*I can't believe I'm back in this
Godforsaken hell hole. I'm going to pummel Riley. If the big
doofus could have kept his mind on the mission and just tracked
the demon to its nest without enlisting the help of the Slayer,
I wouldn't be in this mess. Walsh used every kind of intelligence
and emotional stability test available to choose the members
of our squad, so how come Riley is such a moron? It has to be
that girl. I always knew she was peculiar. Why else would Riley
have almost ruined his career? She was the reason he stayed in
Sunnydale after the project folded and she was the reason he
was practically a basket case when he left. What is it about
Buffy Summers that makes sane men make bad choices? Sure, it
had to be hard,
Graham Miller squared his shoulders and considered the shop across the street from him. He wasn't going to make the incompetent errors Finn had. Showing up unannounced at Buffy's place of employment - getting her fired, if the reports were accurate. He had called Summers at home and requested to meet with her. She had been suspicious but had suggested he come by the magic shop tonight. The lit shop actually looked homey on the dark street. He could see the Slayer sitting on the counter and her friends crowed around the register looking at some book. He had no idea how they would react to the proposal, but figured they couldn't be anymore reluctant than he was. Taking a deep breath he crossed the street to the store.
Buffy tried to pay attention to Anya as she fussed over the seating arrangements. This was a normal-girl thing; planning weddings, talking about the dresses, trying to decide how to wear her hair. She had spent so much time since being called as the Slayer wanting to be normal-girl. Poor Xander, she thought, his eyes had glazed over and he was at the point of nodding and saying 'sure, honey' to everything Anya said. She knew Xander just wanted the wedding to be over, but Anya had invested so much time and emotion into this that the stress was showing on both of them.
Buffy found herself looking, really looking, at Xander for the first time in quite some time. She missed her goofy Xander-shaped friend. Xander-shaped had always meant tall and gangly, kind of awkward and full of nervous energy. He was still tall, and she wondered if he might now be taller than Angel. His shoulders and arms were massive and he moved with a quiet grace when he was working. It was funny how he slipped into that calm state when he was doing something he was good at. Buffy wondered what she would have been good at if she wasn't the Slayer.
She had found out this morning that after running out last night, she no longer had a job. How had Xander done it? Sure, she and Willow used to tease him all the time about his crappy jobs, but he was always working at least one until he settled into construction. How did he keep walking in and getting rejected? She had gotten fired from a Double Meat - there was nowhere lower to go.
The bell jangled on the door and Buffy looked up. She had almost, but not quite, succeeded in blocking out the meeting she had set up with Graham. It was bad enough to have Riley's oh-so-perfect life rubbed in her face last night but the last thing she needed was the Initiative back in town. Briefly, her thoughts flew to Spike. She had felt horrible breaking it off with him this morning. Their relationship, if it could be called that, had had all the stability of a train wreck, but she couldn't deny that Spike had the ability to make you feel like the only woman on earth. With him, she had been able to block out everything she didn't want to deal with, but the sad truth was that it was all still there and getting worse when you got through blocking it out.
She jumped down off the counter and after greeting Graham, nodded to the back so that they could have some privacy. Just before they left the front of the store thought, Willow came in carrying a large box.
"I picked up a gross, got a good deal for buying bulk just like you said," Willow said.
Xander took the box from her, set it on the table and opened it up reveling, disposable cameras. "Wills, this is great, thanks. We would never have got them in time if we had to have them shipped."
"Dawn and I had a great time driving up the coast. It was nice to have some alone time since..." Willow trailed off. She still felt guilty about endangering Dawn.
"Where is Dawn?" Buffy asked.
"She wanted to go home. I dropped her off. Don't worry she's with S-," Willow's eyes went wide as she recognized Graham, "William." She finished lamely.
"Oh, really?" Buffy was tempted to ditch the commando and head home. She didn't know what Spike was up to but no way was she letting him use Dawn to accomplish it.
"Buffy," Anya said. "Everything's all right, William," she stressed his name, "and Dawn spent quite a bit of time together when you were... on sabbatical. You've been working long hours lately. They have a movie night and heckle horror movies together about once a week."
"Yeah, Buff," Xander put in, "William and I don't see eye to eye on much of anything, but you got to admit he's like a pit bull, he never gives up and he's crazy about Dawn - she could only be safer if she was with you." Xander gave her a conspiratorial grin and added, "I kind of think that the Niblet reminds him of himself at that age."
Reluctantly, Buffy agreed and went into the back with Graham.
*Amateurs. Like I don't know that they were talking about Hostile 17. Come on, Riley was part of your team. You think we never debriefed him? We're the military, we live for filing reports. Hostile 17, Spike, William the Bloody, the demon-possessed corpse of William Covington, the only child to live to adulthood in a collateral branch of minor nobility. Born February 9th, 1855 and raised in a small townhouse in Bath, the last remaining property of a family with declining fortunes. Educated beyond his station, which given the family's financial state would have been as a office clerk for some more wealthy relative, if he hadn't died September 16th, 1880. We made the mistake, once, of thinking that all the corpses that clawed their way out of their graves were the same. It's not going to happen again.*
Buffy walked into the training room ahead of Graham and turned, crossed her arms and said, "You wanted to talk. Talk."
"First I want to apologize about last night. We had no right to drag you into the mission without full disclosure." Graham figured it couldn't hurt to break the ice by admitting they had been wrong.
"What's this we stuff? I wasn't helping the Initiative, I was helping Riley. I would help any friend who needed it and it's my job to keep demons from overrunning the Hellmouth. For whatever reasons, Riley," she stressed his name, "chose to keep me in the dark. Sam already explained that he did so on his own." She cocked her head and looked far too young to have survived half the things he knew she had and said, "Why are you here, Graham? Really?"
"When the Initiative started out, it was all about hunting hostiles. We never gave any credence to the mystical nature of the... creatures. What you call vampires," Graham noticed Buffy smirk at his reluctance to buy into all the folklore, "we treated as a parasite in a deceased body. Our objective was, originally, to contain the spread of, if not eradicate this hostile organism."
"Bullshit," she said, in an oddly perky voice.
"I beg your pardon." He watched as she effortlessly hopped up to sit on a balance beam, bringing her almost eye level with him.
"Don't feed me the party line, soldier boy. You forget, I was part of your little boy's club until Mommy Dearest decided she didn't like the competition for sonny's attention. Last night, Riley said that the cargo," she hesitated as if unsure of the term, "which was being traded on the black market, was considered a bio weapon, uncontrollable but deadly. Maggie Walsh wasn't Jane Goodall. She didn't want to study 'hostiles' in their native environment. She wanted a long-lived, intelligent, killing machine and don't tell me you don't want the same thing."
"We're not doing the behavior modification experiments anymore. We're not bioengineering our own people either. The task force is only part of an organization committed to keeping the supernatural in check. We know you've been doing that here - all we're saying is we would like to share information with you."
"You've bugged my home, tapped my phone, followed me day and night - how much more information do you want?" Buffy jumped down and stepped up, and he was startled by how tiny this forceful woman was.
"Riley had us pull all of that when he left." Graham said.
"Graham?" she said sweetly.
"How did Riley know where to find me last night?"
Graham blinked, hesitated, and then opted for the truth, "We pulled your Social Security records."
Buffy turned away and began to pace. She stopped and looked at him. "I don't follow orders. Not, I don't follow orders well, just, I don't follow orders."
"We realize that."
"What would you be brining to the table?"
"Your information sucks, and frankly, I'm not sure I trust the source." Buffy was frowning again.
"Weapons, equipment, reinforcements," he noticed she was about to protest and added hastily, "only at your request."
"So, I would just call and place an order for cool high-tech toys as needed?" she said.
"Not exactly. We would have someone here, on your team, and you would keep them apprised of anything... odd, which could effect areas outside of Sunnydale." He didn't want to know what she would consider odd.
"You're going to pay someone to hang around here and spy?" Buffy said.
"Since you would be aware of them and be informing them of what was going on, it really won't be spying," Graham said.
"Do you have dental?"
Xander said he would take a lap around the town center with her, for old times. They had fallen into a companionable silence, each lost in their own thoughts. Buffy was wondering what he was thinking. The wedding was Saturday. It was so hard to realize that Xander was all grown up. It seemed just yesterday that he was holding up the stake she had dropped and saying, "The only thing I can think is that you're building a really little fence." He caught her looking at him and gave her a goofy grin.
"Nervous?" she asked.
"Yeah, I really don't want to screw up," he said, but he still smiled.
"You're really, really happy, aren't you?" She stopped and considered the air of contentment that had settled over him since being dragged away from the pressure of planning.
"Yeah, I am." He stopped too, hands in his pockets. In the light of the street lamp, Buffy looked at his happy eyes and the small scar on his forehead. She knew he had gotten it slaying and was trying to remember if it was from the time Spike had kidnapped him. She felt guilty being so wrapped up in her own problems that she hadn't taken the time to appreciate her friend's joy. He had been by her side through so much and she was painfully reminded of the promise they had all made after Adam, to be better friends.
"I'm happy for you, Xan." She couldn't remember if she had told him that.
"So, tell me about the bachelor party plans," she said trying to shake the feeling that she was somehow losing him.
"No, no, bachelor party are so nineties. The new thing is for the groom and his buddies to take a weekend before the wedding and go golfing or some manly activity. Sort of a last bonding experience before he leaves the pack," he joked.
"Oh, really? Well, I'm so behind the times. Did you?" she asked.
"I don't golf and all my friends are girls...er, women. Anya was oddly reluctant for me to go away with you all for a weekend - don't know why," he teased.
"What about the guys from work?" she asked.
"Oh, we all went out for pasta last Friday. They all brought their wives and girlfriends, except for Mike, who brings his 'cousin' Al with him to all the couples events. It was nice," Xander said
"You're really getting married," Buffy said.
"I'm really getting married," he laughed.
*This is so Willow's fault! I can't believe she talked me into this!* Buffy hopped into her stocking and noticed a run. *Poo, poo, poo!* She pulled them off, pushed past Willow who was already dressed and went into Dawn's room.
"You could knock!" Dawn said.
"I need pantyhose, now," Buffy said.
"Don't panic," Dawn went to a drawer and handed Buffy a pair of stockings. "God, Buffy, you're not the one getting married."
"We're going to be late," she said as she sat on Dawn's unmade bed to carefully put on the nylons.
"We have plenty of time." Dawn was pulling her long hair up on her head and Buffy, briefly, regretted cutting hers. "I'm going to be the youngest one there, aren't I? Do you think anyone besides Xander and Spike will dance with me?"
"Spike's coming to the wedding?!" Buffy stood and crossed to where Dawn was sitting in front of her vanity and met her sister's eyes in the mirror. "Why is Spike coming to the wedding?"
"Don't worry, you don't have to sit with him, he's on the bride's side. I think he's going with Hallie." Dawn held up a pair of dangling earrings. "What about these?" she said.
"The vengeance demon?" Buffy said.
"Anya prefers justice demon. Buffy, the earrings?" Dawn persisted.
Buffy smiled at her sister in the mirror. "Too much. If you promise to be careful, you can wear Mom's pearl ones."
By the time Buffy found the earrings for Dawn, she was just zipping up her bridesmaid dress when Willow came in and said, "Graham's here. Are you sure you don't want Dawn and I to take a separate car?"
"This is not a date," Buffy didn't like the look in her friend's eye. Giving up magic had given Willow way too much time on her hands and she had been playing matchmaker ever since Buffy had agreed to a trial run of working with the unnamed-but-not-the-Initiative agency Graham claimed to represent. He was coming to the wedding with them to mainly see how well he could adjust to the various group members. If it meant that Buffy had a handsome man on her arm when she ran into Cordelia Chase, well, she had no control over that.
*Did she tell me to bring weapons? No! She said this is just to see how I fit into the group dynamic. This goes beyond hazing. We're in demon central. I can't even classify most of these species. I bet the human-looking ones aren't human. No human can drink as much alcohol as that 'uncle' of the groom. Hostile 17 is squiring some girl around who is making even the Slayer nervous. At least I think she's nervous; that has to be the reason she keeps grabbing my arm, right? Like now. Oh, shit what the hell is that? It may look like a beautiful woman but judging by Buffy's reaction this could get ugly. Are they smiling or gritting their teeth?*
"Buffy? Wow, your hair. It was such a good decision. The low-maintenance look is so much more convenient for your lifestyle."
"Cordy, that dress. Aren't second-hand stores wonderful? It really helps the budget."
Graham sized up the male with the demoness. He was tall and athletically built. Something about his eyes was off, but he seemed to be content to let his mate engage the Slayer.
"Where are my manner? Groo, this is Buffy Summers and ..."
"Graham Miller," Buffy said.
"Ah, Buffy you are a great warrior I have heard of your triumphs from my new Earth friends," the young man said.
*Earth? I don't want to know. I don't want to know. I couldn't have gotten that assignment in the Middle East?*
"Earth?" Buffy said.
"Groo is from Pylea, he came to fulfill his destiny," Cordelia said.
"Which is?" Buffy asked.
"To be with me," Cordelia said smugly.
"Doesn't Xander look great?" Buffy said.
So far Graham had been too much
of a gentleman to call Buffy on using him as a shield. It was
bad enough that Spike was rebounding faster than her-well, at
least he didn't show up with Harmony, or Dru-but Cordy had to
go all glamour girl and not only come looking like a movie star
but with some
The ceremony was backwards from
any she had been to before. Dinner and dancing came first, then
speeches and finally the justice of the peace would legalize
the marriage. Anya wanted the demon traditions observed. Poor
Graham, Buffy had thought about warning him beforehand but was
afraid he might do something stupid and ruin Xander's wedding.
She looked out on the dance floor. Tara and Willow were dancing;
she couldn't wait to talk to Will and see how things were going.
Tara was good for her and Buffy hoped that they would make it
though this rough patch. Spike was dancing with Dawn and
As the music died down, a small
gong was stuck and Willow crossed to a microphone. She started
to talk about friendship and what having Xander in her life had
meant. She then talked about growing up and forming more intimate
partnerships. She talked about Anya and how she had been a good
influence on Xander and how much joy she felt at seeing her best
friend so happy. She wrapped it up by presenting the new couple
with a set of fine champagne glasses and hoping that they would
toast their anniversary for
Willow struck the gong again and Halifax stepped up to the mike. Her shifting to demon form almost caused Graham to almost show an emotion, Buffy thought. Hallie talked about Anyanka, a girl who had been unlucky in love but who had forged a formidable reputation in her craft. She talked about mistakes and lessons learned. She talked about the fine tradition of delivering justice on those who merited it. She crossed to the couple and handed Anya a small silver box, turned back to the assembled guests and touched her necklace before vanishing in a puff of smoke.
Some of the humans applauded, thinking it was a trick and part of the entertainment. Tara crossed to Buffy and said, "Is that what I think it is?"
Buffy wondered if the feeling of foreboding she had was due to her being the Slayer or just plain old experience. Spike was nearby still standing next to Dawn. He was looking around warily as if trying to decide which table to shove the girl under if things got dicey.
"You just had to bring her here, didn't you?" Buffy hissed.
Spike turned. He took a moment to glare at Graham and then said, "She brought me. I'm not one to go out much in the day, but she showed up at my crypt and said Anya wanted me here. Maybe you should clear out, little bit," he said to Dawn.
"What? No! Guys, what's going on?" She clutched at Spike's shirt. It was a rich, blue velvet the color of his eyes. Buffy realized he was wearing new boots and leather pants. She was irrationally angry that he had let her feel guilty for blowing up his stuff.
"What is it that you think that... thing, gave to the bride, and why do you think it's dangerous?" Graham asked.
This was the first time Graham had addressed Tara and she blinked, blushed, looked down and mumbled to Buffy, "I'll get Willow to take Dawn home."
"But they haven't exchanged the rings or anything," Dawn said.
Buffy turned to look at the couple. Xander held the champagne glasses in one hand, his other gently touching Anya's cheek. Anya had opened the box, and her eyes were filled with tears. Buffy couldn't read lips, but she could tell when Anya lifted her gaze from what was in the box to Xander that the words she said were, "I love you, Xander." She saw Xander smile and lean in and kiss his bride. For one moment, one perfect moment, Buffy believed that everything was going to be fine. She looked away just to wipe a tear and saw Cordelia and her date pushing people, humans and demons, out the exit. Angel had said Cordy had some sort of second sight. Cordy's tear-filled eyes met hers and she shook her head. Buffy turned back to Xander and Anya just in time to see Anya resume her demon form.
Xander stepped back. There was no fear or even disgust at her demon guise, only a sad acceptance. Tears fell from his eyes. Buffy pushed Dawn to Willow and headed over to the bridal table. She felt Graham follow her and wondered if she should tell him to get to safety. "Anya?" she said, once she was close enough not to yell. Anyanka seemed reluctant to tear her dark-eyed gaze from the broken-hearted man in front of her. Gone was the wacky girl who Buffy had come to think of, if not as a friend, then as a member of the weird little family that they had going. This was a demon, over a millennium old. She could only hope that her little sojourn into humanity had tempered Anya's need for vengeance. "What are you going to do?"
"Do?" Her voice scraped Buffy's ears like fingernails on a chalk board and seemed to be made up of many voices as she turned to face the Slayer.
Spike sauntered over and Buffy wanted to kick him when he taunted, "That's right, do. Remember all your plans, how you were going to destroy them all for not helping you when you wanted them to? Seem to remember you and me talking about offing our respective others one night at the Bronze."
Anya whirled back to Xander and asked in that eerie demonic voice, "You don't think I would hurt you, do you?"
Xander reached for her check, now lined and sporting maggots. His hand hovered just next to it and his broken whisper was so soft the Buffy almost didn't hear it, "I can't imagine you doing anything more painful than leaving me. You're leaving me, aren't you?"
"Xander, I promise you, everything will be fine." She reached up and brushed back his hair with a taloned hand, jerking it back quickly when she drew blood at his temple.
"Don't you dare," his voice was now more forceful and his dark eyes flashed with anger. "Don't you dare trivialize this. You, me - we meant something. I don't want you wishing it away. I earned this pain. If you brush it away like...like Willow's Lethe spell then what we had was nothing."
"Xander!" Buffy was hoped that Xander would get control of himself. This wasn't the same girl he had been arguing about the seating arrangements with, this demon could destroy them all painfully with a wave of her hand.
"Yeah, Xander," Spike drawled, "she hasn't started to deal out your pain yet."
"Spike, shut up!" Buffy said. The reception hall was deserted except for the five of them. Buffy wondered if anyone would be safe. No matter where Willow and Tara took Dawn, Anya could find them if she wanted to.
Anya looked over. It was hard to
read her expression in demon guise but she looked annoyed. She
gestured imperiously and Buffy found her self falling. She had
a moment of panic, remembering the freefall from the tower before
landing hard on a surprisingly soft something. Unfortunately,
for Graham that something was him. Buffy jumped up in a fighting
stance, only to find herself in her own living room. She looked
around. Everything seemed normal. Graham was holding his ribs
as he rose from the floor. Xander and Spike were not with them.
Buffy ran to the door and out onto the porch only to see Tara
"How did you get here so fast?" Dawn said.
"Anyanka." Buffy met Willow's eyes.
Willow had that same lost what-is-there-for-me-to-do look she had the night Jessie had died when she asked, "Xander?"
Without a word they bolted for the car. Graham dove into the back seat while the car was moving and Buffy didn't slow down. The reception hall was close and she was swinging into the drive in less than five minutes. They ran into the seemingly empty hall. The place was a mess tables were overturned and the bridal dais had collapsed. Buffy and Willow checked every square foot of the floor, but Xander was nowhere to be seen.
Spike groaned. His head hurt - worse than the worst hangover he'd ever had, worse than when the chip went off, worse than when they'd put the bloody thing in, worse than when he had risen from the dead alone and hungry because Drucilla had toddled off to talk to the bleeding moon. Gradually, he became aware of his surroundings. Instead of a cold hard sarcophagus, he lay on something soft, wrapped in warmth. A familiar spicy scent tickled his nose and coaxed forth his demon visage. He turned toward that tantalizing aroma, feeling the soft warmth shift but not pull away. Tentatively, he licked the source of the smell. Human blood, not fresh but still vibrant and alluring, tingled along his taste buds. As his tongue rasped along the clotted gash fresh blood seeped out of the wound and Spike wrapped himself around this treasure.
The pain in his head faded. The memory of Buffy's reluctant affection and all-too-soon abandonment ceased to jab at his weakest points. The helplessness of the chip and the frustration of having no control over his existence all ceased to matter as he embraced this unresisting food source. As the flow of blood slowed he pulled back with impatience and without considering the chip, bit deep into the thick muscle that connected the neck to the shoulder. He had intentionally gone for a non-fatal spot hoping to make wonderful flavor last as long as possible, but as he licked away the blood that rose to the surface he remembered the chip.
Startled, he pulled back. No pain. The chip was gone, or at least malfunctioning. He had always liked Anya. His vampiric sight showed him the lax, lean form of an unconscious Xander Harris. The memory of the fiasco of a wedding came rushing back. Looking around, he realized he was in the boy's bedroom. He had been to Xander's apartment a couple of times over the summer, while Buffy had been dead. It looked different; wine-red silk sheets, fresh flowers, unlit candles and heavy curtains. He smiled. The bridal suite. He knew they had a honeymoon planned, but had not intended to leave that night. This is where the whelp had intended to bring his bride. Throwing back the bedding he discovered he lay naked with Xander. Spike took a moment, to lick his lips and appreciate the potent taste of the man. Had he known the boy tasted like this he would have killed him long ago.
He grinned, thinking he would have to thank the demon bint, not only for getting rid of the chip for him but for the tasty treat she had left for him to recover with. Spike lunged for Xander's neck and was thrown off the bed in a shower of blue sparks that crackled around his body as he writhed in agony on the floor. Xander remained blissfully unaware of the screaming vampire on the floor.
Just as the pain receded enough for him to think about opening his eyes he heard Anya sounding human and exasperated. "You really are a moron. Maybe I should find someone smarter? There was that large, glowery man from Thanksgiving... although he didn't seem much brighter." Spike opened his eyes to see Anya, radiant in her bridal white, sitting beside the unconscious body of her lover, stroking his thick dark hair. She looked at him with such love, frowning at the gash on his temple and the fresh bite on his shoulder. "That is the last time you will ever bite him with out his permission, understand?"
The rustle of silk and taffeta swished along the floor as she stood and walked over to tower above Spike. "Hear me, William Nigel Covington. You know me. You know who I am and what I am capable of. Know well, should any harm befall my Xander, you will beg to be cast into hell. There is nowhere you can hide that I can not find you and no length I will not go to for justice. Are we clear?"
Spike nodded frantically. The fact that she hadn't shed her human form once during her threat made her that much more ominous. She pivoted around in a swirl of crinolines and returned to her beloved. Tears began to stream down her pretty human face as she traced his lips with her finger tips. "It's not fair. I could be just as good at vengeance if I kept him. D'Hoffren said, I can't even kiss him good bye. He's such a good kisser. He used to make me tingle in parts I didn't know I had." She brought her finger tips to her own lips and sighed.
"What did you do?" Spike rasp out as he pulled himself up into a seated position. "What did you do to me?"
Anya didn't even turn to him, she was totally absorbed in Xander. "Took out the chip, silly. I promised I would if I ever got my center of power back, remember?"
"What the hell was that light show, you stupid bint?" Spike snarled, using the dresser to pull himself into a standing position.
"That's what will happen if you ever try to hurt him. You're smart enough to learn not to do it after the first hundred shocks or so. Oh, and that headache you woke with, nothing to do with the chip removal - just a taste of what will happen if you ever abandon him. Xander is now your responsibility, you'll have to keep him safe. Or suffer the consequences." Anya stood as if to leave.
"Wait," Spike looked around the room desperately, hoping to stall until he thought of something, like a way to get the bloody necklace off her. "What if you hurt him? I can't protect him from you, will you still dust me?"
"I would never hurt Xander. He loved me. He took care of me. He..." She looked back at the man on the bed, eyes blurring again with tears.
Spike sidled up to her and whispered seductively. "He gave you his heart and you bit into it and sucked the life out of him. Bet it felt good to see the pain in his eyes as you scorned him, as you took all he had to offer and cast it down like so much trash. He's such a vulnerable one, I can see what you liked about him. So fierce and protective of his loved ones, but soft and easy to manipulate. Admit it, you planned this from the beginning. Now, all that's left is the finale. Will he be slitting his wrists? 'Cause I wouldn't mind another taste of that. No, he's a Harris, guess you just plan to let him drink himself into an early grave. Bitter, alone.."
Spike hit the wall with a resounding crack and Anya stood in demon form, her talons dripping with his blood. "You're too dumb to live. You really thought that I would let you get your cold, dead hands on my center of power? Xander will be fine, I've seen to that. You, on the other hand, can be replaced, so I suggest you try and keep in his good graces," she said and vanished.
Spike walked into the bathroom
and used a hand towel to stop the blood flow from his chest.
He went into the kitchen and was surprised to find that the refrigerator
was full of fresh food and one of the crisper drawers was packed
with human blood in bags. He heated two units and finished drinking
it in Xander's bedroom as he looked around for his clothes. He
found the leather pants Hallie had dressed him in neatly folded
next to Xander's tux and put them on. While he was in the living
room looking for his shirt he
Cordelia and her date came into the hall while Buffy and Willow were searching and said "He's gone."
"Do you know where to?" Buffy asked.
Cordy got a far away look in her eyes and said, "Ew, he's naked with Spike in a large four poster bed. Apartment 3B at..."
"His apartment," Willow started dragging Buffy back out to the car.
"Wow," Cordelia said as she followed them, "Xander sure has filled out since high school."
"You can stop looking, Cordelia," Buffy said.
They all piled into Graham's car since it was the largest. Buffy watched the frustrated commando clenching his jaw as she gave him directions to Xander's place, but he remained silent. Once they arrived, Willow fumbled with her purse as they ran the stairs, too impatient to wait for the elevator. She pulled out a key and unlocked the door.
"God, its his wedding day and you two are still inseparable," Cordelia said. "No wonder she left him to go smite men again. Did he even ask her how she felt about you having a key to his place?"
"Let it go, Cordy," Willow said, rushing to the bedroom.
Graham and Groo hung back in the living room as the women went in. Xander's arm was thrown across Spike's bare chest. The blonde's eyes were wide open. He was staring at the ceiling cursing softly, in what sounded like several different languages. One of Xander's legs was draped over Spike's thigh and wrapped around the leg nearest him. Thankfully, Buffy thought, Xander's genitals were concealed by Spike's body, although she noticed Cordelia moving to get a better look at Xander's ass.
Spike glared at Buffy when she came closer. For some reason she wanted to laugh, but didn't. "I hate you. I hate you, your town, your friends. Who in their right mind marries the patron saint of scorned women? I ask you, was the moron born without a survival instinct? And if so, how the hell had he lived so long in Sunnyhell?"
Willow circled around and ignoring her green taffeta scooted onto the bed. She stroked Xander's hair and examined the gash on his head. That didn't appear to be what was making him unconscious. Her hands fluttered down from his face to his body as she frantically checked him for bruises. Finally she said, "I think there's some sort of spell on him."
"Ya think?" Spike said. He reached up and pushed her off the bed.
Willow sprawled in the billows of her skirt, then looked up in shock and said, "The chip."
Buffy looked around frantically for a stake. Not thinking she would need one for a daylight wedding she didn't have one on her. She knew Xander probably kept stakes in his apartment but didn't know where they were.
"Wouldn't do it, Slayer." Spike said, lifting Xander's arm and rising from the bed.
"Why not?" Buffy said.
"Come on, Buffy, you're no more a blonde than I am, think about it. The demon bint, she went to a lot of trouble, could have dusted me herself, but she didn't." Spike spotted his duster hanging on the back of the door. He reached in the pocket and pulled out his lighter. Fishing around for his smokes he came up empty. "Would it be too much to expect one thing to go right?" he yelled at the ceiling.
Willow crawled back onto the bed looking worried. "Buffy, he didn't even twitch."
"Call Tara," Buffy said.
Cordelia handed Willow her cell phone and sat down next to Xander on the side Spike had been on. She brushed back his hair on the side of his head closest to Willow and whispered, "Why does it always happen to you?"
Xander turned away from her toward the hand she had trailed down along his face. He rolled onto his back, still deeply asleep or in a coma, revealing the bite mark. Cordelia gasped and whirled to her feet, "You bastard! You bit him. You are so dusted." Unarmed, she advanced on him with nothing but attitude and a beaded Prada bag.
"What?" Buffy shoved Spike into the wall. Cordelia shoved Spike out of the bedroom. The women advanced on the vampire with murder in their eyes.
Spike scrambled behind Graham and Groo and said, "Hold on, that's not my fault! Blame the demon bint."
"Anya bit Xander?" Buffy said. "Come on, Spike, you can do better than that."
"No, you silly cow, she arranged it, wanted it, set me up. Stupid vengeance wench, blood-bonded me to the tosser. If it had been my choice, he'd be dead, you know that," Spike said. He circled, keeping the men between himself and the women.
Graham wondered if this were all some elaborate setup to mess with the new guy. Their best scientists had sworn that the chip couldn't be removed short of killing the subject. Of course, for the first sixteen trials they had sworn it could be put in without killing the subject. Apparently, whatever sort of demon the brunette was she was at least as scary to vampires as the Slayer.
"Shall I rip his head off, my Queen?" her companion asked.
"Not until I'm sure it won't hurt Xander," the demoness said. She walked over to a phone and dialed a long distance number. "Wes, what do you know about blood-bonds? Really.....ewwww, um hum ....how sure are you of that? Let me talk to daddy dearest." While she waited, she turned and glared at the vampire. When whoever it was she was waiting for got on the line she said, "Short version: Junior says he was cursed by a vengeance demon to be blood-bonded with Xander. Well, I'm certainly glad you find this amusing. I assure you that neither Buffy nor I do. Of course, I'm serious! Do you think I would be calling because I'm bored? I'm with Groo, remember?" She listened for a while, then turned away. Her voice was much softer and Graham barely heard her whisper, "Angel, I'm scared. I saw him unconscious, but I didn't see him wake up...what if...No, no, I don't think you could do anything here. You should stay with Connor. We'll call if we have any questions. Which I can't do if you forget and shut off you cell phone, okay? Bye."
She turned back to the room and addressed Buffy, "Spike might, just might, be telling the truth. Wes said it's rare but a vampire can ... feed from a human and... well, there's usually sex involved." Both women looked uneasily toward the bedroom. She was interrupted by a knock on the door. Buffy went to answer it.
Graham walked into the bedroom.
The groom lay almost dead center in the middle of a large bed
surrounded by dark red sheets. He seemed paler than he had been
when he had whisked Buffy onto the dance floor earlier. His happiness
had lit up the reception hall. Riley had talked about Xander.
Finn had admitted to reluctant admiration for the untrained kid
who had been fighting alongside the Slayer for years. The tiny
red-haired witch, who according to Sam no longer practiced magic,
cradled Xander's head in her lap and traced her fingers over
a fresh vampire bite. Tears fell from her eyes and she whispered,
"I love you, please wake up," over and over. Graham
didn't know Willow, but her speech at the wedding had touched
him. These two had been closer than family almost since birth.
Graham thought about all the
He didn't know what to say and hadn't figured out what exactly was going on, but he sat next to the friends and ventured an idea, "You know, I really am lost here, but that woman, the bride, she looked like she really loved him. Even after she didn't look human anymore I could see... I don't think she would hurt him."
Willow looked up at him and nodded. Suddenly she looked relieved and Graham wondered if it were a delayed reaction to his words until she said, "Tara."
Graham stood to make room for the other witch who blushed and stammered, "Could you?" Her gesture toward the naked man clued him in and Graham picked the comforter up off the floor and draped it over the lower half of Xander's body.
The others came into the room, Buffy dragging Spike by the ear, while her sister argued for leniency toward the vampire. If this was the Scooby idea of a social occasion, Graham wondered if they had any openings on the suicide squad. Riley was so dead.
Tara held a blue crystal on a fine silver chain. She dangled it above each of Xander's chakras, noting where it spun fast and where it eddied. Frowning, she stood and walked over to the mirrored dresser. She touched a woman's jewelry box, a perfume bottle and two champagne glasses. She turned back and crossed back to the bed. Kneeling next to it she put her mouth next to the sleeping man's ear and whispered, "Non somulus."
Dark lashes fluttered and lean muscles move under golden skin. Xander stretched his arms above his head and his legs kicked the covers low enough that Buffy let go of Spike's ear to cover Dawn's eyes. He opened sleepy eyes and smiled. "Hi."
Willow squealed and hugged him. Tara kissed his cheek. Dawn threw herself at him, ignoring Buffy's shriek of, "He's naked." The brunette demoness just laughed and dove onto the bed with them all, headless of her designer dress. Buffy finally shrugged and climbed into the bed also. She kissed Xander on the forehead and whispered, "Don't you ever do that again."
Hostile 17 seemed to think that
this was a good opportunity to sneak away and backed out of the
bedroom. Before Graham could follow the vampire, Spike clutched
his head as if the chip were still there. He swore colorfully
and glared at Graham with bloodshot yellow eyes. The vampire
walked slowly back
Graham heard Xander saying softly, "I can't believe she's gone." He turned back to see the young man being fawned over by the women and girl.
The dark-haired demoness was rubbing his bare thigh and saying, "I'm so sorry, Xan. For what it's worth, Anya looked really happy, right up until she dumped you."
Willow glared violent death at the demoness and hugged Xander, resting her head on his shoulder, "We love you, Xander. We'll always love you." Tara merely nodded and tightly held his hand.
"We'll be here for you, Xander. Whatever you need," Buffy said, putting an arm around his neck.
Dawn added, "If you have too many painful memories here, you can move in with us." She turned just as the vampire drew close to where she was sitting on the edge of the bed. "Spike will take you out to the Bronze and do guy things, until you find a new and better girlfriend - one who won't remove your genitals...er, she didn't did she?
"No," Willow, Buffy and Tara all said together.
"What did I say?" Dawn asked.
Xander laughed. It was a tired defeated sound so unlike his earlier happiness that Graham was tempted to join in the stroking and petting that Xander's entourage seemed unaware that they were doing. All of them seemed to have to touch him in some way. It started to seem more than just reassuring themselves that the young man was alive and well. The vampire reached out and lifted Xander chin until he looked him in the eyes. Confusion crossed Xander's face and Buffy slapped Spike's hand away, but not before Graham saw the pain leave the vampire's now blue-eyes.
"You and me, whelp, we're gonna have a talk," Spike said.
"No way," Buffy said and glared at Spike.
Xander broke their staring contest by asking, "Can I have some aspirin?"
"I know where it is," Dawn jumped up and headed for the kitchen.
"That demon of yours," Spike said. "She left you a present. Seems she didn't want any of the oogidy boogidies to get you, so she left you a big, bad watch dog to keep them away."
The vampire's words didn't clear away any of Xander's apparent confusion. Dawn was back holding out aspirin and a glass of ice water as tribute to their newly risen god. Xander seemed to be uncomfortable with all the attention he was getting and began to look nervous. "Um, guys...could you...I'd kind of like to get dressed."
"Will be right outside," Willow said as she crawled off the bed.
"Hey, Xan," the demoness added, tugging on the comforter he now clutched to his waist, "you turned into a real hottie."
Buffy just rolled her eyes as she ushered Dawn out into the living room. Spike tried to stay in the bedroom but Buffy turned back and grabbed his arm. The vampire shook her off and growled. "Back off, Slayer," he said.
"You're not staying. Xander, Anya removed Spike's chip." Buffy reached again for the vampire and he dodged away, further into the bedroom.
"Why?" Xander asked.
"I'm going to talk to the whelp, private like," Spike snarled.
"Not unchipped you're not," Buffy said.
"Can't hurt him, sodding cow saw to that, makes the chip look like a picnic," Spike said.
"Really," Buffy radiated smugness, "then explain how you bit him."
Xander was out of the bed, in front of the mirror, before Graham even saw him start to move. Buffy averted her eyes and then kept glancing back as her friend examined the puncture wounds on his neck. Xander smacked the vampire. "You pervert, you always said you wouldn't bite me even if you could."
"Didn't know you were right, you are moist and delicious." Spike pulled a sheet off the bed and covered Xander's nudity while adding, "Give the man a spot of privacy, eh Slayer?"
Xander looked over his shoulder at Graham and then Buffy. "Go on, I'll be out soon. An wouldn't leave him here if he could hurt me."
As soon as the door closed Spike pinned Xander to the bed, "Not one bloody word," he growled out. Shifting to gameface he buried his nose in the crook of Xander's neck and inhaled his scent. He licked the bite mark, hoping for the spicy taste of Xander's blood. Xander squirmed ineffectually but kept quiet. Spike didn't dare risk getting zapped with that lightning storm again; it was worse than the rifles the Initiative had used. He shifted to his human face and pulled back to stare into the confused brown eyes of the man he'd been bonded to. This was a nightmare. He didn't dare let Xander get the upper hand. All the chip had threatened was pain, but to have pain coupled with a means to relieve it and he'd be as compliant as a trained poodle inside of a week. She'd kept it simple - try and hurt him and get zapped, don't try and don't get zapped. Try and leave and get pain until he touched you or you touched him, and always lurking in the back of his unchipped brain, was the lure Xander's blood. Spike wondered how far apart they could get if it were voluntary. Could Xander go to work without leaving Spike wracked with pain? Here and now, he was going to find a way to take control. The thought that two could play this pleasure verses pain game and his was his only hope.
Xander ceased his struggling and
Spike realized that Xander's movements had affected both of them.
The new leather pants which had fit a moment ago seemed far too
tight and Xander smelled strongly of arousal that had been oddly
absent when he had had the four women in bed with him. Spike
Spike stood and pulled Xander up into his arms, pressing their bodies back together. "Fancy me, Pet?" Xander looked ready to punch him so Spike added, "Better learn to like it, I got a feeling your girl didn't like the idea of you finding another woman."
"What?" Xander shook his head, confusion warring with the first sign of real fear, "She wouldn't do that.""We'll see, Pet," Spike purred. "I'm not going anywhere, that's for sure."
[Janus is also the god of beginnings and ending. It's been pointed out that this ending feels like the beginning of another series. La, la, la, la. Well it has that possibility but I'm lazy. Have you noticed? There's a lot of cool AU's out there, like: Xander the Vampire Slayer; The Liarverse; The Puppyverse. I guess I was trying to start a season six AU with more Josslike plots. Okay, Joss refuses to put Spike and Xander in bed together but I have to have some contribution right? So, I wrote this after seeing the preview of the Wedding episode. I was sulking cause I thought it was going to happen and I was still despondent that the Spud (I love that Riley term - Television Without Pity is the greatest!) didn't come back to Sunnydale a broken and battered man. So after the Riley returns episode - watched immediately after the Riley meltdown episode on FX - I decided that Buffy and Graham would make an amusing couple, but since I can't write het to save my life this happened. Wrapping up the ramble I'd like to through this open. Feel free to take a shot at Spike and Xander's reluctant beginning and subsequent dealing with Anya's gift. Xander is no longer able to become aroused by females and Spike is going to do his manipulative best to keep this nummytreat for himself. Or if you want work on the Buffy and Graham relationship, even if it just stays working it could be a hoot. Might be nice if someone started paying her, think stoic guy could negotiate her a stipend from the Watcher if she files weekly reports? Knock yourselves out but send me a copy 'cause I'm greedy. Eventually, even I might add to this once I finish what I was supposed to be working on.]