From Out of Nowhere
The Struggle Within
“Wouldn’t it be much easier to just tell us what’s going on?”
Xander frowned and glanced at Angel in the rear view mirror. Deadboy’s presence was doing nothing to help his increasingly rattled nerves.
“I can’t tell you. You have to see it.”
“Why’s that, then?”
“Otherwise you’ll think I’m crazy.”
“I already think that, luv,” Spike said, with amusement in his voice.
Nineteen years of living and growing up on a Hellmouth and Xander was worried about sounding crazy. Now, if his boy was to perhaps mention that Sunnydale was free from all demons, vampires and any other Hellmouth creatures, then Spike would have thought he was completely off his trolley.
“Thank you, Spike. I appreciate your honesty.”
Spike was glad to hear a trickle of laughter running through Xander’s reply. He wanted the old Xander back. The Xander that bounced constantly, never sitting still, always chattering and joking. Ok, so Xander’s hyper temperament could drive him up the wall sometimes, but it was also one of the reasons that he loved him. That and his ability to give the world's best all over body massage.
Xander turned the car into their road. He pulled over next to the sidewalk and shut off the engine.
Spike and Angel glanced out of the window. Rain was pelting down around them and the sky was lit with blue and white flashes of lightning.
“It's beautiful,” Angel whispered, his eyes fixed on the streaks of electricity that marbled the night sky.
Spike looked up again and shrugged. “Yeah. I love storms. Gets me all hot,” he said, throwing Xander a hopeful grin.
“Alright, blondie, don’t jump me just yet. Don’t you think it’s weird?”
Spike shrugged again. “Not particularly.”
“Damn vamps. Never pay attention.”
With an exasperated sigh, Xander started the car back up, threw it into gear and began to reverse out of their road. “Pay attention this time.” Xander stopped the car again and he pointed out the window. “Look again.”
Spike and Angel looked back out the window and then confusedly back at Xander.
“Where’d the storm go?”
It was Xander’s turn to shrug.
“Dunno. But watch this.”
The car was started again and Xander manoeuvred it back into their street. As the vehicle ran over the threshold, rain suddenly poured and lightning flashed.
“You’re not wrong, pet. Told the Watcher? Buffy?”
“Not yet. I wanted to show you first.”
Spike nodded and suddenly thought of something. “Luv? How did you figure out that this was only happening in our road? Thought you were supposed to be staying put.”
“I was, I mean, I did. But the lightning looked really freaky and then Isis started hissing and striking at absolutely nothing. And this is the Hellmouth, Spike. I had this weird feeling. I just wanted…I wanted you to come back home.”
Xander’s voice dropped to a near whisper. The events of the last few days had clearly taken their toll. He was tired and on edge and the presence of Angel was definitely not helping. When Angel had been Angelus, Xander had at least still respected him. But when Angel had attacked him, it had just left Xander feeling confused, used, weak and abused. The victim yet again.
“I’m home now, pet. Let’s get inside. Drive further up, or we’ll get drenched.”
Xander nodded and pulled the car up outside the house. Three doors opened in unison and, together, they made a mad dash for shelter. The rain lashed down in painful drops, striking and turning pale and tanned skin to rosy shades of pink. Xander fumbled with the keys, his hands starting to tremble as the spattering sound of the rain turned to a deafening roar and thunder crashed over the sky. When at last the correct key was located, Xander plunged it into the lock and threw the door open, his desperation to get inside reflected by the two vampires that tumbled in after him.
“It’s definitely gotten worse. That rain really stung.”
“It wasn’t like this earlier?” Angel wasn’t surprised that Xander wouldn’t even look at him, never mind answer him. Part of him, the part that the demon ruled, the part that was wholly Angelus, screamed at him to grab the boy and shake him. Slap him and teach him to show respect to a Master Vampire. The other part, the part that contained his soul, the part that was just Angel, wanted to reach out and hold Xander tightly to him, tell him that he was sorry and that he would never do such a thing again. Both parts fought furiously, struggling for dominance. Neither was victorious.
Spike eyed Angel suspiciously; he could see a war playing out behind eyes that should have been a warm, deep brown, just like his lover’s, not the cold, dull brown that seemed almost devoid of life and love. “What was it like earlier, pet, before you came to get me?” Spike said, as he directed an uncomfortable Xander into the living room and away from Angel.
“It was bad, but not this bad. What do you think is causing it?”
“I ain’t got a Scooby.”
“Scooby Doo. Clue. I ain’t got a clue.”
Xander nodded, not sure that he entirely understood. He wondered if Spike’s weird way of talking was just because he was British or because he was un-dead and British. “Should we phone…? Hey! Where’d the lights go?” Xander snapped his head up as the room was plunged into darkness.
“I’ll check the fuse box,” Angel said.
Spike watched him go before lighting a few candles for Xander. He picked up the phone.
“Fuck it. Dead. Got your cell phone handy?”
Xander fished his phone out of his pocket. He glanced quickly at it before tossing it onto the coffee table.
“That was clever.”
“Well, at least I didn’t lose mine.”
Angel returned from the basement, his expression blank and unreadable.
“It’s not a fuse. It has to be a power cut.”
“Phones are out too, mate.”
“We need to get in touch with the others.”
“Good observation, peaches. Unfortunately I’ve lost my cell and Xan’s has a dead battery.”
“Do you have a charger in the car?” Angel directed the question to Xander, who simply nodded.
“I’ll go out and plug it in…”
“You can’t go back out there!” Spike cried.
“One of us has to. I think, under the circumstances, it should be me.”
Xander focused away from Angel, knowing it was true. There was no way Spike was going to let him go out there, and Xander did not want to be left alone with Angel.
Silently, Xander picked up his phone and handed it to Angel.
“Thanks. I’ll be just a minute.” Angel tried to smile and failed. He retreated and stepped outside the front door.
“I guess. Does Angel hate me?”
“Course he bloody doesn’t! Why would you think that?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe because he attacked me and now he can barely stand to look at me. I’m not sure what hurts the most.”
“Sweetheart, he only can’t look at you because he feels guilty. You know what he’s like.”
“Yeah, I know. Looks like I’m gonna have to make the first move.”
“Why? Why is it always me that has to suck up when I haven’t done anything wrong?”
“No. You don’t have to suck up. That isn’t what Angel…”
The room suddenly lit with a fierce blue glow as lightning crashed to the ground with a terrific crack.
All Spike and Xander could hear was the bellow of Angel’s scream.
“What the fuck?”
They ran to the front door and flung it open. Angel was lying on his front, just a few feet away, his back billowing with smoke. Xander tried to run forward, but he was snared by Spike.
“No! Wait here!”
It was definitely an order and Xander was sensible enough to obey. He watched with fearful eyes as Spike dashed out the door and grabbed Angel. The older vampire’s back was no longer smoking, the flames now put out by the powerful rain that poured like a thick veil of tears.
As Spike lifted his Sire he called out to Xander. “Get a cold bath runnin’!”
Xander waited until Spike had cleared the threshold, making sure that his lover was out of harm's way. As Spike stumbled through the door, a loud crack and a blue flash of light struck behind him, caving a hole in the path.
“Xander! Bath! Now!”
Xander nodded shakily and raced up the stairs. Too close. Too close. Too close.
As the bath was quickly filled, Spike tore Angel’s clothes from his body. “Pet, help me…Xander!”
“Um, yeah, sorry.”
Xander knelt down and help Spike to remove Angel’s shirt and he gasped as Angel was turned over, revealing horrific burns over his back.
“Oh gods, Spike. It’s all…it’s all stuck.”
Spike looked over to see Angel’s silk shirt was melted into his skin.
“Christ…Right, get him in the bloody bath…quickly!”
Xander grabbed the top half of Angel’s body while Spike took his legs and together they lifted him into the cool water.
“Shit…Sire? You in there, peaches? C’mon, mate, wakey, wakey.”
Spike was trying to sound casual, but Xander clearly heard the tremble in his voice.
“Spike? We should try and get the rest of the shirt off his back before he wakes up.”
“Huh? Oh, yeah. Switch places, luv, and I’ll do it. Can you go get the medical kit? The big one under the sink?”
“Sure. Spike? He’ll be fine. He will.” Xander’s words were meant as a statement, but they came out more like a question.
“'Course he will. Be right as rain. Now, go get the kit, yeah?” Spike turned back to his Sire. He hoped to god he was right.
“How long has it been?”
“Couple of hours, pet.”
“Um, should he not be a little more, um, awake by now?”
Spike pulled Xander onto his lap, balancing them both on the edge of his bed. “I reckon he’s ok, luv.”
“Really? You were so worried earlier.”
“Yeah, alright. I may have been a tad concerned. But that was a good hour ago.”
“So what changed?”
“Look at him.”
Xander squinted at Angel’s unconscious form. Deep concentration filled his face and Spike chuckled.
“You’re all cute when you’re trying to think.”
“I’m thinking that I should probably hit you for that. But I won’t, but only because I’m sure that there was a compliment meant somewhere there.”
“'Course there was.” Spike held Xander a little tighter and a little closer. “Look at his eyes, luv.”
“I can’t, they’re closed.”
“Granted, but they’re still moving. See?”
“Oh, yeah. So that’s good?”
“Yeah, that’s really good. An hour ago, they were dead still. I thought…Anyway, he’s ok now. Might be a while before he wakes, but he’ll be ok.”
“So is it like a vampire coma type thing?”
“Kind of, yeah. It’s a healing sleep. His body shuts down, while it fixes itself. Which reminds me, time to apply more salve. Do it for me, luv? I wanna go try the phone again. Maybe have another hunt around for my cell.”
Xander stared at the unconscious vampire. “Um, do I have to? I mean, won’t he heal by himself?”
“Yeah, but it’s going to take a while to heal completely. Best help him along a bit, yeah? Look, you don’t have to…”
“No, it’s fine. I’ll do it. It’s not like he can bite, is it?” Xander laughed nervously and grabbed the salve from the bedside table.
“Shout if you need me, pet.”
Xander nodded and concentrated on the task at hand. They had laid Angel on his side, so his back was easy to get to. He pulled the blankets down a little further and applied the cooling salve to his palms, rubbing them together to create a silky sheen. Slowly he placed his hands onto Angel’s wounds and began to massage the salve into his skin.
Why did this have to happen? Why did Angel have to go all soulless and psycho on them? Why did Angel have a mile long guilt complex? Why had he taken it out on him? And just to cap things off, why were they in the middle of a supernatural storm that had rendered Angel completely catatonic and unable to answer any of his previous questions? Sometimes, just sometimes, life on the Hellmouth sucked.
Xander flinched back violently from the muffled voice on the bed.
Angel spoke again.
“Yeah. How did you know?”
“Oh. Of course. Stupid me.”
“Xander, I can’t move. Will you come round where I can see you?”
Xander hesitated for a few moments and even considered calling Spike. In the end he simply walked around the bed to face Angel. It wasn’t like the vampire could lunge at him again and, besides, Angel had been his friend once. He wanted to trust him.
Xander squatted down beside the bed, his face level with Angel's.
“You’re gonna wear my name out in a minute.”
Xander caught the faintest hint of a smile slither over Angel’s lips before it disappeared.
“I’m so sorry.”
Xander had heard a million apologies in his life, from his friends, and even the odd one from his parents. But never had he heard an apology quite like that. See, you could say sorry in so many different ways, different words, different gestures from different people. But the way Angel had said it, it sounded so genuine, with endless emotion pouring from Angel’s glistening brown eyes and cracked voice.
Xander reached out and stroked Angel’s hair.
“Sssh, Angel. You mean it. I know you do. And I know that you can’t promise that you won’t do it again. I would be insulted if you tried. I know that you’re going through something that I can’t really understand, but maybe you could help me to learn and, if not, then just tell me to take a hike and I promise I’ll back off this time. I only wanted to help, to make things better for you, but I fucked up. You warned me and I still got in your face. I should have listened. Not that it gave you any right to attack me, mind. But I do understand why you did it…sort of…kind of…in a sort of not understanding kind of way.”
Angel smiled again and flexed his fingers, the only part of his body that could move. He wanted to say so much. He wanted to tell Xander exactly how sorry he was. But not only that, he wanted to tell him how special he was, how wonderful. Xander was far from useless. The demon had screamed that at him because that was what it believed, but not Angel, not the part that had the soul. That part loved every inch of Xander. He was family, he was beautiful, he was more special than he would ever know. Angel opened his mouth to try and speak but was shushed again by Xander. The boy placed a single finger against his lips and put a hand in his.
“Sssh, talk later, yeah? Get some rest. We might be needing you later.”
Xander took his finger from Angel’s lips and stroked his hair until he drifted back into unconsciousness.
The rain belted down and the lightning cracked across the sky, but still Graham watched the house from the not-so-relative safety of his jeep. He had followed Xander and the Hostile when they had left the cemetery and he had stayed parked outside the house when the Hostile had left and the storm had started. It hadn’t taken long for Xander to rush out of the house and speed off to god-knows where. Graham had hoped that this was the moment he had been waiting for. The moment that Xander made his break for freedom. He had followed Xander to a local demon bar and had been infuriated when he had appeared from the establishment with not one, but two Hostiles in tow.
Now they had all arrived back at the house, and Graham had witnessed the larger Hostile get struck by a bolt of lightening. Xander had almost looked concerned. What on earth was going on? Graham was starting to think that Xander wanted to be trapped by these vile Hostiles.
There was only one thing to do. No matter what the cost, he had to get into that house and talk to Xander,. He cocked his gun, stepped out of the vehicle and quickly made his way to the front door.
He nearly made it.
Xander left Angel sleeping and wandered downstairs to find his lover. “Spike?”
“In here,” Spike called from the living room.
Xander walked in and flopped down on the couch. “I take it the phone is still out?”
“Well and truly.”
“Did you find your cell?”
Spike flopped down next to Xander and flung and arm round him. “Nope.”
“So what are we going to do?”
“But what if the storm gets worse?”
“It might,” Xander said firmly. “And when did you turn into Oz? Talk more, please.”
“Sorry, pet, got distracted.”
“You,” Spike replied, leaning in to lick at Xander’s neck.
“Spike, you can’t possibly be thinking about sex at a time like…Ok, forget that. Why are you thinking about sex at a time like this?”
“Well, we got some time to kill, don’t we? Can’t contact no-one. Have to wait for a rescue. Peaches is sleeping like a baby. So that just leaves me and you. What else can we do while we wait?”
“Um, how about scrabble. I’ve been practicing and I can spell loads of stuff now. Eeep! Cold hands!”
“Don’t you want me, pet?”
“Always. I just feel a little tense.”
“Is that so? Let me see what I can do about that.”
Xander gave up and let Spike have his way. In all honesty, Xander was feeling extremely uptight and a little Spike action was sure to do the world of good. He lent his head back against the back of the couch and closed his eyes. He felt the zipper at his pants loosen and slide down and he sucked in a long steady breath as Spike’s cool hand wrapped around his cock and pulled it free.
Xander opened his eyes again and turned to face Spike. His lover’s eyes were burning amber and his face flickered between human and vampire. It was a sure sign that Spike was holding back, that he needed to ravage and be ravaged.
Xander straddled his lover and unzipped his jeans, taking hold of his swollen shaft. He leant forward and gently kissed Spike’s still flickering forehead.
“Let it go, Spike. I want to see your demon,” he whispered.
Spike didn’t need any further encouragement. He let his human face fall away as the demon emerged and roared at the ceiling.
Xander felt Spike’s cock harden further in his hand and he started to stroke it, firm and fast.
Spike growled and fisted Xander’s burning shaft faster and faster, his arousal reaching new heights as his lover thrashed above him. He continued to growl, his demon demanding a taste of Xander’s blood. He struck hard and fast at Xander’s neck, his hand tearing away Xander’s shirt and his fangs sinking deep into the soft flesh beneath. As Xander’s blood spurted to the back of his throat, his orgasm was wrung from him and he felt his lover tense and spill his warm seed over his hand.
But there was something else, a strange but beautiful pain in his shoulder. Xander raised his head and smiled, a small trickle of blood spilling over his lips. Spike turned to inspect his wound. Xander biting him was not an unusual event, but this time it had felt different. He ran his hands through the pool of blood at his shoulder and suppressed a gasp at what he found. Two small puncture marks. Marks from the bite of a vampire. He looked quickly up at Xander and nearly died again at the sight.
Xander was sitting straddled across his thighs. His hair was tousled in the most erotic way he could imagine and his eyes had darkened to almost black. His skin had paled to a shimmery white while his lips glimmered crimson with Spike’s blood. Two small white fangs peeked out from a smile that was both sweet and deadly.
Spike tentatively ran his hands over Xander’s face. He looked like a vampire, the most beautiful vampire that Spike had ever seen. Dru wasn’t even a patch on the young man that sat over him. This was his dark prince. His dark prince with a heart of sunshine.
“Fuck, Xan, I’ve never seen…”
“What? What haven’t you seen…?” Xander teased as he lifted Spike’s cum soaked wrist and sank his tiny fangs in as far as he could.
Spike groaned as his blood was pulled from his wrist. It felt like heaven in a box. But he had to stop it. He couldn’t let Xander take too much. His blood was too powerful.
“That’s enough, luv. C’mon, Xan, you mustn’t have too much.”
Xander whimpered as Spike prised him off. “Need you, Spike,” he said sleepily, the power of Spike’s blood already hitting him
“I know, pet. Need you too. So much.” Spike pulled Xander to his side and wrapped his arms around him. “Sleep now, luv. Sleep.”
He stroked Xander’s hair until he felt his lover’s heartbeat slow right down and signal sleep. Spike held him a little closer.
Was Xander even aware of what just happened? Would he remember when he woke up? Spike had to admit that he was a little worried. Xander was changing, and it was happening so fast. What with everything that was happening to them, Spike wasn’t sure that Xander was going to handle it so well.
Spike resumed petting Xander’s hair. He hoped his Sire would be awake soon; he needed reassurance and so would Xander. Spike noticed with little interest that the storm had died down. What did interest him was the faint groaning coming from outside.
Graham had nearly made it to the front door. His intention was to break it down, face off the Hostiles and demand answers from the boy. He heard Xander and one of the Hostiles roaring and screaming and Graham picked up the pace, fearing that Xander was being attacked by one of them, most probably the blond one.
The storm rose to a terrifying degree, the rain lashing down on his face like tiny pieces of metal. Thunder crashed around him, and Graham dropped his gun to cover his throbbing ears. He looked up to sky and screamed through the thunder as a flash of blue lightning hurtled towards him and tore through his body.
Spike shifted Xander on the sofa and stood up.
“Mrrph. Ssspike? Where are you going?”
“Heard a noise, pet. Think someone’s outside.”
Xander sat bolt upright, his eyes wide and alert.
“Dunno. Not psychic, luv.”
Xander stood and rushed past Spike towards the door.
“Whoa, pet, hang on. We don’t know who or what it is, yet.”
“But it might be Doyle! He was bound to come looking for Angel sooner or later. Or maybe it’s Willow. She said she would come and see me when she got back.”
“And it could also be a nasty, just waiting for a nice bite of juicy human. So stay behind me, back me up.”
“Back up. Got it. I can do that,” Xander said as he grabbed a particularly heavy book from a shelf to use as a weapon.
“What you gonna do, read it a bedtime story and hope it drops off?”
“Shut it, fang. Open the bloody door…I’ve spent far too much time around English people.”
“Wouldn’t go that far,” Spike said as he threw open the door.
They both stood and stared at the man lying on the ground. It took several moments for things to sink in.
“Oh crap, is that an Initiative soldier?”
“Fucking looks like it, eh?”
“Uh-huh. Is he dead?”
“Nope, I can hear his heart beating.”
“Shit, Spike. Do you think there are more of them?” Xander asked, desperately looking around for any other signs of the Initiative.
“Don’t see any.”
“We should get him inside.”
“Eh?! You gone off your rocker?!”
“He’s hurt, Spike. We can’t just leave him there, he might die.”
“Spike, please. I know they hurt you, but I couldn’t live with myself if he dies when we could have done something. It would be different in a fight or something. You know I’d kill to defend you, Spike, but this is different.”
“I don’t know, Xan…”
“If he comes round, we could torture him until he tells us what he’s doing here.”
“Get his legs.”
Xander grinned and moved over to the soldier. Spike turned him over.
“bleedin’ hell! There’s a familiar face. This geeza pops up everywhere.”
“Yeah,” Xander said uneasily, “he certainly does.”
“Spike? I think he’s coming round.”
“Is he? Right, then.” Spike threw a glass of ice-cold water over the soldier and shook him. “Wakey, wakey, soldier boy. Rise and shine.”
Graham coughed and spluttered, tensing and crying out as blinding pain wracked his whole body.
“Right. What the fuck were you doing outside our house?”
Graham groaned and clutched at his arm. His gaze drifted down to the numb stinging sensation and for the first time his senses registered the smell of burnt flesh. He screamed.
Xander winced at the sound and stepped back.
“Spike, that looks really, really bad. I think we should take him to the hospital.”
“Not a chance. Not ‘til I get my answers.”
“But Spike, the storm has died right down. We should get out while we can.”
Spike considered this for a moment before nodding. “See if you can get Angel up, pet. Give me a couple of minutes to work on this guy.”
Xander murmured an uneasy yes, and left the room.
“Well now. Looks like it’s just you and me. We’ve probably only got a couple of minutes with just the two of us, so we’d better make it count, yes?”
Graham tried to hold his gaze steady. He was a soldier, damn it, and there was no way that he was going to be intimidated by a Hostile.
“Trying to be brave? That looks painful,” Spike said, motioning to Graham’s frazzled arm.
Graham said nothing. The pain of his injury was breaking through, and it felt like no pain on earth.
“Gotta hurt. Might feel better if you soak it in some nice cool water. Sound nice? Might feel better if we got you to a hospital. Sound nice? 'Course, we’re gonna get out of here now the storm's all quiet. Xan’s gonna insist on taking you to a hospital.”
Spike shrugged. “He’ll get his way. He usually does. But he ain’t stupid. You ain’t going nowhere ‘til we get our answers. Initiative soldier lands face down on our doorstep. That ain’t good, mate. We wanna know exactly what you’re doing here and how many others are coming.” Spike grabbed Graham's injured arm and dug his fingers firmly into the blackened flesh. “If you don’t tell me, right now, what the fuck is going on…” Spike pulled a large knife from his duster. “You won’t have an arm for the hospital to treat.”
Graham gritted his teeth. His blood had run cold and he felt like he was going to either pass out or vomit. He felt the Hostile grip his arm tighter and the pain shot through his body like another bolt of lightning. Lights flashed behind his eyes and he felt his ability to form coherent thoughts slowly ebb away.
“Now, it seems like I’m doing all the talking. Tell me what you’re doing here!” Spike shouted, twisting Graham's arm and placing the knife under his armpit.
Graham screamed again, the sound now more like a gurgle.
“C’mon, soldier boy! The only reason that you’re still alive is because you once helped us. But I know that was because you got a hard on for my boy. Is that why you’re here now? Planning something? Planning on taking my boy?!”
Spike's anger surged and the knife cut deeply into Graham’s arm.
Graham bit back a scream that threatened to blow the roof off the house. “He needs to be taken away!”
“Excuse me? I don’t think I quite heard that right. Wanna run it by me again?”
“He shouldn’t be with you…”
“Really?” Spike asked, not letting Graham finish, “and I suppose he should be with you instead?”
“He should be anywhere, other than with you. How do you do it? How can you stand to hurt him…?”
“Eh?” Spike was confused. “Are you off your rocker, mate? I ain’t gonna bloody hurt him!”
“Fucking liar! I saw you. I saw what you did to him!”
“In the cemetery. I saw you. You raped him.”
Spike’s temper finally snapped and he roared in full game face, backhanding the wounded soldier. Spike dragged Graham to his feet and slammed him into a wall. “Say anything like that again and I’ll fucking kill you…” Spike had a sudden thought, a sudden thought that greatly displeased him. “You’ve been watching. You’ve been fucking watching, ain’t you? Was it good? Did it get you off, you twisted cunt?” Spike grabbed the thrashing soldier by his throat and squeezed. “I’m gonna kill you, you fucking perverted shit fuck!”
“You're…not going to get away with this…”
“Spike! What are you doing?!”
“What does it look like I’m doing, sweetheart? I’m killing this perverted bastard.”
“No! Stop!” Xander rushed over and tried in vain to pull Spike’s hands from Graham’s throat. “Please, Spike. Wouldn’t it be better to keep him alive? You know, for information and stuff?”
“Xander’s right. He could prove to be useful,” Angel said, wearily.
“But…you don’t know…”
“I do know, I heard.” Angel moved from the door to put a supportive hand on Spike’s shoulder. “Let’s just find out what he knows. If the Initiative are coming then we need a heads up. They could be outside now…”
“No,” Graham managed to spit out as Spike loosened his vice-like grip on his neck, “It’s just me.”
“Why? Is what Spike said true? Are you following and spying on Xander?”
“What? Why?” Xander asked, his eyes suddenly wide with alarm.
Graham stayed silent and it was Angel’s turn to growl. “Answer him.”
“I just wanted him away from the Hostile, from both of you Hostiles. I couldn’t let him suffer any more.”
“Have you just stepped off the crazy train?” Xander asked. “Why would I be suffering? And what’s it to you anyway?”
“'Cos he’s a mad cunt that’s got a thing for you, pet.” Spike interrupted.
“So there are no other soldiers waiting for us? The Initiative doesn’t know you’re here?” Angel asked, seeking clarification.
“Not yet,” Graham spat.
Xander could feel his agitation growing. He didn’t want anyone but Spike to have a thing for him. It made him feel very uncomfortable.
Angel seemed satisfied that Graham was telling the truth. From what little he knew about this soldier and the brief confrontation that they had with him and the Initiative only days ago, it was clear that Graham had other motives than just an Initiative mission. The guy had fought one of his own to save Xander from a laser blast that would have surely killed him. While Angel was grateful for this intervention, he was feeling very uneasy about Graham’s possible obsession. The soldier was already showing signs of stalking and Angel could smell the man’s arousal from where he was standing. And the arousal grew stronger every time the man glanced at Xander. Angel knew that his Childe could smell it too. It was time to get the soldier away from here before Spike ripped him in two. He debated killing him, but knew it wasn’t right. Graham had saved Xander’s life.
The storm outside grew again and thunder and lightning crashed through the air.
“Fuck it! That was our chance! What the fuck? Shit! Fucking soldier! I ought to rip him to a million fucking shreds!”
“Spike, please calm down, please,” Xander was nearly shouting and as his voice grew in volume and the panic settled back in, the storm grew more powerful, shaking the house in powerful waves.
Spike released Graham’s shoulder and grabbed his hysterical lover.
“Spike, this is too much. Just make it stop. The storm, it’s getting worse. The Initiative, what if they are waiting outside. What if the storm is the only thing keeping them back? And this guy? He’s been following me? Spying on me? Spike, I…”
The front door crashed and banged and Xander jumped in fright. “Oh god, what is that?”
“Dunno. Stay here. Watch our guest,” Spike handed his lover his ‘World's Greatest Vampire’ trophy from the shelf, “If he moves, brain him.”
Xander took the trophy and stared down Graham. He would do it. He would kill Graham if he moved. Xander felt like he was dancing at the end of his sanity and the dance was about to go psychotic.
Spike and Angel crept towards the front door. It banged and crashed again and both vampires flinched.
“Hey! You in there!? Guys?! Open up!”
“It’s Red!” Spike said, rushing forward to unlock the door.
Willow tumbled through it, Tara and Doyle falling through after her.
“Bleedin’ hell! You lot could have been killed, or at least cooked extra crispy!”
“It’s okay, Spike. Tara and I erected a safety field. We were perfectly safe.”
Doyle surged forward and almost leapt into Angel’s arms. “Angel, I was so worried about you, man. You were gone so long.” Before Angel could reply Doyle captured his lips for a deep, thorough kiss. “Missed you, Angel. I thought…you said you wouldn’t be long…I…”
“Sssh, it’s okay, I’m okay.” Angel folded large arms around his lover and held him tightly.
“Where’s Xander?” Willow asked, a slight shake to her voice.
Spike walked back into the living room and motioned for the others to follow. Xander was still standing over Graham, brandishing the heavy trophy.
“S’okay, luv. I’m back. It was Willow, Tara and Doyle.”
The only name that Xander heard was Willow. Xander had been desperate to talk to his witchy friend since things had spun out of control. He just needed to know if his oldest friend hated him.
“Willow! When did you get back? Have you spoken to the others?”
As Xander spoke the storm picked up further and the house lit up from the fierce lightning outside.
Willow motioned for him to stay back and her expression turned wary. “Xander?”
Xander laughed nervously. “Of course it’s me.”
“No, I mean, it’s you. You're causing the storm.”
That killed the conversation.
Riley manoeuvred the jeep out of the street and pulled up out of the storm. Following Graham and the Hostiles had paid off; he’d got them. Yes, the storm was getting in the way now, but at the same time it was keeping the Hostiles contained until he could get his men here.
The storm was definitely supernatural, but Riley had no idea what was causing it or how to stop it. He didn’t really care. What he wanted was within the storm. He grinned to himself. Hostile 17 was not going to know what hit him, neither would the other one. Riley made another decision. The boy counted as a Hostile too. He was very close with Hostile 17, which was unnatural in his book. And besides, the boy was probably part demon. Stood to reason; this was Sunnydale, after all. Plus he had a close connection to the Slayer. Very handy. Riley’s attempts at trying to infiltrate the Slayer’s circle had failed. It seemed that she wasn’t willing to risk her friends by consorting with an Initiative soldier. Well, perhaps she had brains after all? Probably not.
Riley reached for the radio and called in. It was time to rally the troops.
Spike stepped over and worriedly pulled Xander to him.
“I’ll second that. Huh?”
“I feel it. Power. Tara?”
The shy witch edged closer and waved her hand in front of Xander.
“Yes, I feel it too. Great power. It’s like…like…”
“Isis?” Willow asked.
“Yes, I’ve felt it before, when I’ve held Isis. Except that this is so much stronger.”
Xander turned frightened eyes on his lover. “What? Spike?”
“Sssh, pet. Stay calm. Oi, Red! What are you two bloody going on about? How is Xander causing the storm? You’re off your sodding head!”
“I don’t know how he is doing it. I just know that he is. I feel it.”
“What, in your witchy bones?” Spike snarked.
“Spike, you’re not helping,” Angel said with a disapproving look. “Let's just be rational about this. Xander came to get us and, from what we can tell, the storm didn’t follow him. How do you explain that?”
Xander almost giggled at the thought of walking around with a black thunder cloud over his head. He was turning into Daffy Duck.
“I’m not sure that I can fully explain it,” Willow replied, pulling Xander out of his cartoon daydream. “I’d like to try something…”
“Wot?” Spike asked suspiciously, hugging Xander a little closer.
“I’d like to do a kind of meditation with Xander. See what I can pick up from him.”
“It won’t hurt him, will it? ‘Cos if it does, so help me, Red, I’ll…”
“Don’t worry, Spike. It won’t hurt him. He won’t feel a thing. Can I?”
Willow directed the question to Xander and held her hand out to him. Xander took it immediately. He trusted his friend implicitly.
“Willow, I missed you.”
“I missed you too, Xan.”
“I really needed to talk you.”
“I know, I’m so sorry that I had to go away.”
“After everything that’s happened, do you hate me?” Xander asked, worriedly, as thunder and lightning crashed around the house.
“Xander! Don’t be silly! I love you, you big dope. Although, when we’ve done with all this, we are going to sit down and discuss why you’ve been keeping secrets from me.”
Willow's tone was soft and friendly and Xander felt himself relax slightly. He could cope with his other friends freaking out about the consort bond, the chip and the ritual with Angel. But not Willow. If she turned on him, it would destroy him. His love for Willow was everlasting, the very thought of her hating him made Xander feel sick. But no, she didn’t hate him, she still loved him. He flicked his gaze briefly to Tara and found that she too held a soft smile on her face. She didn’t hate him either.
Willow led him over to the middle of the room and sat him down cross-legged on the floor. She pulled out a couple of candles from her satchel and lit them, placing them next to her.
“You always carry candles about, Red?” Spike asked, clearly bemused.
Willow shook the satchel. “One for every occasion,” she chirped. “Now shush, everyone, I need to concentrate.”
Willow crossed her legs and closed her eyes. “Goddess of the Earth and Seas, your power shines brightly through rivers and trees. Show me your light, your power, your sight. Give me your heart to see what is right.”
Xander felt his eyes slip closed as Willow reached out for him. She placed her hands on either side of his face and hummed.
In Willow's mind she saw a terrific flash. Bright blue with electricity, it hurtled towards her. Strangely unafraid, she kept hold of Xander and tried to see past the erratic flashes. A scene began to unfold. It was a tomb. Xander stood in the middle, looking up at the beautiful floating figure of a woman with long flowing hair and a magnificent turquoise dress. Willow recognised her instantly. It was Isis. Willow watched and listened as the scene played out. The Goddess introduced herself and told Xander not to be afraid. He wasn’t. Isis promised to help Xander in return for his help. She wanted freedom. She was a Goddess, trapped in this tomb, her wings clipped and her soul restrained.
Willow continued to watch as Isis transformed herself into the snake that she now embodied. She watched as Xander petted and spoke to her. Watched as Xander soothed and reassured her and watched as Xander fed and cared for her.
The picture in her mind shifted and she now saw a hotel room. Willow watched as Xander was caressed, kissed, made love to by both Angel and Spike. She watched as Xander was bitten by them, and she watched as he bit back and drank from them both.
The picture shifted again. She still saw her three friends in the hotel room, touching and enjoying each other, but it was overlapped by a vision of Isis in her serpent form. The Goddess’ eyes shone and flashed bright blue, and the colour filled up the picture. Willow felt a bolt of electricity surge through her fingers and she let go of Xander with a gasp.
“Wot?! What did you see?”
“Bloody hell, Red! What did you see?!”
Willow took Xander’s hands in hers and shuffled closer.
“I saw…a gift.”
The soldiers gathered. There were more than enough to bring down two Hostiles and a human. They surrounded the road, mindful to stay on the outskirts of the storm. A careful ear would have heard the clicks and hums of weapons loading and readying as the Initiative prepared to attack.
Riley looked up at the storm. It was dying down, again. Would it surge back up, or would it dissipate? Riley waited and hoped.
Xander stared in confusion at his friend. “What do you mean?”
“It’s Isis. She has given you a gift. I’ve got to say, I’m not entirely sure what it is, but it’s powerful and it’s what’s causing the storm.”
Xander continued to stare, “But…What?...How?...Why would she give me a gift? And how do you know?”
“I know because I saw. I felt her presence and she showed me. I saw you back at the tomb of Osiris. I saw it when she came to you. I saw it when she transformed into the snake. And I saw you taking care of her, feeding her and stroking her. She is so grateful. You freed her from the tomb and you take care of her while you search for a way to free her from the serpent’s body. I can feel her even now. She looks on you and she wants to help you, to thank you.”
“So she gave me a gift? I don’t remember that.”
“Well, you weren’t there.”
“It happened when the house was haunted. She was here and you three all went to a hotel for the night…ahem. I’m guessing that must have been the night that you did the binding ritual.”
Three sets of ears perked up.
“Is that when it happened, when we performed the ritual?” Angel asked.
“Um, you…saw the ritual? Did you see…the naked stuff?”
Willow was tempted to laugh at her blushing friend. Trust Xander, a big deal is coming to surface and he was worried about his past nakedness.
“I saw it all. At the exact moment that the ritual was completed, Isis bestowed her gift.”
Spike got down on the floor next to his lover.
“That’s all very fascinating, Red, but what is this bloody gift and what the fuck is it doing to Xander?”
“I don’t know what the gift is, just that it is some kind of power. A big power. And it isn’t hurting Xander. It’s supposed to help him.”
“And the storm? What’s with that? I really don’t think I did that. I’d remember. Oh yes.”
“You’re doing it now.”
“I’m not!” Xander turned to face Spike, “I’m not, Spike. I swear it!”
As Xander got more upset by the events around him, the storm began to build.
“Alright, pet. Don’t get upset. I know you wouldn’t do something like this on purpose. Red, explain, please, quickly.”
“It’s his subconscious, as far as I can tell. The storm seems to be representing Xander’s emotions. As he gets more worried and upset, the storm rises. When he’s calm, so is the storm.”
“But why only here? Why didn’t it follow him?”
“I think it is anchored here somehow. I don’t understand why.” Willow shrugged. “Home is where the heart is?” she guessed.
“Not entirely buying that, Red.”
“It doesn’t matter. How do I stop it?”
“You need to harness the power and control it. Draw it back into yourself,” Willow stated confidently.
“Oookay. But can I first say, huh? And add in a little whaaat?”
Xander was joking now, but Spike could tell from his lover’s shaking hands and unsteady voice that he was frightened.
“Meditation,” Willow said calmly. “The rest of you guys back off -- Spike, that includes you -- and keep it down. Xander needs some quiet time.
Spike nodded and reluctantly left his lover’s side.
“Man, this is crazy. This is a crazy place,” Doyle observed
“That’s the Hellmouth for you.”
Doyle nodded in Angel’s direction. “What are we going to do with him?” he asked, motioning to the now unconscious soldier.
“I would suggest that we drop him off at the hospital once we can.”
“Give me a break, Angel. This guy is Initiative. He knows where I live, now…” Spike interrupted.
“I know what you’re thinking and the answer is no, you cannot kill him.”
“No buts. Xander will be extremely upset. Is that what you want?”
“'Course not, he’s been through enough. With a lot more to come.”
“Spike, this may seem sudden, but…I’d like you to come back to L.A with me, you and Xander.”
“I know what you’re going to say, that both of you can manage fine by yourselves and I really don’t doubt it. However, there is a risk now that the Initiative knows where you are and now this thing with Xander... Well, you are both going to need some support and I know some people that could help, maybe. I could research and, of course, we’ll take Isis with us…”
“Angel. Stop. Please. I’d love to come to L.A. I’ll have to talk to Xander first, but I’m pretty sure he’ll agree. It’s not necessarily permanent, though.”
“I know. But just until we can be sure that the Initiative aren’t on your back and until we work out this power that Xander has.”
“Sure. Thanks, Angel. It really does mean a lot. Really.”
The two vampires smiled at each other for a moment before realising how poncy they looked. Doyle distracted them.
“Looks like things are calming down,” he said, motioning out of the window with his head.
“Crickey. It ain’t raining!”
Spike whipped his head around at Xander. His lover was cross-legged on the floor holding hands with Willow. His face held an expression of peace and contentment. They all stood and enjoyed the tranquil feeling.
It felt good to just stop and take a breath.
Riley glanced back up at the sky.
The storm was gone.
The time had come.
He lifted his radio and gave the order.
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