A/N: a huge thanks to all those people who've stuck with Childe through re-writes and posting breaks. I really appreciate your comments, support and encouragement, and suspect I never would've finished COMH if it hadn't been for that (seriously, I have about eight unposted wips gathering dust on my hard drive). I loved writing Childe, but it wrung me out! I think I'll stick to shorter pieces from now on:)
Now, on to the fic...
Title: Childe of my Heart
Rating: Adults only
Warnings: language, violence
Summary: Spike, Xander, Fred, Giles and Dawn are stranded in an alternative dimension and are trying to find their way back home.
Disclaimer: the characters are not mine, they belong to Whedon et al.Chapter Sixty-nine: The Dimming
Title: Childe of my Heart
Rating: Adults only (overall)
Disclaimer: not mine! The characters belong to Whedon et.al.
Chapter Sixty Eight: A Hearty Breakfast
Two hours before noon on Sunday. Tresten was still in his abyss, which wasn’t a hole in the ground, but his grand dining room; door locked, drapes closed, lights off. Groza laid out on the table.
Ruby left Sargo in charge of the preparations in the Great Hall and retired to her unit. She tried not to skip all the way there. After the initial shock, euphoria had settled in, for with Groza disposed of, Tresten might start to see her as something other than a maid-servant. Talking of which, what an inconvenience that her servants had been billeted to fetch and carry in the Great Hall. She ought not complain, she supposed. Sargo’s Earned were similarly occupied and he did not complain about having to fetch his own breakfast. Perhaps she would forgo breakfast altogether and intercept the food procession for a late lunch. The carts were bound to have a thin soup she could suck through a straw.
She let herself into her empty house, went directly to her bedchamber, got comfortable on the bed and drew off her veil. Her breeze seeped out from between the strands on her lips and darted to the Arches, subjecting it to systematic spying.
Exactly one hundred and fifty Earned were at work in the Vampire’s pool garden, all cloaked and all with their hoods covering their heads, as was proper – and disappointing. She had anticipated gifting a few of the Vampire’s men to the Void.
Her main targets were at a table on the terrace restaurant, having a breakfast of blood, strawberry milkshake, cubed fried potatoes, grilled steak, grilled tomatoes and two types of sauces. One was a brown sauce – onions in gravy she believed; the other was a mushroom sauce. A burnt sauce by all appearances, dark, gelatinous and over-spiced with curry, from the scent of it.
The Vampire sniffed then laughed humorlessly. “Hello, Ruby.”
She hissed in her bedchamber and her breeze did likewise on the terrace.
Spike carried on eating. The others glanced around the terrace.
Spike pointed his plastic knife at the child’s plate. “Are you going to eat that?”
With her fork, Dawn pushed a potato cube around in the mushroom sauce smothered over her steak. “I don’t like curry,” she pouted, “and the steak’s too rare.”
“I’ll have it later,” the Vampire said. “Put it in a lunch box for me.”
The child fetched a lunch box from the kitchen and slid the mess from her plate into the lunch box. “Eww, my hands stink of curry,” she whined, pushing back from the table again. “I’m going to wash them.”
“With soap, Dawnie,” the woman said anxiously. “Use plenty of soap and hot water to be on the safe side…I mean, you know, to smell soapy fresh.”
Ruby frowned in her bedchamber. Her breeze slithered over the table, weaved between the bottles of water, and jug of strawberry milkshake, trying to sniff out what had put a note of anxiety in the Fred’s voice. Apart from the child, the others had not sampled the curried mushroom sauce, hardly intriguing given the repugnant appearance of that particular condiment.
Dawn rejoined the group and started picking food off her Amo’s plate, chewing with gusto.
The Vampire pushed his almost full plate in front of the child and contented himself with a goblet of blood. “Did you all sleep alright?” he asked.
Three of his humans nodded, the boy – who was rarely short of words – said, “The crickets need shooting, kept me up damn near all night.”
“Right, so it was chirping crickets that had you up all last night,” Spike said, sounding vastly amused.
“Crickets are annoying,” was the Watcher’s inane contribution.
The talk of annoying night insects went on longer than Ruby thought necessary. She learnt the useless fact that the Californian cricket was by far a quieter bug than the variety found in The Trail.
“Before I forget, Mi Amo, we need more lamp gas,” Fred said, concluding the insect discussion, to Ruby’s gladness.
“Run down to the Main Floor market when you’ve done with breakfast Giles,” Spike ordered.
The greedy Watcher ate every morsel of the large portion on his plate, found room for a second helping of fried potatoes and when his plate was clean, complained about there being too much salt in the meal. “Why did you not stop eating?” Ruby asked the ceiling panels of her bedroom.
“Take some water with you, Giles,” the boy, Xander, said softly, “and be careful…with the…the…”
“The Gangr’als on Main Floor. They’re not big on Watchers,” Amo Spike hastily added.
The Watcher embraced his fellow humans, a farewell Ruby found odd, given that he was only going to the market. He placed a bottle of water in a satchel and left on his errand. She coiled her breeze around a pillar and single-mindedly focused on the four who were critical to the game for the Devil’s Pass.
* * * *
Giles exchanged cloaks and clothing with Rodrig in the store room of the fruit stall on Main Floor. Jude arrived five minutes later, on time. He replaced the maroon band on Giles’ wrist with a multi-coloured band, had him take off his glasses and handed him a vial of clear fluid, “it will slow your heart for a few hours, quieten its beat.” Handing another vial to Salma, this one filled with green fluid, Jude said, “for Master Spike.”
Giles swallowed the clear fluid in one go, shuddering at its astringent taste. He clutched Jude’s shoulder as dizziness swamped him. “What’s in it?” he belatedly asked.
Jude didn’t reply, too busy dispensing medication. “Ointment to assist your healing,” he held out a small tub to Rodrig.
Giles sat on an over turned crate.
“No,” Jude hefted Giles up, banded an arm around his waist and draped Giles’ arm onto his shoulders, dragging him through the market. “Do not speak and do not raise your head.”
Giles belched. “Pardon me,” he slurred from the depths of his hood.
Jude walked him past the Runners waiting outside the stone mason’s shop. The Runners mumbled questions, Jude explained, “he is the mason’s unbonded apprentice, inebriated at a time like this.”
The Runners cackled.
Jude entered the shop, closed the doors and smiled at the stone mason polishing Groza’s sarcophagus.
“I bring a sacrifice,” Jude pompously announced.
Giles jerked his head up, dislodging the hood and ducking his head again when Jude’s fingers viciously dug into his ribs.
Too late. The stone mason frowned in recognition, asking, “Is that not…?”
“Spike’s Watcher, yes.” Jude towed the rubbery kneed, unresisting Watcher to the white marble casket and bundled him into the compartment beneath the resting chamber. “He must be restrained and uncomfortably so. Could you fashion a slab to lock him to the back wall, Mason?”
Mason edged back from the casket. “I will have no part in this.”
Jude’s warts flattened in a derisive sneer. “When, at the gathering, Amo Tresten calls me to give account of my service to Master Groza, I will say that I cushioned Groza’s chariot with the life of his enemy. What will you say, Mason?”
Mason swiveled his head in quick, bird-like movement as he glanced at the casket, Jude and the slabs of left-over white marble on his workstation. “I was not aware I would be called to account.”
“Whom did you imagine Lord Tresten would take to task over the chariot’s flaws? For I see flaws in the joints and if I see them, no doubt Lord Tresten will see them too.”
Mason whipped off his commemorative cloak and placed it on the casket. He flitted to his workstation and with tape measure, chisel, hammer and frightened speed, set about fashioning a false back wall for the casket.
“We must tell no-one of this until the gathering,” Jude slid Mason’s cloak off the casket.
“I will tell no-one,” Mason promised.
Indeed you won’t, thought Jude. Smooth as an oiled snake, he rolled up Mason’s cloak and pitched it into the compartment to join Giles. A sneaky sideways step, and Jude was standing directly in front of the compartment doors, blocking the view. He engaged Mason in small talk, telling him how enraged Lord Tresten was, how exacting this rage made him.
The Mason worked faster and when the slab was ready, Jude took it from him saying, “I will fit it into the chariot. If you would please hasten to the chief of the Task Force and plead with him to clear the Town Square for the Runners and I.”
Mason nodded and sped off to plead with Victor.
Jude wedged the slab into the compartment, trapping Giles and Mason’s cloak between the slab and the chariot’s true back wall. He shut the compartment doors and went out to the waiting Runners.
“It is hoped your vigor lasts to Seventh Ranking,” he said, waving in the Runners into the shop.
They groaned on seeing the deep and wide casket. Jude caught sight of Rodrig loitering in a small crowd not far from where the Runners had waited and marched to him.
“I recognize you,” Jude snarled into the partially obscured face. “You are Amo Spike’s Watcher. What are you doing here?”
Rodrig turned and ran for the Town Square. Jude gave chase. In another part of the Town Square, the Task Force was also giving chase, steering the cloakless Mason inexorably towards the Dark Void.
* * * *
Ruby’s wind wafted closer to the table as a pair of Spike’s Earned carried a semi-conscious man onto the terrace.
“Giles?” Xander gasped when the man was brought to the table.
Yes, Ruby thought she’d picked up the Watcher’s scent. He had returned without lamp oil. His face beaten unrecognizable and his dark hair wet with blood, Giles did little more than groan at his Master’s questions.
“What happened, who did this to you, Giles?”
“Will someone tell me what the bloody hell happened?”
“Perhaps you will not remember me, Amo,” an Earned stepped closer to Spike and tugged on his cloak pocket. “I look after your fruit stall on Main Floor. I was at the stall when Jude set upon Giles. I do not know what started the quarrel, but Jude seemed incensed by being asked for a flask of lamp oil.”
“Thanks, Salma,” Amo Spike said in coiled voice. “Take him to his room, Fred’ll be along to bandage his face.”
The shaken woman, Fred, collected a medicine box from the kitchen, took out a wad of cotton dressings and left the box open on the table. The child held a glass of strawberry milkshake in slack fingers as she watched the Earned carry away the now unconscious Watcher. The boy bit his lips, silent for a change.
Good old Jude, Ruby’s breeze romped around the terrace in gleeful spirit.
* * * *
Tresten glided his hands over the carvings on the sarcophagus. Grapes on the four corners of the lid to sustain Groza and a fountain in the center to slake his thirst. Gagged Earned on three sides of the burial chest to wordlessly serve him, a harp on one door of the compartment to give him music and a jester on the other door to keep him amused.
“It is beautiful,” Tresten opened the compartment doors, peering inside, “and your seat appears comfortable, although I’m certain you will not need it.”
“I lay in the seat to ensure the space was ample, Master,” Jude piped, sycophantic to the best of his abilities.
“So vast is the cavity you could fit yourself and your entire treasury in it,” Tresten rested a hand on Jude’s shoulder. “Are the carts ready, do they equal the chariot in beauty? Will Groza be pleased with them?”
Jude couldn’t help but glance at the Advisor laid out on the table. “The carts are as strong and handsome as Master Groza was…is…was, Mi Amo.”
Tresten sat at the head of the table and stroked his Advisor’s hair. “What is to become of me now, Groza? I make little sense without you.” Wrinkly in tunic and exuding sour wine on breath, Tresten was a dwarfed giant and Jude’s sympathy for him was genuine.
He shut the compartment doors, hoping Giles’ faint heartbeat would not break through the marble barriers. “Will I depart to the First Ranking kitchen to organize the food procession Mi Amo?”
Tresten didn’t reply.
Head bowed, Jude walked backwards through the dining room door. Once in the hallway, he softly closed the door and still had his hand on the doorknob when the key turned with a clack of finality.
Jude glanced at his deputy sitting on a chair by the door. “Make certain to keep Amo Tresten in wine, Soren, give him no cause for anger.”
Title: Childe of My Heart
Summary: Spike, Fred, Dawn and Xander are stranded in an alternative dimension and are trying to find their way home.
Rating: adults only
Warnings: blood play, language, explicit m/m
Disclaimer: not mine, the characters belong to Joss Whedon et.al
Beta: wonderful and patient Chris.
A/N1: big hi to new friends *waves*
A/N2: posting two parts this week because I'm going out of town for a bit. I hope you enjoy:-)
Chapter Sixty Seven: Out With The Old
Xander closed the Arches gates behind him, a little creeped out by the white cloaked Fifth Rankers out on the ledge, hoods pulled low over their faces and whispering as he edged through them. Pulling his own hood up, he picked up speed and concentrated on what he was going to say to Spike. He had it all planned out; first, he’d clear out the rooms in the unit, burn everything. Then he’d hit Spike with a speech; the speech he was rehearsing as he walked the mile and a half to the unit. The we-can-work-it-out speech Spike would listen to if Xander had to chain him to the hammock and make him listen.
Thankfully, the chaining wasn’t immediately necessary when Xander got to the unit because Spike wasn’t in the hammock. Assuming he was zoning out in the guys’ former room, Xander built a bonfire on the flagstones and fed it all the clothes, sheets and bric-a-brac from the girls’ old room. By the time the last of Dawn’s Chinese dresses was smoldering on the fire, Xander was sweating and the sky was black with nightfall. No moon tonight, no stir of unlife from the other room.
He took off his cloak and tunic, lay them on the hammock and tackled the rest of the courtyard, saving a bar of cracked soap from the bathroom, a tea bag, a couple of mugs and the kettle from the cupboard under the butcher’s block and the dried mushroom slices from the furnace room. He sealed the mushrooms in a Ziploc bag, put the bag in the front pocket of his satchel and spent five minutes scrubbing his hands at the bathroom sink before lighting the furnace for hot water. If things panned out the way he wanted them to, he and Spike would need a shower later.
He lit a lamp, got as far as the bedroom door, came back for his satchel and inched the door open, the bonfire throwing heat on his bare back. Spike lay on the bed, his naked sprawl conflicting with his raised head, poised at an angle, features sharp as tawny eyes glittered at the doorway.
“It’s you,” Spike said. Eyes back to blue, he lowered his head to the pillow and adjusted his sprawl, kicking his groza cloak off the foot of the bed as he turned onto his side, eyes drifting closed.
Xander leaned back against the door, shutting it. The speech he’d rehearsed, all those compromise things he’d been going to say, they got lost somewhere between his brain and his mouth. What he was thinking, no, feeling, burnt like anger, like the bonfire was eating through the door and into his back and combusting his heart. Felt like anger, but it wasn’t, because Spike hadn’t done anything to provoke him. All he’d done was wait naked for Xander, all ivory unmarked skin, blue vein running down the side of his neck, barely visible as it crossed the shadow of Spike’s shoulder over his unmarked claim point. His own claim mark tingled, woken up by Spike’s sleep-scratchy ‘it’s you,’ and it just wasn’t right that Spike had no claim mark that Xander could voice-activate into tingling.
He hang the lamp on a wall hook, fished the lube from the satchel, tossed it on the bed, got naked and dropped face down onto Spike. Two point five seconds, not bad for a human.
“What the hell, Xander?” Spike squawked, oh, yeah, he squawked, pinned under him and pushing at him with one hand.
“You bloody turn over, you-” Spike grunted as Xander manhandled him, turning him flat on his back and dropping full weight onto him again, knees wedging between Spike’s knees. “You better have a good reason, boy.”
“Say it again.”
Spike frowned up at him. “Say what, that you weigh a ton?”
“Boy. Say it again.”
“Boy,” Spike said, patiently.
“Good. Hope you got it out of your system, ‘cause that’s the last time you call me that.”
Spike arched his eyebrow, his lips twitched. Xander shifted his legs apart, and again, moving Spike’s legs wide, and wider. He felt the current through Spike’s muscles, the intention to throw him off.
“Don’t. Spike,” and the months spent living with monsters must have rubbed off on him, taught him to growl.
Spike made an irritated sound, a huff in the back of his throat as he relaxed his body, and Xander knew then that Spike wouldn’t be throwing him off at any point tonight.
“Next time, warn a bloke before you crush-”
Xander covered Spike’s mouth with his hand. “Really not interested.”
Spike huffed again.
“Turn your head,” Xander said.
Spike’s narrowed eyes said, make me.
Digging his thumb and fingertips into Spike’s cheeks, he turned Spike’s head to the side and pressed his face to the slope of Spike’s neck. Bit hard into the claim point. Didn’t break skin and didn’t let go, at least not until Spike was panting and grabbing at him, making like he’d writhe right out of his skin. Xander lapped at the red mark he’d made, sucked it, probed it with the tip of his tongue, humming at the feel of smooth skin.
“Teeth, Xander, harder,” Spike said, fingers of one hand twining in Xander’s hair.
Xander shook his head, reaching up to remove the demanding hand from his hair. He didn’t care what Spike wanted, wasn’t doing this so Spike could get off. When he grazed his teeth along Spike’s collar bone and worked his way down Spike’s chest to his navel, leaving a trail of wet crescent shaped indentations, he didn’t do it to gratify Spike. He did it to satisfy himself, did it to lay a claim on his territory, and what do you know? They both got off on it. He jacked Spike’s cock once, licked off a clear drop of pre-cum from its tip and moved further down, relentless as Spike said, “Xander, please,” his hips straining upwards.
He hooked his hands under Spike’s knees and opened him up, shoving those knees towards Spike’s chest. Please, Xander, Spike said. Xander pleased himself, dipped his head and traced his tongue over Spike’s pucker.
Spike’s whole body clenched. “Xander!” he said, voice constricted.
And then harsh breaths and soft cusses were washing over Xander from the head of the bed as he lapped and probed Spike’s tight ring like he’d done his claim point, fucking staked his territory, getting harder as Spike loosened up around his tongue. Spike let off a choked sound, closest thing to a sob Xander had heard from his lover, and he had to stop or he’d come. Kneeling up, he gripped the base of his cock, thinking unsexy things to hold off his orgasm. Not easy, with Spike looking fuckable; thighs spread, chest marked up, handfuls of sheet screwed up in his fists.
Picking up the lube, Xander shifted his gaze to a worn patch of whitewash on the wall. He slowly slicked his fingers, one at a time, waiting for the tightness in his balls to ease and for his pulse and cock to calm down.
“I take it back, Spike, all of it.” Leaning over Spike and braced on one elbow, he slid a finger into Spike, added another. “It’s not okay, nowhere near alright.”
Spike passed his tongue along his lower lip. “Can we talk about it this la-”
“We’re going to talk about it now,” he pushed in a third finger.
Spike raised his head, caught Xander off guard with pushy lips and pushier tongue. Xander’s control slipped as the kiss grew hotter. He was popping sweat, tasting smoke and salt, finger fucking Spike, ramming his hips forward with each inward thrust of his fingers. Hard cocks rubbed, slick and becoming slicker with the skin-on-skin friction.
Spin-tailing with pleasure and breathless with possessiveness, Xander pulled his head back and run his gaze over Spike’s face, met the passion wrecked blue eyes. “She can’t have you, Spike,” thrust, “you’re mine,” thrust, “you’re mine and so help me, I will dust you if I catch you slobbering after her.”
Non-negotiable terms, so he didn’t wait to hear what would come out of Spike’s parted lips but lunged his head down, latching his teeth on Spike’s claim point. For all its smoothness, Spike’s skin wouldn’t give and Xander couldn’t bring himself to bite harder, just couldn’t shake the squick factor…until Spike braced his heels on Xander’s ass and brought his hips into play, grinding on Xander’s fingers. Moving like a top’s dream, voice raw, shot to hell, “fuck me Xander. Fuck me, own me.”
Xander fanned out a soul-deep groan, his movements curt with urgency as he sat back on his heels, hauling Spike up to straddle his lap. Gripping Spike’s hips, positioning him, he pushed up into that tight, slick channel. He owned it, hammering all the way home and fastening his teeth on Spike’s claim point. Spike keened, head thrown back, hands back in Xander’s hair, clamping him to the side of his exposed throat.
Xander bit harder, hated the feel of flesh tearing, but tore because he loved the noises of Spike. Hated the splash of lukewarm blood in his mouth, but sucked from the broken skin because he loved the taste of Spike. He’d drunk from Spike on claim night, but that had been a sip; this was a gulp and he swallowed it because he loved Spike. Then it kicked in, that…amazing voltage. He had wings, he was a ray of light; man, he was Alexander The Fricking Great, sucking and swallowing because he was a power whore. It turned him on to feel Spike shaking under his teeth, quivering around his cock, jolting with his thrusts, unraveling like a spool of cord spinning across the floor.
Xander never wanted to stop, wanted this pleasure-power trip to go on and on and it probably would’ve, except Spike morphed against his neck and slid the fangs in. Into his tingling claim point, and it was like a plug slotting into a socket, completing an electrical circuit and juicing them both up to unbearable levels. Xander swore, coming in mid-thrust as Spike’s cock, pressed between their bellies, shuddered, giving up its load. They sagged onto and clutched at each other, done. For now.
* * * *
They dozed then had sex then dozed some more then had sex and the sheets suffered, mangled and stained with lube, come, sweat and blood.
Xander wrinkled his nose, scraping a flake of come off Spike’s breastbone. “We should shower.”
Kissing Xander’s nose, Spike said, “Do the room first.”
They cleared the room out, putting everything they’d ever touched, worn and fucked on, on the fire. They burnt the towels too, and when they’d showered, they dragged their pants and tunics on over wet skin, laughing because they’d forgotten to save a couple of towels.
“Fire will dry us off,” Spike said, water dripping off his hair to wet his damp collar.
While Xander made tea, Spike, who had remembered to save the ball-gag, put it in Xander’s satchel with the Ziplocked mushroom slices. They stood in front of the roaring bonfire, sipping tea and watching their old lives burn away. Moccasins and silk sheets, white cotton tunics and spare wristbands, leather flogger, uncorked bottle of Dawn’s tincture, the remedy she’d labeled ‘Xander’s Fault.’ Flames licked at the label, charring it black till Xander couldn’t read his name on it anymore.
He took the empty mug from Spike, threw that and his own mug onto the fire and carded his fingers through Spike’s fire-warmed hair, kissing him. Spike melted into the kiss, went without resistance when Xander backed him to the hammock. It swayed when they fell on it, molded its sisal ropes to their fused shape as they made out like Xander hadn’t made out since the days of Cordelia Chase and the back seat of her father’s car. They kept it on the slow side, both of them half-hard but neither pushing for more. Too sated. Enjoying the gentle sweep of hands too much, the long drawn out kisses, the hammock’s reluctant sway with the tiny rocking of hips, the “God…I love you,” one of them said against the other’s lips. It came back, hoarse and heartfelt, tagged on a cool breath, “love you, too. Was out of order last night, I just…”
“It’s okay,” Xander said, resuming the kiss.
It really was okay this time, because the crap they’d endured from day one in the Trail, the fucking up they’d done, to themselves and to each other, it was all burning on the fire, smoke curling into the sky. He and Spike had won, whatever happened Monday morning, they’d already won.
A while later, Spike pulled away and stared at the back wall of the courtyard.
“What is it?” Xander whispered, following Spike’s gaze.
“Jude,” Spike said. “Bawling in the walls. Sounding the pre-dawn gong.”
Busy day ahead, Xander thought. Dawn, Fred, Giles and the others were probably up, waiting for him and Spike. He pressed one last kiss to the corner of Spike’s mouth and sighed, leaving the hammock.
They threw their cloaks on. Xander shouldered the satchel, Spike went to the fire, lifted two flaming lengths of wood and dropped them on the hammock.
“Let’s get a move on,” he said without a backward glance.
Xander looked back once at the tall tree catching fire. He closed the gate on it, raised his hood over his head and followed Spike, the three steps between them a complete farce.
Rating: NC-17 overall
Disclaimer: the characters are not mine, they belong to Whedon et.al
Chapter sixty-six: Dovetail
Giles stepped up to the plate, giving a convincing lecture on the deconstruction of Tresten. “Everything Tresten does is an attempt to reinforce his image as a Roman demi-god,” he said. “His amphitheatre resembles a coliseum. His task-masters are corruptions of Greco-Roman fables; El Toro, for example, is the Minotuar. Ruby with the snake-like appendages on her lips, is Medusa. Jude is Mercury, postman to the gods. By electing to conquer and live in a mountain, Tresten is boasting that he is the mountain: indomitable Atlas.”
“However, we all have a failing, my greatest being a dormant darkness that is re-kindled under the right – or should I say wrong – stimuli. Xander’s reckless. Dawn’s a teenager, there exists no greater flaw than that.”
Giles smiled at Dawn’s indignant exclamation. “Half the time Fred’s in a world of her own, and Amo Spike…I dare not point out his defects for fear of rash and violent reprimand.”
“How’s the nose, by the way?” Spike asked.
“Tresten is no less flawed,” Giles smoothly carried on. “Ela, I’m certain, had the last laugh. She clung to Tresten’s right ankle and cursed it with the last of her strength, hexing Tresten into becoming one of the myths he so exalts. Tresten would like us to believe he’s Atlas. I know him to be Achilles, invincible but for his faulty heel.”
The questions came thick and fast. Giles answered them all, prompt and poised, his self-belief igniting Spike’s self-belief. The brain-fog cleared. Spike was on the up, completely focused on weaving information together as if engaged in mortal combat.
“Here’s how it’s going to work,” he said when Giles was finished dazzling them all with watcher wisdom. “Rupert, you’re Odysseus.”
“Could you be a little more specific?” Giles said.
He gave Giles a cartload of specific.
Giles went a few shades paler. “Isn’t that rather drastic?”
“Yeah, it is.” He turned to brief Spirit. “Two tasks for you. Today, you take my instructions to Jude and Indigo. Make sure they understand that I want them to move off at the same time. Got that?”
“Tomorrow, you turn up for duty in the army kitchen like always. When you’ve done serving, go straight to the amphitheatre. Sit in the front row with the five hundred Unbonded Philippe’s sending there.”
“That’s your task for today Philippe, choose five hundred Select and Drones to sit in the front row. Tomorrow morning, you, Salma and Rodrig take over the fruit stall on Main Floor, that woman, her with the baby, usually runs it. Send her home and stay at the stall until Giles comes by.”
“Yes Mi Amo,” said the three Eliminati together.
Spike looked at Rodrig for several beats. “Back out now if you’re not up to it. There’s lots of other dark-haired Eliminati who’ll fit Rupert’s clothes.”
“None of the others will be as glad to wear the Watcher’s tunic as I am,” Rodrig said.
“Fine,” Spike nodded. “Bob, you’re also choosing a team from the Select – one vampire and three Eliminati. I’ll bring round a bunch of our gear, use those to pick out your crew. Basically, it’s the Cinderella Principle – if they can’t fit, they ain’t it.”
“Got it boss,” said Bob.
Spike took the fire-kernel from his pocket and handed it to Xander, briefing him on his task. “It’ll get hot and quivery when it’s ready to pop,” he added, the corner of his mouth twitching. “Rub it between your palms to speed things up.”
Xander smothered a laugh.
“Stop that laughing,” he lightly cuffed Xander’s ear. “This’s serious business, this.”
“Yes, Mi Amo,” Xander said.
Spike rolled his tongue in his cheek, not at all buying Xander’s docile tenor. “Do we have any Death’s Angel left, Fred?” he asked, still eyeing up Xander.
“There’s about a bowlful in the unit’s furnace room,” Fred replied.
“Are the angels usable? Only, Rupert’s shady brewing sparked an idea and now it just won’t go away. I want to poison the enemy.”
Giles sat up straighter. “Hold on, this misconception that I was trying to poison you and Xander-”
“Shut the mouth. I’m talking to Fred.”
Giles shut his mouth.
“Prolonged exposure to heat destabilizes the mushroom’s toxic component, weakening its effect on demons,” Fred said.
“And on humans?” Spike asked.
“Horrible hallucinations, severe gastric spasms and temporary but total muscular rigidity,” Fred paused, frowned. “Don’t take this as encouragement, but if you’re planning on poisoning a human to death, you’ll need more than those dried up mushrooms.”
“Seeing as I’m going to the unit anyways, I’ll fetch the mushrooms. Fred, you’ll make angel sauce.” Spike glanced at Dawn, “You’re brewing strawberry milkshake, Bit.”
He lit a cigarette, smoked slowly so as to be unruffled when he asked, “You still got the toys from Rhiana?”
“Yeah,” Xander scratched his nose, fidgeted with his collar. “Back at the unit.”
“What toys?” Dawn asked.
“Never you mind.” He tapped ash off the end of his cigarette. “Want you all to pack your bags tonight. One bag each – I’m serious, Nibblet. One bag and no more.”
“But my stuff! What do I do with all my cool, Buffy will beg to wear stuff?”
“Burn it,” he dropped the half-smoked cig and crushed it under his heel. “Any questions before we disband?”
Dawn raised her hand.
“Any questions that aren’t about fancy clothes?” he rephrased.
Dawn lowered her hand.
“Good,” he said when no one else raised a hand. “So everyone’s clear we’re winning this fight?”
Everyone just sort of stared.
“Am I talking to myself here,” he grated. “We’re winning this fight and why are we winning? Because we’re going to smash Tresten’s ankle ruthlessly, repeatedly, as a body. We are going to make him hurt, and his pain will be the minutes Giles needs to strike the killing blow. I ask you again, who is winning the bloody war?”