Twelve Drums

Pirate Purple

Xander woke just as the sky turned bloody with the African sunrise. He threw off the mosquito netting and slid out of his hammock, trying to shake the smell of whiskey and smoke from his head. He hadn't been able to stop dreaming about Spike. They had made love once, and only once, the night before Sunnydale became a crater. Xander had been unable to leave it behind, though he knew the vampire had probably just been seeking comfort.

He opened the door to his hut. The tribe had helped him build this little hut the day he told them he would like to stay, the same day he sent his last slayer to England. The same day he threw his cell phone into the Zambezi River, after telling Giles he couldn't do it anymore and not to look for him until he came back on his own. Tossing on some shorts and his patch, Xander was drawn outside by the sound of drumming.

The Elder stood at the northeast edge of the circle of huts, with a drummer squatting at his left-hand side. Xander went and stood at a respectful distance until the elder addressed him. Xander was unable to get the excited Elder to speak English, though he frequently spoke more eloquently than some members of the council, and Xander's pidgin of the tribal language was not enough for him to understand the rapid-fire words accompanied by wild gesticulation. He wished, not for the first time, that he had Spike's gift with languages.

That night a second drummer joined the first, with a counterpoint rhythm. Xander woke at midnight from a dream of fire and Spike and the sinkhole that used to be his home. The vibrations from the drumming thrummed in his skin, making the fine hair all over his body stand on end. Xander shivered in spite of the heat, and tried to go back to sleep.

The next morning Xander again threw on some shorts, tied back his too-long hair with a leather thong, and walked off into the savannah armed only with a crossbow. Not for the first time, the shrewd-eyed Elder watched him go. Then he turned his eyes to the northeast.

When Xander returned four days later, he was no calmer than he had been when he left. He dragged a sledge behind him with some kind of gazelle and assorted edible looking fowl lashed to it. His hyena instincts had served him well in Africa, both in hunting deranged slayers and in providing food. There were now six drummers facing northeast. A chill ran down Xander's spine. He could no longer mistake it. There was something coming.

That night, Xander lay in his hammock, awake, for several hours before he succumbed to sleep. He couldn't escape the cool hands and mouth that traveled his body, however, and again his senses were suffused with the scents of whiskey, leather and smoke. He heard his name whispered by that familiar voice he had been trying to escape for over a year now, and woke with a start. His cock was hard and leaking against his stomach. He refused to acknowledge it, and rolled over and willed himself back into unconsciousness.

The next few days in the village were a flood of activity. Many of the women were carefully making mandalas of colored sand in front of their huts. He received several gifts, which was not unusual after he came back with a kill, but they were more insistent that he wear the colored beads, and leather thongs decorated with feathers from the birds he had brought back. He laughed and let the women tie the thongs around his arms and drape the beads over his head. Every night there was another drummer, until Xander's heartbeat was synchronized with the beat the drummers had chosen, and he was sure it would stop when they did.

On the night after the eleventh drummer joined the circle at the edge of the huts, the Elder stopped outside of Xander's hut at sunset with a pot of white mud, and a knife. When Xander came out, the Elder directed him to kneel, and gently took his hand. Xander hissed, but did not flinch, as the knife bit into the flesh at the base of his thumb. The Elder massaged the wound, bleeding Xander into the pot of mud. When the wound would bleed no more the Elder painted Xander's chest and arms in patterns a peculiar mix of white and the old rust
color of drying blood. The Elder then led him to the center of the circle of drummers. "Drum," he was told in slightly British-inflected English. Surprised, Xander took the drum and before he could string together a babble about white boys having no rhythm, the Elder was gone. Looking around at the other drummers, he copied their squatting stance and began to drum.

The moon rose, full and startlingly bright, washing the landscape ina white glow, and Xander could see someone on the horizon. He drummed and watched the figure come closer. He would swear that prowl belonged to Spike if he didn't know better. Except that, the resemblance to Spike only got more and more obvious as the figure came closer. First
he saw the moon glinting off a bleach-blonde head, and the swing of the duster as it moved in counterpoint to Spike's stride. Xander was convinced that he was seeing a mirage or some sort of magic-induced hallucination, until the vampire, in full gameface, grabbed him by the arms and pulled him to his feet. The drumming suddenly stopped and in the silence Xander's heart skipped several beats.

"You're not dead!" they both shouted, after a moment of stunned staring.

Xander started to babble, "Well you're undead, but last time I saw you Sunnydale was collapsing on top of you. And Buffy said, the sun, and the fire! I didn't think you could survive that, and where have you been since then? And why didn't you contact us? Or me? Or anyone?

At the same time, Spike was saying, "I've been smelling your blood since sunset, I thought you had gotten your fool self killed. I've been in Africa for twelve days looking for you. Started at the Zambezi, where you made the last phone call to Willow and Giles. I've been in the villages asking about you, but couldn't get anyone to tell me anything about any white man they'd seen in the area.

They laughed, and Xander took a deep breath. "But why are you here, Spike? Why now?"

Spike pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and showed Xander the date. It was December 24th, 11:45 PM. "It's Christmas Eve, pet. Couldn't let you spend the holidays all on your lonesome, now. Could I?

There was an awkward moment, and then Spike pulled Xander towards him. Xander looked up into eyes the color of a daylight sky they would never see again. "I've been dreaming about you, Spike. Even when I thought you were dead, I couldn't get through a night without seeing your face. Will you come back to my hut with me?"

Spike leaned forward and gently pressed his lips against Xander's. "I have been dreaming of you too, pet. You sure you want to invite me in?" He grinned to cover up his fear that Xander might change his mind, now that he was confronted with a vampire in the flesh.

Instead of answering, Xander led Spike through what was now a crowd of onlookers. When he got to the door of his hut, he ghosted a kiss over Spike's lips. "Come in, Spike," Xander whispered.

The Elder smiled at the closing door of the hut.

The End