Pairing : Spike/Xander
His head hurt. Lifting his hand to his brow, he drew back at the feel of liquid, knowing without seeing that it was blood. A thin trickle had fallen down his face, soaking his eye-patch slightly. At least it hadn't got into his eye. And judging by the headache, oh joy, another concussion. He had no idea where he was, but at least he wasn't tied up. Pushing himself up, he leaned back against a concrete wall, letting his head fall back to rest on it. He tried to think back, figure out the last thing he clearly remembered.
They'd been at New Watcher Head Quarters, Giles taking the opportunity to show them around the finally completed buildings. England wasn't quite what he had expected - a lot colder, but much prettier. He'd been looking forward to the next evening and the tour Spike had promised him - said he would take him around some of his old haunts when he arrived. Strange to think of Spike flying in the company jet that Angel had conveniently appropriated after the battle with the Black Thorn. Not quite so strange the fledging relationship that was growing between them.
After the battle with Caleb, when he lost his eye, Spike had been the only one able to look him straight in the face. Slightly insane Spike, no longer chipped, but kinder, softer. And in those long talks before the Final Battle with the First they had shared so much, discovered they had a lot in common. When he lost both Spike and Anya, Africa had seemed like a great escape - a chance to get away from all the memories, deal with his grief, become strong enough to let the person within out. And the person within had been very very happy to discover that Spike was still 'alive'. Happy enough to insist on a break from Slayer Hunting to visit and spend some time. He had hesitated to call them dates, but they had spent quite a few evenings in various pubs in L.A., even heard Spike do his thing at a Poetry Slam.
The call to England - another apocalypse would you believe - had postponed what was seeming to be inevitable, but they had both acknowledged it was a postponement, that they wanted to see where things would take them. And after saving the world English style, and Angel and Spike taking on the evil lawyers officially from hell, this was to have been their chance to see what could be.
He remembered saying goodnight to everyone as they went off to bed, then deciding to take a walk around the grounds. Willow had said they were warded and he should be completely safe. Well this would show her. Smirking at the sarcasm in his head, he pushed his brain to think of anything further. It started to get a bit murky after that - hugs for the girls, a witty comment about getting cold in bed as Buffy blushed and went off to catch up with Angel. Then a wave of his hand to Giles as he went outside. Then nothing.
So frustrating. He heard footsteps, then a key being shoved into a lock, and let himself fall back to the ground and closed his eyes. Better to gather intel by pretending to still be unconscious, make the most of any advantage he could.
"He's still out of it."
"Do you think we should tell the Master?"
"Do you want to be the one to tell him we smacked his property round the head so hard that he hasn't come round yet?"
"Yeah, ok, point taken." A loud sigh, then the sound of footsteps moving further away, a door opening and closing and back to silence.
Waiting for permission to disembark, Spike drummed his fingers on the arm of his chair. He wasn't known for his patience, and flying always made it worse. Stuck in the air, with no escape it always made him antsy – ok, so if the plane went down over the ocean he could always lie at the bottom til he recovered and walk his way home but that wasn't exactly fun (he'd had to do it once because of Dru but that was an episode best forgotten). And of course the fact that he was looking forward to seeing Xander again had nothing to do with his impatience this time. He wouldn't mind spending a bit more time with the man, he'd enjoyed his company in LA and was looking forward to showing him around London a bit.
Running his hand over his head, he ruefully considered whether or not he'd done the right thing shaving the bleached hair off. The buzz cut felt strange, tickling the palm of his hand. He knew why he'd done it – wanted to make a grand gesture, new start and all that. But it still felt odd. And now he wasn't sure whether or not he liked it – oh fine, he was a bit nervous that Xander wouldn't like it. Sometimes he was such a complete ponce he wondered how -
“You're okay to disembark now sir.” He nodded at the stewardess, jumping to his feet and shrugging into his jacket. It still didn't feel as comfortable as his original duster, but he did admit the Italians knew what they were doing when they worked with leather. Striding through the door, he quickly climbed down the stairs and headed straight towards the reception office in the hangar. Angel had promised him a ride, but he couldn't help hoping that maybe he'd recognise the driver.
“You what?” Still disappointed that his chauffeur had been some unknown minion, Spike was less than pleased to be greeted by the sight of the Scoobies running around like headless chickens with no one taking the time to explain to him exactly what was going on.
“I said Xander's gone missing. Willow is trying to get together the components for a locator spell and I was about to go visit a few places, see if anyone has heard anything.” Angel led him through to the weapons room where an entire wall was dedicated to all sorts of weaponry. Automatically grabbing an axe and a stake, Spike was seething.
“How the hell did you lot manage to lose him? For fuck's sake - “
“Look, Spike. I get it. I saw you and Xander before he came over here – I'm not blind, I can see what's happening. So save the castigation for another time and help us find him, alright?” Spike sighed heavily, but nodded.
“So where we going?”
“Giles told me about a local pub – sort of the British version of Willie's – seemed like a good place to start.” With a quick kiss for Buffy from Angel, and a generally directed scowl for everyone from Spike, the two vampires left the Scoobies to their research and headed out.
Giles hadn't been wrong when he compared the place to a British version of Willie's – the floor might have been a little bit cleaner, the demons spoke with a British accent, but pretty much everything else was the same. Walking over to the bar, there was an instinctive shifting away by most of the demons in their path – it was obvious they were on a mission and no-one wanted to get in their way.
“Evening gents, what can we do for you? We have a nice line in O'neg – strictly legitimately harvested I assure you.” The bartender could have been Willie's younger, slimier brother and with the soul's full agreement Spike reached over, grabbed him by the hair on the nape of his neck, and slammed his face into the bar.
“Anything big happenin'?”
“Whoa, whoa there gents!! And OW!! There's no need for any violence – if I can help you, of course I will.” Releasing his grip, Spike stepped back. Better to start as they meant to go on.
“Missing human – need to find him. Tends to be a bit of a demon magnet.”
“Sorry gents, not ringing any bells. But..... hold on there mate!! I can ask around – maybe find out for you.”
“And how long exactly will that take? Not known for my patience, mate.”
“Yeah, we know who you are – think Angelus and William the Bloody can come back to England and the demon populace not know?” A vamp down the bar spoke up, and thrusting the bar-man back Spike and Angel moved towards him.
“Aaahh, so ye know who'll be pulling your innards out to play a few games with do ya?” The Irish brogue still sent a shiver up Spike's spine, even knowing that the hulking brute behind him was most definitely on his side.
“I've a message for you, but you won't get it if you stake me.” Taking a sip of his drink, the vamp tried to play it cool but Spike could sense his unease.
“My Master, Dreiden, sends his regards and formally notifies you of his intention to claim the seer Alexander Harris. You have the right to challenge but if you do, you will need to show proof of a prior claim and be prepared to back it up in front of witnesses.”
“You have got to be fuckin' kidding me!!! And who the hell is this Dreiden when he's at home?” Furious, Spike fully intended to rip the minion's head off, but Angel held him back.
“Spike – we need to talk. NOW.” Turning back to the minion, Angel formally responded. “Tell Dreiden we'll be there – send details to the Watcher's Building, you obviously know where it is. And if there's even one hair hurt on Harris's head, Dreiden will forfeit and we will insist on recompense. Clear?” The other vamp nodded, drained his glass and moved swiftly around them and out of the pub. Following Angel's urging, Spike allowed himself to be directed out of the building, a quick flash of fang to the barman enough to ensure that any return would garner excellent service.
He turned to Angel, about to launch into a tirade demanding some answers, but Angel's scowl and quick shake of the head was hint enough to let things lie although there seemed to be too much stuff going on without his knowledge and it made him most uncomfortable. Returning to the Watcher's House, Spike sighed heavily. How this lot ever managed to get anything done was beyond him – Harris was God knows where, having who knew what done to him, and they all seemed to want to settle in for some sort of board meeting – it beggared belief, it really did.
Sipping the mug of blood that was placed in front of him, Spike tried to wait patiently for one of them to start explaining. The Watcher was doing some last minute checking of a giant tome of a book; Red was scribbling in a notebook, while Buffy and Angel were being sickeningly affectionate but no one seemed to be doing anything.
“Is one of you lot gonna fill me in or what?” Giles cleared his throat, then looked over at Spike.
“Yes, sorry Spike, I had forgotten you weren't here for our original discussions. Before you returned, we managed to do a quick bit of research and get some information together. I don't know how much Xander spoke to you about things that happened while he was in Africa?”
“He said a bit, not loads. We had a few dat – erm, nights out but didn't really get the chance to talk about anything more life-changing. What's this got to do with this Dreiden and why he's taken Xander?”
“Right then. I believe you're familiar with the role Cordelia played for Angel while she was alive and before Jasmine?” Spike nodded, aware of the pain Angel still felt regarding what had happened to the cheerleader. Truth be told, that was one reason why Spike was actually happy that his Sire and the Slayer had managed to get past the whole cookie-dough nonsense and decided to give it a try. His own feelings for Buffy had been muddled for a while, but he was quite clear-headed about her now – wasn't meant to be, never would be again, and he was fine with it. “While he was in Africa, Xander went on a Spirit Walk and during this he received a visitation from Cordelia.”
“Unfortunately, he and I had only just started discussing the repercussions and what it meant for him. But in essence, while he was undertaking this SpiritWalk Cordelia gifted him with her visions. Xander is Angel's renewed link to the Powers that Be, repayment for his actions dealing with the Black Thorn. Dreiden is a Master vampire based here in London, and it would appear he's hoping that by claiming Xander he will be able to use him as a personal seer.”
“Sorry, Watcher, still dealing with the whole SpiritWalk thing. What the hell was the whelp thinking?” Willow finally looked up from her scribblings.
“He was thinking that he'd lost Anya and someone else he thought might have come to mean a lot to him.” Her voice was steady, and Spike met her gaze head on. If he and Xander were going to have any kind of relationship, he knew he would be seeing a lot of the witch – he needed to know now if she was going to represent a problem. “He needed to clear his mind, shake off old patterns of thinking and embrace new ones. I would have thought you would be glad that he did so?” Her voice was challenging but only mildly so. Spike nodded, still meeting her gaze.
“Works for me – I'm all for a fresh state of mind, new start and all that bollocks. But dunno about this vision thing – is he gonna suffer the way the cheerleader did before the demon modifications?” Willow nodded her head slightly and gave Spike a small smile – obviously he'd scored points for caring that the man not be hurt by this whole thing. Giles took over the conversation once more.
“Actually, quite surprisingly, no Xander shouldn't suffer too much from the visions at all. Previous 'possessions' seem to have made enough of a change to his brain's physiology that he's more than able to cope with them without suffering unduly.”
“Previous possessions? Hellmouth stuff I take it?” Willow nodded.
“Yep. Think primal hyena then be-spelled Halloween costumes – looks like they re-wired Xander's brain to a certain extent, and the SpiritWalk opened up new pathways, and voilà, all singing, all dancing seer without the excruciating pain!”
“Huh. So what makes Dreiden think he can take control? And what was all that stuff about a challenge and a prior claim? Not heard of stuff like that for a long while in the Lore.”
“Dreiden wants to usurp my position with Xander, although obviously his intention is not to use the visions for good. His challenge means that only a vampire with a prior claim to the man can refute what he's trying to do and the proving it in front of witnesses could be problematic.” Angel tucked Buffy next to his side, paying more attention to the conversation now that Spike had been informed of the background.
“So, what – can't you just claim him as one of your minions since you're with the Slayer? That should be enough right?”
“No, unfortunately not. Xander is a seer in his own right, which means he's no longer viewed as just a minion – like Willow is a Grand Witch in her own right, and with the destruction of the original Watcher's Council, Giles is The Watcher. I can't claim him because Buffy and I have already formalised our claim, and there's only one other vampire with a prior claim.”
“Peaches, I don't think I like where this is going...”
“You know how this stuff works Spike. You probably know more about the Lore than I do – I know you used to read some of the old stories to Dru to help calm her down.”
“So, what – you expect me to go in there and lay claim to the whelp? And how am I gonna pretend there's some prior claim?”
“No pretence necessary Spike.” Buffy spoke for the first time, a small smile on her face. “Parent-teacher night I understand you were given a present by your Yoda.”
“Oh hell no!! You lot are off your rockers!!”
“Sire's Gift, Spike. According to Lore, Xander has belonged to you for years – guess it's time for you to claim him properly!”
“Why is my love life always so friggin' complicated?”
The accommodations might have improved but the company certainly hadn't. His pretence of being unconscious had unfortunately become reality, and Xander finally surfaced with a major headache and a change of venue. Rubbing his eye blearily with one hand, he looked around. In the place of honour no less, he was sat on a very ornate throne – decorated with curlicues, scrollwork and basically anything that could be added to make it as pretentious as possible. It was also incredibly uncomfortable, although that might have something to do with the fact that his left wrist was cuffed to it. That in itself was unfortunate, but added to the fact that in the huge hall laid before him, he was surrounded on either side sat on benches by a crowd of vampires. They weren't fledges – well he assumed they weren't, since none of them were in game face, snarling in his general direction, or trying to dine from his neck – but that meant that he was in a bona fide vampire court and that did not bode well. He knew enough about vampire courts to know that it made normal politics look like children's games of baseball, but unfortunately that was pretty much all he knew about vampire courts.
He tried to be circumspect as he looked around, trying to calculate how many vamps were there and what his chances of escape were. Pretty darn slim by the look of things, and yet again the Xandman was waiting to be rescued. This was bizarre in the extreme - he had never expected to actually see a vampire court up close and personal. Suddenly a hushed silence overtook the room, and he looked down towards the large double doors at the far end where everyone else was looking.
“Respectfully rise for Master Dreiden,” a voice intoned, and every vamp in the place jumped to their feet. A few were slower than others, and Xander was shocked to see a couple of vamps from the side dart forward and stake them. Damn, looked like disrespect led to a quick punishment. His fear rose, although he tried to tamp it down knowing that the scent of fear was a major aphrodisiac for vampires.
It was hard not to stare as the vampire walked towards him. He was actually quite ordinary looking – neither as tall or broad as Angel, nor as menacingly lean and muscular as Spike. But as he stepped closer, and then took the throne next to Xander he realised that this vampire was far from ordinary. It was easy to tell that he was in the presence of a Master, and his feelings of fear intensified. What would a Master vamp want with him? Dreiden turned to look at him, smiling as he met Xander's gaze.
“It is an honour to meet you at last Seer Alexander,” he said, dipping his head courteously.
“Wish I could say the same buddy. Wanna tell me what the hell's going on?” Inwardly cursing his inability to keep his mouth shut, Xander scowled.
“I can only apologise that it is under such circumstances. Unfortunately I was unable to collect you myself from the Watcher's premises – their wards are quite spectacular, the Witch Rosenberg is everything they say she is.” Dreiden's eyes travelled over Xander's face, appearing to memorise every aspect of him. “I have long awaited the opportunity to meet you and have the chance to court you.”
“You wanna court me? You have got to be kidding me - what planet are you on?”
“Obviously things have not been explained to you. I would appreciate the chance to speak to you candidly. Would you care to walk through the grounds with me?” Xander felt like he was in some alternative universe, where it was perfectly normal to be handcuffed to a throne next to someone who appeared to be completely sane but was obviously a few bricks short of a full hod.
“I'd love to come with you, but this - “gesturing wildly with his handcuffed wrist “ - makes it difficult!” Dreiden's relaxed face stiffened and before Xander's eyes the affable stranger turned into a menacing man.
“How dare they!! Who did this?!” Rising to his feet, Dreiden was in full game face, obviously enraged. A man Xander vaguely recognised moved forward, head bowed as he grovelled in Dreiden's presence.
“Master – we didn't want your property to damage himself so we thought - ”
“You thought? You thought? I cannot believe you have treated my guest with such disdain.” Striding forward, Dreiden backhanded the man across the face, the sound of a jaw breaking clear as he fell to the floor. Following, Dreiden brutally kicked the man, following him as he rolled groaning towards the wall, laying kicks into him all the way. Horrified, Xander could only stare, cringing back into his chair as Dreiden visibly shook himself, turned away from the cowering man and came back to the throne. Reaching forward, ignoring Xander's flinch, Dreiden snapped the small chain on the cuff. “My guest will be treated with all of the respect and honour due to him as my potential Consort! Hear me, all of you – I have formally challenged Masters Angelus and William for the right to claim the Seer Alexander. The full challenge will take place tomorrow and you WILL all be in attendance. Now leave us – I wish to spend time with my Consort to be.” Anticipating a mad rush to get away from the completly madvamp, Xander watched open-mouthed as the vampires sauntered out, chattering amongst themselves with excitement. The vampire Dreidan had beaten up pulled himself up the wall, head lowered as he desperately avoided his Master's attention, leaving the great hall as quickly as he could.
Dreiden turned back to Xander, smiling once more.
“Would you like something to eat or drink?” Internal babble threatening to overflow, Xander looked at Dreiden and realised his safest bet was the play along.
“Errr, yeah yeah, sure that would be great. Hey, is there any chance of some painkillers? I have the headache from hell.”
“But of course!” Dreiden strode to the doors, opening them and speaking to minion before returning to Xander's side. “Would you like to take that walk now? There is so much we must discuss before the Claiming Ceremony.” Holding himself tightly, Xander gave a sickly smile.
“Of course, yeah. Errr, could I use the bathroom, freshen up a little before that? I'm feeling a bit grubby.” Taking his hand, Dreiden helped him to his feet, stepping close to Xander and breathing deeply of his scent.
“But of course Seer Alexander, how remiss of me. I will show you to your room where you can prepare, and perhaps you would meet me back down here in an hour?!” Xander nodded weakly, grateful for the opportunity to gather his wits about him. He followed behind Dreiden as they walked the length of the hall, stumbling as the feeling returned to his legs. Instantly by his side, Dreiden solicitously took his arm and offered his support. Unwilling to risk upsetting the vampire, Xander allowed himself to be led through the large doors, across the hall and up a flight of imposing stairs. This was all just getting stranger and stranger, and he clung to the part of Dreiden's speech where he mentioned Angel and Spike. If Dreiden had formally challenged them, then surely that meant the Scoobies would be coming to his rescue? Cheered by the idea, he followed Dreiden as he was led towards a door in a long corridor. Dreiden pushed it open, gesturing for Xander to enter. “Will you be able to find your way back down to the main salon?” Xander turned towards Dreiden to say yes, he would have no problem when his vision blurred and he found himself falling to the floor.
Spike – looking not quite like himself, something about his hair – bleeding and panting for breath. Dreiden – stripped down to just exercise pants, standing over Spike in full game face. Angel, standing to one side screaming at Spike to get to his feet. Surrounded by a crowd of vampires, baying for blood.
A shift. A huge bed. The viewpoint switched and he was suddenly looking up from the bed, his arms and legs tied so that he couldn't move. Turning his head he could see the bed was on a dais, surrounded by a smaller group of solemn vampires, all in game face, staring intently at him. A weight on the other side of the bed caught his attention, and he turned to see -
A splash of water in his face brought Xander back to himself, screaming hoarsely.....
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