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Carpe Noctem


Part Seven
All Hallow's Eve

“I can’t believe that Snyder is making us do this,” Xander muttered. “Costumes? Not my thing. *Really* not my thing.”

“He hates getting dressed up,” Willow confided to Buffy.

“I don’t blame him,” Buffy said. “Which isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy getting dressed up. Just that I can see why Xander would hate it.”

“Thank you for your support,” Xander said, shooting a hateful glance towards Willow. “She’s after me, every damn year, to try some really cool costume or other.”

“And this year I get my wish,” Willow said smugly. “Costumes are mandatory. Deal with it, baby.”

“Willow, I’m ashamed of you. Taking the opportunity to shamelessly rub your victory in Xander’s face.”

“So, what, you’re ashamed of me because I couldn’t get him to do it on my own and rub it in that way?”

“Well, naturally,” Buffy said. “You could have done better.”

They reached the table in the commons and sat down. Xander immediately grabbed a couple of coins and headed for the drink machine.

“So, no Slayage tomorrow?” Willow asked. “That’s... weird.”

Buffy shrugged. “Dead for the undead, Giles says. Maybe they just think it’s too tacky?”

“I guess. Can’t blame them, if that’s why.”

“Maybe there’s some mystical whoosit that keeps them under wraps.”

“Ask Giles,” Willow said, ending the discussion. Her attention had already turned to Xander, who was standing calmly with a Pepsi in his hand, being glared at by Larry.

“Larry, leave off. She’s not interested. In fact, she could probably kick your ass without trying.”

“Oh, is that right?” Larry growled back. “You think you could take me, Harris?”

Xander shrugged, which seemed to be answer enough for Larry, who pressed one hand to his chest in preparation to shoving him back. Xander moved almost faster than the eye could follow, setting the can down on top of the machine before grabbing the hand on his chest and twisting it painfully behind Larry’s back.

“Go,” he said quietly into Larry’s ear, and when the much larger boy left, rubbing his shoulder, he calmly retrieved the soda and came over to rejoin the girls at their table.

“So,” he said casually. “How’d your date go last night, Buff?”

That shook her out of gaping at him. “Not well,” she admitted. “There was this vampire, and so I was late and looked, well, trashed.”

“Angel didn’t mind?” Willow asked, while Xander popped the top on his soda and took a long swallow.

Buffy grimaced. “He didn’t seem to. Of course, Cordelia hanging all over him might have sweetened his mood a little.”

“Oh, come on, Buffy, Angel would never fall for her,” Willow said immediately. “She’s so not his type.”

“How do I know? I don’t even know what his type *is*” Buffy lamented.

“Strong, beautiful women with mystical destinies, I’m guessing,” Xander said, and when both of them stared at him, he held up his hands. “Look, if you really want to know more about Angel, go raid Giles’ Watcher diaries. I’m sure they’re full of goodies. Just leave me out of it, okay? When Giles asks me if I know anything, I want to be able to smile and say, ‘No idea.’” He looked down at his now-empty can. “I’m gonna go grab lunch. Catch up with you two at the costume shop this afternoon?”

“Sure,” Buffy said, then shared a wide-eyed glance with Willow as soon as he left. “Did you see that?” she hissed. “The thing with Larry. He was all... commanding. Not-Xander.”

“Maybe that’s Xander now?” Willow suggested. Buffy gave her a disbelieving look, and she shook her head. “Okay, so he’s still as goofy as ever, most of the time. When he isn’t dealing with major angst over that guy he’s seeing.”

Buffy heaved a huge sigh of relief. “Oh god, I’m so glad he told you about that,” she said when Willow gave her an odd look. “It was killing me, not being sure if he’d said anything and so not being able to talk about it. What do you think is up with those two, anyway?”

“I don’t know,” Willow admitted. “He told me what was up right after he told you, I think, and he hasn’t said anything since. Maybe nothing’s happened?”

Buffy gave her another get-real look. “The way he’s been acting? No way. There’s something up, that’s for sure. I just don’t know what.”

“Maybe we can find out?” Willow suggested. “Corner him the day after tomorrow, when all this Halloween nonsense is over with? See if we can get the truth out of him?”

Buffy smirked at her. “The girl with the plan, I like it,” she said. “But in the meantime... What say we take up Xander’s suggestion and dig up the dirt on Angel?”

“Hey you two,” Xander said, coming up behind Willow and Buffy in the costume shop. “Picked anything yet?”

Willow held up the package containing the “ghost” costume, and he shook his head. “Willow, Willow, why is it that you rag me about neat costumes and yet pick the oldest gag in the box?”

“See?” A triumphant Buffy turned on Willow. “I told you!”

“You told her what?” Xander asked, confused.

“That Halloween is the night to come as you *aren’t*! The night to go all-out.”

“I totally agree,” Xander said, “which is why I got... this.”

He pulled his own packages out of the bag, and held up a makeup kit. “Vampire,” he explained. “Figured I’d go for that nice, ironic touch. Set of full black clothes, maybe something a little radical, and I’m set.”

Buffy snorted. “I thought this was come-as-you-*aren’t* night, Xander.”

He sneered at her. “I resemble that remark,” he said, his nose in the air, but stopped when he realized that Buffy was no longer paying attention to him.

Instead, she was wandering off between the racks, and when Xander and Willow followed her, they saw what was catching her attention: a beautiful, full-skirted pink ball gown. “It’s so beautiful,” she whispered.

“There was this drawing in the Watcher’s diary,” Willow muttered in aside to Xander.

“Let me guess: beautiful girl?”

“Oh yeah.”

“Here, let me,” a strange man said, emerging from the back. He unzipped the back of the dress and held it up in front if Buffy with a flourish. “Why, it’s you.”

Buffy stared at her reflection in the mirror, her mouth open slightly with awe. “I- I can’t afford this,” she stammered, and the man smiled kindly down at her.

“Nonsense. I feel moved to make you an offer you can’t refuse.”

“It looks great,” Willow said.

“Yeah, go for it, Buff,” Xander said. He was slightly distracted by the man’s personal scent- it was something he felt like he knew, but couldn’t quite place. Odd.

Buffy smiled shyly at the man- shopkeeper, maybe? “You’re sure?”

He smiled back at her. “I’m positive.”

The sun had just gone down when Xander started to lead the rugrats he’d been assigned back to the school. The kids were happy, jumping around and crowing about all the candy they’d gotten, and Xander smiled in spite of himself.

Okay, they were *cute* rugrats.

“Oh, pet, never say that you’ve got dreams of white-picket fences,” Spike’s smoky voice said from behind him. Xander whirled and glared at him, unconsciously positioning his body so that he was shielding the kids behind him.

“Trick-or-treating,” he said carefully. “It’s not voluntary. Spike, what do you want? I thought tonight was the night when you all stayed inside like good vampires.”

Spike snorted. “I’m hardly a ‘good vampire,’ luv,” he pointed out. “Besides, I really wanted to get a look at your Halloween costume.” He gave Xander a slow, up-and-down look, and Xander could see the heat in his blue eyes. “And I’m really, really glad I did.”

Xander shifted uncomfortably. He’d raided the thrift shop for his outfit, and he had to admit, when he’d looked at his reflection earlier, that he looked good. Tight leather pants, heavy black boots, and a very tight black t-shirt that had been cut off just below the chest. He’d unearthed a black dog collar from his basement, bringing back memories of his family’s one ill-fated attempt to keep a pet, and had let Buffy mess around with eyeliner. His hair was styled in carefully-mussed waves over his forehead, and combined with the expensive fake fangs he had in his mouth, he knew that he looked damn good. Dangerous, even. Sexy.

Spike apparently agreed, if the look in his eyes was anything to go by. “Vampire, hmmm? Good to know that there’s always someone to go for the classics.”

“Spike, I have to get the kids back,” Xander said, keeping his voice steady with effort.

Spike laughed, throwing his head back. “You’re so sweet and respectable,” he mocked. “Ah well, I’ll just have to find you later. Can’t waste the night, eh? Not when you’re looking like that, pet.”

“Alright, then,” Xander said, still carefully. The kids behind him were shifting restlessly, with no idea of what danger they were in. “Later. After all the kids are home safe. It’ll be just me and you.”

“Just the way I like it, pet,” Spike said. “It’s a date.” He turned to leave.

Xander froze, feeling his heart shudder, and slow, and... stop.

He smiled.

“Spike,” he called, and the vampire turned around. He gave him a smile filled with fangs.

Real ones.

“How about we have that date now?”

Willow was worried. Really, really worried. All around her, everyone was turning into their costumes, and if Xander had dressed as a vampire... Bad. Very bad. Excessive badness.

She had to find Buffy.

Buffy, she discovered two minutes later, was no longer Buffy. Instead, she was some helpless, fainting noblewoman, and why, oh why had she encouraged her friend to dress up in a fancy dress? This was a disaster. All around them, demons were ranging the streets, and here they were, without a Slayer. They were even without a pseudo-vampire-good-guy, since Xander was almost certainly a vampire now, and therefore wasn’t likely to be willing to help them.

Angel! That’s right, Angel could help them. The only problem was, she wasn’t exactly sure where he lived. She had his phone number and everything, but she didn’t-

Phone number. She could work with that. Buffy’s house was nearby, and she could call Angel to come and look after them. As a nice bonus, it would get them off the streets.

If she could just get Buffy to wake up and move...

Xander smirked as Spike gave him a wondering look. “Well,” Spike said, almost to himself, “Dru had said that tonight was going to be interesting, but I hadn’t quite envisioned this.” He glanced behind Xander, and saw a bunch of young demons and one screaming princess. “Costumes, is it? I think I like this.”

“The man who sold the costumes, Ethan Rayne? He’s a Chaos mage. I wasn’t sure what I was smelling on him, but I can recognize it now, somehow. Cloves and blood. Chaos magic.”

Spike smiled at him and prowled a couple steps closer. “Well, here’s to the Chaos bloke, then,” he whispered. “He just made my night.”

“Got a nice private place we can take this?” Xander said, almost casually. “Pavement is just so last year.”

Spike let out a short bark of laughter. “Can’t say as I object to moving this party somewhere else,” he said. “Long as we make it fast.”

“Oh yeah,” Xander said, staring at Spike with weeks of pent-up lust in his eyes. “We’re gonna make it fast. But once we get started, we’re gonna take it really... really... slow...”

Spike’s pupils flared. “Hell yes,” he said hoarsely. “Just the way I like it.

Xander grabbed his arm and hauled him into a rough kiss. “Let’s get out of here,” he whispered into Spike’s mouth. “Yesterday.”

“Oh yeah,” Spike said. “I know just the place.”

Willow was getting desperate. Buffy wouldn’t wake up, and she couldn’t exactly shake her shoulder or slap her or anything, and there was a little band of kid-size demons moving their way. Unless Buffy woke up, now, they were pretty much doomed.

“Willow! Are you okay?”

Her head snapped up. “Angel! Oh god, Angel, it’s so good to see you.”

Angel whipped his head around to snarl at the pint-size demons, which all made nervous yipping noises and took off. He turned back to Willow, his vampire features fading away, and said, “It’s complete chaos out here. What’s going on?”

“Everyone turned into their costumes!” Willow said. “It’s like some weird nightmare.”

Angel gave her an odd look. “And you were going as...”

“A ghost,” she said with asperity. When Angel raised on eyebrow, she said, “I had a sheet on, okay? I was a ghost. Now I am a ghost, for real. And Buffy won’t wake up.”

Angel muttered to himself for a minute, then scooped Buffy up in his arms. “Okay. We’re going to her house. You go to Giles, and see if he knows what the hell is going on. Send anyone who’s in danger towards her house.”

“Got it,” Willow said. “And Angel? Xander was dressed as a vampire. What am I supposed to do about him?”

“There’s nothing you can do,” he said grimly. “We’ll just have to hope that he doesn’t do any damage while he’s out. The most we can do right now is find out how to reverse it, and for that you need to talk to Giles. Go to him, and go fast.”

“Okay,” she said, and took off, moving much faster without an actual body to tie her down.

“Abandoned building?” Xander said, as Spike pulled him through the door. “Color me unsurprised.”

“Is that the came color as ‘amazed,’ by any chance?” Spike snarked, and shut the door behind them. He immediately turned and grabbed Xander, almost crushing his biceps with the force of his grip. “I’ve wanted you since I saw you,” he said hoarsely. “Whatever you can say about Angelus, I have to admit that he’s got good taste.”

Xander narrowed his eyes. “Fuck me,” he said. “On the floor, against the wall, I don’t care. Been waiting way too long now.”

Spike hissed, and lifted him to press him against the crumbling wall. “Feels like I’ve been waiting forever,” he gritted out, wrestling with the fastenings on his own and Xander’s pants.

“I want you,” Xander growled. “Now, tomorrow, pretty much however I can get you. Though I’d prefer it if you’d be inside me right now.”

“Working on it, mate,” Spike snapped, and gave a sigh of relief when he managed to push both their pants down. “Slick?”

Xander shook his head, so Spike shrugged and morphed to game face, biting neatly into the inside of his own wrist. He let the blood flow down into his hand, then brought his fingers up to roughly press into Xander’s opening.

Xander hissed and threw his head back, panting through his fangs, and said, in a voice almost too low to be heard, “More.

Spike grinned, snaking out his tongue to play over the tips of his own fangs, and said, “My pleasure,” before pulling Xander over his hips and slamming all the way home.

“Ethan, I know you’re in here,” Giles said, quite calmly considering the rage that was boiling just under his skin. “You wouldn’t pull this stunt, then not hang around to watch and gloat.”

“Hello, Ripper,” Ethan said. “It’s been a long time.” Giles said nothing, just stared at him with anger in his eyes, and Ethan shrugged. “What, no hug for your old mate?”

“I should have known it was you,” Giles said.

“Yes, you should have,” Ethan said. “You know me better than anyone, Ripper old boy.”

“I thought I did,” Giles said. “But then, people change.”

“Do they really?” Ethan said, arching one eyebrow. “I’m not sure they do. Take you, for example.”

“Oh, let’s not.”

“Oh, let’s do. You’re the Slayer’s Watcher now, aren’t you? Tweed and dust, books and tea, and all the while they have no idea what you’re capable of. It’s almost sweet, except... no, it’s really not. It’s just sad.”

“Sad?” Giles glared at him. “What’s sad is a man who’s more than old enough to know better, wreaking havoc on the Hellmouth because you want attention.” Giles spat out the word. “Well, Ethan, you’ve got my attention now.” His fist shot out suddenly, colliding with Ethan’s jaw with a sickening crunch. He smiled nastily as Ethan fell, and said, “All the attention you can stand.”

This was what Xander had been dreaming about. Cool skin, very slightly flushed with stolen blood, moving against his, and obscenities hissed in his ear in a low Cockney accent while Spike pounded into him, and it hurt just so, just enough to make sparks fly across the blackness of his eyelids. Oh god, just like that, just a little more...

A strangled half-scream erupted from his lips as he came, and Spike moaned against the side of his neck when the clasping of Xander’s inner muscles pulled him, too into orgasm. They collapsed into a sticky heap on the floor, panting for breath they didn’t need.

“God, pet,” Spike said when they could speak again. “If I’d known that you’d give me a ride like that, I wouldn’t have waited all these weeks.”

Xander lifted his head and smirked at him. “That’s sweet,” he said. “But won’t Drusilla have something to say about it?”

Spike rolled his eyes. “Like that one would even notice, much less mind if I was playing around? ‘Sides, why do you care?”

“I don’t,” Xander said with a shrug. “I was being polite.”

“Being a right bastard is more like it,” Spike said. “But that’s okay. I like a little evil in my man.”

“That’s so sweet,” Xander said, giving a fake simper and fluttering his eyelashes. “I do believe I shall swoon.”

Spike snorted. “Better not,” he said. “I’m not done with you yet, luv. Nowhere near done.”

“Oh really?” Spike thought idly that Xander made a damn good vampire- he even had the evil smirk down, when most new vamps just looked like slightly backwards children with fangs.

“Yeah,” Spike said, and leaned down to lightly scrape his teeth over the pulse that Xander didn’t have. “Haven’t had a chance to taste this, yet.”

Xander tilted his head to the side for better access, then moved his head just so; his mouth was near Spike’s ear, now, and he whispered, “Just so long as I get to taste you, too,” and sunk his fangs into Spike’s earlobe.

Spike gave a hiss of pained delight, and bit down.

“Well,” Ethan choked out, “Here’s one thing that hasn’t changed. You’re still a right bastard, Ripper.”

“Tell me how to break the spell, Ethan,” Giles said.

“Or what?”

Giles landed another hard kick on his ribs. “What do you think?”

“I can’t believe I missed this,” Ethan said, mostly to himself.

“Because you’re a pain addict?” Giles suggested. “Always looking for bigger and badder, aren’t you? Well, congratulations. You got me.” Another kick.

“Break the goddamn statue,” Ethan growled. “I’m done with this.”

“Oh no, I’m just getting started,” Giles said, but he grabbed the statue, and brought it smashing to the ground.

Spike knew something was wrong. Xander had given a choked gasp and pulled away, and now the blood flowing across his tongue was hot with life, pulsed out by the now-beating heart on the man under him.

So he wasn’t really that surprised when Xander wrenched his head away from his neck and shoved him violently away. He fell gracelessly onto his bare ass, and watched as Xander scrambled to his feet, one hand pressed to his bleeding neck and the other hitching his leather pants up around his hips.

“Gonna just fuck and run, pet?” Spike said, because he had to say something. Xander glared at him, and fastened his pants as fast as he could, not answering him.

“No hug? No kiss? No ‘see you later’?”

Xander glared harder. “I’m leaving,” he said harshly.

“What, going to go home and start pretending that this didn’t happen?”

“Bet your ass,” Xander snapped. “Stay the hell away from me from now on, Spike. I see you, I’m gonna dust you- I don’t care what it takes.”

Spike just watched him as he walked away. “Would you really, pet?” he said softly when Xander was gone. “I don’t think so. You’re mine, now, and I’m not the only one who knows it. You’ll be seeing me around, luv. Don’t think you won’t.”

“You look like hell,” Willow told him bluntly and hour later, when he showed up on her doorstep. Xander gave her a bitter look and went inside, going straight up to her room and ignoring the wide-eyed looks her parents gave him.

She followed him silently into the bathroom, where he started pulling down first-aid supplies. “Everyone’s okay, thanks for asking,” she said pointedly.

He just shot her a not-remotely-guilty look. “You would have told me first off if they weren’t,” was all he said, and hissed with pain as he slapped a rag soaked in hydrogen peroxide to the puncture wounds on his neck.

“Of course, you could just wear a hair shirt on your days off,” Willow said, giving a wide-eyed glance to the bottle still in his hand. “Xander, that stuff burns.”

“No, you think?” he snapped, then caught a glimpse of the hurt expression on her face, and finally, finally, lost some of the bitter expression and looked contrite. “Wills, I’m sorry. It was just... a really bad night.”

She looked pointedly at his neck. “I see that.”

He shook his head. “Worse than that,” he said. When she opened her mouth, he held up a hand. “Which I’m not going to tell you about, so don’t even ask. Just accept that it’s been a bad enough night that a few more near-death experiences would have made it a pleasant vacation.”

“Ouch,” she winced. He fumbled, trying to get the bandage in place, and she stepped forward, brushing his hands away to do it for him. “But let me ask this: did it have anything to do with this guy you won’t talk about?”

His stillness was answer enough, and she shook her head as she neatly taped the edges of the gauze. “I won’t say anything, because you’ve made it clear that you don’t want to talk about it. But I’ll tell you this: I understand. A run-in with a vampire and a run-in with your somethingorother, on the same night- not exactly a walk in the park. I get that. I also get the not-wanting-to-talk thing, but I want you to know- I’m always here to listen, if that’s what you want. Or to sit in meditative silence, if you want that instead.”

He was silent for a minute, and she was worried that she’d said something wrong, screwed everything up somehow, but when he turned his head to look at her he finally cracked a smile. “Can I have a hug?” he said, and she wrapped her arms around him as tight as she could.

They stood like that in silence for a few long minutes, but then he peeled her off and tucked her under his arm, turning towards the mirror. “Look at us,” he said with a ghost of his usual grin. “The Slut Twins of Sunnydale.”

She laughed. “Yeah, we do kinda have that ‘slut’ vibe going, don’t we?”

“Oh yeah.”

“You do look really good,” she offered. “Well, the bandage kind of ruins it, but I mean... before. You looked great.”

“You still look great,” he said. “Not a look I’m used to seeing on my Wills, I grant you, but great. Sexy.”

She hugged him again, just because she could. “You too,” she said. “Definitely, you too.”

“Yeah,” he said, staring at his image in the mirror, his expression haunted. “Yeah, I got that a lot tonight.”

She looked up at him, but he just shook his head. “It’s nothing,” he said. “Look, I gotta get home, okay?”

She nodded mutely, and he gave her a hug before leaving the bathroom and bounding down the steps. She watched him from her bedroom window, and didn’t miss the defeated set of his head, or the defensive slump of his shoulders that he hadn’t had since... well, since he’d gotten a dose of Angel’s blood and became super-Xander.

She reached for the phone, about to call Buffy, but stopped with her hand just over the receiver, wracked with indecision. Usually she and Buffy told each other everything, but... Well, Buffy had Angel there, and she could always tell Buffy the next day at school.

She knew she wouldn’t, though. She was really worried about Xander, but this was something he had to work out on his own, and Buffy wasn’t exactly known for thinking before rushing into a situation. She’d try to hunt down this guy on her own, and then she’d beat him up, and things would just be that much worse for Xander.

So she’d wait. And watch. Maybe Xander would work things out with his somethingorother, or maybe he wouldn’t. Either way, she’d be there to pick up the pieces when it all fell apart.

Part Eight

“Hey, what are you two up to?”

Buffy looked up at Xander and sighed. “Just playing a quick game of anywhere but here. So far, we’ve been to an island beach, and Florence, Italy.”

“Ahhh,” Xander said. “At the moment, I have to go for, ‘home, asleep.’”

Willow gave him a sympathetic look. “It must have been a long night. Usually you go for, ‘Amy Yip at the waterslide park.’”

“Well, besides the fact that Amy Yip doesn’t exactly ring my bells anymore, yeah, it was a long night.”

When he said nothing else, Buffy poked him in the side. “So, tell. Did you patrol or something?”

He hitched one shoulder defensively. “Just couldn’t sleep, is all,” he said. “It’s not big deal. Everyone has nights like that, right?”

Willow patted his arm. “Of course we do,” she said, shooting a warning glare at Buffy. “It happens to us all.”

Buffy nodded, having caught the hint. “Sure. Just last week I was up for almost three nights straight. I was exhausted all day, but I just couldn’t go to sleep. Mom swears by hot milk, though- did you try that?”

Xander gave her a look that said he wasn’t fooled, but was grateful, nonetheless, for her playing along. “I’ll try that tonight, maybe,” he said. “If it happens again.”

He spotted Giles heading towards them and waved. “Hey, G-Man! What’s the haps?”

Giles blinked at them, looking slightly befuddled, but then, Southern California slang often eluded him. “Er, what?”

“What’s going on?” Willow translated. “Anything interesting?”

“Well, delivery night is tonight,” he said. It was Buffy’s turn to blink, but Xander nodded, since he spent more time actually talking with Angel, rather than making with the kissing, and therefore knew what Giles was talking about.

“The donor blood that gets delivered to the hospital, Buff,” Xander explained. “Vamp Meals on Wheels.”

“Hopefully not,” Giles said severely. “Buffy, I need you to meet me at eight thirty, sharp.”

Buffy winced. “I, well, kinda promised my mom I’d stay in with her tonight. Um, Xander could you- No,” she interrupted herself. “You need to sleep tonight.”

Xander shrugged. “It’s no big deal,” he said. “I can spare an hour or so to protect the interests of the injured citizens of Sunnydale. Eight thirty, Giles?”

Giles looked like he wanted to protest, but after a moment he nodded. “I’ll bring the weaponry.”

Xander nodded agreement, then waved a silent goodbye and turned to leave, without any warning. Buffy and Willow both watched him walk away, and waited till he was out of earshot before they turned towards each other and Buffy said, “Is it just me, or is Xander very much not okay?”

Willow nodded. “He’s not okay. We’re definitely agreed on that.”

“He did look somewhat... less than at his best,” Giles said hesitantly. “Do either of you have an idea as to what might be wrong?”

“Well, there’s this guy,” Willow started.

“And apparently he’s really messing with Xander’s head,” Buffy continued.

“Xander’s not dealing with it very well.”

“With the not sleeping, and everything.”

“And he’s been patrolling a lot more than he lets on, so he’s probably getting even less sleep than he admits to.”

“And Angel told me that Xander talks to him on the phone sometimes, and even he’s worried about him.”

“That’s... interesting,” Giles managed, trying to take in the flood of information. “Do you know who this person is, that’s bothering Xander so much?”

“No.” Buffy looked both sulky and militant, somehow. “If I knew who he was, then I’d have tracked him down and kicked his ass already.”

Willow nodded with an uncommonly bloodthirsty glint in her eye. “I agree with Buffy,” she said. “Xander’s a good guy. I’ve known him forever, and he’s never done anything to deserve this. Well, except possibly calling me a boogerhead in first grade.”

Giles sighed and took off his glasses to polish them. “We can’t get involved in this,” he said gently. “Even if we knew who this person was- do you really think that Xander would appreciate your interference?” Both girls were silent. “He needs to work this out on his own.”

“I know,” Buffy sighed. “Do we have to like it?”

Giles smiled at her. “No, you don’t have to like it.”

Xander tapped one finger over the face of his watch. “Half an hour late,” he muttered to himself. “Giles, if I weren’t so tired I would almost think this was funny.”

He heard the thrum of an engine, and watched with interest as the van pulled up and the driver handed off the cooler to the two doctors that were waiting for him. Then the wind changed, blowing their scent to Xander’s nose, and his eyes narrowed.


He waited till the van had driven off to make his move, then almost groaned aloud when he saw the car start up in the shadows and pull forward. Three of them? Great. Make my night.

One of them opened the cooler and pulled out one of the packets. Xander closed his eyes, almost tempted to just forget it and let evil have their way for one night, but... No. He was the good guy, the white hat, stalwart and true. He fought evil. He prevented evil from stealing blood when they were too damn lazy to hunt it down themselves.

He sighed, once, to make himself feel better, and charged.

He laid out two of them with the first few blows, but the third came up behind him and knocked him flat on his ass. He managed to kick free of its grip and pull a stake free, but when he was about to bring it down he stopped himself, realizing that their little group had one more member.

“Xander?” Angel said, and Xander gave a little sarcastic wave before launching himself at the vampire that was just now regaining his feet, right behind Angel’s back.

Between the two of them they managed to dust both of the fake doctors, but other one drove off, thankfully without the blood in the back seat of his car. Xander shuddered to think what Buffy would have had to say about him losing the blood he’d been sent to protect.

“They only ruined one package,” Angel said from the cooler, where he was kneeling and checking the contents. “The rest are good to go.”

Xander smiled tiredly at him. “Good to hear it.”

Angel nudged the lid back down and stood up, studying his face critically. “You don’t look so good,” Angel said finally. “Even more than the last time I saw you. Buffy said you weren’t sleeping?”

Xander shrugged. “Yeah,” he said. “I’m sure I’ll get over it. I’d take sedatives, but, well, not really likely to work on me.”

“Drugs aren’t as potent with vampires,” Angel said apologetically. “If you’re that tired, why are you here?”

“Buffy had a thing with her mom,” Xander explained. “She couldn’t away to take care of this, so I was volunteered. Giles was supposed to meet me, but...” He lifted one hand in a what-can-you-say gesture.

“Why don’t you go home?” Angel suggested. “I can make sure that this gets safely into the hospital.”

Xander sighed as he considered the offer. “Can you call Buffy when you get home?” he said. “Giles wasn’t here, and it’s not really like him to be late, so Buffy should probably swing by his place and make sure everything’s okay. I’d do it, but...”

“But that would defeat the point of going home and getting some sleep,” Angel pointed out. “Go. I can handle things for one night.”

Xander shot him a grateful, if somewhat worn, smile. “Thanks, man,” he said. “I owe you one.”

Angel watched Xander walk away. “You don’t owe me anything,” Angel said, mostly to himself since Xander was out of earshot, even with vampire senses. “Except maybe to tell the name of the one who’s doing this to you so I can kill him slowly.”

Xander waited till he was out of Angel’s sight to let go of the energetic walk and just trudge, like he wanted to. His feet felt heavy, and he wasn’t sure that he could really defend himself if some nasty did decide to attack him. Then again, as bad as he felt at the moment, he would almost welcome some sort of Hellmouthy death.

As if God had been waiting for that thought, there was a scuffling noise from off to his right. Xander glanced over, but didn’t see anything. He stopped, tried to decide whether if was worth investigating, and came to the conclusion that he might as well look, because if he didn’t, then whatever it was, it was sure to come and get him later. It was some unwritten Hellmouth law.

He left the sidewalk and made his way into the stand of trees where the sound had come from. Instead of a demon waiting to pounce, he found a very large and very dead demon, with its head ripped almost completely off and a burnt-out cigarette lying on its eye.

Xander stared at it for a long moment, then turned and walked away as fast as he could.

He got home a few minutes longer, and made his way up to his room as quickly as he could, hoping to avoid a confrontation with his parents. Luckily, his dad was out terrorizing sheep or something, and his mom was too hammered to even notice him coming in, so he had a fairly easy escape.

He flicked off the light before taking off his clothes, and then located the oldest and most comfortable pair of sweats he could find by moonlight and pulled them on. He went to the window and looked out, staring at but not quite meeting the eyes of the man who stood on the sidewalk, leaning against the lamppost and smoking.

Xander pulled the curtain closed, like he had for the last week, and crawled into bed with a whimper of relief, like he had for the last week.

And then, feeling Spike’s presence outside, he lay awake for hours, just like he had for the last week.

The ringing phone woke him from what felt like about half an hour of sleep, though he knew it was more like four hours. He’d finally dropped off right around sunrise, not coincidentally when Spike had finally left.

He almost knocked the phone off the hook when he groped for it, but he finally managed to grab it and bring it to his ear. “Hello?” he croaked.

“Xander, it’s Cordelia.”

He pulled the phone away from his ear for a second and stared at it in sheer astonishment, then put it back and said, “Not to be rude, but why are you calling? How do you even know this number?”

“Buffy told me, and she’s the one who told me to call you. There’s some major trouble with Giles and a walking dead guy that dissolved, and she wants you to get down here to research or something.”

Xander shook his head, and tried to think. “Um, library?”

“Where else?”

Xander scowled. “I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

He slammed the phone down, but when he tried to stand up, he wobbled. Well, as soon as he could might be a little longer than he’d thought, if he was really that weak.

He contemplated just falling back on the bed, like every atom of his body was screaming for him to do, but concern for Giles motivated him into movement. Very slowly movement, admittedly, but movement nonetheless.

It occurred to him that he wouldn’t be able to continue like this for much longer, but he brushed the thought aside. He’d manage. He always did, one way or another. There was no reason why this time should be any different.

No reason at all.

Buffy had been alarmed for a solid hour before Xander had showed up. She had plenty to be alarmed over, with Giles and the Mark of Eyghon, whatever it was, and she really didn’t need any more.

But when Xander walked in the door, moving slowly even for a fully normal human without vampire powers, she felt the worry increase. He looked, quite simply, like hell. His eyes were bloodshot and had dark circles under them, his normally golden skin was ashen, and he was dressed in sweatpants that she’d bet he’d slept in and a t-shirt that was inside out.

“Xander, what the hell happened to you?”

He looked up blearily at her strident question. “Nothing,” he said. “Couldn’t sleep again last night, is all. I’m fine.”

“You’re definitely not fine,” she said, and Willow was by her side by this point, the commotion having pulled her away from the computer. “You look like hell, and you know it.”

He gave them a disgruntled look and brushed past them without answering, settling down at the table and picking up a book. Buffy and Willow followed him and stood over him till he looked up with a glare.

“Look, I know I look bad. Maybe I’m sick or something. If so, you two can play Florence freaking Nightingale after we’ve dealt with the latest crisis, okay? I think I can last that long.”

“You better,” Willow said, and gave an extra-hard glare to emphasize her point before going back to the computer. Buffy gave him another hard look, and he held up a hand defensively.

“Look, I’ll be okay. I’m hardier than I look. Just tell me what I’m trying to find in these dusty books, and I’ll be good.”

“The Mark of Eyghon,” Buffy said after a long silence. “But if you start looking worse, I’m gonna call Angel and get him to take you home, you hear me?”

“Yes, mom,” he said meekly, and that seemed to satisfy her, because she finally went away and left him with his book and his headache.

Willow was, as usual, the brilliant one. He’d know this since first grade, of course, but it was always reassuring to see it put into action, especially when it saved their asses.

She was off, with Cordelia in tow, to meet Buffy at Ethan’s Costume Shoppe, and Angel was supposed to meet them there. Xander had wanted to go with them, but Willow had put her foot down, very firmly, and told him to either stay there or go home. He’d chosen option number two, and was now walking- well, staggering- in the general direction of home, hoping against hope that Willow’s brilliant plan would actually work, and that someone would remember to call him and tell him so, afterwards.

He reached the place where he would turn off to head towards his house, and stopped. He could make the turn, and actually go home like he said he would, or he could keep going straight, towards the abandoned factory where Spike had nested with Dru.

After a long moment’s consideration, he went straight.

Spike heard him coming long before he got to the door, of course, and the vampire was waiting just inside the threshold, confined there by the last long fingers of the setting sun.

“Pet, what the hell happened to you?” Spike demanded, and Xander felt an inexplicable urge to laugh at the unconscious echo of Buffy’s words.

“Oh, nothing. Just a week without food and sleep. Think you might know anything about that, Spike?”

Spike stared at him. “I wasn’t stopping you from eating and sleeping,” he said deliberately. “I didn’t stand there and force you to go without.”

“No, you just followed me around and kept me up at night just by being there, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it and I could never force myself to eat anything because I knew that come sunset you’d be there, lurking, and I just... I give up, alright? I surrender. Take what you want, do whatever the hell you want to do, just let me have some peace. Is that too much to ask?”

Spike darted forward and pulled him inside before he could be burnt by the fading sun. He tucked Xander into an embrace, which should have felt wrong since Spike was shorter than him, but it didn’t because Spike felt strong, and it felt right, somehow. And it was wrong, because it felt so right.

“No, it’s not too much to ask,” Spike said into his ear, and all the snark and swagger and violence that colored all of their previous encounters was gone, leaving a sort of tenderness in its place. “Come inside, yeah? I’ll get you fixed up some. If I’d known I was causing you this much trouble, I would have...” He paused to consider, then said, “Well, I probably would have done exactly the same thing, but I would have made my move sooner. Was waiting for the right moment, I was. Should have forgotten all the stalking bollocks and just grabbed you.”

He was leading Xander deeper into the factory as he spoke, and he settled him in one of the chairs surrounding the long, scarred table in the middle of the empty space. “Lucius,” he said, without looking away from Xander, “Run out and get some food for the boy. He’s a mite peckish.”

A slightly overweight vampire nodded and left the factory at a run. Spike smoothed Xander’s hair away from his forehead, and he looked quite serious as he said, “I’m gonna take care of you, pet. Just for tonight. Let me take care of you?”

“Okay,” Xander whispered, long beyond saying no to this vampire who’d gotten so far under his skin he felt like he couldn’t really breathe anymore. Spike smiled and sat in the chair next to his, turning it and scooting closer till his knees were brushing against Xander’s own, a contact that somehow felt more intimate than anything they’d done together on Halloween.

Spike reached out to gently tug at Xander’s collar, pulling it away to reveal the scars from Spike’s bite. “You heal fast,” Spike remarked. “I expected that. I didn’t expect to leave a scar, though.”

Xander nodded to the scar cutting through Spike’s eyebrow. “You got that after being turned, didn’t you?”

“Yeah, but it was from a blessed sword. My first Slayer. You probably only scarred because you’re still alive.”

“Yeah,” Xander said. “Lucky me.”

Spike reached out and laid his hand over the scars. Xander leaned unconsciously into the touch, closing his eyes at the feel of cool, calloused skin against his own.

“Right now, luv,” Spike said, very seriously, “I’m thinking that I’m the lucky one.”

“Hey Buffy,” Willow called, and caught up to her friend. “Have you talked to Xander?”

Buffy shook her head. “He wasn’t answering his phone. Do you think something happened to him?”

“I let him go off on his own!” Willow wailed. “What if he got eaten or something?”

“Okay, let’s focus,” Buffy said. “Do we have any idea where he is?”

Willow shook his head. “Not at home, not in class. I checked the library, but it was a no-go. He could be anywhere!”

Buffy wondered if she looked as worried as she felt, and figured that she probably did. “Well, wherever he is, I hope he wakes up soon, and calls us. I’m starting to get worried.”

Several miles away, in the abandoned factory on the edge of town, Xander slept on, wrapped tightly in Spike’s arms.

Part Nine
Slayer Redux

“I can’t believe we have to do this,” Xander muttered, glaring down at the paper in front of him. “I don’t want to know what I’m going to be when I grow up. Does anyone care about that?”

“Not really,” Buffy said. “You have to have a goal to aim for, or else you might get into something stupid, like drugs and alcohol and wild parties.”

Xander rolled his eyes. “None of which are in my future any time soon, I promise. Well, unless you consider patrolling a ‘wild party.’”

“Not quite,” Buffy said dryly. “Though I think patrolling tends to be a bit more dangerous than wild partying.”

“Besides, drugs don’t really work on me,” Xander said. “I wonder if that means that I have a higher tolerance for alcohol?”

“See, that’s just the kind of thinking that having a goal in life is supposed to eliminate,” Buffy scolded. She looked up when Willow came over to join them. “Hey, Wills.”

“Hey you two,” Willow said. “What are you two talking about?”

“Not wanting to do this, essentially,” Xander said. “There’s a hundred things I’d rather be doing.”

“And Xander’s tolerance for drugs and potentially for alcohol,” Buffy added. “It was something of a far-ranging discussion.

“A hundred things, huh?” Willow asked Xander. “Like what?”

He shrugged, casually. “Sleeping. Eating. You know, the basics.”

Willow gave him a Look. The “mommy” look. “So we’re sure that we’re over the insomniac and starving yourself phase?”

“It wasn’t intentional,” he defended himself. “I had a lot on my mind.”

“And you don’t now?” Willow said sternly. He gave her a wide-eyed look of innocence.

“Why Willow, would I keep something like that from you?”

“Yes,” Buffy said. She’d been watching the exchange with fascination. “You definitely would.”

He scowled at her. “I’m fine, okay? All better now.”

“And this mystery guy, he’s not causing any more trouble?” Willow said. She watched him carefully for his reaction.

“No more trouble,” Xander said easily. “Really, Wills, I’m fine. If something happens, you’ll be the first to know, I promise.”

Getting ready for bed that night, Xander thought back to the conversation with worry. Willow knew something was up. She knew him better than anyone, and she knew that something was up, and she was trying to find out what it was without actually letting him know that she knew something was up.

Buffy was easier. She’d accepted his explanation for his absence that night several weeks ago easily enough. But Willow had known him since he was a little kid, and she knew that he hadn’t just slept through the ringing phone, as he’d claimed. She knew that a ringing phone would wake him when a nuclear blast wouldn’t. She hadn’t said anything, though, probably because she was trying to find out what was going on without actually asking him point-blank and getting some other lie.

He’d just have to be careful, he reasoned to himself as he stripped off his shirt. There wasn’t any reason that she had to actually find out what was really going on. If he was careful, then they wouldn’t get caught.

Right on time, he heard the gentle rap on his window and went over to it. Spike stood there, balancing easily on the slanted roof, and grinned at him when he opened the window.

“Gonna let me in?” he asked, just like he asked every night when he showed up here. Which wasn’t as often as it might have been, since for the most part Xander went to the factory, where there was less chance that he’d actually get caught. When Xander went to his place, though, he didn’t bother with asking to come in, because he knew damn well that he didn’t need to.

“You know I am,” he said, just like he’d said every night that Spike had come here. Spike just grinned wider and swung a leg over the sill, knowing that Xander would answer in the affirmative, because he and Xander both knew that Xander didn’t have a hell of a lot of resistance when it came to Spike.

He *would* be careful, though, Xander thought as he pulled Spike the rest of the way inside. He might not have a lot of willpower when it came to Spike, but that didn’t mean that he was suicidal. He had no desire to have Willow or, God forbid, Buffy find out about the two of them, and he’d go to any lengths to make sure that it stayed their secret.

He banished the thought by pulling Spike flush up against his body and kissing him, hard and commanding and possessive. Spike kissed back enthusiastically before pulling back and grinning at him.

“Glad to see me, pet?”

Instead of answering, Xander just kissed him again.

Spike knew he had a silly grin on his face. It was at odds with the rest of his look, he knew, but he couldn’t quite keep it off his face.

He was actually *humming* when he made his way into the factory, just before sunrise. He didn’t see Dru in the main room, so he made his way back into the bedroom.

Dru was sitting on the bed, cards spread out in front of her. “What do you see, pet?” he said, leaning against the doorframe. She looked up at him and smiled sweetly.

“The Slayer,” she said. “She’s going to be having lots of fun and games soon, Spike. We’re going to make it ever so fun for her.”

He smirked and made his way over to the bed, shedding his duster as he went. “Drusilla, my sweet- what are you planning?”

“The Order of Taracas,” she said.

Spike stopped, struck dumb by the simplicity and sheer brilliance of the idea. The Order of Taracas. If nothing else could take out the Slayer, those lot could.

“It’s brilliant, ducks,” Spike said, a grin spreading over his face. “If nothing else, it’ll keep the Slayer off our backs while we complete your ritual.”

Drusilla smiled back at him and held out her hand. “Will you dance with me now, Spike?”

“I’ll dance with you, love,” he said, and scooped her up, heedless of the cards that went flying. “I’ll dance with you on the Slayer’s grave.”

When Xander got up to his room the next night at three in the morning, he found Spike sitting on his bed, waiting for him.

“You were out late,” Spike defended himself, when Xander gave him an incredulous look. “I got bored.”

Xander sighed and dumped his stuff in the corner. “Research. Someone was stealing something from a crypt belonging to some guy named Du Lac- don’t suppose you’d know anything about that, would you?”

The innocent look that Spike gave him would have fooled anyone who wasn’t... well, actually, anyone who wasn’t completely lacking in a brain. Spike didn’t pull off innocent really well. “Du Lac? Never heard of him.”

Xander shook his head. “Nevermind. I don’t want to know. We’ll find out soon enough anyway. You make trouble, Buffy kicks your ass, I make you feel better afterwards. I’d just as soon it happen later rather than sooner, thanks all the same.”

Spike pouted at him, and Xander marveled at how well the vampire managed to pull it off. “Oi! You mean that you won’t protect me from the Slayer’s wrath? Don’t you love me anymore?”

Xander sighed. “Can we leave the hard questions for some other time and just have sex?”

Spike paused, seemed to consider, then stood up to pull of his shirt. “Sure.”

Xander stifled a relieved sigh. He didn’t want to the “L” word brought up, even casually. He wasn’t ready to deal with it. He might never be ready to deal with it, but he definitely wasn’t ready now.

Sex was easy. Even lying to his friends to cover up the having of the sex was easy. Emotions were a whole ‘nother matter. Like when Spike had taken care of him, that night weeks before when he’d shown up at the factory. Like when he’d sneaked into his room tonight, and the look on Spike’s face was all quickly-hidden relief, like Spike had been *worried* about him.

Like the way that Xander kept thinking about him when he wasn’t there. Which, hey, nothing new. But this time it was less tormented lust, and more remembering the uncanny imitations of Angel that Spike could do, and the way that Spike held him when he fell asleep.

And the way that he was always gone when Xander woke up, and how Xander, secretly, in his heart of hearts, wished that just once, he wouldn’t.

But that was the hard stuff. The emotions stuff. For now there was sex, and sex was always a more-than-adequate distraction.

Spike tossed his shirt aside and grinned at him. “C’mere, then,” Spike purred, and Xander went to him, and let himself be distracted.

“I can’t believe you dragged me out of bed, just so I can give you a ride,” Cordelia muttered. “What the hell am I, mass transportation?”

“That’s what a lot of the guys say, but it’s just locker-room talk. I wouldn’t take it seriously.”

“Great, thanks. I’m here for my car and as a punching bag. Anything else you need me for?”

“Scenery?” he suggested, testing the door handle. It was locked, of course. She didn’t even dignify that with an answer, so he shrugged and went to the side window, the one that with the broken latch.

“Buffy could be in trouble,” he said, when he came around to open the door for her.

“And what are you going to do about it if she is in trouble? Stand around and crack jokes? You’re the loser sidekick, and she’s the girl with the super powers.”

He stopped dead and turned around, staring at her incredulously. “You’re kidding, right?”


“You mean you don’t know?

She stared at him. “Xander Harris, what the hell are you talking about?”

“Vampire blood? Super-Xander now? You mean to tell me that no one told you?”

She blinked. “You’re a vampire?”

“No,” he said, very patiently. “I’m still human, just stronger.”

“When did this happen?”

“This summer,” he explained. “It’s a long story, but to make it short, I’m stronger and faster. I can handle trouble if trouble comes a’ calling. Okay? Can we look for Buffy now?”

“Fine,” she muttered, but she was wasting her breath, since he was already pounding up the stairs.

“Jerk,” she said under her breath, and wandered around the living room, trying to entertain herself while Xander-the-creep tried to save the day.

The knock on the front door interrupted her self-pity session, and she cheerfully went to answer it. A very average-looking man stood there, holding a large brown case.

“Hello, my name is Norman Fister and I’m a representative of Blush Beauty skin care. Could I interest you in some free samples?”

“Free?” she said, and smiled her best Queen C smile before letting him in.

“Spike?” Drusilla said, and she was giving him the huge dark eyes, and God, whatever she wanted, he’d give it to her.

“Spike, can I have him?”

Spike pulled back, and glanced over at Angel, lying on the floor, panting behind his gag. “You want to play, is that it, Dru?”

She smiled. “You get to play with your little puppy, and I want an afternoon to play with the angel. Is that so much to ask?”

Spike personally thought that his playing with Xander had very little to do with the playing Dru wanted to do with Angel, but, well, he’d never been able to resist Drusilla in a playful mood.

“Alright, luv. Just don’t kill him till the full moon, will you?”

Her smile was wicked, and she said, “Bring him to me.”


Xander leaned back on the stool he’d taken for his, crossed his arms over his chest, and smirked as he watched Cordelia pace back and forth.

“You know, this is more entertaining than I would have thought.”

“You’re just sitting there! Why aren’t you thinking up a plan?”

“I have a plan,” Xander said calmly. “I was just having fun watching you work yourself into a tizzy.”

She whirled on him and glared. “What’s your brilliant plan, then, oh brilliant one?”

He pointed to the window. “Break it. I help you climb out, and you keep an eye out for bug-guy while I follow you. Then we drive away.”

She blinked at him. “That’s... actually a good plan.”

“I’m inspired by your confidence in me,” he said dryly. “Can we go now?”



“The Career Fair looked a little... messy,” Xander said, as he came into the library. “What the hell happened?”

“Order of Taracas,” Giles said shortly. Buffy looked at him from the counter, where Willow was taping her knee, and nodded agreement.

“You want to talk Order of Taracas? We had a visit from the king *freak* of the Order of- Hello.”

The young African girl glanced up at him, then back at her feet. “Oh yes,” Giles said. “That’s Kendra. Long story short, she’s also a Slayer. Say hello.”

Xander arched an eyebrow at Buffy. “I knew this ‘I’m the only one, I’m the only one,’ this was just an attention-getter.”

She gave him an I’m-not-amused look. “Just say hello, Xander,” she said, and jumped off the counter to go confer with Giles.

Xander turned to Kendra. “So, a Slayer, huh? How’s that working out for you?”

She ducked her head down further and actually *shuffled* her feet. “I, uh, well, I’m.. ha-appy to be of service. Sir.”

He stared at her for a long moment, then nodded, as if any of that had made any sense at all. “Good to be a giver,” he said, giving her a thumbs-up, and wandered over to see what Giles was up to.

“Xander, I’m glad you’re here. You said you had an encounter with the Order of Taracas?”

Xander nodded. “He looked normal. Really normal. Almost weirdly normal, actually. Except for the part where it turned out he’s made up entirely of worms.”

Buffy blinked. “Okay, that’s incredibly gross.”

Cordelia made a face. “You’re telling me.”

“Well, I’ve got worse news,” Giles said, slowly. “We found out what the book was for- it details a ritual to restore a sick vampire to health.”

“Drusilla, of course,” Xander said, since he’d heard Spike ranting often enough about Dru’s condition. When they bothered to have a conversation, that is.

“Well, yes. It says here that the spell drains the life of the Sire to revive the vampire and- What is it, Xander?”

“It’s Angel,” Xander said grimly. “He told me, when Spike first showed up. He turned Drusilla, and Drusilla turned Spike.”

Buffy took a sharp breath of shock. “This ritual,” she said to Giles. “It’ll kill him?”

Giles nodded. “I’m afraid so, yes.”

“Then we stop it. We need to find where it’s taking place, and we need to find it fast. Willow?”

“I’ll check the ‘net,” Willow said.

“Xander, can you track Angel?”

“I think so. If you can give me a starting place.”

Buffy glared at Kendra. “Try the cage in the back of Willie’s. That’s the last known place.”

He nodded. “Shouldn’t be too hard.”

Kendra looked askance at Xander. “How can *you* track him?” she demanded, her suspicions overwhelming her trouble with talking to boys.

“I got an upgrade that gives me strength and improved senses,” Xander said, carefully leaving out the fact that it was vampire blood that had given him the upgrade. Kendra looked like someone who would stake first and ask questions later. “Also, I’m fairly familiar with Angel’s scent.”

Willow coughed. Xander glared at her.

“Look,” an irate Buffy said to Kendra. “I know you’re here to stop Spike and Drusilla. I want to save Angel. For now, our priorities mesh. Are you with me, or are you going to get the hell out of my way?”

Kendra was silent for a minute, but finally said, “I’m with you.”

“Good.” Buffy stalked around the table, and stood next to Giles with a resolute expression on her face that made the hairs on the back of Xander’s neck stand up. “I’ve had it up to here with Spike. He can try to kill me, even send assassins after me, but nobody- nobody- messes with my boyfriend. He’s going down.”
Xander shifted uncomfortably in his seat, trying to tamp down worry for Spike. The vampire would manage fine on his own, and if he didn’t, well, it wasn’t that big a deal to Xander.

Of course not.

Xander stalked into the demon bar, riding the crest of a piss-poor mood. He’d spent the entire walk over here trying not imagine Spike being dusted, and failing. It was enough to put *anyone* into a bad mood, in his opinion. Thankfully, Willie must have some latent intelligence after all, because he took one look at Xander’s scowling face and hastily went back to polishing his glasses, very, very hard.

Xander caught Angel’s scent easily enough, but noticed that it didn’t lead out of the bar at all. Instead, it went straight down into the sewers, which, okay, jibed with what Willie had told Buffy. No need to pummel anyone yet.

He opened the hatch and jumped down into the sewer. It was only a few steps down before Angel’s scent was joined by an equally familiar one: Spike’s.

He pulled out the cell phone Buffy had made him carry, and dialed the library.

Buffy stormed into Willie’s ten minutes later, Kendra right behind her. It was the work of seconds to grab Willie and slam him into the bar.

“We had a fun little phone call from a friend of mine,” Buffy gritted out. “Apparently, Angel did indeed make his way down into the sewers. But then he was joined by a pal of yours- Spike. Ring any bells?”

“Er-“ Willie said. “It might. Why should I tell you?”

“Buffy, just hit him!” Kendra said loudly, behind her. Buffy gave Willie a very sweet smile.

“She likes to hit. You tell me, I don’t let her. Are you seeing my point, yet?”

“Okay, okay. I know something. But I can’t tell you where it is- I have to show you.”

“Oh really? That’s nice. Address, now.”

“I really can’t-“ he started, then paused when he saw Kendra take a threatening step forward, and rattled off the address.

“Thank you so very much,” Buffy said sweetly. “We’ll be in touch.”

She started out of the bar, and Kendra followed hotly after, demanding, “Where are you going? We have to return to your Watcher for orders!”

“First, I don’t take orders. Second-“ She held up a cell phone. “I talk. You drive.”

Xander was slogging through ankle-deep muck when he heard his cell phone ringing tinnily in his pocket, and he cursed as he dug it out.


“Xander, we’ve got an address. 625 Elm. They’re probably there already. Meet me there. I’ve got a plan.”

“So what’s this plan?” he said, already turning to head for the nearest manhole.

“You’ll like this. See, I go in, and-“

It worked beautifully, Xander had to admit. Buffy went in and let herself be helplessly taken by the big bad bounty hunters and vampires. Just before Spike could kill her, Kendra came charging in, and the African slayer started fighting the gun-happy policewoman while Buffy started kicking the crap out of Spike. Willow and Cordelia used glue and their own four feet to smoosh bug guy, while he and Giles made quick work of the two vampires.

Giles ran off to make sure that Cordelia and Willow were alright, and Xander took advantage of everyone’s distraction to pull the mystical knife thingy out of Dru’s and Angel’s clasped hands. Spike heard the noise and turned.

He gave a howl of anger and punched Buffy, knocking her out of the way temporarily while he ran to grab Dru. Buffy jumped up and went for Angel, then twisted her head indecisively when she saw that Spike was escaping with Dru in his arms.

“You take care of Angel,” Xander said. “I’ll go after them.”

She looked worried, but nodded and turned back to Angel, taking him out of the straps that bound him up. Xander took off, running as fast as he could in the direction Spike and Dru had gone.

He caught up to them right outside of the church, and Spike turned on him with a snarl before seeing who it was.

“Hit me,” Xander said.

“What the hell? Hit you?”

“So I can tell Buffy you got away,” Xander growled. “Do it. She’ll be coming this way any second.”

Spike looked torn for a second, then shrugged, freed one arm, and clocked him so hard that he saw stars.

Xander lay there and listened to footsteps retreating, and was just considering attempting to stand up when he heard another set of footsteps approaching, from inside the church.

“Xander! Are you alright?”

“They got away,” he said, unnecessarily. “I’ll be okay as soon as I get an ice pack for my jaw.”

Angel looked at him oddly, but Buffy just shrugged and held out the hand that wasn’t supporting Angel to help him up. He took it and dragged himself to his feet, rubbing his soon-to-be-very-sore jaw.

“It’s over,” he said.

But he knew damn well that it wasn’t.



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The Spander Files