Prior Claim


Part Four

The formal invitation to the Challenge and Claiming Ceremony arrived the next evening. They were all sat in the dining room, trying to ignore the tension that was palpable. The aftermath of Angel and Buffy's pronouncement – firstly, that Buffy had accepted Angel's claim and 'forgotten' to mention it to Giles and Willow, and secondly that Spike was gong to have to claim Xander, had led to an extremely long and loud argument.

Spike had flounced out of the room (he would like to say it was a dramatic exit but he admitted to himself it was more like a toddler's tantrum), running up the stairs to sit on the roof, smoking there until the sunrise. Part of the problem was that he didn't know why he wasn't happier. It wasn't as if he and Xander hadn't started something when the man visited LA. If it hadn't been for another apocalypse, they would probably be together already. But maybe that was it – he wanted to be chosen, not be forced on the man in a life or death situation. Who the hell wanted to be a fate only just better than death? And damn it all, it had felt like they were well on the way to something special. Now he might never know what Xander felt for him.

Oh he'd do it. Went without saying there was no way he could let the man go through a forced claim. He knew Angel had explained it all to Buffy if not to the watcher and the witch. A vampire could claim someone unwillingly, but instead of it being an equal relationship, the human tended to be little more than a shadow, forced to do whatever the vampire wanted. Which was more than likely what this wanker Dreiden was planning.

He spent the day in his room – sleeping, knocking back copious amounts of (freely volunteered) human blood so that he was on top form for the coming fight, and attempting to write in his journal. He had been keeping the journal since just after Fred's death – he found it helped him deal with his soul's madness and clear his thoughts. But he couldn't get his thoughts straight, kept coming back to the fact that he was tying himself to someone for the rest of his unlife and he had no idea how this person felt about him. It didn't seem to occur to him to wonder how he felt about Xander....


“Kill the messenger?” Spike smirked as Angel nodded. Sometimes he and his Sire definitely agreed on the right way to do things.

"So what now? We ride in and save Xander?"

"Buffy - "

"Ok, kidding, and how Xander always gets away with the badly timed humour I don't know."

"That's cos he doesn't either," replied Willow.

“So, what are the potential results of the claiming ceremony?” Glasses freshly cleaned, Giles was unable to stop himself trying to gather information. He had been most upset by Buffy keeping that aspect of her life secret, although he could actually understand why she had done so. He knew she was worried about their responses – Angel's reappearance in her life following the fruition of his plan to decimate Wolfram and Hart from the inside had been the occasion for one of the worst arguments he had ever had with his slayer – worse, even than her reaction to him threatening Spike with Robin Wood.

“Dreiden has formally challenged for ownership of Xander in his new position as Seer. I can't accept the challenge because – well, anyway, Spike goes in, with me as his Sire and Second, accepts the challenge and fights Dreiden. When he wins, we hope they will let us leave with Xander and complete the actual claim elsewhere.”

“I don't understand.”

“They could insist that the claiming ceremony happens then and there.” Willow looked up from her plate, a frown between her brows.

“When you say claiming ceremony – is this like a wedding thing or are we talking about some icky vampire thing?” Spike and Angel exchanged looks, and Buffy blushed deeply.

“Depends what you mean by some icky vampire thing, Luv.” Giles' glasses came off and he wiped them furiously.

“Is it an exchange of words or - ”

“Willow, I don't think we really need to know all the details. I am actually rather more concerned with the aftermath. The thought that there is a Vampire Court running so close to the New Watcher's Council is of grave concern, although obviously if Spike wins the challenge the Court will, I assume, fall to him.”

“That's all well and good Giles, but I would like to know what Spike will be doing to Xander.” She sounded so reasonable that anyone not knowing her would have thought it was merely idle curiosity. But Spike could see that she was very concerned, and as a pissed off witch was the absolute last thing he wanted on his arse, he got to his feet.

“Let's go for a walk Red.” She looked up at him, then nodded and followed him out of the room.

They left the house leaving the others to discus the ramifications of a souled vampire running a Vampire Court, both turning left to follow the pathway round the gardens. Lighting a cigarette, Spike inhaled and waited.

“Will it hurt him?” He shook his head, exhaling.

“Not if it's done right, no. And whether you like it or not, it would be better for him that it's me instead of Dreiden.”

“That's not – well okay that's part – but I really - ”

“Wanna try to finish a sentence there, luv? Give me something to work with here.” Willow scowled at him, then gave a sheepish smile.

“Sorry. Just worried. I know you and Angel said that this Dreiden will have to treat Xander well until the challenge, but I can't help but be concerned. I don't want Xander to have to do something he doesn't want to do – he's lost the most out of all of us since we started fighting with Buffy. I can't help but wish he could have something resembling a happy ending.”

“Claiming ceremony is based around sex and blood – as is pretty much anything vampire-related. You know me and the boy were 'seeing' each other a bit before?” She blushed but nodded. “Well, we didn't get physical but that was more lack of time than lack of inclination on both our parts.” She blushed again, but gestured for him to carry on. “They'll want the ceremony done in front of the vampire court, proof that I'm not some random vamp but someone with a vested interest rather than just trying to take over Dreiden's area. They won't much care if it's mutual or not, just so long as one of theirs has the Seer under his domain. S'why the Pouf was never challenged for the Cheerleader – most vamps were happy that under the soul, Angelus had control over a Seer and would do what was needed to keep things ticking over if you will. No one wants another Cassandra.”

“Another Cassandra? I thought that was just legend or am I thinking of a different Cassandra?”

“The main bits are the same. The big problem was that no-one believed her when she told them about what she had seen – vamps value the information Seers provide because it means they can stay ahead of the game. That's why Xander is so important.” She nodded her understanding and seemed marginally happier. Somehow, Spike knew that wasn't an end to it all.

“Can I ask you something?”

“Ya can ask – don't mean I'll answer.”

“You said you and Xander were seeing each other. Does that mean you care about him – even just a little?” Finishing the cigarette, he flicked it off into the rosebushes, debating how to answer her.

“Yeah, you could say that.”

“Ok, I can see you don't really want to have this conversation with me. But Spike – you have to know Xander by now. If you feel anything for him, make sure you tell him before you claim him. He needs to know that he's wanted for himself, not just because someone has been forced into it.” His head whipped round and he met her eyes. “I would think you would understand that.” He dropped his eyes, unwilling for her to see that she had struck uncomfortably close to home, although he got the feeling she knew very well.

“Right – s'that it? Can we go back inside now?”

“Yeah, sure.” They turned back towards the house, picking up their pace from the stroll it had been. “Spike, whatever you might think – Xander does care about you. When he came back from LA he was happier than I'd seen him in a long time. Please don't think you're in this alone.” He froze in place and watched as she slipped into the house. How had she known that was how he was feeling?


The vision had wiped him out for the rest of the night and most of the following day. Following his screaming emergence back to reality, Dreiden had carried him into his room and deposited him on the bed. For a psychopathic vamp, he'd actually been very solicitous - providing Xander with painkillers for his headache, a helping hand getting to and from the bathroom, and ordering a small tray of food. If he hadn't been being kept prisoner, Xander would have considered the care taken of him following the vision to be top-notch. Unfortunately, the vampire guards placed outside his bedroom door reinforced his feelings of claustrophobia.

He sat in the bed, head in his hands, still feeling disorientated. He didn't even know what ceremony Dreiden had been talking about, but he somehow knew there was no way he wanted to be Dreiden's consort. And how shitty a deal was it that his very first vision happened when he was here, surrounded by enemies instead of safe with his friends? He jerked is head upwards as the door opened, unconsciously lifting his knees towards his chest beneath the sheet when Dreiden walked in.

"Ah Seer Alexander, I'm so glad that you are awake! It is time to prepare for the ceremony."

"What? I mean, hey, listen, do you think you could explain to me exactly what this ceremony is?"

"How incredibly remiss of me - I do apologise." Dreiden sat at the end of the bed, hands clasped loosely at his waist. Xander tucked his feet beneath him, pulling as far away from the vampire as he could get. "Very simply, with your elevation to Seer, it is time for you to come out from the Slayer's umbrella - you are not merely one of her minions any longer. Of course, as the Slayer is aligned with the Souled Ones, it is necessary to challenge them formally. But once that is dealt with, you shall become my Consort and enjoy a very long and fulfilling life by my side. We shall rule the English Vampire Courts together, you and I." Dreiden was waving his hands around enthusiastically.

"Hey! I have never been a minion - and that's way beside the point! I want to know what this ceremony you keep going on about actually involves?"

"Very simply - once I have slain Angelus and William the Bloody, I shall make you mine. We will spend an eternity together as Vampire King and Seer!"

Part Five

Ceremonial robes didn't suit him. Apart from how incredibly difficult they were to walk in, there was the complete lack of any undergarments – everything seemed very breezy and hanging loose in a less than comfy fashion as he was escorted to the main hall by a Vampire Guard of six. Dreiden had been quite disappointed by his lack of reaction to being the King's Seer, and he'd had to do some swift talking to convince the vampire that he was overwhelmed by the honour rather than completely horrified at the thought of Dreiden slaughtering Spike and Angel. When he had been presented with his own Honour Guard – six of Dreiden's finest vampires, he had made sure to thank the vampire enthusiastically. He didn't want to make him mad by not showing his appreciation. He lowered his head – the hood that was part of the ceremonial robes narrowed his field of vision more than the patch, and he didn't really want to see just how many other vampires Spike and Angel were going to have to deal with to get him safely out of there.

As he entered the great hall, he gave a small gasp, the change wrought in the room slightly overwhelming. The benches the vampires had previously sat on had been removed, and at the far end of the room where the thrones had been was now a dais. And on top of the dais was an extremely large bed. He stumbled, caught swiftly by one of his guards who released him almost immediately. It would seem as though no one had permission to touch him – obviously one of the rules of the Challenge. They walked him straight towards the dais and he gulped. If he let them tie him to that bed, he was well and truly trapped – there was no way he would be able to escape those chains – the handcuffs the previous night had been enough to keep him in place. But what else could he do? It wasn't as though he could overpower any of the other beings in the room with him. Sighing in frustration, he took the three steps up the dais, holding the robes up with his hands and feeling like a woman wearing a long dress. Without being told, he climbed onto the bed and allowed them to chain his hands. He had to put his trust in Angel and Spike, that they would make sure he got out of this in one piece. And surely two against one meant they would win, right?

Slumped on the bed in a half-sitting position, he contemplated how many times this made it now that he'd had to be saved? Oh he knew he was a valuable member of the Scoobies – without him, Buffy would have died at the hands of the Master; Halloween would have been more of a disaster; they wouldn't have beaten the Mayor at graduation; he was the heart of the group that enabled them to defeat Adam; without him, Willow would have ended the world. And now the Powers had chosen him to be the Seer – an honour, a privilege, a pain in his ass, but a demonstration of their faith in his strength. But at the moment he didn't feel particularly strong – he felt weak, feeble and pissed off at needing to be rescued. And his fucking eye was itching under the patch something fierce, and with his wrists chained to the bed he couldn't even reach it to have a good scratch.

The noise levels lessened, and he lifted his head slightly in the hood, watching as the great doors were opened once more and a voice intoned: “Challenger for the right to claim the Seer Alexander, Master Dreiden, House of Lincoln, master of Lower London.”

Dreiden strode into the room, full of confidence, almost bouncing as he walked to the middle of the great hall and waited. He was dressed in what looked like a karate outfit, his feet bare. A frisson of alarm went down Xander's spine – Dreiden looked like a master in full control of himself, ready and willing to do whatever it took to get what he wanted.

“Challenger for the right to claim the Seer Alexander, Master Angelus, now known as Angel, House of Aurelius, formerly of Ireland and now joint master of the City of LA.” Angel's entrance was more low-key than Dreiden but no less menacing for that. Deadboy was in full on brood mode, brow heavy as he scowled at everyone in the room as he strode to the middle of the floor. He was dressed the way he was always dressed – dark trousers, dark shirt, long duster. He looked like a master who felt no need of dramatics to make his presence felt – his reputation proceeded him, his longevity proof that he could more than take care of himself.

“Challenger for the right to claim the Seer Alexander, Master William the Bloody, now known as Spike, House of Aurelius, formerly of London, formerly master of the Hellmouth in Sunnydale, now joint master of the City of LA.” In spite of himself, Xander was vaguely impressed and he smirked. He had never considered Spike's credentials like that but it did sound very impressive. And then his breath caught in his throat as Spike made his entrance.

He prowled into the room, sharp blue eyes taking stock of everyone and everything. He had shaved his head so that the peroxide blond overly-gelled curls were no more. Instead he had a dark buzz cut that made Xander's palms itch and tingle with the urge to stroke his hands over it. The dark hair made his eyes stand out, piercing, crystal cut, all-seeing. Black leather trousers, black skin-tight vest, black leather duster and steel-toe capped Doc Maartens completed the look – menacing, evil as fuck, and please God, all Xander's once they'd got this challenge ceremony over and done with. And he no longer cared about being chained to a bed – if he had his way, Spike should be chained next to him and they could spend the next decade memorising every line and curve of that lean, muscular body. Realising that he was staring into Spike's eyes, and his body was having a more than enthusiastic reaction, Xander smiled, head help up proudly. If William the Bloody, the former master of the Hellmouth in Sunnydale wanted him then he was damned well going to hold his head up high because he was more than worthy. Dreiden and his shit-for-brains pack of vamps could just bring it on – they obviously hadn't dealt with people who had not only survived but beaten a demi-God and destroyed a Hellmouth – they had no idea how outmatched they were!


The general rumble of noise calmed down, and the 'announcer' stepped to the middle of the room where the three master vampires were waiting in a loose triangle, faced off against each other.

“Lords, do you understand the rules of the challenge? There will be no mystical assistance, no third parties, no clan interference? Traditional weapons of claw and fang only..” All three nodded.

“Does anyone wish to cede?”Angel stepped forward, turning to the announcer.

“I cede all claim to the Seer Alexander to my Childe, William the Bloody. The Seer was a Sire's gift many years ago and it is long past time he was claimed. William does not need his Sire to do it for him..”Sneering in Dreiden's direction, Angel then turned to Spike, placed his hands on those laser-sharp cheekbones and took his pink lips in a kiss. Eyes wide, mouth dropping open, Xander shifted uncomfortably on the bed as his mind raced with many many images – images that involved a bed, two vampires, and a former Donut Boy, (and who knew he had looked at Angel that closely the few times he'd seen him doing tai chi in the gardens!?!) For a moment, Spike hung in his Sire's grasp then he reached up and pulled his head closer, attacking his mouth in return as they both shifted into their vampire faces. The crowd of vamps cheered at this show of strength, commitment and family from the House of Aurelius; Dreiden looked distinctly unhappy, obviously displeased at the lack of loyalty from those of his court.

Spike and Angel pulled apart, licking blood from their lips and shifting back into their human guises. Removing his duster, Spike placed his hand to his chest where his un-beating heart lay and said “Thank you Sire.”before handing his coat to Angel and allowing him to move to the side of the room where he was instantly given space to lounge comfortably against a wall.

The announcer coughed delicately to bring order and get everyone's attention back and said to the remaining two Masters :“Do either of you wish to cede?” Spike shook his head, as did Dreiden. “Then by the rules of our Lore, I declare this Challenge officially under way. This will strictly be a battle between the Masters with the winner owning all rights to the Claiming of the Seer Alexander and the loser's territories. Are we in agreement Masters?” Again, both vampires nodded, stepping back from each other. Moving back so that he wasn't stuck between them, the announcer said calmly “Then let it begin.”

Xander had expected Spike to make the first move, but he had obviously learnt patience in his time since Sunnydale as he merely walked around Dreiden, noting his stance, learning the fighting space that was available to him. He looked almost as though he were taking a stroll through a garden, he seemed so casual. Dreiden was bouncing on his heels, following Spike's movements with his body as they assessed each other. One of them had to break the stalemate, and Xander would lay good money that it would be -

“You dare touch what's mine?” Spike snarled, obviously furious.

If he was yours, you did not take good care of him. Obviously Seer Alexander needs a firmer Master, one who will keep a tight grip on him so he doesn't wander off.”

“His name is XANDER!” Spike roared before attacking Dreiden with a flurry of blows. Blocking, Dreiden stumbled backwards, taken by surprise by the ferocity of the attack. Catching a thrusting arm, he twisted and spun Spike round, hurtling him into the wall. Quicker than lightning, Spike turned back, a spin kick catching Dreiden to the head and sending him reeling backwards. He followed him, stamping at Dreiden's unprotected back, flipping over backwards as Dreiden caught his leg and tried to pull him over.

Jumping to his feet, Dreiden rushed Spike, punching, kicking and pushing the vampire backwards, before Spike once more took the advantage. The crowd of vampires were roaring as the fight ranged from wall to wall, using the whole floor as the two vampires battled it out. Claw and fang seemed to be pretty nasty weapons judging by the gouges that appeared on each vampire, Spike's shirt hanging in tatters from his neck, barely covering his chest as it was marked up from numerous claw marks, Dreiden's gi jacket hanging off him. They seemed very equally matched, a thought that distressed Xander as he realised this was not going to be a simple fight and stake effort – Spike was truly fighting for his life.

Suddenly, Dreiden slammed Spike into the floor, smacking the vampire's head against the concrete and stunning him. Xander pulled to the limit of his chains as Dreiden stood over Spike, a quick glance to the side showing Angel shouting at Spike to get to his feet. Impatiently, Dreiden dragged the gi jacket off so that he was standing over Spike in full game face. Time slowed down for Xander as the vision came back to him:

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, stood to one side screaming at Spike to get to his feet. Surrounded by a crowd of vampires, baying for blood.

Before his horrified gaze, a minion tossed Dreiden a stake which he drove down towards Spike's chest aiming directly for his heart.

Part Six

The speed of Spike's reaction astounded Xander. Wriggling like an eel, he slipped to one side, growling as the stake went through his shoulder and almost pinned him to the concrete floor with the strength Dreiden put behind it. With Dreiden committed to the move he was making, Spike used his unfettered hand to grab hold of Dreiden's hair and wrench his head back, lurching upwards to rip his throat out with his sharp fangs. Dreiden staggered back, clutching at his bleeding throat, shock all over his face. Growling and snarling, Spike leapt to his feet and stalked after his victim. Lashing out with his foot, he broke one of Dreiden's kneecaps with a loud snap, and as the vampire's leg collapsed under him Spike stood over him, wrapped his hands around his head and twisted, pulling it off with a wrench, dust scattering around him.

A stunned silence overtook the room then there was a concerted roar from the gathered assembly! Speeding towards Spike, Angel ripped at his own wrist and offered it to the staggering younger vampire. The minion who had thrown the stake to Dreiden was grabbed and dragged over to the announcer who was once more in the middle of the room.

“Master William is hereby declared winner of the Challenge and has earned the right to Claim the Seer Alexander. Master William, what would you like us to do with this miscreant?” Wiping his mouth on his arm, Spike shrugged back into his proffered duster, leaning against Angel.

“What do your laws say about such treachery?” Angel demanded, fully aware that Spike needed time to recover. The battle had been closer than either of them had been expecting, and the fact that Spike had been millimetres from his final death was a lingering fear for both of them.

“The Laws of the Court are slightly unclear. Obviously this minion was obeying his Lord and Master, and as such could not refuse. However, Master Dreiden failed which makes his court the sole province of Master William now – it is up to him what punishment is doled out.” Shaking himself back to awareness, Spike stood up straight, determined to be strong.

“Right – shove him down in the dungeons – I assume you have dungeons in this place right?” The announcer nodded. “'K – lob him down there for now, will deal with him later.”

“As you wish Master William. And the Seer? The Claiming ceremony should - ”

“Not doin' it now. Going to my room – have his guards bring him up 'lright?” Nodding to Angel, Spike strode out of the great hall, Angel behind him, watching his back. He really hoped Xander understood what was going on – there was no way he wanted to do the Claiming Ceremony now. Apart from not particularly wanting an audience for his first time with the boy, he certainly didn't want to risk having to bite him – the way he felt at the moment, soul or no soul, he wasn't sure he would be able to stop once he started sucking his blood.


“Son of a bitchin' bastard!! Practically gives me a heart attack and then doesn't even look in my direction when he does win. I've a good mind to - ” Realising he was muttering angrily out loud, Xander lowered his head once more, hiding behind the hood. He actually did understand why Spike hadn't come to him straight away – he had seen how much pain the vampire had been in, and could only imagine he needed a great deal of blood about now, and although Xander wanted to belong to Spike and share his body, he didn't want to be Spike's food. And strangely the second part of his vision had come true – one of his vampire guards kneeling on the bed to reach over and release him from his chains. So much for his fears that he was going to be 'claimed' (and that just had to be a euphemism for sex because, hello, talking about vampires after all) in front of all the other vampires in the hall. Instead, there was a small crowd around him as he was released from his bonds to be taken to his 'Master'.

Stepping through the door being held open for him, Xander looked up as Spike walked through from the adjoining bathroom.

“I said I'm alright! Fuck it, I just - ” Looking up, he gestured to the guards. “Get out.” Once the door shut behind them, he walked over and stood in front of Xander but didn't touch him, locking eyes. Not even realising that his hand had moved, Xander lifted his hand and ran his palm gently over the stubble atop Spike's head. It tickled slightly, but felt very nice against his skin. Spike closed his eyes and tilted his head back and forth, brushing his hair against his hand like some man-sized cat. Curling his hand behind Spike's neck, he tugged him forward, still stroking over his head until their lips met. Gently, delicately almost, they kissed for the first time. Xander could taste tobacco, blood, and something underlying that - the essence of Spike. Pulling back, they looked into each other's eyes.

“Kinda milked that for all it was worth, eh Bleachy?”

“Not sure ya can call me that anymore Whelp, 'less you're wanting me to bleach what's left?”

“Nah, kinda like the way it feels.” Spike nodded.

“They treat you alright Pet?” Xander nodded. Apart from a mild concussion, he couldn't complain and it would definitely seem like he'd come through this better than Spike. So far at least. Stroking his hand down Spike's neck, he moved it towards the sluggishly bleeding wound in his shoulder.

“You gonna be alright? That looked - ”

“I'm fine. You're as bad as Peaches. Gimme a chance to knock down a pint or two, and I'll be right as rain. We just need to get out of 'ere as quick as we can.” At the mention of Angel, Xander realised that the other vampire was sat in the corner of the room – he'd been so focussed on Spike that he hadn't even noticed that he was there.

“Will they just let us go?”

Angel sighed. “I'm not sure. Spike is now the Master of Dreiden's court – they might insist on the claiming ceremony happening here and now. If they do – if they do Xander you need to be ready.” Moving towards the bed, Xander sat down, arranging the robes around him carefully so that he didn't show off more than he wanted to.

“Ok, somebody really needs to let me know what this claiming ceremony consists of. And why the heck all of this is happening to me now?”

“Sorry Xander, I forgot you weren't there for all of this stuff. And there isn't a huge amount of time now because they may well want the claiming ceremony to happen sooner rather than later. They will want it here to consolidate Spike's victory and mark you as belonging to this court – a Seer is a great thing to have in your court, and Spike's position will be elevated because of it.” Making a rolling gesture with his hand, Xander turned to Spike – obviously Deadboy wasn't comfortable spilling the details so he would have to rely on Spike.

“Basically? We fuck – I bite ya and claim ya as my consort. You take your place in Court alongside me. They all get to be snobby wankers looking down their noses at other vamps that aren't in our court and don't have their own Seer.”

“Wow! Blunt but full of info. Thanks Spike.” Nodding his head absently, Xander leaned back against the headboard and chewed things over in his head. “We fuck?”

“Uh huh.”

“In front of witnesses I take it?”

“Uh huh.” Cocking his head to one side, Spike wondered whether the other man had finally snapped, his abnormally calm acceptance of things enough to make the hackles rise on the back of Spike's neck.

“Riiight.” Shifting forward on the bed, Xander pushed himself to his feet and walked slowly to the bathroom, closing the door carefully behind him. He slid down the door until he hit the floor, curling his legs up under the robes and dropping his face into his hands. He found himself thinking he was entitled to some quiet freaking out time - perhaps if he closed his eyes for long enough, all of this would turn out to be a rather long-winded, nasty bad dream that he would wake from. His exhibitionist streak had died with him in Oxnard - there was no way in hell he was putting on a sex-show for a bunch of evil vampires, even if Spike was sexier than hell without that peroxide job.

Spike's gaze followed him until the door closed, then he turned and looked at Angel. “Well that went better than I thought it would.”

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