CHAPTER 8 – A DANGEROUS THING
Spike spun around to face the demon that had been tailing them. Instinctively, he put himself between Xander and the Hokard, slipping into game face and growling menacingly.
“I will have it,” the demon told him. “I come on behalf of my clan to take possession of it. You have no way to avert this master vampire.” The demon tensed and sprang, trying to get to Xander.
Spike pushed Xander roughly out of the way and dived at the Hokard. It sprang away from him easily, lifted its arm and extended a long white barb from just behind its wrist. A yellowish spray misted lightly from tip of the barb. Spike kicked out with his legs and knocked the smaller demon flying. Head slamming against a shop front, it landed in a heap.
Xander had been looking around for a weapon of some kind, but had managed to find nothing other than one loose brick lying on the sidewalk. He picked it up and hefted it in his palm, feeling the heavy weight and sharp edges. He started towards the Hokard.
Spike jumped to his feet, seeing Xander’s intentions. “You stay right out of this. Don’t move unless I tell you.”
“No, I can-” At Spike’s growl Xander stopped. A pissed off scowl crept over his face but he moved back as Spike had said. “Staying out, not moving. Wouldn’t want to get in the way would I?”
The Hokard was climbing to its feet again, shaking its head, barb still extended. It launched itself towards Xander with another springing leap. As it was flying through the air Spike leapt, grabbing a hold of its legs, pulling it from its trajectory and sent it flying out onto the street.
“Not in the bloody way, but you can’t get close enough to use that. Just stay back and if it points that arm at you, get the hell out of its range.” Spike ran after the demon, kicking out as it again sprang in Xander’s direction.
Spike’s foot connected with the demon, halting its flight. As it fell to the ground the demon lashed out with is barbed arm, catching Spike’s calf, its weapon buried in Spike’s flesh and caught in the thick fabric of his jeans. Spike howled as he and the demon fell, entangled with each other’s limbs.
Xander was running in, armed with his brick, but stopped when he was nearly bowled over by a very large and scaly, axe-wielding barman.
“Son, don’t you get any closer to that thing. Spike would have my guts for garters if it got you.” Without a pause, Tom rushed at the Hokard, slamming his axe into its midsection, spilling its innards. Reaching down with one beefy hand, he snapped off its barb, releasing Spike from its hold.
“C’mon mate, up you get.” Tom hauled Spike to his feet seeing the blood quickly soaking through the leg of Spike’s jeans.
Xander rushed to Spike’s side. “It got you, you’re bleeding.” Turning to the bigger man he said, “Tom, we have to get him back to your place.”
“Harris I’m fine, don’t fuss. It’s a scratch. Are you okay?” Spike brushed Tom off and looked Xander over, turning him around, checking every side.
“Yeah, it didn’t get me. But what the hell? What was that about? Clan? Possession?” He looked from Spike to Tom.
Tom grabbed Spike by the arm and moved him in the direction of the pub. “Later, let’s get this one back so we can clean ‘im up.”
Spike snarled, then realised which face he was wearing and shook his head, turning now blue eyes back on Tom. “I don’t need babying. It’s nothing.”
It’s bloody well something’ mate. That venom is gonna muck you up good and proper if I don’t let Rose sort you out soon.”
Spike recalled Tom’s earlier mention of Hokard toxin and reluctantly let himself be led back to the Bear and Lion.
Xander followed silently behind, worriedly watching the blood still oozing through the tear in Spike’s jeans. He couldn’t help the rush of guilt. Spike was injured because he’d been protecting him. The demon attacked because of him. There had been little he could do; the demon was too fast for a human to take on. Xander had felt that long-hated uselessness as he stood by and watched the brief encounter.
Tom held the door for them and gestured them both inside the pub, empty but for one small red-haired woman. As he drew closer, Xander could see the fine scales patterning her skin. He shook her hand as Tom made the introductions. So this was Rose, fan of the ‘pretty’ vampire.
Spike sat heavily in a chair that Tom held for him, lifting his foot to rest on a second seat. Xander stood behind Spike, one hand resting on his shoulder as Rose pushed his pants leg up and went to work on the gash in his calf.
“You boys are lucky Tom told me what happened in here earlier.” Rose said.
Xander looked between the three of them. “Something happened? While we were here?” He squeezed Spike’s shoulder. “You want to share?”
“Not as a rule, no” Spike shook his head as he looked up at Xander and saw the angry expression on his face. “Fine. That was a Hokard, it fancied you. Was going to hit on you earlier but I suggested otherwise. Apparently it’s a demon with a little persistence.”
Rose paused in her ministrations and looked at Spike. “It’s more than that William. Tom here only scratched the surface. If he’d come and got me instead of giving you the abridged version, we might have avoided this,” she indicated the mess that was his leg. “That Hokard fixed on you Xander, for its clan. That means the rest of the clan will try for you as well.”
“You mean they are going to keep attacking me? How many are there?” Xander knew that he would have no hope fighting them off, it was clear they were not especially strong, but could leap an enormous distance and had more speed than he could ever hope for.
"There’s probably only about eight in their clan. But those left will be organising themselves now.” She looked to Xander. “You are going to have to be careful.”
“Like hell he is!” Spike made to get out of the seat, knocking away Rose’s hands. “I’m going to end this now.”
Rose shoved him back down, none too gently. “You, William, will SIT DOWN!”
Xander’s jaw dropped when Spike immediately did as he was told and sat in his chair. He would never have believed it if someone told him that the Big Bad would be cowed by this tiny, tiny woman.
“Thankyou. Now, you keep that tight little bum right where it is, you hear me?” Rose grinned up at him. “You are going nowhere until I clean this up. You’ve been sliced through to the bone.”
At the green look on Xander’s face, Tom said, “Don’t you worry Xander, our Rose is wonder. Between her and those herbs she can fix just about anything. Right Rosie?”
“No doubt. William, you’ve not been hit with a full dose of the venom, just the residue off the barb. You’ll be sore for a while and this won’t heal as fast as it should, but you’ll be good in a couple of days.”
“Soon as you’ve patched me I’m going to take care of those bastards. You know where they are?” Spike asked Tom.
“Yeah, that I do. Not far from here, but look. Here you are, leg like a raw prime rib and that was only one Hokard. You go up against all of them and you’ll end up a pile of mince. If you’re lucky.”
“Not going alone.”
“Not going at all.” Xander told him quietly, crouching beside the chair. “This is my problem, I’m not having you go and risk yourself like that. Look at you now Spike.”
“Thanks for the concern mate, but I’m doing it anyway.” When Xander opened his mouth to answer, Spike jumped in. “And no, you are not going. You are staying here with Tom. He can be my second line if any of them get out.”
“So I’m sidelined again?” Xander’s anger started to build.
“Fine, you want to come?” Spike yelled. “Want to get shot full of demon poison? Lie about in a coma for a few days while they all take turns with you? Wake up mated to their clan for life? Great. Grab a brick and lets go.”
Xander blanched and asked in a small voice, “That’s what they want?”
“That’s what they want, and that’s what they are not going to get. I am going to kill every last one of them and you are going to stay here.” Spike spoke in a tone that left no room for argument.
Xander nodded his acceptance. “How are you going to do it? There’s too many.”
Spike looked at Tom. “Any new vamp nests about?”
“There is one. I was going to tell you about it tonight, but I didn’t want to ruin your date.” Tom said.
“Oh bloody hell, I’m a vampire, we don’t date.” Spike managed to look both embarrassed and disgusted. “It’s not a fucking date.”
Tom held his hands up defensively. “Calm down mate. Any bloke could have easily mistaken that kissin’ and flirtin’ for a date.”
“Alright now, that’s enough from everybody.” Rose interrupted. “Spike I’m done here. It’s cleaned and the herb paste should help it heal. You need blood and a good rest, although I seriously doubt that will happen.”
As soon as Rose had rolled the leg of his jeans back down, Spike was up and taking the axe that Tom held out.
“Nest is two blocks over in the back of the boarded up bookstore. There’s maybe ten of them. Hokard’s den is another three blocks down under the park. Entrance is in the sewers. Don’t worry about Xander, I’ll pop an extra barrier up, he’ll be fine.”
Spike thanked Tom, then turned to Xander. “I’ll be back soon. Stay with Tom. Please.”
“Well, since you said please and I know that’s not gonna happen again this lifetime.” He nodded and clapped Spike on the shoulder.
Spike hefted the axe and was out the door without a second glance.
“Come on Xander let’s go get you some food.” Rose gently tugged on his arm while Tom collected the first aid kit and cleaned away the mess.
Xander was starving but didn’t think he could eat. Spike was walking into a den of maybe eight of the demons, one of whom had ripped through his leg without even trying. Then there was the venom to dodge as well as the barb. He’d felt guilty over the one injury Spike sustained, if Spike was hurt badly now, it too would be his fault. Xander damned himself for his lack of any power that could help. He was too slow, too weak and would be a liability. He didn’t want to doubt Spike, but it seemed to be an insurmountable task. Xander paced while Rose prepared a meal.
Spike left the bar and ran to the two blocks to the vamp nest. Kicking the doors in, he saw nine vampires scattered around the room.
“Right who’s looking for a temp job, no wages, no dental?”
The vampires sat and stared at him. One growled and came close. “Who the fuck are you, just walking into our home? You wanna clear out buddy before you bite off more than you can chew.”
Spike swung his axe in one quick movement, slicing the head off the vampire. Dust rained down over the room before the others had even seen his hand move.
“Let me ask again. Who wants a job? William the Bloody, Order of Aurelius, favoured childe of Angelus, is hiring.”
The vampires all stood quickly, fear of the well knowledge lineage triggering their self-preservation instinct.
“Okay. Eight of you should do it. In return for your services I won’t stake you slowly and dance in your dust. So, who’s up for some killing?”
Xander hadn’t thought he could eat, but when Rose put a plate of warm roast beef sandwiches and a bowl of vegetable soup in front of him he soon released he could quite easily devour this and more. It was something that kept a small part of his mind from worrying. Rose didn’t leave his side while he ate. Tom came and went, making small talk with his wife, pretending not to check on Xander.
Xander finished his meal, thanked Rose then washed his plates. As soon as this small task was done, he resumed pacing the kitchen. He had no idea how long this would take. How long should he allow before he really began to worry? Spike had been gone roughly half an hour, barely enough time to even reach the den. Xander couldn’t expect him back anytime soon. And how would he even know if Spike made it? No, not going to think like that. Spike is a master and a master can handle himself and take care of a few little demons. But one of those demons downed him. What would eight do? Xander ran his hands through his hair and screamed silently to himself.
Spike tore through the streets, the eight vampires close behind him, not daring to deny the master what he wanted. The vampires had collected their own weapons, mainly ornamental swords they had liberated from a museum collection. He easily located the sewer entrance and followed the winding path to the Hokard den, a largish natural cave, worn from the soft stone under the park. Spike slowed as he neared the entrance waving the other vampires back out of sight. He could see clearly into the space and counted eleven demons engaged in various activities. Some were preparing a low stone bench with manacles at the head and foot. Another group were mixing what appeared to be a potion and which, to Spike’s sensitive nose, was emitting a vile odour. The remainder had their heads bent over an ancient-looking text. All the Hokard were deep in concentration over their different activities. Now was a perfect time, they had the advantage of surprise, less in number and speed but greater in strength. Spike waved his troops forward and motioned them to attack.
Xander had moved from the kitchen to the pub and was walking a circuit around the tables, past the bar and by the pool table where he slowed and ran his fingers along the age-worn wooden edge. It was such a short time ago that he had stood there and kissed Spike, completely oblivious to the unfolding dangers. Part of him was angry with Spike for keeping him in the dark. Another part was thankful that Spike had let him relax and enjoy the evening without the knowledge of his demon stalker. Could his day get any more bizarre? A reunion with his recent ex, a fight with his best friend, an encounter with a vampire and now this. Xander stopped himself. He couldn’t turn it around to be about him. And there was that guilt again. Worrying about his day when Spike was out fighting for him. Selfish. Spike was fighting for him. He knew he should feel any number of things about that but all he had was dread and panic.
Tom and Rose were watching him from the kitchen. At a nudge from Rose, Tom went out and joined Xander. “C’mon, you’re wearing out my carpet. Let’s put that energy to good use.”
Tom led him to a doorway at the back of the bar and down a small staircase to the cellar. There he directed Xander to the many crates of wine that needed to be lifted, moved and unpacked on to the racks. Xander gave him a grateful look and set to work.
In addition to their natural weapon, the Hokard had armed themselves with crude stakes. Two vamps were dusted, but four Hokard were sliced through and lying in parts in the dirt floor. The vampires were holding their own against the smaller faster demons by swinging their swords in both high and low arcs, intercepting the leaping Hokard, and dodging the sprays of toxin. Spike was learning that small injuries and a missing arm were no impediment to these demons; they sprang and flew no matter what. It took a solid midsection blow or decapitation to stop them. Despite the knowledge, Spike wasn’t coming out of this unscathed. The wound on his leg had reopened and was bleeding as freely as the slices to his arms and chest. All the wounds had been infected by the demons poison and Spike knew that if he were to make it out that he would need Rose’s help to mend these gashes.
Another two Hokard fell to Spike’s axe and his pseudo minions were working their way through the other demons, dispatching a further three but losing an equal number themselves. Spike felt a blow to his shoulder and cringed when he saw the point of a Hokard barb protruding. The barb was quickly withdrawn and before Spike could move away it was plunged again in to his back spearing a kidney and exiting through his front. He fell to his knees, one hand going to his stomach to stem the flow of blood, the other still swinging the axe around himself in a protective arc. He looked across the room in time to see another two vampires floating away on the breeze. Two vampires, Spike included, and two Hokard remained. The venom was accelerating the blood loss; Spike was weakening and already he could see the other vampire stumbling and losing balance.
Tom worked Xander hard. There were dozens of crates to shift, hundreds of bottles to shelve. While they worked Tom told Xander stories of his family back in England. He reminisced about his father’s little country pub, he cast dispersions on his cousins posh club in the heart of London, and glowed and bragged about his Rose. Xander listened and made all the right noises, glad for the physical labour and simple conversation that helped to keep his mind on an even keel. Eventually though, thanks in part to his excessive energy, the job was done. They made their way back upstairs and took the coffee that Rose offered.
Xander took up his route around the room again, coffee in his hand. How long had it been now? A quick glance at the clock and Xander realised they had been in the cellar for well over two hours. That meant that Spike had been gone for almost three hours. Much longer and the sun would be up and Spike would be caught.
Xander stopped his pacing when Tom approached. “Xander it’s nearly dawn. It’s been three hours. I need to go and find him.”
“Great let’s go then,” Xander started for the door, grabbing his coat off a bar stool.
“I can’t let you come, Xander. If those things get you…” Tom shook his head sadly. “You have to wait here, I’ll bring him back.”
“Damn it! I am not waiting anymore. I’m going with you. You don’t take me I’ll follow you anyway.”
Tom considered him. Finally with a heavy sigh he went behind the bar and came out with a pair of long-handled axes. “You stay in my sight every second. You do exactly what I tell you, yeah?” He handed one to Xander, then hauled a heavy looking bundle over his shoulder.
Xander snatched up the axe, nodded his agreement and headed for the door. “My car’s outside.”
The drive took only minutes but for Xander it dragged on interminably. They parked as close as they could to the sewer entrance, took up their weapons and set of at a run.
“There’s been no Hokard showing up at the Bear and Lion, so that should be a good sign.” Tom told him.
“Should be, but there’s been no blonde vampires showing up either.”
Tom merely grunted and led him around more bends, through more foul puddles until Xander could see a light up ahead.
Tom motioned him back but went forward himself, leaning his head around the entrance. “Bloody hell. Xander let’s get in there.”
The scene that met Xander’s eyes was nothing short of carnage. Hokard bodies, or more accurately, body parts were splashed liberally around the cavern; both on the floor and the walls. The entire room was coated in a light film of dust, muting the colours. All of that was bad enough, but it was what Xander could see off to his right that caused his stomach to lurch.