Lost in the Dark, Cleansed in the Flame


by
Margie



Part Five
Experiments

Spike sat on the floor cross-legged, eyes closed.  He took long deep breaths, counting each one and picturing the number in his head each time.  It was a technique he'd learned long ago.  Concentrating on the numbers allowed him to go into a light self-hypnotic trance.  Once he fell under he began to center all his thoughts on Xander.

One by one each of his lover's features became visible to him.  The mop of brown hair.  The dark chocolate eyes.  The pouty bottom lip.  Until his vision of the man was sharp and clear.  Then he reached out through the bond to touch his mate.  At first the contact was faint and sluggish.  Then suddenly, as if a switch had been thrown, the bond snapped back into place.

Spike found himself in their apartment bedroom.  He recognized the furniture and the bedclothes as his eyes swept the room.  What the bloody heck was going on?  Then he noticed movement on the bed.  Xander was there, eyes closed, head thrown back in passion.  What the bloody fuck?!

He lunged toward the bed, intent on ripping out the heart of any creature that dared touch his Xan in that way.  He stopped short at the sight of bleached blonde hair and pale skin.  


~*~*~*~*~


"Report."

"Hostile 17 fell into some sort of trance approximately 7 minutes ago sir.  He has not moved from his current position in that time."

"No changes whatsoever?"

"Well sir.  He has no vitals that we can monitor but…the cameras do indicate that soon after he fell into the trance he also became aroused."

"Good."  The man nodded to himself.  "What of subject X2573?"

"Vitals remain the same.  He's mumbled a few words here and there but we haven't been able to make them out yet.  The sound techs are working on the enhancement now and should have something for you within an hour of the testing."

"Good.  Maintain your surveillance."

"Yes sir."


~*~*~*~*~


"We need firepower."  Buffy insisted.

"Yes, yes."  Giles was rubbing profusely at his glasses.  "But first we need a plan.  Being aware of their location does not automatically gain us victory."

"Willow and I c-could setup a glamour.  Make them all believe we're demons.  That way they'll take us d- down into the complex and we don't have to break in."  Tara suggested.

"Good idea sweetie."  Willow gave Tara an encouraging smile.  "We could also hide Buffy's firepower under the glamour, so they wouldn't even know we were bringing anything in."

"Great Wills!  Sounds like plan to me."  Buffy was up and grabbing weapons before Giles could clear his throat.

"Mmhmm."  Giles tried to grab her attention, when she finally turned around he continued.  "We will need someone on the outside.  So that after we've found Spike and Xander they can help with the escape."

"Someone on the outside?  We'll need all four of us if we're going to be able to get Xan and Spike out."  Buffy countered.

"Nevertheless.  We still need someone on the outside.  What if something goes wrong?  We need someone who isn't trapped in the complex with us."

Buffy sighed in defeat.  She knew Giles was right.  But this would just be another delay in their rescue attempt, but finally she agreed.  "Alright.  I'll call him."


~*~*~*~*~


"Mmmmm….Spike."  Xander's body was tingling all over.  His lover was licking and sucking on his balls, while using one hand to slowly pump his engorged shaft.  

"You like that Xan?"  Spike watched him from beneath hooded lids.  "You like my tongue tasting you, wetting you down?"

"Fuck yeah."  Xander groaned out.  He squeezed his eyes shut, throwing his head back to let out a guttural groan at the feelings Spike invoked.

Suddenly he heard deep angry growling coming from his right.  He turned his head sharply and gasped at the sight of an enraged Spike.  His head volleyed back and forth from the Spike in his bed to the Spike standing beside him.  "Who? What? Spike?!"  Xander babbled.

The look on standing Spike's face morphed from anger to arousal in seconds.  "This a fantasy luv?  You dreaming 'bout me taking you?"

"What?"  Xander had missed the turn-off the conversation had taken.  "What's going on?"

"Must be a dream Xan.  I reached through the bond and ended up here."  Spike explained.

Xander tried to think for just a moment.  Hard to do since the Spike on the bed was now gently rubbing his thumb over Xander's hole, making his sphincter muscles clench and tighten in anticipation.  A dream?  He shook his head.

Then he was hit with the memory of the last few days all at once.  The white room, the pain, the needle he'd been injected with.  "Drugged."  He mumbled to himself.  "They drugged me.  Why?"

"Don't know luv.  But this is much better than their last go isn't it?"  Spike raised a brow at him.

"Ungh!"  Xander grunted as the Spike in bed took him in his mouth, taking him deeply enough that the tip of Xander's cock was thrusting against the back of Spike's throat.  "Fuck yeah."  He came back enough to at least answer standing Spike's question.

"Is he sucking hard Xan?"  Spike queried.  "Does it feel just as good as being down my throat?  Having the real thing?"  He moved closer to the bed, placed his hand on Xander's chest and began to rub his thumb over one brown nipple.

Real thing?  Xander's mind was trying to come to terms with the fact that he was now faced with two Spikes.  So standing Spike was his mate, reaching through the bond to get to him.  While Spike in bed was a dream figment?  All his body knew was that there were two Spikes.  Two Spikes to lick and suck and fuck him until he cried out with the pain/pleasure of it.

Spike watched the emotions flutter across Xander's face.  And he knew the moment Xan realized that he had two Spikes at his disposal.  He could smell the increase in pheromones and was surprised that Xander wasn't already cumming in his dream double's mouth.

Xander slowly pushed DreamSpike off him, turning them around so that he was now on top.  Looking to the side he saw that RealSpike was already naked, his hard cock bouncing against his stomach as he neared the bed.  He dipped his head down to take in one of DreamSpike's dark nipples, teasing the puckered flesh with his teeth and tongue.  He felt his heartbeat quicken as the bed dipped under RealSpike's weight.

"Fuck Xan!  Bite it.  Please, fuck!"  DreamSpike was begging him.  Xander shivered both from the deep wave of arousal that came from his lover's pleas and the idea of not knowing where RealSpike was and what he was planning.

RealSpike leaned down and began sweeping his tongue over Xander's ass.  Occasionally he would stop and slap one meaty globe, and then lick the reddened flesh until it cooled once more.  With each stinging slap, Xander's cock dribbled more and more precum.  Xander was so hard, he thought one more slap would send him over the edge.

Pulling away from DreamSpike he glanced behind him, only to see RealSpike coating his fingers with lube.  "Please Spike!  God!  Need you in me."  Xander moaned.

"Yes pet.  Soon, just need to get you ready luv."  RealSpike began to swirl a finger around Xander's opening, making him shiver and thrust his ass back.  RealSpike leaned forward to whisper in Xander's ear.  "Take him in your mouth luv.  He's begging for it."   RealSpike indicated the writhing form beneath them.  "He's begging to be
sucked."

RealSpike let out a deep groan as Xander swooped down to take DreamSpike into his mouth.  The position caused him to thrust his ass up into the air, leaving him open and waiting for RealSpike's cock.  Xander moaned as cool fingers breached his body, stretching his hole with each thrust.  

Xander didn't think his brain could process all the sensations flooding his body.  DreamSpike was thrusting into his mouth, filling him and dripping salty precum onto his tongue.  While RealSpike was strecthing him full, ticking his prostate as he thrust his fingers in and out of clenching channel.  Finally Xander couldn't take anymore.  He withdrew his mouth, causing DreamSpike to cry out in protest.  He turned to glare at RealSpike, demanding to be taken.  "No more teasing Spike.  Fuck me.  I need your cock.  I'm so ready.  God!"

RealSpike almost came at the look Xander gave him.  He grabbed the base of his shaft, nodding to Xander before pushing forward to force the head through Xander's tight ring of muscle.  Xander moaned, pushing back to meet RealSpike's thrust.  He was concentrating so hard on the feeling of RealSpike entering him that he was unprepared for DreamSpike's hand to shoot out and force his head back down to his groin.

The urgency of DreamSpike's demand made Xander even harder, and he quickly took the saliva coated cock back into his mouth.  "Mmphpmm," Xander could only mumble incoherently.  The feeling of being filled completely was new and extremely erotic.  To have Spike thrusting into his ass and throat was beyond comparing.  The few mumbled sounds emitting from Xander's throat caused DreamSpike to buck and scream.  Within minutes he was shooting his cum down Xander's throat.

RealSpike groaned at the sight of Xander swallowing DreamSpike's cum.  He could see little dribbles escape and run down Xan's chin.  He felt his own balls tightening so he reached around to grab Xander's penis in a tight fist.  He began to pump him harshly, pulling and pushing on his cock with each thrust.  Xander cried out and began thrusting harder back and forth, not knowing what he wanted more.  Spike's cock on his ass, or Spike's fist on his cock.  Suddenly DreamSpike reached up and grabbed both Xander's nipples, twisting hard.

Xander screamed.  "Spike!!"  He felt like he was screaming for hours, as his cum exploded out of his cock.  His voice grew hoarse, but he continued to thrust forward and back until he felt RealSpike's cock beginning to pulse within him.  He sighed at the familiar feel of cool cum shooting inside him, oozing out of his hole to coat his thighs.

Finally all three exhausted they collapsed in a heap on top of each other.


~*~*~*~*~


"They've both fallen into a deep sleep sir."

"Results?"

"Both subjects were recorded speaking, though the techs are still trying to make out the exact words."

"And?"

"Both subjects ejaculated sir."

The older man smirked.  He could hear the embarrassment in the soldier's voice as he reported.  "Good."  It was just what he'd hoped for.  "Make sure to keep all recording devices on, we don't want to miss anything that might be significant.  Have the all reports to me within the hour."

"Yes sir."


~*~*~*~*~


Buffy sat on the steps of her back porch, her arms wrapped snuggly around her own waist.  She worried her bottom lip as she went over the details of the rescue operation in her head.

"Buffy, we've done all the planning we can.  All that's left is to pick up a few more weapons and await Angel's arrival."  Giles stepped out to speak with her.

"Thanks Giles."  Buffy answered absently.

The Watcher sat down beside his Slayer, taking in her bruised lip and anxious expression.  "I know the waiting is hard for you.  But this is our best chance."  He laid a warm hand on her shoulder in support.  "Come inside.  Get some rest."

Still staring out at her backyard Buffy asked, "What do you think they're doing to them?"  The words escaped her lips in a whisper.

"I don't know.  We shouldn't speculate."  Giles shook his head.  "There's no telling for sure."

"You're wrong."  

"Wrong?"  Giles asked.

"Waiting's not the hard part."  Buffy answered, standing up to head back into the house.  "Not knowing.  Imagining.  That's the part that kills."

Giles had no answer and so followed his Slayer in silence.






Part Six
Lilith

Xander was surprised when they turned in a completely new direction.  He had thought that they would be taking them to the same little room he'd been in for the past few days.  But then he realized that room had only had one chair.  So now that Spike was with him, they'd have to take them somewhere else.  He just shrugged and continued to follow the lab coats.

"What the fuck?"  Spike blurted when they entered the large warehouse.  There were rows and rows of what Xander called "dentist" chairs, outfitted with metal restraining bands.  Almost all of the chairs were filled, every other occupant a vampire, most in game face and swearing.

They were led to two empty chairs, and then strapped down.  Spike glanced over at Xander trying to send him waves of comfort.  "Don't worry luv."

Xander turned to meet Spike's gaze.  "I feel guilty."

"What for Xan?  S'not your fault we're here."  

"I know that."  Xander shrugged.  "I don't feel guilty for that."  He turned away and mumbled softly.  "I feel guilty because I'm glad you're here with me."

Spike cursed the metal bands holding his arms down.  He wanted to reach out and touch his mate.  "None of that now Xan.  You know I wouldn't let you go through this alone.  Can't feel guilty over something I'd do whether you wanted it or not."  He reassured him.

Xander gave him a weak smile and then turned to face forward as a lab coated technician approached them.  They had removed his shirt before strapping them down, and now were applying electrodes to his chest, and a blood pressure cuff to his right arm.  When the tech left Xander turned to Spike and asked,  "Why am I the only one getting decorated?"

"No vitals luv.  Nothing for them to check on me."  Spike smirked.

"What do you think they want to learn?"  

"Don't know Xan, guess we'll find out soon enough."  Spike answered.

"You'll wish you hadn't."  Both men turned to a third voice entering the conversation.  It was a dark haired, olive skinned vamp.  She looked almost Mediterranean in origin.

"Who are you?"  Xander asked.

"My name's Lilith.  At least it used to be.  I've been Hostile 66 for the past year, maybe longer."  She mused.

"What are they - " As Spike spoke Lilith began to shudder lightly, her eyes rolling back into her head.  When the shaking stopped he asked gently, "What happened?"

"They're hurting him."  She shrugged.

"Who?"  Xander whispered, afraid he already knew the answer.

"My mate."

"You don't seem too put out."  Spike observed.

"Don't you care?"  Xander asked at the same time.

"Of course I care!"  She snapped back.  "The Claim won't let me do anything else.  But…"  She looked away for a few seconds and then back.  "They forced it on us.  On me."  Her eyes filled with a mixture of anger and sadness.  "He's one of them.  A 'volunteer' they called him."  A single tear made its way out and traveled the length of her cheek.  "You know he still calls me Hostile 66?"

Xander was speechless.  How could anyone go through a Claim and not love each other?  How did that work?  He couldn't imagine any other feelings when he thought about the link between himself and Spike.  "What do they want?"  He whispered softly.

"Don't know."  Lilith shrugged again.  "Maybe building an army of Claimants?  They're stronger you know.  You must have felt it?"

"What the hell do they need us for then?"  Spike asked.  "If they can bloody well make their own!"

She had no answer, so Lilith just remained silent.  

"How can you just sit there, while they hurt him?"  Xander asked quietly, sure if the vamp were free she'd probably rip his throat out.

Lilith growled low and bared her teeth.  For a few moments she didn't answer, only glared at him.  But the warning growls from Spike had her returning to her human visage before answering.  "When it first started."  She paused.  "When they first strapped us down and started testing him.  Hurting him.  I did everything I could to rip out of my bonds.  I kept crying out to him as he screamed."  She turned away.  "Eventually they decided to separate us.  He's there."  She pointed with her chin.  "On the other side of the room."

Both Spike and Xander turned to see a few men in lab coats surrounding a soldier strapped to another chair.  Another blonde, blue eyed, corn fed automaton.  Xander shivered at the glimpse he got of the instruments being used on the 'volunteer'.

"It calmed me a little.  I kept struggling to break free, but I didn't feel it as strongly as before."  She didn't notice Spike's frown as she continued.  "And after about two months of it, I guess I got used to the feeling.  There's still something in me, something wanting to tear all their throats out for hurting him, but I've learned to live with it."  She focused her gaze on Spike.  "You'll feel the same way eventually."  Then she went quiet and turned away as the shudders started again.

{Pet?}

{Yeah Spike?}

{I'll never feel that way.}

{I know Spike.  Their bond doesn't seem as strong as ours.}

{Bloody right!  No matter how far away they separate us, I won't be able to stop until I get to you.}

{I know.}

They paused for a moment, before Xander asked another question.

{Spike?  Why would they build an army, just to torture it?}

{I don't think that's what they're doing pet.}

{Then what?}

Spike sighed inwardly.  {They must be testing them.  Seeing how strong they are, how much pain they can take.  That sort of thing.}

{How much pain they can take?}  Xander gulped.

{You know you're different now pet.  Stronger, heal faster.  Guess they want to know how different.}  Spike tried to send soothing feelings of comfort through the bond.  {Don't worry pet.  We'll get out soon.  Witches probably already know where we are.}  He assured his mate.

Xander nodded and turned as another lab tech approached.  His heart began to race as he caught sight of the silver glint in his hand.

{Love you Spike.}

{Love you too Xan.}

Then there was only pain.


~*~*~*~*~


"Do we have the boy's medical records?"

"Yes sir."

"Good.  We'll have to compare them with the results of the testing."

"And if they surpass the other subjects?"

"Then we'll do it.  I've got all the ingredients and the incantation ready.  They're the best hope so far."

"Sir may I speak freely?"

"Go ahead."  The older man laughed.  "It won't change anything."

The soldier looked at him as if he were crazy.  "How can you believe all this stuff about magic and prophecies?  Do you really think an 'incantation' will do anything but make you sound like an idiot in front of the men?"

"I don't just believe.  I know."  He turned to the young man beside him.  "How can you not?"  He pointed out the window toward the rows of vampires and men strapped to their chairs.  "Those are vampires.  Not hostiles.  Vampires.  How can you see them everyday and not know that?"

"They're just animals sir."  The younger man replied.

"As are we all."  The older answered.





Part Seven
Spells

Xander was back in the dark place.  The world around him had melted into complete black and he floated freely in the empty space.  He allowed his mind to drift afraid that if he concentrated on any one thing for too long he would be forced to remember the pain.  He didn't want to think.  He didn't want to remember.

But it was too late.  The thought had already been planted and the outside world began to intrude into his dark void.  His body trembled as he relived the first cut.  The blade raking down his arm, and then coming back up to tease the cut open further.  He felt the blood seeping from the wound, and heard Spike's cries beside him.

He was actually pretty proud of himself for lasting as long as he had.  They'd been 'testing' him for at least 3 hours before he succumbed.  The pain was pretty unbearable but it wasn't the worst part.  The bond he shared with Spike had been growing steadily stronger ever since he'd been captured.  Maybe from all the exercise it was getting, he mused.  So the anguish that coursed through the link from Spike almost overwhelmed the physical pain Xander was being subjected to.

His only regret was leaving Spike behind.  The vampire's growls and jerky attempts at escape had not ceased since the first cut.  And after finding his healing abilities to be exceptional, or so it seemed to Xander, the soldier had proceeded to intensify the tests.  At first Xander didn't know what they planned to do.  But when the pinky finger of his right hand was jerked sideways, and the shiny blade was replaced with a small, but sturdy set of clippers, he knew. Spike'sscreams almost completely drowned out those of Xander's.

In the dark Xander contemplated his lost appendage.  Would it grow back?  He hadn't had a finger, or really any part of his body, severed since establishing the Claim.  Or if he thought about it, even before the Claim.  Did Spike give him enough healing ability to grow back a whole finger?  Then his thoughts began to drift toward his lover.  Was Spike still struggling?  Of course he was.  Xander hated to think that he'd escaped the torture only to leave Spike to carry all the pain alone.

Slowly he reached out a mental arm, stretching to touch his mate.  His mind came up against a thick wall of rage.  Xander shivered at the strength of the emotion, wanting nothing more than to soothe Spike and collapse the wall.  He began to bombard Spike's mind with his own arsenal of emotion.  Sending nothing but love, support, care, and understanding.  He knew that Spike would be blaming himself for not being able to get to Xander, so Xander let him know it was okay.  That no matter what Xander loved him.

When he was finally able to create a small gap, Xander soared through.  {Spike??}

{I'm sorry.  I'm sorry luv.}  Xander could hear the sobs that followed the words.

{Shhh.}  Xander soothed.  {S'not your fault.  You know that.}

{Fucking bastards!}

{Shhh.}  Xander tried again.  {Stop struggling Spike.  Concentrate.  I need you to come to me.  Can you do that?}

Xander felt what he thought was a deep sigh from his lover.  {Yeah luv.  I can do that.  Give me a sec.}

Outside Spike's body stilled.  His eyes closed, and if anybody didn't know better they would have thought him an actual corpse.  Inside Spike was taking deep calming mental breaths, concentrating his being on one image.  Xander's goofy grin, chocolate eyes, and mop of brown hair.

When Spike opened his eyes again, he was surrounded by darkness.  
He could feel Xander's presence and drifted unerringly toward him.  
{Hello Xan.}

{Spike!}  Xander grinned.  The smile fading slightly with his next words.  {I'm sorry I left you alone.}

{No luv.  Not alone, never alone.}  Spike assured him. {You're always there with me, as long as the bond stays put.}

{I'm glad you're here.}  Xander pulled the vampire closer.

{Me too luv.} And they wrapped themselves in each other's arms.  They lay together in the void, content to be in each other's presence.


~*~*~*~*~


Buffy, Willow, Giles, and Tara made their way toward the new Initiative base.  The glamour had been cast and the four friends were armed to the teeth.  Buffy and Giles with weapons, Tara and Willow with herbs and spells.  

Angel watched from the shadows, following the group from a distance.  His game face had appeared the second Buffy had explained where Spike and Xander were being held.  Fear for his Childe had forced a long debate over who would enter the complex.  But unfortunately Angel had still lost.

As they neared the complex, Buffy turned toward Giles and began to roar.  She flung herself at him, being careful not to do any real damage.  They began a loud and gregarious fight, with Willow and Tara watching on the sidelines.  Soon they heard heavy footsteps and before any of them could react, the sting of tranquilizer darts hit each in turn.

"Shit!"  Angel muttered under his breath.  They hadn't known exactly what to expect.  If they would be walked into the complex, or not.  Apparently the answer was going to be not.

Angel checked the four small globes he carried in his pocket.  Each glowed a different color.  Each attuned to a similar globe on one of the four now being carried away.  If he had to, he could track each one.  He checked his watch.  They had just under 90 minutes to return to the surface before Angel went in after them.  He hoped the tranquilizers wore off soon.


~*~*~*~*~


The older man watched as X2573's finger began the slow process of regeneration.  It took well over an hour but the finger had been restored completely.  His hands clapped together with finality.  There was no other bonded pair with that strong a link.  No other Claimant had adapted that high a healing rate.  He'd also noted the moment the vampire had stilled all movement.  He knew what that meant.  This had to be the pair.

He gathered his belongings.  The spell book, the candles, the sand.  He made his way down into the warehouse, toward the row of seats the two were strapped in.  They were both still unconscious.  All the better.  He didn't need to go through any explanations now.  They would know soon enough.

Slowly he drew a circle around the vampire.  He drew a pentagram within the circle, with the vampire directly in the center.  He put a candle at each point, and then brought out the small bundle of herbs he had in his bag.  In a copper bowl he set flame to the bundle.  Then he stood and began to chant.


~*~*~*~*~


The younger man watched with smug satisfaction.  This would show the others.  The man below him was obviously deranged.  Believing in spells and incantations.  Believing in vampires and boogie men.  

When nothing came of this so called spell, he would finally have some proof that could get the man thrown out.  And what did they need him for anyway?  What use was this fabled pair?  They had an army of Claimants, what was one more or less?  They had the manpower and the firepower they didn't need anything else.

With that last thought he stood.  Making his way down toward the warehouse level.


~*~*~*~*~


Xander woke slowly.  He looked around, noting that he was still in the void.  He smiled and snuggled closer to Spike.  He would happily stay here forever, as long as Spike was with him.

{Morning luv.}

{Morning Spike.}  Their lips ghosted over one another.

{We can't stay here forever Xan.}

Xander pouted.  {Why not?}

{You don't belong here luv.}  Spike's fingers caressed him as he spoke.  {You don't belong in the dark.}

{But I like it here.}

{I know you do pet.  But it's not for you.  We'll get out.  Don't worry.}  Spike assured him.  {You belong in the light.  In the sun.}  Spike gestured around at the empty blackness.  {Don't want you to get lost.}

{I won't.}  Xander leaned into Spike's cool chest.  {Not as long as you're here.}

{Always.}  Spike answered.

And then they were both up, crouching low in defensive stances.  The air crackled around them, and the darkness was consumed with a bright blue flame.  Xander had only a moment to note that the flame's color matched exactly those of his lover's eyes.  And then the flame was speeding toward them.

The flame engulfed Spike, and with a loud scream Xander plunged forward into the licking heat.  He crashed into Spike, tumbling them both to the ground.  The flame dancing around them.  The heat was intense but not unbearable, and Xander found that neither of them was being burned.

He looked toward Spike, whose face bore a look of awe and no small amount of shame.  Before Xander could ask what was happening, the flame abruptly disappeared and Spike's form collapsed in a small heap.





Part Eight
Escape

Buffy was the first to wake.  Her eyes swept the small cell, glad to find that they had all been placed together.  They had all been glamoured to look like grakash demons, hoping that the Initiative would imprison them if not in the same room, at least within sight of each other.  She shook each of her companions awake, checking her watch as she went.

They had only about 45 minutes left before Angel came in after them.  Awakened, Tara and Willow made quick work of the locks on the cell door.  Cautiously they all stepped out.  Buffy hefting her axe and Giles carrying a small crossbow.

Once free of the small room, Willow let forth a small incantation.  A tiny spark of light appeared before her.  "Find Xander."  Her instructions were succinct.  And the bright ball of energy flew off down the corridor, the four scoobies following in its wake.


~*~*~*~*~


Xander woke screaming Spike's name as he struggled to break the bonds holding him in his chair.  After Spike had collapsed, Xander watched in agony as his form slowly dissolved into the gloom.  He knew that in all likelihood the mental form of his lover was dissolving because he was no longer conscious enough to focus his will.  But all his mind saw was Spike disappearing into nothingness, as if he'd been dusted.

He turned to his left to see Spike's inert form in the chair beside him.  There was sand scattered all around them, and candles dripping wax on the floor.  A few feet away sat a copper bowl that smelled of smoke and incense.

"Spike?"  Xander called to his mate, but there was no response.

"Hello Alexander."  The voice came from behind him, and sent shivers down Xander's spine.  "I'm happy to see that you're awake once again.  We have a lot to discuss."

"What did you do to Spike?"  Xander demanded.

"That's one of the things we will be conversing about, but I think that one should wait until the vampire is also awake."  The man spoke as he slowly made his way around the chair, stepping into Xander's view.  "But I promise you, it's nothing bad.  Not in and of itself, at least."

"You!"  Xander cried, finally able to put a face to the voice and not liking it one bit.  "How do you expect me to trust you?  You've been torturing me for hours, and now Spike's - !"  Xander gestured wildly at his mate.

"It wasn't meant to be torture."  The man tried to explain.  "It was a test - "

"Like Buffy's test?"  Xander was spitting venom with each word.

"Yes, much like Miss Summers' test."  The man shook his head.  "We had to be sure.  The prophecy - "

"Fuck the prophecy!"  Xander interrupted.  "What the hell is it with you guys anyway?  How would you like it if I cut off one of your damn fingers and said - 'oh well you see there's this prophecy…'?"  Xander ranted.

The man winced at Xander's verbal assault.  "Well, there was no permanent damage, now was there?"  He asked.

Xander flexed his newly formed finger, realizing for the first time that it had grown back.  Then his eyes narrowed and he stared at his captor once more.  "That's not the point!  The point is you didn't know it would grow back!  The point is that cutting it off hurt like hell!"  Xander was breathing heavily and his eyes were wide with anger.

The man had the decency to at least look chagrined.  "I am truly sorry that we had to do that.  But it was the only way."

Xander tried to calm himself.  He still needed answers.  "What do you need me for anyway?  What prophecy are you talking about?"

"It's not just you we need Alexander - "

"Stop calling me that!"

"I'm sorry, what would you prefer?"

"I'd prefer it if you just let us the fuck go.  But since you won't do that, at least call me Xander."  

The man nodded.  "As I was saying.  We need you both.  You and the vampire."  

"He has a name."  Xander answered heatedly through gritted teeth.

The man nodded once more.  "I'm sorry.  We need both you and 'Spike'."  Xander winced at the pronunciation the man gave his lover's name.  It sounded as if it had left a bad taste in the older gentleman's mouth.

"For what?"

"To stop the Raven."

"Stop the who?"

"It is said that she will blanket the world in darkness - "

But before the man could answer further a bright ball of light came zooming through the air, smacking Xander in the chest.  And in the next heartbeat four grakash demons came careening around the corner.


~*~*~*~*~


The young soldier was just stepping off the elevator intent on humiliating the civilian in charge when he saw the four hostiles making their way into the warehouse.  Immediately his hand reached for his sidearm holster.  At the same time his other hand went to the radio attached to his shoulder calling out a warning.

Before he could take aim one of the hostiles stopped dead, holding up what looked like a small pouch.  The thing raised its arms and threw the small bag at his feet, calling out words in a foreign language.  As the bag hit the ground, smoke erupted and the soldier only had time for a short yelp before he was thrown off his feet smacking his head on the wall behind him, snapping his neck in the process.


~*~*~*~*~


The room was in chaos.  Shortly after the demons had appeared a small bubble manifested itself around Xander, Spike, and their captor.  The demons were making short work of the remaining Initiative members in the room.  Explosions sent several men bouncing at once, while the rest were being held in hand to hand combat with two of the larger demons.

Xander felt no guilt in cheering on the demons.  Between shouts of encouragement he would check on Spike, occasionally calling to his lover.  But there was still no response from the undead body lying next to him.  His concern was steadily increasing no matter what reassurances the other man offered.

"Xander!"  He turned quickly upon hearing his name.  He was sure that was Buffy's voice, but he didn't see her anywhere.

"Xander!"  Buffy tried again.

"Buffy??"  Xander was sure he'd heard the demon calling his name.  

"Yeah.  Wills put a spell on us so we could get into the compound."  She explained in between punches.  "She and Tara have a protection spell around you guys, until we get the rest of these guys taken care of."  She was still fighting off the soldier in front of her, not really glancing in Xander's direction yet.

"Buffy tell Wills she has to free the others.  The vampires, and the Claimants."  Xander insisted.  "We can't just leave them here to be experimented on."

"The who's and the what's?"

"They forced other vampires to Claim 'volunteer' soldiers."  Buffy heard the sneer in Xander's voice as he said the word 'volunteer'.  "They were building an army, or testing for something, I'm not sure.  Stupid prophecies!"

"Prophecies?"  The query came from the second demon who was now looming closer to the bubble of protection Xander was in.

"I can explain that Rupert."  The older gentleman turned to face the demon.

Xander almost laughed at the sight of an 8 foot tall demon doing a double take, but he found he didn't have the energy for it.

"Quentin?!"  Giles exclaimed at his first sight of the man.

"You!"  Buffy had finished off the soldier she'd been battling, and now stood glaring angrily at the head of the Watcher's Council.

"Now as I said, I can explain - "  Quentin Travers began, but was never able to finish.

The battle over, Willow and Tara brought the barrier down.  And as the shiny bubble popped, Buffy strode forward and punched Travers squarely in the jaw.  He went down in an unconscious heap.

"We'll get the others."  Willow and Tara stated in unison, while Buffy and Giles freed Spike and Xander.  

Giles slung Xander's arms around his shoulders, and Buffy lifted Spike into her arms.  "Let's get the hell out of here."  Buffy began a brisk pace toward the exit.

"What about Quentin?"  Giles asked, following as quickly as possible.

"I'll take care of him."  Angel's voice was ominous with anger as he appeared in the arch leading to the corridor they'd recently come through.

"Do try not to kill him."  Giles instructed.  "We'd like to get a few more answers out of him."

"Oh don't worry."  Angel's smile made Giles' shiver.  "I don't want him dead."

Within minutes they were all walking out of the complex.  Angel had a firm hold of Travers.  Giles was assisting Xander, who had yet to take his eyes off the motionless vampire in Buffy's arms.  And Tara and Willow were bringing up the rear.

Behind them vampires and their mostly unconscious Claimants were streaming out of the now defunct building.




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