Xander was surprised at how easy it was to get into Puffy’s mansion. Giles told them that’s because they were probably walking into a trap. He supposed that was true, but it didn’t change anything. They were just going to have to trust that they could out think Drusilla, and get out before the trap closed. Tara had done a quick healing spell on Giles’ cracked ribs before they dropped her off at her hiding place. She hadn’t been able to do more in the brief time available to her, but Giles had been pleased with the results.
Pleased enough to insist on joining Xander and Kendra in the raid on Puffy’s mansion. Kendra had been thrilled at his change of heart. Xander was torn over telling her that it had been Clem’s words that had turned Giles around. Kendra thought he was doing this for her, and Giles hadn’t corrected her assumptions. Who knew? Maybe he was. Maybe he’d already been contemplating changing his mind, and Clem’s words had simply been the final straw that pushed him in the right direction. In the end it didn’t matter why he was there. The important thing was that he was guarding their rear, while Xander and Buddy led the way, and Kendra kept an eye on the map.
Buddy was their best bet as an early warning system, since he could sense demons from farther away than Kendra, plus, his senses weren’t limited to vamps. Since Spike’s court was full of other demons as well, he was the natural choice. Xander didn’t mention to the others that for some reason, Buddy seemed very distracted tonight. He’d just have to be vigilant in reminding Buddy to be on his toes, and they’d be fine. He wasn’t sure what was up with Buddy, but it felt like something important. Whatever it was, Xander was pretty sure he’d recognize it when he ran into it; he hoped he didn’t hit it too hard.
Xander was kind of distracted, himself. He hated leaving Tara outside without backup. Not that she couldn’t defend herself – Xander’d seen that first hand at Giles’ house when she came very close to dusting Spike the first time she met him. It felt wrong leaving her alone, but Tara had tested Dru’s shields when they got there; if she went inside, Dru would be alerted, and that would defeat the whole point of sneaking in.
He couldn’t help feeling that everyone – Kendra, Tara and Giles – were taking these chances because of him, and he hated the thought that they could be wounded or even killed simply because he’d gotten them all caught up in a fight that wasn’t theirs. Look at Spike. All he’d wanted was to get his chip removed and get the hell out of town, but he’d gotten mixed up in Xander’s troubles and now he was stuck in a dimension where he wasn’t wanted, and couldn’t get back to his own. He was being held by his evil twin or whatever, battered and beaten, simply because he’d gotten caught up in a whirlwind of a dimensional spell that was intended for Xander, not Spike. Even Clem had been held against his will –
Xander gasped as silently as he could when a buzzing shock shot through his body. He stopped, one hand on the closest wall, trying to regain his equilibrium. Ouch. Well, that hadn’t been fun. It was nothing compared to the shocks Buddy had given him when he’d been training, back in his world, but he got the hint. No blaming himself for other people’s decisions, and no letting his mind wander while he was in enemy territory, even if the halls were completely deserted.
“Xander? Are you okay?” Kendra whispered quietly in his ear.
He nodded back to her, and after a deep breath, headed out again. Clem’s directions had been fairly simple to follow, so he didn’t think he needed the confirmation, but he paused and looked back before taking the next corner, just in case. Kendra motioned right, and he moved on. Okay, he’d table the guilt for now. As Spike would say, he could brood like a nancy boy later, when no one’s life was in danger if he wasn’t paying attention. He reminded Buddy that he hadn’t been the only one who was distracted, but he wouldn’t complain. Not too much, anyway.
They were almost there. He hoped Spike would be able to walk, ‘cause Xander could carry him if he had to, but Spike wasn’t especially on the light side. Surprisingly enough, the image of Xander carrying Spike, who was wearing a long, flowing gown and pointy hat, like the ones ladies in the Middle Ages used to wear, came from Buddy, and Xander struggled to contain his laughter. The message was clear. Buddy considered Spike the damsel in distress that Xander needed to rescue as part of his quest. He couldn’t wait to tell Spike that!
Xander was the first one in the door, and he saw the body face down on the rock slab first thing. It was Spike, his hands and feet chained to the corners of the stone table, but that wasn’t what had Xander’s attention. Spike’s back was covered in gold writing; fine, curved lines carved right into his pale flesh. The letters and runes looked familiar, after years of staring at Giles’ books, but try as he might, the words wouldn’t make sense. They were hard to focus on. It was almost like they were moving, crawling over Spike’s back without actually going anywhere.
“Xander! Xander!” He blinked as he was torn away from Spike. Giles was shaking him. “Don’t look at them. You’ll get pulled into the spell, and we don’t have time to sort you out right now.”
“What? Who is it? Xander?” Spike’s voice was shaky, and he sounded confused and disoriented. “Xander, where are you?”
Xander tried to turn back, but Giles held on to him. He knew he could break free if he tried, Giles didn’t have near the strength Xander had these days, but he didn’t want to strain Giles’ ribs.
“Giles! I have to talk to him.” Xander shook his head, trying to clear his mind. He got the idea he’d been staring at Spike’s back for a while.
“Not yet,” Giles told him. “Hang on.”
Kendra came up to the table with a blanket in her hands. She spread it gently over Spike’s back, but she was careful to avoid looking directly at it.
“Xander. I thought I heard Xander.”
He sounded so disappointed. Xander wondered who Spike thought he was talking to. Kendra spoke gently.
“It’s okay, Spike. Xander’s here.”
“You can look, now.” Giles let go of him and walked to the door, his crossbow at the ready, but the hall must have been clear, because he stepped back in, and nodded to Kendra.
Xander looked down and realized why Spike was so confused. He was wearing a blindfold. Xander bent over so he was close to Spike’s head, running his hand over Spike’s hair. “I’m right here, Spike. I’m going to take this off your eyes, now, so keep them closed, okay?”
“Are you okay, mate?”
Xander sighed with relief. He sounded more like Spike again. “Yeah, I’m fine. I’m okay. I’m not the one who looks like some crazy woman wrote all over me with a knife. Are you okay?”
Spike snorted. “Of course I’m not okay. A crazy woman wrote all over me - with a scalpel. It hurts, all right?”
Xander couldn’t help but grin. Now that sounded like Spike. He tugged at the knot in the blindfold, but it was pretty tight.
“Just cut it off, Herc,” Spike said impatiently.
“Right.” He fumbled with the knife Spike had given him when they first got to this dimension, a small, sharp blade made for slipping into your boot. “Here we go. Eyes closed?”
“Yeah, do it.”
Xander cut the cloth next to the knot, and the blindfold came loose in his hands. He pulled it off carefully, then gasped in surprise when Spike opened his eyes. They were gold, like the writing carved into Spike’s skin.
Spike rattled the chains on his wrists. “See if you can find the key to these chains around here. I’m tired of being stretched out like a bleeding sacrificial lamb or something.”
“No, there’s no key here.” Kendra said. “Give me a minute; I’ll take care of it.”
“Oh, dear,” Giles said, from directly behind Xander.
“Yeah. What you said.” Xander couldn’t help but stare at Spike’s eyes. The gold looked metallic, and covered the whole eye except for the pupil, which was the normal black. They were shiny, and it was very disconcerting.
Spike lifted his head off the table as best as he could. “What the bleeding hell are you two going on about? Is there something wrong with my eyes?”
Kendra walked over, craning her neck to see around Xander. She gasped. “That’s not right.”
“No,” Giles murmured. “It’s not. I’m going to hazard a guess that it’s got something to do with the spell written on his skin. How long ago was that done, Spike? Was it Drusilla?”
“Yeah, it was Dru.” Spike thought for a second. “Hour or two ago, maybe? What’s wrong with my eyes?”
“They’re gold, Spike. Solid, shiny gold. Except for the pupils. Those look normal.”
“Do your eyes hurt? Are they perhaps more sensitive to light? Do you see things differently? See different colors, perhaps?”
Giles got down on his knees to examine Spike’s eyes more closely, and Xander decided he should get out of the way. Besides, somebody should probably keep an eye on the door, in case someone showed up.
He’d barely begun to move before Spike spoke up, interrupting Giles’ questions. “Where are you going, Herc?” He spoke kind of casually, but Xander could tell he was anxious.
“I just thought I’d check the door, in case someone shows up.”
“There aren’t any guards? There were two guards there last time I noticed.”
“No, there’s no one there now.” Giles spoke distractedly. “But then, if this was a trap, there wouldn’t be, now would there?”
“You came here knowing it was a trap?” That was not Spike’s happy voice.
Xander shrugged, and headed for the door. “What were we supposed to do? Leave you here?”
Xander snorted. “Not happening.”
He couldn’t hear anything from the doorway, so Xander stuck his head out, and looked around. There was no one there. He went down the hall, and checked at the next juncture, but the place seemed deserted. Then he walked back the way they’d come, but that was quiet too. This was getting a little creepy. Back at the door to the room Spike was in, he could hear Giles still asking questions. Spike was answering, but Xander could tell he was losing his patience. He walked back over; he had a better chance of calming Spike down than either Giles or Kendra.
As he got there, Xander heard the click of a lock opening, and Kendra’s quiet exclamation. He did a double take.
“Is that a lock pick, Kendra?”
Giles looked up sharply, and Kendra tucked her hand behind her, then grabbed the rest of the kit, which had been sitting out on the table top, holding it down by her side.
“Oops,” she said sheepishly.
“Where the hell did that come from?” Giles was not using his happy voice, either.
Spike moaned as he tried to move his arm. “Bloody hell, but that hurts.”
Xander sheathed his sword, and carefully started working the muscles in Spike’s shoulder, mindful of the wounds underneath the blanket. “Is this helping, or hurting?”
“That’s good, just be careful. They stopped bleeding after Dru poured that shite on them, and I’d rather they stayed that way for now.”
Giles examined the contents of the metal table next to Spike’s head, shoving things around with a large knife instead of touching them with his hands. He used the bowie knife Kendra had put in the bag earlier. So that’s why she’d wanted it. She’d known Giles was coming with them long before Giles did.
“What kind of shite?” Giles asked.
“I dunno. Gold shite.” Spike was helpful, as always.
Giles watched Kendra as she moved to Spike’s left hand, but he looked away when she started working on the lock, a sour look on his face.
“Where’d you learn to pick a lock, Foxy Brown?”
Giles’ shoulders stiffened. Xander shook his head. Spike knew just how to turn the knife in the wound. Kendra didn’t seem to mind, though. Now that the cat was out of the bag, she obviously wasn’t shy about sharing.
“Faith taught me. She said I was a natural.”
That got a huff from Giles, and Xander couldn’t help but grin. Giles was learning that his innocent, little Slayer wasn’t as innocent as he thought. He’d survive. Xander’s Giles had learned that lesson fairly early with Buffy. There was no sense in sheltering her, because if you didn’t give her the information she wanted, she’d just go out and get it somewhere else.
Spike hung his arm off the edge of the table with a sigh. “Thanks, mate. That’s much better. I’m gonna need help on this other arm. That one got wrenched all out of shape when I first got here, and it’s been stretched above my head ever since.”
“I saw a refrigerator on the other side of the room,” Kendra said. “You think they might keep blood in it?”
“More than likely. They gave me a couple of bags of human earlier, so I know they keep it handy.”
“I’ll check.” Spike lifted his head to stare at Xander. “I’ll be right back,” Xander assured him.
He headed toward the side of the room Kendra had indicated. There was a couch there, with a coffee table in front of it, an ashtray full of cigarette butts on the surface. A pile of clothes looked like they’d been dumped on the floor in one corner. A couple of wooden chairs sat around a small table, a deck of cards spread out, like someone was in the middle of a game of solitaire. A small cabinet was next to the refrigerator. There were a couple of six packs of one of Spike’s favorite brands of nasty European beer sitting on top, and Xander could see a dozen bottles of liquor through the half-open door underneath, two or three of which were unopened bottles of Jack Daniels.
Looked like the kitchen of every bachelor pad he’d ever seen. It was obviously used while taking a break between torture sessions, although he wasn’t sure why you would want to do that. He guessed it made a gruesome sort of sense; the longer the wait, the more time the imagination had to run wild.
Rooting through the refrigerator, he found a few bags of blood, along with a bunch of American beer and a few bottles of water.
He handed off water to Giles and Kendra, and Spike grabbed a bag of blood, biting into the plastic eagerly. Giles turned away, a sour look on his face, but Xander watched him, fascinated. He liked Spike’s vamp face, as odd as that might seem. It was strange and otherworldly, powerful and dangerous, and juxtaposed against the gentleness that he knew Spike was capable of, it made an odd kind of symmetry. Giles left to check the hall again, and Xander stroked Spike’s ridged forehead while Spike bit into the second bag of blood.
Kendra popped the lock on the second cuff much quicker than the first. “I think I’m getting the hang of it. These locks are tough.”
“You’re doing great, Kendra, you sneaky thing, you.”
She gave him a grin, and started on one of Spike’s ankles. Xander moved around to the other side and set to work on Spike’s shoulder, kneading the muscle carefully, while making sure the blanket didn’t slip and show any of the spell Dru had carved into Spike’s flesh. That odd, disjointed feeling was gone, and he didn’t want it come back. He heard Spike drop the second bag of blood right before he turned his head to the other side, so he could see Xander.
“You all right, Herc?”
Xander smiled at him. “I’m fine. It’s you that should have to answer that one. Are you okay?”
Spike clenched his teeth when Xander hit an especially sore spot, and Xander slowed down. “Sorry. That better?”
“You’re doing fine, mate. We can’t take it too slow, we need to get the hell out of here soon.”
Xander nodded his agreement. “I’m going to move your arm down,” he warned. Spike nodded his understanding, but when Xander moved his arm, he had to clench his teeth. Xander wasn’t sure if he realized he’d moved back into game face. He didn’t change back, so either he was still in pain, or he just hadn’t noticed.
The last two locks went fast; Kendra was a quick study. She went to check on Giles, who was still standing in the doorway, and Xander helped Spike turn over. He looked away, fast. He hadn’t realized that Spike’s front had been carved as well. He grabbed the edges of the blanket blindly, and pulled them shut.
Spike held them together. “I’ve got ‘em.”
Xander couldn’t help the tears that welled up in his eyes. “That looks really painful, Spike.”
He shrugged. “Not so bad. The worst part was that bloody shite she poured over them. That hurt like a bitch, but it stopped the bleeding.”
“I didn’t see a whole lot of it, but it didn’t look like those had healed much, even with the blood.”
Spike shook his head. “They didn’t heal at all. I doubt they will, until the spell’s completed.”
“It’s not completed?” Kendra sounded surprised.
“That makes sense,” Giles responded. “There’s more carving on the front, I take it?”
“Yeah, I didn’t look at it, though.” Xander assured Giles of that.
“Good. None of us should. That includes you, Spike.”
Spike had been peeking under the blanket, and looked up, surprised. “Why not?”
“We have no idea what the spell is for, unless you know something?”
Spike shook his head. “Not a bloody clue.”
Giles nodded. “It would be best if you didn’t accidentally set it running. With as much written word as she’s carved into you, the spell may be activated merely by reading it.”
“I’m going to see if I can find a shirt over there.” Kendra indicated the area with the couch. “I saw a pile of clothing.”
“Good idea, Kendra. I’ll go with you.” He left quickly, looking back at Spike before he did.
Spike followed Giles with his eyes. “What’s got his knickers in a twist? Is it the gold eyes?”
“No.” Xander laughed. “You’ve still got your grrrr on. You probably make him nervous.”
“Oh. Sorry.” Spike switched back to his human face, but Xander shrugged. “I don’t care. You don’t scare me.”
Xander smiled. “No, you don’t.” He got right up in Spike’s face. “We don’t have time to do this right, or anything, but I have to tell you this. I’ve changed my mind. About us, I mean.” He was nervous, unsure of what Spike would say, but he needed to say this. He stared into Spike’s eyes, as bravely as he could. “If you still want to, that is. I want to try.”
“You mean, the two of us? I thought you weren’t interested.”
“I was always interested, Spike. I just wasn’t sure it was a good idea. I’m still not. But I don’t care. I want to try anyway.”
Spike shrugged. “Yeah, all right.”
“Show a little enthusiasm, why don’t you?” Spike looked bored. Maybe this wasn’t a good idea.
Spike grinned at him. “What? Like this?”
He grabbed Xander’s face, pulling him forward, the blanket falling into his lap as they kissed. Xander parted his lips, and Spike’s tongue slipped inside, to play with Xander’s. He teased it, letting his tongue slip around Spike’s, pulling it further into his mouth before finally sucking on it, and making Spike moan. It was the hottest kiss they’d shared, yet, and the last two had been pretty steamy.
Spike spread his thighs, and Xander slipped even closer, their chests pressed tight together as he leaned up against the table. He let his hands slide around to Spike’s back, holding him close. Spike’s hands were squeezing his ass, and Xander rocked his hips, rubbing his cock up against Spike’s, right through their jeans. Spike felt so good in his hands. Xander’s whole body was heating up, he could feel the sweat as it rolled down his spine, his sides, his temples. It felt like Spike was heating up too, Xander could feel the warmth in the palms of his hands.
“Dear God!” Giles’ voice sounded like it was coming from far away. “Stop that at once!”
Xander felt Giles’ hands on his belt, trying to pull them apart. Spike growled, and suddenly it occurred to Xander that Spike was a vampire, and vampires were not supposed to have hot skin. He pulled out of the kiss, and shouted, “Spike! Let go!”
Spike gasped and his glowy gold eyes opened very wide, right before Xander went flying backwards. He landed on something lumpy, in a tangle of limbs. Giles grunted in pain, and Xander scooted to one side, so he could breathe.
“Sorry, sorry! Giles, are you okay?”
Giles lay there for a moment, eyes closed, breathing heavily. “I’ll be fine. Eventually.” He opened his eyes, and blinked before focusing on Xander. “Whatever possessed you to kiss a vampire?”
Kendra giggled, a strange sound coming from a woman as fierce as she could be when she fought. “They’ve been sweet on each other since they got here, Giles. You hadn’t noticed?”
Giles looked at Xander for confirmation, and he blushed.
“It sorta snuck up on us,” he said, sheepishly.
“Well until we find out what this spell is all about, you will keep your distance,” Giles ordered. “His runes were glowing when we got here.”
“Glowing?” He glanced over at Spike out of the corner of his eye, sighing with relief when he realized Spike was wearing a black t-shirt. It must have been in that pile on the floor, it was all wrinkled. “Are you okay, Spike?”
Spike grinned at him. “Just peachy, mate.”
He wiggled his eyebrows at Xander, who blushed again, dropping his face into his hands. He couldn’t believe they’d pawed each other like that in front of Giles. How embarrassing.
Out of the blue, Spike looked around and asked, “Where’s Glenda?”