Rating: PG-13 for language
Summary: Sequel to Reassembling. Principal Wood's arrival wrecks more havoc than anyone could imagine
Beta read by the wonderful incandragon
Reassembling can be found at: http://spanderfiles.com/arvs/texanfan/r
Previous chapters at: http://www.livejournal.com/tools/memori
AN: This chapter contains heavy borrowing from the episode Grave.
“Xander, what the fuck are you doing here?” Spike demanded.
Defiance sparked in Xander’s eye as he took in Spike on his knees and severely beaten. “I came to make sure you don’t dust yourself here.”
Spike found the energy to get off his knees and stumble toward Xander. “I told you I had to do this alone. I thought you understood.” Spike feared that, now Xander was here, he’d suffer the same fate Spike did.
“Oh you’re doing great on your own.” Xander’s sarcasm was mitigated by the gentleness of his hands when he supported Spike, drawing him into a careful embrace. “You can barely stand. This is officially over with. You’re coming home with me.”
At this point, Spike considered the offer. He wasn’t going to survive his next fight and pride seemed less important with Xander holding him and offering him home. Of course, he’d forgotten about the demon who had merely drawn to the side, observing.
“Once joined, the trials cannot be ended until success or death results.” Rocky sounded like a bored announcer. The least he could do is offer a villainous cackle or something.
“Bullshit!” Xander shouted. “He walked in here of his own free will and he’s walking out the same way.”
Spike surged with pride for his boy while letting his head rest on his broad shoulder, just for a moment until he got his breath back. A craggy, seven foot, winged demon barely made Xander blink. The demon seemed equally unimpressed with Xander. “If he leaves without finishing the trials, he forfeits his life. He understood this when he entered.”
As little as Spike cared for the concept of fair play he couldn’t deny this. He’d received plenty of warning. Besides, the demon had enough mojo at his command that escape was unlikely. Spike burrowed closer to Xander‘s warmth, inhaling the scent of fresh cut wood that hung around him. “He’s right, Xander. I’ve got one more fight and I win. Just wait out of the way and we’ll go home together.” He entertained the tinniest shred of hope that Xander would listen to him.
“Spike, you look worse than you did after Glory worked you over. You can’t fight anymore.” To prove his point, Xander lowered him to the cave floor and Spike found he didn’t have the strength to remain upright without the support. He sprawled on his back, vaainly trying to will his body to move as he wanted it to. He groaned at his own weakness.
Xander turned to face the demon. “Fine, we’re making a substitution. I’ll fight Spike’s last fight for him.”
Spike thought of his various opponents. Some of them Xander could have taken given a proper weapon, but bare handed he’d never stand a chance. Before he could voice his own objections the big demon intervened. “You can not fight in his stead. If he does not complete the trials himself, he will perish.”
Spike found himself royally sick of the monotone, unemotional declarations. He’d love to irritate the big demon again, but getting Xander out of here was more important. “You heard the man, luv. How about you wait in the SUV outside and I’ll be out as soon as I polish off this last mook.” Spike suspected he’d be more convincing if he wasn’t delivering this speech from the floor, where he‘d just managed to rise up on his elbows. Still, he didn’t want Xander to watch this last fight. The chance he might do something to intervene and get killed for his trouble was too high.
Xander turned back to Spike and dropped beside him. Spike struggled up into a sitting position so he could face him properly. Xander appeared so earnest and intent. “Spike, I’m not leaving you here, so just forget it. We’re both walking out of here or not at all.”
Spike felt his ribs shift as he leaned forward, his attempt to cover his wince of pain failed he surmised from the corresponding pain on Xander’s face. “I don’t want you here, Xander. He’ll use you against me, throw me off in the middle of the fight.” It was the only tactic he could think of that stood a chance of working with Xander.
“You’re in no shape to fight. You need blood. Fortunately, I come with a ready supply.” Xander grinned at him so widely Spike lost his train of thought. He felt punchy and disoriented and wondered which bout had addled his brains.
“You brought me blood?” Spike asked in confusion, peering around Xander for a previously unseen flask or thermos.
Xander reached out and gently tipped Spike’s head to make him look Xander in the eye. “I don’t even want to know what customs would do if I tried to bring a cooler of blood through. I meant me.” Again Spike faced that beaming smile.
Spike crab walked backwards, away from temptation and damnation. “Not a chance in hell, pet.”
Xander pursued him on hands and knees, a scowl creasing his face. “Are you trying to tell me my blood is suddenly repellent to you? If you won’t let me fight for you, at least I can feed you, help you heal.”
Spike kept backing away until he fetched up against the cave wall. “I can’t feed from you, Xander!” He wanted to scream at Xander for making him say it out loud but he didn‘t have the breath. “I’m injured.”
“I seem to recall I fed you when you were injured the day Buffy died,” Xander pressed, using that hyper reasonable tone Spike hated, while pressing close. With the offer on the table Xander smelled delicious, his heat and vitality hitting Spike in a sensory wave.
“Different circumstances,” Spike explained through gritted teeth. The movement had exacerbated all his injuries and talking was torture, but he had to make Xander understand. “You cut yourself, I just licked up the blood, besides, Rupert was sitting right there, making sure it didn’t go too far.”
“I trust you, Spike.” Xander tilted his head, exposing a tantalizing stretch of neck toward Spike.
Spike squeezed his eyes shut to block it out. His gums itched with the desire to vamp out and take what was mere inches away. He felt utterly empty, his last meal might as well have been weeks rather than days ago. “I don’t,” he growled. “Xander, I’m starving, I get a taste of you in my mouth there’s a good chance I won’t stop ‘til I’ve drained the last drop.”
Xander moved forward again, his palms cupping Spike’s face. He stared intently into Spike’s eyes, forcing him to acknowledge his sincerity. “It’s a chance I’m willing to take. I’d much rather you drain me dry than have you die in this miserable cave.”
Spike cupped Xander’s face in return, willing him to see his determination. “You think I could live with that? Step over your lifeless body and skip merrily on my way?”
“So you’re just going to die here,” Xander protested. He rose and started pacing in front of Spike. “For what, a soul? What the hell do you need a soul for anyway?”
Spike shook his head, wishing he possessed the words to explain. But words that would satisfy Xander escaped him. “It’s part of me. it was ripped from me and I want it back.”
Xander dropped to his knees beside Spike, the pleading look on his face breaking Spike’s heart. “Fine. Fight for your soul, take out this last opponent and get your heart’s desire.” He leaned forward and pulled his shirt collar away in a ridiculously theatrical gesture. “But you need blood to do it.”
“I could kill you,” Spike protested.
Xander’s grin reminded Spike of all the times Xander went rushing heedlessly into battle. “Then I get to die giving you what you need. I can’t think of a better way to go. Now drink.”
Spike realized he’d never win this argument. Xander’s love and stubbornness couldn’t be overcome by logic. So he took Xander’s face in his hands and kissed him as deeply and passionately as his battered body would allow. Kissed him goodbye. When they separated, Xander panted for breath. “Come here, luv, let me hold you.”
Sensing victory, Xander settled with his back to Spike’s chest. Spike grabbed Xander in a sleeper hold and held on as Xander struggled against him. Even that brief struggle, with Xander desperate not to harm his assailant, took the last of Spike’s waning strength. Once Xander’s head lolled against his shoulder, Spike released the hold and, as gently as he could manage, lowered Xander to the sand of the cave floor. He allowed himself one last kiss before he staggered to his feet, determined to meet his end with whatever dignity he could muster.
“Bring on your champion,” he challenged. “Whatever happens to me, no harm is to come to him. He’s not part of this, understand?”
“On the contrary, vampire, he is very much part of this,” Rocky insisted. “The need for fighting has passed.”
Exhaustion and weakness had to be making him stupid, because Spike couldn’t understand what Rocky was on about. His confusion must have been obvious because Rocky continued. “You have passed the trials, the prize is yours.”
Spike reeled with that information, but suspected a trick, another price. “What about Xander?”
“He is safe at home.”
Spike turned to where he had left Xander moments ago and found the space empty, no sign Xander had ever been there. The shock was too much and he hit his knees again, still staring at the empty place by the wall. Xander had felt so real, sounded just as he remembered, argued and fought with him like the real Xander. Of course, if that version of Xander had come from his mind how could he act as anything but exactly what Spike expected?
“You have endured the required trials. We will return your soul.” Rocky stood behind him and Spike was still attempting to comprehend that he won when a huge, rough hand reached over his shoulder and landed over his heart.
Pain radiated out from his chest until it blazed along every nerve ending. He screamed, certain fire had to be shooting out from his body and he would collapse into ash any second. Then the pain consumed him and he fell into darkness.
Spike heard the murmur of voices speaking a language he didn’t understand. He rested on a soft pallet with a fresh smelling sheet and blanket draped over him. A fire crackled nearby, warming his left side. It didn’t sound or feel like hell. He risked opening his eyes and saw he was in a hut, probably one of the huts close to the mouth of the cave. Two people stood in the doorway, blocking the fading light of the setting sun.
He got a moment to take in the fact that he didn’t dust in that cave before the soul he’d won made its presence felt. He cried out as every act he’d committed in the past 120 years was cast into a new light. Deaths he’d barely taken notice of suddenly weighed him down into the dirt. He arched his back, the pain in his mind demanding physical expression and the agony that caused his abused body rivaled the torture of his soul.
A gentle hand laid on his shoulder, trying to press him back into the pallet. “You must be still. You are gravely injured,” a woman’s voice insisted.
Taking shallow breaths, Spike attempted to obey the injunction. “Who are you?”
“Miriam,” she answered with a smile. “You have survived the trials and so we will tend your wounds and provide shelter until you regain your strength.”
“Shouldn’t be around me,” Spike shivered, feeling as if he was transferring his depravity to her through her touch. “You don’t know what I am.”
Miriam smiled broadly at him. “Of course I do.” Another villager entered the hut and handed Miriam a mug. They exchanged a few words, then Miriam turned back to him and slipped an arm beneath his shoulders to raise him to a half sitting position. Then she held the mug out to him. “You must drink to regain your strength.”
He took the mug almost reflexively. The smell pricked his senses immediately, it was blood. The taste identified it as cow blood. Relief flooded him, he didn’t think he could take human blood just at that moment. It also answered the question of whether they knew what he was or not. They were clearly aware of the needs of the monster they harbored. It did bring to mind another question. “Why are you helping me?”
“It is our task to tend to those who complete the trials,” Miriam answered brightly.
“Keeps you busy, does it?”
“Oh no.” She shook her head and her dangling gold earrings danced in the firelight. “There has not been a survivor of the trials since my mother was a young girl. It is very exciting!”
Spike drained the mug and sank back onto the pallet. He twitched as scenes of the mayhem he’d caused, the lives he’d destroyed, flashed through his mind. But one thought rose out of the pain and self recrimination. As Miriam took the mug from him, he grabbed her wrist before she could move away. “Please, in my car there’s a satellite phone, I need to make a call.”
“Of course,” she responded, her smile never dimming.
Spike released her arm and eased back onto the pallet. “How long was I in there?” he asked.
“Two days,” she answered and left the hut.
Spike stared up at the thatching that made up the roof and tried desperately not to give in to the overwhelming guilt that threatened to consume him. He cataloged his many injuries to distract himself. A week might not suffice to heal all his wounds, but he’d at least be mobile in time to catch his flight.
He lost track of time, sinking back into a Technicolor rewind of his “glory days,” and Miriam’s return to the hut startled him.
She handed him the phone with a titter. Clearly, his entertainment value exceeded expectations. “Thank you,” he said, hoping she would take the hint and give him some privacy. He hoped in vain, as she wated to see what new tricks he might do. Ignoring her for the moment he dialed.
Xander answered on the first ring. “Spike?”
“I made it, I’m coming home.”