Xander clenched the dashboard, and stared nervously out the window, or at least out the one clear space on the window he could see out of. Spike took a corner far too fast, and Xander clung tightly to the dashboard and braced his feet in the footwell, hoping that he wouldn’t slide too far over, since if he bumped into Spike that might cause him to crash, as fast as they were moving.
Besides, that would lead to touchage, and Xander had no interest in touching the bleached bastard, even through layers and layers of cloth and leather. He swallowed his fear, and concentrated on what he knew best, his hatred of Spike. And he did hate Spike. He really did. Okay, good. He felt better already.
From what he could see out of the black-painted windshield, they came close to sideswiping a car, and the man getting out of it. Xander squealed – shouted! That was a manly shout, not a squeal of panic.
“Spike! You almost killed that guy!”
“Stop being such a nob, Harris. We’re not even going…” he paused to check the speedometer, “40 miles over the limit. What are you, some kind of baby?” He laughed. “What am I saying? Of course you are.”
“I’m a man who is worried about making it to Lover’s Lane in one piece, all right? Breathing, living human, here! No breaking the human, remember?”
“What a wimp. Don’t worry, Harris, vampire reflexes, remember? he parroted back at Xander sarcastically. He pushed a tape into the deck, and loud, ear-splitting music came out, which Spike sang along to as he took his hands off the steering wheel to light his cigarette.
Xander held his panic down, his nails digging furrows in the dashboard. How the hell did he let them talk him into this?
“Sualapet demons heighten human’s libidos, while seriously depleting their self-control, enabling the demons to feed off the sexual energy humans emit when they’re having sex.”
Giles' face was red. It was obvious that he felt uncomfortable with the whole conversation. Xander couldn’t stop his subtle smirk.
“This is why they’re attracted to teenagers, and young adults. Their hormones are already at a peak, and they fluctuate wildly. The least amount of encouragement can set them off, and make them even more reckless in their pursuit of carnality than is usual.”
Spike turned down the music to say, “Relax, Harris, you’re not going to die between here and there.”
“Only because we’re almost there! You need to slow down.” Spike started to say something, but Xander talked right over him. “We’re supposed to be keeping a low profile, remember? If you take those gravel roads at these speeds, everyone is going to notice when we show up.”
“I’m not an idiot, Harris. I know what the roads are like out here, I’ve been here plenty of times. Probably more often than you.”
“What? I grew up here. Cordelia and I came out here all the time.”
“Is that the little cheerleader chit? The one that broke up with you on Valentine’s Day?” Spike scoffed. “I heard all about her. You telling me you actually got her to spread those lily white thighs for you?”
“Hey!” Xander regretting bringing Cordelia up now. Obviously the girls had been telling tales behind his back. “That’s none of your business, buster! I don’t kiss and tell!”
Spike nodded sagely. “Especially when you’ve got nothing to tell.”
Xander was saved by the fact that their turn off was coming up rapidly, and Spike wasn’t even slowing down. For that matter, he wasn’t even looking at the road. How long had he been looking at Xander, and ignoring the road?
Spike glanced to the front, and cursed, twisting the wheel sharply to the right, swerving the car off onto the grassy bank on the other side of the road before getting it headed back onto the road again, at a slower speed.
Xander gasped, unclenching his hands from the dash and working his fingers to restore the feeling in them. “You’re going to get me killed, you asshole. And if I’m dying, I’m going to take you with me. I have a stake, and I know how to use it.”
It was an empty threat, and Xander knew it. As long as Spike was conscious, he’d be able to get out of a dying Xander’s way.
Spike laughed. “You don’t scare me, lunkhead.”
“Oh yeah? If you crash this car, and I get hurt, who do you think the chip is going to blame for that?” He crossed his arms smugly, and let Spike think that one through.
“What? No,” Spike protested.
“Remember back when you were staying with me, and you pushed the bathroom door open as I was walking by? You didn’t even have to see me before the chip reacted.”
Xander smirked as Spike slammed the steering wheel with both hands. He half expected the wheel to crumple under the blow, but it held up. He guessed they built cars better back in the fifties, or whenever this old junker was from. Actually, it was a pretty solidly built car, which was good, considering the way Spike drove. But it was too bad seatbelts weren’t mandatory way back when. Xander could have used a seatbelt.
“So Sualapet demons are like a succubus, or an incubus?”
“Not exactly, Willow. Succubi and incubi actually sleep with the humans they drain of life force. There are many similar creatures in folk legends and mythology throughout history - the leannán sídhe in Celtic folklore, and the qarînah of Arabian mythology. Brazilians have the boto, Germans the alp, and in Chile they have a creature called the trauco. But all of these have intercourse with humans, and steal the human’s life force.
"The Sualapet demons have no physical contact with the humans they drain. They release into the air a hormone which encourages arousal in both sexes, and practically eliminates self-restraint. Once the hormone takes effect, they need only remain nearby, and absorb the sexual energy that is a natural byproduct of the sex act. And yes, before you ask, life force and sexual energy are two distinct forms of energy.”
They pulled off the gravel road a good half a mile before the grassy clearing that should be crowded with cars on a Saturday night. Xander had always thought of Miller’s Woods as a creepy place, even in the daytime, but tonight, Xander was pretty sure he could feel the tension in the air. He had a feeling it wasn’t all sexual, either.
Once the car was far enough off the road that it wasn’t likely to be seen, they got out and pulled out their weapons. Xander couldn’t help the snort of laughter that escaped; calling his two favorite Super Soaker CPS 2000s weapons worthy of a demon hunt was just funny. He’d hated to pull them out at first. The CPS 2000 was discontinued. If it weren’t for the fact that they were well used, he could probably get a good price for them from a collector. But he’d never sell. He, Jessie, and Willow had spent more than one summer chasing each other around Willow’s parent’s house with these. Good times.
He’d thought long and hard about it before he agreed that this was a worthy use for them. Jessie usually left his Soaker at Xander’s or maybe Willow’s house, to keep his kid brothers from getting their hands on it, and it had been at Xander’s house when he’d been vamped. Xander’d held onto it all these years, even bringing both of them with him when he finally moved out of his parent’s house earlier this year. But they needed it, and Xander liked to think Jessie would approve.
He’d given his to Spike, and kept Jessie’s for himself, but Xander still warned the vampire to take good care of it, or else. Spike had been smugly unimpressed with them until they took him outside and showed him the range and power the toys had. He’d finally admitted they’d do the job. As they pulled the Super Soakers out of the trunk, Xander grimaced; the combination of salt, lemon, eucalyptus, fennel, and other assorted smelly herbs was disgusting. Tara had promised the tonic wasn’t harmful to humans, but that didn’t mean he had to like it.
He noticed Spike wasn’t breathing, except to speak, so he supposed he wasn’t the only one who thought it smelled bad. But hey, as long as it broke through the demon’s hormones, and disrupted his spell when they needed it to, they’d have to put up with it. They pulled out a couple of gallons of refills for backup, and headed out.
“Do you feel it yet?” Xander whispered.
The shake of Spike’s head was hard to see in the dark, and he concentrated on following Spike carefully, to make sure he didn’t snap any twigs or do anything stupid to alert the Sualapet to their presence. He hoped that Giles was right, and Buffy and Spike would feel the demon, the way they felt a vampire’s presence, but Giles had read conflicting stories on that, so he wasn’t positive they would.
“If the sexual energy is a natural byproduct, then it’s not hurting anyone. So what’s the problem?”
Xander rolled his eyes. Only a vampire who didn’t care about how the kids might feel afterwards would ask such a question. “Maybe you don’t care if those kids are getting raped or not, but we do.”
“Raped?” Spike seemed truly puzzled over that. “But the Watcher said that they had to be sexual attracted to each other before the Sualapet’s hormones would have any effect.”
“Sexual attraction does not mean that those children are ready for sexual intercourse at that age.” Giles stared over his glasses disapprovingly.
“Yeah, not everyone who goes to Lover’s Lane is ready for sex, Spike.” Buffy crossed her arms over her chest, and practically begged Spike to disagree.
“Unfortunately, there’s even more to worry about. It takes a great deal of sexual energy to satisfy a Sualapet. And when exposed to their hormone regularly, humans can grow dependent on it. They’ll continue to come back, over and over again, and when the demon has absorbed all it needs and moved on, those who’ve become addicted to its hormone will suffer a painful and debilitating withdrawal that has, in the most severe cases, led to death.”
There was only one word Xander could think of for that. “Whoa.”
They set their extra gallons of backup tonic at the very edge of the clearing, and looked around. Now that they were here, Xander was a bit at a loss as to where to start.
“What do we do now, go from car to car and ask if they’re possessed by the ghost of orgasms present?”
Spike snorted, and reached for a cigarette. Xander was about to suggest that might not be a good idea when Spike got the same thought, and dropped his hand, awkwardly.
“I doubt they’ll realize that they’re doing anything out of the ordinary until after they come down off the hormone. I think we’ll need to skulk around the edges of the clearing, and see what comes up.”
He paused, and gave Xander a long look. At least Xander thought he was looking at him. It was dark, so it was hard to tell. Xander was about to ask him what he was doing, when he spoke.
“Maybe you should stay here. You don’t have my eyesight, or my ability to walk without letting everyone in a fifty foot radius know exactly where I am.”
Xander felt his stomach turn over. Spike wanted to dump him. He could disappear, and Xander’d never know he was gone until the last of the cars left, and he was alone in the clearing.
“Oh no you don’t. Giles said we should stick together. You’re the only one with a sword. You can’t leave me here defenseless!”
“I can leave the sword here with you until I do a round, and come back again. I’m not trying to come face to face with the Sualapet yet, I just want to get a sense of what’s happening before everyone knows we’re here. I can keep an eye on you. It’s not that large a clearing. If you call my name, I can be here in less than ten seconds. Besides, as long as you’ve got two gallon jugs of this pisswater, no self-respecting demon’s gonna come within fifty feet of you.”
Xander looked Spike up and down, and Spike shrugged, his face a blank mask.
“I lost my self-respect a year ago when I crashed the Slayer’s Thanksgiving dinner. I’ve got no shame, these days.”
Xander winced. He made a probably reckless decision, and plopped down in the grass, crossing his arms. “I’ll be right here. Don’t take all night.”
Spike looked at him in surprise. Obviously he hadn’t expected Xander to agree. He reached for the sword, and Xander waved his hand.
“You keep it. You’re much more likely to actually hit anything with it than I am. Besides, I’m surrounded by pisswater, nobody’s coming near me, right? So hurry up, I’m not going to wait here all night.”
“Right. Be back in fifteen.” He disappeared into the shadows, and Xander was all alone.
“Great.” His stomach was in knots. Not just because he really hated being by himself in this kind of darkness. No, his biggest turmoil was that Spike had just slapped Xander across the face with a huge helping of guilt. The guy was ostracized from his fellow demons; Willy had told Buffy about Spike getting kicked out of his bar by a handful of big bruisers that were regular customers. He’d told her Spike was bad for business, so he hadn’t tried to stop them.
Spike pretty much had no one – Drusilla had left him, and Angel wanted nothing to do with him. He was alone, and defenseless. He could fight demons, sure, but if they wanted him badly enough, all they had to do was hire humans to hold him down, and he’d be dust, with no one to even mourn his passing. Sure, he was an asshole, and a creep, but he fought for them, and they treated him like crap. They were supposed to be the good guys, but Xander wasn’t feeling much like a good guy right now.
“It only affects humans, Giles?”
“No, Buffy. Several of the more ‘human-like’ species are also susceptible to its hormones. Which mean that you, Spike, will need to be aware of the risks. Therefore, I insist that you do not accompany any of the women.”
“Right. Since Willow and Tara are capable of protecting themselves from the hormone, it looks like it’s a girl’s night out. Willow, Tara, and I will take Fraternity Row, and if we can’t find the Swallow Pet there, we’ll…”
“That’s sue-ah-la-pet, Slayer.”
One slender shoulder lifted in a shrug. “That’s what I said. Swallow Pet.”
Spike rolled his eyes, and Xander stepped in before things could escalate, and Buffy turned it into a vampire smackdown.
“Considering where we’re going to find this demon, I think Buffy’s pronunciation is probably fairly accurate,” Xander said with a snicker.
He got an “EEeeeeewww!” for his efforts, and grinned unrepentantly.
“Yes, thank you, Xander, for bringing the conversation down to the lowest common denominator.”
“Hey, it’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it.”
Xander stood up and looked around. He’d gotten caught up with all his soul searching, and he’d lost track of where Spike was. It hadn’t been too hard to follow him at first, he just needed to stare down the side of the clearing, and he’d spot a white shape right at the line of the trees, or occasionally a sense of movement as Spike stepped closer to a car to check inside. He hadn’t had any trouble, so obviously no one else had noticed him. Xander wouldn’t have if he hadn’t been staring.
But now he’d lost Spike and - Xander gasped in relief. He spotted Spike’s blond hair as he slowly made his way across the other side of the clearing. When he got to the other corner, opposite from Xander, he turned and stared in Xander's direction for a moment before stepping into the woods.
“Where the hell is he going?”
Xander watched, scanning the woods carefully, biting his lip, but positive that Spike would come out soon. He wasn’t sure why. The vampire had no reason not to lie, but Xander knew he would come back for him.
He fought the strong feeling that he should go see what Spike was doing. He’d have to travel in the woods, there was no way he could slink along the edges the way Spike had. He’d never get away with it. But it wouldn’t do either of them any good if Xander got lost in Miller’s Woods, way out in the middle of nowhere.
His stomach churned. He didn’t even have the key to Spike’s car, and he had no idea how to pick the lock, or hotwire the car. If Spike didn’t come back, Xander was up the old creek without a paddle.
Fifteen minutes later Spike still hadn’t come back, and Xander knew he had no choice. He was going to have to go after Spike. This was going to be a disaster.