Rating: Mature Audiences – for content and themes
Summary: Anya utters a final garbled set of words that sets off a wish that will alter Xander’s existence forever…
Spoilers: Canon is Post S7 BtVS and S5 AtS.
Warnings: M/M – if you don’t like boys together, don’t play here! *Toys* and angst too… and lovin’ eventually
Disclaimer: Don’t own the characters nor make any money from stories etc, and bow down to their original creators Joss, et al., plus all the wonderful online writers who continue to give the Buffy/Angel verse characters life.
Two weeks after farewelling Giles, none of the extensive drive to find intelligence on the illusive Sorcerer was panning out and they weren’t even sure whether he was still in the Bay Region when Lorne rang Spike to report “A poor impression of Christopher Lee’s Saruman in Lord of the Rings – but without that lovely baritone or the stage presence!” Throwing his magic and money around Vegas and generally intimidating or eliminating anyone who dared oppose him. Most demon clans had either capitulated or simply gone to ground.
A meeting of the Masters was called but the day following Lorne’s call, there was a second desperate call made, “He’s turned my PA deep sea blue! And *Just* because the dear protective stud muffin told him I was currently on dimensional jump to Pylea for recuperation from my hectic schedule (always fools the press!) He *must* be stopped – I mean blue? Ramone has *just* bought a whole new wardrobe to suit his lovely coffee colour.”
Spike had just finished the call when another came from Willow and the coven, they had done a locator spell stronger than any used before, seemed to be tracking the drawing of magic and had detected the action in Las Vegas. The only problem was that it needed a spell or curse to be cast before the signature could be traced. And they still didn’t have a name.
The breakthrough came from an unusual source when Li Wa arrived at Spike and Xander’s apartment early evening some four weeks after the initial attack on Spike. They had only just become animate again some hour or so ago, and were washed and rested when she arrived. Spike had never seen her so excited.
“I am so sorry it took this so long… but you know it is difficult to get a message to my father. Spike, your Sorcerer is called Barnardo, a most powerful warlock. He made a vow that he would always work toward disharmony everywhere.” Xi Pa Lau confirmed that Spike was a threat to him – far more than Spike would realize as other Regions were following the Bay Region’s example. Destabilizing the Bay Region would knock all others following their model for six, and cause a domino effect all along the Western seaboard, indeed other Regions looking to go down that track would then be seeking someone who could provide them an alternative.
The Sorcerer had moved to Los Angeles by the time he heard the news and was *furious* when the Ruling Master did not die, screaming at his faithful followers and finally deciding to make an example of the terrified rogue slayer, lifting the girl high into the air with his power but then seemed to have second thoughts and promptly dropped her. Had it not been for Slayer reflexes there would have been serious damage done.
“All the rest of you… out! I want a little time with my black flower here” The grateful audience hurried away – happy it was not they in the firing line. The Slayer lay on the floor shivering with fear.
The Sorcerer’s voice was pure liquid malice, “Now my dear, that is *so* much better… you and I all alone…” He squatted down beside her now prostrated figure and petted her like one would a frightened dog. “You did seem to hit your target – just sad the consort was so… quick, but really my dear, your target was too close to home – those sorts of things make a difference you see… so it really *is* your fault.” He paused mid-stroke, his hand over her neck and the collar she wore and squeezed hard, leaning down and whispering, “I am feeling generous, so I will give you a second chance. Would you like that, hmmm??”
“Please Lord Barnardo, please let me try again.” The pain of the squeezing hand around the girl’s neck was becoming unbearable.
“Good…They won’t expect another attack so soon. This way you can bide your time and choose your moment …*this* time, you *will* get it done.” He pulled her to standing with the hand on her neck, handed her another bone stake sheathed in a special guard. She shakily accepted and was released from the grip.
“Thank you Lord Barnardo, thank you.” She thought that was the end of it and turned to walk away, just in time to hear the words, “Oh and here’s a little reminder of your previous escapades.”
The sorcerer stilled her with a bolt of yellow light and chanted a few phrases. When she was able to move again she felt an increasing pressure in the rear of her jeans. She swiftly pulled them down and was horrified as the slim, muscular, green and black tail of a large reptile continued to grow until almost five feet long, and at the same time felt her back prickle down her spine to meet it… She reached around to touch her lower back and cried out as she felt scales in around a two inch stripe at the back of her neck and the base of her spine where her tail started, and all the way in between. She knew, she would never be mistaken for human again.
“We return my Court to San Francisco tomorrow night where you can try again… and if you make another error – rest assured you will spend the rest of your life as the ‘snake in the grass’! Oh and I suggest you have a few practice runs before you tackle the Ruling Master this time!”
The chocolate skinned girl, now with a striking black and green scaly tail, ran out before anything else could happen.
After she was gone, Barnardo settled down with the list he’d been handed earlier detailing exactly who had assisted in the recovery of the Ruling Master last time.
1. High Priestess of the Coven of the Lady – Mistress Willow Rosenberg and entire coven community – location UK. The Mistress is extraordinarily powerful in white and black magic.
2. Rupert Giles – Mage and Watcher of great repute – scholarly and quite the strategizer – currently in the UK.
3. Santiago Montega – proprietor of the Lugar Magico shop – informed & supports the Ruler.
4. Xu Li Wa – Chinese herbalist and part demon – little is known.
He swiftly ruled out targeting either Mistress Willow or the coven, and since it appeared from all reports that Rupert Giles was currently residing there, he too was off limits. But the other two were fair game.
He called upon three of his most trusted to take out the magic shop owner, and would send a single assassin, armed simply with a sword and instructions to kill, after the petite herbalist. The sorcerer assuming that even if she was part demon, beheading killed most things.
Three nights later, the sorcerer deployed all five killers at the same time: the altered Slayer, the wraith and his three favourites.
The Slayer watched as Spike and Xander moved with purpose through the residential streets in the Oakland area, having just met with a distraught Master Jeremy whose own Childe had been dusted the previous evening, by what he could not tell. The minions with him had scattered, though one did describe ‘something with a tail moving very fast’.
The two were deep in conversation, the attack was too typical of the sorcerer for it not to be related – and if anything the Regional alliance was stronger than it had ever been. Unless there was an outsider taking random shots, it seemed the sorcerer was back in town.
“Let’s just get home and call Wills… she’ll know if he’s here.” But Spike wasn’t listening, his hackles were up and vampire senses detected, Slayer. He said it under his breath a split second before a creature with girl’s body and snake’s tail launched from a first story balcony, bone stake ready to strike. But Spike had seen her coming and stopped abruptly, halting Xander also. She overshot and landed on the concrete in front of them a little dazed, though recovered quickly. Not quickly enough however, Spike did a flying kick, knocking her to the ground, face down and the stake released. Xander pounced on the poisoned object, careful to grab it at the thick end, while Spike subdued the bizarre looking creature. She prickled with the unmistakable signature of a Slayer, but it wasn’t until he saw the sorcerer’s mark on the collar that he knew for sure.
He pinned her to the ground and was about to interrogate her, she cried out in apparent agony, nothing to do with Spike’s position, then writhed around so much that he struggled to stay astride her. Suddenly the arms he had hold of so tightly, shrivelled and disappeared. Astonished he sprang backwards and he and Xander stood looking on in stunned horror as her legs also left her, and her head shape changed. After only a few minutes the somewhat human form was now a large carpet snake. It seemed to pause for a moment then took off into the nearest yard as fast as it could slither.
Spike stood rather stunned, “Bloody Hell!” Xander walked over touched his lover on the shoulder and handed him the deadly weapon.
“I think our friendly sorcerer is in town… Don’t think that slayer will be back, do you?”
The second assassin – a lithe black wraith like figure with raptor like facial features, made its way silently into the herbalists where Li Wa was about to pack up for the night.
Used to ‘special’ customers she smiled at him and offered help. When her query remained unanswered, she simply grumbled to herself a little about rudeness these days and went about her business behind the counter, but the hairs on the back of her neck rose. She could see the demon in the glass of one of her jars despite having her back to him, so knew he was moving gradually and silently toward the counter. It was the act of a predator readying for attack.
In the final rush forward, the killing arc of the demon’s sword was met by the skilled parry of an experienced warrior wielding her favourite – the Samurai sword given to her by a grateful customer. It was followed by two more attempts by the demon who was shocked that there was any defence at all. Li Wa easily shifted aside the second time, leaving the demon open. She brought her own sword down in an elegant arc and sliced through its middle. Once fallen, she sliced off its head in one stroke for good measure. There was a foul odour in the shop then sighing as the demon simply liquefied into a puddle of black ooze on her floor. All that was left was the shrouds it had been wearing, the sword and the telltale collar.
She grabbed a bag of salt from the back and sprinkled it over the foul mess, wiped down her sword, closed the shop and drove her van at top speed to Spike and Xander’s, sword on the seat beside her. If there had been an attempt on her like this, then the sorcerer must be somewhere close.
The same evening, Santiago had been out dancing at a local nightclub. It was a gorgeous full moon on a perfectly still night in San Francisco, who wouldn’t want to walk home!
Four shopfronts from his own, the hairs on the back of his neck stood up and he heard a garbage can tipped over, then the screech of a local cat. He couldn’t help it, two doors from home he ventured a glance over his shoulder and saw what looked like three wolves sprinting toward him in attack mode. He needed no other hint and sprinted for his door, managing to get it open but only as one latched onto his leg. Fortunately his leg was slimmer than the wolf’s head and as he slammed the door in an effort to pull himself inside he jammed its head hard, causing it to release.
Once inside Santiago began to feel extremely nauseous and wondered if it was just the adrenalin and the shock of being bitten, then his internal organs felt like they were starting to move about somehow. He fell to the floor just inside the locked door panting then screaming as his body changed
The sorcerer arrived minutes later with two of his three canine ‘servants’.
The newly made werewolf lay shivering on the ground, but it smelt its own kind and began to bear its teeth and make to move, then a dart hit his rump and his world went black.
“I thought this might happen. You were *supposed* to kill him… but I guess this will have to do. Guard him for a moment, I have a cage to pick up and message to write.”
He woke in his own shop, naked and on his elbows and knees in a tiny cage. He was human again, with a muzzle obviously designed for a different creature but effectively locking his jaw closed. His ankles were locked together as were his wrists and they in turn were fixed to either ends of the cage, and there was a chain from what he knew to be a collar also clipped there.
Xander had not heard from Santiago all day – despite him promising to ‘check in’ just in case the magic shop owner happened to hear of any more leads on where the Sorcerer was based. When the phone at the shop went unanswered, and his friend’s cell phone rang out he began to worry.
Late afternoon, he left Spike snoozing lightly and promised to call if there were any problems, then made his way to the Magic Shop. The shop was locked, and though it was approaching sunset, Santiago usually opened late and finished just after nine most nights – many patrons preferring to visit at night. He peered in the shop window taking in the dark interior, finally he decided to use the spare key he’d been given when they were flatmates (Xander sometimes contacted if his friend had accidentally locked himself out).
He let himself into the dark interior flicked on the switch and was almost ill. There were shreds of the man’s clothes all over the place as though they had been torn off. The handsome male was trussed up in a ridiculously small cage, and whimpered as Xander came close.
“God San! Hang on… I’ll just um…” He saw the ugly, still raw bite on his friend’s leg and wanted to help, but five sturdy padlocks on the long side were preventing him from even getting to his friend, then he saw the envelope taped to one handle at the end of the cage with the words ‘a Gift’ and obviously had the keys within.
Xander tore it off and as he tipped them, a ‘With Compliments’ card fell out.
“Thought you’d like a pet with a bit of bite. I advise keeping his collar on, taking it off will result in the permanent loss of his humanity, also suggest he might be trainable if you keep the muzzle on. Enjoy. Yours Barnardo MW”
Xander unlocked the cage as quickly as he could, unbuckled the muzzle and was about to unlock the manacles when Santiago rasped “*No*! Werewolf… moon!”
Xander then realised that there was only ten minutes or so until sundown, so instead raced to the back of the shop and grabbed a huge tumbler of water and a straw (and thanked fast food vendors everywhere for ‘super-sizing’), wet a tea towel with warm water and moved to help his friend.
Santiago was able, just, to sit back in a down position then raise his head to accept the welcome water, finishing the entire cup by the time he realised that Xander had virtually sponge bathed him. With a pained voice he simply said, “Thank you”.
“Last night around twelve.”
“God. And I really well…”
“I know you can’t Xan, come for me in the morning will you… Please.” Near black begging eyes met Xander’s brown (though the glass eye was a little askew at that moment). “Xan, I need to pee… and we haven’t got enough time…”
Xander looked up at the darkening sky and knew Santiago was right, so pulled the straw from the cup and said, “Kneel up a bit, I’ll put it under and look away OK.”
The soon to be wolf did as instructed but by the time Xander had gently and as matter of factly as possible wiped away any drips, the impossibly long dark lashes were wet with tears. “You need to put the muzzle back on Xan… Please! Then get out of here I… I don’t think you need to see me like this.”
Xander nodded his head sadly and buckled the leather and steel restraint back on, then did up the cage, all the while reassuring the newly made werewolf that one of his best friends in high school was one… and that it wasn’t like his current predicament – they would get him help and a comfortable place to spend his three nights a month.
By the time he had finished his speech the change had begun, limbs distorted nose, and mouth became muzzle, canine ears shifted and fur sprouted. The wolf whimpered to itself, struggled in the restraints for a time then went silent and flopped to the ground.
Xander rang Spike, there certainly was a problem!
Spike was horrified at the news and swiftly joined Xander at the shop. Xander rang Li Wa and minutes later the van from her shop arrived to pick up one large cage and take it back to Spike and Xander’s apartment.
Santiago woke from his change, muzzle and shackle free and crawled painfully from the cage to a waiting pair of arms holding the softest blanket the boys could find in their collection… He immediately burst into uncontrollable sobbing mixed with appeals, all in Spanish, to his mother, his father and the Virgin Mary. Spike suddenly realizing that as Santiago now carried a demon, and had been brought up Catholic, he would of course fear the consequences upon death. But now was not time for that dialogue, nor his thoughts of the possibility of sending him to Xi Pa Lao – Li Wa’s father – so he might learn to accept and be at peace with himself, just he had, and as Oz had so many years ago in Tibet. So he sat and as soon as Xander had removed the cage from sight, a second pair of arms enveloped him, loved him, comforted him and slowly the loud crying gave way to quiet tears and an occasional ‘hic’ and whimper.
They eventually toileted, bathed and carried him to their bed, he refused food but gratefully took the drink bottle as two sets of hands began to massage still stiff arms and legs. By the time he was turned onto his front he was all but asleep, nevertheless the massage was finished and the three slept, Santiago’s near black hair poking out from under the covers between brunette and blonde. The coming evening was not a full moon, so they all slept on well beyond sunset.