April 1997. New Orleans.
In the past he had compared her skin to every white flower that ever blossomed, to snowfalls, doves and moonlight. Her pale cheeks had flushed delicately with pleasure; not at the words themselves, halting and trite as they were, but at the devotion and adoration in his low, husky voice. Now he looked at her and was silent. She was dying, caught in a slow slide back to the grave. Words could not change that and the rage built up in him every time he stroked her lank, tangled hair or kissed the hand that tried to find the strength to touch his face and failed.
“How did we come to this, love?” he asked her, despair making him cruel, “and why are you just letting it happen? Why won’t you feed? Why won’t you fight it? You want to leave me? Is that it?”
He was trembling now, stalking around the bedroom, hands squeezed into fists with nothing to hit. His anger would have excited her in the past; his jealous suspicion would have made her purr with satisfaction, but now she winced, her eyelids fluttering as his loud voice sent ripples of pain through her head. He saw her face pucker up and sank to his knees beside the bed, penitent and ashamed, resting his head against the soft quilt.
“My sweet boy,” she whispered. “You worry too much. I read the cards last night –”
His head jerked up sharply. “You promised me you wouldn’t! That’s why you’re so tired today. Why do you do it, Dru? It can’t help you, you know that.”
She shook her head, groping for his hand. “I felt the stars were in place; I had to know. They told me where I must go. You will go first to prepare the way and I will follow.” Her eyes sparked for a second, with a feverish light. “You will betray me – no, hush, you must. It’s needed. It will be for me that you do it, you’ll see. You’ll know when the time comes.”
“Dru! There’s never been any woman but you, you know that.” His voice was hurt but tinged with guilt. It had been so long since he had taken her – but he hadn’t given in. Hers until the second death, that’s what he was.
Her lips curved in a knowing smile. “I know that, my darling. No other woman. And now I’m hungry.”
“You are?” He jumped up eagerly, her words forgotten. “I got you something nice. Been keeping her quiet as a surprise. I’ll go and get her.”
He left the room and came back with a young girl, hands bound tightly behind her. Terror had robbed her of the strength to struggle and apathy was providing a merciful numbness as her heart beat out its final strokes. Spike dragged her over to Drusilla and laid her so that her neck was inches away from Drusilla’s mouth. Keeping her in position, he curled his arm around Drusilla’s thin shoulders, lifting her up. “Go on, love,” he urged. “Feed. Be strong.”
Drusilla’s face twisted and her fangs appeared. He smiled with encouragement and then sighed as she failed to bite hard enough to break the skin. “Let me help,” he said. The girl watched his handsome face alter and found breath for one gasped plea for mercy before he bit down, delicately, carefully. The warm blood flowed into his mouth and when it began to trickle down his chin he pulled away and bent to Dru, kissing her softly, letting the blood pour from his mouth to hers. He fed her like that until the girl died in his arms.
“Rest, pet,” he said, tenderly smoothing the covers over Drusilla, rejoicing in the faint flush of pink on her waxen face.
“I feel better,” she whispered. “Spike? What month is it?”
“It’s April, love, why?”
“Spring...the time when all that lives comes back to life again. Not my time. I’ll be well again in autumn, when everything is dying. But you must go there now, Spike. Promise me. Find out what it is I’ll need. Make sure there’s a place for us, a welcome mat laid.”
“You never told me where, love.”
“The Hellmouth, of course. Where else?”
Spike gaped at her in shock. “Sunnydale? Dru...you know what the Master said last time we went there.”
She tittered, the borrowed blood invigorating her. “Said you were a disgrace to the line.”
Spike looked sulky. “He said Angel and you had a lot to answer for when you made me and he trained me. Pillock.”
“He was pleased about the Slayer you killed,” she offered.
Spike brightened. “Yeah, I think he was...it was a good fight. Did I tell you how she had me and then the lights went out?”
Drusilla smiled, snuggling down and closing her eyes. “Yes...but you can tell me again. I like that story.”
“Well, I got her cornered on this subway train–”
April 1997. Sunnydale. Tuesday afternoon.
Xander walked down the corridor towards the hyena cage, resisting the urge to look back and see if Buffy and Willow were watching him with admiring glances. They probably weren’t, so if he didn’t look back he could imagine they were without feeling that he was being a complete loser.
”There is a method to my patheticness,” he muttered. The corridor opened out into a large area, fenced off at the far end. Four people, who really did deserve the label ‘loser’ and would have it tattooed on their foreheads if Xander were ever World Dictator, were holding Lance over the fence, and scaring the life out of him. Xander sighed. Some would say Lance asked for it, but he hated bullies with every fibre of his being. Vampires were worse and demons in general pushed them down to third on the list but still, yeah, bullies were bad. He should know.
He walked over a weird symbol painted on the concrete floor in a truly revolting shade of red, and grabbed at Lance, pulling him to safety. He was just enjoying some verbal sparring with Kyle when the world around him shifted.
The hyena growled –
And Xander wasn’t alone anymore.
Xander left the Bronze, heart hammering with pleasure at that last vicious jab. Willow’s face...why had he never realised how exposed people were, how easy it was to bring them down with just a few words? And they were starting to fear him now – he watched in amusement as they scattered out of his way, the girls glancing at him appraisingly through down swept lashes; the boys just failing to meet his challenging stare.
Fun though it was, he wanted out. There was something stifling about the club tonight, something that made his throat close up as he was accidentally brushed by bodies that weren’t kin to him. Kyle and his friends were still in there but he had stayed away from them, still resisting the call to join them. They were his pack, yes, but they were still playing. Xander wanted to do more than play.
The alley beside the Bronze was dark, but not for him. Tonight his eyes twisted the blackness, squeezing out every droplet of light from the stars above and the streetlights below. He sniffed the air, raising his head to catch every message it brought him, a thousand whispers merging in a soft, cool breeze. The scents in this alley were singing to him, plucking at his sleeve and brushing his face. Blood, death, food; it stank of these things. He had never walked down it alone after sunset before.
Xander turned into the alley, quickly swallowed by the shadows, a giggle forcing its way between his lips. It was so funny to remember that he’d been scared to walk here. When a clump of shadows began to move, he carried on walking, lips twisted in a grin. Two shapes, writhing in a parody of affection, desperate moans and whimpers from one, a low growl from the other.
A feeding vampire. And he still wasn’t scared. Just hungry. How funny was that?
Spike swallowed, and turned, an incredulous glare on his face. He had an audience? What was it with this town? He’d spent the day listening to stories about a new Slayer in town and too many hours negotiating safe passage with a minion of the Master’s. The ugly old bugger wouldn’t even see Spike face to face. Just passed on a warning that Spike was only allowed to feed once a night and he might find time to see him tomorrow. As if there was a shortage of food! He knew what the Master was trying to do; get Spike so angry that he left, or gave him an excuse to kill him. Temper rose within him and he threw a punch at the youth, his fist moving so fast it blurred. The boy just stood there, swaying out of the way of the blow, still with that stupid laugh bubbling out of his mouth.
“Do you mind?” Spike said acidly. “Some of us are trying not to get hiccups.” He cocked his head, studying the youth in front of him. Human, but with a tang of magic about him that made Spike feel a tremor of unease. The boy’s eyes...dark under thick eyebrows, eyes that looked at the world and saw a toy made to be broken and taken apart. Scary eyes. Familiar eyes.
“Is she dead?” The boy tried to sound indifferent but there was an edge of excitement roughening his words.
Drusilla’s eyes. Yes. The same wilfullness, the same indifference to anything that interfered with gaining pleasure or inflicting pain.
“Will be soon enough. Look, mate –”
The boy looked at him directly for an endless moment and Spike felt the stirrings of a lust too long unsatisfied. It might have ended there – not the time, not the place, and the boy was disturbing him on many levels – but the woman’s blood had sprayed over his face and the hand he had clamped over her gasping, gaping mouth. Without thinking, he brought his fingers to his mouth to lick them clean. The boy was close and he moved closer, capturing Spike’s wrist in strong fingers and bringing the stained fingers to his mouth.
Spike felt a tingling anticipation spread through his body at the first warm touch. Twisting within the boy’s grasp, he placed the palm of his hand over the lad’s mouth and nose, letting him take the scent of the blood. Spike was hard already, and as the warm breath sighed out to cover his hand, he had to bite his lip to cover the moan that rose from him.
“That’s right, boy,” he whispered, as a tongue lapped eagerly around his fingers. “That’s – hey!”
The dark eyes were blazing now and the grip on Spike’s wrist was painful. “Don’t call me that.”
Spike pursed his lips, his own temper rising. “Wasn’t planning on formal introductions, mate but whatever. My name’s Spike and my hobbies are biting people until they stop asking me not to and keeping up with the footie. You?”
The lad looked confused for a moment and Spike raised a cynical eyebrow. “Jones? Smith?”
“Xander.” The word was dragged out of him with difficulty, as though it was a word he’d known once but forgotten.
“Well, now we’re best friends, so let’s get on with it before we have company.”
The mood shivered, like a glass vibrating as a high note sounded. Just before it shattered, Xander’s grip loosened and he bent his head, drawn to the enticing scent of fresh blood. Spike felt the rasp of his tongue begin again and decided to speed up the cleaning. Parting Xander’s lips with his fingers, he slipped two fingers inside the furnace of his mouth. Xander seemed oblivious to the sensations he was evoking, intent only on the unfamiliar, intoxicating taste, but the process went on long after Spike’s fingers were bare of blood. Xander was sucking and biting, his tongue swirling around the cool fingers that had invaded his body so casually. Spike let it go on a moment longer before pulling them out. Xander’s eyes were glazed, less human than before and Spike wondered, fleetingly, just what had been done to him. Did it matter? Well, maybe. Spike didn’t fancy waking up all furry.
He’d forgotten the blood that lay in an intricate webbing across his cheek. Xander hadn’t. He leaned forward and nuzzled against Spike’s neck, making the vampire flinch before his arm came up to circle around Xander’s shoulders, pulling him closer. Xander’s busy tongue explored every contour of Spike’s face, finding and cleaning every dried droplet. His breath was blood scented and every exhalation was surrounding Spike with a cloud of mingled scents.
Finally, Xander began to pull back, his job done. Spike’s arm held him in place and his eyes, gleaming with arousal, told him wordlessly that he had gone too far to retreat. Spike’s other hand came up and his thumb traced a line across Xander’s eyebrow and down to the strong clean lines of his jaw. Finally, it hooked under his chin, tilting Xander’s head up slightly, exposing his throat.
“You scared I’m going to bite you, pet?” Spike said in a throaty, humming voice that wriggled inside every opening Xander’s body had and made itself at home.
Xander shook his head. He was scared but not because of that. He was frightened because his body wasn’t quite his any more. Forces were moving within him, reshaping emotions and desires, simplifying and refining all he was.
“It’s good to be a little scared, you know. I won’t mind.” The voice was insinuating now, mocking but not unfriendly. Xander wanted it to stop it talking. He was having trouble with words; trouble making them fit what was inside his mind. He was shedding concepts as a snake sheds skin and he had a feeling that if he thought about what he was doing he might find a reason to stop. He didn’t want to stop.
“Going to have you now. Last chance to run. I’ll catch you, of course, but I’ll let you try.”
Xander grinned, feeling assurance flood back, as though the very idea of running away had freed him from fear. It was his lips that took Spike’s, a simple hard press of skin on skin at first. He’d kissed girls before – not many, but some. They had giggled, noses and teeth bumping his own awkwardly, mouths gaping like foolish fish. He had done his best to match their movements but he couldn’t say that it had been as much fun as he’d expected. This was different. The lips against his were cool and firm, opening up just enough to let their tongues meet. The kiss deepened and suddenly Xander was moaning, little whimpering noises, wrapping his arms around Spike, feeling Spike’s hands move down his back, palms flat, stroking him through his cotton shirt. The hands pulled impatiently and his shirt came untucked. When Spike’s hands slid against his skin Xander felt his hips jerk forward reflexively. When the vampire’s nails scored his back, raking it from shoulder blades to waist, he threw back his head and howled, the sound torn from him, leaving him emptier of humanity than he had been before.
Spike laughed, eyes sparkling with appreciation. This was going to make up for the long journey and all the crawling he’d had to do. The lad was such an intriguing mix of naivety and lust. No time to teach him much, but Spike decided that he wanted more than he could take in an alley. He thought of Drusilla but she was far away and this – this was nothing. It didn’t count.
“Listen, mate. This place is going to be crawling soon when they kick the kiddies out of that club. Let’s go somewhere quieter.” Spike caught Xander’s arm and tugged at him.
Xander annoyed him by looking down at the body on the floor, hesitating at the thought of leaving her. The woman was starting to move, her hands groping, scrabbling pathetically against the ground. Spike cursed mildly and went to her, dropping to his knees and looking up at Xander. “Come on then – do it fast.”
Xander fell to his knees beside Spike, head tilting as he looked at the woman. “She’s dying...”
“Yeah, think I took a bit much. She’s not going to make it.” Spike’s fangs flashed as he grinned. “Be a kindness to put her out of her misery.” With a swift, practiced, movement he bent his head and tore out her throat, drinking for a moment before thrusting her at Xander.
Xander stared at him, the body of the woman lying across his thighs. “You’re sharing food with me,” he said slowly. “Why? You’re not one of my pack.”
“Don’t know what you mean, pet, but we’re the same. Can’t you see it?”
“I’m not a vampire.”
Spike’s eyebrows lifted, his mouth expressive. “You’re a human with something else inside you. You want blood. I’m a vampire with a demon who wants it too. When the sun rises it might be different but tonight, right here, right now – we’re the same.”
Xander looked down at the body. “She smells good.”
“Sure she does. And she’ll taste better. Feed.”
And Xander did. He was drawn to the wound Spike had left, the skin already opened by teeth so much sharper than his own. He worried away at the flesh, ripping off shreds, feeling the cooling blood gloss his lips and coat his fingers. Spike stood guard, a little disdainful but approving. The boy wasn’t exactly neat but there was something exciting about watching him. Spike wondered if he would have cared if the woman were still alive. Probably not.
Xander was lost in an experience so intense that it left no room for any emotion other than pleasure. When Spike’s hand fell onto his shoulder, shaking him roughly and then pulling him away from his meal, he growled angrily, baring his teeth.
“Someone’s coming and best we get the hell out,” Spike said. “I promised someone I wouldn’t hunt more than once a night while I was here and he’s not the sort of person you disappoint. Come on”
Xander was still resisting, snarling and trying to carry on feeding, when suddenly he went very still, his face turned towards the high, light voice of one of the people approaching.
“Buffy, are you sure Xander came down here? On his own? I mean, even with you here, I’m all terrified and –”
Xander sprang to his feet and looked around wildly. Spike’s eyes narrowed but he didn’t waste time asking questions. They left just as Buffy and Willow arrived, the sound of their footsteps drowned by Willow’s scream as she stumbled over the body.