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Spike’s first thought upon waking was that if he ever laid hands on the wanker that thought it was a good idea to dose himself with enough Holy water to knock out a Master vampire he was going to pull the fucker’s guts through his nose. The last thing he’d remembered was the slowing of  a heart and then....well there you had it maybe he shouldn’t have killed the poor sod, that way he wouldn’t have ingested enough of the crap that the idiot had piled into his body. He knew there was a reason why he didn’t like feeding on shamans but Dru had gotten an idea in her pretty little head and like many of Dru’s ideas, Spike was the one paying the price.

 

Keeping still Spike extended his senses, he could hear several heartbeats but there was something wrong about the cadence of the sound, like the hearts were beating too fast against bones that were hollower than that of an ordinary human. Slowly cracking an eye open, Spike almost yelped in shock as the glare of the sun beat down on him but, and wasn’t this a kicker, he felt fine. No burning, screaming or turning to ash in sight and unless somebody had been lying to a helluva lot of vampires that was definitely odd.

 

Pushing himself up onto his elbows, Spike froze as a low growl rattled from somewhere behind him. Rolling to his feet in one fluid motion Spike paused at the sight before him....he definitely wasn’t in Romania anymore, that much was fairly clear.

 

The land stretched out before him, sand as far as the eye could see and only small shrubs and a few scattered trees broke the monotony of the landscape. Beneath the closest tree five hyenas sat, their eyes glued to him but Spike’s attention was focused on the human amongst them.

 

The woman was seated upon a rounded rock, her back pressed to the bark of the tree. Her legs were hidden beneath a skirt that, if Spike could trust his nose, seemed to be stitched from human skin but she was naked from the waist up, her long black hair flowing over her right breast while the other was hidden from view by the babe attached to it.

 

Spike forced his eyes away from her nudity and up to her face. The first thing that caught his attention was the drying blood on her lips but even that was quickly pushed away by her strange eyes, one a pale blue that bordered on grey while the other gleamed yellow. Her face was marred with strings of flowing words that curved over her cheekbones up and back along her ears before vanishing into her hairline and Spike may have been a new Master but he even he could recognize the thrum of power in the air. This was no ordinary demon...this was one of the Old Ones and unless this was the biggest coincidence this side of the cosmic barrier he’d just snacked on her shaman.

 

He was going to fucking kill Drusilla!

 

“Name?”

 

Her voice hauled Spike away from his thoughts and he focused on her as the babe in her arms mumbled to itself.

 

“I’d answer that for you, luv, I really would but see I’ve heard a thing or two about what you sort do with names and I’m not about to get trapped in here with ya.” Spike responded, keeping his voice glib even as he watched the creature’s every move because human facade or not, Spike had no doubt that she could rip his throat out faster than he could blink.

 

Cocking her head, the creature narrowed her eyes. Beside her the hyenas stirred uneasily and Spike’s throat went dry as she rose to her feet, jostling the babe enough to dislodge it from where it hadn’t been suckling milk as Spike had originally thought, the quickly healing wounds above the woman’s nipples and the bloody smear on the child’s lips said as much.

 

Stepping over the hyena laying at her feet, she smiled, flashing a mouthful of jagged teeth that seamlessly flowed back into the rounded ones that more fit her human visage. “I do not ask for your name because I don’t know it, William and you would do best to remember that.  It seems courtesy is one of the things that your kind has lost along with any form of dignity,” she whispered and if Spike had been human his heart would have been in his throat. Old Ones needed only your name and a drop of blood to bind you to them for eternity, or so the legends claimed and he wasn’t stupid enough to think that he could stop her drawing blood, not here in her own world.

 

“You fed from my priest....” she continued and Spike snorted because he hadn’t seen a thing on the man to mark him as anything over than a regular run of the mill shaman. “And yet you stand before me smelling of nothing but defiance and confusion, not even a shred of regret clings to your undead skin.”

 

Spike pursed his lips. “Can’t say I feel much regret, luv, though he did taste a bit funny.”

 

The Old One took a step closer, so close now that the heat of her breath ghosted across Spike’s skin and he wrinkled his nose at the sickly sweet smell that clung to her, even as she towered over him, her height even more exaggerated by the raw energy that she wore like a cloak. It took every inch of his training to not flinch, not show any weakness. It was a lesson that Angelus had beaten into his head and as the creature’s hair brushed against his cheek, Spike’s face rippled demon coming to the fore in the face of his uncertainty.

 

The Old One paused; her odd eyes glued to his face before she reached out and traced her finger along his ridges. The touch of her skin burned, much like the taste of holy water did and Spike finally realized that perhaps the shaman hadn’t dosed himself with the concoction; maybe it was his association with this being that had caused Spike’s strange reaction to drinking his blood.

 

“You are a strange one, William.” she murmured, ducking her head so that she could press her nose against his neck and Spike tried to pull back but he was frozen to the spot, his muscles locked in place as she laved the tender skin at his throat with a tongue too rough to be human while her spawn clutched at his clothes, sharp nails clinging to Spike’s skin. “It has been a long time since one of your kind has interested me and for that I will let you keep your life.” she told him as she nipped at his skin and he could feel the blood beading along the wound but she quickly licked it away. Pulling back, she closed her eyes as she savored the taste. “I will let you keep your life but in return I wish for a boon,” she added as she took a step back and Spike almost fell forward when the pressure holding him in place vanished. Only vampiric reflexes and quick thinking kept him from stumbling. The knowledge of how helpless he’d been mere moments before brought a scowl to his face but the old one just smiled.

 

“Will you grant me my boon?” She queried.

 

“Depends on what you’re asking for, luv, cause there’s a lot of things I ain’t willing to do.” Spike retorted and for some reason his words made her laugh. It was a shrill, high sound that had the hair on Spike’s skin rising as the hyenas behind her took it up, cackling like Spike was the funniest thing they’d ever heard and he wondered if they were all Old Ones too.

 

“The boon is simple, my William.” she explained, the smile still lingering on her lips. “You can do as you did before while you are awake but the moment that you close your eyes in slumber you will return here.”

 

“And how long is this boon going to last?” Spike asked, his eyes narrowed in contemplation. It seemed to easy a task, after all he had killed her priest, from what he’d heard of them she should have had his heart in her hands by now.

 

“It will last for as long as I wish it.” She responded, her voice as cold as her eye and Spike mentally backpedaled.

 

“Course, ain’t like I’m trying to cheat you out of getting your dues,” he smiled but she just shook her head, like he was a particularly trying child.

 

“The boon will not last forever, William.” she explained as he walked back to her seat. “I have been in this place for so long that I have forgotten what it was that drew me to your world in the first place and while I could take another human companion, they will only last so long.”

 

“You’re lonely?” Spike guessed and the Old One smiled.

 

“As are you.” she responded, resettling the child against her other breast, where it latched on quickly.

 

“Don’t know what you’re talking about, luv. I don’t have time to be lonely between keeping my Sire in check and out of the way of her Grandsire.....” he started, pausing when he realized how much he was giving away and he glanced at the old one suspiciously but she just returned his stare with a blank one of her own.

 

“You speak of obligation but I offer you companionship that is not steeped in gratitude. You may even learn something that is not deceit and lies.” she added as the world blurred around her and Spike blinked to clear his eyes but the darkness seemed to flow in faster. “Think on that, my William. I expect an answer the next time we meet.”

 

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Spike was yanked back into the waking world between one blink and the next, the taste of the shaman’s blood still clinging to his tongue but the sight of the large chandelier above his head and the feeling of silk sheets against his skin, let him know that he was back in the mansion that Darla had borrowed while she searched for the cure for Angelus’ little soul problem. Turning Spike glared at the sight of Drusilla seated at the foot of his bed, her fingers tangled in the dead shaman’s hair as she sung to the corpse.

 

Spike loved Dru, in so far as much as you could love the person who’d killed you, but there were times when he’d like to wrap his hands around her neck and just squeeze. Not that it would do much good, her being a vampire and all, but it was the thought that counted.

 

Raising himself into a seated position, he eyed the pout on his Sire’s face.

 

“We drank it all down. Didn’t leave a drop but the stars won’t sing to me, my Spike.” she murmured and Spike’s eyes narrowed because Dru had only said that she wanted to feed on the man because he smelled like lightning and blood, there had been no mention of talking to stars or else Spike would have left her to feed on him by herself.

 

“What stars were supposed to sing to you, then?” Spike asked, crawling closer because if he startled her Dru would clam up and Spike needed all the information he could get before he got drawn back to that place.

 

Dru turned to him, her expression as innocent and childlike as it must have been before Angelus had broken her mind. “The dark stars, the ones that laugh in the dark. They were going to tell me all their secrets if I drank their priest but I drank it all down and they still won’t sing for me. Why won’t they sing for me, William?” she demanded and Spike barely smothered the urge to roll his eyes, at least this time she wasn’t throwing a tantrum.

 

“Maybe you didn’t drink it right?” he offered up and Drusilla frowned as she shoved the corpse off her and onto the floor.

 

“I was told lies, there are no Old Ones, no dark stars and I drank their dirty little priest for no reason!” she spat, eyes narrowed. “I shall find another way to cure Daddy.”

 

Spike snorted, “Yeah, you do that, luv.” he replied, rising from the bed. It was dark outside and from what he could see Drusilla didn’t seem hungry. “I’m just going to head out and find myself a little meal.” he told her, pulling on his clothes. He didn’t know why he didn’t just tell Dru of what had happened but for some reason, the words stuck in his throat and refused to move and if Spike had learned one thing it was that his instincts were rarely wrong.

 

“Do not spend long, Miss Edith and I will try to speak with dark stars again.” Dru warned him as he headed for the door.

 

“Thought you said they weren’t real?” Spike shot back, glancing over his shoulder just in time to catch the sly smile that flitted across Drusilla’s face.

“The Old Ones are as real as the stars in the sky, they are just hidden in their own shadows and I will make them sing to me. Sing me such pretty words about how to get Daddy back.” she crooned and Spike shook his head as he left the room. He’d leave Dru and Darla to search out Angelus, he had much bigger interest to look into....like why an Old One would want him as a companion and he knew just the demon to ask for information.

 

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The streets of Romania were so far removed from those of London that Spike often found himself standing in place, hidden in shadows as he scented the air that seemed to thrum with magic and he could understand why so many of their kind chose to live here. Not that it would have been his first choice....he couldn’t stomach the idea of being on the same continent as Dracula, the poncy git, but Darla had demanded that they take vengeance on the group of gypsies that had supposedly driven Angelus to madness. It was almost funny that the bint that thought Spike didn’t know exactly what the gypsy clan had done to his Grandsire, not that he cared of course because a souled Angelus was an absent one and as far as Spike was concerned an absent Angelus was the only kind he liked.

 

Shaking off his thoughts, he stepped from the shadow cast by the lamp light streaming from an open window. The gypsy clan was dead and Darla was still out searching for her precious ‘Gelus, it was a good thing too because Spike didn’t appreciate her sticking her nose into his business and unlike Dru, there was no love lost between him and Darla. Hell, he’d stake the bitch in a minute, if it didn’t mean that he’d have to deal with the army of minions that she’d made.

 

Turning down another dark street, Spike smiled at the young woman leaning nonchalantly against the sheer walls of one of the shacks that littered this part of the town. Her gown hung low across her chest, emphasizing her shapely bosom as it clinched at her waist only to flow outwards in a way that showed off her hips and if it hadn’t been for the scent of countless men on the girl’s skin, Spike would have been tempted to make a meal of her. It was a habit of his that had often made Angelus scoff but he didn’t feed on prostitutes, figured the girls already had life hard enough. Inclining his head to her he hurried along the street, only to pause in front of a simple wooden door.

 

Rapping on it twice, he stood back as the small slot at the top slid open and a gleaming pair of eyes regarded him before the door was swung open.

 

Stepping inside, Spike scanned the small room that was milling with demons.

 

A table in the corner caught his eye and he made his way across the room, dropping into the empty seat as Clem glanced up at him. He’d met the demon after he’d separated from the other three, wanting to explore the world on his own and Clem had proved to be a fountain of knowledge and a dirty cheat at kitten poker but Spike wasn’t one to judge.

 

“Got a question for ya, mate.” he told the floppy eared demon and Clem cocked his head.

 

“I’ll answer it if I can though you’re lucky you caught me, I was just about to move on....I’m thinking America this time.”

 

Spike quirked a brow at that, he wasn’t surprised because Clem did tend to flit from place to place, maybe it was a trait of whatever type of demon he was....Spike had never asked. “What do you know about the Old Ones?”

 

“They’re insane and evil and you should try very hard to avoid them,” Clem shot back as he straightened in his seat, “Don’t tell me you’ve gotten into an argument with one of them?”

 

“Argument.....might have eaten a shaman, words they aren’t my thing,” Spike retorted and Clem sighed, inflating the heavy flaps that hung from his face.

 

“Old Ones are temperamental, they can be patrons or they can rain brimstone and destruction down on your head, it depends on which one you’ve been bothering.”

 

“This one has a thing for hyenas....two colored eyes and freaky markings.” Spike explained, glancing around the room when Clem sucked in a sharp breath, his complexion blanching in a way that Spike had never seen.

 

“You ate Fisi’s priest? And she didn’t skin you alive and wear your skin like a cloak?”

 

“She wants a boon.” Spike responded, leaning closer as he eyed Clem, “But you sound like you know a bit about her, mate.”

 

“She is one of the Old Ones that represent our kind so of course I know about her. Fisi, the destroyer or Fisi, the death-bringer. Those are her full titles so as you can probably guess she isn’t the nicest Old One to be around but you said she wanted a boon?”

 

“She wants an answer, in the morning, on whether I’ll accept,” Spike answered with a shrug, body language broadcasting a confidence he didn’t feel.

 

“Your answer had better be ‘yes’.” Clem prodded, his expression serious. “The thing with Fisi is, there are no second chances, if you tell her no she will devour you.”

 

Spike exhaled, “You’re just a ray of sunshine, aren’t you?”

 

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Spike made his way back to the mansion that they were staying in until Darla gave up on searching for Angelus, he could have told her that the vampire had already left the continent, he’d learned that much from the demon’s in the tavern but that would mean he was helping Darla and Spike would rather cut off his own nose than help that bitch.

 

Passing the minion, that had once been the owner of the house, Spike wrinkled his nose at the scent of decay clinging to the man. It was like none of these simpletons realized that they could take a bath!

 

Scanning the large dining room, Spike dragged the high backed chair that he favored, into the darkest corner of the room. The move had two purposes, it kept his back to the wall ensuring that Darla couldn’t creep up on him and it let him keep an eye on the minions that were constantly underfoot, like cockroaches.

 

His mind flitted back to Clem’s words. According to the demon there was no way that a vampire as old as Darla would have let Dru bring the priest back without knowing exactly who the man belonged to. The fact that Darla had been the one to point the priest out to Dru in the first place didn’t escape Spike’s mind. It seemed like Dru’s Grandsire had set them up to take the fall for her....but that still left the question of why? As far as he knew Darla was focused on getting Angelus back and unless Fisi held the key to de-souling the elder vampire, there was no reason for her interest in the Old One.

 

Exhaling loudly Spike ran his fingers through his hair as he stood, he could smell Darla and Dru in the suite that they shared and hopefully they’d already fed and were settling in for the morning because he didn’t think them interrupting his sleep was going to do anyone any good.

 

Climbing the stairs Spike glanced around his room....someone had removed the corpse of the priest, which was strange seeing as most of the time he was the one that had to order the minions to clean up after themselves but shrugging away the thought, he removed his clothes dropping them onto the chair that sat by his bed before crawling onto the mattress.

 

The moment his skin touched the sheets, a fog seemed to curl around his mind, coaxing him down and even as his demon fought against its hold, the human part of him, the part that was and would always be William, gave in to the siren’s call of the Old One.

 

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The plain was changed when Spike woke. Instead of the arid desert from before the ground was covered in lush grass and only four hyenas accompanied the old one....Fisi. The baby was gone as well, instead the Old One held a hyena pup cradled in her arms. Spike didn’t let himself dwell on the fact that the cub had human hands and feet.

 

“You have been very busy, my William.” Fisi greeted from where she was seated on the branch of one of the tress that peppered the new landscape. She was clothed in a thin white cloth, that was wrapped around her body like a toga and as she swung her legs, the tips of her toes appeared and vanished beneath the make-shift dress’ hem.

 

“I’m not your anything, luv.” Spike snorted as he stood brushing the dirt from his clothing that he clearly remembered taking off before falling asleep.

 

Fisi just cocked a brow at that but the small smile that graced her lips said exactly how little she was affected by his words and Spike didn’t know if the fact that she was clearly not taking him seriously bothered him or not. “Do you have an answer for me then?” she queried, hopping down from her perch and landing as gracefully as a cat without once jostling the sleeping cub in her arms.

 

“Was told you didn’t like the word ‘no, so I figured best thing would be to say ‘yes’.” Spike muttered, keeping still as she walked towards him but this time she didn’t slow by his side, instead passing him and heading towards another group of trees where she paused, lowering herself to the ground as she resettled the cub in her lap.

 

“Simply because I do not like being told ‘no’ does not mean that I haven’t come to expect it,” Fisi replied, her odd eyes flicking over Spike. “However I am glad that you have chosen to give me my boon....” she smiled, sharp teeth glinting in the light that streamed through the leaves of the tree. “Because if not I would have had to seek retribution for the death of one of my own and I do not think that your Seer would last long in my world.”

 

Spike sucked in a sharp breath and bared his fangs in displeasure at the mention of Dru. “She didn’t have anything to do with any of this!” he growled but Fisi just scoffed.

 

“Do not lie to me, William. I may not move within your world as freely as I once did but that does not mean that I am unaware of what happens there.” she retorted, “Now come here and sit, I do not know what your Sire has taught you but you do not remain on your feet in the presence of one of my kind.”

 

Spike glared at the woman as a biting comment built on his tongue but one look from her had his knees buckling as pressure built in his skull and his demon cried out as Spike clutched at his head and fell to the ground.

 

“You would do well to recognize that my words are rarely requests,” Fisi whispered and each word was like an ice pick being driven into Spike’s brain but his throat was locked and he couldn’t make a sound as the pressure built, sending fire lancing beneath his skin. “I do not ask for mindless obedience, William....just common courtesy,” the Old One finished and as the words died away so did the pain, leaving Spike gasping for unneeded breath.

 

When his heart didn’t feel like it was trying to tear its way out of his chest, Spike glanced up at the Old One but Fisi just returned his gaze, there was no malicious intent on her face, no pleasure derived from his pain that he’d often seen when Darla or Angelus decided he needed to be punished...she’d simply taught him a lesson and that was the end of it.

 

“I do not need to hurt those that are weaker than myself to feel complete. That does not mean I won’t if you overstep your boundaries.” Fisi explained as the pup stirred on her lap, fingers twitching before it settled down again. “Not so long ago, all these things would have been taught to you by your Sire and if he or she was incapable of passing on the knowledge then they would not have been allowed to have a childe.....”

 

“Dru is.....” Spike started but Fisi cut him off with a gesture.

 

“Drusilla is not fit to Sire another, just as her Sire was not meant to have Sired a childe in the first place. Madness breeds madness and Darla was well aware that Liam’s mind was not strong when she turned him and yet instead of curtailing him as she should have, she spoiled him. She fed that dark part of his humanity until he was nothing but his demon and that is why the Old Gods allowed the gypsy curse to settle on him.” Fisi explained, leaning forward and resting her head against the arm that she’d braced on her knee, “But you aren’t like that are you, William? Even now your soul burns in your eyes, so deeply entangled with that of your demon that it is hard to tell where one starts and the other ends. That is why your Grandsire despises you so, a vampire that does not need to subjugate his humanity is a strong one, it is no wonder that you’ve already become a Master.”

 

Spike sank to his haunches as he listened to her, his brows drawn into a frown. “Vampires don’t have souls.”

 

“Everything has a soul, William. And that is your first lesson, when you wake ask your Sire, why she chose to sire you and you may just learn something.” Fisi murmured as the familiar darkness began to stir.

 

“And why did you choose me?” Spike demanded, “Why not chose Dru?”

 

Fisi’s smile grew as the darkness spread, “That is a story for another day.” she responded.

 

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Waking up was more of a struggle than it had been the night before and Spike was actually glad that Drusilla wasn’t waiting for him at his bedside as she often did. There was a part of him that wanted to cast off Fisi’s words, forget them before they could take root in his mind but another part of him clung to them. There had been no explanation for his turning other than Angelus’ off hand comments about how sweet his misery had smelled as a human. He’d ignored the way the elder vampire had avoided any mention of the night he’d died but even as he did he’d remembered the reason for Dru’s change....Angelus wanted a Seer and Darla had wanted a companion but William had been nothing but a poet, an outcast....if anything he should have been made into a minion not a Childe.

 

William had never been stupid and even as his personality was subsumed into the creature that was Spike that intelligence had remained, it had grown sharper as Spike traversed the parts of life that William would have been too terrified to venture near. It was that intelligence that had made him such a deadly hunter and he understood that in their little group each person seemed to have a position, like chess pieces on the board, he just hadn’t considered that he was more than a pawn meant to keep Dru in place.

 

Pushing away the sheets, he rose and headed for the wash room, it seemed he was going to have to speak with Dru’s Jezebel of a Grandsire after all.

 

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Darla was entertaining when Spike found her. The blonde was seated at the head of the dining table, her hair pulled into a tight bun with only several strands lingering around her face and her green gown glistened in the light cast by the chandelier above her head. If Spike didn’t know the woman he would have been captivated but as it was he barely kept himself from sneering at her.

 

Dru was seated on the floor, her dark head resting against Darla’s knee as the three young men that the vampire had obviously lured in as a meal, clung to each of Darla’s words.

 

Pausing Spike watched the well-practiced routine, it started with Darla allowing one of the men to brush a kiss against her knuckles, sending another a sultry smile that promised so much more as she captured the other’s attention by brushing a hand across Dru’s neck. It took a few seconds for one of the men to get aggressive and just like that the strange tableau broke and Darla descended on the one closest to her, leaving Dru to feed from his companion. Spike caught the other man as he rushed for the door, his iron grip on the boy’s wrist, because this close Spike could see that he was little more than that a child barely clinging to the cusp of adulthood. The move yanked the boy through the air and Spike turned in one smooth move, slamming him against the wall as he tipped the human’s head up. The boy slumped in his arms and Spike dipped his head and fed, the taste of blood made his nerves crackle and the boy’s moans had him hardening in his pants but he was not a brute like the others, he would take nothing but blood from his prey and he eased the man-child to the floor as his heart slowed, then finally stopped.

 

Stepping back he wiped the stray droplets of blood from his lips and pulled up a seat as he waited for Dru and Darla to finish feeding.

 

Darla pulled back first, leaving the corpse crumpled at her feet while Dru pulled hers across the room, arranging the man’s cooling body in one of the chairs as she set a cup in front of him and placed Miss Edith in the chair beside the corpse.

 

Licking her lips Darla focused on Spike, her red lips stretching into a cool smile even as her tongue flickered out to catch the stray droplets of blood still clinging to the plump flesh. “Finally decided to join us, William?” she queried.

 

Spike cocked a brow at her as he slid into the seat farthest from the woman. “Told you the name was Spike.”

 

“My Spike sleeps all day and gone all night. Never any time to drink a cup of tea with me or Miss Edith,” Dru grumbled as placed a cup in the corpse’s hand, giggling to herself when the move made the dead man tumble forward.

 

“Neglecting your Sire, William? I expected better of you.” Darla tutted and Spike leaned back in his seat to eliminate the temptation to rip her tongue out of her head. It was almost comical how hard she tried to act like a high society lady even when Spike knew that she’d been a prostitute before the Master had turned her and not even one by force....no Darla had slept with men to gain riches and power. That hadn’t changed much after she was turned and Spike wrinkled his nose at the thought of anyone laying down with the bag of bones that was supposedly the founder of their line.

 

“Had to see a demon about a soul,” Spike shot back, barely resisting the urge to cackle when Darla flinched.

 

“Why would you need to speak with anyone about that?” she demanded, leaning forward.

 

“Ran into one of those Seer types the other night and the loon kept claiming that he could see my soul. So I scouted ‘round a bit, to find out if there was any truth to it.” Spike explained, leaving the sentence vague enough to not tie himself into a lie that Darla could investigate but the fact that she was even listening to what he had to say was proof enough that Fisi’s words carried some truth.

 

Dru hummed, “My Spike always had a soul. So pretty it twinkled, that’s why Daddy let me bite that nasty William. He wasn’t using it and it would just go dull like a burned out candle but my Spike’s soul burns like a star....” the mad vampire crooned as she rocked herself.

 

“Drusilla, William doesn’t need to hear all that,” Darla reprimanded but Dru was already lost in her own world and Darla’s words fell on deaf ears.

 

“I thought vampires didn’t have souls,” Spike mused, watching Darla closely.

 

The blonde leaned back in her chair, “And what difference would it make if we did? A soul doesn’t stop these humans from killing each other, why should it be different for us?”

 

“If the soul ain’t the matter then why is ‘Gelus out there feeding on rats as penance.” Spike shot back and Darla blanched, the stolen blood draining from her face.

 

“You don’t know what you’re talking about, Spike and you would do best to hold your tongue.” She gritted out before rising to her feet and marching from the room.

 

Spike watched her go, seemed like he’d touched a raw nerve. Now all he had to do was keep pressure on it until Darla gave....after all patience was never her strong suit.

 

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Spike spent the rest of the night keeping Dru occupied but he couldn’t ignore the way his demon stirred restlessly beneath his skin as his eyes were drawn to the dark skies beyond the mansion’s walls. Soon enough the night gave way to morning and Spike left Dru in her room as he made his way towards his own.

 

Slipping beneath the sheets Spike inhaled and as the scent of cool grass overtook the stuffy dryness of the air within the mansion, Spike slid, seamlessly, into Fisi’s world.

 

When he opened his eyes Fisi was a dark silhouette against the bright skies. She stood with her back to him and this time she was clothed in warrior’s garbs, her arms and legs bound by simple cloth that allowed for movement while her hair hung in a single plait.

 

At her feet the cub played, human’s legs kicking happily as it squirmed in the dirt and snapped at insects foolish enough to stray close.

 

“You have worried her,” Fisi whispered, her voice carrying in the silence as Spike rose to his feet.

 

“That chit has more than my question to worry about,” he replied, glancing around. The landscape hadn’t changed much other than a few added trees and another missing hyena but Spike could hear the beat of several hearts coming from beyond the grove of trees that blocked his view.

 

“This is your first lesson, William...” Fisi started as she bent, lifting the child-cub into her arms. “Never underestimate your prey. Even those weak of body and mind will find strength if cornered...and a cornered prey is just as dangerous as the most healthy predator.”

 

With those words, she raised her arms, holding the child-cub above her head as a shadow descended from the skies and Spike watched in awe as a huge stork materialized above her head. Its massive wings blocked out the sun for a second as it descended and scooped the child-cub up in its beak before heading back into the skies and Spike wondered if the vision was symbolic or maybe this was what crazy old demons did with their children.

 

If the thing was even Fisi’ child.

 

Fisi cocked her head and shot him a sharp smile and Spike frowned. He’d never heard of Old Ones possessing the ability to hear thoughts but then again all that he knew about the Old Ones wasn’t enough to full a thimble.

 

“It is not that I’m trying to hear your thoughts but you think so loudly that it is very hard not to listen.” Fisi murmured beckoning Spike to follow as she headed for the shadows of the trees. “The little one will be safe with the spirit.”

 

Spike narrowed his eyes as he followed her, the cool of the shadows making him shiver in  a way that it never would in the real world. “Safe from what? Not like there’s a lot of beasties here that would feed on something like him.”

 

Fisi hummed in agreement. “Be that as it may. There is a lesson I wish to teach you and I do not wish for him to be a burden.”

 

“Was never really good at the whole learning thing, me.” Spike muttered, ducking under a branch and watching as one of the hyenas streaked past him, its spotted fur helping it to blend in with the shadows and the dark brown trunks of the trees surrounding the groove.

 

“I will pretend that you did not think me foolish enough to believe that.” Fisi chided, slowing as the trees thinned out leaving a lush plain before them. Spike paused at her side and watched as a herd of what looked like buffalo grazed on the short grass. “The vampires that walk the earth have forgotten what it truly means to be a demon. Your prey is weak and you have become weak in return, leaving behind the true meaning of the hunt.” she whispered and Spike’s eyes followed the three hyenas as they prowled across the plain. “The pack breeds loyalty and from loyalty you gain strength.....” Spike glanced back at Fisi just in time to watch her shape shrink and suddenly in the place of the Old One a large hyena stood her eyes fixed to Spike’s face. “Let me show you,” the words echoed in Spike’s mind as the world shifted around him. It was like falling forwards, the ground rushing up to meet him but instead of crashing to the earth the sense of vertigo made Spike skitter sideways and it was only when his limbs obeyed his mind’s direction that he realized that he was moving on paws instead of feet.

 

“What the buggering fuck do you think you’re doing?!” Spike’s voice in his own head made him yelp, paws reaching out to bat against his ears in an attempt to dislodge the strange sensation but Fisi just flashed him a smile that was full of teeth.

 

Tell me, William, have you ever hunted something that has the ability to fight back?” she teased, nudging him as she moved towards where the others.....pack, Spike’s mind readily supplied, had already surrounded one of the buffaloes and even as the strangeness of the situation made his demon rage, Spike found himself following her. The lure of the hunt was too strong to resist and to his amazement his hyena body moved just as flawlessly as his human one, muscles coiling as he followed Fisi’s lead, keeping himself close to the ground until he was close enough to feel the waves of heat flowing off the great beast’s body.

 

The buffalo snorted, raising its head as it glanced around but the grass where it had ventured was too tall for it to see the predators lurking beneath its nose and Spike’s body tensed as he watched Fisi rise from her hiding space behind the creature’s haunches then in one fluid move she was up and moving, sharp claws and teeth ripping into the buffalo’s tough hide and Spike was moving before he knew it, following the instinctive call for the hunt, the need to follow the pack that was threaded through every inch of his new body as the others leapt onto their prey. The buffalo’s frightened bellows just made their hunger burn deeper and the taste of blood splashed across Spike’s tongue as he helped to topple the great beast. His demon howled with a pleasure he’d never experienced in any of his hunts in the human world.

 

The buffalo heaved beneath his claws but the creature had no hope off fighting them all off, not when the rest of its herd had fled leaving it defenseless and soon even the instinctive need to fight for its life seemed to wane as its struggles ceased and one of the hyenas cackled as the buffalo finally stilled, the eerie sound echoing across the now silent ground and Spike met Fisi’s eyes over their prey’s bleeding, broken form.

 

“The stronger the prey, the stronger the predator. Do not let the life that you have lived until now make you weak, William. Embrace the pack and it will give you strength.”

 

The words followed Spike as the dream world fell away.

 

------------------------

 

As the nights went by Spike found himself lingering on the peripherals of Dru and Darla’s hunts, only feeding when the blonde’s attention turned on him but for the most part he watched. The visits to Fisi’s world had made him focus on the other vampires around him. He noticed the way that minions fought amongst themselves in the absence of their Sire, scrabbling and clawing for any chance at feeding like scavengers and it made his stomach churn as he remembered how it felt to bring down live prey, something that could do as much damage to him as he did to it and Fisi’s words made him wonder....if vampires were to become stronger, they had to find stronger prey and the only thing large enough to feed a fully grown vamp that had the ability to fight back would be a demon.

 

The thought wove its way across his mind when Spike left the mansion to wander the lonely streets and he couldn’t stop the shifting of his own demon when he ran across another breed as images of blood and fighting flashed in front of his eyes. It would be so easy to start a fight to the death and no one would look twice at a vampire attacking a Braznarc.

 

Shaking his head Spike stepped to the side, smoothing the ridges on his face as he allowed the demon to pass, studiously ignoring the curious glance that the creature shot his way. He’d never heard of vampires feeding on demons and there was no way to tell for sure if demonic blood was toxic to them but even that didn’t stop Spike from thinking about it.

 

------------------------------

 

The child was once again fully human when Spike was pulled into the between world as he’d taken to calling the dimension that Fisi inhabited. The boy was at Fisi’s feet gnawing on a bone as the Old One tangled her fingers in the dark curls that adorned the child’s hair not even glancing up when Spike walked towards her.

 

“If demon blood was poisonous to vampires do you not think that it would have been written somewhere?” Fisi murmured, her eyes fixed on the sky as if Spike wasn’t standing mere inches away from her but while the move would have annoyed him if Darla or Angelus had done it, he somehow knew that Fisi’s apparent inattention wasn’t meant as a dismissal. “It is strange that you thought my words meant that you needed to find a new species of prey.”

 

Taking a few steps away, Spike leaned against the old tree that offered the Old One shade, his eyes falling to the two hyenas laying a few feet away. “You saying that’s not what your spiel meant? And another thing, luv. I don’t take kindly to people playing around with me head, I kind of like walking upright so cut out the hyena thing.”

 

Fisi grinned and inclined her head, “My spiel as you kindly called it, did not mean that you needed to find a new breed of creature to feed on. You are surrounded by creatures that bind you to them through lust and need. You follow them; copy their depravity when you could do so much more. Even here I can feel the fire that burns under your skin; it calls to my children like the song woven into those beings that they call slayers. Such strength and you would let it all waste away, unused and untended.”

 

“And you’re supposed to help me tend it, are ya?” Spike snarked as Fisi pulled on the bone the child held in his grip, prompting a loud growl as the boy tightened his hold on his prize, sharp teeth glinting as his lips pulled back into a snarl.

 

“I wish to help you keep your soul, keep the fire that makes you so different from the others of your kind,” Fisi responded, rising to her feet. The two hyenas prowled closer, forming a protective circle around the child who didn’t seem at all bothered by their presence and Fisi turned to Spike, “Come,” she ordered, moving towards the cave that Spike was certain had not been there seconds before. “You do not understand the true strength of the thing that you carry and I cannot trust that creature that sired Angelus to tell you the truth.”

 

Spike weighed his options; he could stand there and refuse to follow her, an action that would most likely end with her ripping his throat out, with her teeth. Or he could follow and see what was so special about his soul....his demon stirred angrily as he considered the option but Spike had always been more than just a product of his demon’s wants. Straightening he followed the Old One as she headed into the cave’s gaping maw.

 

The second he stepped inside he could smell it, the scent of rotting flesh that was so heavy that it clogged his nostrils, laying itself against his tongue like a blanket of fur and only his pride kept him from gagging as a long unused human reaction reared its ugly head, making his mouth water as cold sweat against beaded his nape. Swallowing he blinked to clear his suddenly blurry eyes.

 

Several feet ahead of him, Fisi’s eyes glowed in the darkness as Spike’s vision adjusted to accommodate the lack of light and he finally realized where the smell was coming from. The cave’s walls weren’t made of rock, or if it was they were hidden beneath the miles of decaying flesh that coated its surface.

 

“Where the fuck are we?” Spike gritted out, making sure not to breathe through his nose as he fought back the nausea still lingering at the edge of his mind.

 

“Where demons go after their death,” Fisi responded as she moved further into the cave, leaving Spike little option but to follow her as she wound her way through the maze of smaller caverns that littered the cave, finally pausing on a ledge that overlooked a gaping abyss.

 

Fisi raised her hands as Spike took a step closer and the once silent cave was filled with a cacophony of screams and battle cries. Below the ledge, on which they stood, hundreds of demons were locked in battle, tearing into each other as they scrambled to stay above the constant sway and press of bodies. The scent of blood clung to the air, overriding the sickening scent from before as body after body fell. Still in death for only seconds before they reanimated and rejoined the fight.

 

After what felt like a millennia, one of the Davric demons, that littered the melee, finally managed to scramble onto the ledge. It was missing several legs and wounds littered its body but as it gained its footing it didn’t even seem to see Spike or Fisi, instead racing towards the opening of the cave but the second it stepped off the ledge there was an agonizing screech as its body ripped itself apart, splattering the walls with insect guts and Spike wrinkled his nose in disgust as the ooze seeped into the cave walls, explaining exactly why the interior of the cave seemed to be made of flesh.

 

“They will never be able to leave this place, this hell that they have created for themselves.” Fisi whispered, waving her hand and the sound of the battle below faded into silence, once again. “Only a demon that possesses a soul can cross the barrier and that is why your soul is so important. This is also the only place where a demon could completely rid itself of a soul. The cave would draw it into itself if the demon truly wished it, but for such a thing there must be a sacrifice, a life needs to be exchanged for the act of the soul removal.” she explained, her eyes sharp as they scanned Spike’s face. “Drusilla was never the one that Darla intended to send to this plane of existence. You were to be the sacrifice that would bring Angelus back.”

 

Spike sucked in a sharp breath as the pieces fell into place. “Dru’s visions they don’t show exactly what they should...”

 

“A Seer with a broken mind would not be able to see everything but do you want to bet on the odds that they did not know that one day they would need a vampire with a soul in order to rid another of the soul that he’d been cursed with?” Fisi queried.

 

“You’re saying they let Dru make me just so they could use me?” Spike growled, his eyes narrowing as he glared at the Old One, his mind refusing to believe what was right in front of his eyes.

 

“I am saying that vampires have lost the ability to exist as a pack. There is no loyalty, no sense of family only the need to save one’s self. I will not tell you what you should believe but be honest with yourself, William. Have you ever felt truly wanted within this group of yours? William the Bloody, part of the scourge, the youngest Master vampire that has ever been known and yet did you not always feel like you were lacking, as if there was some purpose that you had not yet fulfilled?” Fisi purred and there was no pity in her eyes as she spoke, it was the only thing that made Spike hold his tongue. “Think of this and when you return, I may tell you why I wanted you enough to sacrifice the life of my priest. After all Drusilla is not the only one with ability to gaze into the future.”

 

----------------------

 

Spike had expected that Darla would make a move but he hadn’t expected it to be so soon....he should have planned for all possibilities but he hadn’t and that was why, when he woke, he found himself chained to the bed, the unpleasant sensation of magic tingling where the cool metal of his bonds touched his skin.

 

“You might as well open your eyes, William. We both know you’re awake.” Darla purred from somewhere to his left and reluctantly Spike followed her order.

 

The blonde vampire was seated in the spot that Dru usually favored. Her blood red gown glittering in the light that sparked from the chandelier above her head as she watched him. There were three minions lingering at the back of the room and Spike let his eyes flicker over them before turning his attention back to Darla.

 

“If you wanted a go, all you had to do was ask, luv.” he teased, letting his lips curve into a smug smile.

 

Darla snorted, shaking her head as she rose to her feet. “I should have known that you would find some way to ruin my plans.”

 

“Don’t know what you’re talking about.” Spike retorted, yanking the chains and gritting his teeth as pain laced along his arms. It seemed that whatever spell Darla had had placed on the metal was created to discourage any attempts at escape. He would have been impressed if he wasn’t too busy picturing exactly what he was going to do to the bitch as soon as he managed to find a way out.

 

“I might have believed you.” Darla started, leaning closer so that she could trail her fingers along Spike’s bare chest, following the invisible line between his rib. “But you’d been asking all these pesky little questions and then there was the fact that you were sleeping. When was the last time you stayed still long enough to sleep for more than two hours at a time? And yet you expected me to remain unaware of the fact that something was going on? You disappoint me, William.”

 

“Can’t say I’ve ever wanted to live up to any of your standards.” Spike spat and Darla smirked, gesturing for one of the minions to come closer. Spike’s eye darted to the vampire as he handed Darla what looked like a simple knife and a vial of clear fluid. The moment Darla uncorked the vial Spike stiffened, the smell of holy water threading through the air around them and he watched as Darla poured the liquid on the knife’s blade.

 

“I never wanted you, you know?” Darla began conversationally, her eyes glued to the blade in her hands as she made sure that it was coated. “Dru had wanted to change you the second she saw you but what would I want with another childe? And then she had that vision, fragmented dreams of me losing Angelus and the only thing that would bring him back was the vampire who was too stupid to let go of his humanity, the one that clung to his soul like it was some perfect little trinket that would keep the monsters at bay, even after he became a monster himself.” she whispered as she turned and pressed the knife against Spike’s skin.

 

Spike couldn’t stop the hiss of pain that escaped him as the holy water burned through his skin nor could he stop the instinctive jerk of his body as it tried to recoil from the knife’s blade but he kept silent when Darla pressed the knife deeper. The sharp blade sliced through his skin easily, sending rivulets of blood trailing across his chest and the scent of burning flesh filled Spike’s nostrils but through it all he kept his eyes on Darla’s face, taking in her expression of glee.

 

Darla leaned forward, running her tongue through the blood pooling at his side and Spike’s fingers itched with the need to wring her fucking neck. “To me, you were always dispensable, William. But now you’ve taken something that belongs to me and I want it back....” she gritted out, digging the knife in with a flick of her wrist and a burst of supernatural strength. As the blade tore through muscles and flesh alike, Spike couldn’t stop the pained sound that clawed its way out his throat and Darla’s grin widened. “I know that you’re connected to the Old One. All you have to do is tell me how to bring that creature here.”

 

Spike snorted, licking his dry lips. “You really wanna know?” he croaked, forcing the words out as he ignored the pain sizzling in the wound where the holy water had managed to settle beneath his rapidly healing flesh. “Come closer.”

 

Darla eyed him suspiciously for a second before leaning in and Spike spat the goblet of blood that had come from his teeth ripping through his tongue, directly into her face. Darla snarled and the last thing Spike saw was her fist heading towards his face before darkness rushed in.

 

------------------------

 

When Spike opened his eyes, he instantly thought that his mind was trapped in a nightmare until he caught sight of Fisi at her usual spot, seated beneath the old tree. The land around them was barren except for the large sycamore and the ground was arid but not in the way that it had been before. The dirt was a dull grey and in certain places it gleamed black, like something had reached into the very earth and sucked every inch of vitality from the land. Overhead Spike could just make out the form of several vultures slowly circling the skies, seeking carrion where there was none.

 

“What’s happened here, then?” he asked, grateful that the wounds Darla had inflicted hadn’t followed him here as he rose to his feet and approached Fisi. There were only one hyena with her this time and the child within her arms was a hodge podge mix of human and cub.

 

“I created this place to give me somewhere to rest and to raise my children until they were ready to venture into your world. At times like these it reflects my emotions,” Fisi murmured, her eyes following the vultures as they swooped down only to take to the skies again when the remaining hyena lumbered to its feet. “When my children are gone, I will leave this plane behind and the next Old One will become the keeper of the cave. I have existed here for millennia, William and I am so tired.” she whispered and Spike could almost feel the emotion in her words, the bone-aching weariness that made each breath a struggle but the feeling slipped away as quickly as it had come and Spike found himself gasping for unneeded air. “Darla is not the first to try and draw me into the waking world.” she snorted like the idea itself was nothing short of funny, “None of them realize that the moment I cross the barrier I will bring the hell that I guard with me and while I would love to see them all suffer for an eternity, my children live in your world now and because of that I will protect it until the day I draw my last breath.”

 

“If you’re gonna kick the bucket then why am I here?” Spike asked and Fisi focused on him.

 

“My children are born from me, they are purely spirits until the moment they take a body within the waking world. That is why each time you come here, another of them have left. In your world they are known as primals....demonic spirits of the purest form but I was not always a demon. Once I was a human much like the ones you prey on. Circumstance and an intense hatred of my own kind transformed me into what you see before you and while I have managed to keep my ancestry from tainting my children, I failed and this little one....” she paused glancing down at the child in her arms, “...is the result. When it is passed into the world, unlike its brother and sisters it will be everything that I am. Male and female, human and demon. The journey across the worlds will rip these aspects apart and I will need someone to guide them back together.”

 

“So this boon of yours is for me to be a glorified governor?” Spike demanded and Fisi glared at him.

 

“My boon requires that you watch over my child when these two aspects reunite. I do not expect that you will devote your life to them but I am able to weave fate so that at the moment they reunite you will be drawn to the place where the child resides....” she explained as she stroked her finger across the patches of fur that dotted the babe’s human skin. “And in return, I will pass on the part of me that has made me what I am.”

 

“I ain’t exactly itching to be one of your kind,” Spike retorted, his eyes dropping to the cub, he couldn’t help the tug in his chest at the Old One’s words. She was trying with her last days to secure her child, clinging to that bond that existed between them much as William had tried to cling to the bond between him and his mother.

 

“You will still be the vampire that you are,” Fisi chuckled, “At the most all the seed will do when it is planted within your soul is make your immortality more assured, after all your kind does have an aversion to wooden stakes through the heart and the heat of the sun...”

 

Spike smirked, “Well, can’t really argue with that now can I?”

 

Fisi nodded, “There is the possibility that it might make your demon a bit more...feral. Though I do not see that as a problem at all, do you?”

 

“I’ve never had a problem with a bit of wildness before, luv and I don’t think I’m gonna start now.” Spike responded, lowering himself into a crouch before her and Fisi smiled at him. “But that don’t help the fact that my body is trapped with the queen bitch.”

 

Something dark flickered across Fisi’s face as she stared at him, “There are two options that lie before you William. I can try to pull Darla and your body onto this plain.....”

 

“I’m hearing a but in that.” Spike prodded and Fisi shrugged, beside her the hyena rose to its feet and as Spike watched the creature coughed, its breath forming a fug in front of its muzzle as its body shuddered. With each cough the hyena seemed to fade, more of its color bleeding into the small cloud that hung above its head, then with a final huff, the beast vanished and Fisi exhaled slowly in the silence.

 

“I’ve already fed most of my energy into my children to allow their passing, if I was to pull Darla through then I would hasten my own death.” Fisi whispered and Spike sighed.

 

“What’s the next option, then?”

 

Fisi’s eyes locked with his. “In letting you feed on my priest I have changed the path of time. In another timeline you would have fed on the gypsy clan and left this place. Darla would never have known of my existence and she would leave Angelus behind when she couldn’t force him to change into the creature she wanted. I have enough energy in me to reverse this timeline to the moment that the two paths diverged and everyone but you would forget what had happened here.”

 

“Everyone?” Spike frowned, because as far as he knew magic on that scale came with a price.

 

Fisi nodded. “Everyone...even my children until they are all reunited.” she admitted, glancing down at the child in her arms. “If I do this, it will require me to wipe myself from the timeline and only your memories and the seed that I will pass on to you will be proof that I ever existed.”

 

“Jesus Christ, woman!” Spike spat, running his fingers through his hair and sending the sharp strands spiking. “How do you know I won’t just take it and leave? I’m a demon, luv and you know as well as I do that our word don’t mean naught.”

 

Fisi smirked then, cocking her head to the side. “I made plans for that, William. It is not that I didn’t trust you...but I would not leave my children defenseless.” she explained.

 

“What did you do?” Spike asked, leaning forward.

 

“I have bound your soul to the soul of my little one, if you make any act to harm him or abandon your duty to him, the harm will return to you threefold.” Fisi responded, her lips pulled into a nasty smile that told Spike that she was deathly serious. “Your promise is all I need to activate the spell, simply say the word and I will send this one to be with his siblings and allow you to live your life as you would, had you not met me.”

 

“And how long is it gonna take before the runt finds a body?”

 

Fisi shrugged, “Certain aspects of my little one’s being are already fully grown and those that are not will be able to rest in the ether tethered to the body that it  takes until both sides are old enough to combine.”

 

“Hold up, you said that the cub is gonna be like you, right? So I’m gonna be saddled with a baby Old One. How the does that work?” Spike demanded and Fisi hummed beneath her breath.

 

“The child would not be an old One....completely.” she finally replied and Spike’s brow hiked.

 

“No need to be cutting your words, luv. I ain’t agreeing to a thing unless you tell me exactly what your precious little one is gonna be, out there in the real world.” he told her, his eyes glowing yellow as he met and held her gaze.

 

Fisi nodded in understanding as her eyes dropped to the child. Pressing her hand lightly against its chest, she allowed the appendage to move with each of the child’s breaths, then as Spike watched her hand sunk into the babe’s chest like it was little more than smoke, slipping through the crack of a wooden door. The child stirred but didn’t wake and Spike’s eyes widened as Fisi pulled her hand back. Something dark clung to her wrist and as she shifted the thing took shape, small teeth gleaming where it had sunk into her wrist. It was like the hyena was bleeding from the child, the patches of fur vanishing, leaving behind only fragile human skin and with one last pull Fisi hauled a small cub from the child’s chest.

 

The cub snorted as it lost its grip on the Fisi’s hand. Slowly it pushed itself up onto unsure legs that trembled for a second as they adjusted to the cub’s weight. The, now human, baby in Fisi’s arms rolled over and its tiny hand brushed against the cub’s fur prompting a full body shiver that left the cub’s fur standing on end.

 

“My child will be a sum of my better parts....” Fisi told Spike as she reached out and grasped the cub, lifting it so that she was eye level with the creature’s vivid green eyes. Exhaling slowly, she willed her energies to fill the small body as the child’s eyes flickered open, watching as the thick grey fog rose from its mother’s mouth, drifting into the cub’s nostrils and making the small body glow. The light surrounding the cub trailed across the empty space until it touched the child and the boy gasped, a small weak sound that quickly faded away as the child’s body twitched then began to shimmer much like the hyena from before had. Each breath the child drew was echoed by the cub and the light, surrounding the two, intensified until Spike was forced to look away. When he glanced back Fisi was slumped against the tree, staring down at her empty lap.

 

“Pray that you never know what it feels like to send your children away when all you truly wish is to cling to them.” Fisi whispered, her fingers flitting across the empty planes of her skirts. Sighing she raised her head and the empty look in her eyes made Spike’s demon twitch in agitation. “Come closer, William. If I am to give you the chance you need, this must be done quickly.” she murmured as she straightened.

 

Spike shuffled closer, frowning when Fisi raised her wrist to her lips but the confusion on his face quickly cleared when she bit into the tender flesh, the scent of her blood flooding the air around him and Spike’s demon roared to the fore. Bones crunched as his face shifted and Fisi lowered her hand, her lips curling into a blood-stained smile as she held out her arm. “Drink.” she ordered and Spike glanced at her face, hesitating for a minute as he took in the bleak expression there but in the blink of an eye any vulnerability Fisi was feeling vanished and Spike was forcedly reminded that Fisi was much more than what she appeared. “Do not think me weak, vampire. Drink now or I will not give you the chance to.” she growled.

 

“Wouldn’t think you were weak for a second, luv. That don’t mean I’m gonna just feed off ya, like some sort of bottom feeder.” Spike explained and Fisi’s smile gentled into an expression that Spike had seen on his own mother’s face time and time again when he tried to act older than he was. It was an expression of pride threaded through with amusement and it made Spike’s cheeks heat though he knew that he couldn’t blush anymore.

 

Fisi raised her uninjured arm and pressed it against the cool of his cheeks and Spike leaned into the touch as energy crackled beneath Fisi’s fingers sending the nerves in his cheek thrumming. “I could have chosen any demon with a soul. Any of them would have been grateful enough to care for my child in return for a immortality but you....” she paused, gathering her thoughts and Spike held himself completely still for fear of breaking the spell that had fallen over them. “....my little one, chose you, William and there is little that I would keep from my children but if there had been a single shred of doubt in my mind, I would have passed you over. Yet when I reached through the ether at your birth, I felt it. You have a soul that was strong enough to birth a being even stronger than a primal....”

 

Spike’s eyes widened at Fisi’s words but before he could speak she raised her wounded hand to his lips.

 

“I am unable to tell you all I should but I have scattered clues along the path that you will take all you have to do is look and you will find them.” she told him, her eyes soft. “Now, drink.” she whispered and this time Spike didn’t hesitate. His fangs sank into the healing wound, reopening it and letting blood pour into his mouth. His demon moaned as the scarlet ambrosia washed over his tongue....Fisi’s blood was like nothing he’d ever tasted. It crackled with the dark energy of her magic and something deeper, as old as time itself and Spike found himself spiraling down as he clung to her arm and drank. The sound of chanting, rose and fell around him but he could focus on nothing but the blood until darkness covered him like a warm blanket as the chants grew louder, like thunder before a storm. The air felt heavy on his skin and a sudden wind picked at his clothes but still he fed until something snapped and the world faded to grey.

 

------------------------

 

As Fisi’s spell wove itself through the timelines, it tore the world apart and like the eye of the storm Spike was the epicenter of the magic that raced through time itself. The spell was woven so deeply into his soul, as Fisi’s last breath gave it life, that he became magic itself and like Fisi the magic recognized that the creature before it was not a single being but two and the magic was curious like a child as it clawed at his skin with fingers made of fire, trying to dig deep enough to find the demon that was caged within his human body. Spike’s mouth opened on a soundless scream as the magic gripped his demon tight and ripped it from him, leaving it thrashing like a wild animal as it fought the bonds that held it secure. Spike had never thought of his demon as anything more than an expansion of himself but as he glanced at it now, snarling at the thing that kept it trapped he saw just how wrong he’d been.

 

They shared a face and a body but that was where any similarity ended. The demon’s face held a distinct feline like shape, the lines from his jaw to his nose were extended like a cat’s and the razor sharp teeth that were currently on display completed the feline look. As he stared the magic tugged at him and Spike found himself snarling at it as it reached within him again but this time, it simply latched onto something in his chest. There was a sharp tug and suddenly the demon went flying, its body dissolving to smoke as it impacted with Spike’s body and it was like the first time he’d awaken after Dru had turned him, everything was light and sound, too loud and too much in a way that made Spike want to claw off his own ears but then it was gone....the voice within his mind was silent in way it hadn’t been since he was human and as Spike exhaled he could feel his demon expand with him but it no longer felt like he was sharing his body with something else. Whatever the spell had done had reduced the demon to something controllable, a simple extension of Spike’s dark desires.

 

The thought was ripped away as images flashed before his eyes and it took him a mere second to realize that he was watching the passing of time itself.

 

One of the images flickered and Spike’s eyes were drawn to it, widening when he recognized himself on the bed where he’d last been before he’d been pulled back into Fisi’s world. Darla was straddling his body; her lips curved into a vicious smile as she held the knife with both hands and plunged it deep into his chest. The Spike on the bed thrashed, trying to buck her off and Spike gasped clutching at his own chest as pain burst to life beneath his skin. Other Spike turned at the sound, his eyes widening as they met his counterparts and then the timeline vanished and Spike watched as another image took its place. In this new image Spike was standing with his back to the village that they had just fed on, the blood of his victims clinging to his skin as the bloodlust calmed, a small sound made his head snap up only to watch as a hyena prowled from the darkness. The beast’s body seemed to be made of smoke and shadows and this timeline’s Spike crouched as the hyena stalked towards him, its lips pulled back into a snarl that Other Spike responded to with a low growl. The tableau held for a few seconds then the sounds of screams shattered the moment and the hyena leapt at the vampire before him, its body fading away on impact and the image darkened until there was nothing but blackness all around him, covering Spike’s body like a blanket as time ripped itself asunder and cast him away.

 

----------------------

 

“William are you listening to me?!”

 

Darla’s familiar annoying voice snapped Spike from his trance and he blinked as he focused on her, the angry expression on her face causing an instinctive smirk because if there was anything that he enjoyed in the world it was riling up Angelus’ Sire.

 

“Can’t say I was but you like the sound of your own voice enough to repeat it, don’t you, luv?” he smirked as the blonde’s face shifted, her demon flickering to the surface before she managed to smooth her expression into one of disdain.

 

“Don’t test me, you little bottom feeder. Angelus isn’t around anymore and I’d rather put a stake in you than look at you,” Darla hissed, taking a step closer and as the scent of her skin reached his nose, the cool smell of the herbs that had covered the caravans of the gypsies that they’d just slaughtered Spike found himself swaying on his feet as image after image slammed into his mind along with a single name...Fisi.

 

“My Spike sings with the old Gods now,” Dru crooned, her dark eyes flickering over Spike’s face and Spike held her gaze, making sure to keep his expression clear. “He won’t stay with us long, will you?” she asked and Spike lowered his head, capturing her wrist and brushing a kiss against the tender skin of his wrist even as he shivered when invisible hands pressed themselves against his cheeks and lips touched his forehead in a kiss that his Ma usually bestowed on him before she sent him off to bed, then the presence, Fisi, vanished and Spike’s heart thundered against his chest.

 

“I ain’t going anywhere, Dru,” he responded, finally focusing on his Sire but Dru’s eyes were dark and knowing and for a second Spike could see the Seer she was meant to be unclouded by the madness that Angelus had caused.

 

“The kitten will call you soon, when he finds the laughing one he will reach out and steal you away,” Dru responded as she pulled Spike close, ignoring Darla’s presence but Spike kept an eye on the blonde as she watched them curiously. “The stars sing your kitten’s name. He will love you so, my William....like I love Daddy and he will never let you go,” she whispered.

 

Darla wrinkled her nose at that and Spike hid the smirk that flitted across his face in Dru’s hair. It was no secret that while Angelus was Darla’s childe the vampire much preferred Dru’s company. It was a fact that drove Darla to murder, taking out her anger on innocent bystanders and Spike because she knew that Angelus wouldn’t let her harm Dru. It rankled Spike as well but for some reason even that familiar jealousy that usually churned in his gut, at the thought of Angelus and Dru together, was muted....like a painting that had been left in the rain too long, Spike could still feel the tendrils of envy curling around his mind but there was nothing for it to latch onto and the feeling quickly faded away as he inhaled the heavy scent of spice that he associated with his Sire.

 

“Touching as this sickening moment may be...” Darla started, pulling Spike’s attention back to her. “....the fact remains that we need to find a place to sleep, unless you would rather stand here and meet your final death,” the pleasure in her words made Spike itch to bare his teeth at her but the urge wasn’t a product of his demon’s ire anymore, it was all him. The spell seemed to have fused him and his demonic aspect together and Spike wasn’t sure if he was happy about that but after what Fisi had given him, he wasn’t about to spit in the face of her sacrifice simply because the boon’s reward had come with some additional parts.

 

Straightening, he curled an arm around Drusilla’s waist as she began to sing softly to Miss Edith. This was where the timelines split. The Spike from before had been so delirious, riding the wave of euphoria that came after a slaughter that he’d just accepted Darla’s advice but Spike knew that it would be mere days after this that Darla would vanish and get the information that had led them to the priest. This was where the change had to occur if Spike didn’t want to go through whatever Darla had planned.

 

“Nice of you to offer, luv but me and Dru, we figure its time we did a bit of traveling together,” he responded and Darla’s eyes narrowed, behind them the several minions that she’d created stirred restlessly. Spike cocked his head as he stared at her because if there was one thing he was good at, it was making Darla regret her own decisions. “Unless you can’t handle ‘Gelus by himself? I’m sure he’d love to see Dru,” he purred, watching as Darla’s whole body tensed, her eyes flickering to where Dru was smiling.

 

“My Daddy...” the broken Seer murmured and Spike could kiss her. Dru’s timing was always impeccable.

 

Darla’s lips pulled up into a small snarl. “Of course I can,” she spat, waving her hands at them before reaching down to straighten her dress. “You’re right, it’s probably time the two of you left for a while...after all absence does make the heart grow fonder.”

 

Spike snorted because there wasn’t enough time in the world to make him ever miss Darla.

 

“Well there you go then,” he replied. “You go sort out ‘Gelus and we’ll just hop across the pond for a bit....” Spike paused as he remembered Clem’s words. “I’ve been itching to see America and you can always send word when you’ve got things under control.”

 

Darla sniffed, already turning away. “Of course,” she shot over her shoulder as she marched off, her minions hurrying to catch up with her.

 

“So good at your pretty lies,” Dru murmured as Spike led her towards the pier. It would be easy enough to buy passage on one of the ships.

 

“What can I say? I’m a bad man,” Spike responded and Dru laughed as they headed into the shadows.

 

Chapter Text

 

Jessica Harris stared at the doctor between her legs as the nurses rushed around the hospital room. She’d heard words like ‘complications’ and ‘umbilical cord damage’, she’d seen the look of pity on one of the nurse’s face as the young woman fled the room and Jessica knew that no matter what they were saying, they were all wrong. There was no complication, no medical cause...she’d killed her baby. Every fucking second that she’d stayed with Tony Harris, covering up the bruises the man left littered across her skin she’d been killing her own child. And now, she’d never get the chance to hold the being that she’d carried for nine months in her arms, she’d never see him smile, watch his first steps and Tony wasn’t even here to see what he’d caused! As pain tore through her Jessica squeezed her eyes shut, she couldn’t look, didn’t want to see the doctor’s face when he told her that her baby was dead because she didn’t need to hear it. Her mother had said that when you became a mother, you knew things about your child before anyone else and Jessica knew that her baby was dead.

 

Another contraction wracked her body and Jessica screamed as she felt her baby leave her body, the sound trailing off into sobs as the silence hung heavy in the room. No sound meant he wasn’t breathing, no breathe meant he was...he was.

 

Finally she couldn’t stand it and Jessica’s eyes opened slowly just as the doctor passed the baby to one of the old nurses who’d stayed by Jessica’s side throughout her labor. The doctor turned towards her, mouth opening as he spoke but Jessica heard none of it, her eyes glued to the still body in the nurse’s hands as time itself seemed to slow. The nurse glanced at her and for a moment the woman’s eyes seemed to glow, flickering from the warm brown to a solid black but Jessica blinked and the trick of light faded away as a small whimper echoed through the room, followed by a full blown wail as her baby kicked his legs, tiny arms waving angrily as he hollered and something in Jessica’s chest shattered when the nurse smiled at her, hurrying over to place the baby in her arms.

 

Jessica held her breath as the woman lowered the baby, showing Jessica how to support his head and back but Jessica barely heard a word as she stared down at her son, tiny and perfect where he lay in her arms. She’d almost lost him, almost....the thought trailed off as the baby quieted wide eyes flickering around the room while his tiny fingers clutched at the blankets surrounding him.

 

“He’s an old soul,” the nurse whispered and Jessica glanced up at her, a word of thanks on her lips....only to find the space empty and no one but the nurses that had rushed in with the doctor milling around. Frowning she beckoned one of the young nurses closer.

 

“I wanted to thank the nurse that was in here....before,” Jessica explained but the girl frowned.

 

“She wasn’t a nurse, ma’am, she said she was a relative,” the girl responded.

 

Jessica blinked in surprise, her eyes flickering to the door as she remembered the way the woman’s eyes had changed. “I.....” she started, then shook her head as the baby began to fuss. “Did you catch her name?”

 

“She said it was Alex,” the young nurse responded, glancing down at the baby. “What’s his name?” she queried softly and Jessica’s mind stalled, a sly grin growing on her face. Tony wanted to call the baby Paul but fuck what Tony Harris wanted, she decided.

 

“Alex....his name is Alexander,” she responded and the baby, Alex, made a small sound that Jessica was taking as an agreement.

 

------------------------------

 

The lone researcher watched the clan of spotted hyena from his perch in a tree that overlooked their favorite area of the river. He’d been following this particular group for some time and had been pleased to see that the Matriarch appeared to be pregnant though he’d never seen any of the males approach her in the several months that he’d been watching them.

 

Today the matriarch was missing though and the man wondered if she had already given birth, hidden away in the cave system that they’d claimed as their den. If she had, he probably wouldn’t see her for a few days, at least not until the cubs were steady on their feet.

 

The eldest daughter of the matriarch was lying on her side sunning herself while her brothers and sisters spread out in a circle around her. From what he’d been able to observe this group seemed to differentiate from what was expected of hyenas, whereas the rest of their clan would carry on about their business, hunting and mating, the five siblings seemed to be set apart...almost like the others worshipped them and the researcher had often caught one of them staring at his hiding spot, like they knew he was there and wanted him to know it too. The thought made him shiver and he quickly focused on the group again, glancing away from the five. The hunter-gatherer group that had introduced him to the hyenas had told him stories about hyenas learning the names of farmers only to call them out in the dead of night and feast on the poor human. He’d initially scoffed at the idea but that didn’t stop his brain from thinking about it and after a time he found himself reluctant to use his own name, even in his head. His colleagues back home would laugh him to scorn if he ever mention the superstition in their presence but they weren’t the ones out here watching a group of highly intelligent carnivorous creatures in the dead of night.

 

Thoughts of the time had him glancing at his watch, grimacing when he realized it was already after six. The sun would be setting soon and he hadn’t made up a perch so there was no way he’d be able to stay out here tonight. Glancing down he froze. Where the hyenas had been several feet away before, now the five siblings were grouped the base of the tree he was sitting in. Swallowing hard he bit his lip, he couldn’t just step down out of the tree now....they would rip him to pieces but at least this high up he was relatively safe until they decided to move on and with the night quickly approaching they would probably leave to hunt soon.

 

Shoving his notebook in his backpack, he pulled his jacket closer, shivering lightly as the temperature lowered with the sun. Soon the sounds of the night life that populated this stretch of land started to grow louder, a cacophony of calls and shrieks that had terrified him the first time he spent a night outside.

 

Below the tree several of the hyenas were lumbering to their feet, stretching their muscles while others groomed each other, strengthening the ties between them. Then like a switch had been flipped the entire group stilled and even the siblings rose to their feet. The researcher glanced in the direction that they were looking and squinted. Something was moving in the shadows at the mouth of the cave. As it came closer the man smiled at the sight of the familiar matriarch. The large hyena paused at the edge of the shadows, her body mostly hidden within the darkness as she lowered something to the ground and the man’s eyes widened as she pushed the cub into the light. The small creature stumbled once before bracing itself as its older sibling grouped around them but instead of grooming the pup as they usually would the five paused, several feet away, and lowered their front ends to the dirt....almost as if they were bowing.

 

The cub yipped in delight, stumbling forward on unsteady legs before pressing its muzzle to each of theirs. When it faced its eldest sister the researcher gasped because for a moment the cub’s eyes had glowed a malevolent green.

 

The scene shifted as clouds covered the moon and the darkness blocked the researchers view for a long moment. Finally as the clouds receded he glanced back at the spot only to find it empty save for the matriarch and the rest of the clan. A gust of cold air blew across the land and the man shivered.

 

“Maaark!”

 

The researcher stilled, his eyes flickering around the land at the sound of his name. Shaking his head he scolded himself, there was no way that anyone else was out here; it must have been the wind....

 

“Mark,” the voice was different this time, closer and heavier. Mark turned glancing in the direction it had come from but the only sound that reached his ears was the chilling cackle of the hyenas.

 

“Mark,” this time the voice held a childlike quality that made it even more sinister and Mark glanced down only to find himself staring into glowing green eyes. Before he knew what he was doing he felt himself moving, climbing down out of the tree as the voice called out to him again. It was like he was trapped in his own skin, moving with no conscious decision and as his feet touched the ground, the clouds shifted; leaving him surrounded by the five siblings, at the front of the circle stood the newborn cub. The small hyena yawned, little teeth flashing in the moonlight and Mark held his breath as its eyes focused on him.

 

“Mark,” it whispered as its siblings cackled and prowled closer.

 

Mark closed his eyes as their hot breath ghosted across the skin of his exposed legs. He should have taken that desk job.

 

------------------------

 

Spike’s head snapped up, the girl in his arms moaning in displeasure but Spike paid little attention to that. There was something heavy thrumming in the air, like the beat of war drums and he pulled away from his meal, leaving the woman as he’d left the others....just a bit weaker and completely dazed.

 

Dru swayed closer to him as they left the dark alley, her voice ringing between the beats of the drum in Spike’s head. “He’s calling.” she murmured finally when Spike stopped in the middle of the street. Spinning around the blond vampire, eyed the skies around them as the sound faded away. “Your kitten is calling; he’ll be all together soon. Sticks and stones and pieces of fur will make him as right as rain.” Dru muttered.

 

“Kid’s got one heck of a voice.” Spike responded because even now he could still feel the beat of the drums, waiting for him at the edge of his mind and he grinned. “Seems like we’re moving on, Dru.”

 

Dru shook her head, laying a small hand against his. “This is not our journey anymore, William. Your kitten changed the worlds, kept us safe and Daddy is calling for me.” Dru responded.

 

Spike stared at her for a long moment, he knew that this had been coming ever since they’d heard about a souled vampire in L.A. but it didn’t make Dru’s decision easier to stomach. Leaning down he brushed a kiss against her lips but once again there was no spark, no sudden surge of want and need and Spike stepped back. “If the pouf gives you any trouble you come find me.” he told her and Dru’s smile grew.

 

“Always looking after me even when the stars stole the pieces away. Daddy will put them back together and you will keep your kitten safe.” she responded and Spike nodded, pulling her back into his arms as they swayed to the beat of drums that only he could truly hear.

 

---------------------------------

 

Xander hurried down the street, he’d been late for school that morning but Tony had been in a bad mood so Xander had started running his mouth when his father began get a bit too close to his mom and like clockwork Tony had turned on him. It had been hard dragging himself out of bed in the morning but when his mom kissed him on his way out, her green eyes searching his face and an apology on her lips....well there wasn’t much he wouldn’t do for his mom.

 

It didn’t help that Buffy had wanted to hang out and Willow wouldn’t take no for an answer. When Xander had tried she’d busted out the dreaded puppy eyes and Xander crumbled like a deck of cards.

 

It was cool being friends with the Slayer even though no one knew what Buffy was or even that they were living smack dab in a vampire infestation but that was the good old Sunnydale charm for ya. Unless it cost you money, ignore it until it goes away. Snorting Xander paused in front of his house. Tony’s car was gone, so the man was probably out visiting friends or family...more like freeloading off them. Jessica was the only person, if you didn’t count Xander’s part-time jobs, in their house who actually worked, as far as Xander knew that was always how it had been and even though she brought home the cash and tried to give his alcoholic father everything he wanted the man still seemed to take out his problems on her. As soon as Xander was old enough to recognize what was happening he’s started running interference between the two and more often than not it ended with him in pain but it was better him than his mom.

 

Pushing the door open, Xander dropped his backpack into Tony’s chair as he followed his nose into the kitchen. His mom glanced up as soon as he stepped into the small room, Xander still wasn’t convinced that she didn’t have eyes in the back of her head because he hadn’t made a sound this time, a small smile flitting across her face. The dim light from the overhead bulb made her skin glow but Xander could see the dark circles around her eyes and the way she held herself as if she was in constant pain but every time he brought up the matter his mom would clam up.

 

“How was school?” Jessica asked, tilting her head as she waited for the kiss that Xander brushed against her cheek.

 

“Same old, same old.” Xander responded, leaning against the far wall. “I’m too much awesome for Sunnydale to deal with you know that, Mom.”

 

Jessica snorted. “Well you and your awesome can come cut up the vegetables for me. Thankfully I’ve been dealing with you since you were born so I’m immune.”

 

“Epic burn,” Xander huffed, grinning as he reached for the knife and started slicing. He liked these moments when it was just him and his mom, if only Tony would stay away forever but knowing how much the man loved making their lives a living hell that wouldn’t happen unless one of Sunnydale’s nocturnal inhabitants made a snack out of him, it was wishful thinking but it didn’t stop Xander from hoping.

 

-----------------------

 

Spike leaned against the Desoto as he stared up at the house that Angel had arranged for him to stay in....well he said arranged but really he hadn’t given the big Poof much of a choice. It was either find him somewhere suitable to stay or sit in L.A. and wonder whether or not Spike had snacked on some innocent landlord just so that he could have somewhere to sleep that wasn’t infested with rats. Spike hadn’t told his Grandsire that he hadn’t actually drained any innocent bystanders in years. Partially because it wasn’t any of the older vampire’s business but mostly because Angel seemed to get even more broody when he thought Spike was out feeding on the general populace.

 

The whole soul curse was the most entertaining thing Spike had encountered in a while and he intended to milk it for all it was worth.

 

Pursing his lips he straightened, leave it to Angel to find him the only place in this whole town that looked like Darla had personally built it and really the less he had in common with that bitch the better!

 

The house itself was at least two stories and he was gonna have to have words with the great poof about that because if he thought he was just going to drop by and use the free rooms he’d better think again. The exterior was painted a light yellow that made Spike want to gag....he didn’t want his home to be perky! Who the fuck painted houses yellow anyway? It was like a standing advertisement for nice neighbors and if there was one thing that Spike wasn’t, it was nice! Narrowing his eyes he cocked his head in thought. If nothing else having the residents of Sunnydale think that there was an open invitation to his house meant that he wouldn’t have to go finding food....it was one of the tricks that Darla had loved to utilize. Wrinkling his nose at the constant comparison between himself and the Angel’s sire, Spike ducked back into his car and grabbed his bag.

 

Hitching the duffle with his clothes over his shoulder, Spike headed for the front door. Dru had managed to help him pinpoint where the call was coming from and it was just his luck that Fisi’s runt had decided to be born in the same town the Slayer was supposedly protecting.

 

Spike didn’t have anything against Slayers, other than the fact that they kept trying to kill him and old habits die hard because Spike really didn’t appreciate someone trying to put a stake into him, so the two times he’d run across Slayers they’d wound up dead. The fact that he couldn’t actually die from a stake through the heart didn’t mean that it didn’t hurt like hell and the wound was a bitch to heal.

 

Curling his tongue behind his teeth, Spike considered picking the lock but at the last minute decided that it probably wasn’t a good idea, especially if Sunnydale had a burglar problem. Not that they’d find much to steal...or be a problem for long if he ran into them but it was the thought that counted. Pulling his key from his pocket Spike opened the door and stepped inside. Dru had already told him where he could find one of the halves of the kid and hopefully Sunnydale had enough of an underground system that he wouldn’t need to be in the sun much. While it wouldn’t make him burn as it used to, and testing that out had almost stopped his undead heart, it still didn’t feel comfortable and he needed to be at the zoo before the kid got there. So that meant waiting on him or her, Spike still wasn’t a hundred percent on the details but he did know that he wasn’t going to be standing around while the sun did its best to drive him insane.

 

Flicking the lights on Spike gave the house a cursory glance before dropping his duffle and heading back out into the night.

 

It was time to introduce himself to Sunnydale’s vampire population.

 

--------------------------

 

The primals prowled the edge of the enclosure watching as the human set up his little spell, in the middle of the group their alpha lay, her eyes following the zoo warden as he moved to and fro. It was amusing that the man thought he had been able to capture them using only his wit. Snorting she shook her head and her sister glanced back at her curiously but she twitched her ear, telling the other hyena that she was fine.

 

Rising to her feet she glanced out into the darkness that surrounded the structure. She could feel her other half beyond the wires and walls, she could hear the thundering of his heart and feel the blows of pain that were inflicted on his fragile human skin. The sensation ghost across her own body and she bared her teeth at the unseen assailant that would dare lay hands on them.

 

Around her the pack stirred restlessly while the spell that the human was creating wouldn’t affect them as he believed it would, the magic humming in the air disturbed the one that they all knew, the darker force that meant family and mother.

 

The man cast the spell and the alpha felt as it brushed against her fur, trying to curling around her spirit but she shook if off like an annoying fly, watching in amusement as the zoo warden stumbled backwards when the backlash caught him.

 

Somewhere behind her, her youngest sister laughed, the sound translating into the chilling cackle that usually meant a hunt was to begin and the man froze staring down at the them as the rest of the pack echoed the sound. When his eyes met hers she released her grip on the power thrumming beneath her skin, letting it glow in her eyes for a moment and she could almost smell the greed on the human’s skin as he gathered up his equipment and left the enclosure. He would be back, she knew he would but by the time he got the chance to try again she would be one with her other half and nothing would separate them again.

 

-----------------------

 

Xander tossed in his sleep, curling onto his side as his body instinctively tried to avoid the throbbing pain radiating from where Tony had caught him across the ribs. Moaning he furrowed his brow, his fingers tangling in the sheets as images flickered behind his closed eyelids.

 

The scenery faded to a blur of green and brown as the pack raced across the plain. There had been little food for days and they were driven by hunger and the need to feed the cubs that they left behind. It was the reason why they were risking this hunt, their usually prey was gone and the young lion that had been prowling through their territory was their only option if they did not want to risk their cubs starving.

 

Xander moaned as he shifted onto his stomach, sweat beading his nape as his eyelids flickered.

 

The lion paused, nostrils flaring as it caught their scent but this would not be a normal hunt. The need for food had driven the primals from their usual place on the sideline and the five sped ahead of the pack, their paws barely touching the ground as magic built around them, hanging heavy in the evening air.

 

A green glow settled over Xander’s skin as he reached out, fingers clawing at the air before falling to his side.

 

The lion turned, its lips pulled back into a snarl as it prepared to meet the pack head on but as the scent of the hyenas were overwhelmed with the dark, earthy scent of the primals, the great feline took a step back, preparing to retreat but it was already too late.

 

The glow grew, painting the walls around Xander’s bed, a sickly green as the magic pulsed with the beat of his heart.

 

The alpha pulled away from her siblings, her fur bristling as she strode towards the interloper that would be their meal. Behind the lion, the other primals spread out, their eerie cackle rising as they closed ranks on the frightened creature but the lion didn’t notice any of it, its eyes locked with the glowing green ones of the alpha before him. The alpha lunged forward shattering the moment as she sank her teeth into the lion’s flesh, barely feeling the wounds that the feline’s claws inflicted as she closed her jaws around its neck and....

 

Xander woke with a gasp, the scent of fear still clogging his nose and the taste of blood heavy on his tongue.

 

---------------

 

Several miles away the alpha stood, a dark shadow against the back drop of the enclosure as she inhaled, her heart slowing to match that of the body that she would soon inhabit.

 

-----------------------

 

Xander followed Willow and Buffy as they moved through the zoo, his mind only partially on their conversation and it was times like these when he was glad that Willow could babble herself into a coma because neither girl seemed to notice that he was no longer speaking.

 

He hadn’t been able to fall back asleep after the dream...add in the pain from Tony’s latest tantrum and he’d stayed up until the sun rose, helping his mom prepare breakfast before heading off, ignoring the guilt he could see in her eyes because he remembered the times that she’d come between him and Tony, when he was too young to stand up to his father. He remembered the black eyes and the split lips that she’d have to cover up and there was no way he was going to let that happen again. It was easier for him to tell people that he’d run into things, he was clumsy after all, than for her to explain why she couldn’t come to work because her bastard of a husband had beat her up.

 

Shaking his head he tried to focus on the conversation only to catch sight of Lance being led into the hyena enclosure by the four dunderheads that had taken to picking on the guy whenever they caught him alone. For the most part they left Xander alone but kids like Lance were their favorite target and Xander decided to head this particularly prank off before they could get started.

 

“What are Kyle and his friends doing with Lance?” Willow inquired and Xander sighed.

 

“Playing with him, like a cat plays with a rat.” he responded, turning to the two and grinning as Buffy opened her mouth. “I’ll handle it.” he told them, ducking under the yellow tape and ignoring the shiver that worked its way up his spine as the sounds from the enclosure reached him.

 

----------------------

 

Spike lingered in the shadows of the hyena pen. He’d been in mere seconds ago but the primals seemed to be hiding from him because of course Fisi’s little brat wouldn’t make anything easy.

 

He’d just been about to go back in when a group of teenagers headed past his hiding spot quickly followed by another one and suddenly the beat of drums was back, louder than ever. Spike stared at the boy as he passed. The teenager was tall and lanky with broad shoulders that would fill out in a few years and the same dark hair that Fisi had sported though his was lighter in some places, the black hidden beneath strands of dark brown. The kid turned and Spike sucked in a surprised breath as he took in the large chocolate eyes that flitted over his hiding place before moving on.

 

As the boy hurried after the group Spike slid from the alcove with a grin. Fisi had told him to watch over her kid...but she hadn’t said how closely and now having seen the boy Spike was determined to get as close as he could.

 

-----------------------

 

The alpha paused at the edge of the enclosure, nostrils flaring as she scented the air. Many humans had come trampling through until the zoo warden had put up the yellow boundaries that seemed to keep most of them away, though it hadn’t stopped the pale man with white hair. The man had smelled like mother and blood all wrapped into a deadly package that had made the other primals retreat but not the alpha. She’d stayed on her perch on the rocks at the top of enclosure, out of sight but not truly hiding, all the man had to do was look up. Sadly he hadn’t, leaving the enclosure mere moments after his arrival and the alpha had abandoned her perch then, prowling to the edge of the enclosure as several new scents approached her.

 

The primals shifted uneasily as the group of children because these little humans were nothing more than misguided cubs, stepped into the circle the zoo warden had created.

 

The alpha could feel the spell tingling across her fur but it slid off her as it rushed towards her siblings who were already weaving their will through the spell. The warden thought that he could capture their souls...a foolish thought that only a human who didn’t truly understand magic, could conceive. The man’s pretty words and sigils could no more override their will than the sea could touch the moon and the alpha held still as her siblings twisted the spell, using it to collect the excess magic that lingered beneath their skin. She knew that when she was gone, when she became one with her true body, the energies would be sent back to her empty body creating a new primal, one who would lead the pack in her stead.

 

Then she smelt it, the other her...the human side that had become male when they were separated and her body tensed as she laid eyes on the body that would be theirs.

 

---------------------------

 

Xander hurried after the group, frowning at the torn yellow tape that they left behind. He didn’t know why Lance was stupid enough to go anywhere with someone like Kyle...it was like that saying a zebra never changed it stripes and Xander was pretty sure that the world would implode if Kyle ever became nice. Hell, he’d be the first one throwing holy water on the guy because you never knew. Then again, if Kyle did suddenly turn out to be nice then maybe he could convince Buffy that the idiot needed slaying.

 

The smile that the thought brought to his lips, quickly slid away as the cackle of the hyenas echoed through the enclosure and for a minute Xander experienced a strange sense of vertigo, like he was looking both towards and from the enclosure. He paused, shaking his head to clear the lingering dizziness as he blinked and thankfully his brain decided to cooperate, his vision clearing as he approached the group.

 

He must have made a sound because Kyle turned away from Lance, a nasty smile stretching across his lips when he caught sight of Xander.

 

“If it isn’t Xander...” he began and Xander rolled his eyes because the guy really needed a new opening for his taunts.

 

Clapping slowly he took a step closer. “Bravo, you remembered my name and you’re Kyle, douchebag extraordinaire and the rest of them are just really loyal shadows. Now that everybody has been introduced why don’t we all just walk out of the place we aren’t supposed to be in before you get us into more trouble than you can get us out of?” Xander retorted, his eyes flickering to the enclosure where he could swore something had just moved and seriously, if he got attacked by rabid hyenas he was going to haunt all of them for the rest of their miserable lives...though considering the fact that the life expectancy in Sunnydale was about twenty years maximum, he doubted he’d be wasting much energy.

 

“But Lance wanted to see the hyenas, didn’t you Lance?” simpered the girl, who Xander had taken to calling Evil Barbie 2.0 in his head.

 

Lance glanced from the group to Xander before taking a step back. “Xander’s right, we should pr-probably go.” he stuttered.

 

Kyle snorted. “You’re such a coward.”

 

“You know what Kyle? You really shouldn’t be calling people stupid names, especially if those people could get you into a world of trouble!” Xander spat, stepping closer to the group. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Lance moving further back and a part of him was shouting that he should go, he’d gotten Lance that was what he’d come for but a much louder side of him seemed to be drawn to the dark pit beyond the little group.

 

A low rumble made him tense, his eyes flickering to where a darker shadow was moving within the enclosure and for a minute emerald green eyes met his and Xander swayed as something curled around his mind. Warmth spread along his skin as invisible fingers brushed across every inch of him and he could smell everything. The scent of the people who had passed through the enclosure, the scent of the teenagers by his side and the scent of fear bleeding off the lone male that was standing a few feet behind him but under it all he could smell something else. The scent of smoke and leather that made his chest ache every time he inhaled. The presence spread across his consciousness, painting it red with memories of the hunt and he could taste blood on his tongue but instead of making him sick, it made his heart pound in his chest as memories filtered into his mind, weaving in with his own until he couldn’t remember a time that he hadn’t known these things, hadn’t been this creature.

 

The sound of something crashing to the ground had him spinning around just in time to watch the weak one....Lance, stumble to his feet and run from the room. It was like someone had flipped a switch because suddenly the presence retreated leaving only Xander and he blinked as the others stumbled from the enclosure not looking at each other as they went.

 

----------------------

 

Spike held still as the boy slipped by him. At the last moment the teen paused, eyes glowing green as they flickered over Spike. The other teens stumbled out of the enclosure unaware that one of their group had been left behind, though from what Spike had heard it didn’t seem like Fisi’s runt, Xander, was friends with any of the group.

 

Stepping from the shadows Spike grinned when the boy took a step back, lips curled up into a snarl as the hyena surged to the fore.

 

“Is this how you greet all your caretakers?” Spike purred, well aware that the human had taken the backseat. A part of him wanted to provoke the boy, to see just what Fisi’s child could do out in the real world but he knew that wasn’t a good plan not with so many humans milling around just outside.

 

The boy rumbled as Spike took a step closer but the vampire just skated around him, pausing at the edge of the enclosure. “When you get that pretty head of yours in order, come and sniff me out.” he tossed over his shoulder as he stepped out into the sunlight.

 

The uncomfortable feeling brought on by the rays almost distracted him as he passed the two bints waiting behind the yellow tape but the scent of old bones and blood made his eyes narrow as he passed the two, grinning when the blonde and that one had to be the slayer, turned to watch him go.

 

Whistling he slipped into the crowd before the girl could catch a good look at him. Well it seemed this was going to be more fun than he’d thought.

 

----------------

 

Xander blinked as the fog that had clouded his mind receded just as the blond man vanished from sight. He could still feel the anger thrum beneath his skin but it was contained for now and he rubbed his head as he stepped out of the enclosure. It felt like he was forgetting something, something about green eyes and spots but as he blinked, his eyes adjusting to the sun, he couldn’t remember what it was.

 

“Hey, Xander, who was that guy?” Buffy called as soon as she caught sight of him and Xander ducked under the tape before turning to her.

 

“What guy?” he asked, cocking his head as the buzzing sensation from before faded away.

 

“The blond one,” Buffy responded, eying him, “Are you ok? You look a bit....”

 

“Half dead?” Willow offered up and Xander shot her a betrayed look.

 

“I’m fine, just got a headache. Nothing that the Xan-man can’t handle.” he grinned, ignoring the beat of drums pounding in his ears. Thankfully the girls bought his act and turned away, missing the flash of green as the scent of smoke on the wind caught his attention.

 

--------------

 

The alpha let her spirit rest. The transfer had taken more out of her than she had expected but this body felt more hers than the other one that she had inhabited. The soul that resided here was cracked and torn though and she knew that she would have to mend it before they could become one but for the moment there seemed to be no danger about, so she let herself sleep, confident that the blond one would not allow her body to come to any harm.

 

-----------

 

Xander staggered down the street in a daze, his mind felt clouded like he was coming down with something but so far he hadn’t felt even the cousin of a sneeze or a cough. If he was one of the kids who hung out with the cool people or hung out with anyone who wasn’t Willow and Buffy, he would have thought somebody had slipped something into his drink....well he’d have to have drank something for that to happen too.

 

His skin felt hot, like he was wearing too much clothes and even though he could see the wind stirring the fallen leaves on the pavement in front of him, he couldn’t feel even the barest whisper of a breeze against his skin. Instead the slick feeling of sweat dripping down his back made him shiver in discomfort and he considered discarding the jacket he’d pulled on after he left the zoo but he could already see his house up ahead and it wouldn’t make sense to fumble with the thing when he was so close to home.

 

Tony’s car was absent in the driveway and Xander paused, staring at the empty spot for several seconds as the scent of old gas reached his nose. Xander blinked slowly, his head cocked to the side as he stared at the spot but though he could smell the gas clearly in the air he couldn’t see as much as a drop of oil on the pavement itself. Frowning he turned away from it and headed for the house.

 

The moment he opened the door, the sense of vertigo washed over him again. He could clearly remember the home he’d grown up in...the chairs in front of the TV, the small kitchen but it was like something within his mind was seeing it all for the first time, forcing Xander’s senses to experience it anew.

 

The scent of old alcohol hung heavy in the air and Xander blinked as memories of Tony sitting in his chair yelling at his mom overrode the image before his eyes until it seemed like the man was actually there. The thought made his fingers curl into a fist, nails digging into the palm of his hands as the old anger washed over him.

 

The sound of movement from the kitchen broke the trance and as his anger slid away Xander blinked in surprise because one moment he’d been outside and the next, he was here. Turning he glanced around but there was no one there and his bag was sitting in its usual place by the door.

 

Now let it not be said that Xander was oblivious because he’d survived living in Sunnydale for years before Buffy turned up and while he hadn’t known that the town’s secrets were less dirty and more downright evil, he still figured that his survival was due to his instincts. The kind that shouted ‘Don’t go near to that alley, Xander.’ or ‘That old lady doesn’t seem like she wants to just pinch your cheeks’ and even though he had no proof that those incidents were due to vampires or demons...though he was pretty certain that that particular old lady had been a demon, the fact was his instincts never steered him wrong, at least not when he actually listened to them... but he was rambling. The point was his mind knew that something wasn’t right; he’d been losing time ever since he ventured into the hyena enclosure but even that thought was little but a whisper. A whisper that was quickly smothered as the darkness seeped across his mind again.

 

-------------------

 

The alpha stretched within her new body, curling around the consciousness that was her other half. She was cautious because the boy seemed to be more aware of her presence than she’d expected but it was easy to pull him into herself, brushing tentatively against the battered parts of his mind as she lulled him to sleep. When the boy finally stopped trying to regain control she turned her attention to their surroundings.

 

She knew this place from her other half’s memories. It was home and yet not home, the change in name usually came when the male human was present but the man was not there now and the hyena snorted as her eyes narrowed on the chair that strongly held the man’s scent. Before she could actually move towards the thing, a sound from further within the home caught her attention and she found herself moving towards it. The man’s scent was less here, instead it was overwhelmed by a soft smell that wrapped around her....it was mother and yet not mother. Not the one that had made them nor sent them on their journey across the ether but it was the smell of the one that had carried her human self within her body and the alpha inhaled deeply, drawing the scent into her.

 

Turning the corner she stilled.

 

There  was a small woman standing at the table within the kitchen, her red hair sparking in the dim light from the low hanging bulb and the stench of countless strangers clung to the strange uniform she wore.....waitress. The word slipped through the barrier the alpha had around her other self’s mind and through his eyes she could see the woman hurrying around a small building, her arms ladened with food that she quickly passed off to strangers before repeating the strange dance again, stopping every few minutes to flash her other self a small smile that made him feel warm as he turned back to the books he’d heaped on the table in front of him.

 

The other had liked those moments, the time when he was able to stay with his not-mother far away from the male human and his feelings slipped into hers, mingling until she could feel nothing but love for the small woman, mother, who had sacrificed so much to keep them safe and happy despite the cost.

 

-----------------

 

Jessica hummed to herself as she spread out the leftovers she’d gotten from the diner, Xander always made fun of the fact that even though she was a waitress she couldn’t cook worth a damn and Jessica always repaid any such statement with a slap upside the head even though it didn’t bother her much. The chef had always given her more than enough to bring home and feed Xander...Tony she couldn’t care less about.

 

Today’s special had been lasagna and Jessica had made sure to collect extra because Xander loved it and if there was one thing she loved to see it was Xander’s face when he realized she’d brought some home.

 

Removing the food from its container she popped it onto a tray and slid it into the oven to reheat. Dropping the dirty dishes into the sink she turned and almost had a heart attack when she found Xander standing right behind her. Jessica had raised Xander, had been there every moment of his life and even before he opened his mouth she knew that something was wrong...or maybe it was because he hadn’t opened his mouth that she realized something was off.

 

Xander was leaning against the frame of the door, his head tilted to the side and his eyes were little more than narrow slits on his face but even hidden as they were Jessica could see the green glow and she froze...the only time she’d seen anything like it was the night Xander had been born and even then the woman’s eyes hadn’t held hers steadily like Xander was doing now.

 

Inhaling slowly Jessica straightened and Xander’s eyes followed the motion and Jessica finally placed what her son reminded her of. His gaze was predatory like a cat watching a rat but Jessica had never been afraid of her son and God help her she wasn’t going to start now.

 

“Alex?” she whispered and Xander’s entire body seemed to deflate as she reached out and laid a hand against his cheek, the terrifying green fading to be replaced by the warm brown that she was used to as Xander blinked like he was coming out of a trance.

 

“Mom?” the teen whispered and the fear in Xander’s voice made Jessica’s heart ache and she pulled her son close into a hug. “I don’t know how I got here....I was outside and then I was in the house and I....I don’t know what’s happening. My head doesn't feel like my head anymore.” Xander babbled, his fingers clutching at Jessica’s uniform as she rocked them in place, her mind flitting over the things she’d heard about Sunnydale...the things they’d all seen and turned a blind eye to but as scary as whatever it was that lived beneath the town’s surface was Jessica would be damned before she let it steal her son from her!

 

“It’s gonna be ok, baby.” She crooned, her eyes glued to the far wall. “Momma’s gonna make it ok.”

 

----------------------

 

The alpha reeled as her other self yanked back control over their body. The boy’s mental fingers dug into her psyche, using the grip to haul himself forward as the touch of the not-mother’s hand registered and before the alpha knew what was happening she was dumped back into the dark nothingness that existed just beyond the boy’s awareness.

 

A part of her bristled at the slight, how dare he try to make her bow to his will, yanking her about like he had more of a right to the body than she did...like they weren’t once one being? Yet even as her anger built another part of her recognized the boy’s mental strength, his loyalty to the one that had given birth to him and it preened because no simple human could throw off her presence like a blanket but then again her other self had never been just a human...even now she could feel the faint tendrils of mother buried deep within the darkness where she floated but each time she tried to reach for it, the presence retreated.

 

It seemed that her other self wasn’t ready for that part of him to wake yet.

 

Turning from those thoughts she brushed tentatively against his consciousness again but this time the teen didn’t seem aware of her and she slid unnoticed beneath the wall that he’d instinctively created to keep her out.

 

The other was clinging to the not-mother, sadness and fear radiating through his entire body as the smell of it wafted up from the not-mother’s skin and the alpha pulled back. She had not meant to cause the other any pain, she had simply wished to see and understand the world that the other called his own but now she realized that her exploration would have to wait until after they had merged. Any other attempt to take over would surely cause the boy even more distress and that wasn’t something that she was willing to risk.

 

The other’s mind settled as she retreated and the alpha reached out one last time, projecting safety and warmth as she slid back into the darkness, letting the other’s heartbeats lull her into slumber as she waited for the strength that she would need to complete the merger.

 

------------------------

 

Xander shivered as he clung to his mom. His heart was beating against his chest like it was trying to find a way to burst out ala Alien and his head felt like he’d just gone a few rounds with Buffy but he finally managed to get himself under control, pulling back despite his mom’s grip on him.

 

“I’m ok, mom. I...I’m me again. At least I think I’m me, I can see you and it doesn’t feel like something using my head as its on personal donkey anymore.” he muttered, holding still while his mom stared at him, her fingers still curled in the front of his shirt but finally she let go, slumping against the counter as she watched him.

 

“Why are you so calm?” she whispered, her eyes narrowing, “You’re acting like all this...” she gestured towards him, “...is normal. Like glowing eyes and forgetting things and thinking something is living inside your head is normal!” and if Xander hadn’t figured out where he’d inherited his babble from then he sure as hell knew now!

 

“You’re probably going to need to sit down for this.” Xander warned and Jessica’s jaw tightened but she sank gratefully into the chair resting by the wall.

 

“I know that something strange has been going on for a while now and don’t think that just because I haven’t said anything means that I haven’t notice that Jesse has stopped coming around or all those late nights that you go sneaking off with Willow and that new girl only to come back looking like road kill. But you know what? I trust you.” she told him, her hands curling into fists where they rested on her knees. “It’s always been just me and you and God knows that I would trust you with my life. The problem is I’m starting to think that you don’t care enough about your own life to not be involved in something stupid!”

 

Xander gaped, while he hadn’t thought that his mom was stupid or anything else that would probably make her slap him upside the head, he did think that she’d fallen into the same trap that most of the adult in Sunnydale seemed to be in. Hearing that she was pretty aware of everything that was going on made him pause. As far as he knew he had two options, he could try to play this whole thing of as a gimmick and probably lose his mom’s trust in the process or he could tell her the whole story now and just hope she didn’t move them out of Sunnydale like she’d been threatening to do for a while.

 

Pulling up a seat he dropped into it. “Ok...so you know all those late nights? Well this is what really happened....”he started, keeping his eyes on hers as he told her what had been happening since Buffy came to Sunnydale.

 

Jessica’s eyes widened with every word, until she couldn’t keep quiet any longer. “Vampires?! You want to tell me vampires are real and that you and your friend, Buffy, slay them?”

 

“Well that’s what Slayers do...they slay vampires and stuff.” Xander responded, rubbing the back of his neck. “Not that I’d been involved in much slaying...just the one.” he finished with a small shrug.

 

“You?!” Jessica spluttered, her brow furrowing. “Who was it?”

 

Xander glanced up, he hadn’t expected her to catch onto that but his mom’s expression was set in a way that said he’d better talk or else and really he’d wanted to talk to someone, anyone about it from the moment it had happened but he’d been too busy saving Buffy then trying to keep his normal life out of the life he shared with the Slayer and there just hadn’t been anyone there to listen.

 

Exhaling Xander straightened in his seat. “It was Jesse.” he whispered.

 

----------------------------

 

Spike perched in the tree beside the house that the boy had stumbled into. He’d been following several feet behind the teen as he left the zoo. He didn’t know if any of the primal’s senses had already blended with the teen’s and the last thing he needed was a direct confrontation. Nah, Spike hadn’t gotten to this point without learning a few tricks of the trade and one of the simplest rules was know your enemy or in this case your prey.

 

Leaning against the wall of the small house, Spike wrinkled his nose at the scent of gas but thankfully the smell wasn’t too strong and the fumes from his fag quickly overpowered it, leaving Spike in a haze of smoke as he listened to the teen recount what had been happening.

 

If Spike hadn’t been so sure that Fisi was gone he would have believed that she was fucking with him. Not only did her offspring choose a freaking Hellmouth as a home, now the runt was claiming that he was friends with the Slayer. Just the thought of interacting with the hyperactive blonde made Spike’s temple throb...it was a sensation that he’d only experienced around Darla and he doubted that it boded well for this new Slayer. But it what the boy, Xander, was saying was true then there was no way he’d get to off the bint without driving the boy away as well and demon or not Spike kept his promises and he’d promised to keep the runt safe for Fisi, his own attraction aside, that meant staying in the boy’s good graces.

 

Dropping the burnt out cigarette, Spike quickly crushed it out before lighting another. The flicker of the flame flared around his face for a second and if anyone had been around they would have seen the demon yellow eyes glowing in the shadows as the red of the tip of his new fag burned slowly in the night air. No one did though because all the good citizens of Sunnydale were bundled in bed. The thought made Spike snort before he glanced back at the little house.

 

From what he could hear the boy didn’t think much of vampires which wasn’t a surprise considering he was pals with the Slayer and where a Slayer went so did her Watcher. If anyone was capable of painting all vampires with same brush if was bloody Watchers! Spike wondered if any of the lazy sods had ever actually watched any vampire themselves or if they’d all hidden behind their Slayers just waiting to be passed on to the next one as soon as one of them bit the dust. Every other word out of the boy’s mouth was vampires were evil and alright Spike agreed he was as bad as they came but the runt was talking about minions and the withered up old bat that Darla called Sire like they were comparable to true Masters and that rankled Spike enough to make him want to hunt down the Slayer’s Watcher and teach him a thing or two about how real vampires operated.

 

Blocking out the runt, hard as it was because just the smell of the boy through the walls made Spike shiver as he recalled the way Fisi’s blood had tasted...he wondered if the boy would taste like that too or would he be purer like ozone wrapped in electricity? Or would he be earthy and wild....blinking Spike stamped down his bloodlust as he refocused on the boy’s mother’s voice.

 

The woman was worried about all the dangers that the runt had been running into, as she bloody well should be because until today the teen had been just human and Spike wouldn’t have been pleased if he’d had to wait another hundred years to actually meet his charge...it might have driven him to kill, not that he needed much prodding in any case. Shifting his attention back to the boy’s mother Spike smiled when she started requesting help because he could hear the boy hedging already...seemed Xander didn’t have the Slayer permission to go spreading rumors and if there was one thing that Spike knew it was that Watchers didn’t take kindly to civilians knowing about the dangers that truly lurked in the dark and even if they did accept other people into their little groups their focus was always on the Slayer....the lack of training for the others usually led to messy deaths.

 

The woman finally seemed to notice her son’s reluctance and she backed off but even as she assured the teen that they would figure it out, Spike was already formulating a plan. The lady needed advice about the demonic world and who better to give advice than a legitimate demon? The fact that it would get him closer to his little treat was just icing on the cake as far as Spike was concerned.

 

-----------------------

 

Jessica narrowed her eyes as she listened to her son explain what had happened to Jesse. There were so many questions on her tongue but she made herself keep quiet. This was Xander’s show and she needed to know everything before she offered her opinions.

 

She was intensely glad that Tony was out of town because she didn’t think she’d be able to stomach his bullshit on top of knowing that every night Xander stepped outside to go hang with Willow and this Buffy, he was risking his life and leave it up to her little boy to not get himself into the type of trouble every parent worried about....vampires!

 

Xander stopped talking, glancing up at her and Jessica made sure to school her expression into something non-judgmental. “So Buffy’s Watcher....he knows about all of this? He’s the one I could ask, right?”

 

Xander’s eyes widened. “Uhm yeah and no. I mean Giles knows a lot about the things that go bump in the night but you don’t need to ask him anything.” he spluttered. “There are books! Old, musty books and the people who wrote them were the real experts. If you want I could get you some? Not that you need them because it’s seriously not as dangerous as I made it sound....” he giggled nervously. “You know me, the big exaggerator....I exaggerate...a lot!”

 

Cocking her head Jessica considered the teen in front of her. God bless him, Xander never had any luck with lying and the fact that he really didn’t want her talking to this Giles person was as clear as a neon sign in the night but he was agitated enough as it was and she knew that if she pushed he’d just pull away.

 

Thankfully she hadn’t seen even a hint of green eyes throughout their conversation and while that did help to calm her a bit more, the knowledge that neither of them knew what was happening was still stark in her mind.

 

Nodding to herself, Jessica tapped her fingers against her knee. “How soon can you get me these books?” she asked and Xander perked up.

 

“I could get them tonight if you want, I mean it’s no big.” he offered but Jessica shook her head.

 

“No, I don’t want you out there tonight....” she started, ignoring the way Xander’s mouth fell open, obviously ready to protest. “You just told me that most of the things that I thought were myths and fairytales are actually real. Then you tell me that you go out there and fight them. I’m trying to be reasonable here, Alexander but you are not stepping foot outside of this house tonight!” she finished, her tone making it clear that she wasn’t negotiating and Xander deflated like a balloon that had just been pricked.

 

“I told Willow and Buffy that I’d meet them at The Bronze. They’re going to be waiting for me, mom.” Xander whined and Jessica allowed herself a small smile because no matter how old Xander grew there were some habits he never managed to break.

 

“And when you don’t turn up, they’ll think ‘Oh maybe Xander can’t come out because his mother would rather not have a heart attack while imagining all the ways her son could wind up dead,’” Jessica retorted, one brow rising when Xander snorted.

 

“Touche, Mother.”

 

“Thank you. You got that talent for words from somewhere and it sure as hell wasn’t your father.” Jessica replied, rising to her feet. Turning to the oven she quickly slipped the lasagna from the oven, hiding her smirk when Xander started sniffing the air before shuffling over to peer over her shoulder as she dished out their dinner.

 

“I really didn’t want to worry you.” Xander whispered finally, breaking the comfortable silence that had settled over the kitchen. “That’s why I didn’t tell you. I knew you’d be worried but I’d be more worried knowing those things were out there when you were coming home from work late.”

 

Jessica hummed beneath her breath as she handed Xander his plate. “Is that why you started waiting to walk me home?”

 

Xander shrugged. “It made me feel better, you know? It’s not like Tony was going to do it.”

 

“Maybe if we’re really lucky one of those things will decide to eat him.” Jessica snorted as she settled at the small table.

 

Xander took a bite out of his meal, his eyes focused in the distance as he chewed and Jessica kept quiet, letting him order his thoughts without her input.

 

“I think that’s one of the reasons why I wasn’t really that scared when we found out about the vamps and the demons.” he began, his voice barely louder than a whisper. “I mean what do they do? They hurt people, right? But most of them, they hurt people because they have to because it’s how they feed, how they survive. We’re just their menu and nobodies gonna turn down food when they’re starving but demons that hurt people just because they can? They’re what scares me and I think it’s because I’m so used to being afraid of Tony. That’s why I have to help because all those people out there, they’re me and you and I feel like if I help Buffy save enough of them, I’ll make up for the times I’m too terrified to do anything around him.”

 

Jessica lowered her fork to her plate, her appetite suddenly gone as she stared at Xander’s bowed head. Reaching out she clasped his free hand in hers, swallowing past the lump in her throat.

 

“I’ve almost got enough saved up to move out of here.” She promised and Xander glanced up at her. “I swear to God, baby, I know I’ve been a crap mother, letting you stand between me and him and I can’t take any of that back but you listen to me, ok? You’re almost a man now and I’ve got enough to put down a deposit on that house I’ve had my eye on, so don’t you let that bastard put his hands on you again, do you hear me? I don’t care what he does to me because I got myself into this situation, there were so many times that I should have left but don’t....” she paused as her voice broke. “Don’t let him break you like he almost did to me, ok?” Xander nodded but Jessica tightened her fingers until he met her eyes. “Promise me!”

 

“I promise.” Xander whispered and Jessica exhaled slowly, pulling back so that she could wipe away the tears she could feel streaming down her cheeks.

 

“You’re the only good thing, I’ve ever done and I’ll be damned if I let him make you think you’re worth less than you are.” she vowed.

 

----------------------

 

Spike stared out into the darkness as the conversation in the house faded into silence. Smoke curled in front of his face as he exhaled when the heartbeat of the people within the construct slowed to what human’s deemed normal.

 

His plan had been simple and straightforward. Give the mother a bit of info and a shoulder to cry on while he worked his way into the boy’s good graces but something in the woman’s voice as she spoke uncovered long buried memories of his own Ma and Fisi. It made his fingers curl into fists, this was why most of the time when he killed he felt absolutely no remorse. Some humans were no better than fodder, not worthy of the air they breathed and Spike was more than willing to be judge, jury and fucking torturer when it came down to it!

 

Dropping his cigarette Spike pushed away from the wall and headed out into the night, turning away from the area where the teenagers tended to congregate, instead heading for the more seedy part of Sunnydale. He needed to work out some frustration and he was fairly certain that there was a pimp or two that he could snack on before he returned to his house for the few hours of sleep that he usually managed to squeeze in just before dawn.

 

Tomorrow was going to be a brand new day and Spike had things to do, after all.

 

---------------------------------

Chapter Text

 

The next morning Xander woke covered in cold sweat. He couldn’t remember much of what he’d been dreaming but he could still hear the cackle of laughter in his ears. Forcing himself from his bed, he checked the time before hurrying into the shower. A few minutes later he climbed the stairs, freshly showered and moderately more awake, which was a nice way to say he was few steps away from sleepwalking but that was pretty much normal. His body seemed to believe that the day didn’t officially start until 12pm, it was a fact that the rest of the world didn’t accept though so Xander was used to stumbling around like the undead until he’d managed to get enough sugar into his system to jump start the rest of his day.

 

His mom was sitting in front of the TV and Xander dropped a kiss onto her head, accepting the sandwich she held out for him as he grabbed his bag and hurried out the door, aware of her watching him the whole way.

 

He inhaled slowly as he stood in his driveway. He’d never expected to tell his mom about what he’d been doing with Buffy but the shock of losing himself had loosened his tongue and one thing had led to another. He wasn’t going to tell the others that his mom knew but he did feel better knowing that he had someone he could go to if it happened again though Xander was praying to every deity that the blackouts had been a simple result of being around Kyle for too long....who knew? Maybe stupidity was contagious after all.

 

He snorted at the thought, knowing his luck it was probably all those concussions that he’d gotten from Tony catching up on him. That was another thing, he knew that his mom hated his Dad but hearing her words last night had finally made him feel less like it was his fault as Tony had often claimed and just the idea of leaving Tony Harris behind was enough to bring a smile to his face.

 

The smile widened as he caught sight of Buffy and Willow hurrying up the road.

 

“Where were you last night?” Willow asked, her brow furrowed. “We waited for ages but Buffy had to patrol.”

 

Xander grinned. “Missed me, did ya?” he teased and Buffy snorted but Willow’s blush made his smile dim a bit. It was strange; Willow had been doing that a lot. “I had to stay in with the parental unit, have a heart to heart, you know? So no patrolling for the Xan-man.” he explained as they walked. “But how was patrol? Any new world ending threats that I should know about?”

 

Buffy shook her head, blonde tresses flying. “Nah, just some fledges and homework. It was no big, really.” she responded and Xander nodded, ignoring the strange heat in his chest that seemed to grow with every step they took towards the school.

 

Kyle and his group were lingering by the gate and as Xander passed them he couldn’t help the shiver that worked its way through him. He met one of the girls’ eyes and she giggled, an airy thing that made Xander’s throat itch with the need to echo it even as he hurried after Buffy and Willow, ignoring the eyes he could feel on his back.

 

The feeling grew throughout the day every time he ran into the group until the coach split them into teams and as they began moving, taking out their opponents Xander couldn’t help but chuckle under his breath, his eyes glowing green for a minute as he got into the rhythm of the game.

 

-------------------

 

Xander watched as Kyle targeted the students around Buffy, leaving her stranded in the middle as Xander took out Willow. He paused for a moment when Willow shot him a betrayed look as she dropped her ball back into the basket and took her seat, leaving only Buffy on the other side and as the rest of their group...his pack turned on Lance, Xander found himself laughing again.

 

There were a lot of things that Xander wasn’t proud of, like the fact that he wasn’t the best fighter? He wasn’t particularly proud of that especially when Buffy had to rescue his ass from the demon of the week. Another thing he wasn’t proud of was his eating habits but he’d seen his mom eying the vegetable aisle of the supermarket way too many times to think that was gonna last though.

 

But as much as Xander had bits of him he hated, one of his selling points was his loyalty. He was like a limpet, once he attached himself to someone, he stuck with them through hell and high water....so now as he stared at the betrayed look on his friends’ faces he didn’t understand why he couldn’t feel even the tiniest hint of guilt. Instead his body was already turning towards Kyle and the others, letting their familiar scent bleed away his uncertainties and this time he didn’t look back as he left the gym room.

 

----------------------

 

The alpha pulsed within the other’s mind. She could feel her siblings’ energy seeping into her through the boy’s skin and she rumbled in delight. The other didn’t understand what was happening but she blanketed his mind as he began to get agitated, not enough to take control from him but just enough to remove the thoughts that would make him abandon their siblings...their pack. When she was sure that the other wouldn’t break her tentative hold on his emotions she sank back into the nothingness, reaching for the spark of mother that was till hidden in the darkness.

 

This time the spark let her brush against it before retreating and as she shivered in delight she laughed, letting sleep pull her under.

 

The other wasn’t ready yet but he would be....soon.

 

-----------------------

 

Spike woke in a relatively good mood, considering he hadn’t so much as wanked since he stepped foot into Sunnydale and had turned down shagging a rather luscious brunette the night before. The fact that the girl had offered after Spike had killed her pimp in front of her hadn’t mattered much to him but the sight of her dark hair and large brown eyes had made him turn away. He’d spent the rest of the night decimating a group of minions that figured that they were gonna be the new Big Bad around these parts...Spike really fucking hated copycats, before dropping into bed as the Sun rose, images of lovers with dark hair and dark eyes chasing him through his dreams.

 

Rolling out of bed Spike stumbled towards the bathroom, he needed to be at least semi-presentable if he was going to convince Xander’s ma that he was legit.

 

Stepping into the shower, he let the scalding hot water beat down on his skin as he braced himself against the blue tiles. Rivulets chased each other across his body and Spike watched, through half lidded eyes, as they swirled the drain around before vanishing into the darkness below.

 

His left hand curled into a fist absentmindedly as his mind flickered back to his first meeting with Fisi’s boy. There had been something so captivating about the teen, the mixture of wildness and innocence in those big brown eyes had made Spike long to run his tongue over the teen’s skin to see if he tasted like he smelled.

 

Spike’s right hand dropped from the tiles, sliding slowly across his stomach before curling around his half hard cock and he groaned low in his throat as he pictured the boy’s lush lips wrapped around him instead. His fingers tightened, eyes falling close as he stroked himself. Spike could bet the boy hadn’t ever been touched, it was clear in the way that he’d still carried that coltish way of moving before the primal side of him had rejoined the party, he could see it now the way those eyes would widen when Spike gripped his hair to show him how to suck his cock. He could almost feel the boy’s fingers digging into his hips as Spike shifted his leg so that it was brushing against the teen’s hard on.

 

His strokes quickened as image after image flashed by his eyes. Maybe he’d make the boy come first, feel the way the muscles of his throat contacted around Spike’s cock as he moaned. Or maybe he’d paint the boy’s face with his own release before slipping down to show him how it was really done.

 

Angelus had always said that Spike had a thing for virgins and he’d been right. There was nothing better than teaching someone else about their own body, watching the way every reaction seemed to surprise them before they were distracted by something else, something  better. It was Spike’s specialty, fuck then feed because men and women alike were drawn to the bad boy image that he’d cultivated over the years and they usually didn’t realize the danger they were in until Spike sunk his fangs into their neck as he drove his cock into their body.

 

But that wasn’t how he’d handle this one...No, Dru’s warnings about the kitten having claws had sunk in and if the boy turned out anything like Fisi, Spike wasn’t about to get off on the wrong foot with him.

 

His fingers tightened as he thought about it, he was going to savor Xander. Spread the boy out on his sheets and lick every inch of him until he was writhing, begging Spike to fuck him. He wanted the boy hooked on him, pulled in so deep that he didn’t know up from down and when he finally fucked him....he wanted Xander to scream.

 

Spike’s head dropped forward, his hips thrusting faster as he imagined it, the way the boy’s nails would dig into his skin, sharp teeth biting into his flesh when pleasure and pain blended. He wanted it all, he wanted Xander to need him, like he’d needed Dru, he wanted the boy to be lost in all Spike was, he wanted.....

 

The thought shattered as Spike came, splattering the tiles in front of him and he choked on an exhale as he watched the water wash away his release.

 

----------------------

 

Jessica drew her jacket closer to her as she hurried down the dark street, she was really trying to not jump at every shadow but after what Xander had told her she couldn’t help but see a leering, twisted face waiting for her in every patch of darkness between the lights that illuminated the road and she shivered as the night air plucked at her uniform.

 

The fact that Xander hadn’t been waiting for her was just another source of worry and God help her son if he wasn’t at home when she got there.

 

The sound of something clattering to the ground from an alley in front of her made Jessica freeze, her eyes locked on the patch of darkness as her heart thundered in her chest.

 

Glancing around Jessica swallowed past the dry lump in her throat...there wasn’t a house for miles and the shops along this strip of road had closed long before the night crept in.

 

She was just about to turn back, maybe she could catch the chef before he left for the night and ask him for a lift home, when the sound of whistling caught her air. Glancing back Jessica frowned at the young man strolling towards her. The light from the street lamps made his white hair glow and the long black cloak that he wore swayed with him as he walked towards her.

 

“Bit late for a lady to be out here on her own.” the man offered up as he drew level with her and for a second his eyes seemed to gleam yellow but his head snapped away before Jessica could be sure that she’d actually seen what she thought she had.

 

---------------------

 

Spike’s grin at having caught up with Xander’s ma slipped off his face as he smelled the rancid scent of a Boretz demon. His lips pulled back into an instinctive snarl when he made out the shape of a hunched over figure lingering at the mouth of the alley way. Gritting his teeth Spike pasted a smile back on his face, if the demon wasn’t hungry he might be able to get them by without letting the woman know something was up, if not....well he could improvise.

 

Turning back to the woman, Spike’s eyes flickered over her face and for a moment he paused because she could have been Fisi’s twin had it not been for her hair color and eyes. Pushing the thought away he cocked his head.

 

“If you’re going my way, I can walk with ya for a bit,” he offered and he could see that the woman wasn’t sure about accepting his proposal but as she glanced at the darkness ahead of her she nodded.

 

“If that’s alright with you? My son usually meets me but I think he’s running a bit late.” she told him.

 

Spike’s grin was more genuine as they started walking. “Yeah? Was a bit of a mother’s boy myself....” he paused. “The name’s Spike by the way.”

 

The woman smiled, “My name is Jessica,” she replied.

 

Spike nodded, keeping his eyes on the Boretz as it straightened. “Nice, sturdy name that, reminds me of my own ma.” he responded before reaching out and gripping Jessica’s hand. The woman froze, her eyes widening but Spike kept his grip on her. “Look, Jessica I don’t know if you’re gonna believe me or not but there’s something up ahead that’s dying to take a bite out of one of us and when it comes after to me I want you to run, get me?”

 

Jessica froze, her eyes darting to where Spike was looking but he knew she wouldn’t be able to see anything with her vision. “I....yes, I understand.” she whispered as the Boretz took a step closer and Spike grinned.

 

“Good.” he retorted, shoving her towards the light just as the demon leapt at him.

 

-------------

 

Jessica stumbled backwards as the two bodies tousled, the sound of ripping reached her ear and then an ungodly howl shattered the silence of the night as they rolled into the light. It was only fear that held her in place as the creature on top of Spike glanced her way, its eyes glowing as it stared at her but the distraction seemed to be all Spike needed as he twisted beneath the thing, pulling his legs up then kicking out, sending the creature flying through the air.

 

The light from the street lamp illuminated the ridges on Spike’s face and the sharp teeth as he dove after the thing as the creature lumbered to its feet. Grabbing it in a headlock Spike twisted its neck to the right and the sharp snap of bones shattering echoed into the night as Spike let the thing’s body fall to the floor.

 

He turned to face Jessica, the ridges on his face melting away as he straightened his clothes.

 

Jessica took a step back. “What the fuck are you?”

 

Spike grinned, flashing human teeth. “I’m a vampire, luv but I ain’t the same as all these insects you’ve got running around here...” he shuddered theatrically as if just the thought of the comparison disgusted him. “Now, me? I’m like the fairy Godmother....just with more teeth.” he grinned, glancing at her curiously.

 

“A-are you going to...?” Jessica started but Spike waved her off.

 

“Way back when I met a lady, much like yourself. See she was dying and she made me promise to look after her kid.” He explained, “Crap like that? It changes ya. So here I am still looking after the little bastard even though he doesn’t know it.”

 

“What does that have to do with me?” Jessica asked and Spike smirked.

 

“Glad you asked, luv.” he replied. “Know how some people look at their kid and say ‘you’ve got an old soul’? Most of them are wrong; their kids are just boring but you? Lovey, your boy’s soul is older than you know.”

 

-------------

 

Xander slowly approached his house, barely dragging one foot in front of the other. He was so tired; his joints ached in the way they used to when his mom claimed he was feeling his ‘growing pains’. He hadn’t talked to Buffy or Willow all day and he’d been constantly avoiding Kyle and the others since gym class. Something in him had railed at the idea of not being around the group but that had just made Xander dig his heels in more and in the end he’d spent most of the day hidden away in the library.

 

Glancing at the house he frowned, there were no lights on and while Tony wasn’t due to come back from visiting his friends, his mom should have been home by now. Hurrying towards the house he quickly unlocked the door and flicked on the lights as he stepped inside. A wall of silence greeted him and Xander dropped his bag as he caught sight of a piece of paper lying on the dining table.

 

Covering for Sophie, won’t get off until 7.

                                                                     

                                                                    Love Mom.

 

Xander’s heart skipped a beat as he dropped the note and spun for the door, barely taking the time to shut it as he raced along the street all thoughts of his weariness pushed to the back of his mind as he imagined his mom walking home alone, all because he hadn’t gotten home in time to find her note.

 

He turned the corner at a dead run and almost tripped over the two people walking towards him but strong hands caught him and Xander blinked as he looked at what had to be the prettiest guy he’d ever seen and his mom. The shock of almost running into them made Xander’s mind stutter until the coldness of the man’s hands registered and he stumbled backwards, placing himself between the vampire and his mother.

 

“Who the hell are you?!” he demanded but the stranger just quirked a brow like Xander was the most adorable thing he’d ever seen and dammit he didn’t want a vampire thinking he was adorable!

 

“Honey, this is Spike.” his mom cut in, oblivious to the tension. “He walked me home and rescued me from that nasty demon thingy.”

 

Xander gaped, monkey say what? “What demon thingy? He told you his name?!”

 

“Course I did, Master Vampire of Sunnydale and all, had to show some manners.” the vampire, Spike, smirked.

 

Jessica nodded. “He was just explaining what the Boretz venom does. I can’t believe that they eat homeless people.”

 

“I can’t believe you had a conversation with a vampire!” Xander shouted, clutching at his hair.

 

“Oi! Don’t go raising your voice at your ma.” Spike chided and Xander stared at him.

 

“Are you sure you’re a vampire?” he finally managed.

 

“What the hells that supposed to mean?” Spike snarled, taking a step forward and Xander mentally backpedaled. Do not antagonize the nice vampire when you don’t have a stake!

 

“I mean you’re not all....grrr, or anything.” Xander spluttered and Spike rolled his eyes.

 

“See what I mean about minions giving the rest of us a bad name?” he huffed, turning to Jessica who nodded in agreement. “See vampire societies are kind of like bees, bees with really big teeth that can make other bees. Now at the bottom of the caste you’ve got your workers, stupid as hell and will do anything they’re told but if they’re not given orders they’ll run around like headless chickens, they’re the minions that you’ve got sprouting up all over the place, understand?”

 

Xander bobbed his head and Spike grinned.

 

“At the top of your hive you’ve got your queen and she runs the hive, now your queen bee is the Master vampire....” Spike paused wrinkling his nose. “I doubt you’ve had many around here but I’ve heard that Darla decided to show her ugly face.”

 

Xander’s eyes narrowed as he remembered Jesse turning to ashes in front of him. “You know Darla?”

 

“Know her; wanna stake her, same difference.” Spike retorted. “Now, not that I don’t like standing in the night’s air and talking about my life story, but you might want to get a move on, duckies. Wouldn’t want some other nasty demon to run across you.”

 

Xander opened his mouth to retort that he didn’t need safety advice from a demon but his mom beat him to the punch.

 

“Thanks again for walking me home,” she grinned, “And be sure to take care of yourself, you promised to explain the rest of the story to me.” she reminded him and Xander watched in awe as the vampire ducked his head.

 

“I’ll do my best, luv.” he smiled, eye flickering over Xander. “I might even drop in for a visit.”

 

Xander gaped as the vampire swirled and vanished into the night.

 

“Such a nice young man,” Jessica murmured as she turned and started walking again.

 

“Mom!” Xander protested, hurrying after her.

 

-------------------

 

Spike liked Jessica Harris, the woman reminded him of his ma and she wasn’t scared to call him on his bullshit, though Spike could see the way she’d hesitated the first time he’d turned up when Xander wasn’t there. He hadn’t mentioned it though, nor had he mentioned the fact that Jessica tensed every time a car drove done their street. Spike just watched and waited because he already had a plan for the woman’s husband but humans were finicky so Spike figured that the less Jessica knew about the whole thing the better.

 

It had been two days since he’d walked her home and every time he entered the house Xander’s smell was just a hint wilder and the green glow just a little more present in his eyes.

 

Jessica slid into the seat across from him, jerking Spike from his thoughts. Her green eyes flickered over his face curiously. “So have you...fed tonight?” she asked and Spike shrugged because she asked the same question every time she saw him and yet despite his answer, her scent didn’t seem to change.

 

“No more than usual,” he admitted, which was the truth. He’d snacked on a recently released child molester but that had been all and in a way he was keeping the streets clean because that idiot wasn’t going to be preying on any kids, any time soon. “So where’s the little bit gotten to?” Spike queried as Jessica took a sip of her tea. He could hear Xander’s heartbeat but he hadn’t seen hide nor hair of the boy since he’d arrived.

 

“He’s not feeling well...” Jessica began, a small smile flitting across her face. “And you promised to tell me the full story of what’s happening to him, so I might not have told him that you were here.” she added.

 

Spike chuckled at that. “So that’s why the door was open and you had my invite all prepped?” he queried and she nodded. “Ain’t that devious of ya. Almost thinking like a vampire.” he commended, leaning back in his seat. “So what do you want to know?”

 

Jessica cocked her head as she considered his question. “You said Xander was an old soul.” she started, her eyes flicking from his to her own hands.

 

“And I’ve got an inkling that you knew that already.” Spike prompted, brow hiking as Jessica bit her lip.

 

“I’ve never told anyone and the doctors don’t seem to remember it but when Xander was born....I think he died.” she whispered, her fingers tightening on the mug handle. “Nobody said it but a mother knows and when he was born he didn’t cry, didn't move....he was just so still and I knew that he was dead. I could feel it.”

 

As Jessica spoke Spike’s eyes flickered to the foot of the stairs where he could hear Xander’s heartbeat. Looked like the boy wasn’t as unaware of his presence as his mother had thought but Spike didn’t give him away, if they were going to work together Xander needed to hear the unvarnished truth.

 

“I’d been fighting with Tony a few hours before I went into labor and he.....” she glanced away and Spike held himself completely still as the scent of fear rafted through the air. “....it got out of hand and by the time he left I could feel the baby coming but when I called he said, if I was woman enough to stand up to him, I was woman enough to push the brat out myself. And when the nurse took the baby I knew that I’d let Tony kill him, that’s all I could think, that if I’d left he would have been fine.” she whispered. “The nurse who passed him to me, there was something wrong with her eyes and it was like time stopped but I didn’t pay attention to any of it because Xander started crying and all I could focus on was the fact that my baby was alive. Afterwards no one could remember her either, just that young nurse who said that she’d told them her name was Alex and that she was a relative.” Jessica paused and glanced at Spike. “That really happened didn’t it? He did die, didn’t he?”

 

“If I said yes, would you believe me?” Spike queried.

 

Jessica gaped, “What do you mean? Of c-course I would!” she stuttered and Spike tutted.

 

“The nose knows, luv and you ain’t being all that truthful.” he purred and Xander’s heartbeat sped up as he took a step closer.

 

“So tell me, did you tell the Slayer or did your boy?” Spike continued, his tone blasé. “because I can smell the garlic...which won’t do much but piss me off and I’ve seen at least two stakes since I’ve been ‘ere.” he paused then rising to his feet. “If you want the truth, luv, you’re gonna have to trust me first....as hard as that might be.” he added softly as he stood and headed for the door.

 

“Wait!” Jessica shouted, stumbling to her feet and Spike could hear the slosh of liquid as she spilled her tea in her haste. “You said you’d tell me how to help him!”

 

“Why am I gonna tell you something you ain’t gonna believe?” Spike asked not turning around though he did pause.

 

“Do you think this is easy for me?!” Jessica spat and Spike grinned because there it was, all that anger she kept pushed down so deep because she was used to having it beaten out of her. “I let you into my house...”

 

“And you could disinvite me just as quickly,” Spike added in. “You think I can’t smell the ingredients for the spell, wonder where your boy managed to rustle that one up from?”

 

“I trusted you to not hurt me or Xander!” Jessica shot back and this time Spike did turn, one hand braced against the door frame and his eyes gleaming yellow.

 

“You didn’t trust me luv. You trusted the fact that you knew I couldn’t hurt the boy and that means I couldn’t hurt you either. That ain’t trust, its manipulation and trust me...I know a lot about that trick.”

 

“What do you want me to do?!” Jessica demanded, her fingers clenching into fists.

 

“I want you to help your boy because he can’t handle what’s coming alone.” Spike replied as he straightened. “But to help him you’ve got to sort your own head out....not everyone’s out to hurt you, luv and sometimes you’ve got to step away from the ones who do try.”

 

Jessica’s eyes widened but Spike didn’t wait for a reply as he stepped out onto the porch.

 

-----------------

 

 Scrubbing her hands across her face, Jessica shut the door and bolted it. Her head hurt and her hands were shaking as she recalled Spike’s words. It sounded like the vampire knew what had happened between her and Tony but there was no way that he could know. No one knew other than Xander, Jessica had made sure of it!

 

Turning away she paused. Xander was standing at the foot of the stairs, his head tilted and Jessica was glad she couldn’t see his eyes, she knew she should have told him what had happened years ago but she always felt like telling him would make her less of a mother because what mother stayed with someone like Tony Harris after all he’d done to her...to Xander?

 

“I always thought that he hurt you because of me,” Xander whispered and Jessica took a step closer, freezing when Xander pulled back. “I thought it was my fault, it’s why I spent so much time outside of this house because every time I was here he seemed to get angrier, like I made it worse just by being here and I started to believe it because that’s how everybody acted around me, like I was some burden.”

 

“Xander, I told you...” Jessica started but Xander made a distressed sound as his eyes glittered green for a second.

 

“You said he killed me. You thought he’d actually killed me and the nurse with the weird eyes, why didn’t you tell me about that?” he demanded and Jessica inhaled sharply, hearing the words from Xander made it seem so much worse, made her decisions to stay seem so stupid.

 

Dropping back into her chair, Jessica rested her head in her hands. “I couldn’t....I couldn’t tell you or anyone because telling someone would make it real. I couldn’t even think about it too long because you were there and you were alive, I’d created this perfect little person and that meant that I couldn’t be the horrible person that Tony told me that I was!”

 

Something moved and Xander’s voice was closer the next time he spoke but Jessica didn’t look up.

 

“You’re not a bad person, mom.” Xander whispered, his voice thick with tears and Jessica clutched at the hand that brushed against hers.

 

“If I wasn’t horrible then why did I stay? I deserved it, Xander...I did but the moment he turned his anger on you, I should have left, I should’ve packed our bags and just gone....but I didn’t. What type of mother does that?”

 

Xander didn’t answer and as the silence settled over them, Jessica let the tears she’d held back for so long, run free.

 

------------------

 

Spike made his way through the cemetery as he thought about his options. There was no way that he was going to let Tony Harris keep living, the question now was whether he would be able to get Jessica and Xander to leave before he gutted the man like the coward he was.

 

Growling in frustration he lit a fag and let the smoke calm him as it swirled in the night air. Angel had contacted him earlier that night claiming that Darla was still in the area and how the big poof knew that was beyond Spike because he was sure that the soul would have broken the Sire-Childe bond between the two as he couldn’t see Darla letting Angel’s compassion infect her.

 

That was all he need really, another run in with the blonde bint, though this time Spike didn’t have Dru to protect and if Darla was still lurking around Sunnydale then Spike was well within his rights as a Master to dust her, since she hadn’t asked permission to go traipsing through his territory.

 

The thought amused him so much that he almost missed the smell of the Slayer behind him but as it was he let the bint have a free shot.

 

The pain from the wooden stake piercing his heart made him regret his decision and Spike snarled as fire writhed through the damaged nerves.

 

Yanking the stake out, Spike rounded on the two chits who were staring at him in awe.

 

“Why aren’t you dust?” the Slayer demanded even as the red head took another step back. “You feel like a vampire.”

 

“And I look like a vampire...” Spike added, letting his face shift. “And I feed like a vampire. Where the fuck are you going with all the questions?”

 

“Buffy are you sure this is the guy that Xander said was stalking him?” the other girl whispered and Spike glanced at her.

 

“Bleach blond, cool coat and an attitude...I’d say that’s him,” the slayer shot back, hauling another stake from her pack and lunging forward.

 

Spike spun into her charge and his move threw her off balance for a second but a second was all he needed to duck under her arm and use her own body’s forward motion against her. Yanking the arm with the stake up, Spike twisted it behind her body as he grabbed her other hand so that they were both pinned behind her back.

 

“You know the thing about pot and kettle? Cause those roots don’t look like a natural blond to me, luv.” Spike purred as the heady scent of Slayer swamped his senses. Gritting his teeth he tightened his grip on her hand until he could hear the bones creak and she dropped the stake. Shoving her forward he caught the thing in one hand as she stumbled. “Tell Xander that if he sends you two after me again, I’ll send you home to him in pieces. I’m reformed but I ain’t perfect.” Spike spat before whirling and leaving the two standing along in the silent cemetery.

 

 He had a date with a zoo warden and four idiots that he really didn’t want to miss. Rubbing his chest where the wound was already knitting together, Spike huffed. Fucking teenagers! No wonder Fisi had bound his soul to the little twat because fuckable or not Xander was proving to be a lot more work than Spike had expected.

 

---------------------

 

Spike wrinkled his nose as he stared down at the dead warden. What was it with humans and not fucking listening? All he’d needed the man to do was transfer the spirits from the other four teenagers back into the hyena because handling Xander was hard enough, he wasn’t about to babysit a whole pack of primals. But did the human listen? No. The fucker had decided to mouth off when Spike asked him nicely....while his fingers were wrapped around the man’s neck but he left space for him to breath, so now he was left with one drained corpse and four unconscious teenagers, who Spike was tempted to drain too just because they had been spectacular pains in his ass.

 

Snorting Spike spun away from the scene as the teens began to stir. All was well with the primal world and now Spike was going to go home and sleep....for about four years or until Xander decided to stop being an idiot.

 

With that thought in mind Spike strode off, only to pause when he caught a familiar scent heading towards him.

 

Closing his eyes, he shook his head as the scent drew closer. “Are all humans this stupid or do you people practice?” Spike purred as Xander paused a few feet away from him. Opening his eyes he took in the boy’s rumpled clothing.

 

“Mom said you know what’s in my head,” the boy gritted out, straightening in an effort to make himself seem bigger but Spike hadn’t been intimidated by Angelus at the peak of his bloodlust and he didn’t even bat an eye at the display from the runt before him.

 

“I might....or I might not.” Spike shot back as he started walking, grinning when the boy scrambled after him. “It’s like I told your ma while you were eavesdropping, dirty habit that, I ain’t about to give out information that isn’t gonna be used properly.”

 

“You said you have to protect me, that’s what you meant, right?” Xander demanded and Spike glanced across at him.

 

“Vampire, luv. I could be lying through my teeth.” he replied and Xander’s eyes glittered like the prettiest emeralds for a quick second before fading to their normal brown.

 

“Ok, maybe I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed but the Xan-man is not stupid.” Xander shot back. “If you were messing with our heads, you wouldn’t be telling my mom to leave Tony....”

 

“Didn’t say that did I?” Spike retorted, watching a muscle in Xander’s jaw twitch as the teen glared at him.

 

“....and you wouldn’t have walked her home either. You could have killed her out there and nobody would have known.” Xander continued, ignoring Spike’s words.

 

“Could be fattening you two up, haven’t you ever read Hansel and Gretel? Not much meat on your bones, probably means there ain’t much blood in your veins either...a vampire could starve.”

 

Xander growled and gripped at his hair as he stared at Spike. “Would you just stop!” he snarled and between one breath and the next Spike was behind him, his breath making the hair on Xander’s neck stand up.

 

“Why should I, luv? This is what vampires do....sometimes we like games, like to see how far you little humans will push yourselves before you break into itty bitty pieces,” he whispered and Xander froze, his fingers curling into fists at his sides.

 

“You’re lying.” the teen finally choked out and Spike raised a brow as he leaned in closer, so close now that he could feel the heat rolling of the boy’s body in waves but still Xander didn’t step away and the scent of the primal grew stronger with each of the teen’s breaths.

 

“Am I?” Spike asked, inhaling the sweet scent that was threading its way through Xander normal scent.

 

“If you’re not...then kill me.”

 

The words made Spike freeze. “Come again?”

 

Xander stepped back and whirled to face him, his eyes narrowed as they flitted over Spike’s face. “You’re a vampire, right? That’s what you want me and mom to understand, no moral compass and all that but you aren’t acting like a vampire, so show me that you mean it....” he tilted his head to the side, exposing the ling line of his throat. “Go ahead, bite me....”

 

“Boy....” Spike growled, unable to pull his eyes away from the expanse of tender flesh. Shaking his head Spike glanced away. “Pet, your ma is probably worried sick about you running around in the night....”

 

“Don’t fucking....!” Xander started, his eyes falling shut as he bowed his head. “You said this was a game, then go on and end it because if you don’t....” he exhaled slowly and Spike’s nose wrinkled at the sour scent of misery. “There’s something living in my head. I can feel it in there; do you know how that feels? Not knowing if you’re gonna wake up one morning and suddenly it’s gonna be the Mr. Hyde to your Dr. Jekyll? I can’t do it, ok? So if you know something....” Xander’s voice broke. “I can’t stay in the house with my mom and not know....please?”

 

Spike rolled his eyes at the boy’s blubbering, God save him from emotional baby humans. “Right nummy, you want the truth?” Xander nodded and Spike scoffed before heading towards his house. Pausing when he realized the boy wasn’t following. “Well, come on then. You sure as hell ain’t gonna hear what I have to tell ya if you keep standing there like a bloody scarecrow.”

 

--------------------

 

Spike watched as Xander took in the house; his brown eyes wide as they darted from object to object and he could just guess the culture shock that the boy was getting. From what he’d heard most of the vampires this group ran into were usually just digging themselves out of their graves or in the Master’s case, hiding out underground like a great big bloody bat.

 

“Sit down before you wear out the carpet, mate.” Spike told him and he could just about see the conflicting urges warring in the boy’s head...to do what was polite, or to ignore the vampire. Finally the boy’s shoulder slumped and he shuffled towards the empty seat, perching on the edge of it, like he was going to bolt at any second and Spike chuckled softly. This particular fly had just waltzed into his parlor before realizing how much danger he would be in if Spike was lying.

 

Pouring out two shots of whiskey Spike made his way back to the seats, handing one to the teen who stared at like it was the first time he’d seen alcohol.

 

Settling into the seat, Spike took a quick sip of his and watched as Xander did the same, the boy inhaled sharply at the taste but thankfully he didn’t choke.

 

“So what exactly do you wanna know then?” Spike started and Xander straightened.

 

“Mom said you thought I had an old soul, what did you mean?”

 

Spike cocked his head as he considered the best way to answer the question. Placing his glass on the small table Spike glanced towards the window where he could just see the dawn breaking though Xander wouldn’t be able to...not yet. “I’m guessing from the fact that you’re pals with the Slayer that you know how vampires are made, yeah?” Xander nodded and Spike grinned. “Well back in the day my Sire’s Sire managed to piss off a whole clan of gypsies and the stuck the poof with a soul faster than you can say ‘howdy do’.....” Spike explained. “Now if we’d been any other little vampire family everybody would have gone their separate ways but my Dru wanted her daddy back....that’s what she called Angelus back then....”

 

“Dru?” Xander frowned and Spike glanced at him.

 

“Drusilla, my Sire.” he clarified but Xander’s frown just deepened.

 

“And her Sire was Angelus and his was Darla?” the teen spluttered, his eyes narrowing. “Your real name isn’t Spike, is it?”

 

Spike grinned when he realized what was going on. “William, the Bloody at your service, luv.” he shot back and the sound Xander made then sounded like a dying woodland creature.

 

“Y-you’re part of the....Jesus Christ, Xander you’ve done it now.” the boy muttered to himself and Spike laughed, the boy was the most entertaining thing he’d seen in years!

 

“Remember you asked to be here, mate.” Spike prodded, keeping his face blank when Xander glared at him.

 

“That’s before I knew how evil and old.....”

 

“Oi!” Spike protested but Xander just steamrolled over him.

 

“...you were!” the boy continued. “They wrote stories about the four of you! One of you turned my best friend!”

 

“Heard about that, Darla always was a bitch.” Spike chimed in helpfully. “And who the hell are you calling old? If your ma hadn’t split your soul in two and sent ya here you’d be the old one. Not that you’d have known, how long were you a baby, again?”

 

Xander gaped. “What?”

 

Spike froze as his brain caught up with his mouth. “Nothing, don’t listen to me, mate. I’m old.”

 

“Oh, no. No, nope, you don’t get to say shit like that and then try to take it back. What the fuck do you mean split my soul?!” Xander squawked and Spike resisted the urge to rub at his temple where the ghost of a headache was making itself known.

 

“Spike!” Xander shouted and Spike glared at him balefully.

 

“What?!”

 

“What did you mean by that?” Xander demanded, eyes narrowing as Spike pushed to his feet.

 

“Meant what I said, didn’t I?” Spike spat, moving towards the window as the sun peaked over the horizon. “Angelus got a soul shoved so far up his ass that it rattled something loose and Darla didn’t want to lose her little toy so she dragged me and Dru down to Romania and got the stupid fucking idea to force an Old One to de-soul the bastard. But it didn’t work like they thought it would because Dru wasn’t the only one who took a sip of that priest and she sure as hell wasn’t the one with the soul....”

 

“Vampires don’t have....”

 

“Would you keep your fucking gob shut!” Spike snarled, rounding on him as the prickle from the sun made his skin crawl. “We ain’t meant to have souls but Dru was batty as fuck when she made me, maybe she did something wrong or did something right, I don’t give a damn either way.....” he paused, exhaling slowly as he tried to force the tension from his body. “The Old One, her name was Fisi. She knew what they’d been trying to do but she had her own reason for letting me find her. She was dying and her children needed to pass on but the last one...the runt of the pack, wasn’t a proper primal. That one was all mixed up, girl and boy, primal and human and she needed someone who would watch over him. So who better to ask than someone who was immortal, who would live to see the kid be born? But vampires aren’t really immortal are we? Slayers can dust us; sun can burn us....so she changed it, pulled something apart and bound my soul to hers and the soul of her kid.” The sun was rising behind him now and Spike watched as Xander’s eyes widened when the light glinted on his skin but did nothing to him. Turning away Spike watched the golden globe rise in the skies. “You wanted to know what’s in your head because you wanna get rid of it and go back to being human, right?” he whispered and if it hadn’t been for his hearing he would have caught the soft ‘yes’ from the teen. “You can’t go back to being something you’ve never been, luv and that thing in your head has as much right to be in your body as you do.”

 

----------------------

 

Xander’s blood ran cold as Spike spoke. A part of him was screaming that the man was a vampire and not to be trusted but that vampire had protected his mom and hadn’t tried to kill Buffy and Willow when they went after him even though Xander had told them to stay away. But what Spike was talking about couldn’t be possible...which, ok considering the fact that he was talking to a vampire, he didn’t really have room to judge what was and wasn’t possible!

 

“Why should I believe you?” Xander finally choked out and Spike glanced over his shoulder, a sly smile stretching his lips.

 

“You shouldn’t believe me. After all I am a demon, mate.”

 

----------------------

 

Giles rubbed his glasses furiously as he listened to Xander outline what Spike had told him on the other side of the room Buffy was pacing like a lion at the zoo while Willow dug through every account of the Scourge of Europe that she could find but Xander could have told her to stop because he was certain that she wouldn’t find anything except what Spike had already shared.

 

“You are sure that he said primals?” Giles queried, breaking Xander’s line of thought and the teen turned to him.

 

“That’s what he said primals in the body of hyenas,” he responded and Giles sighed.

 

“It is possible that he may be lying...” he started. “Though from what I’ve read about William his word was as binding as those of the fae.”

 

“So we’re just going to believe the vampire?!” Buffy demanded, her brows furrowed as she stared at her watcher.

 

“Not like we can do much...” Willow interrupted, never once looking up from the book she was reading. “Remember, you can’t stake him....or you can he just won’t be very dusty afterwards and I’m pretty sure he meant that thing about sending us back in pieces.”

 

“Quite, right.” Giles agreed. “While William...or Spike as he is calling himself, is concerned with Xander’s well-being, neither of you would be protected from him if he decides you’re a nuisance. But there must be some other way to...”

 

“Sunlight doesn’t work either,” Xander cut in, shrugging when the others glanced his way. “Blondie was standing by the window when I left and it didn’t give him so much as a sunburn.”

 

“So what, he’s immortal?” Buffy frowned, turning to Giles for answers but the watcher was staring at Xander.

 

“The Old One that he mentioned did he give you a name?” Giles inquired and Xander glanced away as he racked his mind. Spike had mentioned a name but....

 

“Fidi or Fisi, I think. I wasn’t really concentrating anything other than the fact that I’m supposedly not human.” Xander huffed, sinking further into his seat. “That kind of distracts you, you know? Not to mention the dirty touching vibe I was getting off that guy.”

 

Willow’s head snapped up at that and it figured that she’d be more interested in his love life than she was in the fact that he’d just gained some very demony bits.

 

Giles was already moving though, pulling books from his shelves as he muttered to himself. Finally he seemed to find what he was looking for and he turned back to the small group. “Fisi is one of the first Old Ones to be reported and one of the most vicious ever known. She vanished from the mortal world several centuries ago but we kept track of her movement through her priests.” the watcher mumbled as he flicked through the book. “The only constant that each priest reported was that she lived with a pack of hyenas and at all times she could be seen with a baby.” he read, pausing as his eyes flitted to Xander’s face.

 

“And if we’re gonna believe what Spike says then that kid was me?” Xander spluttered. He’d come to Giles hoping for information that would disprove the vampire’s claim not strengthen it! “What about the soul thing? Spike said his soul was all tangled up with mine...is that possible, if I was this kid, could that...” he paused, taking a deep breath. “...could Fisi have done something like that?”

 

“The binding of the soul would be mere child’s play for someone who truly knew about the magic they were wielding, as I’m sure Fisi knew more than enough to pull such a feat off.” Giles conceded.

 

“Am I the only one who still remembers that this guy is a vampire?!” Buffy shouted, her fingers clenching at her sides. “We should be trying to kill him not make friends!”

 

“And say you did find a way to kill him. We have no idea what such a thing might do to Xander if they are truly bound as Spike claims they are.” Giles retorted.

 

“But what about that thing in Xander’s head?” Willow whispered, her face pale in the low light.

 

“For the time being we will have to hope for the best. Attempting to exorcise the spirit from the body it’s supposed to be in could have a detrimental effect on both the spirit and Xander.” the watcher sighed, swiping a hand across his face. “At the moment our hands are tied and our best source of information seems to Spike.” he admitted and Xander slumped even further in his seat.

 

Oh joy!

 

------------------

 

Spike shut his door and glanced at the hunched figure huddled beneath the large oak tree that dominated the front of the yard, if it hadn’t been for the demon he would have missed the boy completely.  He knew the boy would be coming back but he hadn’t expected him to be there so soon. Shaking his head, Spike inhaled the scent that had clung to his house hours after Xander had left.

 

“Something you want, pet?” he asked as he passed the teen and Xander hurried after him, long legs quickly eating up the distance between them as the boy caught and matched his stride.

 

Xander glanced at him and Spike rolled his eyes, for all the power that was locked away in his brain, the boy was like a skittish colt just waiting for the big, bad wolf to snap him up...thankfully while Spike did want to sink his teeth into Xander’s flesh it was for a completely different reason.

 

“Where are you going?” Xander asked, ignoring the question and Spike paused.

 

“Gonna catch myself a quick bite.” he purred, delighting in the flare of fear that he could smell in the boy’s scent. “Ain’t really a good idea for me to be walking around with an empty stomach.”

 

Xander tensed. “So you still kill people?”

 

“On occasion,” Spike admitted, as he started moving again.

 

“But you’ve got a soul!” Xander pointed out, his brows furrowed. “You saved my mom....”

 

“And that don’t make me any less of a demon, luv. We’re not all fuck and feed, sometimes we like the little things in between,” Spike retorted. “Plus I like your ma....she reminds me of my own.”

 

Xander planted himself in Spike’s way and the vampire barely resisted the urge to roll his eyes heavenward. This was exactly why he didn’t take human lovers...they were so picky. Glancing back at the stubborn look on the boy’s face, he braced himself for a rant on morals.

 

“Who do you feed on?” Xander asked and Spike’s brow rose because he hadn’t been expecting that.

 

“People, nummy...those humans just hustling around like happy meals on legs.” Spike explained slowly like Xander was stupid but the teen’s eyes just narrowed.

 

“But you don’t kill everyone do you?”

 

“What makes you think that, then?” Spike shot back and Xander tilted his head to the side. For a quick second his eyes glinted green, the glow eerie in the dark around them and Spike pursed his lips, it seemed the primal was closer to binding with the boy than he’d thought.

 

“You said you’re different from minions and minions always kill people,” Xander pointed out. “You didn’t attack my friends even though they came after you first and you saved my mom when you didn’t have to. You don’t sound like the sort of person that would just kill people all willy nilly.”

 

Spike lifted his head and took a step closer to the boy but Xander held his ground, watching him from beneath hooded lids.

 

“And you think just because I don’t drain everybody I come across dry that make me a good person do you?” he whispered, hiding the shiver when green began overwhelming the brown in the boy’s eyes but this time he could still feel the boy’s spirit beneath the primal’s presence.

 

“I think you want me to think that you’re evil. You want me to be scared of you.” Xander admitted but not even the admission was enough to make him turn away from Spike and the vampire was silent as the boy continued. “But I think that someone that was really evil wouldn’t try and keep his promises or take care of his Sire for over a hundred years even though she was insane....”

 

“Think you know all about me do you, luv?” Spike growled and he was so close now that the hair on Xander’s skin was standing in reaction to his presence.

 

Xander shook his head, a small sad smile flitting across his face. “The thing is I’m always scared so you don’t really change that much.” he responded, swaying to some unheard music and Spike would have been worried if he couldn’t hear the beat of the drums that had captured the boy’s attention. “I don’t know anything about you other than what I’ve read...or what I’ve seen and while I don’t trust you, I think that you’ll at least tell me before you try to kill me.”

 

Spike snorted at that, squinting as he considered the strange teen in front of him. “You’re right about that much. I ain’t one for the cloak and dagger thing, that was more Darla and Angelus’ game than mine.” he conceded, tapping his finger against his chin as he stared at Xander. His grin grew as the boy began to squirm at the same time that the glow lessened in his eyes. “Here’s what’s gonna happen. We’re cutting the Slayer out of this cause I get twitchy around ‘em and the last time I ran into two...they wound up dead. Now I don’t think you want that to happen to the bint so keep her out of my way.”

 

Xander nodded in understanding and Spike smirked.

 

“As for how good or bad I am. You could toddle along and watch me feed if you’re so concerned about all these other blood bags.” Spike suggested and Xander’s surprise almost made him purr in delight. There was no way that the boy was going to....

 

“Fine.” Xander spat and Spike froze, narrowing his eyes at the grin on the boy’s face. “Fine, the Xan-man is officially down with this plan. Let’s see you getting all sucky face with people without killing them.”

 

Spike shook his head in amazement. He needed to stop underestimating the kid.

 

--------------

 

The blonde woman watched the strange duo as they headed down the street. The fact that the vampire hadn’t smelled or sensed her meant that the spell she got the little witch to cast was working well....that was good, for the girl, as it meant that she wouldn’t have to kill her.

 

It had been hard to track Spike down but now that she’d found him she was sure that the little idiot would lead her straight to the Old One and she’d delight in his screams as she wrung every ounce of power out of the creature that most of the demons believe to be a God. Scoffing she turned away, her skirts flaring around her legs before fluttering to settle against her skin like a scarlet waterfall. A man hurrying in the opposite direction paused and glanced at her and the blonde shot him a seductive smile before hurrying on.

 

The demons she’d managed to persuade to give her the information she needed had told her that even the Old Ones died and it seemed that this one was due for the grave any minute. She just needed to time it correctly because the Old Ones had to pass on their immortality and the majority of their power when they died, either to an heir or to whatever being was present at their demise and she was going to be very much present, if she had anything to say about it.

 

----------------

Chapter Text

The club that Spike led Xander to was on the far side of Sunnydale and the further they walked the stranger the people that they passed. There were fewer teenagers here and most of the people they passed were covered up despite the warmth of the night. As they walked Xander thought he caught the gleam of eyes watching them from the numerous alley ways that littered the street but Spike didn’t seem bothered so Xander simply stuck closer to the vampire as they walked briskly along the dark streets.

 

“Ok, I know that technically I asked to come with you but I really figured that you’d just grab someone off the street instead of going to....” Xander paused in thought because while he’d been following Spike he had no idea where they were actually going. “Wait, where are we going?”

 

“You wanted to see me feed...well I’m gonna feed.” Spike retorted and Xander shot him a speaking look.

 

“Well sorry for asking, Mr. Grumpy-Pants. It’s not like I’ve ever seen a Master feed and since you’re harping on about how different you are from minions, I figured I should see it with my own eyes...unless it’s not something you’re supposed to show people?” Xander queried, his brow furrowing as he considered that. “But minions feed in front of anyone...Oh my God! Is this like kids running around naked because they don’t know better? Did I just ask you to show me your special vampire parts....” he froze eying Spike speculatively. “Do you have special vampire parts?”

 

Spike stared at him for a long moment before scoffing. “Don’t know why they dropped you on the head as a baby but it’s shaken something loose.”

 

“Hey!” Xander protested, hurrying to catch up as Spike walked faster. “Nobody dropped me on the head...and don’t think I didn’t notice you didn’t say anything about your special vampire parts! Is asking you to feed in front of me like asking you to jerk one out?”

 

Spike’s lips curled into a sly smile. “If you wanted to see my cock, all you had to do was ask, luv.” he purred and Xander glared at him.

 

“Funny, you’re just a regular barrel of laughs.” he muttered, sniffing petulantly when Spike glanced his way. He should have known better than to expect a vampire to give him a straight answer, reformed or not.

 

-------------

 

Willow hurried after Buffy as the blonde strode along the dark street. She understood Buffy’s inability to trust Spike, after all the man was a vampire, no matter what he looked like and Willow wasn’t blind. She was well aware that Spike was one of the most handsome guys that had passed through Sunnydale and if it wasn’t for his problem Willow was sure that Buffy would have been after him for a whole different reason. 

 

Shaking her head Willow refocused on her friend. Buffy’s lips were drawn into a tight line and her eyes were little more than narrow slits as she watched Xander follow Spike into a strange club. Despite having lived in Sunnydale all her life Willow had never been to this side of town and the people milling around were giving her a serious case of the willies.

 

At the front of the club the bouncer had just stopped a stranger and as the young woman tilted her head up Willow caught sight of the gleam from her fangs. The bouncer had obviously seen it to but instead of running the man just nodded and stepped aside, allowing the vampire to enter the building.

 

“Buffy...did you just?” Willow stared and Buffy nodded, her jaw tightening as another person approached the bouncer and Willow’s eyes widened as something shifted beneath the woman’s skirt. As she watched a sinuous tail slithered from beneath the fabric, wrapping itself around her male companion’s arm as the bouncer waved them in.

 

“You know when people say there’s a bad side of town, they’re usually talking about drugs...heck I’d rather the drugs over a demon gathering.” Buffy growled.

 

“There’s no way we’re going to get in.” Willow whispered back and Buffy huffed.

 

“Not through the front door, anyway.” she responded, turning away from the crowd. “But every club has a backdoor; we just have to find it.”

 

----------------------

 

Spike kept a hand at the small of the boy’s back as they entered the club, nodding at the bouncer as the vampire tilted his head in acknowledgement. He’d run across this place his second night in Sunnydale, a demon run bar that catered to everything from blood to murder, though he wasn’t about to let Xander know that much. The boy hadn’t started raining down fire and brimstone on his head yet and Spike rather liked the lack of judgment. Not that Xander’s opinions would have made him actually stop any of his activities but he could just guess the headache that would accompany the boy’s disapproval.

 

Thankfully the club wasn’t packed and Spike watched as the various vampires in the room stiffened and glanced his way. Paying them little mind he sidled closer to Xander, who didn’t seem aware of the attention they were garnering or maybe the boy was aware and just didn’t care.

 

Spike could smell that wildness in the boy’s scent that said the primal was close to the surface and Spike wasn’t surprised, with this many demons around the spirit was probably restless as hell but Xander didn’t show any of his discomfort as Spike led him to an empty table in the corner of the room.

 

As Xander sat down Spike tried to see the club through the boy’s eyes. The air within the main room was foggy with smoke from cigarettes and the many sticks of incense burning along the club’s walls. The dim light that shun on its patrons was a dull red and Spike had found the color fitting considering that at any given time he could find fangbangers being fed from in various crevices of the building. Xander’s eyes were fixed on one such couple. The two young women were wrapped around each other as they swayed on the dance floor. The vampire’s lips were pressed to her donor’s neck and from where he sat Spike could smell their arousal. Xander squirmed in his seat as one of the donor’s hand slid beneath her vampire’s shirt and Spike resisted the urge to smirk as the boy sunk further into his seat to hide his own arousal.

 

“Hot ain’t it?” Spike murmured and Xander glanced at him. “Thing is feeding ain’t personal but it can be intimate...just like sex, really. You’re letting someone into your body, letting them take a piece of you. Hell I’ve had sex that was less intimate than a feeding. It’s why the minions find it so hard to stop. Feeding is all tied up in emotion. It’s passion and want and it makes you want to crawl into that person and drown in everything they are. Makes you want to take them into you and never let them go...even if it means killing ‘em.”

 

Xander’s heart was pounding by the time Spike finished speaking and a part of him knew that if he made a move then the boy was so muddled by the primal and his own wants that he’d probably give in but Spike never looked for the easy way out. No, Xander was a puzzle wrapped up in the enigma that was the primal and Spike was going to enjoy taking him apart piece by piece until there was nothing left.

 

Pulling back reluctantly Spike took a deep breath to center himself. “Stay here, pet.” he murmured as he rose to his feet, catching the eye of a human girl sitting at the bar. “Gonna grab myself a bite and show you what I’m talking about.”

 

-----------------

 

Xander’s eyes followed Spike as the vampire wove through the people on the dance floor, his dark cloak flaring behind him like bat wings and the light make his skin and hair gleam red, like Spike was covered in blood and the thought made something shift deep in his mind, like a flower unfurling beneath the sun but before Xander could poke at the feeling Spike reached the bar.

 

The bartender said something to the vampire, nodding at the brunette seated a few stools away and Spike flashed the man a quick grin as he changed route and headed straight for the woman. The two spoke for a few minutes but then Spike was raising one of her hands to his lips, his head cocked and his eyes meeting Xander’s as he brushed a soft kiss against the woman’s wrist.

 

Something sour curled in Xander’s stomach at the vampire’s actions but he kept his face blank as Spike led the woman back towards their table, letting her slide into the booth before him.

 

“Luv, this is Kyra, she’s gonna be sitting with us for a bit.” Spike introduced and Xander didn’t have to look at the vampire to hear the smirk in his voice. “Say hello, pet.” Spike prodded as he pressed himself against the woman and Xander glanced away, his face flushing with embarrassment.

 

“Hello,” Kyra whispered, her voice a husky purr that made Xander shiver even as Spike tssked.

 

“That’s not how we say hello, pet. Give our Xander a kiss, make him feel welcome. After all we’re doing this for him, aren’t we?”

 

Kyra’s hand rested on Xander’s shoulder and the teen tensed, his mouth opening to inform both Spike and Kyra that he was fine and ok without that kiss, thank you very much. But the woman was faster than he expected and he hardly had the chance to draw in a breath when her lips were pressed against his. Xander squeaked, his hands flailing for a moment but when he tried to reach out and push the woman back, Spike was already there, fingers tangling with Xander’s as he pulled him close, leaving Kyra sandwiched between their bodies but from the moan of pleasure she didn’t seem to mind much.

 

The woman’s mouth tasted sweet like candy and something else that Xander couldn’t place but any thought of identifying the strange flavor vanished as Kyra’s tongue traced the seam of his lips.

 

“That’s it, pet.” Spike coaxed, his cool fingers running along Xander’s arm before clasping his hand and guiding them to Kyra’s neck. “Never liked school, myself. Cause some things you can’t teach, you’ve got to feel and experience.” the vampire murmured and Xander blinked, his body tensing when fingers bushed against the leg of his jeans.

 

“Pay attention, luv.” Spike whispered and Xander inhaled sharply as the vampire pulled Kyra back against him, his hands still pressing Xander’s fingers against the woman’s neck as Kyra ran her hands across the bulge in Xander’s jeans. “Feeding is sexual; its life in a drop and no matter what you humans say about it, dying can feel bloody good as long as you don’t know it’s coming.”

 

Xander swallowed as Spike dipped his head, his tongue lapping at the tender flesh at Kyra’s neck and the woman moaned, her fingers digging into Xander’s leg and the teen couldn’t stop the groan that clawed its way out of his throat as his hips jerked up into the pressure. Spike flashed him a small smile before refocusing on the woman in his arms, his teeth sinking into her flesh and for a second the brunette tensed but as Spike began to drink she relaxed into his body with a heartfelt sigh.

 

Every swallow that Spike took made something coil in Xander’s chest, the knot growing tighter and tighter until he felt like he couldn’t breathe. His eyes were fixed to where Spike’s lips were pressed against Kyra’s neck and his own throat felt parched and empty, his fingers curling into fists as Spike drank.

 

Almost as if he could sense Xander’s scrutiny, Spike’s eyes snapped open, demon yellow and the ridges marring his face made him seem even more vicious but Xander still found himself leaning closer, his eyes locked on the single drop of blood sliding down Kyra’s throat. Before he knew what he was doing Xander ducked down, tongue tracing the scarlet path that the liquid left and a pleased growl rumbled from his chest as his eyes glowed green, the sound changing into a purr when Spike detached from the woman’s neck.

 

The vampire’s fingers tangled in Xander’s curls as he hauled the teen closer, pressing their lips together while Xander whimpered and lapped at the stray droplets of blood on Spike’s lips while a red haze descended over his mind.  

 

---------------------

The alpha stretched as the spark of mother pulsed, reaching out for the fragments that it could feel in the vampire that was cradling the other close.

 

-------------------

 

Xander groaned into the kiss, his finger reaching out to grab something...anything that could keep him grounded as his brain turned to mush. The kiss with Kyra had been good but this blew that completely out of the water because Spike’s tongue was doing things that Xander was pretty sure that not even a prostitute could and Xander’s dick was practically doing the cha cha because hands that weren’t his were still rubbing against the front of his jeans.

 

Breaking the kiss on a gasp, Xander’s eyes rolled to the ceiling as Spike licked one side of his neck, cool breath making Xander shiver as warm human hands slid beneath his shirt and if he thought it was hard to think before then he could definitely kiss his mental processes goodbye now.

 

Xander choked on a moan when blunt human teeth scrapped at his throat, sending shivers racing down his spine but before he could react to the sensation Spike’s lips trailed across his jaw, laying small kisses until he got to Xander’s lips, but this time the vampire didn’t press his against them. Instead Spike stared at Xander, the ridges of his demon long gone; leaving behind only the amber eyes as evidence that Spike was anything more than human. Xander swallowed as Spike rubbed their noses together, breath ghosting across Xander’s lips and for some reason this felt more intimate than anything else...even the hands still moving beneath his shirt and a thought fluttered at the edge of his mind but Xander swatted it away as he surged forward.

 

Xander swallowed the chuckle that rumbled from Spike’s chest as he bit at the vampire’s lips, the pressure in his head coiling tighter and tighter as Spike opened up for him and Jesus if someone had told him that just a kiss was going to make him feel like this Xander would have put much more effort into getting a girlfriend...or boyfriend as the traitorous voice in his head pointed out that he was kissing a guy and not just a guy but a vampire....ok this was officially the Twilight Zone and no matter how good it felt, Xander needed to stop...right now....any second now....Fuck!

 

Drawing back Xander gasped for air as he leaned away from the evil duo because seriously this had not been what he’d thought of when he asked to watch Spike feed!

 

Kyra was staring at them both with a look that said her Christmas had just come early and Xander was literally two steps away from banging his head against the table because two weeks ago he wouldn’t have been able to make a woman like Kyra look twice at him and now there was someone get all hot and bothered by the fact that Xander was being molested by a vampire.

Said vampire was still watching him, lips curled up into a smirk that was not all sexy because Xander didn’t find guys sexy and why did Spike keep licking his lips, just... gah!

 

“Something the matter, luv?” Spike purred and Xander tamped down on the urge to bare his teeth at him because he was civilized and civilized people didn’t do things like that. Civilized people didn’t try to figure out whether they could crawl into the lap of the vampire they were supposed to get information out of either but Xander wasn’t aiming for full marks on the civilization scale anyway!

 

Narrowing his eyes Xander focused on the bane of his existence...or sexual identity, but labels weren’t important here. What was important was making Spike understand that this was a fluke, something that wasn’t ever going to happen again!

 

“Is that so, pet?” Spike inquired and Xander froze, he really needed to stop thinking out loud.

 

“I thought it was hot.” Kyra murmured and Xander narrowed his eyes at her.

 

“Yeah, not taking advice from the person who signs up to be vampire food.” he shot back but she just shrugged. No shame, no shame whatsoever! “You shut it...” he groused glaring at the girl as Kyra settled back against the seat “And you....” he started turning to Spike who was watching him from beneath hooded lids. “You just keep your hands to yourself!”

 

“What about my tongue, nummy? Fair bit of tongue was being used; do I have to keep that to myself too?”

 

Xander gaped as his mind stalled on the images of just what Spike’s tongue had been doing. Blinking he shook himself to get rid of the mental images. “You are evil.” he growled but Spike just laughed, spreading his arms wide.

 

“I’m a vampire, pet. Evil comes with the package.”

 

“Yeah, well keep your evilness on that side of the table, ok?” Xander shot back, well aware that it sounded like he was whining but he really didn’t care. His head hurt, his dick was about to stage mutiny and just looking at Spike’s face was making his heterosexuality want to crawl into a corner and die!

 

All of this would have been so much easier if Spike had had boobs instead of a dick and the fangs....Xander could do without the fangs. He could do without the evil too but he didn’t expect miracles, this was Sunnydale after all!

 

-------------

 

Buffy stepped over the pile of ash that had once been the club’s cook...well at least she thought he was the cook though what she’d seen in the pot wasn’t anything that a human would want to eat anytime soon. Thankfully the vampire had been the only person there when she’s kicked the door in and the music from the club covered the clatter that they’d made as the vamp tried to add her to the menu.

 

Backtracking she pulled the door open. “Psst, Willow.” she called, making sure to keep her voice low just in case someone was passing by. A second later Willow’s head popped up from behind one of the garbage cans that littered the back alley and Buffy gestured for her to come closer.

 

“What happened? I thought you said you’d give me the signal as soon as you got in.” Willow whispered, her eyes darting around the grey kitchen and Buffy shrugged.

 

“I ran into the cook.”

 

Willow frowned, glancing around. “What? Where is he..or she?” she asked.

 

“He ran into my stake,” Buffy grinned before latching the door and shoving the chair that she’d found resting against the wall beneath the handle. It wouldn’t stop a determined demon but at least it would buy time if someone tried to get. “Come on, we need to find Xander.”

 

Pushing the door open slowly, Buffy paused. The kitchen was connected to the club by a winding corridor that seemed to pulse with the music leaking through the walls. The grey paint that covered the corridor was speckled with red paint....at least she was hoping it was red pain and she wasn’t going to think about the human hand that she’d seen the chef shoving into his pot.

 

This was what they got for listening to Giles’ stupid ideas! They should’ve stashed Xander somewhere far, far away from the vampire, not send him out to gather information from a creature that even Buffy couldn’t kill...not that she’d been trying her best, of course. That was the only reason why the vampire had gotten the drop on her; she hadn’t been expecting him to be that fast!

 

Glancing behind her Buffy met Willow’s eyes and nodded towards the door. The girl shot her a thumbs up as they crept along the corridor, freezing when the door rattled but as it stopped barely a minute later Buffy guessed that someone had probably bumped into it.

 

Pressing herself against the metal of the door, Buffy listened but she could hear nothing other than music. Taking a deep breath, she clasped the handle, turning it slowly. When nothing happened she pulled the door open and slipped out into the crowded club, glancing back once to make sure Willow was still following her.

 

The heavy base of the music pulsed through her body as she pushed her way through the crowd of people, her eyes scanning the room for Xander.

 

A flash of white caught her eye and Buffy’s lips twisted as she caught sight of Spike. The vampire was seated with Xander and a young woman and from where she stood Buffy could just make out the red bruise on the woman’s neck.

 

Reaching out she grasped Willow’s hand, knowing there was no way her friend was going to hear her over the music. Instead she pointed at the corner, waiting until Willow nodded in understanding before she started heading towards the trio.

 

Something Spike said made the woman smile as Xander glared at them but then the vampire was reaching forward, brushing his hands against Xander’s, where they were resting on the table and as Xander’s tongue darted out to wet his lips, Buffy’s eyes narrowed when the red tint that had coated Xander’s mouth vanished. Spike shifted forward, leaning across the young woman, who was watching the whole scene with interest, his fingers slipping from Xander’s arm to curl around his nape and Buffy gritted her teeth when Xander tensed, obviously uncomfortable and yeah this was not going to happen under her watch!

 

----------------

 

Xander’s eyes widened as Spike’s dropped to his lips, he’d been goading the vampire for a few minutes, pointing out that woman like Kyra were more than ready and willing to sleep with the vampire so there was no need to keep playing the game the man seemed determined to force Xander into and the thought of Spike with someone else didn’t make Xander’s chest hurt no matter what phantom pains his body thought it was experiencing.

 

“Thing is vampire and humans, we don’t make a good couple.” Spike purred, his fingers tangling in the soft hair at Xander’s nape and the teen stiffened, forcing himself not to lean into the caress because damn it he wasn’t attracted to Spike!

 

The vampire’s voice pulled him from his thoughts. “Humans are good, they’re warm and they’ve got all that blood just going to waste.” Spike continued, his fingers tracing Xander’s collarbone. “But they’re so fragile. Littlest thing and they kick the bucket, so we stick with our own kind because the other demons they don’t call to us like another does. But every once in a while something new comes along....” the vampire whispered, his cool breath ghosting across Xander’s skin and this time he couldn’t hold back the shiver that worked its way up his spine. Spike’s lips curled into a smile as he leaned closer until their lips were almost touching, amber eyes locked on Xander’s as he spoke. “...something fresh and wild. Something like you, pet and I’d be a fucking’ idiot to pass it up.”

 

“That’s so hot,” Kyra whispered and both men glanced down at her.

 

“You say hot I say disgusting but can’t exactly trust someone that runs around with vampires.” a new voice chipped in and Xander jerked away from Spike, spinning only to come face to face with a furious Buffy. Behind the girl, Willow was watching the scene with wide eyes.

 

“Slayer,” Spike greeted, voice shifting from the honey covered croon that it had been mere seconds ago to something cold, like the hiss of a snake and Xander shifted so that he was between Spike and his friend, even though he wasn’t sure who he was protecting.

 

“Buffy, Willow, what are you guys doing here?” Xander asked, cutting of whatever Spike seemed gearing up to say because knowing Spike it wasn’t anything good, not that Xander was claiming to have any insight into the inner workings of Spike’s mind but even the stupidest person could guess that a Slayer and a vampire weren’t going to be trading pleasantries if they stopped trying to kill each other long enough to talk.

 

“Can’t say I’m doing much...just came to protect my friend from Sir Bleachie.” Buffy spat, her eyes locked on Spike’s and Kyra shrunk back when a growl rattled from Spike in response to the Slayer’s unsaid challenge.

 

“If the whelp wants to be here, how’s it your business Slayer?” the vampire retorted and Xander cringed when Spike’s fingers tightened where they’d dropped to his thigh when Xander had moved away from him. Xander’s fingers twitched with the need to swat the vampire but he really didn’t want to draw Buffy’s attention to the fact that Spike was pretty much palming him.

 

“Protection? Nobody needs protecting, trust me Buffy. No protecting needed here. We’re just chatting...in a club full of people where nothing bad could happen,” Xander babbled and Buffy shot him a look that Xander would rather not decipher because it either meant that his friend was fearing for his sanity or that she thought he was an idiot.

 

Neither option was a good one.

 

“They’re cooking people in the back, Xander!” Buffy shot back. “I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t bat an eye if he decided to off you!”

 

Willow nodded. “The chef was a vampire....” she offered up and Spike snorted, leaning back and thankfully removing his evil groping hand in the process.

 

“Course the chef’s a vamp. Vampires own this club.”

 

“Well that explains the lighting,” Xander chuckled, trying to break the tension but his joke fell flat as the glaring match continued.

 

“You mean he was a vampire,” Buffy smirked and Xander tensed, hoping that she didn’t mean what he thought she meant. Not that he would feel sorry for any vampire Buffy dusted but she was intentionally baiting Spike and Xander really needed the vampire calm and level headed...especially if he planned to get any more information out of him. 

 

Spike leaned forward, eyes flickering to amber and Kyra melded herself to the seat in an effort to avoid any attention being sent her way. “Wanna run that pass me again, bint?”

 

Buffy took a step closer, her smirk melting into a sneer. “He was a vampire, as in he’s now part of the ash family. Just like you’ll be if you don’t leave Xander alone.”

 

As the ridges rippled across Spike’s face, Xander kissed any hopes, of this not escalating, goodbye.

------------

 

On the whole Spike liked gobby people. He liked gobby people who could back up their talk even more and Slayers that could trash talk usually climbed  to the top of his esteem ladder but this one....Spike was visualizing ripping her tongue out and making her choke on it, if she didn’t back off. Even the Slayers that he’d killed hadn’t been as annoying as the small, blonde creature in front of him and maybe that was why he disliked her so much. Something about the girl reminded him of Darla and the less time Spike spent thinking of Darla, the better...for everyone.

 

“You looking to take me on again, Slayer? Cause if I remember right, I handed your ass to you just a night ago.” Spike purred, grinning when the girl bristled...so easy to rile up! He was surprised she’d lived this long with that attitude and lack of common sense because no Slayer worth her salt would just waltz into a club full of demons. Hell, all Spike needed to do was raise his voice and mention what she was and she’d be as dead as a door nail.

 

Standing Spike straightened his coat, clearing the table in one leap and the redhead gasped, skirting him and the Slayer to huddle beside Xander as the patrons spread out, clearing the space between the two of them. This wouldn’t be the first fight that had happened in the club though it would most likely be the least bloody because Spike didn’t need Xander in a strop if he beat the Slayer to a pulp.

 

The blonde stepped back, her hands slipping into her pockets as they circled each other and Spike scoffed as she gripped two stakes, her eyes locked on him.

 

“Gonna do something with those, darling?” he taunted and the girl bared her teeth.

 

“Other than stake you, you mean?” she shot back and Spike almost rolled his eyes.

 

“There is that....why don’t you try and stake me, worked so well for you the last time after all.” he retorted and the girl tensed before twirling the stakes so they were facing outwards and striding towards him.

 

“Maybe the second times the charm,” she snarled, lunging forwards and Spike spun out of her way but this time she was prepared. Whirling on her heel, she swung her left leg up slamming her knee into his chest and Spike choked on an unneeded breath as the force of the hit sent him flying backwards.

 

Skidding to a stop, Spike gritted his teeth. He’d been planning to take it easy on the chit but since she wanted to dance, he was enough of a gentleman to oblige.

 

------------

 

Xander leapt to his feet as Buffy charged Spike again, only to have the vampire seize her arm using her own momentum to slam her into the floor and even from where he stood he could hear the groan of pain she tried to muffle as she rolled to her feet, just in time to miss the fist Spike rammed into the floor with enough force to split the concrete. Xander shivered as he imagined what would have happened had Buffy not reacted so quickly and the thought of his friend getting hurt because she was looking out for him made something bitter twist in his chest.

 

“Stop it!” he shouted but neither vampire no Slayer paid him any attention. Buffy plowed her fist into Spike’s face and the vampire rewarded her action with a backhand that had blood dripping from her lips.

 

The red liquid glowed as it fell to the floor and Xander’s eyes locked on it, the beating of drums humming in his veins as the single drop hit the floor...then everything went red.

 

--------------

 

The alpha shivered as the spark began to pulse, echoing the beat of their heart. The energy swirling through the nothingness made her long for the pack and the hunt. The scent of blood in the air caught her attention at the same time the spark flowed forward, washing over her and engulfing her other self’s mind in a blanket of crimson that made the alpha bare her teeth.

 

She paused, disoriented as she felt their body react to her actions. Glancing down she realized that the other had faded into the backdrop of the nothingness pulled away by the spark and she chuckled, the sound rising into a whooping laugh as her eyes fixed on the combatants before her.

 

The undead one that was her guardian was battling with a human that did not smell completely human but that stank of old blood....the blood of countless demons and the alpha’s lips pulled back as one of the humans at her side brushed her fingers against their skin.

 

The human was speaking but as she glanced up at the alpha’s face she froze, face paling in a way that made her crimson hair stand out more and the alpha took a step closer, fingers curling into claws as she imagined ripping the human’s throat out and bathing in blood that would be the same color as the hair on her head. She was mere inches away from the retreating human when an image from the other’s mind flashed before her eyes. It was the human, her other self and a child, huddled in a group as they whispered secrets, their fingers entangled and the alpha could feel her other self’s love for both humans, though the feelings attached to the smaller boy was tinged with guilt, regret and such soul-wrenching grief that it made the alpha’s heart hurt.

 

Shaking her head she pulled their body back from the redhead, who was pack and as much of a sister to the other as the alpha’s siblings had been to her.

 

Spinning she refocused on the blonde fighting her guardian. The other’s mind was muddled when it came to this one, she was tied into the grief for their lost packmate and something else...something like anger and want but there was not enough emotion to make this human pack and the alpha’s lips curled into a cold smile as the girl hit the floor, skidding backwards to bump against their feet.

 

The human seemed unaware of the danger at her back as she stumbled upright even as the guardian paused and the alpha knew that their guardian had seen the light in her eyes, she could feel the spark embedded beneath his skin reaching out to her, calling for her to run and hunt, to rip and plunder. The other’s mind stirred at that but she quickly quieted it as the call for the hunt grew louder in their ears, the pounding of drums blotting out the human’s cry of surprise as the alpha wrapped their fingers around her neck, leaving her dangling as she batted at their hand.

 

“Xander....” the human croaked but the alpha paid her cries little attention, ignoring the yells from her packmate as she held the eyes of her guardian, waiting for him to make a move...to tell her yay or nay, this was her guardian’s hunt after all and the alpha knew better than to cut in without his permission. He was not yet part of her pack and yet she knew him on a level that went deeper than pack....it made her conflicted and her emotions had bled through into her other self’s actions. Pressing forward one moment and then retreating when the guardian pursued them but now she would stand her ground and wait for him to choose.

 

---------------------

 

Spike eyed the spectacle in front of him, he was sure that the Slayer wasn’t expecting this....hell, he hadn’t been expecting it but Spike was used to rolling with the punches and this opportunity was one that he couldn’t pass up. Taking a step closer, his eyes darted to the redhead who was watching the whole thing with tears in her eyes but at least the chit wasn’t stupid enough to try and attack Xander. Spike had noticed the boy heading in her direction before turning away and he could only guess that the hyena had identified her as a packmate or else she would have been in the same predicament as the Slayer, if not worse. After all, Slayers weren’t fully human, a fact that their watchers usually tried to keep under lock and key, she could take much more damage than a human could and at the minute Xander didn’t seem to be about to rip her throat out so Spike was going to have some fun with the whole thing.

 

It didn’t do to let the others forget that he was evil.

 

The boy cocked his head, emerald eyes following Spike as he took another step closer but Xander held his ground, a curious rumble sounding in the silence that had settled over the club.

 

“Looks like you’ve caught yourself a pretty, mate.” Spike started, bobbing on his toes. “Whatcha plan to do with her, then?”

 

Xander snorted, shaking his head as if he was trying to dislodge a particularly annoying fly. “Hunt?” he asked and Spike smiled at the child-like quality in his voice, so like Drusilla in her more lucid moments. Spike really needed to examine the fact that he kept getting attracted to less than sane people though Xander was definitely a step up from Dru....mostly, though considering some of the things that the teen babbled about Spike wasn’t going to stake his reputation on Xander’s sanity.

 

“Yeah, you hunted her down, fair and square, luv.” Spike whispered, trailing his hand along the one that still held the Slayer’s neck, meeting the blonde’s eyes with a smirk as he circled Xander. “But now that you’ve got her, what are you gonna do?” Spike purred, grinning when Xander leaned towards him as he plastered himself against the boy’s back. “Gonna bash her pretty head in? Or are you gonna rip her up and play in her blood?” he queried, ignoring the gasp of shock from the redhead as the scent of Xander’s arousal clouded the air.

 

The boy tilted his head so that he could meet Spike’s eyes. “Your hunt?” he asked, brows furrowed as he waited for Spike’s response.

 

“Yeah was my hunt but the bint is your friend and you ain’t gonna be all that happy if you gut her...no matter how much I want to.” he added petulantly, pressing his lips to Xander’s heated skin. “You’d better let her go, pet.” he prodded and no sooner were the words out of him mouth than the Slayer hit the floor as the boy opened his arms and spun, latching onto Spike like a limpet, green eyes staring into his and Spike shivered as magic crawled across his skin.

 

“Guardian.” the teen muttered, ducking his head to nuzzle at the soft skin at Spike’s neck. “My guardian?”

 

“Been your guardian for a while now, luv.” Spike responded and it was like the words had cut the threads holding the boy up because he slumped in Spike’s arms and it was only Spike’s quick reflexes and supernatural strength that kept Xander from taking a nasty tumble.

 

Hoisting the boy into his arms Spike glanced down at the Slayer who was staring at him in awe.

 

“You didn’t let him hurt me.” she spat, her expression fading from shock to confusion. “You could have...he was listening to everything you were saying. The books said you liked mind games and this would have been the ultimate win for you, turning Xander against his friends.”

 

Spike cocked a brow. “Just cause you know my name and some things that some wanker has written about me, doesn’t mean you know me, Slayer.” he growled, turning away from the two and heading towards the door. Behind him he could hear the two hurrying to follow and as Xander snuffled, nosing closer Spike grinned. The Slayer may have been too stupid to realize that she now owed Spike her life but he was damn sure that her Watcher was going to blow a gasket when she told him what had happened...just a few hours and now he had a Slayer in his back pocket because the pesky thing about the type of demons that shared blood with the Slayer was that they could be bound, all you needed was an act of charity and Xander had just given Spike the key to that particular bank.

 

------------------------

 

The alpha resisted the pull from her other self for as long as she could, determined to stay with their guardian, to show him that she thought him worthy to be her mate but the other was strong and soon their struggle for power caused a backlash that forced them both into the nothingness. But instead of the familiar dark the nothingness was changed. A wide plain stretched before her, peppered with familiar trees and caves, it made the alpha tense because the other had never been able to change the nothingness and she didn’t know what it meant that he could so now.

 

The other was seated beneath the tree that in the same spot where they had devoured the foolish human who had tried to watch them, ignoring the warning from the tribes that knew that they were more than mere animals. The alpha sniffed the air but the other didn’t smell of anything...no anger or fear, he was just blank as he watched her with chocolate eyes.

 

“I’m guessing you’re the thing that’s been living in my head, huh?” the other asked and the alpha snorted. Of course she’d been living in his head, this was her body too. “I didn’t mean it like that,” the other assured her, before glancing away, picking at his sleeve and now he smelled like embarrassment. “Well, I did mean it before but....” he trailed off glancing at the cave and for the first time the other noticed the glow that surrounded the mouth of the familiar cavern. “There’s something in there you know. It’s not like you or me, it says it’s been here even longer but I couldn’t remember, it showed me everything. William and mother, it showed me us.” the other whispered and the alpha took a step closer as he bowed his head. “I didn’t want to be a monster. I didn’t want to hurt my mom or my friends but it’s says we aren’t a monster.” He breathed. “It says...it told me that we were loved. That’s why she split us apart....”

 

The alpha’s head snapped up and she stared at the other....what did he mean she? Was it mother? Was she still......

 

The other shook his head. “It’s not really her, it’s like a ghost, a voice in your ear when there’s no one there and she’ll have to go soon but she wanted me to understand first.” he told her, climbing to his feet and she tensed as he took a step closer. She wasn’t afraid of him because whatever he could do to her, she could do to him as well.

 

The other dropped to his knees before her. “You’re the parts of me that I’m scared to know.” he smiled, his fingers tangling in the fur at her nape before moving upwards and she couldn’t stop the pleased rumble that echoed from her when he pressed his face to hers. “I want to know you now.” he told her and she laughed, the sound growing as the other echoed it, wrapping his arms around her even as the pulse of mother washed over them both.

 

-----------------

 

“Where the hell are you going with him?!”

 

The Slayer’s voice made Spike roll his eyes, Xander was twitching in his arms and every so often he could feel the pulses of magic escaping his skin and curling in Spike’s chest like a warm kitten. The sensation had gone a long way to calm Spike as he gritted his teeth every time the Slayer opened her mouth and if she didn’t shut up soon he was going to slit her throat just for a moment of silence!

 

“Uhm, this is Xander’s street.” the redheaded one that the Slayer called Willow pointed out and Spike exhaled when that at least drew the bint’s attention.

 

If Xander was merging with the hyena the boy would need rest and familiar surroundings and Spike knew that Jessica Harris could provide both.

 

The closer to the house Spike got the more restless he became but he couldn’t see anything out the ordinary and the scent of Xander was so tightly wrapped around his senses that he couldn’t focus. The feeling lasted until he caught sight of the unfamiliar car in the Harris driveway. The scent of fear from within the house was sharp enough to draw Spike’s attention from Xander and the sound of faint sobs made his eyes narrow.

 

He stopped so suddenly that the Slayer almost ran into his back but he paid her little attention as he gestured for the redhead to come closer.

 

“Sit there.” Spike ordered and the girl dropped to the ground like he’d put a gun to her head. Lowering Xander Spike shifted so that the unconscious teen was leaning on the girl’s shoulder. “Don’t move.” he growled, turning towards the house.

 

The closer he came to the door the louder the scent of fear and the harder it was for Spike to keep his face human. Resisting the urge to just kick the door in, he knocked.

 

Someone shuffled behind the door but before the person came close an angry voice rang out.

 

“If that’s that piece of shit you call a kid, tell the brat he’d better sleep on that damn porch!”

 

Spike sucked in a sharp breath at the words but said nothing, knocking again and this time the door slid open slowly.

 

Jessica’s face was a battered expanse that made Spike see red and the tremors that shook her body had him yanking off his coat, pulling her out onto the porch so that he could drape it over her shoulders.

 

“That him?” Spike asked, gesturing towards the house and Jessica nodded.

 

“I was leaving, I knew he was angry and I was going to stay in a hotel with Xander tonight but Xander wasn’t here and I couldn’t just go....” she whispered, fresh tears streaming down her face. “He found the bags, said he’d kill me if I tried to go. He said he’d kill Xander.”

 

Spike’s vision flickered and he knew that his eyes had changed to the amber ones that struck terror into the hearts of his prey. “Go outside, Xander’s out there with his friends. I’m gonna get your bags....” he purred as he took a step inside but Jessica grabbed his sleeve.

 

“Hating someone is a human thing, just like loving them.” she murmured, her eyes hard as she met his. “But I hate him so much that I’d kill him in a moment, do you understand?”

 

Spike’s lips curled into a knowing smile. “I hear ya loud and clear, luv.”

 

------------------

 

Jessica watched as Spike stepped into the house, closing the door behind him before turning away and climbing off the porch. Every step made her limbs ache and the throb in her cheek was making her eyes water...that had to be the reason for the tears on her face because she wasn’t going to cry for herself, she wasn’t going to let Tony Harris win and she hoped that when the end came that Tony was terrified. She hoped that the fear he experienced was crippling, enough to make him forget who he was but not enough to wipe out all the things that he’d done to deserve his fate.

 

Holding her head high Jessica joined the teens on the sidewalk as the lights in her house went out and when the blonde girl made to go after the vampire Jessica stopped her. “Do you know that once I loved my husband?” she whispered, watching the way the girl’s eyes widened as she took in the bruises on her face and Jessica wondered if she’d cry if she saw the marks that her clothing hid? “I can hardly remember what it felt like....” Jessica continued with a small smile. “But I do know how it felt to fear him....to hate him. Now Xander has explained that it’s your duty to protect the weak and innocent from the things that hide in the night but Spike? He’s protecting us from the monster that not even you could see.” she finished, turning away from the girl.

 

Jessica frowned when she noticed that Xander wasn’t merely leaning on Willow but slumped against the girl, eyelids closed though Jessica could see his eyes moving behind the thin layer.

 

“He’s ok....or I think he’s ok. Spike didn’t say there anything wrong with and yeah Spike’s the bad guy but he’s really good for a bad guy and I don’t think he’d let us just sit here of Xander wasn’t ok....” Willow babbled as Jessica shifted her son so that he was lying against her, head in her lap and from what she could see he appeared to be ok, if a little hot and whether the girl knew it or not, Willow was right. Spike wouldn’t let any harm come to Xander.

 

The thought made her pause, glancing back at the dark house and for a moment she thought she could make out a darker shadow through the windows but it was probably her imagination.

 

------------------------

 

Tony Harris was not in a good mood. He’d been enjoying his week away from his wife and her brat when he’d met a gorgeous blonde who claimed that she went to school with Jessica....said her name was Dana or Darla, Tony wasn’t sure but the woman had been surprised that Jessica was married. Apparently some guy had been spending a lot of time at Jessica’s and she’d been about to move in with him.

 

The alcohol in Tony’s stomach had turned sour as he listened to the woman and he’d barely stopped himself from calling her a liar because a woman as pretty as she was probably didn’t need to lie, all she had to do was clip her fingers and men would be falling over themselves to do what she wanted. If it had been another day Tony would have been one of those men but he had to act the part of the concerned husband and any husband who thought their wife was cheating would head straight home to confront her. That’s exactly what he’d done.

 

Jessica obviously hadn’t been expecting him....the bags strewn around the living room said that much and the look of shock on her face when Tony stepped through the door made him see red.

 

Tony’s lips twisted into a pleased smile as he remembered the way she’d begged and crawled after he was done with her. He let the bags stay, let her see the evidence of the freedom that she’d never have because she was his and that screw -up of a kid was going to help him drive that message home even if he didn’t know it. Tony had noticed the way that Jessica spoke back to him, stood up to him like she didn’t owe Tony everything, like he hadn’t wasted his life staying with her and her brat. But Tony knew just how to fix that. The kid was Jessica’s weak spot and he was going to make sure she understood what would happen if she even thought of leaving him again.

 

Snorting he glanced at the door but he couldn’t hear a word. He was just about to get up and see what the idiot was up to when the door clicked shut and soft footsteps headed further into the house.

 

“Get me a beer!” he yelled after her, resettling in his chair.

 

There was no response but Tony was used to Jessica’s silence when she thought that he was in a bad mood and he’d bet that those shiners on her face had clued her in as to what kind of mood he was in...stupid bitch. He should have stayed with the blonde at the bar, at least that way he’d probably get to sleep with someone that didn’t annoy him.

 

The silence stretched on and Tony gritted his teeth. If Jessica made him have to get up she wouldn’t like what would.....

 

His thoughts trailed off as the house went dark.

 

“Didn’t you pay the fucking light bills, you dumb whore?! To busy fucking your little friend, I bet!” he snarled, getting to his feet and lumbering towards the kitchen. “Could have still been at Lenny’s but I had to come home to sort your nasty ass out and now I’m stuck in the fucking dark.” he muttered, feeling along the walls until he got to the kitchen. “Jessica, where the hell are you?!”

 

There was a flicker of light and Tony turned towards it, freezing when the flame illuminated a pale face that sure as hell wasn’t Jessica. Yellow eyes were fixed on his as the man brought the flame up to his cigarette, exhaling a breath of smoke that curled in the light before vanishing as the man shut his lighter with a click, plunging the room back into darkness.

 

“Looking for somebody, mate?”

 

The voice was much closer than the man had been a second ago and Tony spun to face it, fists clenched as he waited for the man to attack. “Who the fuck are you?”

 

“Just a concerned citizen....” the voice purred from right in front of him and Tony swung his fist but met nothing but air. “That wasn’t nice, now was it?” the man tssked and Tony hissed when something sharp sliced into his neck, stepping back he rammed his elbow into his attacker’s stomach but even though it was a solid hit the man didn’t make a sound and Tony took a step back as cool breath ghosted across his skin. “Try again, mate.” the man whispered at the same time something slammed into Tony’s chest sending him flying through the air. He crashed into what felt the TV table and the small structure gave way beneath his weight, sending him tumbling to the floor, splinters digging into his skin as he tried to regain his footing.

 

“What do you want?!” he spat and the man laughed, the sound cold and for a moment the lighter flickered again. The tiny flame illuminated something Tony had only seen in horror flicks, the man’s face seemed to bulge like there was something crawling beneath his skin, hardening into ridges while his amber eyes glowed bright, catching the flame from the lighter. His smile changed too, human teeth giving way to vicious fangs and Tony couldn’t stop the scared gasp that escaped him at the sight.

 

“Me? I want a lot of things. I want world peace.....” the thing paused before snorting. “Yeah that one’s a fucking lie. All I want, mate, is to fuck and feed and you really ain’t my type. Now two guesses what that means and the first one don’t count.”

 

“You’re going to kill me, aren’t you?” Tony whispered in a moment of absolute clarity and the thing’s lips stretched into a cruel smile.

 

“See, I knew you weren’t that stupid.” it replied as the flames flickered out. “You and I are gonna have a great time.”

Chapter Text

Buffy paced as she waited, thoughts chasing each other around her head. She couldn’t believe she was just standing there, letting a vampire kill someone without trying to stop him....a small part of her wondered if she could. And she was going to let that very same vampire just take one of her best friends and his mother somewhere that she wasn’t sure was safe.

 

The final thought made her pause, her eyes narrowing. Turning she glanced down at Xander’s mom.

 

“Look, I get that you don’t me to interfere with that...” she waved towards the dark house. “But at least stay with Giles, that way I’ll be sure you’re both safe. Please. If you do this I promise I’ll turn my back and walk away but I can’t just stand here and.....” she trailed off as the woman stared at her.

 

The moment seemed to stretch on but finally Jessica nodded. “Spike will want to know where we are.” she pointed out.

 

“I’m pretty sure he can sniff us out, if Xander hasn’t already told him where we research.” Buffy offered up and Willow nodded.

 

Jessica sighed. “Ok. If you can carry Xander....he said you’ve got Slayer strength, whatever that means.”

 

Buffy grinned, bending and hoisting Xander’s body over her shoulder as they started down the road. If she’d glanced back she would have seen glowing eyes watching them go but she didn’t and the eyes vanished as quickly as they’d appeared.

 

---------------

 

Darla watched as her minions attacked the Slayer’s little group, her eyes flickering over the four. It had been so easy after the Slayer had stupidly led the others away from William and thus too far for the vampire to stop her.

 

Two more of her minions turned to dust and Darla sneered, her eyes flickering between the two redheads in the group, ignoring the unconscious boy that they were guarding as the young blonde fought against the attacking vampires.

 

Spike had been frequenting the older woman’s house for a while and Darla’s lips curled into a smile as she smelled the scent of a primal lingering on hers and the boy’s skin. It looked like she had her vessel now all she needed was William and if she knew him, he’d come running to take back what he’d claimed as his.

 

Stepping from the shadows Darla felt herself smile at the shock on both women’s face. The younger one opened her mouth to scream but Darla swatted her like a fly before turning to her prize. The woman’s face was scuffed as if she’d been in a fight but Darla ignored that. After all Primals were little more than animals and if the woman had one living within her, fights were expected.

 

The woman took a stumbling step backwards but Darla was faster, wrapping her hands around her neck as she hoisted the red head of her feet. A single tap to the back of her neck had the woman slumping forward in unconsciousness as the Slayer turned and caught sight of them.

 

The girl started forward as the redhead on the ground groaned but more minions poured onto the scene and the fight started again, leaving Darla to melt back into the darkness with her prize.

 

As soon as William came for her, Darla would use his blood to awaken the Old One and then while he watched Darla would gut the woman like a fish and take every inch of her power....then she would dust him.

 

-------------------

 

Spike licked the last droplets of blood from his lips, sneering at the corpse that still bore the scent of fears and tears. He’d toyed with the idea of turning the man and then dusting him but Spike was certain that the very idea of Tony Harris as a vampire was an insult to his kind....even if there were some vampires with the intelligence levels of those annoying poodles that Dru loved to snack on.

 

Shaking the thought away, Spike straightened, letting his face smooth back into his human visage as his blood lust faded. Glancing around the room he spotted the bags that Jessica had packed. He could smell both her and Xander on them, so he guessed that she’d managed to pack the whelp’s things as well. Hefting the bags up, he made his way out of the house.

 

Spike paused as he hit the street, a familiar scent tickling his nose and it distracted him long enough to almost make him miss that something was very wrong. The spot where he’d left Xander and the other two was empty and there was no sign of Jessica anywhere. The scent grew stronger and Spike’s lips pulled up into a snarl, his true face rippling to the fore as he realized who he was scenting....Darla!

 

Dropping the bags Spike broke into a run, following the scent as it wound along the street, beneath it the familiar smell of Xander called to him like a siren song and Spike growled as he turned the corner, skidding to a stop when he caught sight of the three teenagers.

 

The Slayer was bent over; hands on her knees as she panted and the street around her were coated with a layer of ash that only came from killing more than one vampire. The redhead was slumped against the streetlight, a gash at her temple bleeding freely as she held Xander tight as if he would vanish if she let go. There was still no sign of Jessica, though the scent of Darla was stronger in the spot where Xander was lying and the thought of Darla laying hands on Xander made Spike’s hackles rise.

 

He must have made a sound then because the Slayer straightened, her stake clutched tightly in her hands as she rounded on him but when she saw who it was her face shuttered, going blank in a way that Spike didn’t like.

 

“What the fucking hell happened here?!” Spike demanded and he could see the blonde fighting the urge to snap out a sharp remark but at the last second she glanced away, her shoulder slumping.

 

“I thought they’d be safer with Giles cause creepy nice guy or not you’re still a freaking vampire and I wasn’t about to let them just go off with you!” the girl snapped. “I didn’t know that Darla was still hanging around and now she’s got Xander’s mom.....”

 

Spike stilled, his gaze fixed on the Slayer and he could see the moment she realized that he was staring at her. Her back went rigid and her knuckles were white where they gripped the stake.

 

“Darla took Jessica?” Spike asked, and the soft quality of his voice surprised him, especially when he could feel the rage simmering beneath his skin. Taking a deep breath he spun to face the redhead that was watching the whole scene with wide eyes. “Red, when I left to go help Jess out, what did I tell ya?”

 

The girl’s eyes darted between him and the Slayer, “I d-don’t ....” she started but Spike was sick of dealing with people who didn’t. fucking. listen!

 

“I said ‘don’t move’!” He roared, his voice echoing in the silence of the street and the girl jerked backwards as Spike turned towards the Slayer. “I told you ‘sit here and don’t fucking move’. Was that too hard for you to understand? Didn’t it get in your noggin or are you so stupid that simple instruction just make your tiny head ache?!” he snarled, hand slicing through the air as he turned again, the world spinning before his eyes and his chest throbbed as the sound of the drums began to rage in his ears.

 

“We didn’t know she was here!” the Slayer retorted her face pale in the yellow light from the street light. “And we didn’t know she’d go after Xander’s mom because why would she? She didn’t even know who she was!” the girl shouted but Spike had had enough. The pounding of the drums were louder now and he glanced down at Xander as the boy’s fingers twitched, the pulse in his wrist beating along to the sound of the drums in Spike’s head or maybe the drums were the beats of Xander’s pulse....Spike wasn’t sure but he did now that something was building and he really didn’t want to be stuck with these two chits when whatever it was shattered.

 

He took a step towards Xander, only to freeze when the Slayer grabbed his arm but Spike was all out of patience and in the blink of an eye, he’d flipped the girl over his shoulder, pinning her to the concrete with one hand around her neck as he dug his knee into her chest, reveling in the way that she gasped for breath.

 

“You’re my Xan-pet’s friend, Slayer.” he whispered, his voice as cold as the wintry streets of London on a December night. “That’s the only reason I haven’t ripped your throat out and bathed in your blood, yet. But cause you thought you were so smart and you were gonna rescue him from the Big Bad even when he didn’t need rescuing, he’s lost a parent...his ma. Now I don’t know ‘bout you, luv but when Xander wakes up he won’t be the same person you knew and if I were you, I’d stay out of both of our ways.” he snarled.

 

The Slayer gasped before realization set in and she all but melted into the cold concrete, her muscles losing their tension and Spike released his hold on her and rose to his feet. Straightening his coat he bent and scooped Xander up, ignoring the little sound that the redhead made as he settled the boy’s weight in his arms, inhaling the scent of trees and dirt that clung to the boy’s skin.

 

Turning he started down the street when a small voice made him pause.

 

“We want to help,” The Slayer croaked and Spike glanced back, a jolt of pleasure coursing through him as the girl rubbed at her throat.

 

“You want to help what?”

 

The blonde rounded her shoulders. “We want to help you find Xander’s mother....it was my fault she was out here and I need to help you, ok?”

 

“You’re gonna work with a vampire, then?” Spike taunted but the Slayer just gritted her teeth.

 

“She’s Xander’s mom....I’d work with the devil if I had to.” she responded and Spike couldn’t help the small smile that curled his lips at her words...close enough.

 

“Find me at sunset.” he responded, cursing himself as the words left his mouth but he knew it was what Xander would have wanted and God help him but he couldn’t deny the boy a damn thing, even when he didn’t ask for it. “Come to me at sunset and I’ll show you how a real demon hunts.” Spike whispered before striding off into the darkness, leaving the two girls and their sour scent of guilt, far behind.

 

------------

 

Angel watched as Drusilla spun in a circle. Every so often she would reach out and trail her fingers against something...his table, the books....Doyle. The second Dru’s fingers touched the half-demon’s skin both of them froze and Doyle’s human visage flickered as his head fell back, body seizing in way that Angel had come to associate with his visions but this time Dru clung to Doyle’s skin, her voice rising in a wail that made the hair on Angel’s skin stand on end.

 

The moment seemed to last forever but as the vision slipped away both of them slumped forward and Angel darted around the table, catching the two in his arms.

 

Dru stirred first, demon yellow eyes fixed on Angel as she whispered. “The bad one wants our daddy to go away....” she began.

 

“Wants not-daddy back, don’t want daddy.”

 

Angel started at the child-like tone echoing from Doyle but the young man’s eyes were fixed on Dru’s and it took Angel a second to realize that his lips were moving as Dru spoke as if they were one person.

 

“The blonde witch wants to throw our Spike to the wind, drink down all the old blood but we won’t let her take our daddy.” Dru whispered and Doyle hummed.

 

“Not our daddy.”

 

Angel swallowed, he wasn’t sure what the vision had done to his lovers but he did know that the Powers That Be wouldn’t have sent it to both of them unless it was a last resort. “Where do we need to go?” he asked and two pairs of eyes locked on him as they responded.

 

“Sunnydale.”

 

-------------------

 

The alpha let the other’s tears soak into her fur as they listened as his birth mother was taken by the blonde vampire while they lay in limbo. The other’s pain blend into her and she bared her teeth at their helplessness but they couldn’t make their body move, couldn’t stop the creature from stealing away with the woman that meant so much to the other. All the while the spark pulsed brighter and brighter, making the cavern glow emerald in the dusk that had settled over their plain.

 

Something was coming, the alpha could feel it but she would face whatever it was with the other and they would burn the world to save their mother....they would not stand idly by and loose another mother, they would see world end before they did!

 

--------------

 

Spike entered his house, adjusting Xander so that he could flick on the lights...it was such a human thing to do but he wasn’t going to judge himself for it, after all the fact that he was so human was why he’d been turned in the first and it was that same human soul that had led to him being drawn into Fisi’s world.

 

Lowering Xander onto the sofa that took up most of his living room, Spike let his eyes flicker over the teen’s pale face. Every so often Xander would twitch in his sleep and a green mist drifted from his lips spreading through the air as if searching for something before settling on Spike’s skin, where it would linger for a moment before vanishing.

 

Spike knew what he had to do to wake the teen but the creature that his blood would bring back wouldn’t be Xander, it would be a mixture of the boy and the Primal...Dru had told him as much. Shaking himself, Spike leaned forward, raising his left hand to his mouth. His teeth slid easily through his flesh and the prickle of pain made him shiver as he pulled back, watching the blood well around the wound before dripping to the ground, staining the pale carpet a murky pink.

 

Pressing his bleeding wrist to Xander’s mouth, Spike waited. For a moment nothing happened, then like someone had flipped a switch Xander reared up. His fingers clasping Spike’s forearm as sharp teeth dug into the wound and Spike hissed, leaning forward to balance himself as Xander drew his wrist closer, Adam’s apple bobbing as he swallowed mouthful after mouthful of blood.

 

Spike growled when Xander teeth dug even deeper into his flesh, his cock hardening in his jeans because this was pretty much the vampire equivalent of foreplay and all he wanted was to crawl on top of the teen and fuck him into the sofa. The pounding of drums in his ears made his head swim and he closed his eyes as he tried to clasp his fraying self-control. When he opened them he stilled.

 

Xander’s eyes were open and locked on his face as the boy’s feeding gentled but Spike wasn’t focused on the soft tongue laving his closing wound, instead he stared at Xander’s eyes...one brown, the other green, mismatched just like Fisi’s had been. As the stare-off continued, lines began creeping along the teens skin, stretching and curling like some invisible hand was using Xander’s face as a notepad but Spike had spent year researching the markings and this time he could read the Old Tongue....The old world is gone, let the new one begin with blood was curled along Xander’s left cheek while the words Loyalty to pack, loyalty to the guardian twisted along the boy’s right cheek, flowing towards his temple in the cursive letters that made up the language of the Old Ones.

 

Xander raised his free hand to Spike’s cheek, releasing the vampire’s wrist at the same time. “Spike...guardian?” he asked and Spike nodded.

 

“That’s me pet, your guardian.” the vampire responded and Xander’s lips curled into a cruel smile.

 

“We’ll kill her won’t we? You’ll help me kill her because she took mother...mom.” he whispered, fingers curling around Spike’s neck so that he could pull the older man close.

 

Spike shifted closer bracing his arms on either side of Xander’s head. “We’ll start your new world with blood, pet.” he breathed against Xander’s lips, dipping down to swallow the cackling laughter, that echoed from Xander, with his lips.

 

------------

 

Jessica blinked as she regained consciousness, her body ached and her throat felt sore. Frowning she glanced around the unfamiliar room in confusion until the memories came rushing in....the vampires, the strange blonde woman and then darkness, at least the woman hadn’t paid any attention to Xander and regardless of what happened to her, Jessica was grateful for that small mercy.

 

The room she was in was painted a dull grey and the only source of light came from a single candle burning in the corner. Pushing herself upwards, Jessica bit her lip as a sharp pain raced along her side where Tony had kicked her, her lips pulled up into a bitter smile at the thought of her husband....she doubted Tony would be hurting anyone else ever again.

 

Jessica tensed as the door to the room opened and the blonde woman from before stood silhouetted in its frame, her yellow eyes scanning the bed where Jessica had been laying.

 

“Good, you’re awake,” the woman started. “I can’t stand waiting around and you and I have so much to do before William gets here...”

 

Jessica glared at her. “I don’t know what you think we’re going to be doing together but I don’t think it’s gonna happen.”

 

The vampire quirked a brow. “Oh really? Maybe I should go see if your son is more co-operative. He is your son isn’t he? So pretty, just like his mother. It would be a shame to kill him.”

 

“Spike won’t let you touch him!” Jessica spat and the woman’s brows furrowed.

 

“So that’s the game William’s playing this time? Protect the son to get to the mother.” she mused aloud and Jessica snorted.

 

“Lady, I don’t know you’ve been getting your information from but it’s as wrong as you could get. Spike’s protecting me because of Xander, not the other way around.”

 

The blonde froze, her eyes narrowing into amber slits as she took a step closer but Jessica didn’t shuffle back and away from the woman like her brain was telling her to, she’d had enough of running away from people! “Seems like you got the wrong intel about our situation,” Jessica grinned and the vampire snarled, her hands tangling in her hair before she rounded on Jessica.

 

“I should kill you now!” she growled, taking a deep breath. “But if there’s one thing I know about boys they’ll always come running when mommy’s in trouble and trust me if they don’t come soon enough....” she whispered and in the blink of an eye she was all but pressed against Jessica, her cold eyes locked on Jessica’s throat. “...you’ll be in trouble.” she finished before spinning on her heels and storming from the room, slamming the door behind her.

 

---------------

 

Doyle shook his head as the fog that had come with his latest vision cleared. The first thing he noticed was the fact that he was in a car and this was definitely not LA. A sign that read Sunnydale made him sigh...he was getting really tired of these blackouts that came with the PTB’s mouth to brain messages. Couldn’t they write...like normal mystical people?

 

Glancing up he met Angel’s eyes in the mirror, Dru was curled in the front seat, her eyes closed and breathing deep but Doyle had learned that this didn’t mean Drusilla was asleep.

 

“You know I’m used to waking up in strange beds but waking up in strange towns is pushing it a bit.” he quipped, straightening in his seat.

 

Angel snorted. “The Powers That Be sent that vision to both of you....” Doyle started at the vampire’s words, his eyes falling to Dru who was still curled around herself though her breathing had stopped. “...I figured that meant they wanted it dealt with immediately and I’d rather avoid a repeat performance.” the older vampire finished, his eyes hard and Doyle leaned forward, pressing a hand against Angel’s where it gripped the gear stick while his other hand sought Dru’s. He smiled when the woman curled her fingers around his.

 

“Well we’d better get this sorted then. I don’t want to think about what will happen if you and Spike are in the same town for too long.”

 

--------------

 

Buffy clutched her knees as she stared out Giles’ window. The day was turning to evening and they hadn’t found anything that could tell them why Darla had targeted them. There was little record of the Scourge after Angelus was cursed with a soul and it seemed like the rest of his family had split in two. Drusilla and Spike had crossed to America while Darla remained in Romania until Dracula started hunting her after he’d discovered the massacre of the gypsy clan. But everything after that point was speculation and Spike’s name only turned up twice after the death of the two Slayers.

 

Buffy shivered at the thought. The Slayers before her had been more experienced and way more deadly and yet Spike had killed them both but he’d spared her....just because Xander wanted him to.

 

Groaning she straightened. “I don’t get it! Vampires don’t have souls...they can’t love! So why is Spike so...?”

 

“Lovey Dovey with Xander?” Willow whispered and Buffy grimaced at the pained look on her friend’s face. She knew that Willow had had a thing for Xander but with Spike and everything that had been happening Buffy doubted she had a chance.

 

Giles cleared his throat. “William has always been reported as rather human, if deadly. Perhaps his turning let him keep his soul, it would explain how he was able to gain the title of Master so early and Angelus has proven that vampires are capable of carrying souls...” he reminded them.

 

“But it made him go all crazy.” Buffy pointed out. “Spike is annoying but not crazy.”

 

“Well, whatever the truth behind Spike’s behavior is, the fact remains that he is the only one who will be able to help us find Mrs. Harris and help Xander deal with this primal spirit.” Giles replied. “At the moment he is our last chance and antagonizing him is not an option.”

 

Buffy grimaced. “I’m pretty sure there are rules about Slayers working with vampires.” she groaned, wrinkling her nose in displeasure at the thought of being nice to Spike.

 

“Would you like to explain to Xander how those rules got his mother killed?!” Giles snapped and Buffy glanced away, shame making her cheeks burn. “I thought as much.” the man finished turning back to the books and Buffy sighed before following suit.

 

------------------

 

Xander led Spike out into the evening light, pausing when the vampire frowned as streams of the dying sun caressed his skin but before Xander could ask the older man’s expression blanked. A part of him wanted to push and learn what was bothering Spike but as he watched the vampire avoid the sun, ducking from shadow to shadow he smiled. He knew Spike couldn’t be harmed by the sun just as he knew that their pack was waiting for them, bodies primed for the hunt that was coming.

 

He’d thought that after the hyena had blended with him that he would lose himself. He remembered the way that Spike’s blood had flooded through the plain, drenching them both until they were nothing but whispers beneath the crimson tide. Just when Xander had started to believe that they would die here, trapped within their own mind, drowning in the blood of their guardian, the green spark from before had lashed out and grasped them both tight. It pulled them closer, pressing them together until the hyena cried out and Xander echoed her screams as his body was torn apart and remade.

 

They were man and woman, Xander and alpha, human and Primal. All the parts of them blended until they were…him.

 

The memory made Xander shiver but he pasted on a quick smile when Spike glanced his way. Pushing the thought away he focused on the call he could hear beating beneath the pounding of the war drums....his pack was calling and as he scaled the walls of the zoo with Spike following close behind, he responded to the call, the empty zoo echoing with his laughter and as they passed cage after cage the animals hid, holding themself still as they recognized the predators in their midst.

 

Around them the night fell, hiding them beneath her dark cloak.

 

------------

 

Angel slammed on the brakes as Dru uncurled her eyes fixed on the zoo.

 

“My Spike,” the younger vampire whispered, her fingers pressed to the glass like she could reach out and touch her childe and Angel met Doyle’s eyes with a soft smile. Spinning the car around he headed for the darkened enclave by the zoo’s gate. It looked like they wouldn’t have to track Spike down after all.

 

-------------

 

Buffy rose to her feet, securing her stakes as she watched Willow and Giles get ready.

 

“Does anyone know how we’re going to find Spike?” she queried and Willow shrugged.

 

“Xander said he had a house but he didn’t say where.” she replied.

 

“I think we should focus on finding Xander instead and we’ll find Spike.” Giles explained. “And if I am right the hyena will want to hunt with its pack...”

 

“The zoo!”Buffy exclaimed. “That’s where all this started, Xander said the rest of the hyenas were still there.”

 

“And that’s where we will find Xander.” Giles added.

 

------------

Darla shoved the woman ahead of her as they made their way into the hyenas’ enclosure. Her minions were already milling about the room but the hyenas were missing, a fact that had made Darla suspicious but if the boy was the Old One then he would keep the creatures with him.

 

Growling she glared at the woman as she stumbled. “You’d better hope your son isn’t stupid or else you might not live to see the end of tonight.”

 

The human bared her teeth at her. “I hope Spike guts you like a fish!” she spat and Darla snorted.

“William isn’t smart enough to best me,” she laughed.

 

“And yet my son and his friends did that before.” the woman shot back and Darla narrowed her eyes at her.

 

“If I were you, I’d keep quiet before I decide that dead bait is just as good as a live one.”

 

The woman gritted her teeth but thankfully fell silent.

 

--------------

 

Xander trailed his hands along the cages as he moved. His pack wasn’t where they usually were, he could smell their scents trailing here and there around the zoo and he followed each. The faint scent of little sister led him to the monkey’s cage where the young hyena was crouched low in the darkness, her eyes glowing a glittering green as she watched him approach. Xander took a moment to just look at her, she was a mass of the energies that her brothers and sisters had expelled into the human teenagers’ bodies all wrapped in the form that the alpha had once called her own. The young Primal took and unsteady step out of shadows, bending her forelegs in a bow, before stepping forward and head-butting him as she purred. Xander let her rub against his jeans and watched with a small smile as she moved over to Spike, repeating her actions and strengthening the smell of pack on them both.

 

From that point it was easy to find the rest of the pack and as his brothers and sisters gathered around him Xander’s lips curled into a smile which faded just as quickly when his guardian’s head snapped up, nostrils flaring as one of the many scents threading through the air caught his attention.

 

---------------------

 

Spike held himself still as the scent came closer, his eyes narrowed while he scanned the darkness ahead of him. Once upon a time the presence of the person he could smell would have made his undead heart skip a beat but the tug of the Sire-Childe bond between him and Dru had faded the moment that Fisi had bound her child to him and while a part of Spike hated the fact that the Old One had taken that from him, another part was glad. He’d loved Dru for centuries, would have probably have kept loving her until the end of time but the truth was he wasn’t what she wanted, no matter how hard he tried. Whether she knew it or not, Fisi had given him something that he craved, someone who looked at him like he hung the stars in the sky and he’d kill to protect Xander just like he knew that Dru would have killed to protect Angelus...even if Spike was the one she’d have to get rid of.

 

Spike took a step back as the three figures detached themselves from the shadows, blocking Xander from their view even as Dru stepped towards him.

 

“My Spike has such a pretty kitten....” Dru crooned and Spike inhaled her familiar smell as he glared at Angelus, eyes flickering over the man at the vampire’s side. Behind him a rumbling growl escaped Xander, one that was echoed by the hyenas that had surrounded the group, and Dru paused her head cocked to the side. “Your kitten doesn’t like me, Spike. He wants you all to himself....what a naughty kitten.” Dru chided and Spike could sense Xander shifting behind him.

 

Taking another step back, Spike slid his arm around Xander’s waist and the boy melted into his side as the hyenas drew back, taking their cue from Xander as they flanked the two.

 

“My Xan-pet ain’t in the best of moods, Dru. Don’t poke fun at him.” Spike warned but Drusilla just smiled innocently, her fangs flashing in the light from the lamps that were spread here and there throughout the zoo. “What are you doin’ here, anyway?” he asked, aiming his question at Angelus.

 

“You’ve got a demon problem that the Powers That Be want us to clear up,” Angel responded and Spike snorted.

 

“In case you haven’t noticed, ‘Gelus, this whole bloody town is built on a demon problem that’s just waiting to crack open and spill all over onto the streets.”

 

“Well clearly you need our help this time,” the older vampire shot back and Spike tensed but before he could respond Xander answered for him.

 

“Look, I don’t know who you are but we’ve been dealing with our demon problem for years and seeing as we haven’t been sucked into the hellmouth yet despite everyone trying to open the damn thing and that includes your friend, Darla.....” Angel sucked in a sharp breath at that but Xander just steam rolled on, “... I really don’t think we’ll be needing your help, ok? Now I’m going to find my mom and probably let these guys....” he gestured to the hyenas “....eat your friend because I’ve got memories I didn’t have yesterday and the strangest craving for raw meat, so if you’ll excuse us, me and Spike have a date with a bitch of a vampire.” with those words Xander pulled away from them, curling his fingers around Spike’s wrist as he tried to pull the vampire along with him and Spike grinned, pausing just long enough to take in the look of shock on Angelus’ face at being told of by, what appeared to be, a teenage boy.

 

“You can tag along if you wanna, though I wouldn’t try to play hero if I was you. I hear that hyenas devour their prey and everything in their way and they ain’t scared of eating something that’s already dead, either.”

 

------------------

 

Buffy glared at the locked gates of the zoo. “Are you sure that is where Xander’s coming?” she asked turning to Giles who was rubbing his glasses. “Because that doesn’t look like anybody has tried to break into it.”

 

Giles hummed in agreement. “Perhaps they haven’t arrived yet?” he offered up.

 

“Or they’ve found out where Darla’s keeping Xander’s mom and gone straight there?” Willow suggested.

 

Giles sighed. “Well the only thing to do now is wait.”

 

“I’m not good at waiting; I think it’s my weak point.” Buffy muttered sullenly as she leaned against the gates, pointedly ignoring Giles snort of disbelief because she wasn’t about to take criticism from the man that thought everything that he wore had to be tweed!

 

----------------

 

Darla paced the enclosure, pausing every few seconds to glance at the door. She could feel the human’s eyes on her but she wasn’t about to turn around and give the woman the satisfaction of having gained her attention, after all it was proper to play with one’s food. She’d sent several of her minions out to tell the woman’s son that she was willing to make a trade him for his mother but the idiots hadn’t come back yet.

 

Sighing she rubbed at her temples, this was what happened when you sent a minion to do a Master’s job!

 

Spinning on her heel she glanced at the vampires lingering around the cage where she’d imprisoned the woman...for her peace of mind if nothing else because if the human had run for it Darla would have snapped her neck in a second and while she’d taunted Jessica with her death, she wasn’t stupid enough to think that her son would let her leave Sunnydale alive if she killed his mother. She’d heard stories of the havoc that Old Ones could wreak and she’d rather not go up against one without some form of insurance!

 

Narrowing her eyes she pointed at two of the minions that seemed moderately less stupid than the ones she’s sent out before. “Come here,” she ordered, her lips curling into a slow smile as the stumbled over each other to reach her. “I want you to go to the house that I assigned you to watch and find her son. Tell him that he has two hours to show his face or else I’ll send his mother back....in pieces! Do you understand me?” the vampires nodded and Darla grinned as they hurried towards the door. “Also, if you run into the other two, do me favor and dust them. I have no time for fools.”

 

The minions behind her froze at her words and Darla didn’t even try to hide her smirk. Turning towards the cage she frowned when she found the human staring blankly at her...not even the faintest scent of fear was present in her smell and her eyes were cold as they roamed Darla’s form despite the threat that Darla was sure she had heard.

 

“Still hoping for a rescue?” Darla taunted but the woman just cocked her head, in a move that reminded Darla of Spike.

 

“A few hours ago I asked a vampire to kill my husband,” the woman whispered, one brow creeping towards her hairline as she smiled. “This was the same husband that made my life a living hell for twenty-two years. Beatings, degradation, starving...I’ve suffered through it all. And let me tell you, if you think this is the first time someone’s threatened to kill me then lady you’re in for one helluva surprise. My advice to you? Try. Harder.”

 

Darla flung herself at the cage with a snarl. The impact of her body against the bars made the metal rattle but even as her minions retreated the human stood still, the smile shifting into a full grin.

 

“Like I said....Try. Harder.”

 

---------------------

 

Spike hung back as the pack tore through the zoo. Xander was at the front of the group, his head down and shoulders drawn tight. They’d obviously caught the scent of something but the question was what? The reading that he’d managed to find had hinted that the Primals’ senses were stronger than those of most demons but reading it and seeing it was completely different and Spike had to tamp down on the surge of arousal that came from the thought of hunting with Xander.

 

Up ahead the pack had slowed to almost a crawl and now Spike could see what they’d sensed.

 

Two vampires were lingering at the rear entrance of the zoo, whispering amongst themselves and completely unaware of the danger that was just a few feet away from them. Spike’s nose wrinkled at the familiar flowery scent of Darla that clung to both minions and he could see that Angelus and Dru had caught the scent too from the way they were watching the young vampires.

 

The pack split, three of the five circling behind the vampires, keeping downwind as Xander drew closer with the remaining two and Spike watched the spectacle unfold. This would be Xander’s first hunt and he didn’t want to miss a thing!

 

--------------------

 

Xander broke away from the group, drawing his fingers against the metal fencing that encircled the zoo and the vampires turned towards the sound of the chains rattling. The smell clinging to the vampires made him think of Jesse’s smile and the way he’d been nothing but dust at the end and his mind retreated from the image allowing something new to slither into place, something that wanted nothing more than to rip into flesh and feel the flow of blood on his skin, to avenge their fallen packmate and retrieve their mother and Xander let his mind fall into it until there was no divide, no primal thoughts, just Xander thoughts and he chuckled lightly at that. A

 

He wondered if anyone would believe that no matter what the hyena had brought with her, that there had always been a part of Xander much darker than that. Something that hid itself away in the back of his mind until Tony was being particularly loud or the bullies were being too annoying. Something that wanted to let their screams of pain eclipse his own, wanted to make them understand how it felt to be small and weak, unable to protect yourself from the things that hid in the night. But he wasn’t weak anymore, he was super strong....demon strong and the thought made him chuckle.

 

“Who are you?!” spat one of the vampires as Xander took a step into the light and the teen just tilted his head to the side as he scented their surprise, their hunger and beneath that the tiny shred of fear as his eyes glowed green.

 

Taking another step closer, he made sure to keep their eyes on him as he spread his arms wide. “Who me? I’m nobody ask anybody...or don’t ask anybody. Well you can’t ask anybody, can you? Because we’re the only people here, just me and you and the group of hyenas standing behind you.”

 

The shorter vampire rolled her eyes as she stepped forward. “How about we eat this smart ass and go do what Darla sent us to do before that crazy bitch decides to come looking for us?” she suggested, her face shifting as her demon emerged and Xander snorted.

 

“You know what, I like you. I think I’ll save you for Spike,” he smirked.

 

“And who’s Spike then, another one of your imaginary hyenas?” the male vamp asked and Xander rolled his eyes.

 

“Those are my hyenas,” he responded, shifting his jaw as a strange sensation ran along his face and from the look of surprise on the face of the minions he could guess that whatever had changed was something drastic, though from the cackling that echoed from his pack it seemed they approved.

 

The minions started glancing from Xander to the hyenas emerging from the darkness. “Like I was saying these are my hyenas and this.....” he gestured towards Spike who detached himself from the shadows behind the two. “This is Spike, he’s going to kill you now but I’m pretty sure that if you beg really nicely he’ll be quick.” Xander purred.

 

-------------------

 

Spike circled the minions who were staring at them in shock, ignoring them in favor of examining Xander new features. The lines along the boy’s face were back but this time his human teeth had shifted too, sharpening to points that rivaled Spike’s fangs.

 

“Thought this was your hunt, luv?” Spike mused but Xander just grinned.

 

“I keep complaining about you killing people and if they’re innocent I’m going to complain until you sew my mouth shut but these guys deserve killing and you haven’t had any fun lately so consider this your early Christmas present. I want you to show me the difference between a Master and a minion.”

 

Spike smirked turning to the vampires that hadn’t even tried  to escape... the idiots! “My pleasure, luv.” he whispered.

 

---------------------

 

Darla was half ready to stake her minions herself when another twenty minutes went by without her seeing hide nor hair of any of the four she’d sent out. She’d barely taken three steps towards the door when she heard someone approaching. Pausing she scented the air, her eyes narrowing as she placed the smell a moment before the three appeared in the doorway.

 

“Angelus,” she purred, her eyes barely flickering over Drusilla as the insane vampire swept into the room behind Darla’s childe, guided by what smelled like a Brachen half-breed. “I didn’t know you were in Sunnydale.”

 

Angelus smiled and Darla remembered what had attracted her to the human he’d been, despite the years he still carried the cocky smile that hinted that he knew something you didn’t and it made Darla want to run her hands all over him but she was not stupid. The last she’d heard Angelus was still burdened with his soul and had gone off to save the world. The thought made her eyes dart to the Brachen because if word on the street was true that was the creature that provided Angelus with the visions of people he needed to save.

 

“We just arrived in town to help stop something very stupid from happening,” Angelus responded, his eyes shifting from the crudely drawn symbol on the floor to the imprisoned human. “And it looks like we were just in time.”

 

Darla snorted. “Something stupid? I’m going to rid you off that pesky soul once and for all, Angelus! Don’t you understand? This is the Hellmouth, you and I could rule it! We could show the humans that they’re place was at our feet, that we aren’t the ones that should be hiding in the shadows....” she spun, flinging her arms wide. “All this could be ours and all I need to make it perfect is the heart of an Old One.”

 

“The stars aren’t singing for you anymore,” Dru crooned but Darla waved her off.

 

“So what do you say, Angelus? Will you stand with me and find the Old One that holds the key to releasing you from your curse?”

 

The Brachen shifted closer then and Darla turned to face him. “There are two things wrong with your plan, babe. First Angelus’ soul got made permanent a few years back and from the fish out of water expression on your face I can guess you know that both the human  and the demon had to consent for that to happen.” he grinned. “And secondly you can’t find something that isn’t lost.”

 

Darla sneered. “And what is that supposed to mean?”

 

“I’m pretty sure he means that you should always guard all your entrances, luv.” a familiar voice purred from behind her and Darla whirled, only to find Spike leaning against the cage while the boy that she’d seen when she’d taken the woman lounged on top of it, his green eyes fixed on her face as the missing hyenas held her minions at bay.

 

--------

 

It had taken every inch of Jessica’s self-control to hold still when she’d caught sight of Spike. She’d guessed that Xander wouldn’t be far behind and her son hadn’t disappointed her even while the glittering emerald of his eyes made her shiver but this time Xander’s eyes didn’t hold the blankness that had terrified her the first time she’d seen them. Instead her son’s expression was mischievous in a way that Jessica had usually only seen before Xander did something that would likely drive Tony up the wall.

 

Jessica dragged her eyes away from the top of her cage where Xander was lying like a well-fed lion, focusing instead on Darla as the blonde’s face twisted into a bitter mask at Spike’s words.

 

The vampire quickly schooled her expression as the hyenas prowled away from her minions instead circling her like she was a bleeding human in a water full of sharks and Jessica could see the moment when the minions realized that with the animals’ attention focused on their Master they could take out the intruders.

 

The first vampire that charged Spike was dust before he touched the white haired man and as the ash fell Jessica’s eyes widened at the sight of Xander standing in front of Spike. Her son’s face was covered in strange marks that seemed to move as he snarled at the remaining vampires then as the minions hesitated Xander rushed them, dark nails flashing through the cloud of ash that fell over him as Spike guarded his back. And in that moment as she watched the smile on Spike’s face grow into something close to adoration every second that he could drag his eyes away from the vampires attacking them, Jessica understood why Spike had waited so long for her son. This wasn’t just love, it was worship and the way that Xander angled his body towards Spike while he slashed his way through vampire after vampire made it clear that he was focused on his partner....that Spike even in the midst of a life and death battle was the center of his attention.

 

The sound of a high pitched laugh drew Jessica’s attention and she turned just in time to watch the dark haired woman’s face shift as she plunged her fangs into the neck of one of the minions while the short man staked another vampire that was trying to sneak up on them. The taller man who had accompanied them was fending off several of the vampires that were still fighting to get to their Master but a few of them seemed to have fled.

 

The thought had barely created itself when a clang against the metal made Jessica spin around but her movement was halted as something wrapped tight in her hair, snapping her head back and she scrambled at the cage but the person holding her was much stronger than she was and Jessica couldn’t bite back the cry of pain that was ripped from her throat as she was yanked from the cage.

 

---------------

 

Xander’s eyes narrowed at the sound of his mother’s voice and he dug his claws into the chest of the last minion, barely noticing the falling ash, as he spun on his heel, lips pulling up into a snarl while he watched a vampire drag his mother from the cage that had kept her separated from the fight. He took a step forward but Spike’s hand on his wrist made him pause and take in the way the minion’s eyes were darting from him to Darla and the grip the idiot had on his mother, large fingers spanning her throat. Xander knew that all that was needed was a moment of distraction and the fucker could break his mother’s neck.

 

The rumble of displeasure that echoed from him made the hyenas pause in their circling as the minion’s lips curled into a nervous smile, beady eyes focusing on Xander.

 

“Call them off or I’ll kill her,” he spat and Xander bared his teeth at him, savoring the way the scent of fear ramped up even as the creature inhaled an unneeded breath.

 

“It looks like we’re at a bit of an impasse,” Darla purred, eyes locked on Xander’s. “What will you do? It’s my life or your mother’s.”

 

“D-don’t...” Jessica managed to choke out before the grip on her throat tightened and Xander took another step forward but the minion stepped back, dragging Jessica with him.

 

“I said to call them off!” he yelled.

 

Xander exhaled slowly and tugged on the bond that he could feel linking him to the pack watching as one by one they started moving away from Darla.

 

The minion grinned and Xander’s heart skipped a beat as he watched the fingers around his mother’s neck tighten while behind the vampire something shifted in the shadows.

 

“You know I expected better from someone that spent so much time around William,” Darla laughed as she strolled towards the vampire holding Jessica hostage. “Rule one of the vampire world is never believe anything your opponent says and now I hold all the cards, so if you would be so kind, Spike, send your little pet over here and don’t try anything funny.”

 

“Darla, stop this. You can’t get rid of my soul, no matter what spell you try.” Angel called and Darla paused, a sneer marring her face.

 

“True as that may be, it doesn’t mean I can’t go back to a time before you got cursed with one and ensure it doesn’t happen and all I need is the power of an Old One to do it.”

 

Spike’s fingers tightened around Xander’s wrist as he stepped forward but finally he released him and Xander took another step towards Darla. In his chest something was beating like the wings of a hummingbird but Xander ignored it as he walked towards the blonde vampire.

 

Two things happened when Darla reached out and grabbed his arm, the vampire holding Jessica exploded into dust and Xander barely had time to catch sight of Buffy emerging from the shadows when the thing in his chest ripped its way out of him.

 

--------------

 

Spike was racing towards Xander the second the vampire holding jessica hostage was dust but a wave of magic flowing from the boy’s body flung him back as green mist flooded from Xander’s mouth and eyes, wrapping around Darla as the vampire began to scream. The mist pulsed brighter and brighter as the hyenas began to circle the two, their cackling laughter rising in the silence that had settled. Then the alpha, the one Xander called little sister, that had been created from the energies the others left behind, leapt across the wall of magic. The moment her body hit the mist, it seemed to collapse in on itself before exploding, magic washing over everyone as it forced them back and the sound of screams and cries echoed through the enclosure as the hyenas bayed, adding their voices to the cacophony.

 

Spike barely managed to catch Xander as the boy was flung away from the center of the explosion but when he looked back, the alpha and Darla were gone.

----------------

 

Darla hit the ground hard enough to rattle her bones but she let her fall turn into a roll as she sprang to her feet, stilling at her unfamiliar surroundings. She seemed to be in a cave of some sort and the walls around her stank with the scent of rotted flesh and old blood. Stopping her breath, she turned in a tight circle, eyes narrowing when she caught sight of the lone hyena standing before her.

 

The creature was watching her like Darla was the animal, its head tilted to the side and Darla bared her teeth at it but the hyena seemed unimpressed.

 

Finally it appeared to grow bored of their staring match and it yawned, sharp teeth glinting in the hear darkness.  A thick green light sparked along its fur and Darla took a step back as the hyena’s form seemed to warp, growing until a woman stood before her. The woman’s dark hair hung around her waist and her mismatched eyes watched Darla shrewdly. The energy within the cave seemed to thrum with each of the woman’s breaths and Darla didn’t need anyone to her that this was the Old One she’d sought to kill.

 

The Old One took a step closer, her lips drawing up into a slow smile as she drew her hand against the dark wall. Suddenly a wave of sound burst from behind Darla and she spun around just in time to watch the barrier that had held back the rest of the cave fall, leaving her on a precipice overlooking what appeared to be a war between every kind of demon that she’d ever come across and several that she didn’t know. Cries of agony and pain rent the air and bile rose in Darla’s throat as she watched creature after creature try to escape the pit only to fail.

 

“My Alexander was always such a precocious child....” The Old One’s voice recaptured Darla’s attention and she held still as the creature came closer. “He saw William and wanted him even as a human, so I did what any mother would do, I gave my child what he wanted and now what he wants is to protect those he loves and you are the only one standing in his way. So let me be judge, jury and executioner and for your crimes I sentence you to an eternity in a hell of your own making.....”

 

“You can’t!” Darla snarled, fingers curled into fist as she tried to take a step forward only to be blocked by the barrier surrounding the Old One.

 

“You will find I can.” the woman smirked. “I would say that it has been a pleasure to meet you, Darla but I would be lying. Though I do hope you enjoy your stay.....you’ll be here for a long time.”

 

The words were barely out of the woman’s mouth when the precipice crumbled beneath Darla’s feet sending her plummeting into the melee beneath her and as the demons clambered over her ripping into her skin and tearing flesh from her bones, her screams of agony were lost in the sound of battle.

 

--------------

 

Spike watched as Jessica and Xander embraced, off to the side the Slayer’s group was speaking with the Brachen half-breed as Dru swanned after the hyenas trying to get them to play with her but the Primals wisely avoided the insane vampire, despite her bribery and pouts of displeasure.

 

“I can’t say I’ve ever imagined you as a hero.”

 

Spike tensed at Angel’s voice, exhaling as he glanced at the older vampire.

 

“Ain’t no hero, mate.” he responded. “Just did what I had to do to keep my nummy happy.”

 

Angel inclined his head, glancing at Xander before his eyes flitted back to Spike’s noting the green glint lingering around the amber in Spike’s eyes. “And what about you, William. Are you happy?”

 

Spike paused, his eyes shifting to where Xander had pulled away from Jessica and was heading his way, a wide smile on his face. “You know what?” he whispered, his voice holding no taunt for his Grandsire just pure truth. “I think I am.”