Chapter 21: Two

Chapter 21: Two

It ended up taking until dark to figure out which demon had attacked Giles, and by that time Riley and Oz and the girls were at the shop as well. Dawn was at the hospital with Joyce. Xander made a mental note to go by there later - maybe he and Spike could sneak in - and Spike laughed through the link.

*See her every night* and Xander looked up from the book he was paging through, staring at him.

*You do?*

*Nice to me* Spike sent a flurry of images - himself, slumped despondently over Joyce's work-top, telling her about Dru as Joyce sprinkled mini-marshmallows into his hot chocolate. Joyce offering a drink, the night he'd come to make a deal with Buffy, nodding in confused politeness when he'd told her she didn't have anything he fancied. And Joyce in the hospital bed, bandage on her temple, dark circles under her eyes. She and Spike talking - Spike fetching her ginger-ale and watching her fall into a restless sleep.

*Dawn's mum. Watching out for her* Xander blinked - smiled suddenly, and Spike smiled back at the *Love you niiice vampire*

"Sod off, you," Spike muttered, and Xander laughed.

"How do you get in?" he asked softly, and Spike closed the book he had been reading and groped for a cigarette.

"Cousin'a Clem's. That guy - got more family than the Queen Mum."

"Ah - Toth!" Giles exclaimed, and everyone looked up enquiringly. "Toth. Last surviving member of the Tothric clan. A very old and sophisticated line of demons."

"So, what, I discuss the latest fashions from Milan before I chop its head off?" Buffy asked.

"No, no - it simply means it is a tool-using demon. It will use a weapon of some sort instead of brute force." Giles shifted the book, pushing his glasses up on his nose. "Also, very focused. And, well - its focus is obviously -"

"Buffy. So, where does it hang out and how hard can I kill it?" Riley asked, standing up. Spike rolled his eyes and got up as well, heading over to the balcony stairs and settling half-way up, trailing smoke. Willow made exaggerated fanning motions with her hand, frowning.

"It doesnít posit any particular lair, but I think that, considering its very strong olfactory presence, we'll have little trouble finding it."

"Huh?" Riley asked.

"It stunk," Giles said, and put his book down. "In a 'piles of refuse' sort of way."

*Fuck. Trip to the city dump* Xander looked mournfully down at this work boots. "I just got these, you know," he said, stretching his feet out towards Willow and Tara.

"Well, maybe you could - could tie plastic bags over your feet? Or - I could do a spell -" Willow rapidly ran through a number of possible spells under her breath as they got ready to go. Xander tried to ignore her, not particularly wanting his new work-boots to be turned into turtles or something. Tara, Willow and Anya were staying behind - they had volunteered to help get the shop ready for the Grand Opening if Giles would provide pizza and soda.

"Ah, a manly-man's outing!" Xander said, clapping his hands together. Buffy looked over at him, raising an eyebrow. "Well, ok, mostly manly with one very not-manly member."

"She's more manly than Captain Cardboard," Spike said, and Riley frowned at him.

"Look who's talking, fang-"

Buffy put her hand on his arm. "Let's just get going, ok, Riley? I need to get to the hospital before nine tonight."

Riley stared at her, then shrugged. "Sure, Buffy. Let's go." He took her hand and they walked out, Giles behind them.

Oz looked at Xander and Spike. *What?*

*Knows about the chip* from Spike, and a few images from that afternoon's discussion.

Oz nodded - grinned. "Hope he does something stupid," Oz said softly, and Spike laughed.

 

The dump did more than stink - it oozed - and Spike jumped over something gooey and greenish and pulled his duster a little tighter around his body.

"Fuck -" Xander did a little catch-step to avoid the same puddle and caught up, breathing through his mouth. Oz had morphed halfway to wolf then changed back, coughing.

"Think I'll just use my mostly-human senses this time," he wheezed. Buffy and Riley were disgusted as well, and Giles had put a handkerchief over his mouth and nose.

"What would make anybody, even a demon, hang out here?" Buffy kicked at an old paint-can and sent it hurtling over a drift of garbage bags. There was an "Ow!" and they all stared at one another.

"All right, come out come out, whatever you are, so I can -"

"Hey, Clem," Xander said to the shuffling figure that scooted out into plain sight. Buffy deflated a bit from her fighting stance, looking over at Xander quizzically.

"You know him?"

"Yeah - Clem did my satellite hook-up for the TV."

"Hey, Xander. And Spike! Wow, never thought I'd run into you here! And - and you must be Oz, got that whole 'wolf' aura' thing." The loose-skinned demon made little air-quotes, smiling at Oz. Oz nodded back. Spike snorted softly. "And - wow, could this be the Slayer? Wow - that's just amazing!" Buffy just stared, smiling feebly and doing a little wave.

"What're you doing out here, Clem?" Spike asked.

"Ah - finding some stuff, you know -" Clem rummaged in the shopping cart that was listing over beside him and pulled out a small lamp with glass-bead fringe. "I hope you don't mind, Spike, but your crypt's vacant again and, well, it's a prime piece of real estate so I kinda - I kinda moved in. Need to furnish it, you know?"

"Yeah? Bully for you, then. Have at it, with my blessing." Spike lit a cigarette and Xander moved into the smoke, looking slightly ill.

*Stinks home want you* Spike thought, and Xander moved a little closer, brush of warm hand on Spike's wrist.

*Soon promise*

"So - what brings you to the dump, Spike?"

"We're - we're looking for a demon. Tall, flowing robes, wielding a sort of stick-thing?" Giles said through the handkerchief.

"Oh? Oh! You mean - ah! Like that!" Clem ducked behind his shopping cart and as one the group whirled. Toth stood there, glowering. It raised its hand and bolt of energy crackled from the wand it was holding, exploding a bag of trash and pelting Clem with coffee grounds and potato peelings.

"Ah!" Clem grabbed his shopping cart and wrenched it upright - began to push it rapidly away.

"Jesus!" Xander was going into a crouch - Oz as well, eyes black, claws extending from the tips of his fingers. Spike tossed his cigarette aside and let the demon out. Toth raised its arm again, pointing the wand at Buffy. Spike grinned. *Maybe he'll actually hit her. Neat!* Giles was stumbling backwards, mouth open in shock. Riley was aiming his crossbow and Buffy was shifting into a fighting stance.

"Look out!" Riley, maybe? *Buffy!* from Xander, and he moved - shoved Buffy to one side. The energy bolt lanced into Xander, knocking him backwards, to the ground, and Spike roared, leaping at the demon. And - it was gone. Spike hit the ground and rolled upright, casting a wild look around.

"Xander!" Buffy recovered from the shove and scrambled towards Xander, Riley right behind her.

*Love wake up XANDER* Spike moved, fast - reached Xander just as Oz did. Spike stroked one hand down Xander's cheek, listening, scenting. *Strong heartbeat, no blood, love, love wake up* Gently, Spike shook Xander's shoulder. Buffy crowded in beside Oz, panting a little.

"Is he ok?" Spike snarled and Oz put his hand on Spike's shoulder, fear-scent and wolf-scent and *pack safe* Xander's eyes moved under their lids - fluttered open slowly. They flashed green - the hyena's eyes.

"Xander? Pet, you all right?" Xander blinked slowly - looked at Spike, at Oz - focused on Buffy.

*NOT PACK* slammed through the link so hard that Oz went halfway to wolf, growling, and Xander snarled and lunged at Buffy, knocking her back on her butt. Riley yelped and tried to catch her - went down on one knee behind her. Spike grabbed a handful of shirt and yanked, pulling Xander back a foot.

"What on earth -!" from Giles.

"Xander, what -" *Safe love calm safe safe*

*Not pack not pack RIVAL hurt mine KILL it* It was the hyena - purely the hyena - and Spike wrapped his arms around Xander's waist, hauling him back again as he made another attempt at Buffy and Riley.

"Xander, what is wrong with you!" Buffy scrambled to her feet, unconsciously shaking off Riley's helping hand. Oz moved fast, getting between her and Xander, who continued to struggle.

"That wand - it did something. He's not -" and *calm calm calm* from Oz.

*Not pack drive it off kill it*

"No, Xander, stop it." Spike yanked Xander back further - forced him around and held his head in his hands. The green-glimmering eyes were furious - eerie - and Spike brought the demon out.

*Pack leader STOP* Xander growled - literally growled - and Spike growled back, letting his hands slide down to Xander's shoulders - shaking him just a little.

"Stop it, Xander. No killing." Xander was shivering - panting a little - and he turned his head, his eyes narrowing, as Buffy took a step towards them. *Not pack not pack not pack* in a furious, frantic monotone.

"Slayer - stop! Wolfling's right - something happened. That bloody wand - he's not right."

"What do you mean? What - what's wrong, exactly?" Giles advanced as well, and Xander twitched away from him. A tiny whine rose from his throat and Oz eyed the other three - crowded close against Xander's back, half wolf and just as panicky.

"I dunno, Watcher. It's - only the hyena in here. I think. I'm not getting - anything else."

*Xander, love - you there? Safe, you're safe, calm, calm, calm* Xander's hands had crept up and were on Spike's arms now, pulling him close. Spike went easily, arm around his shoulder, tucking Xander's head into his neck. Spike's hand on Xander's throat, just enough pressure, prick of fingernails. Showing dominance. Reassuring the hyena that he was safe, in the pack. Oz pushed close, and Xander reached out and ran his hand over Oz's hair - quick caress that seemed to reassure him further.

"It's that spell -" Riley said, and Spike snarled - tightened his arm around Xander as Xander made an effort to go for Riley.

"It's not the spell, you wanker, it's that Toth - that wand. What's the bloody wand do, Watcher!"

"I hadn't - hadn't found that out yet," Giles said, and Spike hissed in frustration. Xander was growling again, his gaze going from Buffy to Riley to Giles, his body tense and quivering with fight/flight. Putting that impulse out so strongly into the link that Oz was losing control - sliding further into the wolf. Spike was fighting as well - desperately trying to keep the demon from taking over and joining Xander in protecting the pack - defending their territory. Trying not to jump onto these invaders - these humans - and rip them to bloody shreds. Xander would never, never get over that.

*Calm calm safe now, pack is safe* "Listen - Slayer - you get back, the three of you get back to the shop, find out what happened, what we have to do to fix it. I can't let him go - you're not part of the pack - none of you are - he's ready to attack you."

"What?" Buffy's voice was hard - furious, and she advanced three quick steps - froze when a sing-song wail quavered up from Oz, and the werewolf lost more humanity. Xander responded to that, letting loose the hunting shriek of the hyena and making Giles and Riley flinch.

"Watcher'll tell you - just go, before I lose control! We'll - fuck - we'll go find some fledges to kill; I'll see if we can wear him out and get him to the shop. Maybe he'll sleep. Just -" Xander lunged and Spike yanked him back, letting loose with a roar that froze all of them. He sank his fangs into Xander's throat and just held on, sending *calm* and *safe* and *STOP* as hard as he could, and finally he felt Xander's body relax under him - felt the incoherent muddle of rage and frustration and bloodlust that was coming from the hyena ease off into acceptance - into submission. He lifted his head, Xander's blood tingling through his mouth, and Buffy glared at him. Oz had wolfed out, and now stood stiff-legged, growling low in his throat, wolf's eyes flashing as green as Xander's, wolf fangs white and slavering in the faint light of the new moon. Giles looked grim - Riley mutinous, and Spike snarled silently at them.

"Fine, we'll go - why is Oz - we're going!" at Spike's warning hiss. "Come on guys, let's hurry." They jogged away, casting worried glances back over their shoulders, and Spike finally eased up - loosed his grip enough for Xander to step away, if he wanted to. He didn't. Oz came back to himself, shuddering. The full shift had shredded his clothes and he looked down ruefully at his naked self.

"Fuck Spike, he's - he's so strong, in the link, I couldn't..."

"S'okay, wolfling. Let's get out of here - place is gonna choke me. Let's go *hunt vamps*

"Yeah. Good idea. Damnit, I liked that shirt."

*Hunt pack safe* from Xander, and he bolted away, Spike and Oz on his heels.

Hours later and they were in the eastern-most cemetery in Sunnydale. They'd just ripped through a nest of five fledges - third nest of the night - and Xander seemed to be calm now. There was blood on his mouth - on his hands - and Spike had just barely kept him from trying to eat the last fledge, broken backed and gutted in the grass. *Wouldn't like to remember THAT* Spike thought, and they all sprawled down in the grass near the river, panting. There'd been various lone demons, as well - all in all, a good night for the pack, a bad one for Sunnydale's creatures of the night. *Can only be good for the 'Master' reputation - a werewolf and a...werehyena? Something. They knew he wasn't all human.* Oz went full wolf again and went to the water's edge, drinking, and Xander rose to follow. Spike grabbed him, pulling him back down.

"Maybe better not," he said, wondering if spell-bought longevity could keep Xander from a bout of Montezuma's Revenge. Who knew what got dumped into the river? Xander fell back easily, happily rolling into Spike - rolling onto him, and the faint tingle of arousal that had sifted through the link all night suddenly kicked up sharply.

*Pack leader take* Xander pushed his face into Spike's neck - licked there, then nipped gently at the claim mark. Spike shivered - rolled them both over again, pinning Xander to the cool, damp grass.

"Wanna, pet? You need to, don't you," he whispered, and Xander's eyes were wide and glowing - inhuman, beautiful.

"Ssspike," he whispered, *want now me now*

"Anything, love." Spike bent to kiss him - made it a long, slow kiss, leisurely exploring every inch of Xander's mouth. Tasting the blood there and licking it away. He didn't stop to think about it - this was pack, this was Xander, and there was no way he would refuse him. Just about couldn't, at this point. Their rampage through Sunnydale tonight had been...like old times. Only better, because he loved his hunting partners - trusted them - and knew they felt the same way about him. Very nearly paradise. *'Cept it can't be anything good, this. Damn Toth and damn the Watcher - you bloody well don't go on a hunt with only half the facts.* Xander's hands were under the duster, fumbling at Spike's shirt - tearing it up the back. His fingers made fiery trails from shoulder blade to waist, nails scraping lightly.

*Pack* faintly, from Oz, and Spike lifted his head, a wave of extra arousal going through him as he caught site of Oz. The werewolf was crouched a foot away, naked, eyes wide and sheened silver in the moonlight. His mouth was wet - his hair - and he licked his lips, watching them.

"Wolfling - wanna...?" Oz ducked his head - leaned over, one hand flat on the grass. He kissed Spike - taste of almonds and rain, blood and magic. Beneath him, Xander squirmed, freeing a hand, and when Oz pulled back Xander's fingers were in his hair, tugging him down. Another kiss, equally long, and Spike couldn't help his hips moving, grinding down onto Xander; hard flesh and denim, friction making heat.

"Fuck, wolfling..." Spike whispered, and *want mine pack* from Xander. Oz pulled back, slowly.

"I gotta - this isn't for me, Spike. I'm gonna get some clothes, get to the Magic Box, see what they've found. You - come on in a bit? Gonna be light soon." Spike could smell the arousal coming off Oz - could scent something else, as well, and he caught Oz's hand, stopping him.

"What do you - don't understand, wolf." Oz licked his lips - glanced down at Xander, who was stroking Oz's thigh.

"What we did - it was good. It was..." Oz looked up, eyes searching for and finding the setting moon. *Want* "It helped. I feel - good, now. But I'm not part of this. It just - wouldn't work. Gonna find my own, you know? Gonna find somebody doesn't mind a little weirdness and bring him home to meet...my family." *Love you pack please* in the link, begging for understanding. And Spike did understand. Understood completely. He reached up and trailed his fingers gently through Oz's hair - the indigo a little faded now - and smiled. *Knew it would come to this. His choice. Doesn't change anything.*

"Yeah. *Love you* We'll be there in a while." Oz nodded - grinned suddenly, and then was the wolf, muzzle pointing to the moon and a howl wavering out. Xander joined him, raucous ululation, and Oz spun and was gone *love you love you* fading into silence. Spike looked after him for a moment - looked down at Xander. Hair ink-black in the moonlight, long strands webbed across his face and throat. Luminescent eyes, lips swollen. *Beautiful boy my own LOVE you* Spike bent down for another kiss, but after a moment Xander was wiggling out from beneath him, pushing the duster off Spike's shoulder and yanking at the shredded t-shirt.

*Skin taste you want pack pack*

"Yeah," Spike breathed, uncaring that someone - anyone - could see them. He got boots and jeans off, Xander's hands everywhere, and had to push him flat to the ground, straddling his hips to get Xander's work boots off. Xander's fingernails scratched up his back - sank into his hips, and Spike's hands were shaking. He swung off - pushed Xander down again and popped open the button on his jeans - got the zipper down and then Xander was pushing at jeans and underwear, wiggling out of them, pulling his shirt off and launching himself at Spike. Spike let himself fall flat in the grass, the cool stems tickling deliciously along his sides - between his thighs.

*Want want pack want mine* from Xander, without pause and without thought - the hyena at it's most basic. Xander tasted, every inch, licking in broad strokes and tiny dabs along hips and thighs, belly, ribs, chest. He sank his face into the crease of Spike's thigh - nuzzled further, and Spike hissed in delight as Xander took his cock in his mouth, licking slowly up and down the length, pulling the head in and sucking. Spike could feel the head of Xander's cock pushing into his thigh - felt the coolness from the moisture that trailed there, and he sat up - scooted out from under Xander and got behind him. Xander knelt there, his hands fisted in the grass, and Spike got him up, hands and knees. Kissed and licked his way down Xander's back, feeling the quivering of tense muscles. He let his tongue trail down, between Xander's buttocks and Xander whimpered, thrusting back, spreading his legs wider. Spike teased his tongue along the warm, damp skin - sucked Xander's balls into his mouth for a moment and then moved back up, pressing in lightly, lightly. Xander leaned back, a breathy moan coming from him, and Spike pushed his tongue in hard, stabbing in as deep as he could. He gripped the heavy muscles of Xander's thighs in his hands, pulling his legs wider, pushing deeper, and Xander was panting now, making a growling encouraging noise, hips rolling and bucking under Spike's mouth.

*Now now now* in the link, flashing image of Spike, up on the balls of his feet and thrusting in, and Spike gasped.

"Fuck, yeah -" *mine* Spike crouched behind the mortal - made a small slit in his palm with a sharp nail. Blood wasn't the best lubricant, but it was better than nothing. They'd used up the small tube he'd had in the duster last week. He caressed himself, slicking the blood over his cock and then got up behind Xander - pushed in, quickly, before the drying blood got too tacky. Pushed into grasping heat, slick and tight. Xander moaned, arching into him, the rough, rapid pace exactly what the hyena wanted. Spike balanced himself, his thighs on either side of Xander's hips and thrust hard, feeling that place in Xander's body rub over the tip of his cock - feeling Xander shudder around him, muscles quivering with strain and *Want hard want*

"Fuck...so hot, love..." Spike could smell the sharp green smell of grass as Xander's hands tore at the blades beneath them. The ground was damp - muddy - and the wet-earth smell was thickening as they both furrowed the ground. The summer air was like a warm blanket across his back, Xander like living fire, and Spike pounded harder, his right hand leaving bloody smears along Xander's ribs, both hands gripping tight enough to bruise. Xander pushed back, his legs going somehow wider, a whimper building in his throat, ratcheting up to gasping cries.

*Yours yours TAKE now* and Spike brought one hand around to Xander's cock, stroking furiously, and he leaned over and morphed.

*MINE mine always* and Xander arched his head to one side. Spike sank his fangs in, growling, and the scalding jet of semen across his hand was enough to bring Spike's own orgasm; they shuddered together, mindless rhythm. Xander howled, and Spike drank blood awash with *love* and *magic* and *pack*, tasting of salt and sweet and Xander. When it was over, they both sprawled in the grass, panting, and Xander rolled over and nuzzled in close, the link a warm, wordless haze of love and contentment.

*Love you* Spike stroked Xander's sweat-slippery back, breathing deeply of their mingled scents. Xander caught Spike's hand in his and slowly licked the still-bleeding cut on his palm - closed his eyes and made a sound almost like a purr, the blood bright on his lips. Away towards the river a bird called - insistent cheetcheetcheet of a goldfinch - and Spike sighed.

"C'mon, pet, time to head back. Sun's coming up."

*Love you sleep* from Xander, and Spike sat up - stood up - dislodging Xander and making him sound a half-hearted growl.

"Fuck." Spike looked down at himself - mud, grass, blood - and Xander wasn't any better. Spike looked out at the river - sighed again.

"C'mon." *Bath* He pulled Xander up by his arm and dragged him down to the river's edge. The water was frigid around his ankles and Spike hesitated for one second - plunged ahead, pulling Xander along behind. They waded in, Xander struggling to escape, the current pushing strongly at their legs. When the water was up to Spike's thighs, he turned and let Xander go. Xander had been pulling back hard, growling, and when Spike let go he flailed for a moment then went down, going completely under.

*Cold COLD!* and Xander surged up, straight into Spike, knocking him back. They both went under that time and Spike was glad he didn't need to breathe - he didn't think he could have, with the cold constricting his chest and making him shudder all over.

*Cold* It sounded mournful this time, and when Spike got to his feet and pulled Xander up, the human's teeth were chattering and he was looking a bit blue around the edges.

"I know. M'sorry, pet, but we needed to clean up." Spike scrubbed at dried blood and mud - plucked leaves out of Xander's hair and then pushed him towards the shore. "Clean enough." *Clothes*

Xander waded ashore and stood shivering, his arms clenched tight around his ribs and his hair running little streams down his back and chest. He looked utterly miserable and Spike cast around for his ripped t-shirt.

"Come on now, love, let me fix you up." Spike used the t-shirt as a towel, rubbing briskly, and after a few minutes Xander was mostly dry and his shivering had eased up. Spike had him lean over so he could wring out his hair, and then he swept up Xander's clothes and pushed them into his arms.

"Get dressed, pet - gotta get going." Spike dried himself as best he could with the now wet t-shirt and then yanked on jeans and socks and boots. He picked up his duster and brushed grass off it.

*Home tired hungry* Xander was leaning against a tree, eyes shut, and Spike agreed with him completely.

"Me too, pet," *home soon love you* "C'mon, time to see if the Watcher can fix this. Let's run, Xander - warm us up." Xander pushed away from the tree - lifted his head as if scenting. *Not pack*

"That's most of the world, love." *Wolfling* he sent, and an image of the Magic Box, and Xander yipped quietly and trotted up the slope to the cemetery proper - broke into a run, and Spike ran with him, shoulder to shoulder. Above them, the sky was paling towards sunrise; frail green and gossamer yellow, streaked with wisps of clouds. The goldfinch called again, chasing them away.

 

They burst in through the doors of the Magic Box, panting a little, thoroughly warm - straight into a fight. The demon stood in the midst of the shop, grappling with Buffy. Tara and Willow were holding hands, chanting something, and there seemed to be a sort of cloud of pinpricks of light around the demon's head, distracting it. It was shaking its head, blinking - half blind from the spell. Oz was in the midst of a leap, landing squarely on the demon's back, claws shredding. Riley was on the floor, at an awkward angle against a bookshelf, and Giles was helping him up. Xander growled *Pack* and threw himself forward, crashing into the demon's legs. As they fell, Oz scrambled free and whirled around, ready to dive back in. Buffy kicked the demon in the throat, making it writhe and gag,

"Sword!" Anya yanked a sword down from a rack behind the counter and tossed it awkwardly to Buffy, who caught it and brought it down hard, through Toth's chest. An ear-piercing shriek reverberated out of the demon and it clawed at the sword - went limp, dead. Xander sidled up close to Oz, leaning into him - put his face down into Oz's hair, scenting, reassuring himself.

*Wolf safe pack*

"Well, that was neat," Spike said, and pulled out a cigarette. Blood was pooling out from under the demon's body and Buffy wrinkled her nose, stepping away.

"Riley, you ok?" she asked, going over to where Giles had him propped up.

"Sure, Buff. Just - whacked my head a little. Mr. Giles says I'm fine." Giles nodded, a little smile on his face, and Buffy smiled back.

"Wow - ok. Great spell guys, by the way," Buffy said to Willow, hauling Riley to his feet and guiding him to a chair. He slumped there, holding his head.

"Yeah - that was cool, wasn't it? Like a swarm of bees!"

"Well, it is called 'Swarm of Bees'," Anya said, coming out from behind the counter. She eyed the various books, statues, and miscellaneous paraphernalia that had been strewn around in the fight and sighed. "And everything was perfect, too, before that jerk came in, wand all blasting."

"Speaking of wands -" Giles looked around, and Spike strode over - scooped the wand up from where it lay half under a display shelf.

"This thing? Think it only works for Toth?" Spike pointed it at Buffy, who flinched.

"Spike -"

"Ah, don't worry, Watcher - I won't fry your Slayer." Spike swung the wand casually, moving over to where Xander and Oz were still standing. Xander pressed up against him, looking distrustfully at the others.

"You figure out what this did to Xander?"

"Yes, actually, we did. It seems the wand is a 'ferula gemina'. It splits a person into two halves - separating various aspects of their personality. I think what Toth wanted to do was separate Buffy into a 'Slayer' Buffy and a - a 'Not-Slayer' Buffy. Then, he would kill the weaker of the two. If one dies, they both die." Spike raised his eyebrow - looked at the wand.

"What I wouldn't have given to have this little gimcrack," he murmured. "Catch." He tossed it towards Buffy, who snatched it out of the air and held it, frowning.

"You mean - you don't wanna - use it?" Buffy rolled her eyes. "What am I saying?" Spike shrugged - took a long drag and hugged Xander a little closer.

"Nah. I donít need a magic wand to take you on, Slayer."

*Hungry tired go home* Xander slumped against him, eyes half-shut.

"Soon, love," Spike said, smoothing his hand through Xander's still damp hair. "So - if this makes two of someone - where's the other Xander?"

"Well - it didn't say, exactly, how it makes two, so he could be - anywhere. We know he's not dead 'cause - this Xander is still here, but..." Willow looked anxious, and she and Tara sat down at the lighted table, shoving some books aside. "We were gonna do a locator spell, just before -" Willow gestured to the dead Toth, grimacing.

"Well, let's get on with it. Might be Xander - the other one - is in some kinda trouble or something." Spike pulled Xander close to him, doing his best to lock down the fear that threatened to swamp him. Xander - another one, some aspect of this one, something - had been out on the damn Hellmouth all night, alone.

*Why can't I hear him? Why isn't he calling? Oh fuck, fuck...*

*Calm safe* from Oz, even though the werewolf looked a bit freaked, as well. Tara was gathering some herbs into a small bowl when suddenly the bell jangled and Dawn burst into the shop - towing a disheveled, frightened-looking Xander behind her.

"Dawn!" Buffy hurried forward, and Xander took one look at Spike and threw himself forward, arms going around the vampire's naked waist, head buried in Spike's neck.

"Xander, love -" *Safe safe safe*

"Oh god, Spike, god, I'm - I'm s-so glad you're here, I thought -" Xander gulped - coughed. His voice was thick with tears. "I can't hear you, I can't hear Oz, I thought you were - I thought you were all dead, I woke up in the dump and everybody was gone, I thought - Spike, Spike -"

"Shhh, love, shhh, I've got you now, you're safe - we're all safe, got you now..." Spike wrapped his arms around the new Xander, holding him tight, stroking his hands through the human's hair, trying to soothe the shivering body. Oz tugged the old Xander close, trying to distract him.

"Dawn, what's going on? Where did - what happened?" Everyone crowded around Dawn, who looked pleased with her sudden importance.

"I just woke up and somebody was knocking and I thought maybe you'd forgotten your key, Buffy, so I came downstairs and it was Xander. He was really freaked out - he kept babbling about everybody being dead, and -" Dawn took a shaky breath and Buffy put her arm around her sister's shoulders, hugging her close.

"Anyway, I tried to call his house and nobody answered, and then I called here and it was busy, and he was getting really - upset - so I thought we should just come down here." She leaned into Buffy - looked down at the floor. "Eewww!" Is that blood? Is it - dead?" Buffy's eyes went wide and she tugged Dawn away from the dead Toth. Spike heard what Dawn said, but concentrated on the Xander shuddering in his arms.

*Love safe now safe love you* Xander didn't respond, and Spike gently put his hand under his chin - lifted his head up and looked into bloodshot, teary eyes.

"You can't hear me at all - even now?"

"No! I can't hear - either of you. And I know you can't hear me or you would have - God, it's - I hate it, Spike. Can you - can you fix it?" he whispered, and Spike hugged him close.

"Course I can, love. Well, I think the witches can, or the Watcher. They know what to do. Right?" Spike glared over at the group clustered around the table, and Giles took off his glasses, polishing them sketchily on his shirt-tail.

"Yes, we know what to do - it's a simple spell, really, to reunite them. We just need to make a circle - Riley, Buffy, help me clear a place, and Willow, you look up the proper sigil, will you please? In the 'Crawford's Demonica', I believe." As they swung into action, Spike gently tugged at Xander, and they sank to the floor. The new Xander didn't let go his death-grip on Spike, and the old one crouched down with Oz, studying his twin with a bewildered expression. He reached out and hesitantly touched the new Xander's cheek - ran grubby fingers through his hair. The Xander in Spike's arms shivered and looked up - smiled tremulously at his double.

"Wow. It's kinda - kinda weird, to see me like that. I look like that? It's - different than in a mirror."

"Yeah, you look like that, only usually much cleaner. He - you - were a bit...messy, tonight."

*Mine pack me...pack?* The old Xander seemed puzzled - a little afraid - and Oz settled down cross-legged, tugging him down with him, arm around his shoulder.

"Yeah, that's you, Xander. It's ok - we'll fix this soon." Oz rubbed the tense shoulder under his hand, trying to soothe the hyena. The old Xander leaned against him, sighing, struggling to keep his eyes open.

*Love you* Spike thought, directing it at Xander and Oz, and he pressed a soft kiss to his Xander's temple. "Love you. We'll get this fixed - get home soon. No work for you today, pet."

"Oh - it's ok. Before we left the house I called his boss. X-xander was all worried about missing work so I told him he was sick. He seemed really nice." Dawn came up the stairs, skirting widely around the demon corpse. She hesitated, then sat down across from the little group on the landing. The old Xander lifted his head marginally, scenting her, then relaxed.

*Pack pretty* he thought muzzily, and Oz laughed.

"What?" Dawn asked, looking a little upset.

"Nothing, Dawn - I'm sorry. Just - Xander said - this Xander - " Oz hugged his Xander a little. "He thinks of you as part of our pack. And - he said you were pretty."

"Oh. Oh?" Dawn looked confused for a minute and then grinned. "This is so cool! I never get to be around for the really interesting stuff! Now this! And a couple weeks ago I helped Buffy in a Slayer-related cover-up, when we didn't tell mom she got staked. I could so go on patrol!" Oz grinned at her, and Spike rolled his eyes - looked around for someplace to put out his cigarette. He finally ground it out on the sole of his boot and shoved the butt into his pocket. *Gotta remember to get those things out of there. Pockets are gettin' gritty. Hurry up, Watcher - my boy needs to go home*

"Maybe you should learn some moves before you try patrolling, Bit," Spike said, and Dawn frowned at him.

"Moves?"

"Yeah - you know - some kicks and things. Don't want to go down to the first vamp that pops up."

"Oh." Dawn crossed her arms, looking disappointed. "Buffy'll never teach me anything. She says I should just stay home safe."

"She's your big sister, Dawn, that's her job, to thwart you." The new Xander smiled at Dawn and snuggled a little closer to Spike. "I'll teach you some stuff if you want, though." Dawn brightened.
"Really? You mean that?"

"Sure, Bit. We all can. After all, you saved the day here, bein' so quick to get my boy down here - takin' care of him an' all."

"He was just - you were so scared, is all," Dawn said softly, and the new Xander shivered a little.

"I'm - I'm alone in here." He pointed at his head. "I haven't been that way for - a long time. It's... scary. Scary not being able to hear S-spike, or Oz or...myself. I hate it." His voice cracked a little, and Spike hugged him close.

"It's all right love, nearly over," Spike whispered. Dawn reached out and patted the new Xander's knee, smiling gently at him. Over by the training-room door, Giles climbed to his feet, chalk in hand, and surveyed the large sigil he had sketched on the floor. Willow stood nearby with a book in her hands.

"Is that it?" Giles asked, and she looked down at the book.

"Yup - perfect. Time to do the spell. Guys? You ready?"

"Past ready," Spike said, and he got up, pulling the new Xander up with him, reaching down and catching the old Xander's hand and pulling him up as well.

"C'mon then, let's do this. You two - hold on to each other." Oz stood as well, and the new Xander took his double's hand - looked inquiringly at Willow.

"What - what do we have to do?"

"Just stand in the center, and I'll say the words. It's a really simple spell. You both want to be together, and all the energy from the wand is working to keep you apart. All I have to do is dispel it and you'll go back together naturally."

"You sure, Red?" Spike asked, following his Xanders over to the chalk design. Oz and Dawn stood on the steps, watching.

"I'm sure, Spike. Don't - don't worry about it. Wow. It's really amazing!" Willow was studying her friend closely, and Spike stifled a growl. The old Xander had no such inhibitions and he snarled at her, pulling his twin close.

"Why is he -"
"You're not pack, Red. He doesnít trust you. The hyena doesn't."

"Oh. He doesn't? But - but Xander and I are friends!"

"The hyena isn't Xander...not really." Spike said, watching the new Xander maneuver himself and his double into the center of the sigil. *Just Xander without a conscious. Xander - as a vampire, almost. Lovely boy* Spike grinned a little to himself, thinking of that.

"Are you sure you want to do this, Spike? I mean - look at them! Imagine the possibilities, two of them, in bed..." Anya trailed off thoughtfully, eyeing the two, and Spike raised a smirk for her, eyebrow going up.

"Well now, that is a very...attractive idea. Hadn't thought of that." He completely ignored the various groaning and/or disgusted noises coming from Buffy, Riley, and Giles. He grinned over at the two, then shook his head at the terrified look that was coming over the new Xander's face. "But I want my own back, all in working order. The hyena's too -wild - to be out without Xander keepin' him in check." The new Xander relaxed marginally, and Spike ground his teeth in frustration, hating that he couldn't reassure him through the link.

"It really is incredible," Riley said from his chair. "Don't you just want to lock them in separate rooms and do experiments?" The room was silent, everyone staring at him, and Spike stalked over to the ex-soldier and let the demon out to snarl straight into Riley's face.

"Don't even fuckin' think it, you bastard. Nobody touches my boy." Riley flinched away - looked angry at himself.

"Just thinkin' out loud, there. Back off."

"Fuckin' tosser," Spike hissed, and shrugged away from the restraining hand Buffy put on his arm. He marched grimly over to Willow, fighting to get the demon under control. He finally pushed it away, human again, and Willow swallowed and shifted minutely away from him.

"C'mon and do it, Red - past time."

"R-right, ok. No problem." She cleared her throat nervously - shut the book and concentrated briefly. "Let the spell be ended." The Xanders shimmered, as if they were under water, and Spike felt a moment of vertigo. And then they were one, and *Spike?*

*Love you love you safe now*

*Thank GOD love you Oz love you* Spike took two long strides and had Xander in his arms, the human holding him so tight it was a good thing the vampire didn't need to breathe.

"Shhh, love, it's all right now." *Safe safe got you love you* and *Love you* from Oz.

"Well. I, for one, am glad that this is over." Giles yawned, covering his mouth, and looked bleakly around the store. "I have to clean this up. I've put up flyers - the Grand Opening is today and really, I can't delay it any longer." The older man rubbed at his eyes under his glasses, and Dawn bounced down the steps.

"I can help you, Giles - I don't have to be to school for another hour, and my first period is study hall, anyway, I can miss it. Let me help, please?"

"Dawn -" Buffy said, then her shoulders slumped in defeat at the look of pleading Dawn turned on her. "Ok, just this once. You did really good with the - with Xander. I guess you can if you promise to go straight to school when it's time."

"Aren't you gonna be here?" Buffy yawned, covering her mouth.

"I'm gonna go see mom, and then...I've got some stuff I've got to do on campus. You'll be ok here with Giles."

"And me. I may as well stay - no clients today." Anya picked up a book with half the pages crushed and vainly tried to smooth them flat. Spike looked over at Oz, running soothing hands up and down Xander's back.

*Love you love you never leave* in the link, insistent and heartbreaking, and he just wanted to be home.

"Ready to go, wolfling?"

"Yeah - I brought the van. I'll drive you guys home and then -" Oz looked around the shop. "I'm workin' today, so - I'll be home later."

"Sorry, Giles, but Tara and I both have classes this afternoon, so I think we're gonna go home and get a nap in before class. We'll be back over as soon as we're done - to help with the rush." Giles looked at her. "I'm sure there'll be a rush! Especially if you wear your wizard hat!" Buffy snickered and Giles looked affronted.

"I don't think -" Giles started, and Spike tugged gently at Xander - got him walking towards the door and Oz's van. As they went up the steps, there was a light touch at his arm. Spike looked over to see Tara, proffering his blanket.

"I thought you m-might need this," she said softly, and Spike smiled at her.

"Thanks, Glinda. And - tell Red thanks for me too, ok? For both of us."

"Sure, Spike." Tara handed over the blanket - gave Spike an enquiring look. "Uh, Spike?"

"Yeah?"

"What happened t-to your shirt?" Spike looked down at himself reflexively - grinned at her.

"Oh - that. You really wanna know?" He raised an eyebrow suggestively, doing his best come-hither look, and Tara blushed and backed up a step.

"Oh - uh, n-no, I guess I don't really wan-wanna know. Bye!" She turned and scurried back down the steps and Spike hugged Xander close, swinging the blanket around them both.

*Love you always safe safe home* he thought, including Oz, and the three of them walked out into the sunlight, going home.