2 The Chariot
“Ready to give it a go, pet?” The blonde vampire asked his nervous human.
With a deep breath and a nervous glance at his vampire, Xander nodded.
Spike smiled, “Good boy,” and kissed Xan’s forehead.
“Remember Xander, you need to tell us what you’re feeling, when…” Ms. Calendar trailed off, not knowing how to finish the sentence without making the young man sound insane.
Thankfully, Xander saved her the trouble, “I know, when they come.”
Trying to sound reassuring, she added, “Spike and I will be right here.”
Xander rubbed the opalescent stone of the poison locket Spike had given him. He went over the lessons Spike and Ms. Calendar had given him about concentration and meditation. Steeling himself, he gave a curt nod, “Let’s do this.”
Slowly, Spike walked away from his boy; his keen senses on alert for the changes in Xander’s scent and heart rate.
As the vampire moved away, Xander locked his eyes with him, letting those blue pools take him in just as ‘William’s’ had during the dreams.
Spike reached the far wall and the doorway; he could hear Xander’s heartbeat racing even as the mortal tried to keep his breathing steady. He wanted to rush to his side. He wanted to praise Xander for doing so well. He wanted to ease the boy’s pain, not increase it. But he also knew his boy needed this in order to heal. Knowing he was doing the right thing, Spike braced himself and walked out the door.
Almost instantly, Xander began to shake. His fist clenched around the locket almost painfully as the voices and images teased at his mind. “They’re coming,” he gasped.
“I’m right here, Xander,” Ms. Calendar assured, “and all I have to do is call for Spike and he’ll be here.”
Outside the door, Spike moved to the living room; stopping when Xander’s pulse became erratic.
Xander tried to focus, tried to imagine William’s face, the soft lines of his mouth, the tenderness of his eyes, and the soothing waves of his hair. He could almost see the beautiful man, but something stopped him.
A soft childlike giggle rattled through his head and the vague image he’d conjured transferred into the sharp picture of William- in gameface, mouth and hands covered in blood.
The giggling grew louder, echoing the way your own voice echoes in your head.
“My Spike!” Xander heard a voice that may have been his coo. Then he was touching the bloodied vampire, frail hands brushing the blood splattered cheeks as his tongue lapped the blood off Spike’s chin.
Then Spike smiled- a smile so close to the same loving smile Xander had found refuge in the past few days that it made the boy’s heart ache.
Spike wanted to pace. Actually, he wanted to rend flesh, preferably that of his Grandsire. Unfortunately, he couldn’t do either. To pace meant disturbing the delicate mental balance of his precious boy, and to rend meant leaving him altogether.
Instead, Spike trained his senses on his boy and the witch. The panicked speed of Xander’s heart and the influx of fear and anguish in the young man’s scent caused his demon to howl. It demanded Spike go to his Mate.
‘Mate.’ Spike’s demon considered the boy his Mate? He knew he loved Xander- how could he not- but Mate? The thought sent a slow warming current through his cold dead body.
Back in the bedroom, Xander gripped Spike’s locket till it cut into his palm, telling himself that Spike was his now, that William was his and that the creature in his mind was merely Spike’s past.
Once again the horribly tinkling giggle exploded through his mind and the mental image began to shift, morphing from the crimson reds of shed blood to the snowy white of a leather and metal clad punk. The vampire, now all sharp edges with hard sapphire daggers for eyes, was strikingly too reminiscent of the Spike he knew.
He screamed, whether it was his mind or his heart he couldn’t tell and didn’t care.
As he felt himself slipping he could hear the hysterical laughter of the demon trying to hold his mind. He squeezed his eyes shut as if doing so could block the mental images as well. For a blessed moment, everything went black.
But just as suddenly as the welcoming darkness had come it was replaced by a hulking silhouette. In his mind an excited voice chirped, “Daddy,” while another screamed with equal amounts of terror.
Clenching his fist, Xander willed the image away, only to have it speed into terrifying clarity. Rivulets of blood began to seep through Xander’s fingers from the cuts caused by his fierce grip on his precious locket.
The scent of his boy’s blood slammed into Spike like a hurricane, stirring his emotions and instincts until he felt as lost and confused as Xander.
Ms. Calendar jumped when she heard the roar, a primal howl of anguish and frustration.
The vampire’s cry masked the ‘pop’ of the locket’s clasp giving way. And as the brunette witch ran to the vampire’s side, the soft familiar brush of silk tickled Xander’s hand.
‘William’ rang through his head, three voices finally joined in unison as the sandy haired Victorian consumed Xander’s vision. Slowly, Xander opened his eyes and his fist. Protruding from the open locket was a small braid of sandy blonde hair as fine as the intricately spun strands of a spider’s web and infinitely more captivating.
Spike was about to burst into the bedroom, when the sudden change in his love hit his senses. The fear was quickly fading, and Xander’s heart and breathing were calming.
Jenny put her head on the vampire’s arm, “Spike, what is it? What’s wrong?”
The vamp spun to face the teacher, a wide, proud smile plastered over his face. “He did it,” Spike laughed. “It worked.”
Ms. Calendar peered around the blonde, “Xander?” She tried to tamp down her hope as she entered the room.
Hazily, “Yeah.” Then bright utterly sane brown eyes met hers, “Can Spike come back now?”
In an instant, the vampire was at Xander’s side, “Right here, luv.” He raked his fingers through his boy’s hair, “’m proud of you.”
“You did it,” Xander whispered. “Sorry,” he held his bloodied palm out to the vamp.
“Shhh,” Spike cooed, “nothin’ to worry about.” He closed his hand around Xander’s, trapping blood, locket, and braid between their palms. “Worth it to get you back,” Spike kissed the back of Xander’s bloodied hand.
Xander could only look at the Master Vampire in awe.
Before the boy could speak, Spike chuckled, “We’re gonna have to work on that self-confidence, Xan.”
At the side of the bed, Ms. Calendar smiled, shaking her head at the pair. Then catching the vampire’s eye, “I’ll get something to clean that,” she offered, more as an excuse to give them some privacy than any real need.
As soon as Ms. Calendar had left the room, Xander turned his deep questioning eyes on his vamp, “Can’t you clean it?”
Inadvertently, Spike sucked in a breath, startled by the implications and sincerity in his boy’s voice.
Xander tried to cover his flush, “I get it if you don’t want to.” The brunette’s voice sounded as small and frail as Dru’s ever did.
“Xan. Pet, do you understand what you’re offerin’?” Spike asked gently, wanting to reassure the boy.
Xander’s look told Spike the answer.
“Thought not.” Shaking his head, “Bloody Watchers, actually think they’re protecting you by keepin’ you in the dark. “Thing is, blood’s a powerful thing, Xan. It’s not just life in there. It’s essence- pheromones and emotions and, if they’re strong enough, memories. And a vamp can sense that. With strangers most block them automatically. It’s harder when we know them, sometimes impossible.” He carefully avoided mentioning that the only time it was truly impossible was between a Mated couple, or that Spike’s demon already saw Xander as his Mate. “You understand?”
The boy smiled half-heartedly and nodded, “It’s too intimate.”
“Yeah, too intimate to go into blindly. You’ll be exposing yourself to me.”
Without speaking, Xander raised his injured hand to the vampire. The gesture more powerful than any words could have been.
Reverently, Spike set the locket on the nightstand and brought his love’s hand to his lips. As he began to tenderly kiss and lathe away Xander’s blood, Spike could feel the boy’s emotions infuse him. The more he cleaned, the more intense the feelings became, growing until he was consumed by ‘Xander’.
With frightening clarity Spike knew exactly how Xander felt about those closest to him- the boy’s parents, his friends, the Watcher and Esme, Angel, and of course himself. Had the wounds been more severe and the amount of blood larger, Spike was certain Xander’s entire existence would have been playing before him in vivid 3-D Technicolor. As it was the emotions and images he’d experienced were more than enough to reinforce Spike’s dedication to protecting his boy and only served to strengthen his mounting desire to care for him
As his hand was tended with intimate care Xander allowed the almost sensual bathing to lull him to sleep.
In the days that followed, Xander’s progress improved exponentially, gaining and maintaining more and more control with each session. The secret turned out to be the locket, the link to his mind’s William and his Spike were obvious, but now that it also contained a small amount of his own blood it seemed to unify and increase Xander’s control. By Friday, what had begun with a few moments while the vampire was in another room had grown to an hour or more while the blonde saw to his ‘dietary’ needs.
When Ms. Calendar returned home that afternoon, she found the two men asleep on her couch, arms, legs, and fingers entwined. She smiled fondly at them, “Spike, Xander.” Her voice soft as she gently woke them.
“Mrphle,” Xander declared against his vamp’s chest.
Smiling, Spike added, “What he said.”
Come on you two,” the dark witch insisted.
Grudgingly, the men disentangled themselves and sat up; Spike making sure his Mate was still pressed to his chest.
“What is it, Esme?” The blonde quirked an eyebrow, “Slayer on her way?”
“No, though we will have to tell her and Rupert soon.”
“If it’s not Buffy, what is it?” Xander asked.
Xander cringed. He knew he’d have to return home eventually, he’d only hoped ‘eventually’ wouldn’t be any time soon. He also knew he wasn’t ready to be completely separated from his vampire.
As if reading his thoughts, “Don’t worry, luv, ‘m gonna be right there.”
“Pet, your parents aren’t exactly the most attentive or observant. Otherwise they wouldn’t ‘ave accepted Esme’s story of a weeklong class trip. ‘s not exactly the kinda thing most parents ‘forget’.”
Xander nodded his understanding, knowing all too well how right his vampire was. “So when does ‘the class’ get back?”
Ms. Calendar smiled at her ‘boys’, “Sunday.”
Xander’s dark eyes brightened, “Not tonight?”
“’course not, luv, did ya not hear her proper,” Spike teased trying to lighten his boy’s mood.
Laughing at the show Spike was putting on, “No, Xander, not tonight.”
The teen smiled, visibly relaxing, and leaned into his vamp, “Thanks Ms. C, for everything.”
She patted Xander’s knee lovingly, “Well, it’s early yet and I have a few hundred projects to grade, so I’ll leave you two to it.”
Sunday evening came too quickly for both Xander’s and Spike’s liking, but the transition was inevitable.
Ms. Calendar drove them to Xander’s home, seeing the boy to the door, and thanking his parents for allowing Xander to accompany them.
Grunting distractedly, the elder Harris nodded, more intent on the football game they’d interrupted than in his son’s return.
With pleasantries out of the way, Ms. Calendar gave Xander a hug and said her goodbyes.
No sooner had the door closed than Tony Harris was back to his beer and his game.
Jessica at least spared a kiss for her only child before returning to her cocktails and paparazzi rags.
Shaking his head, Xander muttered, “Welcome home, Xan-man,” as he mounted the stairs to his room. The young man wasn’t surprised when his bedroom door opened at his approach and he gratefully fell into his vampire’s caring embrace.
“Not the homecoming you were hoping for, luv,” Spike murmured, combing his fingers through Xander’s hair.
Nuzzling into the blonde, “No- but the one I was expecting.”
“I make up for it a bit?”
“Spike, you make up for just about everything.”
“Good,” the vampire chuckled melodically, “that way I can tell you what a colossal twat you are.”
Xander followed Spike’s gaze around his sci-fi-aholic adorned room. “Yeah, what, you’d prefer crossbows, garlic, and posters of D?”
The vamp rolled his eyes, “’s a good thing I promised to look after you, that’s an eating offense.”
Whispering, “You can eat me anytime you want.”
Spike turned to his Mate, quirking his scarred brow in question.
Xander felt his cheeks flushing red as he realized he’d said the words aloud; just as he felt his cock fill and twitch at his vampire’s stalking leer.
Moving towards his love, Spike herded him to the bed. When the back of Xander’s legs hit the bed, Spike whispered, “Is that what you want, Xander? You want me to eat you up?”
“Mmm,” the blonde exhaled deeply, “’cause I’ve been waiting. Want you so much, want all of you.” The vampire’s cool breath tickled the crook of Xander’s neck causing the mortal to shiver deliciously. He chastely kissed his boy’s neck, soaking up Xander’s taste as he did his heat. “But I need to know it’s you. Need to know that Alexander Harris, my Xander, wants it.”
“Spike…” warm arms slid around the vampire, allowing Spike to support most of Xander’s weight, “…William.”
Easing them down onto the bed, “Always,” he promised. Spike curled his precious boy to him, “You need rest, luv.”
“But,” Xander asked in confusion, even as his eyes and body betrayed the truth of his vampire’s words.
“Shh, we’ve got time, luv- I swear.”
The last thing Xander remembered was Spike’s cool, loving lips pressed to his.
Bright and early Monday morning, Willow met her best-friend outside his house. Standing up on tip-toe the small redhead kissed Xander’s cheek. “Ready?”
“As I’ll ever be,” the dark boy replied, throwing an arm around her as they headed off towards the high school.
Xander sat edgily through his first period, barely managing not to jump at every sharp or sudden sound. His nerves had him more on edge than Dru did. He kept Spike’s locket clutched in his hand, taking comfort from the small piece of William in contained.
Just before the bell to dismiss class, the familiar and welcome shape of Ms. Calendar appeared at the door; a few words were exchanged teacher to teacher, before Xander was called to join them.
In a hushed voice it was explained that, “Ms. Calendar needs your assistance on a project. Get your things and go with her.”
Xander nodded, trying to be his normal playful self, “Sure thing. Xan-man is ready and willing,” he chirped, turning to fetch his bag.
“How’re you holding up?” she asked once out of earshot of nosy faculty.
Xander shrugged, “Hey, made it through first period.”
The computer teacher just smiled. “Well, this should help,” she said leading them past her classroom and towards the library.
The young man stopped. “Giles?”
“It’s okay,” she told him. Noticing Xander’s agitation she added, “He knows. He knows about Spike, too.”
Xander’s eyes widened almost comically, images of Buffy and his vampire trying to kill each other still fresh in his memory.
“Xander. Trust me.”
Reluctantly, Xander followed the witch, squeezing the locket tightly in his hand.
“Xander, my dear boy,” Giles smiled and embraced the startled young man, such an outward show of emotion seemed foreign in the Watcher.
“Hey, G-man, ya miss me?”
Pulling his glasses off and polishing them distractedly, “Yes, yes, we did.” Sliding his glasses back on, he cleared his throat, “I believe there’s someone here to see you.”
Xander turned, already knowing by feel who was there, “Spike.”
Moving to stand by his mortal, “Your Esme is truly amazing, pet. How she got the Watcher here to let me in ’s beyond me.”
“Well, we still have Buffy to contend with and I doubt she will be quite as accepting,” Giles warned. “I myself am still wary, but Jenny and Willow spoke vehemently in your defense, so we shall see.”
Later that afternoon, when an entirely too chipper Buffy bounded into the library, she went from bouncy to attack mode as if someone had flipped a switch.
It had taken all of them to convince the Slayer that the blonde vampire was only there because of Xander, but she couldn’t deny the serenity she saw in Xander when Spike was near. Still, she had to make a point. Rounding on the blonde, she grabbed him by the collar and pushed him down over one of the library tables, “Listen up, Bleach Boy, I so much as hear about you trying anything, so much as a whisper about a Bleached Menace going off the bag or see the slightest scratch on Xander and I don’t care, you’ll be dust. Got it?”
Spike tried not to laugh; he really loved how much this lot cared about each other. Ever the Big Bad, he snarled, “I wouldn’t hurt him,” as if he was offend by the sheer concept. Xander was his; nothing would hurt him.
She scoffed, but let the vamp go. “I’m gonna be here when he is,” she said to Giles, angry with him for letting the vampire stay for so long without telling her.
The next few days worked on a revolving system of classrooms and being called to the library or to assist Ms. Calendar, keeping Spike close enough to give Xander the freedom to extend his control, while still having the anchor if and when he needed. After a few stressful, but successful weeks Xander was sitting through all his classes without incident. And much to Buffy’s delight that meant the vampire was spending less and less time in her proximity.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, or in the case of life on the Hellmouth, come to a crashing train wreck.
The one thing they hadn’t been prepared for showed up one evening during a research session- Angel.
No sooner had the ensouled vampire entered the building than Xander started to shake. He tugged the locket, which he now wore around his neck, out and grasped it tightly.
Sitting next to him, Willow noticed the small movement. “Xan? What is it?”
“They’re… Dru. I need Spike.”
“Okay, we’ll get him,” she looked around trying to mask her fear for her friend’s sake. Finally, she caught Ms. Calendar’s eye where she’d been hunched over some ancient tome with Giles, and nodded towards Xander.
Instantly, the dark witch understood, “Rupert, we need to go, get Xander home.”
“Of course, something wrong?”
She rolled her eyes at him, she might love the man, but sometimes he did state the obvious.
The commotion at the tables drew unwanted Slayer attention, “What’s the hap? We haven’t even made Giles spring for burgers yet?”
“He needs Spike.” Willow hissed.
Buffy raised an eyebrow, “Why? What’s wrong?” she asked as if whatever it was was something she could fight.
Willow shrugged and shook her head as she stood, ready to take Xander home.
“He’s coming,” Xander murmured quietly.
They all looked at Xander, his wide brown eyes focused off in the distance.
Ms. Calendar hurriedly asked Willow, “Do you know where Spike is?”
“He’s usually just here when we leave,” she answered helplessly.
“It’ll be alright,” she tried to reassure both Willow and Xander, “Let’s just get him home.”
Xander let himself be guided towards the doors, only to start shivering and shaking his head violently, “No, he’s coming. Please, no, no.”
They couldn’t understand what was causing such a violent reaction from their friend, he hadn’t had a reaction like this in days and then it had been the nightmares.
Willow followed Xander as he backed away from the doors, whispering promises to find Spike and that he was safe. She looked up when she heard the doors swinging open and Xander’s problem became obvious.
“What are you doing here?” Ms. Calendar spat.
Buffy jumped up and headed for Angel. “Bad idea,” she told the vamp, but it was too late.
Xander was rapidly falling apart, having worked his way into the furthest corner of the library.
“Get him out of here,” Ms. Calendar growled, even as Buffy was all but pushing the vamp out the door.
Once Angel was out of sight and hopefully putting some distance between himself and Xander, Willow set about locating her friend.
“I’m going to go look for Spike, I doubt he’s that far off,” Ms. Calendar told them grabbing her coat and heading out the door.
“Hey, Xan,” Willow whispered when she found her friend, “Ms. Calendar has gone to find Spike and Buffy took care of Angel. It’s alright, everything’s gonna be fine. You’ll see.” She reached out her hand to squeeze her friend’s arm. When Xander didn’t flinch away, she moved closer to him until she was sitting shoulder to shoulder with him.
The streets of Sunnydale were dark as Spike made his way lazily back to the school to meet up with his boy. Now was the time he would marvel at the sharp turn his unlife had taken- so much change in so little time; how much Xander had changed him, or maybe, a soft spoken hidden part of him whispered, Xander had just brought out a part of him that had long been buried, hiding away from his Sire and her sadistic Sire. As he neared the school, still several blocks away, his preternatural senses went on the defensive. He could feel the presence of another vampire, and he growled- Angel. Spike took off at a run, clearing the few remaining blocks in seconds. He caught sight of the dark witch in the parking lot, fumbling with her keys and obviously upset.
“Oh!” she screamed, when the blonde appeared behind her. “Spike, I was jus-”
The vampire’s eyes flashed gold, cutting her off, “What happened? Where’s Xan?”
Hand still on her chest as she tried to slow her breathing, “Angel showed up,” she explained. “Xander’s fine, he’s inside.”
Without a word Spike was off down the now familiar halls towards the library and Xander. He burst through the doors, startling both Giles and Willow, heading straight for Xander.
He knelt before the still shaken boy. “You alright, pet?”
Shaking, Xander nodded, and Spike ran a soft, cool hand over his brow and cheek.
Looking deep into chocolate eyes, Spike assured himself Xander would be okay before rounding on the other mortals in the room. “What in the Seven Hells happened?” he growled, eyes glaring otherworldly amber. “What was he doing here? I thought we had an agreement that you would keep that poncy bastard away from him!?!”
“Spike,” Giles began, jaw uncharacteristically set, firm gaze locking with the vampire’s fiery one. “Angel came here of his own accord; he was neither welcome, nor invited.”
The words and Giles’ unwavering gaze seemed to placate Spike somewhat. Eyes still demon yellow, but with less fervour, he nodded once to the Watcher.
Acknowledging the vamp’s gesture with one of his own and impressed by Spike’s show of control, he continued, “Buffy escorted him out quickly enough.”
Spike took a deep, unneeded breath, closing his eyes as he tried to calm himself for Xander’s sake. He turned from the Watcher and back to Xander who smiled at him.
Gulping, Xander found his voice, “It’s okay, Spike. I’m okay,” his smile brightened a little as the impact of those last two words sunk in. He hadn’t enjoyed the brief encounter, but he really was okay.
“That may be, but I’m getting you home, now,” the vamp snapped as he pulled Xander up off the stair. “Watcher, Red,” he nodded as they left.
Back in Xander’s bedroom, Spike was still fuming. He didn’t like the fact that his blasted Grandsire could just walk into the library no matter how or who told him he wasn’t welcome.
Spike sat on the windowsill, watching Xander move around the room, presumably doing things any other teenaged boy would be doing. “You’re not going to your little Scooby meetings alone anymore,” the vampire stated flatly.
Xander stopped fidgeting and turned to face his vamp, “I was fine. I’ll be fine,” he answered. Softly he added, “I promise.”
The blonde’s face softened, he jumped from his perch and went to Xander’s side, cool hands cupping the mortal’s face. “Humour me.” He placed two soft kisses on Xander’s eyes.
Less than a week later, both man and vamp were thankful for Spike’s overprotective nature.
Spike noticed it first, the barely there jolt, like a small electrical pulse that signaled another vampire and the harsher twinge of vamp recognizing vamp. Instinctually, Spike’s face morphed into his demonic features and he stepped in front of Xander; a growled, “Angel,” his only explanation.
It was explanation enough as Willow scooted closer to Xander and Ms. Calendar and Giles froze- attention fixed on the doors. Even Buffy stopped twirling her stake to watch the doors.
“Angel wouldn’t come back after the last time, would he? I mean, he wouldn’t. Would he?” Willow looked skeptical at her own words.
Before anyone dared voice an answer the doors swung open and Spike had slammed the older vamp against the nearest wall with bone crunching force.
“What the hells do you think you’re doing here?| he hissed through gleaming fangs.
“Spike,” Angel choked out.
Snarling, “Give me one good reason not to rip your head off right here and now.”
“I need to talk to Buffy.”
“Use a phone. They’ve been around a few decades now; quite useful for talking to people without being in the same room.”
“Spike!” Buffy snapped from next to him. “Let him go. If there’s any dusting to be done, I’ll be the one to do it.”
The blonde vamp matched stares with the young Slayer. He darted a look to Xander being comforted by Willow and the witch, and reluctantly released the older vamp in favour of being with his boy. “You so much as look at him and Slayer or not, you’re dust,” he promised, turning on his heel to check on his Xander.
Buffy pulled the older vamp into the hall, safely out of sight of Spike and more importantly Xander.
Spike mentally acknowledged the Slayer’s attempt to separate his Grandsire from Xander, adding another tick to his list of reasons not to kill/hate/maim the young blonde girl.
“Pet? Xan? Look at me, luv,” Spike urged as he pulled the young brunette’s head up to look the mortal in the eyes.
Xander’s face was drawn and pale, he looked like he’d seen a ghost, or possibly was one.
“’s okay, luv, he’s gone. Slayer took care of him.” Spike cooed softly, running his long fingers through Xander’s hair.
“I know, Spike. It just…”
“We know, Pet,” Spike assured, letting Xander relax against him.
“Yeah, Xan, and look, you stayed here that’s gotta mean you’re getting better,” Willow babbled encouragingly.
The young man smiled, “Yeah, Wills, I guess it does.”
“Damn right it does, little longer and the bastard won’t stand a chance ‘round you.”
Spike slammed through the front door of the Harris home.
He’d realized as soon as the minions came at him that Xander was in danger, even gung-ho fledges would have to be given orders before attacking a Master Vampire.
He’d smelled the blood and death blocks away. Now he charged through the halls intent on the rabbiting tattoo of his boy’s heart.
In the master bedroom, the vampire found his beloved human. Xander sat on the floor, pressed into the inner corner of the blood spattered room, knees to chest, rocking, and keening, his soulful eyes distant and wild.
Slowly as if approaching a wounded animal, Spike crept towards his boy, “Xander. It’s me, luv, it’s Spike.”
Brown eyes flitted back and forth nervously. “Spike?” he cocked his head, “No, no Spike. The other… cruel… bloody… Daddy,” Xander’s eyes lit up and a blood chilling grin covered his normally warm features.
Spike growled and dove to Xander’s side. Taking the young man’s chin in his hand, the blonde turned the boy’s eyes to face him. “No,” he breathed wishing he could somehow force a spark of recognition in his lovely boy. “Come on, Xan. Know you can do it, luv. Look at me, your Spike, your William.”
The boy’s breath caught and he collapsed into the demon’s arms.
There was blood and viscera everywhere, entrails and marrow and lumps of rent flesh forming a macabre landscape. Flashes of his parents tangled with images of her slaughtered family. He didn’t want to remember, but he couldn’t not.
He couldn’t escape the hate-filled eyes of his father, or the accusing look on his mother’s blood streaked face.
The dark vampire smirked as he sucked the blood from the meaty muscle that had so recently resided in the woman’s mouth. “You see, Tony, Jess, may I call you Jess- delicious- all of this mess could have been avoided if only your loving son had relinquished that which rightly belongs to me.”
Xander backed himself to the wall, his fist clenched around the poisoner’s pendant as he fought against the voices, one screaming in remembered and renewed terror, the other giggling with excited hysteria. “Not yours,” the boy whispered. “Not yours. William’s.”
Angelus smiled menacingly, “Ah yes, sweet William, and where is he?” The vampire made an exaggerated show of looking around, “Hmm, I don’t see him. Face it boy, he left you.”
Xander squeezed his eyes shut, conjuring an image of his vampire and trying to block out every other voice.
“Oh, poor little Xander, all alone,” he chuckled. “Pathetic. It’s no wonder my Childe abandoned you, a weak, fractured human unwilling and unable to defend himself or his family.” The vampire calmly ripped the elder Harris’ flesh from his throat, reveling in the garbled squeals of Xander’s mother and the watery gurgling of Tony Harris’ dying breaths.
The young mortal shot forward, sucking in harsh breaths like a drowning man breaking through the water’s surface. Two cool steadying hands gripped his upper arms supportively.
“Xander,” the satin voice calmed.
Still gulping air, the young man ground out, “Mom? Dad?” Even as he said the words he knew they were gone.
Spike squeezed his boy’s shoulder, resisting the possessive instincts telling him to force the mortal to him and decimate anyone or anything that came within reach of his beautiful boy. His Xander was strong and insolent, and Spike understood that however satisfying coddling and protecting him would be at the moment, those actions would hinder rather than help healing his precious mortal. Xander needed to remember his own strength, not live on the strength of his vampire- that symbiosis was what took Dru from him and if his blasted Grandsire thought Spike would help him destroy the boy that way, he was sorely mistaken.
Xander fell back against his vamp, silent tears streaming down his full face. “Spike?”
“Right here, Xan,” the vampire answered, squeezing the boy lightly. “You’re safe, we’re at the witch’s.”
“They’re dead. Tortured. My fault.”
“Shh, none of that.”
“I couldn’t stop him.” terrified bloodshot eyes turned to seek Spike’s calming blue ones. “She enjoyed it,” he whispered.
Giving into his instincts a little, Spike stroked Xander’s dark hair.
“He said you left me. That I was weak and broken and worthless.” Xander sniffled, “He’s right.”
Spike growled deep in his throat, and Xander heard more than saw his shift into his vampiric features. “You are not weak or worthless. You’re proving that by being here. Strongest minded human I know of. Don’t know many demons who could take what Angelus is trying to do to you, let alone what he did to Dru.” Taking a moment, Spike slipped out of his game face and used his supernaturally enhanced senses to satisfy himself no-one was eavesdropping. “Xander, you need to understand, ‘m a demon and a possessive one at that. And when I decide something’s mine, I don’t give it up.” The beautiful demon swooped in taking his mortal’s mouth, “You’re mine, Xan. Not leaving you ‘less ‘m dust.”
With a relieved whimper Xander buried his head against Spike’s chest.
“How is he?” Willow asked, bringing the vampire a mug of blood.
“How d’ya think he is, Red? He watched his mum and da get slaughtered.”
The small girl shrank down under the blonde’s intense and bald words.
Sighing, “Look, Red…”
“No, no, you’re right. It’s not like any of us would be doing any better after something like that.”
“You lot are stronger than you think,” the vampire admitted quietly. “You’ve got each other.”
Willow bent forward, placing a gentle kiss on the vamp’s temple, “I’m glad he’s got you.”
“Hmph,” Spike snorted. “Fat lotta good I was.” He kissed the sleeping mortal in his arms, needing to feel Xander’s reassuring heartbeat against his lips as much as he needed to offer comfort to his boy. “I wasn’t there for him. Angelus could’ve done anything to him.”
“But he didn’t. And Xander’s strong; he’ll make it.” Putting on her best hopeful face, “Look how well he’s doing with the focal training.”
“Yeah,” the blonde smirked. Xander really had taken to the training, he’d even managed to be in the same room with Angel for short periods now.
“Spike?” Willow asked hesitantly, not sure she wanted to know the answer to this question.
“Yeah, pet,” he answered absently, combing his long fingers through Xander’s hair.
“Why didn’t he just take Xan?”
With a heavy sigh Spike explained, “Angelus is a right bastard. He wants to break him and he thinks leaving him his freedom ‘s more effective than capturing him.” Spike held his boy closer to him, his own emotions flaring at the thought of what Angelus was trying to do to his boy. “Bastard doesn’t understand how strong Xan is. Or how strong you lot are together.”
Willow eased her way out of the guest room that had once again become Xander’s temporary home.
“How is he?” Buffy asked, no small amount of anger in her voice.
“He’s Xan, he can take a lot,” she answered simply shrugging slightly.
“This is my fault,” Buffy whispered.
“You couldn’t have known,” Ms. Calendar offered, running a caring hand along the Slayer’s arm. She was angry at the Slayer and the situation, but she also knew this wasn’t easy on her; the man she loved and trusted had turned into something of pure evil, terrorizing her friends in ways she never would’ve imagined.
“I should’ve. You all tried to warn me, but I wouldn’t listen.” Buffy’s tone was sad and full of regret.
“Yes, well, love blinds us all at times,” Giles tried to comfort her.
Buffy shook her head, straightened her back and took a deep breath, “Right, so how do we get him?”
They tossed ideas for hours it seemed, getting no closer to any real answers. They needed more information and they needed it fast.
Xander was a wreck. His parents might not have been the most loving or decent parents in the world, but they were his parents, and their slaughter, having to witness it, was torturing his psyche. His memories and Dru’s were meshing again, becoming confused. A family long dead and a family gone less than a week were getting mixed together and the pain of them both building and feeding off each other making the wounds fresher and more raw. Thankfully, Xan was Xan most of the time, even if his hold on himself was fragile; it was mainly at night in his sleep that he lost control. Though even awake the images assailed his mind as if they were bright fanciful paintings that should be shared and enjoyed, not horrific landscapes that better befitted a Lovecraftian compilation. It kept him in a constant state of disgust and fear, which was why everyone, except Xander himself, thought it was better for him to stay with someone else while Buffy and Spike were off patrolling and gathering intel and the others were researching. None of them thought that seeing, reading, or hearing tales of Angelus’ sordid past would be good for him and they weren’t about to leave him alone.
All of which was why Ms. Calendar, Giles, and Buffy were now sitting at the island bar in the Summers’ kitchen, sipping tea and coffee, and trying to explain to a slightly pale Joyce Summers about Slayers and vampires and things that go bump in the night.
Spike sat on the steps outside the kitchen door, listening as Joyce tried to make sense of everything she was hearing. He’d already played his part as show and tell and was now holding a cigarette in one hand while the other combed slowly through Xander’s shaggy hair. He’d wanted the boy to wait inside where it was safe, but he hadn’t been invited and Xander wouldn’t stay put without him. “How’re you doing, pet?”
“Okay,” Xander replied softly. He’d been struggling since his parent’s death, but with Spike so close the voices and images stayed far enough away for him to function. It would be sometime before he got back to where he’d been, but he knew he could get there.
Spike smiled, he hadn’t expected this much from his Xander, not this quickly at any rate. He’d known he could fix the damage Angelus did …or he’d die trying, but Xander had truly surprised him with how much control he had, even if it was precarious more often than not.
Inside, there was the scraping of chairs and the sounds of people saying their goodbyes.
“Finished destroying Mrs. Slayer’s world?” Spike asked conversationally.
Joyce gave him that withering look all mothers had, and he shrank under her gaze. “You had better take care of him,” she chided.
“Yes, mum,” he said with a slight bow of his head, cursing himself even as he did it.
“And you,” she pulled Xander into a hug, “you are welcome here, anytime, for any reason.” Joyce smiled warmly.
They finished their goodbyes and left the two Summers women on their own.
Buffy shifted slightly, “So, we good?” she asked hesitantly.
Joyce drew in a deep breath, “Not really,” she admitted, but took her daughter’s hand in hers, “but we will be.”
The young Slayer let out a relieved breath. “Thanks, Mom.”
“No more sneaking out, though. And no more lies. I want to know when you’re doing something dangerous.”
“Mom, this is Sunnydale, Hellmouth, living here is dangerous.”
Another deep breath, “I know, but you’re going to be seeing more of it than I want to know exists. You can at least let me worry for the right reasons.” She pulled Buffy in for a hug. “I love you so much, Buffy. I always knew you were special. My daughter, savior of the world,” she smiled and tried to remain light-hearted for Buffy’s sake, when inside she was screaming to be able to protect her from all the things out there in the night.
Buffy strode up to her house, Spike at her side. They’d had a fairly productive evening, with the information Buffy had gathered between dustings and what Spike had learnt from his demon sources- he might be living with a human, one of the Slayer’s pets no less, but he was still a Master Vampire and wasn’t afraid to remind other demons of that when he needed to- the bare bones of a plan was forming. Added to that, Giles, Ms. Calendar, and Willow had been researching everything they could on Angelus and the gypsy curse he’d been under. Now, they were heading to the Slayer’s to pick-up Xander.
Spike froze, fangs and brow ridges sliding into place as he put an arm up to block Buffy’s path.
“What is it?” Buffy asked. She might not like the vampire or completely trust him, but she recognized good instincts when she saw them and she knew how much Xan meant to him, so she took Spike’s alert seriously.
“Angelus… and blood.”
The words had no sooner left the vampire’s mouth then Buffy was charging for the front door. Slamming through the door she ran through the house calling for her mother.
Spike growled low and deep and terrifying, he knew Angelus had both Xander and Buffy’s mother, and he felt helpless. A low venomous hiss spat from his lips as he turned to see his Grandsire standing in the driveway.
“Oh, William, don’t look so upset. I’ll take good care of your toy, I always do,” he smiled as the words dripped like syrupy sweetness from his tongue.
“Where’s Xan?” he growled, trying to stay calm in front of the thing that had kidnapped his Mate.
“Close by,” Angelus smiled smoothly. “Wouldn’t want anything to happen to him, now would we? He is so special after all.”
Spike’s nostrils flared and his nails cut into his flesh where his hands were clenched in tight fists.
The door to the Summers’ house burst open and Buffy stood glaring daggers at her boyfriend-cum-psychopathic bloodsucker. “Where are they?” she demanded, a frightening calm chill in her voice. It was the kind of calm that rested in the eye of a hurricane, the kind you really didn’t want to see the other side of for the destruction it would cause.
“Well, look at the time. Love to stay and chat, but I have guests to attend to. Feel free to stop by,” he bowed his head in mock graciousness. “Here,” he tossed a small object at the blonde vamp, “think you lost this,” and vanished into the night.
Spike didn’t need to look, he knew what Angelus had thrown to him, it had lived around his own neck for over a century until he’d given it to a kind, terrified, wonderful boy. His fist tightened around the locket as he willed Xander to hold on.
Buffy crashed through the door to Giles’ apartment.
There was a communal gasp-squeak sound from its three occupants, before the full meaning of the explosion sunk in.
Giles stood, his eyes sharp behind his thin framed glasses. “How long?” was all he asked.
“About an hour,” Spike answered curtly.
Willow had a look not unlike that of the proverbial deer trapped in the headlights as the pieces fell into place. “Your mom? Xander?” she asked swallowing hard. “What do we do?”
“We go get them,” Buffy snapped.
“Buffy, I think we should think this through,” Giles said, voice and eyes still uncharacteristically calm.
“Giles, it’s my mother,” she glared.
“Exactly why we should have some sort of a plan.”
Spike had been standing quietly by the door, his own emotions screaming for vengeance and his boy, but years of Angelus’ lessons and Darla’s stratagems had taught him the value of not rushing into a situation blindly, especially one where his blasted Grandsire seemed to hold all the cards. “Watcher’s right.”
Buffy rounded on the blonde vamp, “You bastard! Do you even care about Xan at all? Or has this whole thing been some game to you- playing with your food the way Angel did?” she spat in growling contempt.
Buffy found herself flat up against Giles’ living room wall, the far wall opposite their original location, with a furious gamefaced vampire breathing down at her, his hand firmly clasped around her neck. “If I was playing games do you think I wouldn’t have ripped your throat out when I had the chance? Killed the Watcher while you were out ‘patrolling’ with Angelus, or maybe slaughtered Esme in her sleep?” He shook the girl in his grasp. “Well? Wouldn’t I?”
“Spike,” a soft voice called his name and a hand closed on his shoulder. “We know you care about him, we all do,” Ms. Calendar told him; her tone trusting and honest.
The vampire slipped back into his human guise and released the Slayer. A sharp, “Sorry,” tossed her way as he stalked back towards his place by the door.
“Don’t mention it,” the Slayer coughed, rubbing her neck.
“Doesn’t make the Watcher any less right. You go in there like this, blind with rage, we’re all just gonna get ourselves killed along with Xander and your mum.”
“Buffy?” Willow asked with a combination of worry and fear as much for her missing friends as from the set, determined, and cold expression on the Slayer’s face.
The Slayer looked at Spike and nodded slowly. “Alright, what’s the plan?”
Xander sat tied to a chair in a large, empty room. Angelus had wanted him broken like he had Dru, but Xander was still there fighting against the voices and images raging like some great cataclysmic storm in his mind. He tried to focus on William, on the loving face of his vampire- the face that brought a modicum of calm to his jumbled mind. Xander could feel himself losing to the others to those parts that were and weren’t him. He knew if he could just hold onto William, if he could fight back the insanity, if he could keep him from clouding everything in black viscera and doom, he might not lose himself completely.
Then he walked in.
It was dark; even now in the early afternoon, it was dark. They expected it to be, but it wasn’t the darkness of night. It was the dark that came from unkempt foliage, leaning overhead, boney wooden fingers entwining with their neighbours. It was the dark of overgrown vines climbing cracking walls. It was the dark of things not to be spoken of in the light of day, when the world was bright and safe. This place was neither, and probably never was or ever would be.
Spike was on alert his eyes searching the landscape for any telltale sign of opposition. The smell of his boy’s fear clung to him like a second skin and he pushed back the primal urge to rush to him.
“It should have been harder to get here,” Buffy half whispered to Spike in the heavy shadows; they’d all but walked up to the front door of the mansion Angelus had taken for himself.
He knew Angelus would have guards, minions to block their path, but not here, he’d wait until they were safely inside the mansion, cut off from any help from the outside world. “He’s expecting us. It’s no fun for him if we’re already worn down from fighting,” Spike informed her flatly.
She turned cold eyes on the vampire. Her feelings were still reeling and churning and a part of her still couldn’t acknowledge the monster she’d let loose on her friends, her family. “Front door?” she asked.
The vamp nodded. He could hear Xander’s heart pounding rapidly, and smell the fear in his blood. He tried to take comfort in that… if Xander was afraid then he was still Xander, still fighting.
They quickly cover the few yards to the door, Buffy brazen as always kicking the door down announcing their arrival.
Angelus crowed as he walked in circles around Xander. It had taken several hours, but he’d begun to break the boy’s hold on himself. He wanted Dru, he wanted to hear her melodic, insane laughter in these halls, he wanted all of Xander’s sanity.
As it was the young man’s eyes were wild and distant once more; his body jumping at sights and sounds that only he could sense. He was losing the boundaries between Xander and Drusilla, the wild giggling madness claiming his mind as it had hers. The other Drusilla, the one from before was gone, already taken over by Drusilla Childe of Angelus. What remained of Xander’s control knew he couldn’t take much more especially with the other vampire so close, stirring up so many memories and half-lived nightmares; the dreams that were so vivid and terrifying weeks ago were back fresh and in vivid Technicolor. Where once a hint of evil showed, now a bright cavalcade sprang up shouting the images through his mind.
Xander pulled in on himself taking the image of Spike, his William with him. He just had to hold on, Spike would come, he knew it in his bones, Spike. Would. Come.
As the dust cleared, literally, Buffy and Spike stood back to back in fighting stance, surrounded by dust and corpses. Spike had lost count of how many vamps they’d dusted and demons they’d killed; all he cared about was that rapidly tattooing heart and the fear that was growing less and less by the minute. He had to get to Xander before it was too late and he lost him to Angelus completely; he had to.
“I’ll find Mom, you get Xander,” Buffy ordered as if any other thought was in the vampire’s mind.
Spike didn’t spare the Slayer a single glance as he took off down one hallway.
Angelus enjoyed watching Xander’s mind collapse; it was like a fast-forwarded route to Dru’s insanity and he had a front row seat. He loved the play of his eyes and body thrashing as his inner turmoil tried to play itself out; he’d watched with no small amusement as the boy destroyed the chair he had been tied to with his violent lashing out too far gone to even consider escape. It was the most fun he’d had in a century or more. He could smell Xander’s fear as it dissipated and rose again as he fought himself for control, the fear ebbing every time he began to succumb. It was a thing of beauty. …and the fun was just starting.
He knew the moment his Grandchilde entered the mansion, he could feel and smell him; more than that, he could see the visible change in the boy huddled in the corner; the absent look in his eyes cleared ever so slightly and his rocking slowed.
When Spike finally found them, Angelus was sitting on the edge of an old table tossing an apple in the air. “Good of you to join us. Really, was expecting you earlier.” He shot a disappointed look at the younger vamp. “You’re getting slow in your old age, Willie,” the vampire smiled cheerily.
Spike’s temper tried to flare, even after a century Angelus could get under his skin with just a word. “Sorry. Slayer and all.”
“Hmph, you always did lead with your heart, Will. ‘course I suppose that’s one of the things Dru saw in you, but then again she always was a little off,” he made a motion against his temple with one finger, his smile sickly sweet.
“I won’t let you take him,” Spike informed the older vamp.
“Don’t see you have much choice,” he winked.
“I think so,” he snarled and let his face transform into that of his demon.
“Ah-ah, none of that,” Angelus warned, stepping closer to the shuddering form on the floor, “not if you don’t want me to kill him right now.”
“You wouldn’t,” Spike countered.
“You want your plaything too badly.” The blonde smirked, “Remember, you’re the one who taught me. I know how you think.”
The older vampire lifted an eye, “That was a long time ago, William. Are you willing to risk your precious human on that?”
Spike’s calm façade faltered for the briefest of moments, giving Angelus the leverage he needed.
“Thought not,” he smirked. “Now then Willie boy, you are going to stay right there while I finish this.” He walked over to Xander, who recoiled from him in swift, jerky motions as if his body didn’t know where to go or what instincts to follow. Angelus knelt down to whisper in Xander’s ear. “I know you’re still in there Xander, still fighting for control. I can sense it,” he drawled his words out as if they were comforting reassurances, “but you won’t be for long. You’re going to sit there, fighting your own deluded mind, and watch as I kill your dear Spike.”
Xander’s eyes shot towards the blonde vampire, a momentary flash of comprehension before his eyes darted around the room chasing phantoms again.
“Good boy,” Angelus praised and pet Xander’s dark hair in a show of mock tenderness.
Xander recoiled from the touch, frightened and disgusted by the creature touching him. Spike’s presence was consoling and confusing him in equal measure, and inside his jumbled mind he could feel the young innocent girl Dru was before Angelus entered her life rise up offering the images of William she had given him for all those months. Angelus may have driven her mad, but she wasn’t yet the truly insane vampiress Dru had become.
Xander latched onto those images/memories holding them as tight as he would his vampire, letting the emotions they brought ease him away from the clamouring gore and sorrow wracking his mind. As he began to drift, Drusilla’s madness taking over, memories of the past weeks filled in the missing pieces between images. A disjointed hodge-podge of surrealism played in Xander’s mind’s eye always coming back to crystal blue eyes that shone with pure love, and the darkly spoken words, ‘as I kill your dear Spike,’ and something changed.
The dark vampire turned his attention back to his Grandchilde. “Oh, Spike, Spike, don’t you see the irony? You tried to kill me to get your darling Drusilla back, now I’m going to kill you for the same reason- only this time, I get Xander with the deal, too.” He laughed and spread his arms in a grandiose gesture, “I win, like always.”
As Angelus stalked towards the younger vampire Xander pushed himself up the cold wall. The voices and images in his head were shoved and herded to the back of his mind and his eyes focused on the here and now and Spike. He might not be able to hold Dru’s madness at bay forever, but he would not let the same thing that destroyed him and Drusilla and the girl she once was destroy Spike, as well. He could stop that.
On shaky legs that he wasn’t even sure how he managed to control, Xander crept towards the vampire, bending over the remnants of the chair he’d destroyed earlier looking for the right weapon. His fingers closed around the roughly broken wood and he moved closer. He didn’t know if Spike had seen him or if he was on his own, in truth it didn’t matter, he’d only have one chance- he lunged.
It was over so quickly no one could really believe it. Angelus barely had time to register his surprise before he fell to the ground in a flurry of ash and dust. Xander’s body collapsing on the vampire’s heels.
Spike rushed to where the young man had fallen, “Xan? Xander? Pet, talk to me, please.”
When Buffy found them, Xander lay unmoving, but blessfully breathing in the vampire’s arms.
“How’s Mrs. Slayer?” Spike asked Buffy when she walked in, their uneasy truce growing more comfortable by the day.
Buffy nodded, “She’ll be fine; she’s strong.”
“A trait that seems to run in the family,” Giles offered fondly.
Buffy smiled at her Watcher then turned back to the blonde vamp, “And Xander?”
“He’s a fighter.”
“Couldn’t tell from looking,” she quipped.
“Hey, in the room!” Xander snapped indignantly.
His retort was met with snickers all around. Buffy slid down in the chair next to Xander, “How’s life with Ms. Calendar?”
“Fine. Strange. Weird. But mostly good.”
“I’m glad.” She squeezed her friend’s hand. “Where is she, anyway?”
“Oh, she and Wills are off being geeky… or witchy… one of those –ees.”
“Articulate as ever; glad to see she’s not rubbing off on you too much,” the blonde Slayer teased.
“Seriously, Xan, how’re you doing?” she asked quietly.
“You mean with the nutjobs in my head?”
Buffy shrugged an affirmative.
“They’re… I don’t know Buff, they’re not gone, but it’s like they found their place. Does that make any sense?”
She pursed her lips, “Not really,” she admitted. “But as long as you’re okay, then it’s all good.”
Xander looked over where his vamp was talking with Giles, “Yeah, Buffy. I think I am.”
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