By Jane Davitt
Sequel to Predatory Acts
As Spike gave Giles directions that led them down streets that got progressively narrower, Xander stared at their backs and let the resentment burn through him, clearing away the emotional dross, leaving him empty and clean. Leaving room for the predator to return.
“Think this is it, Giles,” Spike said. “Go on a bit; right, this’ll do. It’s just down this alley, but you’ll never get the car down here. Not that a few scratches wouldn’t be an improvement, mind you.”
“It gets me from A to B,” Giles said tersely, laying a reassuring hand against the dashboard as the car shook violently in response to a gear change. “I’ll turn the car around and wait for you here, then, shall I? Keep an eye open, listen for screams, that sort of thing?”
“Whatever,” said Spike, sounding a little distracted. “You still awake Xander? Not your usual chatty self. Lack of suspension made you feel car-sick, did it?”
“Fuck off, Spike.”
An uneasy silence fell. Giles glanced down at his empty hands and tried to remember where the weapons were. Most were in the trunk but hadn’t Spike slipped a knife into his coat pocket? Spike was obviously picking up the same signals because he turned around, reached through the seats and grabbed Xander’s shirt in his fist. “You’ve got maybe a sentence to convince me you’re still you, pet,” he said, “Off you go.”
Xander giggled. They were both so funny. Scared. He could smell it coming off them. He’d scared Giles. That was ... suddenly Spike’s face was very close and his head exploded into a pain so intense he welcomed the darkness that followed.
He woke to find his arms tied behind his back, his head throbbing and an interesting discussion for entertainment.
“–didn’t have to hit him that hard!”
“Oh, so you fancied sharing a ride with someone who’d rip your throat out, as soon as look at you?” Beat. “Someone besides me, then? I’ve seen him feeding and it isn’t a pretty sight. Messy. Lad needs a bib. Not to mention the fact that my head hurts worse than his, I’ll wager.”
“Interesting that the chip didn’t fire at once. You don’t think?”
“Nah. I didn’t nut him as much as slam his forehead against mine. Probably confused it.”
“Spike?” Xander’s voice was weak. “It’s me.”
Spike swung around and glared at him. The car was dark but a faint orange glow from a street lamp shone through the windows, enough for Xander to see the suspicion fade to concern.
“Can you let us know when you start going furry on the inside, love? If it’s not too much trouble, that is?”
“Xander, it might be as well if you stay here with me,” Giles said gently. “Give yourself time to recover –”
“No, see, that’s what started me off, made me angry,” Xander said, forcing his voice to remain calm. “Protecting me, not letting me decide for myself. Oh, God. Spike? I can feel the anger, it’s too much, and I can’t stop it from coming...”
Spike was beside him in moments, holding him tightly, kissing him with frantic, badly aimed kisses that landed all over Xander’s face, until he was laughing so hard there was no room for the anger. Giles stared steadily out of the windshield, his fingers tight around the steering wheel, his thoughts his own.
“Better?” asked Spike, when Xander’s laughter had died down, his hands busy with the knots that tied Xander’s wrists together.
“Better,” said Xander weakly, his hand cupping Spike’s cheek as soon as it was freed. “For Giles’ sake, let’s get out of here.”
“Oh, don’t mind me,” said Giles. “I like having the windows steamed up so I can’t see any demons approaching, really I do.”
“If we’re not back in an hour, it’s the third house on the left,” said Spike. “Knock three times and for the love of cream teas, don’t go mentioning that your job was to make the Slayer better at hers. It’s a conversation stopper in these parts.”
“I never would have guessed that, Spike. What would I do without you to advise me?”
“Lowest form of wit, Giles, lowest form of wit.”
All three got out of the car and walked around to the trunk to retrieve the weapons. Giles wondered privately about the wisdom of arming Xander but decided that the risks were outweighed by the benefits. As Spike thought that visible weapons might lead to trouble, he took just an axe small enough to slip inside his duster and a knife. Xander studied the collection and shrugged. “A stake’s good enough for me,” he said.
Spike nodded, clearly not too concerned that Xander might try to use it on him, and handed Giles a hefty axe. “Best keep this by you. You’re going to be a nice target just sitting here.”
Giles took it with a nod and watched them leave, noting the time. He got back in the car and sat for a moment in case they found the place deserted and came back. After a few minutes he turned the key, heard the engine splutter to life, and then moved off slowly, looking for a good place to turn around.
Xander followed Spike in silence, feeling his skin crawl. The alley was empty but he still felt as if he were being watched and was in danger. Years of fighting beside the Slayer had honed his awareness of danger, if not the ability to deal with it.
“And here we are,” murmured Spike, turning to face a wooden door, smaller than normal and lacking any kind of lock or handle. Spike rapped on it sharply and stepped back. There was a pause and the door shimmered and dissolved, revealing a dark passageway. Xander swallowed nervously and followed Spike inside, resisting the urge to turn and see if the door was back in place. Somehow he knew it would be.
The narrow hall opened out into a room so full of clutter that Xander gaped in wonder. His bedroom had reached heights of mess that were legendary, but this was something beyond that. In a room three times the size of his basement, there was barely room for him to stand with his feet side by side. That took artistry.
Spike stood just in front of him and looked around. “This is the place and this is his stuff. Now all we need is...” He reached out and delicately prodded at a stack of books, even his light touch making them sway dramatically.
“Don’t _do_ that!” screamed a voice that seemed to come from the ceiling. The ceiling that was so festooned with – was that a stuffed kangaroo?- various items that Xander could only guess at its height. A collection of kites, gaudy and streamer-bedecked, unfolded like an origami puzzle and a head poked out. “One more touch and you are banned! Banned, I say!”
“Keep your hair on, Dremar. It’s me, Spike.”
There was a suspicious pause. “Spike the vampire? Are you sure?”
“Of course, I’m bloody sure! Why wouldn’t I be?”
“No reason, no reason.”
A tiny figure, no bigger than a monkey, slid down one of the streamers and landed on a heap of cushions, sending up a cloud of dust motes. Xander sneezed and then glanced around in panic as his elbow jarred against a shelf stacked high with boxes of microwave popcorn. The creature sighed with relief as the boxes settled down again and contented himself with a glare at Xander that changed to a look of wary recognition. “Ah. I see,” he said quietly.
“You always were quick,” Spike said. “Bet you know what I want before I ask, don’t you?”
Dremar glanced up at him, bushy eyebrows drawing together. Xander thought that he looked like a living illustration from a fairy tale book, a gnome or a dwarf maybe. He’d never been into them much but Willow had loved them. “I’m thinking a reversal of a spell, but what puzzles me is how you know there was one to reverse.” He looked between them sharply. “Is it a refund you want? Dissatisfied customers?” His voice rose with his indignation. “Nothing but the finest ingredients goes into my memory charms!” he declaimed grandly.
“Including my blood?” Xander asked, folding his arms for safety and glaring back.
Dremar lounged back on the cushions, the outrage gone. “Nice drop it was too, young man and I thank you again for your kind hospitality. The fruit rolly things; wondrous inspiration! I added them to my stock and they sold like hot cakes.”
“I _fed_ you?’ Xander asked. “You came to steal my blood and I fed you?”
“I didn’t steal it!” Dremar said, a picture of affronted virtue. “The spell needed it and you gave it gladly. For _his_ sake.”
He nodded at Spike and Xander flushed. “Then why don’t I remember?” he asked weakly.
Dremar looked wise, which consisted of tapping his large nose with a finger and nodding slowly. “That would be my little secret, young sir.”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake! You shoved a charm down his throat. Admit it. The way he eats, if you covered it in chocolate he’d have had your fingers off, grabbing it.”
Dremar glared at him, his annoyance plain. “What? You expect me to leave hulking humans knowing about me? Secrecy is my middle name.”
“I don’t care what your bloody parents called you. I took the charm, he didn’t. Fix it. Give me back my memories.”
Dremar stared at Xander. “You didn’t take it? Do you know how long it took to- how much it cost – how – why, you ungrateful little whippersnapper!”
“Whipperwhat? I didn’t take it because – well, I had my reasons, O.K? Not a reflection on your, uh, skills or anything. You can have it back if you like.”
Dremar shook his head briskly. “It’ll be well outside its shelf life by now.”
“It will?” Xander asked, thinking of the times he’d almost taken it, nearly slipped it inside his mouth. “What would happen to someone who used it?”
The bulbous eyes widened until Xander began to wonder if they would pop out on stalks. “Did you eat recently?”
“Not really,” Xander said, flashing back to throwing up in the sink.
“Hmm. Even so. Best not say.”
“Oh, stop trying to scare the lad,” Spike said impatiently. “He’s not your average human; he’s seen worse than that every day and twice on Tuesdays.” He turned to Xander. “Probably just give you a belly ache. Doesn’t matter anyway, does it?”
The look he got back was cool. “No, of course not. You gave me something that turned deadly after –”
“Three days, tops,” Dremar chirped.
“And never even warned me. That’s just so trivial, it’s not worth mentioning.”
“I thought you’d take it straight away! Well, I think I thought that.”
Xander shrugged. “Guess we’ll find out soon.” He looked at Dremar and smiled brightly. “Do you do truth spells as well?”
“I wouldn’t lie to you!” Spike said through his teeth. “Not now. Look, Xander – oh, the hell with it. First things first.” He rounded on Dremar. “Reverse it. I want my memories back.” He hesitated, staring down at his boots for a moment and then looked directly at Dremar. “Please?” he asked, the word giving him difficulty, the emotion behind it plain.
Giles peered out into the darkness and then looked up into his mirror to check behind the car. All seemed peaceful. He gripped the axe tighter. Peaceful was never a good sign in Sunnydale. The shadows gathered closer, the night grew darker and the car began to shake as a large fist slammed against the windshield. Giles opened the door, stepped out, and tilted his head back.
“What kept you?” he asked, tossing the axe back inside the car.
“I thought it best to eat first.”
“He is with the demon?”
“Yes. Do you think you can do it?”
The laughter was blade sharp. “When did I ever have problems killing things?”
“He’ll resist. I think he’s become quite attached to it, strange though that might seem.”
The figure turned its head and spat. “Such creatures sully the sweet earth. It will be a pleasure to rid it of one this night.”
Giles smiled. “I knew you would see it that way.”
Continued in Chapter Ten