Who Wants to Live Forever


by
Metaforgirl



Part Twenty-One

“Hey, Maurice,” said Xander, checking the Watcher out. “How you been?”

Maurice looked up at the man who had chosen to consort with a demon. Xander’s shirt still hung open, revealing a well-toned pale chest and a prominent, still bright red, vampire bite. The expression on his face was bland, but Maurice intuited that Xander had not yet released the memory of a crossbow pointed at his heart. He wiggled uncomfortably against his bound hands and feet and tried to adopt a civil tone. “I’m well enough, Mr. Harris,” he said.

“Nice sweats,” Xander commented. He slugged back some water from the Boy Scout canteen. “Used ta have a pair just like them.”

“Yes. Well, thank you for that,” said Maurice. “Mine were ruined somehow.”

Xander cast a mildly curious look at Spike who was pointedly not looking back at him. He shrugged. “Just try not to bleed on ‘em,” he said, casually shuffling over to peer out the peephole. “Blood’s a bugger to get out.”

Maurice wisely chose not to comment on the evil qualities of blood and remained silent.

Xander addressed Brown. “So. Stuff.”

“Yeah.”

“What we gotta do?”

Brown snorted. “Show up.”

“Same ol’ same ol’.”

“Basically.”

“Who’s the BB?”

“Half the fuckin’ world, man.”

Xander looked at him. “So. Pretty much as usual.”

Brown sighed. He grinned. “It’s so great how it never gets old.”

He and Xander exchanged smiles.

Xander looked at Spike instead of his watch. “How long until sundown?”

Spike didn’t even pause. “An hour and twenty minutes. More or less.” He stopped what he was doing and looked at Xander. “Why?”

Xander looked at Maurice. Took another slug of water. “Looks like we gotta rescue a Slayer,” he said briskly. “Tradition says for that you gotta have a souled vampire.” He cocked his head at Maurice, his face expressionless. “Right, Morreees?”

Maurice was finding more and more value in the old expression, ‘silence is golden.’

Xander didn’t wait for an answer. “Did Clem tell you when they’re arriving?” he asked Brown.

“Nah,” sighed Brown. “He didn’t know yet and now we got the whole ‘no communication by airwaves’ problem.” He shook his head in frustration. “Somebody’s just gotta go down to the airport and hunker down ‘n wait.”

“You could do that,” observed Xander.

“Nah, you should do it, Xan,” Spike stated quickly from across the room.

“No,” said Xander flatly. “Not leavin’ you around Initiative bastards.”

“Xander, don’t be an ass. They see you with me they’re gonna know you’ve lied to them. They’ll go after you to a man. Besides,” Spike pointed out logically, “Brown’s a better fighter.”

Xander stood aghast and stared at Spike. “You are so not getting any tonight.”

Spike laughed and gave Xander a cheeky look. “Don’t threaten if you can’t follow through, luv,” he purred, prowling towards him. He came into Xander’s personal space and dipped his head seductively to barely touch the hypnotized man’s neck. He growled and Xander shivered.

“Fuck. Stop doin’ that shit in front of me, man,” said Brown.

Spike rose and blinked. “Sorry,” he said simply. “Didn’t think it bothered you.”

“Just.” Brown wriggled and rubbed his neck. “Just startin’ ta think it’s kinda hot. You’re confusin’ my innocent little libido.”

Spike laughed and walked over and slung his arm around Brown’s shoulders. The young man tensed and looked uncomfortable. Spike looked down at him, laughing, then looked up at Xander. The look on Xander’s face was just a little too far over the possessive line to be amusing. Spike dropped his arm. “Sorry,” he said.

Xander took a deep breath and exhaled, amazed at how badly he had wanted to plant his fist in Brown’s face for a second there. “Christ, Spike,” he said unsteadily, “you weren’t kidding.”

“Yeah,” agreed Spike, carefully putting distance between himself and Brown. “And you ain’t even a demon, Xan.”

“Are you sure about that?” Maurice’s voice rose from the floor and all three men turned to stare at him.

“Whatchya sayin’, Watcher?” Spike scratched his head in a show of perplexity. “You still think Xander’s my minion?” He cocked an amused look at his lover.

Xander leered. “Maaster,” he moaned. Spike laughed, was surprised by a twinge of arousal, looked at the floor. “Heh. Think he’s been out in the sun a bit much for that, don’t you?”

“Of course I don’t think he’s a vampire. But is he entirely human?”

Spike stilled completely. “Tell me what yer thinking, Maurice,” he said in a cool voice.

The Watcher twisted his arms about uncomfortably and cursed his impetuous mouth. “I don’t know, Spike. I’m not thinking much,” he admitted. “But Mr. Harris was very ill yesterday and now seems fully recovered. He is displaying new and vaguely demonic personality traits. You both seem to be inordinately fixated on one another.” At the two men’s looks, Maurice shrugged, “Well, that may be a natural fixation as it happens. But it does seem extraordinary to have established such an attachment in such a short period of time.”

Xander tried to sound light hearted. “Are you saying we’re moving too fast, Maurice?” He walked slowly to the back of the crypt and slid against the wall to the floor. “Saying we should slow down, get to know each other better?” Xander’s eyes met Spike’s. The worry there matched his own.

“Xan.” Spike walked over and squatted down next to Xander. “What did Red tell you?”

Xander chewed his lip. He absently took Spike’s hand and rubbed his thumb back and forth across it. “She found a book about claiming,” he told Spike.

Maurice made a noise. “Not Bresllvs text?” he said dismissively.

Xander waved that off. “Naw. Not that guy. Some weird demonic historical thingy.” He thought for a minute. “Spike. We gotta talk about it.” He looked at Brown and Maurice. “Not here.”

Brown took in Xander’s entire demeanor. The depression and sorrow. He jumped up and pulled a resistant Maurice to his feet. “Nah,” he said brusquely. “Morreees and I gotta go take a whiz anyway. We’ll go down ta the lake for a few.”

Spike nodded. “Come back before dark,” he said, never taking his eyes off Xander.

“Yeah, mom, don’t worry,” said Brown, and shoved Maurice through the trap door.

Spike crouched next to Xander, holding his hand and waiting. Xander tried to find words that would bring the information to Spike slowly. He tried to think of a way to gently inform Spike. He looked at the devoted patient face before him. “Fucking poisonous Xander Harris bodily fluids,” he finally blurted out. “My blood is going to kill you, Spike!”

Of course Spike looked stunned. Xander expected that. But he didn’t expect the vampire to slowly and reverently raise Xander’s hand and press it to his cool lips. “Okay,” said Spike slowly, “and what will happen to you?”

“Don’t know,” said Xander. “Willow isn’t sure. So far, though, it seems to make me healthier. I’m so lucky,” he spat.

“I see,” said Spike, and he sat down next to Xander. “Will I die soon?” he asked, his tone as if he were asking after the weather.

“Fuck, Spike, I’m not kidding.”

“I know that, Xander,” said Spike calmly. “I’m not kidding either. When will I die?”

“Willow says you’ll live as long as I do.” Xander felt tears starting in his eyes and reached instinctively for Spike. “God, Spike, this is so fucked up. I am so fucked up.”

Spike folded the man to him. A great feeling of peace washing through him. He kissed the silky hair and rubbed his hands across the warm muscled back. “And we’ll be together?” he asked softly.

“No, Spike.” Xander pushed back and Spike could see the tears smearing the flushed cheeks. Xander pulled himself out of Spike’s arms and stood unsteadily. “I’m not gonna kill you, Spike,” he said with conviction. “I am not gonna let that happen.” He rubbed at his face with his arm, looking to Spike like an unhappy little boy. Spike rose and stepped towards him. Xander backed up. He took another step, Xander backed away again.

“Xander?” Spike had a dizzy, confused feeling. This was like one of those dreams, where he couldn’t touch anybody. He reached for Xander and the man backed away again. “Xander?”

“I’m not gonna kill you, Spike,” Xander stated. “I can’t do that.” He turned away from the vampire’s frightened face and looked at the floor. “I’m gonna get Willow to undo the claim.”

Spike was stunned. “So. She can do that?” he finally managed to get out.

“Maybe,” said Xander slowly. “I asked her to.”

“You asked her to?” Spike stared at Xander with huge eyes, trying to make sense of this. “Today? Before you came back?” He looked wildly at Xander. “Before you came back and said ‘forever’?” His words were barely audible. Xander continued to look at the floor. “Xander?” Spike felt the wave towering over his head. The great black tidal wave of disaster. He always expected it. But in the eerie clarity before the wave came down on his head and blew away his unlife, Spike realized he had not this time expected it from Xander. Because this time Spike had believed Xander. This time he had let the words plant themselves inside him. Let them grow into something. Something which in such a short time Spike had allowed himself to rest in. He felt it ripping away with a shock. He stared at Xander. “Liar,” he ground out from a voice already choking with pain and grief. “You said…” inside he felt himself stumble, his mind reciting to him everything Xander had said. Words of love. Promises. Spike flailed about emotionally, finally grabbing hold and hanging onto anger like a life raft. “You liar,” he spat venomously.

Xander felt the word like the sting of a whip. He flinched and made himself look at Spike. The vampire stood before him in a towering rage. His eyes morphed from blue to gold and Xander saw the teeth. For the first time in awhile he did not find the sight erotic. He found it terrifying. He backed away hastily, looking towards the doorway. Dusk was approaching, but the sun was still up. He skittered sideways and ran for the door, but Spike was blocking it in a blur of supernatural speed.

“Liar,” hissed the vampire, morphing completely into gameface.

Xander looked around him desperately for weapons. Realized this was Spike. Even if he had the skill to fight him, Xander would never have the heart. He began panting, in a panic. Can’t fight. Can’t run away. He’s gonna kill me. Oh God, he’s gonna kill me. “Spike,” he pleaded, “God, Spike, calm down a minute.” The demon was advancing on him and Xander suddenly felt weirdly reluctant to resist him. Had Brown been right, was he in thrall? Spike grabbed his shoulders and Xander looked into the golden eyes and realized, no, he was only in love. As the demon bent to Xander’s neck, he arched his head back. “Go ahead, Spike,” he said tearfully, giving up, “I love you.”

Xander was flung violently to the floor. He felt the shock in his shoulders as his arms caught him against the fall. He looked up at Spike as the demon whirled and punched a heavenly cloud on the wall. “Fuck you, Xander!” spat Spike vehemently. And stood with turned back, shuddering out of gameface. Xander rose unsteadily to his feet.

The escape hatch door scraped open and Brown’s head popped into view. His eyes were closed. “Hey! You guys decent?” When he got no answer, he opened his eyes and took in the tableau before him. Two tense and emotional men stood awkwardly not looking at each other in the middle of the room. Brown sighed and pulled himself up onto the floor. “Great,” he said. “Just like home.” He leaned over and pulled Maurice up. “Mom ‘n Dad been at it again,” he informed the watcher disgustedly. Maurice looked nervously at Xander and Spike. Brown yanked down his gag and made to ease him back to the floor.

“No,” said Xander, “wait. It’s time.” He nodded towards the door, where the light had finally dissolved into darkness. “We gotta go.”


~*~*~*~*~


Xander eased Brown’s van into gear. He glanced in his rear view mirror and addressed the bound Watcher in the back. “Better grab hold a something,” he warned wearily. “I don’t think this thing’s got any shocks.”

He turned the wheels onto the empty road and allowed the van to roll silently downhill before letting out the clutch and giving it gas. There was a violent heave and jump backwards as the gears caught and the customized engine roared to life. In the back, Maurice yelped behind his gag as his rump made contact with something pointy.

“Told ya,” said Xander.

He studied the dark woods rushing away from them in his side mirror, as the van sped forwards. Brown and Spike had dissolved into the trees already. Xander concentrated on his driving and tried not to think about Spike. About the vampire’s absolute silence. His pointed lack of response to anything that Xander had done or said. A lack of communication so absolute it was like the antithesis of communication. Spike’s silence seemed to suck sound from the air. In the end, he had turned from Xander and walked off without even a nod of acknowledgment. Xander took a deep breath and fought back tears. Tried once more to concentrate solely on his driving. To focus on the mission. To not think about Spike, or that the last words he had spoken to Xander had been, ‘Fuck you.’

He jammed his foot onto the accelerator a little harder, heedless to the shift of metal in the back or the muffled squeaks of the uncomfortable man lying there.


~*~*~*~*~


Brown trotted alongside Spike easily, studying the expressionless silhouette. They paused at the edge of a clearing, on an embankment that gave them a view of a good part of the residential zone of Sunnydale, as well as the ominously dark swell of military tents and vehicles at the edge of town. As they stood surveying the terrain, Spike lighting a cigarette and leaning back against a tree, Brown sidled up to him.

“Had a friend once,” he mentioned casually. “’Bout once a month used ta have a big fight with his girlfriend then go out and drive his car into a tree.”

Spike didn’t acknowledge the remark.

Brown toed the ground. “Sweet little Camero,” he said mournfully. “Such a fucking waste.” He sighed. “So I says to him, ‘Man come over an’ tell me about it, don’t fucking take it out on the innocent car!’” He cast a glance at Spike. “You ain’t thinkin’ a’ immolatin’ yourself or nothin’ are you, man?”

Spike threw his cigarette to the ground and watched the ember die.

“’Cuz I don’ wanna be hanging out here on my own. Kinda countin’ on you,” said Brown rapidly.

Spike shook his head. “Don’t worry,” he said gruffly. “Not the suicidal type.”

“Not what I heard.”

Spike tipped his head sideways and gave Brown a mildly malevolent look. “What did you hear?”

Brown ignored the warning in the voice. “Heard you go all kinda wacko when you’re in love,” he said the words distastefully. “Hear you like, catch yourself on fire and chain people up and bury yourself alive and shit.”

Spike leaned against a tree and tilted his head back onto it. He pulled his cigarette packet out and slowly tapped another one loose. “Yeah.” He paused to light it and leaned back again, the cigarette hanging from his lips. “Guess yer right. Am kinda a fool for love.”

“Boy, you an’ Harris,” said Brown unhappily. “Really an embarrassment to guys everywhere.”

Spike growled.

“So what the fuck happened?” asked Brown baldly. “I mean, I walk away for five minutes and blamm! We’ve gone from Romeo and Juliet to Othello!”

Spike looked at him in amazement. “You? Know Shakespeare?”

Brown looked suddenly caught. “Nah,” he denied rapidly. “Just sayin’ stuff.”

Spike smiled for the first time in an hour. “Yer a fake.”

“Fuck you.” Brown frowned and persisted. “So what’s the problem all of a sudden? Not that I think you guys have a good idea there or nothin’, but things seemed to be going pretty good?”

“You think it’s a bad idea.”

“Well.” Brown laughed with surprise. “Well, duh. ‘Course it’s a bad idea.”

Spike shifted uncomfortably, removed the cigarette from his mouth and flicked the ash. “Assumin’ I haven’t already thought of them all,” he said, “how ‘bout you gimmee yer list a pros and cons.”

Brown looked the vampire over speculatively. “These gonna be my last words, Spike? ‘Cuz I’m sensin’ a certain amount a hostility here.”

Spike pointedly relaxed and threw his arms out in a gesture of acceptance. “Nah. Just wanna know what you think.”

“’Kay.” Brown studiously thought for a moment. “Whole thing seems like it might be really bad for Harris, ya know?”

“How so?”

“Well.” He sighed. “Geez Spike, you’re not so good with sick people are you? And Harris has got somethin’ serious.”

Spike was silent.

“And, I dunno, but you seem ta have a bit of a temper.” Brown shook his head solemnly. “With the biting and all the emotional crap. Geez, the whole thing looks like a disaster in the makin’.”

“I love him.”

Brown grimaced. “Yeah, well that’s what my old man said, but he still beat the crap outta my mom.”

“And how’s he supposed ta live?” Brown added, tallying the arguments up now with his fingers. He held up his hand to enumerate the problems. “1) You’re nocturnal 2) You’re dead, not goin’ ta any company barbeques now, is ya? 3) You can’t take care of him financially either. What’s gonna happen when he starts getting really sick? How you gonna get him what he needs?”

“Maybe he won’t get that sick,” suggested Spike weakly.

“That fucking disease is serious, man,” said Brown earnestly. “Stuff he takes for it can stop workin’ anytime. And he’s not takin’ care of himself like he should,” he snorted. “Even I see that. Livin’ like this, prowlin’ around at night, not getting’ any sleep, not eatin’ right. It’s not good.”

Spike stared into the night.

“You’re not helping him, Spike,” said Brown quietly.

“Blood made him better,” Spike pointed out sadly.

Brown shuddered. “So how long can he take that stuff before he changes into something else? Is that what you want, Spike? You wanna turn him?”

Spike looked down at the city below them. “Wouldn’t be Xander,” he said softly.

“Wouldn’t be right,” agreed Brown. “Be a damn fucking shame.”

Spike clenched his jaw, looked the other man in the eye. “Xander wants to reverse the claim,” he told him. “That’s why we fought.”

Brown tisked and gave Spike a sympathetic look. “Maybe he’s right? I’m sorry, man, but maybe it’s the right thing to do.”

“Yeah,” said Spike. He leaned against the tree and squeezed his eyes shut for a moment. Then stood, shook himself, and looked again at the layout below them. “Yeah. So where is this bint we gotta rescue?”


~*~*~*~*~


In the airport parking lot, Xander sat in the back of the van with Maurice and paged through Spike’s well-used notebook. The feel of the paper, covered with the elegant handwriting, and the soft thumbed binding, made him feel physically closer to Spike. He stopped on a page which popped out at him because it had only a few lines written on it.

‘The sensation when you enter me.’ He read and his throat closed. ‘As of some window opening onto a world of brilliant colour.’ He shut the notebook and gazed sightlessly out into the parking lot.

Maurice wriggled and sighed. Xander glanced at him. He reached over and dragged the gag down off his mouth. “Don’t suppose you’re into bondage?” Xander suggested with a little smirk. Maurice gave him a virulently disgusted look. “Too bad,” shrugged Xander, “might have been more fun for you if you were.”

“I suppose you are no longer worried that I might cry for help?”

“Scream away,” said Xander casually. “I’ll just knock you over the head before anybody hears you.”

“I appreciate the warning,” said Maurice dryly. He sighed. “I wish you would believe me when I tell you that you have my full support in this.”

“Can’t trust a Watcher. Sorry.”

“That is exactly what Spike said.”

Xander blinked down at the notebook. “Yeah. Well. Spike’s had a lotta trust issues with humans in general. Can’t blame him.”

“He’s a demon. What does he expect?”

Xander glared. “To be appreciated for what he does? To be acknowledged for his contributions a little, maybe?”

Maurice did not answer.

“Bunch of self-righteous bigots,” Xander said to himself. “All of us.”

A group of men were standing on the other side of the parking lot. Xander stood and leaned out the door of the van to get a better look. “Wow,” he said, “it’s like a Giles convention or something.” He waved in a large arching circle at the tweedy cluster and they headed towards him. Xander came back into the van, slamming the door shut. He jumped into the driver's seat and jerked the van into gear. Maurice cried out as the vehicle took a sharp turn, and headed across the lot to pick up their guests.


~*~*~*~*~


Willow’s living room looked like a soft, fluffy Faberge egg. The rest of her first floor was efficient and business like. The kitchen, dining room and office all were used for a variety of meetings and magical incantations, and so were kept swept clean and very organized. But Willow liked sumptuous fabrics and rich colors and things that sparkled. So her living room was her nest. And like a jaybird she had created it with all the pretty objects she found in the world. And a few that she had found in the Netherworld.

The sofa was a deep green velvet. It was packed so solidly with embroidered, beaded, and fringed pillows that there was really only room for one in the very center. Or two if they sat very close together. Sadly, tonight, Willow was the only resident of the sofa. Although she occasionally let her mind drift to the previous night when Diana had squeezed up against her here. She sat placidly counting out small hazel wands from a box at her feet onto the coffee table. The table was densely covered with a variety of geodes and crystals. Some of them had begun glowing. Willow appeared comfortable with this phenomena and kept counting. On the wall across the room, above an almost five foot tall hearth with a cauldron hanging in the middle of it, a dozen various shaped mirrors glittered and reflected lights flashing from an unknown source. Willow paused in her counting and looked up at the mirrors suddenly. “Come in,” she said, in a loud commanding voice.

Something rattled peremptorily at the front door and Willow shook her head and pursed her lips in annoyance. “Come in,” she said again, louder. The front door slammed open and a wind rushed through it. Various banners, ribbons and children’s drawing fluttered on the wall, and Willow’s Calico rose hissing from her spot under a chair.

Willow shook her head without looking up. “Dramatic much,” she commented mildly.

“Sorry.” The woman shook debris out of her cloak and ran a hand through thick curly red hair. “Get all excited. Forget myself.”

“There is a doorbell.” Willow smiled up at the other witch. “Welkommen BethAnn.” The other woman dimpled and pushed pillows from a chair to sit.

“Where are the others?”

“Soon,” said Willow calmly.

“Can’t believe this. So exciting.”

Willow raised an eyebrow. “Exciting?”

BethAnn’s eyes widened at Willow’s tone. “Well, you know. The whole Coven. Raising of power on this level. I’ve never done it before, Mistress,” she explained pleadingly.

Willow sighed and rose with her wands. She walked across the room and handed one to BethAnn. As the woman’s fingers closed around it, Willow held on until BethAnn’s eyes rose and met her own. “This is war,” said Willow sadly. “BethAnn, this is not exciting.”

The younger witch wilted. “I’m sorry.”

Willow tisked and petted the mass of shining curls. “Don’t be sorry,” she said. She looked up and something skated through her eyes. She frowned. “Doesn’t anyone use the doorbell?” she asked querulously. “Come in!” she yelled.


~*~*~*~*~


Spike and Brown had found the least guarded side of the military encampment and were silently indicating to each other, with much jabbing of fingers and furious head-shaking, what they should do next. Spike wanted to go alone. He knew he could move more silently than Brown and dreaded the possibility of the mortal’s injury. Brown indicated himself and Spike and walked his fingers suggestively through the air. Spike shook his head vehemently and dragged the walking fingers behind one of his own upraised fingers, to suggest one set of legs hiding behind a tree. Brown eyed this strange symbolic interaction, blushed and shook his head violently. Spike contemplated the subject of Brown’s discomfiture for a moment, then quickly pulled his hand away, looking equally uncomfortable. He sat in furious frustration for a minute, then leaned forward, grabbed Brown’s head and hissed up against his ear.

“You stay. I go.”

Brown drew back and shook his head violently. Spike glared. Brown glared back. Spike clenched his jaw and shrugged. He turned and waved the young man to come with him, rolling his eyes at the bravado of mortal males.

Spike knew that the principal tents would house the military brass, and guessed that Quentin would have some kind of office set up for himself here as well. He hoped the Slayer would be housed nearby. He slipped past the tents with this in mind, but he was relying more on his vampiric senses than any logic. He could feel the Slayer, and as they rounded on one group of tents, he could feel the Slayer most definitely.

He stopped short and felt Brown bump softly into him from behind. Spike turned and pointed at a tent in front of them. Brown raised his eyebrows and his hands in an expression of inquiry. Spike touched his nose and nodded. Brown grimaced distastefully and nodded also. They approached the tent very slowly and plastered themselves to the ground near the back.

Every sense Spike had was tingling. The Slayer inside gave off a lot of juice. He wondered if it was the youth and freshness of the Calling or if the Initiative supported contingent of the Council had already worked some power enhancing mojo on the child. There were no other occupants of the tent at the moment, he could sense, so he thought now would be a good time to slide under the wall. Brown stopped him as he began to dip his head under.

He gave the young man an irritated and impatient look. Brown pointed at the tent, made a stabbing motion with one hand. Pointed at Spike, bared his teeth and made the grrr face. Raised an eyebrow. Spike fell back a bit and thought about it. A young Slayer confronted by a vampire in the middle of the night would probably not be up for a little chat before dusting. He graciously lifted the wall of the tent a couple inches and motioned Brown to go before him. The young man gave him a half-hearted salute and wriggled under the material.

Approximately ten minutes later in real time, but ten years later in Spike time, the wall of the tent rose again and Spike stared into the small round face and huge brown eyes of a young girl. She recoiled when she saw him and narrowed her eyes. He struggled against his demon and slithered back in the most subservient and passive manner he could force upon himself. The pale little face looked back behind her and Spike heard whispered assurances in Brown’s deep voice. Then both persons were wriggling out of the tent.

She was terribly tiny. Maybe one hundred pounds wet. With short shiny black hair cut in a shaggy manner all over her head and chocolate brown eyes that reminded Spike achingly of Xander. Her small muscled body was clothed only in tight yoga pants and a pink halter-top. She wriggled over the ground like an agile lizard and jumped to a crouch with a seamless grace that Spike saw as pure Slayer. He grinned appreciatively and caught the hostile look Brown shot him with surprise. Spike measured Brown appreciatively. He wondered what had gone on in those ten minutes.

With a series of urgent hand motions, they indicated to the girl the direction which led from camp. All three of them had almost made it past the furthest periphery and Spike was thinking nervously that this had all been too bloody easy when he heard the eerie click of an engaged cross-bow and the subtler but more malevolent snick of a gun safety being released.

“Well, well,” said Riley Finn. “What a nice surprise.”

Spike rolled slowly to face him. “Not much for the witty one liners, are you, mate?” He saw Brown in his peripheral vision, crouching in the shade of a truck. Riley had both his weapons trained on Spike and had apparently not seen Brown.

“I don’t really need to be clever, Spike. I’ve got guns.”

Spike grinned appreciatively. “Yeah. Can see your point.” Near him the Slayer straightened slowly.

Riley motioned with the rifle towards her, never taking his eyes off Spike. “Get back to your tent,” he commanded. The girl didn’t move. Riley scowled with annoyance and shouted over his shoulders. “Hendrick. Rogers. Get over here!” Spike heard the girl backing slowly towards Brown’s truck. Riley was distracted. “Go back to your tent!” he demanded. Spike sprang from the ground and in one move hit Riley square in the chest. The man fell and lost his cross-bolt into the trees. His rifle fired a brief spat into the ground and ricochettes caught both he and Spike in the legs. Spike hit the dirt, temporarily disabled and looked up to see the Slayer running over to join Brown. Both faces turned back towards him.

Spike could hear the men Riley had called approaching and he saw the injured man grabbing hold of his sensibilities and reaching for his rifle. “Go!” Spike urged. Struggling to his feet. “Run!” Brown nodded once. Grabbed the girl’s hand and they both took off. Spike stood and started loping after them. He stopped dead when he felt a sharp new crossbolt lodge itself firmly in his back. “Bloody Fuck,” he said.

The soldier who had him pinned didn’t respond. Spike heard another crossbow being loaded and didn’t move. Behind him he heard Riley slowly struggling up from the dirt. He would have loved to see the fucker's face before he died, he thought disappointedly.

“Follow her,” Riley ordered. Spike knew from the sound of his voice that Riley knew the odds of catching a Slayer running full tilt through the dead of night. He sent a silent wish upwards or downwards, whichever crew was listening to him these days, that Brown’s feet traveled fast tonight as well.

Men hustled off, but others came closer to him. Spike tensed, prepared to fight. The last thing he felt was a cold metal bar touching the side of his head and then all was blackness.


~*~*~*~*~


The room was ice blue. Spike lay flat in a place as cold as a refrigerator and tried to locate his arms and legs. He seemed to be able to feel, but could not move his body. Briefly he thought he might be dead. Or no longer undead. Or whatever. He had never been able to come up with the proper adjective. But all around him was blue. No ceilings no walls, just blue. Heaven? Spike snorted at the probability of that though something inside him leapt hopefully. He heard his own snort, though, and realized it had come from a corporeal body. Not dusted then.

He tried to stretch, tried to locate fingers and toes. Nothing. The lack of response was not just disorienting, it was frightening. He imagined for a minute that his head had been removed. But then he’d be dust. He willed himself to wriggle and heard a noise. Maybe then his body was attached and he just couldn’t feel it. The thought was somehow not very comforting.

“We’ve placed a block between your cerebral cortex and your muscles,” explained Riley Finn’s voice from the endless blueness. You can feel but you can’t control your reactions. Spike saw the face tilting in his peripheral vision. “Allow me to demonstrate.” The cool metal bar touched Spike’s belly and then unbelievable, white hot pain shot straight up his back and into his brain. He screamed for an eternity. Then he was back in the blue room. Riley’s voice sounded terribly pleased. “Like that,” he said.

Spike heard and felt the slap of his body jerking on the surface on which he lay. He heard himself panting. He couldn’t stop either reaction. He concentrated his will to find a place in his body that he could control, to punch this fucker in the face and get outta here, but there was no response. The sound and sensation of his body’s tremors had abated, but Riley was walking next to him, the cool metal sliding up and down Spike’s thigh. From the sensation he judged that he must be naked. He felt the cool bar sliding towards his crotch and desperately tried to find a place in his mind to hide from the coming pain.

“Spike?” asked Riley conversationally. His face appeared before Spike’s again. His expression looked to the vampire who had tortured thousands to be that of a man gone insane. “What’s it like to bite a man?” The metal bar touched Spike’s inner thigh and once again he lived in a world of eternal pain.




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