would go on just fine. Except Xander would be haunted for the rest of his days by the thought of stranded Wesley.

He reached up and traced his fingertips over Spike’s cheekbone, then over the scarred eyebrow. “Wesley had an idea,” Xander said very quietly.

Spike waited.

“He thinks maybe a vampire could fetch him somehow. But that doesn’t have to be you, does it? Angel could do it. He’s the one who got Wes all tied up with Wolfram & Hart to begin with.”

Spike kissed Xander’s forehead.

Xander let Spike tell the story this time, while Xander sat in one of the library chairs, glaring at the wall. Angel, of course, volunteered to go, even though Kyna’s lips thinned and her eyes hardened. But after an hour or so of especially frenzied book-consultation, during which Xander had silently chanted, Not Spike, not Spike, not Spike, Giles had crowed in triumph and then shook his head.

“It has to be Spike,” Giles said.

“Of course,” said Spike. “Who wants an interdimensional pouf?”

Giles rolled his eyes. “It has to be Spike because he’s closely tied emotionally to Xander. And Xander’s connection with the other Xander will provide the means for Spike to travel.”

Xander exploded. “I don’t understand any of this bullshit! Give me something to build, something to bite, that’s fine. This alternate universe crap is stupid!”

Giles stood and walked over. He pulled a chair closer to Xander so that they were facing one another and he took off his glasses. “Xander, you and your counterpart form the two ends of a bridge that connect dimensions. Humans, if they tried to traverse that bridge, would be destroyed or they’d be caught on the other side. Most vampires, including Angel, would…well, get lost. They would never find their way to the opposite side, nor would they find their way back.” Xander glanced at Kyna, who was listening intently, grimly. “But Spike could travel safely, because you two are intimate.”

“So if I fucked Angel he could go instead?” Xander said angrily.

Spike growled and Angel made a face.

But Giles shook his head. “That’s not what I meant. Yes, you two are certainly, erm, physically close. But I meant emotionally. Spike knows you, doesn’t he?”

Spike nodded gravely.

“Spike could cross the bridge and then lead Wesley back. And then the bridge could finally be destroyed, and you would stop having these visions.”

It all sounded so logical, so simple. Xander scowled and crossed his arms on his chest.

Angel approached them both. “What happens if Spike does drag Wes back? Wes is dead. Does he end up a ghost? Does he…I don’t know...ascend to heaven?”

“We can make him a body,” Lindsey said. He’d been sitting on the couch the whole time, massaging his legs. “The firm did that now and then. They did it for me. You end up in the same physical condition you were when you died, more or less, but you’ve got a meat jacket again. The magic’s not that hard.”

Xander looked down at his hands. They were calloused, and there was a scab on the back of his right hand from when Spike had decided to put a very cold hand down the back of Xander’s jeans while Xander was working, and the putty knife Xander had been using had slipped a little. Spike had licked and sucked at the tiny wound, his eyes shining the way a cat’s eyes shine in the dark, and Xander had let Spike throw him down on the floor and fuck him right then and there, with the handle of the putty knife digging into Xander’s back. “It’s not fair,” he almost whispered.

Spike had been standing nearby. He knelt beside Xander’s chair and clasped their hands together. “It never is, love.”


~*~*~*~*~


Xander gasped and watched as his sweat dripped down onto Spike’s straining body. Spike’s head was thrown back, the cords of his neck standing starkly, his face clenched in what appeared to be exquisite agony. “Harder,” Spike said. “Hard…oh, fuck, Xan…like that…Xan…Xan…Xan….” Chanting Xander’s name like a prayer or a spell.

Xander didn’t have the breath to say anything at all, at least anything more coherent than a wild cry that sounded more than a bit like a howl. His hips were pistoning and he felt like he was so deeply inside his lover that he might be swallowed whole. And that wasn’t a bad thing.

“Bite!” Spike said, his voice hoarse and broken.

Xander didn’t have to be told twice. He wouldn’t have been able to resist the temptation much longer anyway. As his lower body still moved rapidly, Xander unlocked his elbows and collapsed onto Spike’s chest. He grabbed Spike’s hair and then sank his teeth into ivory skin, just above Spike’s jutting collarbone.

Spike yelled. Xander felt the rush of room-temperature liquid against his own stomach, felt Spike clench around him. As the salty taste of his own sweat and Spike’s blood filled his mouth, Xander juddered and froze and climaxed.

They stayed stuck together, Xander’s soft cock still inside Spike, for a long time, until they were both almost asleep. Spike sucked lightly on Xander’s neck and ran his hands up and down Xander’s back, making Xander’s over-sensitized nerves twitch. “You’re bloody good at shagging,” Spike said when Xander finally withdrew and rolled off, to flop bonelessly at Spike’s side.

“Practice makes perfect.”

“Yeah?” Spike reached over to play with Xander’s nipple. “You’re not perfect yet. Perhaps we ought to practice some more.”

Xander tried to laugh and groan at the same time. “Just…give me five minutes, okay?”

“We have to be downstairs in fifteen, love, or they’ll all come marching up here.”

Xander thought about being interrupted by Giles when in the middle of…in the middle of Spike. He shuddered. “Okay. Three minutes, then.”


~*~*~*~*~


Magic made Xander itchy, and it smelled funny. He wanted to reach up and scratch his nose, but Spike was holding tightly to one hand, and Xander’s other hand was clutching what looked like a blob of melted blue glass, but which Giles had insisted was some kind of mystical talisman thing. The floor was hard underneath him, and he wondered how difficult it was going to be to remove the paint from it. He understood that enchantments often required special symbols and marks, but did they have to be made in the lobby, where he’d just recently spent days restoring the tile? He remembered when Willow had stuck Angel’s soul on permanently; at least this time, Xander and Spike hadn’t been required to take their clothes off.

Giles and Lindsey were sitting on the round seat, squinting together at a huge book that was opened across both their laps. That didn’t give Xander much comfort; it was like seeing a surgeon consulting an anatomy text just before they wheeled you into the OR. He really wished they had decided to wait until Willow was available, but Spike had been anxious to get the whole thing over with and Giles had been worried that, over time, Xander’s connection with the other world would either disappear or become permanent, and neither of those was a good thing.

Angel was standing awkwardly nearby, his face set in its usual brooding lines, but Xander knew that underneath the scowl was genuine concern for Spike. Plus, Angel had never been happy to be simply a bystander, but there wasn’t much he could do right now. Kyna was pacing. She liked to be in on the action, too, preferably bossing people around.

Xander turned his head to the side to look at his vampire. “Spike, if you get stuck there—”

“I won’t.”

“Yeah, but if you do—”

“Pet, I’ve made my way back from death, from ashes, from hell, from being a bloody ghost. And that was before I had you to come home to. I won’t get stuck.”

Xander felt slightly comforted. “Okay. But promise me: if the impossible happens—because Christ knows it has before—promise me you’ll find someone in that world. I don’t want you by yourself. You don’t do well alone.”

Spike sighed. “Xan, if the impossible happens, if I’m convinced that there’s absolutely no return, I’ll seduce the other Xander.”

Xander felt an odd combination of relief and jealousy. Could you be jealous of yourself? “He’s straight.”

“So were you, once.”

“No. I was bi and in denial. That Xander really isn’t into guys.”

“That’s because he’s never met me,” Spike said smugly. “You couldn’t resist me in this dimension or any other.”

Xander didn’t argue because he wasn’t sure Spike was wrong. Besides, just then Giles came over to loom beside them. “All right,” he said. “The bond should have cemented. Xander, you can place the talisman on the floor now.”

Xander did. His hand was all sweaty and he wiped his palm against his thigh.

Giles said, “The next bit is quite simple. I’m going to put you to sleep, Xander—”

“Not a phrase you want to say to someone who’s semi-canine, G-Man.”

Giles huffed impatiently. “Within a few minutes, the spell should set you into communication with the alternate reality. Spike, as soon as he’s there, you should feel sort of a tug. Don’t resist it; just relax and allow it to pull you along. You should very shortly find yourself with Xander.”

“That’s a few more shoulds than I’d like, Giles,” said Xander.

“Nothing is ever certain with magic. Or with anything else, for that matter. But I’m quite confident.”

That was going to have to be good enough. “Okay, then. Hit me.”

“You do remember how to get back, Spike?”

“I’m not an idiot, Watcher.”

Giles opened his mouth like he might disagree, then shut it. He nodded twice and walked back to Lindsey, who handed him a green plastic bowl. Giles brought the bowl back over with him. From it he removed what looked like a glass salt-shaker, then sprinkled liquid from the shaker onto Spike and Xander. It had a bitter, acidic smell. Next he dropped several pinches of a pleasant-scented herb on them.

“I’m beginning to feel like a side of beef,” Xander said. “Werewolf. It’s what’s for dinner.”

Giles glared at him. “Do be quiet!”

Then there was some chanting in various languages and some waving around of sticks and it was pretty boring, actually, and Xander felt his eyelid growing heavier and heavier and Oh! That was the point, wasn’t it? Sleep came slowly upon him, as if he were sinking gently into quicksand, and everything grew fuzzier, and the last thing he remembered was Spike squeezing his hand.




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