And Ice For Your Wounded Heart - part five
Kendra was dead, just like Ms. Calendar. And Buffy was running from the police, and Xander was sitting in the Summers' kitchen with Mrs. Summers-please-call-me-Joyce and Willow, trying not to be go out of his mind. *God, Dru - killing her like...like she was nothing, just...* Xander had lain in the wreckage of a splintered bookshelf in the school library, trying to get up, his head throbbing, his arm on fire. Willow beside him, nearly unconscious - weakly grabbing at his hand. And then Drusilla had walked in, and he'd... *I froze, and - I just lay there, and - I could have stopped it - maybe I could have stopped her...*
He'd watched - horrified and fascinated - as Drusilla and Kendra had fought. As Drusilla had done... something. Weaving like a snake, looking the other Slayer in the eye and then - her hand flashing out, and Kendra falling, her neck pouring out a thick gout of bright blood. Dru had crouched down and touched her fingers to the scarlet flow - raised them to her lips and licked, contemplatively. Great cat at a bowl of cream.
"What's - happening? Xan..." Willow, her eyes tracking just wrong, her head bleeding and her voice slurred. Xander had gathered her close, shushing her - hoping Dru wouldn't notice. His arm was useless at his side - screaming with pain. But the vampire had noticed. She'd sent a couple of other vamps scurrying with a wave of her hand and then walked slowly over to them, her head to one side, an odd little smile on her face.
"Cuckoo - what are you doing here? You shouldn't have anything to do with her kind...do nothing but break your heart, they will," Dru had said, flicking a glance over her shoulder at Kendra. Her fingers had hovered before her mouth and her tongue had flicked out, licking the last traces of blood away.
"Please - Drusilla, please don't - don't hurt my friends. Please. Spike promised -" Dru had smiled at him - nodded at some question from one of the other vamps and reached out - touched Xander's cheek. He had been up on the stairs - she had been on the main floor - and they were level, the remnants of the smashed balustrade between them. *Stake - one of those railings - could stake her...god, Spike would kill me, he'd - kill us all, can't do that, can't do that...*
"I'm not Spike, though, am I, cuckoo? I didn't promise..." Drusilla had studied him - glanced at Willow, her fingers caressing Xander's cheek and his hair - his lips. Willow had been a dead weight on Xander's side, unconscious. Drusilla chanted softly:
"Say over again and yet once over again - that thou dost love me. Though the word repeated should seem a cuckoo-song, as though dost treat it..."
Drusilla had moved closer, her oddly pale eyes half-shut, her mouth smiling. Her hand on Xander's cheek had been like snow - like a cool cloth when you had a fever and Xander had shuddered, pushing into her caress for just - one moment.
"Do you love me, cuckoo? Tell me, little sweetling... 'Say thou does love me, love me, love me - toll the silver iterance! - only minding, Dear, to love me also in silence with thy soul...' "
"Dru - please don't - " Xander had whispered, and she had leaned in very close and kissed him, cool lips, cold tongue - salt-iron of Kendra's blood making Xander shiver.
"Say you love me, cuckoo, and I'll go and leave you be," she had whispered, and Xander had stared at her - stared in shock and hope and reached out to touch a lock of her silken hair with one finger.
"Love you - love you, Drusilla, I d-do," he had whispered, and she had smiled at him - put two fingers up to her eyes, and then pointed them at Xander.
"Sleep," she had whispered back, and that was all Xander remembered. Until an EMT woke him - was talking to him - feeling for his pulse. Willow being wheeled away on a gurney - his arm throbbing in agony - and Principal Snyder telling the police it had been Buffy - Buffy had killed Kendra. They'd shushed him when he'd tried to talk, and then sedated him when he'd started yelling.
*Fucking hate hospitals.* It had taken until he and Willow were on their way out to realize Giles - was gone. *Did Drusilla take him? God - is he dead? She promised...but Angelus didn't - Buffy, where are you?*
Joyce was making hot chocolate - something to do, she said, smiling a shaky smile. Willow was trying to help her but she said her head hurt and she kept stopping to rub her neck and Xander just wished she'd sit down. His own arm throbbed and itched in a cast - half-remembered ache of a broken bone and he tapped it absently with his fingernails. Willow had a sheaf of papers and notes spread out on the kitchen island - a re-souling spell, she said. Legacy of Ms. Calendar. But she didn't know if she could do it.
"Well, well, well. You lot look like someone's died." Cocky voice - devil's own grin - Spike leaning in the doorway with a cigarette and Xander stood slowly, his heart hammering in his chest.
"Oh my god -!" Willow squeaked, and Joyce looked puzzled.
"Someone did die," Xander said softly, and Spike frowned - pitched his cigarette behind him, into the yard.
"Yeah? Who, then?"
"Kendra did. The other Slayer. Dru - did it." Spike grinned, straightening from his slouch.
"Dru bagged a Slayer? Bloody hell - good on her!" Xander clutched the edge of the island so hard his fingers hurt, and he felt like he might throw up. *Don't be happy. Don't be happy about that, Spike, please don't...say anything else...*
"What's a Slayer?" Joyce asked, bewildered. "Who's Kendra, who's - Dru, and who is this?"
Spike looked over at her, still grinning. "She doesn't know? Bloody hell -"
"Spike. What do you want?" Xander asked, and Spike looked serious finally - looked Xander in the eye, head tipped a little. "Oh, I want all sorts of things, love, but for now I want to talk to the Slayer. Make a deal."
"What kind of deal? Buffy wouldn't make a deal with a vampire!" Willow blurted, and Joyce gaped at her.
"Willow, I think you need to go back to the hospital." Joyce looked frightened and Xander just stood there for a moment, so confused and so lost. So angry with Dru and with Spike he just wanted to scream at the vampire - find Buffy and see him dust. Spike took on a sort of school-boy pose - hands behind his back and his head down a little, looking innocent and - fuck - looking concerned - and Xander felt the heat of his angers draining out of him. Replaced with a coolness. *Promised he wouldn't hurt anyone and he didn't, he didn't, only Dru did and she's...she's not all there... Fuck. Spike, please...*
"Now - you're Buffy's mother, am I right?" Spike asked, and Joyce smiled at him - nodded.
"Yes - but I don't know you - do you go to school with Buffy?"
"Not...really," Spike said, and smiled. "But I know what's going on - would you like me to explain, Mrs. Summers?"
"Oh, I -" Joyce looked at Willow, who looked like a little rabbit, all hunched and huge-eyed. At Xander, who was frozen in place, shivering. "Yes, yes I would. Won't you come in...?"
"I'm called Spike," Spike said, and stepped inside.
"Do you have any of those little marshmallows?" Spike asked, and Xander kicked him under the edge of the island. He shot Xander a look and then smiled at Joyce as she got up, bustling to the cabinet.
"I'm sure I do - those are Buffy's favorite, too. Yup! Here we go -" Joyce came back over with a bag of marshmallows and handed them to Spike, who sprinkled a handful into his cup.
"Thank you so much. Now - you got it all straight in your head, Joyce?"
"I'm pretty sure I do. But...Spike - Xander? Demons and...and vampires...? It's all so -"
"It's a lot to take in, Mrs. Summers, but it's true," Willow said, her gaze skating over Spike and then back to Joyce - sitting up from her hunch and gripping her mug of hot chocolate tightly in both hands. "Buffy's a - a hero! A champion. She - she rescues people and - and kills the bad guys and - and she's passing Chem. Lab, too!" Spike made a choking sort of noise and Xander kicked him again, and Joyce smiled tiredly.
"I just wish that she'd told me! I would have...understood so much of what's been happening. Of what happened in L.A.! I... Spike, are you sure you're a vampire? Have you tried not being a vampire?"
"He could show you -" Xander said, and this time Spike kicked him. Xander felt like he was floating on a cloud - like the time he and Jesse had stolen a six-pack out of the back of Rory's car and split it between them. Swooping and flying, falling and spinning, his arm forgotten. Nothing quite real and Spike's hand on his thigh under the island edge, stroking gently. Spike's voice in his ear, whispering, as Joyce had stood over the stove, stirring the milk so it wouldn't scald.
"Gonna make a deal, cuckoo. Gonna help the Slayer take Angelus out, and then me and Dru - we're leavin' here. Going to go south - down to Rio, maybe. Have some fun." Then Spike had touched his face - traced one cool finger over his lower lip. "We want you to come, cuckoo. We want you with us. Will you?"
And Xander had felt the blood in him all go to soda and pop-rocks - sweet and fizzing and utterly intoxicating as Spike's words had sunk in. Willow had tugged on his shirt-sleeve but he'd ignored her, staring at Spike and Spike had ducked his head - looked at him from under dark lashes as long as Dru's.
Kendra's death had faded and he'd just remembered the touch of Dru's fingers on his cheek - Spike's kiss the week before at the Crawford street house. Remembered the cool press of those bodies to his in the bed in the factory and how the coolness had sunk into him and made him feel...so calm. So calm, and so very still. Cold pushing into him and freezing him and making all the hurts go away - all the stings and aches dulled to nothing.
"Do you really want...me? I - I want -"
"Really want you, cuckoo. Dru's seen you - seen what you are, inside. We want you."
Crouching at dawn in the bushes outside of the house on Crawford Street, Xander could see several minions scurrying around, dodging sunlight and shutting the house up. A white face framed in dark hair - Dru - peered out of an upstairs window and then curtains and shutters were drawn, and the house was mute - blind - shut against them. A hidden and secret hive, harmless until you touched it.
Buffy was next to him, holding the hilt of a sword that she'd been given by some sort of...messenger. 'The Powers That Be', she'd said, and Xander and Willow had exchanged puzzled glances. Buffy didn't know much more except that it she had to use it to close the portal if Angel opened it. Had to use it to cut him, because only Angel's blood would close the portal once it had been activated. Secretly, Xander wondered if that meant Angel had to die but Giles' notes seemed to indicate otherwise. Spike had offered to kill him, but Buffy had clamped her jaw shut and shaken her head - reminded Spike that he had to leave and never come back. Spike had looked straight at Xander and grinned, and Xander...
*Going away and never coming back. Never, ever coming back...*
Now the sun was up and the vampires were trapped, and Willow would be doing the re-souling spell. Xander gripped the stake he'd brought from Buffy's house and swallowed - stood when Buffy did and walked on shaking legs to the back of the house.
*What if he's already opened the portal and we can't stop it? What if Giles is dead? What if Buffy kills Angel and then...then tries to kill Spike? He's killed two Slayers - Dru's killed one...Buffy can't beat them...* The back door swung open easily under Buffy's hand and they moved silently, pushing through heavy curtains of dusty red velvet. A vampire - concentrating on something going on in front of him - collapsed into dust as Buffy swung the sword and decapitated him.
"If they're all like that, this is gonna be a piece of cake," Buffy whispered, and Xander nodded - clutched the stake tighter. "Go find Giles and get him out of here, don't get in the crossfire, okay?"
"Yeah - okay. Be careful, Buff." Buffy nodded, grim-faced, and strode into the main room. Angel was standing in front of a blocky, ugly statue - some sort of demon - and he looked over and grinned when he saw Buffy.
"I don't have time for you, Slayer."
"Better make time, lover," Buffy said, and Xander shuddered. Her voice was sharper than the sword she carried - colder than Angelus' smile and Xander just wanted to get out. He slid along the wall, heading for the room Spike had said Giles would be in. Drusilla saw him, her eyes going wide and Xander froze, hoping she wouldn't alert Angel. But Angel was curling his bleeding palm around the hilt of a sword that jutted from the statue - was pulling it out, like Excalibur in that movie only Xander knew there was no cranky owl or long-bearded wizard to help. Dru bounced on her toes a little, clapping her hands.
"The crows, the crows, the crows are coming home to roost, Daddy, do you see?" Angel tipped his chin up at her but didn't answer. "Now whatever shall we do?" She turned to Spike, who was lounging against a door jamb, smoking. "Shall we sing Bede's song? For there's a question of souls in this, my sweet Spike... 'Before the necessary journey...no one is wiser than he should be...who consider before his going hence what may be judged of his soul for good and evil after the day of his death...' Shall there be death, Spike?"
"There usually is, poppet," Spike said, and Xander forced himself to move - made it about two feet and stopped to watch again, transfixed. Angel swung the sword over his head and Buffy launched herself at him and Spike moved, too - closed the space between himself and Angel in the blink of an eye and swung a length of pipe that had been hidden behind his back - connected solidly with the back of Angel's head, sending the older vampire to the floor. Another vamp leaped from the shadows, snarling, and Buffy whirled, sword flashing. Spike lifted the pipe and swung again and again - three, four, five times.
"Hurts, doesn't it? You bastard." he muttered. He threw the pipe aside and turned, golden-glowing eyes finding Xander. "Do what you came to do, cuckoo - 'bout time to fly." Xander nodded - unstuck himself from his position against the wall and ran on shaky legs into the room where Giles was.
The Watcher was tied with rope to a chair - blood-streaked and bruised, his shirt shredded around his waist, his head lolling to one side, eyes shut. Xander looked hastily away from the wounds on his body and knelt behind the chair, hacking at the ropes with his knife, talking fast.
"Giles - Giles? It's me - it's Xander. I'm getting you out of here. Buffy's gonna take care of Angel and we're gonna go. Giles?" Xander unwound the rope from Giles' wrists - looked in horror at the crooked, swollen fingers. Broken fingers. *Oh god, god...fucking bastard, fucking Angel...*
"No...." Giles moaned, twitching away from Xander's hands - slumping forward and nearly off the chair, before Xander caught him and got his own shoulder up under Giles' arm - hoisting him to his feet. Giles was heavy - was nearly dead weight and Xander gritted his teeth and braced himself, swaying.
"Giles - damnit, wake up! We gotta get out of here!" He could hear Buffy's sword, ringing off stone and other metal - could hear the mansion's other vampires growling as they attacked. *Just cannon fodder - that's what Spike said. Nothing she can't handle. Gotta get Giles someplace safe and then...* And then...Xander was coming back. And Spike would be waiting, and Dru would, and everything would be...better.
"No, just...just a trick - an illusion -" Giles mumbled, and Xander shook him.
"Giles! I'm not an illusion! Come on - Buffy's killing the vamps out there and we have to go!" Giles seemed to wake up a little then and he took on more of his own weight - peered near-sightedly at Xander and winced when Xander got a fresh grip on his wrist, jostling his broken bones.
"Oh - yes, I -"
"Are you leaving so soon, my love?" Dru slid into the room, blood on her mouth. She lapped at it like a cat and Xander felt Giles stiffen - heard him gasp in a choked breath. "But you have to, yes - like the cuckoo, you fly with the dawn..." Dru minced over to them, her hands folded before her in a school-girl pose, her eyes dancing with some inner glee. "I shall miss you, my sweet pilgrim," she murmured to Giles - reached up and traced his lip with her fingertip. "You kiss by th'book. Now - cuckoo - mind me," she said, and her other hand was on Xander's neck, pulling him close and Giles was shaking, and Xander just wanted to get him out.
"Dru - Spike said we could go - please let us go," Xander whispered, and Dru sank her fingers into his hair - pulled his face down to hers.
"Listen, cuckoo - there's something you need to know. She said it, once upon a time, and I say it now, too." She pressed her forehead to his and Xander was vaguely aware that her other hand was pulling Giles closer as well. "There's a secret - a word. And if you discover it you shall be your own master, and I will make a present of the whole world to you. Do you understand? The whole world...and a pair of new skates. If only you know the secret word." She tipped her head up a little and kissed him, mouth of snow and licorice and iron. "Don't forget," she whispered, and then she was slipping away - dancing out of the room and Giles let out a harsh, strangled sound - a sort of a laugh.
"Xander - bloody h-hell, you've -"
"I've got to get you out of here, Giles. Come on." Xander hauled and Giles stumbled, cursing, and they made their way out and across the main room. Spike was staking a vamp - Buffy was fighting with Angel, sword to sword - and there was a glowing, rippling void centered over the statue in the middle of the room.
"Oh - god - he's woken Acathla," Giles muttered, his voice faint and shaky and Xander felt sick.
"Spike! You have to stop it!" he shouted, and Spike snapped a neck - dusted his hands together and looked at the portal that was shivering to life.
"Thought Slayer's were supposed to be tough!" he sneered, and then he picked up his pipe and joined the fight, swinging recklessly and clanging the thing off Angel's ribs - thigh - sword. Grinning like a feral dog, his coat flaring around him. Xander tugged at Giles, trying to get him to walk again but Giles resisted, his gaze glued on Buffy.
*God - please - Willow, do the spell and stop him, they'll never get him to close the portal this way!* Dru was watching the portal, swaying slightly in her red dress - snake watching the charmer's pipe - her eyes golden and glittering. Angel was like a bull - baffled and raging - being stung again and again by the matador's sword. Spike had a gash across his chest - a scratch down one cheek - and Buffy was panting, driving Angel back into Spike - being driven back when Angel retreated away from the whirling pipe that Spike wielded. And then he crashed to his knees, his head going back and a sound of purest agony groaning out of him. Spike lifted the pipe again but Buffy caught it on her sword.
"Don't! It's the spell - the re-souling spell!" Spike snarled but backed off, throwing the pipe down and wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. He went to stand beside Dru, who curled into his arms and licked the cut on his cheek, smiling dreamily.
"Every night when I go out, the monkey's on the table - take a stick and knock it off...Pop! goes the weasel..." She rested her cheek on Spike's shoulder, her fingers dipping into the blood that seeped from the slash across his chest. "No more of the City Road for Daddy, now - no more in and out of the Eagle. It's all rice and treacle for him - got no teeth, our little weasel..." Spike laughed shortly, nuzzling into her hair.
"That's right, darling - no more teeth, and no more slippery slope into hell. He'll stay here in his sackcloth and ashes and we'll go where it's warm - where the boys and girls are all full of pepper and sunlight, just for you." He lifted his gaze when he said that - looked across at Xander and Xander nodded.
"C'mon, Giles - you gotta go to the hospital."
"No - wait - I want to see -" Giles protested. Buffy was on her knees beside Angel, talking to him in a low voice, her arm curved protectively around him. He was panting - ashen - and then he nodded and struggled to his feet, leaning on Buffy. They made their way to the statue and Angel stood swaying under the portal. Dru hissed and pulled back - tugged Spike away.
"Let's do it - now," he grated, and Buffy lifted her sword - swung it in a silver arc. The skin of Angel's throat parted like gossamer and his blood furled out of him - flew in a twisting thread across the air and into the portal where it spun and writhed, blackening. As Angel began to sink to his knees, white as milk-glass, the portal shuddered - warped - and snapped shut, gone.
"Thank Christ," Giles muttered, and fainted.
In the emergency room for the second time in twenty-four hours and he was starting to recognize some faces. They'd told the staff Giles had been mugged and they'd called the police and for once Xander was glad that Buffy <wasn't there. She'd taken Angel home, supporting the fainting vampire and looking close to fainting herself. Xander had tried to talk her into going back to her own house but she'd frowned and shaken her head - insisted Angel needed her.
"Your mom needs you more, Buffy! She doesn't even know if you're alive!"
"You go and tell her, okay? I just - just can't deal with her questions right now, Xander! I can't - believe you told her."
"What was I supposed to do, Buffy? Spike was right there and he was gonna tell her anyway - don't you think it was better that me and Willow were there?"
"Oh god, Spike." Buffy had passed her hand over her face, looking angry and lost. "She invited him in! What if he goes over there -?"
"Made a deal, Slayer," Spike had said, standing by the lump of rock that had been the end of the world only twenty minutes before. "I don't break my word. Get your little covey out of my house, now. Soon as the sun's down me and Dru will be gone." Thin fingers like wands of bone had lifted a cigarette to his mouth - face as expressionless as a mask and the smoke had drifted up and around, furling halo of blue-white.
"Hey, William the Bloody, news flash! I don't actually trust you," Buffy had snapped, and she had taken one angry step forward. Angel's hand on her arm had stopped her, and he'd heaved a sigh, tugging her closer.
"Buffy - it's okay. He really won't break his word. That's the one...honorable thing about Spike. I know him, Buffy," Angel had insisted, and Buffy had relented finally. Spike had just watched them - flicked a glance to where Xander was kneeling next to Giles.
"Promise," he had mouthed, and Xander had let go the breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding.
Then Oz had come in with Willow, saying he had Giles car, ready to get everyone safely away. And Xander had walked out, not daring to look back, smoke and blood and leather smell in his nose - taste of Dru on his lips.
Giles, it seemed, would be staying over night. Oz had already taken Willow home, snuggling her under his arm and putting a warm hand on Xander's shoulder - looking at him, and asking him if he needed a ride. Xander had just shaken his head - said he was gonna walk home, get some sun - get some doughnuts. Oz had nodded and smiled faintly at him - led Willow away. Xander had almost - almost - stopped him. Called him back and...
*And what? Confess everything to him? Ask for his blessing? He knows, anyway - he knows already and he didn't say a word... He's half demon, himself, he...knows...* Xander walked, head hunched down between his shoulders, thumb rubbing slowly, slowly over the black mark on his palm. Jesse's mark. *Start of it all. Got his dust in me and...nothing was the same. In my lungs, in my blood - made me see...a lot of things. See things differently.*
"Yeah. Different." Xander stood on the sidewalk outside his house - looked at the ragged lawn and the faded paint and felt a swell of disgust go through him. *Doesn't take any time to mow the lawn. I should know - I've done it enough. And paint costs less then all that fuckin' booze.* He was suddenly so tired, and he stumbled up the walk and up to the door - pushed it open. Stale air, rancid food smells - liquor. Sickness, that he hadn't registered before - maybe just hadn't wanted to acknowledge. As he walked past the living room there was a sudden cough - a shifting of worn springs and Xander froze.
"The school called. Said you ditched. Care to explain?" Xander turned and leaned in the doorway - looked at his father. The figure of nightmare for so many, many years, sitting in the blue-grey cave of the living room. Curtains drawn, TV flickering. Saw him - differently. A big man, but going to fat. Lines in his face from outdoor work, sure, but the broken capillaries of the hard drinker, too, that gave him a permanently flushed look. Stained t-shirt, the cuffs worn out on his slacks; thick, yellow toenails on his bare feet.
"It's not even noon - guess you ditched work, huh?" Xander replied, his voice so low and so soft he wondered if his dad even heard him over the Oprah show.
"I'm sick today - and that's none of your fuckin' business. You just came in - where've you been? Out all night? Causin' trouble? If the police come here looking for you I'm not gonna vouch for you," his dad growled, fingering the tab on an unopened beer. Xander shrugged.
"I didn't think you would. Don't worry - the police don't want me - I've just been out...looking at things. Thinking about things."
"Don't break a sweat," his dad snorted and the can tssssed open. Xander listened to the beer sluice down his dad's throat - watched him wipe his mouth with the back of his hand and shift in his recliner.
"You either," Xander said finally, and went away upstairs. Their bedroom door was closed and Xander knew that meant his mom was in there, asleep. Her best defense against her life. He hesitated for a long moment, his fingertips on the door knob. But then he walked away - went to his room and packed up his backpack - changes of clothes, his favorite comics. The paper back copy of Star Wars that Jesse had bought him because - 'Dude! There's extra scenes in here!' And the dreidel that he'd smuggled out of Willow's house one Hanukkah. He'd been invited to join her family - first and last time, since his dad had called the next day and shouted at Willow's dad about 'indoctrinating his son into the cult of the Jews'. They'd played the dreidel game - a blast for eight-year-old Xander - and he'd actually won the pot - won a little sackful of candy that had broken open and scattered on the floor when his dad had slapped him.
He looked around the room - gave up trying to find anything else. There was nothing else. His life wasn't here - had maybe never been - and it was time. Time to move on. He went back downstairs and outside - breathed in deeply, glad to have the oppressive, over-heated air of the house out of his lungs. *Time to go, time to go, time to go,* like a mantra in his head and he hurried, backpack bumping his hip in time to the racing of his heart.
The mansion was silent - deserted looking - and Xander stood in the sunken courtyard, staring in. Hot and sweaty because he'd finally just run. Miserable, because the doubt was creeping back in. What did they really want with him? He was a novelty - the Slayer's friend, or...something. But he was just...Xander Harris. Nothing special and how could he keep the attention of two vampires - vampires who'd been alive for over a hundred years? More, really. He had nothing to give them but his blood.
"Cuckoo? That you, standing out there?" Spike faded into view from the green-black gloom of the shuttered house. Smoke drifting through a patch of light, reflecting white as snow for a moment before thinning out into nothing. Spike naked, like a statue - shining pearl and snow in the murk. Not even approaching human, and Xander felt his heart skip and catch and race on - felt his lungs hitch and pause for one long, awful moment.
And then he was swaying dizzily forward and Spike was coming to meet him, cigarette arching past Xander's head to skitter over the leaf-littered courtyard. Spike's hands were coming up to brace his shoulders, and Spike's mouth was ghosting over his.
"You all right, then? Look white as a sheet, little bird."
"I - I - I'm all right, I -" Xander's teeth were chattering - he couldn’t catch his breath - and Spike pulled him closer and tucked Xander's head down into his neck - stroked soothing circles over Xander's spine.
"Hush now, cuckoo. Hush. You're here like we wanted, and we're here, like we promised. Come and lie down with us, yeah? Come and rest." Something in Spike's voice - sweet, dark promise that Xander couldn't puzzle out.
"Oh-okay. Okay, I... I brought my...stuff," he added, burrowing closer into the smoke iron earth of Spike's neck.
"Did you now? We'll get you some new kit, cuckoo, when we go. Got nothing suitable for Rio, I'll bet." Spike kissed his temple - his ear and the curve of Xander's neck under his hair. Kisses like mint and ice, all shivery hot-cold and tingling. "Mmm...you taste good, love. Warm and salty and sweet..."
"Treacle tarts," Dru said, fading in as Spike had - naked as Spike was, her hair a dark cowl around her face and shoulders - dark fleece at her groin.
"I'm all - sweaty, I'm not c-clean," Xander murmured in protest - vain protest as Dru slipped his pack off his shoulder and Spike slipped his shirt off and then he was between them again on the crisp cotton and satin of the bed - Dru pressed all along his front, ice and mist. Spike at his back, snow and smoke. Naked as they were, and lost in their touch - in their mouths on his and on his throat, his chest, his back.
"You taste like the sea, little cuckoo," Dru murmured, licking a slow stripe up his arm - curling her arm over his ribs and pulling Spike closer. "Remember, Spike, the crossing? The Mauretania...we stood on the bow and the spray flew up - rainbows in the moonlight. That's you, little cuckoo. You're all fractured and faceted - you're seeing through a kaleidoscope."
"It's the dust," Xander said, and pulled Spike's hand to his mouth - kissed the long fingers and raised his leg, so Spike's knee could slide between his thighs. "Jesse's dust, it - got in my eyes and...in my blood."
"Yes, love," Spike said - ran his cool mouth up Xander's back and bit gently at his throat, just under his ear. "Dru said - you let the dust in. Now you'll let us in, yeah? Let us in, little cuckoo," Spike whispered.
Xander found himself upright, astride Spike's thighs - Spike's arms pulling Xander back into his chest, Spike's chin on his shoulder. Spike's cock, slowly breaching him and it hurt - god, it hurt so much and Xander tried to pull away - tried to push him out but Spike just slipped deeper, icy fire that coiled through Xander's belly and stole his breath away.
"Please - Spike -"
"It's a birth, cuckoo," Dru said - Dru kneeling over the both of them and lowering herself onto Xander - clasp of chilled silk around him and Xander gasped - tried to move - clutched fiercely at Spike's thigh and Dru's shoulder as Dru's weight forced him down. And then they were still and Xander was shivering, shivering - tendrils of cold snaking through him and Dru's eyes like wells - Spike's teeth prickling over his neck like icicles. "You're being reborn, my sweet boy. All births hurt. Hush, now, shhhh..." Dru kissed him and he lost his breath - hung dizzily between them and keened softly as Spike moved, sending jolts of acid pain through his gut.
"Remember the word, cuckoo? Say the right word and we'll make everything better. Just one little word, sweet..." Xander lay his head back on Spike's shoulder - felt Spike's mouth on his jaw and Spike's fingers where Xander's body joined Dru's - Dru's thighs hard and cool like marble, Spike like chilled iron under him - inside of him. Cold spreading out from cock and cunt and sharp-toothed mouths and Xander thought about a love that was a century old - more. Thought, as best he could about what he was being reborn as. Felt the word in his mouth as he felt fangs in this throat - Spike on this side, Dru on that, both of them writing over and under him - enfolding and invading and taking...
"Forever. It's forever," he whispered, and Dru laughed into his neck and Spike's fingers stroked his chest and Xander just held on, his vision gone to spangles and tear-drop shimmers. Fracturing and freezing as the heat of his humanity flowed out and cool, spiced wine - *that's blood...Dru's blood, Spike's blood...* was poured past his lips and the hurt became something entirely different. He drank the blood down, every drop.
Waking was...different. It was like coming up from down deep in a pool of water - like breaking through a layer of ice and being thrust up into the air, gasping. Xander dragged a hard, harsh breath into his lungs, sitting straight up. The air...glowed. Every mote of dust and reflection sparkled with rainbow refractions - shimmered with glowing coronas of silvery white.
"What - what is it? What is it?" he gasped, and Spike was there, fingers cupping Xander's face - his thumb rubbing over Xander's lower lip and Xander could feel every whorl - every line.
"It's the moon...the moon..." Low, throaty voice and Xander could see Dru near the courtyard doors, wearing a long, pale dress and slowly revolving, her arms up and out like a crucifix and her hair across her face. Pillar of salt and ink - indescribably beautiful.
"The - m-moon?" Xander pushed into Spike's caress - looked with something like awe at the gleaming lines of bone and muscle in Spike's face - chest - arms. Frozen milk - polished ivory - and Xander's hand on Spike's thigh seemed too dark - seemed...wrong. "I'm not - I don't look the same," he said, and Spike picked Xander's hand up and brought it to his mouth - kissed his fingers.
"No, love, you don't. You look like honey and sunlight. You look..." Spike closed his eyes - opened them again and pulled Xander closer, kissing him with slow deliberation until Xander thought he would pass out. He sucked in a breath that tasted of earth and molasses and mint, shivering.
"How do I look?" he whispered, and Spike smiled at him.
"You look beautiful, Xander. Better without this, though." Xander watched, fascinated, as Spike cracked the edge of the cast - tore it off in three hard jerks and tossed it aside. The lately-broken, newly-healed bone didn't even twinge, and Xander flexed his hand, smiling.
"Don't fret, cuckoo - you'll bleach your bones soon enough - the moon will wash you until you gleam like glass." Dru swayed over to them, the gossamer panels of her dress floating around her and Xander held his hand out - felt a surge of wild joy when she took it and settled on the bed with them - wound her arms around both him and Spike and kissed them.
"Now we're done, now we've finished - you've the whole world at your feet, little cuckoo - what shall you do first?"
"I'm hungry," Xander said, and Spike laughed.
"Of course you are. We'll get you fed - pack our things and go. Sun's just down half an hour ago - we'll be in Mexico by dawn. You'll like Mexico, cuckoo - they taste like lemon and Cuervo there." Laughter in Spike's voice still - sparkling in his eyes and Xander laughed, too - pulled Spike to him and hugged him hard, snuffling into his neck and breathing deeply of the scents that were...home family mine. Spike's arms tight around him - Dru's over them both and her voice crooning in his ear -
"Who can fear too many stars, though each in heaven shall roll, too many flowers, though each shall crown the year? Say thou dost love me, love me, love me..."
He could hear the DeSoto's grumbling purr from halfway down the block, although he supposed no one else could. He stood outside the house, watching the shadow move behind the glass. Cold, in the very core of him. A coldness that had spread all through him until he was still and calm - so very calm. No more doubts, and no more hurt. The dust had settled, finally - had merged with him, flesh and bone. He closed his eyes for a moment, thinking of smooth, cold hands and laughing eyes - welcoming arms and sharp-edged mouths. He stepped up to the door and knocked softly - smiled when it opened - smiled when she did.
"Wills -" he said. Forever would begin right now.
The Venerable Bede - Death Song
Elizabeth Barrett Browning - Sonnets from the Portuguese
Pop! goes the Weasel