“So? What’d you get from boy-wonder’s little speech?”
Spike smirked while Xander clutched at a tree, breathing hard. He would have laughed when the boy eeped and jumped three feet, but he didn’t want to attract any attention to them. Took long enough to get the girls to go scout out the north side, anyway.
Although why Buffy had felt safe leaving Xander and Spike, the two most useless members of her little group, by themselves he wasn’t going to guess. He didn’t like what it made him think about.
“Spike! Dammit, it’s dark, it’s cold, and I do not need you coming up behind me like–ow!”
Ignoring the pain from the chip, Spike gripped tighter while Xander struggled. “Hold still,” he hissed. The boy immediately froze, looking frightened—really frightened. Good. “You don’t talk like that. Ever.” He kept his voice cold, hard, and completely level. “Say it.”
“Wha—Spike, what are you—”
“Say it. You don’t speak like that to me.”
“I—I won’t—I—Spike, I’m sorry, I—”
“I won’t speak like that to you again.”
“You know why, pet?” Spike moved closer, their bodies centimeters from touching. God, he’s so warm. For that alone I’d keep him for as long as I could. “Why you aren’t allowed to do that?” He nuzzled the boy’s neck, allowing teenage hormones to take over. The boy slumped slightly in Spike’s hold, mind already clouded by arousal and fear and just enough pain that it was good.
“No?” Xander was breathing heavily now, switching between fear and arousal with each heartbeat. Perfect.
“Cause you’re mine, precious. Not the other way around.” He was grateful to the hyena residing in his boy’s head, and not just because he got a deliciously tasty treat out of it. It meant that sooner or later, the human would be regaled with a small lesson in what, exactly, an alpha really meant. At least in vampire terms.
“Oh.” Another moment of tension, and then Spike felt the boy relax up against him. Better an’ better. He likes it when I control him! Xander twisted so that his neck was still against Spike’s mouth, his head lower than Spike’s. “Yours,” he whispered.
Mmm, beautiful. That smell that says he’s a tasty treat that belongs only to—bloody hell!
“Good boy,” Spike crooned, pulling Xander into an upright position and away from the tree. “Very good. Time to move, pet, before the nasties remember that you smell good.”
Xander blinked, losing some of the dazed look as the intoxicating smell of submission and arousal faded into the general Xander-smell. Which was pretty damned nummy anyway. Flashing a sheepish smile at Spike, the boy began walking again. “Sorry,” he apologized quietly. “Just me babbling, like usual.”
“Don’t have a problem with you bein’ you, luv. Yell at me like that again, though, an’ we’ll just have t’ figure out how far this chip goes.”
“Oh, yeah, about the chip!” Xander bounced, lesson learned and filed away. Curious. “I think you can hit demons!”
Oh, don’t I look the gobsmacked vampire! Xander was standing in front of him, eyebrows furrowed in anxious concern. The boy made as if to touch his arm but stopped halfway there. “S-Spike?”
Shaking himself, he got himself and the boy moving again. Never make yourself an easy target, Angelus’ lesson the millionth. “You think I can fight demons, then?”
“Ye-ah. Um, I was expecting you to be more, well, enthusiastic about this.”
That made Spike grin. Bleedin’ hell, the boy wants my approval! He really is a damned puppy. “First you tell me why you think that. Then we test it out.” He realized Xander was staring at him with open-mouthed shock. “What?”
“You, um. You want to. . . test it?”
“Look, pet. You don’t last as long as I have without bein’ careful.”
“But you’re never—”
“I am always careful, boy.” Glaring darkly at the surprised human, he cursed his impatience. That was his downfall, no matter how carefully he plotted and planned and it had bit him rather spectacularly on the arse just recently, so he wasn’t going to fall prey to it this time. He was going to be very cautious until he figured this out. “So, why do you think I can hurt a demon?”
“Riley said living things. He was really careful about that. Demons aren’t really alive, right? You aren’t, so you can probably at least go after vampires, And, well, why would the Initiative care if you hurt demons?”
Spike ‘hm’ed, continuing to walk as he thought. Good reasoning there. ’Specially given that mess I saw when I was escaping. . . It was just a large room, but it had been covered in demon blood. Just demon, no human. In fact, no human smell at all. And the other prisoners had whispered about that room, told dark stories of matches between demons, like slaves in the Colosseum. . .
“Right, then,” he said after a bit. “Sounds good. First thing we do, is get you trained up a bit. Once you’re good for baby fledges, we’ll test out—what?”
Xander was stock still, staring at him in total shock. “Trained? Test? Where’s the ‘bloody right!’ and the ‘gonna get my spot of violence in’?” Xander’s attempt at a British accent left Spike cringing. Thank god the boy didn’t know enough to realize that his accent was just as fake, if better executed. “Who are you and what have you done with Spike?”
In’tr’stin’. Very. When I act like he expects me t’ act—like I’m a sodding thirteen year old—he’s fine. Snarky, adorable Xander. ’S when I start bein’ an adult that the fear kicks in. Real fear. Huh. And—bloody hell, I did not just think the boy was adorable!
Shaking off that uncomfortable thought, he concentrated on the true fear lurking in the boy’s eyes. “You really think I’m that stupid?” he asked bluntly. “That I don’t learn new things, keep myself in shape?”
“Dead men don’t get fat.”
“Don’t mean physical, you ninny. The world changes. Every bloody day, it changes. Some thing’s stay the same, no matter what—fists an’ fangs an’ blood an’ sweat. But the rest? Thirty years ago, computers sittin’ on every desk was ruddy science fiction. Those damned zapper guns, whatchacallem, tasers? You shock a vamp, it’s gonna do the same thing it would to a human. Might not last as long, but still works. Better’n a sword or a pistol, that’s for sure.”
“You’ve been tased before?” Xander resumed walking, looking thoughtful.
“Yeah. ’S how the Initiative got me.”
They walked silently after that, scanning the forest for the orange patches Willow’s spell should reveal when they got near the demon. If she doesn’t cock this one up, anyway. Girl shouldn’t be allowed to do magic without a bloody nursemaid. He shuddered at the remembered taste of the Slayer’s lips on his. Not his type, thank you. He liked them tall and dark.
“You know how to use a computer?”
Spike snorted. “What, you thought I went around the campus all day askin’ about a little blond bitch an’ her redheaded wicca mate? Please. Give me some credit.”
“Oh, I do.” Said very quietly, and Spike kept himself as quiet and still as possible. They were being almost friendly and if he was lucky, his careful manipulation would pay off. Mine, yeah, but I don’t need a human minion. We’re gonna keep this quiet, he’s gotta stay smart.
“I do,” Xander was saying, still in that quiet, pensive voice. “You act like an idiot, sometimes,”—half-grin at Spike’s growl—“but you catch on too fast to be that stupid. You just let your mouth get in the way too much.”
We seein’ similarities, boy? You are not as brainless as your friends think, an’ I’m quite sure that’s intentional. You’re hiding something, same as I was. Now me, I was hiding a ponce of a human that I hated even when I was livin’ him. What are you hiding, boy? What’s made you so damned scared of someone treatin’ you like a person?
“Oh, a compliment from the boy-blunder.”
Xander snorted. “Okay, that was awful.”
“Yeah, well, I’d rather be teachin’ you t’ be more than a walking bruise, instead of playing the Slayer’s lapdog.”
Xander stopped again. “You mean that? You want to train me?”
Spike nodded, scanning the forest as he caught a faint hint of something metallic and warm floating on the cool night air. “Never understood why Rupert didn’t. Slayer’s too strong t’ do it herself, but he could train you lot just fine. Well, maybe not Red—don’t think she’d be much in a fight, aside from the magic. But you could least learn how to not get in trouble.”
“Hey!” Xander objected, but Spike knew it was more habit. “Um, how would we do that? Teach me, I mean.”
“Don’t have to hit t’ teach, idiot. You ever watch the Slayer train? She does most of the hittin’.”
Xander crossed his arms. “And when the hell have you watched Buffy train?”
Spike just smirked, inwardly pleased that the boy managed to sound aggrieved without being superior. He didn’t mind their bantering, in fact he enjoyed it as much as the verbal battles with the Slayer, but certain ground rules had to be observed. There was only one alpha in this arrangement.
“Remind me to find those tapes,” he said lightly, hand under the boy’s elbow to keep him moving. The feel of magic was making his skin tingle. “They’re great wank material.”
“Videos. Of the Slayer. Most of ’em are from her patrols, but got a couple with her an’ Rupes in the library.” Spike leered, noting the faint hint of arousal his words produced. God, this boy was so responsive. Luscious. “Thought I just went after her, all impulsive-like?”
“Shows what you know.” Which wasn’t to say he hadn’t gone after her, all impulsive-like. Just that after I did the first time, I learned my lesson and started plannin’. Despite her mother’s save with an ax, Buffy’s performance that night had been admirable. Totally outnumbered, worried about protectin’ everyone else and it was a fight to get to her. She’s tough enough. Not stupid in a fight, like the other ones.
Spike knew the only reason he’d bagged two Slayers was sheer luck, and their own stupidity. The China-girl had been exhausted, fighting nearly nonstop for days. He just happened to be the lucky one who was there when she gave up. The one in New York one had gotten herself boxed in that damned subway car, no real weapons and no way out. Spike didn’t have to beat her to win, just wait until she was too hurt and tired to fight. An’ be thankful she couldn’t cut off m’head with those poles. She was desperate enough to try.
“You videoed Buffy? To see how she fights? Okay, please do not let me see those videos. It was be—bad. And what does this have to do with my training?”
“You ever see her spar with Rupert? He don’t actually hit her, most o’ the time. Just lets her wail on him an’ corrects her when she needs it. Figure something like that would work all right for you. Y’can’t hurt me.”
“You wouldn’t teach me weapons?” Wistfulness? So he wants this, not just cause o’ me. Good. “Sword or something?”
“Not sword. Don’t got the time. But ax, mebbe. Could do a lot of damage with that and you’re strong enough.” Ah, that’s where it was coming from. “Cave, hundred yards to the left.”
“Huh? Oh. Hey, it’s glowing orange! Go, Will—” Xander made a lurph sound as Spike’s hand clamped around his mouth.
“Lesson one, boy. When near the enemy, shut the hell up!” Pulling them both down behind a large tree, he examined the hill. “We got the stuff, right? The magic-be-gone stuff?”
Xander nodded, holding up a small bottle of clear liquid. “Check. So, what, we just toss it in there?”
“No, I toss it in there.” Do not make me explain myself, boy. I don’t want to have to think up an excuse. Xander just raised an eyebrow. Yes, I’m evil. So what if I’m helping? I can get my jollies this way, since I won’t be gettin’ any from you tonight. Not that he was particularly horny, anyway, but the boy was practically swaying he was so exhausted. Beside, there were other things they could do. . .
“Vamps got some immunity to magicks,” he said when Xander continued to just look at him. “If he’s got any traps or whatnot, I won’t set ’em off.”
“So, you go in, throw the stuff, and then I come in with the crowbar?” Snarath were, like many demons, extremely sensitive to cold iron so Giles had handed out a few crowbars he had handy before they’d left. Xander hefted it now with a pleased grin.
“Mebbe. If I get stuck.” I am killing something tonight, god dammit. Snake demon, you just got elected.
Some of that must have been visible in the dim moonlight, because Xander blinked and swallowed whatever he had been about to say. “Okay. So. . . what do I do?”
“You help. An’ watch.”
It was a very satisfying fight.
Cautiously approaching the mouth of the cave, they peered inside. The snarath, long and sinuous despite stubby arms and legs, lay curled around a small pile of something, glowing golden in the dim torch light.
All the comforts of home. Spike smelled gold—real gold—and silver, the old leather of books, and the sharp, tingling scent that meant magic. A lot of it. Xander silently passed the bottle over, watching as Spike crept forward.
He felt his foot hit a depression in the ground and something tingled over his entire body—making him very glad that Xander was doing exactly what he’d been told to do, waiting mostly patiently. Shaking off the feeling of sleepiness—this was probably a sleep-and-freeze spell, fairly common to hold intruders until they could be dealt with—Spike moved just a bit closer and opened the jar.
The snarath open one big, slit-pupiled eye, just in time to get a face-full of Willow’s spell.
It gave a mind-bending shriek and began thrashing. The amulet around its neck fell off with a bell-tone clang, and Spike caught the crowbar Xander had tossed to him. Right then, here goes. Pulling back like a baseball slugger, he walloped the flailing body.
I can hit demons. He swung again, enjoying the squishing sound as tiny bones broke. I can hit demons!
The snarath took a long time to die.
It was nearly thirty minutes later that he came back to himself. He was panting, grinning wildly, with bits of snarath-demon in his hair and all over his clothes.
He felt in-fucking-credible.
I can kill things. Don’t bloody care if they ain’t humans. I can kill things again! Crowing with delight, he began jumping up and down on the remains of the demon, just because he could. “Take that, you government wankers! Can too hurt things!”
Got blood, got sex, got violence. Don’t need humans, so long as I have ’em. An’ speakin’ of humans. . . where’d my boy get off to? Spike had been peripherally aware of Xander leaving when Spike went all out, reveling in his ability to fight again. The snarath hadn’t gone down easily once it had gotten over it’s lack of magic, fighting back even against the touch of death-metal.
Spike wasn’t surprised that Xander hadn’t stuck around to watch. He was surprised that the boy hadn’t tried to stop him. Though he could’ve an’ I wouldn’t ’ave heard him. But he didn’t think so. Right, so where has he gone? If he’s wandered off alone—
He whirled, snarling in possessive rage. “Mine!” he growled, yanking the boy close and clamping down on his neck—and then breaking off, howling as the chip activated and tried to burn him from the inside out.
Buggering fuck! he cursed, cradling his head as he waited for the pain to subside. Oh, that hurts. Damn. Haven’t had a full-on shot like that in a while. Not for several weeks, anyway. Didn’t need the reminder. Well, know the sodding thing still works, now, don’t we? Ow.
“Xander? Xander what happened!” “Xander, what’s going on?”
Opening blurring eyes, Spike watched as the boy scrambled back towards the entrance of the cave. He was saying something, presumably to the girls, but Spike couldn’t make out what exactly it was.
“Just wait a minute, okay? Let me see!” That he heard clearly, but only because Xander was now walking towards him. “Spike?” Groaning, Spike waved the boy off and clambered to his feet. “You okay?”
Crap. Rich, heavy, sweet and thick, he felt glands fight through the pain to try and salivate at the smell—Xander was bleeding. Forcing himself to look closely, he saw the boy holding his neck, right under the high collared shirt he was wearing. “Fuck,” he gasped out.
“Hey, it’s okay. I startled you, that’s all. You didn’t even go that deep. Are you okay? I thought you were having seizure! Spike, c’mon, talk to me, Spike please be okay, please you’ve got to be okay—”
“Enough, pet.” Probably not the wisest thing to do with a babbling, frightened boy frantically running his hands over your body in desperate need for reassurance, but the babbling was more than he could take. “S’alright, really. Just the chip tellin’ me why I can’t claim you that way. Oh, damn this hurts.”
He wondered what on earth had made the boy go so frighteningly still. Then the babble kicked in overdrive. “Buffy and Willow are outside. I made them wait, I didn’t want them to see you doing—that. Which was kinda freaky, you really like the violence-thing, don’t you? So I made them wait because they’d probably be really grossed out, even Buffy. I gave Willow the clan amulet and she wants to take it back to Giles and have him study it and they have to make sure that they don’t let Riley have it because who knows what the Initiative—sorry.”
Huh? Oh. I’m growling. “Not mad at you, pet. Just slow down a mite, yeah? Got a bit of a headache.” Swallowing heavily, he eyed the cavern again. With the pain fading, some of his earlier contentment was returning. Not the best of worlds, no, but how many vamps could claim to have what he had?
How many vamps would want it, is a better question. “Look, luv, why don’t you go back with the Slayer—”
“Without you?” Spike squinted, trying to read that usually open, laughing face. There was. . . nothing. Not in his face, or his voice. No emotion. Not even a hint of what lay behind those big, dark eyes.
“I’ll be back in a bit. Look ’round—see all that crap? I wanna go through it. Don’t argue with me, boy. Give the Slayer the amulet, yeah, and you get her t’ walk you home. Too many beasties out there. I’ll be back in a bit, don’t worry.”
He kept his own face impassive while he watched a suddenly nervous Xander shift from foot to foot.
“Xander? Is everything okay in there? It can’t be that messy, and I don’t trust Blond-boy not to do something stupid!”
The boy gave a credible growl before nodding decisively about something. “All right. Just—don’t be long, k?”
“Won’t be. Got me a bed to sleep in tonight—better than havin’ me own crypt, that is. So, go on, luv. You’re asleep on your feet. Go home, take a nap. Won’t wake you when I come in.” Well, he would, but that was irrelevant. He had quite a few things to do before he went back to the basement apartment.
Xander kept his eyes on the vampire as he backed out. “Please don’t be long.” Spike could only nod, wondering at the curious flatness to the boy’s voice.
Have I mentioned I don’t actually like crazy people? That’s not why I stayed with Dru, an’ I really don’t want another psycho pet. He listened as the boy convinced the girls that Spike would be just fine on his own—Why would you care, Buffy, if something dusted the Bleached Menace? No, Wills, I don’t think anyone will. It’s his unlife to risk, so can we just go?—and made their way out of the forest. No longer concerned about Spike, they pumped Xander for information on how the fight had gone.
Right, then. Free at last. Time to start my unlife again.
The thing he missed most, thanks to his impromptu trip to the vet? It wasn’t the blood, the sex, or the violence, not really. Those things were replaceable. He missed the independence. Craved it, needed it as much as his demon needed blood to survive. Depending on the charity of the Scoobies hadn’t sat well, nor was he complacent about the rumors he knew were being spread in his absence. So it was time to correct both of these problems.
Good thing this Snarath-thing thought it was half-dragon, then, innit?