When he woke up, things were not as they had been when he had gone to sleep. First and foremost, he wasn’t breathing and the heartbeat that should have been racing frenetically in his ears was unusually silent. He gulped and cracked open one eye.
“William!” cried a sharp voice, and he jerked at the incessant familiarity of it.
Before he realized, he heard a voice responding, “Here Dru,” and almost died again when he realised it had been his lips moving. He knew he had to be going crazy when slim arms reached up to grasp the gamefaced brunet vampire who had just sauntered into his bedchamber.
“I missed you, my William,” she cooed, nuzzling into his neck even as he felt himself responding in touch and body. He gasped when her teeth nicked his neck but didn’t get to respond before she was pushing him back onto the bed. She mumbled under her breath but even to his enhanced hearing he couldn’t catch the words as he hands, of their own accord, slid underneath her miles of crinoline to reach cool, preternatural flesh. As they slid together, his head fell back and he mentally shrieked as the calendar came into focus and Xander saw that it appeared to be 1976 and, if his fingernails were any indication, he just might be hitchhiking in Spike’s body. Ask him later and he just might admit that it’s possible to mentally pass out.
When his eyes slid open, it was slowly, and not to the sight he had expected. Instead of seeing the musty cobwebs of the crypt or even the mildewy lines of the boy’s basement, he was looking at the warm, soft skin of the body beside him. He stared for a good long minute before unfamiliar bodily sensations began to trickle back into his consciousness. He groaned under his breath and hauled himself up and into the bathroom.
It wasn’t until he was brushing his teeth that Spike happened to see something move out of the corner of his eye and glanced quickly at the mirror. He shrieked when Xander’s scruffy face stared back at him where he should only have seen grout and tile reflected.
“What is it? What’s wrong? Xanny?”
He jumped when someone pounded on the bathroom door and tried to snarl.
“I’m okay, just gonna shower,” he heard Xander’s voice say instead. “Can you start some coffee?”
The pounder huffed and then sighed, “Yeah, I’ll do it. You shower.”
“Thanks!” Xander’s voice called, with much more enthusiasm than Spike would have been able to put into it.
He ran a shaky hand through the dark hair reflected and exhaled loudly. His heart was pounding and for once the throb of fear was making him nauseous. Quickly spitting out the toothbrush and paste, he ducked his head under the water and drew in a shaky breath. Unfortunately he did both simultaneously and almost choked himself. Sputtering violently, he concluded one very important thing: he needed desperately to talk to Giles and straighten this entire bloody mess out.
His body turned involuntarily towards the voice but his mental attention remained on watching the sun rise. Everything seemed so crisp with his ‘new’ vampiric vision and he’d been taking advantage of the subtle liberties he was allowed with the body he remained within, to watch the wildlife outside his window.
In the three days – nights, rather – he had been here -- or 'now', or 'who' – he had begun to get used to hearing Drusilla’s voice call to him and having to deal with Spike’s body answering her.
“In here, love,” Spike’s voice replied and he fought to keep his gaze toward the lightening sky. He’d never been able to watch it without deep lethargy pulling on him before and he revelled in details it allowed him. His skin prickled in the increasing light but Xander ignored the sensation, intent on the changes offered when he switched from vampiric mask to human and back again.
Drusilla’s sharp voice caught his attention and then he saw her panic reflected in the flames that suddenly burst to life on his skin. Shrieking, he dove out of the growing sunlight and rolled frantically across the dusty wooden floor.
“My poor William,” Dru clucked, her hands patting him in a parody of parental compassion. Looking deeply into his eyes for the first time lately, her face changed with a snarl and her fingertips gouged down his cheek. “You’re not my William!” she scowled, sneering as he scrambled frantically away from her.
“Sure I am, Dru,” he said, trying to coax Spike’s voice from the distant edges of his brain when it usually came without effort. But the pain of his burned flesh was making it difficult to think and the automatic responses he felt secondary to were missing.
“You’re not Spike,” she spat, whirling from the room and leaving him in his mental confusion.
He whimpered and curled around his throbbing hand. “I want to go home.”
“This cannot be of the good.” Xander’s voice translated Spike’s mental snarling and that only made him growl more. He was growing sick of hearing the whelp’s euphemisms and snarks whenever he tried to open his mouth. So far, over the course of three days, he hadn’t been able to to tell anyone what was happening. To everyone else in 'his' life, he was Xander Harris and none of the things he could manage to do for himself would convince them otherwise.
He snarled again and almost whimpered with relief when his features did change a little with his anger. He felt minutely comforted to know he could still affect the emotions battling within in his head.
The ringing phone broke into his inner babbling – something he and the boy had in common, apparently – and he growled at it before taking it up to answer, “Xander’s bakery, would you like a bun in the oven?”
“I – what? Xander, honestly, I cannot begin to understand why you insist on…”
He mentally zoned out on the Watcher, glad, at least, that the boy still insisted on taunting the older man. He was struggling to thrive on the little mayhem this body allowed him.
“I’ll be there in a few, G-man, you can count on the Xan!”
As Xander’s body hung up the phone, Spike tried to take stock of the pieces of the conversation he could recall. Seems there just might be the opportunity for a spot of violence on the menu tonight. He almost skipped with relief on the way over. His good mood, however, vanished as he found himself immediately enmeshed in the inner sanctum of the Scoobies and feeling, quite sickly, the boy's role in it all.
“Xander, go get me a latte, would you?”
“Sure Buff,” he heard his temporary voice reply and he mentally growled at the boy’s body for giving in so quickly. He wanted violence. He wasn’t just a gopher vamp. He was William the Bloody. He had a reputation. He had... He had no power over the boy's body in this.
“Mocha for me.”
“English Tea, if you will, Xander.”
The orders poured in but he didn’t note them. Spike mentally grumbled as he headed back out of the shop.
“I told you, Daddy, he’s not William anymore.”
He came awake to the sound of Drusilla’s voice echoing through his head. blinking Rapidly to clear his eyes, his attention flickered over to the closed door and his heart almost beat when the clear scent of Angelus reached him. He froze like a wounded rabbit. His body was giving all the reactions of complete fear and Xander’s mental processes weren’t much better.
“Let me have a look at him, Dru,” came the growled response, seconds before the door swung open.
Xander whimpered under his breath and tried to curl further into his corner, making himself as inconspicuous as possible.
“See, Daddy?” she gushed, hanging off the taller vampire with an obvious devotion that made even Xander sick to see. He couldn’t begin to catalogue the emotions swirling around borrowed veins, hurt and fear being foremost.
Sharp, dark eyes flickered over his prone form and he could almost watch the devious ideas solidifying behind remarkably soulless eyes - while he couldn't even work out why Angeuls would even be there. Wasn't he supposed to be insane in some gutter, drinking rats? Xander groaned, low in his throat, and froze further when the sound rumbled up his throat without effort.
“Bugger,” he gasped without thinking, flinching when Angelus advanced on him with a wicked smile.
Balancing the flimsy cardboard tray of coffees in one hand, the bag of baked goods in his other and fumbling for his stake while wishing for a third hand, wasn’t exactly how Spike had guessed he would spend his last few seconds on earth – much less his last minutes in Xander’s body on earth. He swore under his breath, finally dropping the pastries and pulling out the wood triumphantly, just as the first vampire advanced toward him.
He shrieked – something he would definitely blame on Xander’s body if it came to that – and tried to force unused muscles to respond to the training his mind knew. He fumbled and stumbled, throwing the scalding caffeine when he could but in the end forced to admit he was badly outnumbered and, in Xander’s body, outmatched. He couldn’t force it to respond half as well as even Xander managed.
Trying not to cry out in defeat, he was just about to give up as his knees crumpled beneath the added weight of his attacker, when a whirl of peroxide and leather blew past him.
“Spike?” he cried, amazed even beyond seeing his own face for the first time in a hundred years. If he was Xander… could Xander have become him somehow? He found himself filled with hope for the first time since he had awakened in the boy’s body.
The blond shadow quickly dispatched of his attackers and then stood over him, offering a hand up.
“You okay then, Harris?”
“Spike… is that you? I mean, are you me? I mean, I think I’m you, I think I’m Spike but I’m in me, I mean, I’m not Xander, this isn’t…”
The vampire stared at him with wide blue eyes.
“Did you hit your head, pet?”
He watched, helplessly frustrated as the blond snuck closer, a hand gently trailing over his skull to search for bumps and bruises.
“I’m fine, Spike,” he spat, angry at himself for hoping anything in his nightmare might make any sense. He almost missed the minute flash of hurt that flickered over the vampire’s features before they settled into a mask of indifference.
“Right then. I’ll just be takin’ these as payment.”
Long white fingers snatched up the bag of pastries but Spike didn’t have the energy to make Xander’s voice snark in reply. He just waved the vampiric reflection of himself away and turned back towards the Magic Box. He only wanted this night over. He ignored the shadow behind him that lurked and followed. He had trailed Xander too many times not to know when it was happening again.
“Spike,” he sighed in Xander’s voice, watching as his body flowed back into view. He could see how obvious his own infatuation was. It was amazing no one else had ever noticed. “Can’t you just…”
It was on the tip of his tongue to berate his doppelganger for following him around, for being so pathetic. He wanted to warn himself off this before it got too firmly entrenched to change at all. But out of the corner of his eye he saw a flash of army camouflage and panicked.
He held his breath, desperate to get as far away from this hell as he could. He crept out of the house, past the scents of blood and musky sex that drifted from the door Angelus and Drusilla had disappeared behind. His unbeating heart clenched a little, although he couldn’t have said if it was the body’s reaction or his own for Spike.
He didn’t relax even a hair until he was half a city away with a dozen shots of Jack in his slowly warming stomach. He had washed off the blood that covered him as best he could in the bar’s bathroom but his stomach rolled dangerously when he tried to straighten too many of the broken bones. He almost wished for Spike; he would have known how to fix those shattered, painful bones. He always did.
Thoughts of Spike lead to melancholy realisations that he didn’t know how to fix this. For all he knew he would be trapped in this body forever and, what’s worse, he couldn’t even call Giles for help because he knew the instant he showed up in Sunnydale he’d be staked.
He was just contemplating his latest drink morosely when a sudden, familiar scent shot awareness through him. His head whipped up and around until his eyes focused on the unfamiliar sight of his dear, sweet mother. He stared. What was she doing in New Orleans in 1976?
He couldn’t resist the temptation to follow her out into the street. He stayed far back from her, though, using every bit of muscle-memory Spike’s body possessed to melt into the shadows. As he stalked, his mind cast back over every memory he had of her past and he still came up empty; he had no idea why she would be here.
About half a block away, he watched through demonic eyes as his mother pulled up short, faced with the rough countenance of a vampire.
“W-what do you want?” she demanded, and Xander was struck by scent of weakness even now he could sense in her.
“You,” the demon grinned, stalking closer until she was backed against the wall.
“Let her be,” he snarled in Spike’s voice, moving closer and flexing tender bones into fists.
The young vampire turned, stared at him, paled, and fled. He grinned wickedly in response and debated toying a little with his mother. Tilting his head and examining her closely, he decided it wasn’t worth it.
“W-wait!” she cried, running after him. “H-how can I thank you?” she asked, tilting her hips in a way he guessed should have been inviting. He wrinkled Spike’s nose and shook his head.
“Go home, and quit wanderin’ ‘round after dark, you bint,” he growled, eyes flashing in annoyance. He wrenched his arm free of her grip and stomped off.
He was just heading back towards the pub when the scent of blood reached him. His features morphed without conscious thought and his body moved of its own accord toward the demon and its weakly struggling victim.
“Will,” Angelus grinned, lifting his blood-streaked mouth from the ragged neck. “Have a taste.”
“I-” He wanted to back away but something in the elder vampire’s eyes held him.
“Followed ye, Will,” the brunet was saying, “Ye stink of pain and weakness. Now drink and heal of what I did to ye.”
“Ye know you can’t survive on air alone. Hell, even stinkin’ rat’s blood isn’t much better than nothin’. Ye know that. C’mon and have a drink, boy.”
His feet carried him forward without his consent and Xander wondered what the result would be of him mentally throwing up. Spike’s head bent forward and his lips had just touched the jagged wound when Xander felt a peculiar sensation of dizziness.
He gasped and stared when things slowed until he found himself blinking once more from the eyes he had known all his life, staring at Spike across the street.
He saw a flash of camouflage out of the corner of his eye and, before his mind could catch up to what was going on, his body launched into action.
“Spike!” Xander’s voice cried and Spike felt himself slammed back in his own mental cage as the body he was no longer a part of dashed forward in time to intercept the crossbow intended for vampires.
“Xander!” Spike gasped, hands frantically searching the body atop him for the wound. Vaguely he heard the door to the Magic Box tearing open but it didn’t register as he found the crossbow and gingerly lay his brunet on the street. “This is going to hurt…” he cautioned, his hands shaking as he met clear brown eyes.
Xander nodded weakly and then crooked a smile. “Couldn’t hurt more than Angelus…” He coughed and inhaled sharply when Spike’s fingers curled around the bolt.
“Couldn’t possibly,” the vampire conceded. He shared a small smile with the boy before wrenching the weapon free. “Gonna be okay,” he promised, pain from the chip already arcing violently across his nerves as he slashed his wrist with a fang and drenched Xander’s side with his own blood.
“Better be,” Xander grumbled, his eyes closing just as footsteps neared them and he vaguely heard Buffy shriek.
He opened his eyes and blinked once. He closed them and blinked again. It was no use, he still didn’t recognize the ceiling. Groaning to himself and wondering where else he could possibly be, Xander opened his eyes fully and was just about to swing his feet out of bed when a huge stitch in his side protested.
“I’d rather you didn’t do that,” the doctor cautioned smoothly, not looking up from the chart in his hands. “You’ve sustained a nasty wound and you shouldn’t strain it.”
The doctor fixed him with a stern look and left the room.
“You okay, pet?”
He jumped at the low rumbles of a familiar voice. Xander found himself staring at Spike, never happier to see the angular planes of the vampire’s face.
He broke off, just for an instant glad that it was his own voice he heard.
“S’good to be back in your own body, isn’t it, luv?” Spike was saying, unfolding himself from the bedside chair and coming to perch of the side of Xander’s mattress. “Reckon you’ll be in the hospital for at least ‘nother day. Doctor says three at th’ earliest but he doesn’t know ya, does ‘e?”
“Ya saved me, pet.”
Xander watched Spike’s bottom lip tremble faintly, his forehead creasing with some intense concentration as he reached forward to smooth a finger down Xander’s heated cheek.
“Think you returned the favour a couple times over,” Xander quipped, not taking his eyes from the mouth so close to his own.
“Suppose I did, that. M’ head certainly tells me I did.”
Xander’s lip curled into a wicked little smile that felt somehow familiar. He scooted carefully over on the mattress.
“You should rest too,” he said, tugging on Spike’s arm until the vampire curled up against him. He yawned. “Explain this all to me when we wake up.”
Spike nodded, inching even closer. “Bloody magic.”