Rating: NC-17 (eventually)
Disclaimer: Joss, et al. own everyone you know from telly. I make no money from this.
FB: Duh. Why else would I bother writing it? LOL
Archive: If you want to, tell me. I’ll say yes.
Summary: Someone realizes they were stupid and tries to rectify the situation.
Warnings: Porny man-sex, angst (duh),
A/N: Not really sure of where this is going, but I’ll try to make it an interesting ride. LOL
All I Need
The darkness was far from absolute. That was all he thought as he slowly regained consciousness. The darkness wasn’t as dark as he’d expected it to be.
Or maybe it was simply that he’d become used to it while he’d been out.
Sure, that was it. It had to be.
Muscles ached, trying to scream in the night as he turned, shifted, attempted to sit up.
Too soon, he realized, even as the not-so-dark darkness swarmed up before his eyes and swallowed him whole.
* * * * *
He didn’t know how long he’d been out. Still wasn’t entirely clear about what had happened, how he’d ended up here in this place.
Dirt beneath his naked body, dry, lifeless. He could smell that much. Dirt that felt like… incredibly fine-grained sand but bore nothing of silica within it. There would be no making glass from it, no matter how many times lightning struck.
Not that there would be lightning. Not in this dry, desolate place. Hell, he couldn’t smell more than a lick of water, and even that was coming from… over there.
His eyes opened gingerly, head turning almost unbearably slowly as he waited for abused muscles to object. Those same eyes opened wider still at the blatant lack of pain or tenderness.
It took mere moments to struggle up from the ground, his ass still firmly planted on the dead ground as he sat and stared.
Bonfire. Demons. Antelope bladder bag being passed around, and that’s where the small tinge of water-scent came from, he realized, his nostrils flaring slightly.
A loud, joking shout in a language he knew and didn’t know, and he remembered.
“Right,” he whispered, overly dry lips cracking slightly, “Africa.”
His tongue slipped slowly over his own mouth, tasting the small drops of blood from the splits speaking had created and he almost purred at the blessed moisture.
He’d come here for… something. He knew that on some deep, visceral level. Something. Something important. Something… necessary. He just couldn’t remember what it was.
Whatever it had been, though, he was sure it was something he’d needed.
His eyes narrowed slightly and he growled, the last three days and nights suddenly washing through his mind as though a dam had broken within him.
Fighting. Proving himself. Proving his commitment to his course of action. Showing-- for all to see-- just how much he wanted… needed… something.
What the hell was it? What had he needed badly enough to come here of all places?
He growled again, eyes slitted now as he wondered whether he’d somehow lost more than he’d come to gain. Like his mind, maybe.
He must have, he realized. Why else would he remember every moment he’d spent in battle, earning his… whatever… but not have clue one about what it was he’d come for in the first place?
“Right,” he murmured to himself, “I’ve officially gone bug-fuck nuts. Perfect.”
His nostrils flared again, eyes darting this way and that as he sensed… felt… smelled… tasted someone approaching.
“I’m guessing you’re still kinda disoriented,” the figure announced as it stepped between him and the light of the fire a good twenty feet away, “Hell, I’m surprised you’re even awake yet. Don’t worry, though. You’re about to pass out again and when you wake up, you’ll remember everything.”
The silhouette crouched down before him, horned head cocking to the side as reddish gold eyes met his own. “You made it through the trials, and not to freak you out or anything, none of us expected you to. I guess you really wanted to get back what you’d lost, huh?”
“You can call me Chip, by the way. When you wake up again.” The figure nodded, its metallic gold-hued skin gleaming slightly in the small fire-glow reflected from the body in front of it. “You know, most of us think you’re crazy for even coming here. But seeing you now, I guess you got what you deserved. Hope you enjoy it.”
He growled again as the demon straightened and strolled off to join the others, his tongue running over seeping lips again for just a moment before he did exactly as predicted and passed out to the accompaniment of soft voices, singing-- in a variety of demonic languages—what seemed to be Kumbayah.
“Dead… all dead,” Spike whispered to himself, shifting in the large, comfortable bed as he forced himself to wake. “Dead and gone, dead and lost…”
And in that instant he woke, the dream—memory—of what he’d expected going into that last battle fading suddenly, as it always did.
That didn’t mean he wasn’t gasping for unneeded breath, of course.
It was always so clear in his dreams.
An army of demons, true demons, and dragons for fuck’s sake, bearing down on them from all directions…
They should have all died, and he knew it.
Still, they hadn’t, and it was the ex-Watcher who they had to thank.
Spike growled softly, still pissed off at the prat. How dare he save them? How dare he save them and die anyway?
“Bloody fuckin’ half breed Antichath demon! Soddin’ Wes! Great pissin’ wanker of a git!”
He ignored the small, slow tears leaking from the corners of his eyes. He’d been through this every single night for months now, after all.
“Could have told us, ya pissant bitch,” he directed to whatever Heaven dimension the aforementioned prat was currently residing in. “Wouldn’t have held it against ya, would we? Two souled bloody vampires, a karaoke demon, a Hell God an’ the Thug, livin’ on borrowed time after tradin’ his soul for a bloody truck! Wouldn’t have minded so much, would we?”
He growled again, just on general principles, then rolled over, his fist slamming into his pillow a few times before he tried to go back to sleep even knowing it was a lost cause.
* * * * *
Angel sighed sadly, hearing his grand-childe’s words for the umpteenth time in God knew how long. Of course, that was why he’d put Spike in the rooms just below his after the so-called battle.
Whatever their disagreements—and there were and always would be many—the boy was still family and… he cared.
He might be willing to stake the ungrateful little piece of shit from time to time but… Spike. Spike was all he had left. The one thing that kept his demon from trying harder to be free.
As long as the bleached blond existed and allowed him-- them-- to be a part of his life, Angelus was… oddly content.
That didn’t mean either of them—Angel or his evil counterpart—were thrilled with how fixated the boy seemed to be on Wesley, though.
“We need to get him out of here,” Angel whispered to his other-self.
He ignored the rage and desire to kill or maim something that came from that portion of his psyche.
“If he stays here, he’ll… fade. And neither of us wants that. We need to let him go. Make him go. Before he makes himself as crazy as his Sire.”
Angel winced, his fingers digging roughly into the sheets beneath him. “His first Sire, damn it! Dru!”
And that was better, Angel admitted with a relieved sigh, deliberately not thinking about how much it would cost to replace the five hundred count Egyptian cotton sheets he’d just put ten rather large holes in.
* * * * *
He’d been dancing around it for days and he knew it, but… what was the right way to tell your overly possessive GrandSire that you needed to get away? That the only thing you could think of to keep yourself from going bug-shagging crazy was leaving?
Spike almost smiled, remembering the first time he’d used that expression, but… this wasn’t going to be easy. After loosing Wesley, Angel had gotten a good bit… clingy. Kept his own closer than he’d done before and Spike couldn’t really blame him for that.
Hell, his Sire… GrandSire, he reminded himself, then shrugged… his acting Sire hadn’t allowed himself any real connections until a few years earlier and he supposed that having someone he counted as a friend saving him and going ‘poof’ would have made even him try to hold on to what he had.
Still, it was time.
He wasn’t doing any good here, Spike realized. Not when sodding Angel wouldn’t let him really get out there and do what he was good at—fight, bluster, create chaos from order.
No, he had to go. And he had to find a way to say it that wouldn’t result in finding himself shackled to the wall in the dungeon beneath the Wolfram & Hart building.
“I’m takin’ ya up on your offer, mate,” he said as he strolled nonchalantly into the bloke’s office and threw himself into a chair. “Me. Somewhere else. Bankrolled by th’ firm.”
The overhanging brow rose for a moment. “I thought you turned that down, Spike,” Angel said after a moment, silently heaving a huge sigh of relief. He wouldn’t have to drive the boy away, wouldn’t have to damage the relationship they’d managed to build, tentative as it was. Still, if he made it too easy, Spike would think he wanted him gone. It was a delicate procedure.
The blond shrugged. “Did. Changed my mind.” His bright blue eyes found the loam-brown ones of his GrandSire and he shrugged again. “Not doin’ much here, am I mate? An’ ya know how I get when I’m bored. Might have ta hack inta your system an’ issue a few new orders from on-high, right?”
One look at his GrandChilde’s smirk and Angel would have let him go even if he hadn’t thought leaving would be the best thing for Spike.
Oddly enough, he felt Angelus agreeing with him. Or maybe not so oddly. Angelus did like his comforts, after all, and how much more comfort could there be, considering? All that comfort would be gone—or at least merrily fucked—if Spike did what he was threatening.
“Fine,” Angel growled. “Give me three days. You’ll need ID, credit cards, proof of… well, existence. In the meantime, you can pack. Any idea of where you’re going?”
Spike frowned slightly. Angel was letting him go that easily? It seemed too good to be true.
“Not yet,” he admitted, ignoring the sense of betrayal the ease created within him, “Just bloody fucking away from here.”
Angel nodded slowly, his eyes still locked with the sapphire blue ones. “Let me know when you figure it out. I’ll have the jet on stand-by.”
And just like that, it was over.
It almost felt anti-climactic, Spike decided.
Of course, that didn’t keep him from rushing to his room and starting the sorting… things to take, things to leave, things to throw out.
He ignored the fact that one of the things he packed—the thing he packed first, in point of fact—was a very loud, very unappealing Hawaiian shirt that he’d bought shortly after becoming corporeal again simply because it had made him feel as warm and fuzzy inside as a souled vampire could.
Three months since Africa, since he’d woken again with so much that he’d lost and yet none of it was why he’d actually been there.
‘Can’t do that, buddy,’ the demon—Chip—had said. ‘You should have told us, or me, anyway, what you really wanted. Could have saved you a whole lot of hurt. Just be glad for what you did get.’
It still felt like a betrayal although on reflection he had to admit the demon was right. He never had said exactly why he was there, exactly what it was he was trying to regain. And on the bright side, he had two good eyes again, even if it did fuck with him. He’d gotten used to the half-seeing, the depth-perception issues and all.
Of course, on the not so bright side, he could see in the dark now, had taken to growling, and well done burgers were a thing of the past. Too dead, too far from life, too… not raw.
He was handling it better than he’d done in high school, though. Maybe because he was older now, more aware of who he was… or maybe because the damned spirit was weakened after all the years of confinement. He didn’t know for sure and actually didn’t much care. He’d never been that great of a human to begin with, no matter what his friends had tried to tell him. And now… well, now he wasn’t entirely human at all and that made sense. He was… at peace with what he’d become.
He was faster, stronger, more… himself… than he’d ever been before, and that was fit.
Still, that didn’t mean Giles would agree, did it?
He sighed softly and pulled the lately disused eye patch from his back pocket, pushing and tugging until it was settled over what had been an empty socket the last time the Watcher had seen him.
It wasn’t exactly a lie, he figured, and… if Giles asked him flat out whether he’d undergone a mystical trial and gotten his eye back, he’d admit to it.
He wasn’t sure that he’d be honest about the hyena if asked, but that was a whole other story.
Boot-clad feet stomped lightly up stone steps and hr swallowed hard, raising one fist to announce his arrival.
“Xander Harris for Giles,” he said as the door was opened by a young woman—a very young woman—who made him… twitch. There was an energy about her that skittered over his skin like the dirt mites in Africa had done for nearly two years. ‘Slayer,’ he realized, shuddering slightly, and if this was anything like what vampires felt when a Slayer was near, he was amazed that Spike had ever managed to be in the same room with Buffy, much less touch her.
Angel, he could understand. The big brooding sack of sad- and- sorry had always shown a streak of self flagellation, after all.
He sidestepped the girl, being careful not to touch her. If he could feel what she was, after all, there was a chance that she could…
More than a chance, he admitted silently as suspiciously sharp eyes followed him closely.
“He’s expecting me,” he added, not particularly interested in killing the girl right then although he would if he had to.
And maybe he wasn’t handling things as well as he’d thought because the idea didn’t bother him that much. It would have once, he knew, but he wasn’t sure if the change was because of the spirit within him or the things he’d seen, done, been a part of between his hometown becoming a smoking hole in the ground and the trials. It could have been either, really.
He pushed the thought away with a mental shrug as he walked through long, poorly lit hallways beside the girl, neither of them willing to allow the other at their back.
Finally, many turns later, they stopped in front of a large set of double wooden doors and he nodded then pushed them open, flashing for a moment on the old library at Sunnydale High.
“The prodigal returns,” he announced with the closest thing he could muster to the old goofy-Xander grin. “The prodigal donut-guy, anyway.”
Pale eyes in a slightly cocked head roved the tightened and whipcord-toned form for a moment, seeing the distilled Xander, the man, not the boy he remembered and Giles smiled a bit sadly at the loss.
“Jellies?” he asked, as though the young man had left mere minutes earlier. It was a fiction, he knew, but for the moment he could pretend.
The white paper sack hit the table in front of the older man and Xander couldn’t help giving him another grin, this one more in keeping with the being he’d become. “Jellies,” he agreed, “and those frosted ones with the little sprinkles. Taste like meal worms, kinda. You know, with the crunch.”
“And that was something I truly had no interest in knowing,” Giles admitted slowly. “However, since I do know it now, I believe I’ll stick with the jellies.”
Xander shrugged and pulled a sprinkled donut from the bag, taking a huge bite. “Suit yourself, G-man,” he said around a mouthful of soft, sweet cake. “So, what’s the what?”
He waited until the younger man was seated across from him then acquired one of the jellies he liked so much. “We have a… situation, Xander. I know you’ve expressed a desire to leave the Council and I suppose I can’t blame you for that. You’re still quite young. There are things I’m certain you want in life that don’t involve demonic activity.”
A dark brow rose over the uncovered eye. “But?”
Giles nodded and removed his glasses, polishing the lenses unnecessarily in an obvious attempt to cover his discomfort.
“But?” Xander said again, crossing his arms over his chest. Of course there was a ‘but’. He’d known that even before he’d arrived at the Watchers HQ. Hell, he’d known it as soon as he’d gotten Giles’ voice mail asking him to come to London. Whether the ‘but’ was something he was willing to help out with was another matter entirely.
“Yes,” Giles finally answered, not sounding terribly happy about what he was going to ask, “I… wonder if I might impose upon you for one last job. As I said, we have a… situation. In Uganda.”
It was a disbelieving stare that he turned on the older man. He’d just left Africa, barely made it out with his life in fact, and here was Giles—pseudo father-figure who’d treated him better than his own parents ever had—asking him to go back? He didn’t even have to think about it.
“No. And in case that isn’t a strong enough word to clue you to the world of no, let me just add… Hell no, fuck no, and there is no fucking way!” He was up and pacing—stalking, more like—around the room, shooting glare after pissed off glare at the other man. “There isn’t a single fucking thing you could say that would ever get me to set foot on that continent again! Not in this lifetime! Are you out of your fucking mind?”
And that had gone just about as well as he’d expected it to, Giles told himself with a purely internal sigh before doing what he knew he should have done to begin with. He pulled a sheaf of photographs from the folder beside him, tossing them across the table.
“I may very well be insane, as you’ve suggested, Xander, because… the images aren’t terribly good but…” Giles frowned deeply, finally placing his glasses on his face again to spear a sharp glance at the agitated younger man. “Look at them. Please. And tell me I’ve lost it. I sincerely hope you do because… to my eyes, the person in those photos looks like…”
He didn’t want to look, didn’t want to know who or what Giles thought he saw and yet somehow he couldn’t keep his feet from moving to the desk, couldn’t keep his eye from looking at the top picture. He couldn’t stop his hands from spreading the twelve or so shots across the table, eye widening even as his heart beat faster for some unknown reason.
“Spike,” he nearly whispered, head spinning as he tried to find a way that it could possibly be… “Spike…? But he’s…”
“Yes. Dead. In the literal sense, as opposed to the vampiric one. That’s what makes this so very… disturbing.”
“Disturbing,” Xander echoed, one finger lightly tracing the blurry suggestion of sharp cheekbones beneath a shock of white hair. “Disturbing?” His laugh was high pitched and frightened. “That’s the best you can do?” he demanded, voice rising, becoming louder until he was nearly shouting at the Watcher. “Disturbing? How about im-fucking-possible, Giles? Un-shitting-likely? Not… Jesus Christ! Disturbing!”
“I… it is possible that someone simply looks like him. I’m hoping that’s what it is, but… the intelligence we’ve been able to gather indicates that this is…” Giles shook his head. “The person in those photographs is reported to be English, cocky, and allergic to sunlight. I don’t see any way that it could be Spike but if it’s not, then…”
“Then someone’s pretending they’re Spike and there can’t be a good reason for that.” Xander nodded slowly, sinking into the chair he’d vacated minutes earlier. His fingers traced the figure in the pictures again and he frowned deeply. “It has to be deliberate. Nobody looks like Spike accidentally… no one ever could. He was… one of a kind.”
“He was,” Giles agreed quietly, “And he deserves some respect. His memory deserves some respect.”
“Yeah.” He closed his eyes, although only one was visible, shivering long and hard before looking at his former mentor again. “Okay. So why me, Giles? Why not one of the girls? I… shit, G-man, I really don’t want to go back there…”
The fingers of one hand rubbed at his furrowed brow for a moment before Giles replied. “The others… bloody hell, Xander. They don’t care, alright? Or not enough to drop everything for this. They have lives now, and things they can’t leave. Buffy has her hands full with six young Slayers, Dawn’s got final examinations next week although I believe she would miss them if it truly were Spike, and Willow… Willow’s stuck in Brazil. The Hellmouth there has been acting up and she can’t leave.”
Longish brown hair swayed slightly as the younger man nodded unhappily.
“You’re the only one left who knows him, Xander. I would go myself, but…” Giles gestured vaguely around him.
“The Council. Yeah. Um, Andrew?” It was his only hope. “Andrew knows… knew Spike. He could…”
“Andrew is in hospital. Some odd strain of malaria he picked up in the Amazon. Or that’s what we’re hoping it is, in any case. He won’t be active for a good three weeks, assuming all goes well.”
“Shit. There really isn’t anyone else, is there?” he sighed and swallowed hard. “Fine,” he said softly, tone dark and full of poorly hidden anxiety, “I guess I’m going to Uganda. Shit.”
Bloody Uganda. Hot, judging by the smell of sweat rolling off of the other ‘guests’. Fucking sunny.
Once again, Spike found himself wondering what the hell he’d been thinking. It had been one thing to come here deliberately to get his soul, but this time? Still, it was plenty far away from LA, wasn’t it? And maybe that was a good enough reason in and of itself. Add in the fact that he was on an unlimited expense account that allowed him to stay in the five hundred dollar a night room and…
Yeah, it wasn’t that bad. Besides, there were enough trees about that he could actually lose himself in the forest at high noon if he wanted to… assuming he could make it to the trees to begin with, what with the large cleared area around the hotel. “Safari Lodge,” he reminded himself, “That’s what they call it here, even if it is a bloody enormous soddin’ hotel.”
Pale, full lips twitched into a smirk as he sipped his beer, looking out at the pool from his spot by the bar. Yeah, the days could be a bit on the boring side, but the nights… oh, the nights were brilliant. The heat dropped a bit, just enough that no one raised so much as a brow when he strolled off into the darkness. Not that he cared what the bloody happy meals thought, but he’d drawn enough attention with his aversion to sunlight, hadn’t he?
He usually ended up near the falls, standing as close as he could while the thunderous pounding literally shook the earth, his head back, staring up at the sky… unless he was hunting with the Spithrad demons who lived nearby, not that the humans hereabouts seemed to notice.
How his dark princess would love this place. The stars were so bright and there were what looked like millions of them. Yeah, Dru would be dancing here, swirling wildly with her particular brand of maniacal glee. Then again, she did that anyway and he had to admit that it was a relief to be here on his own. He’d loved his Sire; still did and probably always would, but… he’d changed too much to be her boy. Besides, it wouldn’t much of an escape if she were there and he was tied to looking after her, daft as she usually was. Hiding the bodies alone… he shuddered slightly. His wicked plum had never been terribly fastidious that way.
“I’ll have another, pet,” he nodded to the woman behind the bar.
And again he found himself wondering why Africa. He hadn’t even thought about the dark bloody continent since…
He shook his head, taking a sip of the new beer in front of him. No point thinking about that. He’d told the little git not to tell anyone he was back and obviously nobody had cared when the foolish prat had broken his silence. Which was, Spike figured, about five seconds after he and his merry band of Slayers-in-training had flown off into the night with the nutty bint.
Yeah, the old gang didn’t give a rat’s ass about him; not even good old Droopy Harris, regardless of the fact that he’d thought they’d at least become friends towards the end there. And yet the bloke hadn’t even bothered to send a ‘glad you got your arms back’ card or anything. Prat.
Obviously he’d been wrong. They’d never been friends.
“Doesn’t matter,” he growled to himself. “Don’t need a bloody friend, do I? Doin’ just fine on my own. Nice room, good booze. Titanium AmEx. Could be worse, right?” He nodded sharply. “Right,” he answered himself, ignoring the sensation of being watched. He was always being watched, after all. He was a bloody good looking bloke, wasn’t he?
His eyes shifted to the door of the bar as it opened and he swallowed the remainder of his drink quickly. “Here, mate,” he called out, waving at the human-looking but not human smelling bloke with the cooler. “Gramps take care of you or do ya need payment?”
“Taken care of,” the delivery man told him in a high, girlish voice. “Call when you need more.”
“Count on it,” he agreed with a nod, slipping fifty dollars American into the bloke’s pocket. “Taa, mate.”
And that was his blood taken care of. Good thing, too. He was almost out.
“Right, then,” he nodded at the bartender, tossing her a grin, “Guess I’m off, pet. Charge th’ room, yah?”
And now he had a plan for the rest of the day. Blood. Shower. No, better to have a bath. Then nap, maybe watch a bit of telly. He was fairly certain there was a football game going somewhere… Argentina versus someone, he thought.
Yeah, it was a good plan, Spike told himself as he slipped away from the bar and headed to his room.
* * * * *
“Okay, what do we got?” Xander demanded bluntly, pulling the binoculars from the Watcher in the trees.
“You just missed him, Mr. Harris,” the Afrikaner greeted him in his somewhat stilted accent. “I believe the… impostor had repaired to his lodgings.”
“Right. Do we know which room? Can we get at it… get a good view of it, I mean.”
“Are you up for a bit of a climb, sir?”
“Oh, yeah. And even if I wasn’t, I’d do it anyway. Whoever this guy is, he’s gonna pay. Lead on.”
* * * * *
If the Watcher was surprised by his ability to climb, twist, contort and stretch without even breaking a sweat as they made their way around the resort in the trees over rocks, fallen trunks, and assorted other impediments, the man had the decency not to show it.
“Here,” he finally announced, stopping himself and the young white man. He crept from the foliage, slipping closer to the hotel until they were in position beside a truly huge boulder near the pool. “Directly across, Mr. Harris. Top floor, three rooms from the left.”
“Right. Thanks,” he allowed, already forgetting the other man’s presence as he searched for the proper room and focused the binoculars carefully. “I’ll take it from here. Send Giles a bill for the binoculars, okay?”
“Yes, sir.” The guide shrugged and returned the way he’d come. If the young man didn’t require his presence, he had other things to do… like train his Slayer. She was more independent than he was comfortable with.
* * * * *
“Bored, bored, bored, bored, bored… maybe I should just go back to bloody Los Angeles.” Spike snorted. “For all of a minute before soddin’ Angel gets on my bloody nerves and makes me want ta stake myself. Repeatedly.”
He strolled through his room, blunt nails scratching his stomach just above the towel he wore draped around his hips. At least the sun would be down soon. It was already setting, in fact. He could see the shadows spreading over the pool as the bulk of the ‘Lodge’ blocked it a bit.
He ran fingers through damp blond hair, stepping out onto his balcony and stretching high, sighing his satisfaction as his spine popped all along its length, then glanced around, trying to figure out who was watching him this time, sure that for once that it wasn’t the dozy cow on the other arm of the place. He’d gotten to know how her eyes felt on him and he’d be damned if she’d ever get more than just her eyes on him.
Of course, just because that particular bint was a sodding nightmare, that didn’t mean he couldn’t find himself some other bit to shag. Might be nice, he figured. Hell, it had been ages since he’d had a good shag.
“Yah,” he chuckled to himself, mood shifting quickly, “That’s the thing. Get myself all tarted up, hit the bar later. Never know what I might find.”
His smirk was sly with an undertone of hopefulness. Maybe… just maybe there’d be someone there worth his while.
He stretched one more time before turning and heading back inside to dress.
* * * * *
“Shit,” Xander whispered, the binoculars dropping from his hands to land hard on the rocky ground. He barely heard the small sound of glass cracking as he tried to understand, tried to wrap his mind around what he’d seen.
It really looked like Spike, right down to the cheekbones and the scarred eyebrow. Even the muscles were right, he knew, remembering the vampire strolling around the apartment half naked back in the day.
He wasn’t sure of whether he was more furious or impressed that whatever the thing was, it had obviously done its homework. If he hadn’t known for a fact that Spike was dead, burned beyond even leaving ash behind, he would have bought it. Would have believed.
So now he knew. The only question was, what was he going to do about it?
It took him a minute or two, but finally Xander realized something.
Whoever or whatever the thing impersonating Spike was, it didn’t know him. He could check in himself, get a room… maybe even befriend the whatever and find out what exactly it was up to… and why it had chosen Spike to imitate.
Assuming its purpose wasn’t something nefarious, he’d let it live. He’d hurt it—a lot—for having the nerve to wear that particular face, but he’d let it live. Once it promised to never look like Spike again.
He really hoped whatever it was was benign, or at least that its intentions were. He wasn’t entirely certain that he could kill something that looked like his… His what?
“Friend,” he told himself simply, ignoring the tiny sense of betrayal the word created within him. “He was my friend. And I still miss him.” And at least the last part was entirely true.
Smokes in his pocket, blood-breath dealt with. Hair slicked back, clothes sharp as usual. Yeah, Spike was ready. Ready for anything, he decided.
Down the stairs because the bloody elevator was so damned slow, then across the lobby and into the bar which was a good bit more lively now than it had been earlier. And that was good, Spike decided quickly. More options for him, wasn’t it?
He set himself up comfortably on a stool at the end of the bar, ordering a beer and a shot of good Irish whiskey. Lucky for him, Africa was one of the few places a bloke could still have a fag in public. And even if it wasn’t, it wouldn’t have stopped him.
He lit up, taking a deep, slow drag, lips pursed as he savored the flavor. “Bloody brilliant,” he murmured, finally turning to scan the room and the constantly arriving humans.
* * * * *
It hadn’t taken long to get back to his rental jeep. In fact, it took much less time than getting to his lookout had, mostly because he didn’t have the fully human Watcher with him. He might hate being back in Africa even if this was a very different part of the country than he’d traveled before, but the hyena was in his element.
Into the jeep, eye patch coming off to be shoved carelessly into his shirt pocket, then out along the overgrown dirt road to the paved one and on to the hotel… the Paraa Safari Lodge.
It was a nice place, as was proved by the fact that the desk staff didn’t so much as bat an eye when he walked to the counter covered in dust and dirt, a few leaves still in his hair despite his best efforts.
Fortunately he was on the Council’s dime because while Xander Harris wasn’t exactly poor, more than a few days in this place would have put a noticeable dent in his fun money fund, not to mention the new wardrobe he’d gotten in London. It made a nice change from the generally threadbare clothing he’d had left after Africa… the first time.
A quick shower, shave, then into a fitted pair of dark brown slacks and silky, soft olive green t-shirt, tight enough to show off his hard-earned muscles. Soft soled brown shoes, a quick pass of a comb through his hair, and… he was ready.
“Not too shabby,” he told his reflection in the mirror, giving it a quick smile. “Alright, Harris, time to get your grub on. Maybe they’ll have some nice rare gazelle loin in the restaurant. Something I can sink my teeth into.” And even the spirit of the beast found that idea appealing.
* * * * *
He hadn’t seen the man walk in. Then again, he’d been a bit distracted by the questionable dancing which had actually looked more like mindless flailing than anything else. Still, he saw him now.
Bright blue eyes traveled slowly down the man’s back, then up again. Strong legs, round butt covered in some sort of dark fabric… possibly linen, from the look of it. Tight, toned back, long muscles outlining the central dip of the spine… broad shoulders, but not too broad, connected to strongly muscled arms… nice wrists, big hands, resting there on the edge of the bar.
Bloody hell, there was something familiar about the bloke… something about the way he held himself.
Spike frowned, trying to place it then shook his head. He’d probably just seen the git ‘round the hotel and that was why he seemed…
And then the human turned around and Spike almost spat beer across the room.
He found himself standing, jaw hanging down. Harris… Xander Harris… looking all grown up now, like he’d grown into himself.
His eyes examined the man’s front just as carefully as they’d done to his back and… yeah, this was Droopy, all mature with a few years away from Sunnyhell under his belt.
The face was thinner, but then so was the body. It suited the human, though, Spike decided, trying to ignore the urge to stalk over and grab the bastard. Couldn’t be bothered to call or write, but he showed up there? What the hell did that mean? Or did it mean anything at all?
His head cocked just a bit as he watched the young man watching the dance floor and he almost laughed himself when the human did, brown eyes sparkling merrily in the low lighting.
“Wait a minute… Eyes. Plural. EYES. What th’ bloody fuckin’ hell!” His own eyes narrowed dangerously, staring until the man turned back to the bar.
He got up quickly, moving past the brunette and growling to himself when he caught a whiff of him but he continued past and out the door, barely holding himself back until he got to his room.
“Not Harris!” he snarled, his hand lashing out to knock the lamp beside the bed into the wall across the room. It wasn’t enough.
“Not bloody Xander Harris!” he nearly howled, not sure of why he was so bothered exactly. But he was.
He was infuriated… almost homicidal. “Some bloody fuckin’ Hellspawn runnin’ around lookin’ like my bloke? Goin’ ta kill it. Slowly,” he snarled, the words distorted just a bit by the fangs he was suddenly sporting, “Painfully. Messily.”
He growled loudly, not much caring that anyone in the rooms beside his would be able to hear him. “Teach th’ fuckin’ shit not ta mess with my friends, I will!” And just like that, he was more worried than angry.
The thing knew Xander. It had to. There was no other way it could mirror him so well aside from the eye. And that begged the question of… where was the real Xander?
“If that thing hurt ya, pet,” the vampire snarled softly, knowing the human would only hear him if he were dead and somehow watching over him, “I’m goin’ ta keep it alive for months, peelin’ bits of skin and extruding viscera a bit at a time, yah…? Just need ta get close ta it, don’t I?”
And even the soul was on board with that idea. Fully.
* * * * *
They’d had the gazelle and he’d had the gazelle and it was good. Not as good as the ice cold beer he was sipping, though… or maybe it was. He’d become all about immediacy as he’d grown more used to the spirit within him, after all.
He couldn’t help laughing as the so-called dancing continued on the lighted floor, remembering himself in the Bronze days. Fortunately he’d grown out of that awkward stage.
He grinned quickly at the bartender, nodding for another beer even as he felt the hyena inside perk up for no apparent reason. Then the… scent hit him. Something rich, thick… It wafted over him, filled him as he breathed it in. It was… intriguing, especially since he had no idea of what it was.
And then it was gone, leaving him frowning and confused. “What…?” he started to ask the guy behind the bar before stopping himself and shaking his head. It was his enhanced senses that had picked up that wonderful smell. He was sure the human would just think he was crazy if he asked her about it.
See, he told himself, you’ve gotten smarter with age.
The though had him chuckling ruefully. If he really had gotten smarter, he wouldn’t be in Uganda chasing some sort of demon or other just to get it to stop looking like the vampire he’d once lived with.
He forced the memory of the amazing scent from his mind, although he’d catalogued it somehow. He’d recognize it if he ever smelled it again.
His eyes turned to the dance floor again, crinkling at the edges as he watched the unintentional comedy show, trying to relax until he had the chance to find the Spike-alike.
He’d stake out the thing’s floor in the morning, he decided. Until then, his time was his own.
“Bloody hell,” Giles gasped for approximately the twentieth time since leaving Andrew’s hospital room, “And bloody hell again. Spike’s been alive all this time! And the bloody little prat didn’t bother to… Oh, bloody hell. Xander!”
Frantic hours later, he was still trying to get through on the young man’s cell phone and having no luck whatsoever. Apparently that part of Uganda didn’t have a decent signal. Of course, it would help if he knew which part that was, Giles realized. The young man would hardly be staying at the same Lodge the vampire was; not if he was watching him.
It was shameful, Giles realized, but he was so used to thinking of the vampire as dead and dust that it took this long to grasp the notion of just calling him. He seemed to recall that Spike and Xander had begun to get along at least a little before everything Sunnydale had come to a screeching halt.
Of course, he had no idea of what name the bleached blond was using, but…
He sighed deeply and picked up the phone again. Andrew had told him that Spike had been working with Angel when he’d seen him in LA. Perhaps the older vampire might know something.
* * * * *
He didn’t care what the Watcher said, Spike decided. Not even if it had been nice to hear his voice and whatnot and bloody hell, how could he have known the sodding little bitch-boy would keep his yap shut? He’d blabbed every bloody thing he’d ever heard back in the old days.
The obvious stunned but happy disbelief in old Rupert’s voice made up for a lot, he admitted silently. Maybe he’d have to pay a visit to jolly olde once he left this place.
But he’d think about that later, because… no matter what Rupert said about the bloke being in Africa, there was no way bloody Xander Harris had spontaneously re-grown his eye, not to mention that whatever the thing was, it smelled… not like a demon, but also not like the pure, sweet human he remembered the bloke as being. Obviously whatever it was had intercepted the human and… he didn’t know. Maybe done that fucking bizarre Vulcan mind-meld thing his bloke used to talk about from Star… something.
He’d have to watch his step, but… he could do that. Get close to the thing and just… make sure his Xan was fine somewhere. Then… then he’d kill the fucking bastard. And maybe once he’d found out just where the real Xander was, he’d… pop by, pay him a visit, let him see that good old Spike was still around and kicking.
As plans went, Spike figured that was a pretty good one.
* * * * *
If he’d been sure the not-Spike was actually a vampire and not just playing the part, Xander might have spent the day by the pool or on one of the nature walks the Lodge offered. As it was, though, here he was in the stairwell, peering through the small window every time he heard a door opening in the hallway.
Still no sign of the whatever, though, and if it was pretending to be Spike then it’d probably stay hidden until nearly sunset anyway, just to be consistent. He couldn’t imagine it letting the act slip after all the obvious work it had put into getting it just right.
Maybe he’d go to the pool after all. He had a couple of hours and it was a damned nice pool. In fact he couldn’t remember the last time he’d swam in anything that didn’t contain mud and leeches. It might be nice.
* * * * *
He’d spent most of the daylight hours cruising the demon database on his laptop, glad now that Angel had made him learn how to hack as well as perform simpler operations on the bloody machine. He wanted to know exactly what kind of shape-shifting creature he was dealing with, after all.
Unfortunately, he’d come up with nothing. Sure there were a few demons that could change their appearance but every one of them had some kind of a tell and the thing he’d seen hadn’t displayed any of them.
Hell, if it weren’t for the eye and the distinctly not-human scent he’d caught, he would have had no problem believing the mask, it was that perfect. Older, yes, but humans had an alarming tendency to age. Bloody inconsiderate of them, especially when they went and made friends with a vampire, but there it was. Humans would insist on aging and refused to listen to reason. Selfish prats.
Spike was aware of the fact that he wasn’t making sense even to himself but it was better than worrying about what had happened to the true Xander so he went with it, his mind continuing its snarky monologue until finally he’d had enough of the bloody internet.
He shut down the laptop and stood, stretching the kinks of hours immobile from his body.
Almost sunset, he noticed suddenly. No wonder he felt stiff.
A quick meal of cold blood had him wrinkling his nose but he was too hungry to warm the bags in water at the moment, and then he stepped onto his heavily shaded balcony, gazing out over the pool and frowning when he saw the creature he’d been trying to research.
It certainly looked like a human, all sun-browned and glistening in the crystal blue water. More to the point, it looked like his human.
“Not mine,” he reminded himself quickly. “Xander’s his own human. But we were friends once… will be again once I kill that thing and find him.”
He deliberately chose not to revisit his concern that the boy—man, if what he was watching were an accurate representation—might be dead. If he was, there was nothing he could do about it, was there? Other than the already decided bout of torture, in any case.
No… he preferred to believe that Xander was out there somewhere, maybe all wet and gleaming like his double. It wasn’t a bad thought, although he had to fight the sudden tightening in his groin at the thought of finding the young man exactly that way. They’d never been like that, after all. Never would be, mostly because… despite Xander Harris’s bizarre fixation on flowered shirts, the bloke was as straight as they came.
And that was yet another thing that proved to Spike that it wasn’t really his human. From what he’d seen last night, this Xander dressed far too well. That should have clued him even before he’d noticed the eye.
Of course, now that he knew how well the real deal could clean up, he might have to try his hand at getting his friend to outfit himself similarly. It would make him look a lot less like a gay pirate, what with the eye patch and bloody loud shirts.
Yeah… focus on that and maybe he wouldn’t freak out before he figured out where the bloke was.
That thought in mind, Spike went quickly to the closet, pulling out a few things that weren’t what someone who knew him would expect to see him in. After all, if the creature had researched Harris enough, he’d know about the sleek and sexy vampire with the white blond hair and the penchant for black and red.
And that was how Spike came to be leaving his room half an hour later in soft, faded blue jeans, and a pearl grey lightweight sweater with the sleeves pushed up almost to his elbows. His feet were almost bare in the beach shoes he’d had to call down to the front desk for, glad they’d had a pair in his size at the gift shop. His hair was soft and gel-free, the natural wave allowed free rein and he’d even forced himself to leave cigarettes and lighter behind.
He headed for the lobby, secure in the knowledge that he looked as little like himself as he could manage without plastic surgery and would that even work on a vampire? He had no idea. Maybe he’d suggest it to Peaches, see if he could talk the bloke into giving it a try. Comment on the over-hanging forehead a few times and see what happened.
The git probably wouldn’t go for it, but it would be fun anyway. Likely to spend weeks wandering around the building asking his bloody employees if he had a Neanderthal brow.
It wasn’t the same as hot pokers in delicate places, but torment was torment, after all, and… he doubted his GrandSire would kill him for making him self-conscious. Not that the bloke wasn’t welcome to try.
* * * * *
He was just heading to his room to change and take up Spike-alike watch when he saw the thing in question crossing the lobby. He ducked quickly behind a potted plant, watching from a distance as the blond haired being strolled into the bar.
Whatever it was, Xander told himself with a nod, it wasn’t Spike. Spike would never wear flip flops for fuck’s sake, not to mention… the clothes, the hair… it was all wrong. The thing had obviously slipped up just a little but it was enough to prove the truth even if the changed wardrobe did look good on Spi… it. On it.
A quick dash—faster than even the quickest human speed—had the young man at his door. Moments later he was inside and naked, taking a quick shower before combing his hair, brushing his teeth and getting dressed.
Casual black suit in raw silk, tight sapphire blue t-shirt… the color of Spike’s eyes, he realized, then pushed that thought away. Spike was dead and whatever it was downstairs, it wasn’t him. No matter how much he wished it were, it just… wasn’t.
He almost changed his mind and stayed in his room, but…
He’d wanted to get close to the thing, find out what it was up to. And this would probably be his best chance. Besides, he’d met a few people in the pool and they’d all agreed to meet in the bar later, so… two birds, one very big stone.
“All right, Harris,” he told himself sternly, “Get in, find out what you can, and get out. No muss, no fuss. Then you figure out what to do. Simple. Easy. Yeah.”
But if it were so simple, why was his heart pounding out a rapid staccato, why were his palms
Because… well, just because. And that would have to do for a reason, he told himself.
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