Work improved on Friday, which gave me a little breathing room to get some writing done. Even more happy-making, Loose Id picked up the full length version of "The Only Way Out is In," all 120,000 words of it!! I pitched it under the name Turbulence, but as always, they get the final say. Anyway, since my life is going a little better, I thought I would share the happy. Only, I don't seem to make Xander all that happy here.GrayAfter having her world destroyed by the Winchesters, Eve wanted to rebuild her family. She claimed a soul with his own dark power and his own moral gray. He would be her champion. Hopefully. Xander just wanted to go home, preferably before the hunters Sam and Dean Winchester caught up with him.Chapter ONE
:: Chapter TWO
:: Chapter THREE
:: Chapters 4+5
:: Chapter SIX
:: Chapter SEVEN
:: Chapter EIGHT
:: Chapter NINE
:: Chapter TEN
:: Chapter ELEVEN
: Chapter TWELVE
:: Chapter THIRTEEN
:: Chapter FOURTEEN
:: Chapter FIFTEEN
:: Chapter SIXTEEN
:: Chapter Seventeen
:: Chapter Eighteen
:: Chapter Nineteen
:: Chapter TWENTY
So, Xander decides to broker a meeting between Spike and the government that needs their intel. Nothing could go wrong there... right?
"I bloody hate this," Spike complained, but he kept walking down the street. Xander pressed close, anxious to hide the chain leash from as many people as possible. He really thought that Spike would reconsider the leash. After all, it made them very conspicuous, and Spike hated conspicuous. Unfortunately, pointing that out had led to discussions of how much more conspicuous they would be if Spike hogtied Xander and hauled him around in a little red wagon. Xander wasn't willing to test Spike’s patience and see if that was an exaggeration.
He reached the park and stopped. In their own world, parks were either full of screaming kids and skateboarders, or they were full of homeless people and people buying drugs. This park was full of nothing, nothing, and more nothing. Well, it had grass and an old swing set that looked like a great setting for a horror movie, but Xander had noticed that this world had a whole lot of potential horror scenes. Between the peeling paint and the cheesy wallpapers in every hotel, Xander was starting to think the good taste gene had died out of the human genome.
"There they are," Xander said, pointing at Willow and Dorsey.
"Not blind, am I?" Spike snapped.
Xander decided that discretion was the better part of something, and he kept his mouth closed. Dorsey walked slightly ahead of Willow, even though Xander could see her barely controlled energy.
"So, Spike," Dorsey said when they were close. "Meeting in the middle of the night in the middle of a public park. You take paranoia to whole new levels."
Spike flipped two fingers up into the air.
"Xander!" Willow said cheerfully, but then her smile slowly faded. "Xander, are you okay?" she asked as she came around to stand next to Dorsey.
"Yeah, sure." Xander pressed closer to Spike's back and did his best to hide the chain. Of course that didn't hide the collar, and Willow's eyes seem to find and stare at that thick leather. Score one for Spike's overprotective, obsessive nature. "Really, I'm good. He's just a little cranky about me running off and chasing a monster when we didn't... Yeah. I'm fine," Xander finished. Nice, he'd about outed himself as a monster, which would be so very bad. This wasn't his Willow. Heck, his Willow wasn't thrilled with the whole alpha thing.
Dorsey put a hand on Willow's shoulder. "It's not like we haven't had one or two discussions about putting you on a leash, Rosie. You do get yourself in trouble."
"No I don't," she complained softly, and in a voice that made it really clear that she knew she was lying.
"Hey, I'm not saying 'no' to Spike, so really, it's okay," Xander said. He knew Willow and she was not going to drop this until she knew that all was right with the world. "You don't need to worry about me, not unless I let my stupidity get ahead of my common sense, and I do that on a fairly regular basis."
"So, Spike is in control?" Dorsey checked.
"Only totally and completely," Xander quickly agreed. "And that's fair because Spike is not only stronger but way older. Way, way, way older."
"Oh, how old?" Dorsey asked, his voice suddenly not nearly as casual. Willow's eyes were still focused on Xander's collar.
"Old enough to have been killing when you were still in nappies," Spike said. Yep, that would be Spike's version of subtlety. Xander really wished he could see Spike's face so he knew whether this was normal sort of Spike posturing or actual anger.
Dorsey nodded. "And were you always the sort of monster who tries to protect the world?" Dorsey didn't even try and hide his disbelief.
"Our general isn't really much with believing that monsters can be good," Willow added apologetically. "Not that we're saying you're evil or anything. Because we wouldn't say that."
"Actually, the general did say Spike was probably evil," Dorsey said with a shrug. "Sorry."
"No worries, mate. Most monsters you'll ever meet are evil. I was myself for more years than not," Spike said. "Few monsters care one bit about humans or their problems. Most would just as soon humans died off and left the planet to them."
"Actually, I think most would rather eat humans... or watch human television. A lot are pretty obsessed with television," Xander pointed out. Spike glared at him.
"This isn't a joke, Harris," Spike said firmly.
Xander suddenly realized that he could use his visions to try and figure out what Spike was feeling. He focused and slowed his breathing until the ghosts all started forming out of the mist. William appeared first, his notebook in hand. Okay, good. So Spike was more curious than anything else. The lack of Angelus was even better.
However, Xander also noticed a man with greying hair and a gun slung over his shoulder who stood just behind Dorsey. He rested one arm on the gun and glared at all of them. Okay, someone was thinking about a really cranky soldier-guy. Even creepier, a ghost Xander appeared. Willow was clearly thinking about her Xander--a slightly pudgier version of him with an equally ugly wardrobe. Why had he ever thought that plaids and stripes looked good together? And seriously, had the other him never heard of Clearasil? Xander was less than impressed.
"Xander!" A jerk at his neck broke him out of his reveries.
"So, psychic?" Dorsey asked as he eyed Xander.
"Me? No," Xander said slowly. He wasn't sure what he was. He looked at Spike.
"We're not talking about him," Spike said with a growl. "I'm here because he feels like he has to help you seeing as how this Red looks like his. I don't bloody like it, so keep your questions to yourself or I'll rip your gonads off and make ya eat them."
From Dorsey's response, Xander was guessing that gonads were something that he didn't want ripped off. Yep, it was time to get control over this conversation before Spike threatened them out of listening.
"And let's not start trying to kill each other," Xander said firmly. He wasn't entirely sure what they others had said while he was spacing, so he went back to the last bit of conversation he had paid attention to. "Spike does have a history as a bad guy. He never wanted to end the world, but he was kind of okay with killing. However, he switched sides."
"Because?" Dorsey asked his voice sharp. The ghost soldier with gray hair brought his weapon up and moved a step closer. Xander made a mental note to avoid Dorsey's friends.
"I fell in love, didn't I?" Spike said.
Willow's eyes went right to Xander.
"With Buffy!" Xander blurted out. "He fell in love with Buffy, who is a girl and not me." Xander backed up until he ran out of room on the leash.
Spike just snorted.
"And that's because she is way stronger and faster than me, or at least she is in my universe, because Spike is not attracted to weak, and actually, that seems to be pretty universal in the non-human crowd."
Spike interrupted before Xander's case of verbal diarrhea could go any farther. "Not really, luv. Plenty of 'em like to keep humans as pets or farm animals, and they aren't particular about how strong the human is."
"Not helping, Spike," Xander complained, but oddly, the gray-haired ghost seemed to stand down some. Willow’s friends seemed a little short on the sanity.
"I'm not going to make them think that monsters are safe to muck around with," Spike said firmly. "Most of 'em will gut you as soon as look at you, not because they're evil but because you aren't the same species. They don't have any more qualms with killing humans than a human might have with killing a cow."
"Hey, I wouldn't kill a cow," Willow protested.
"And plenty of monsters feel the same," Spike said, his voice softer. "But they aren't safe, and most monsters that like humans do their best to stay clear in order to avoid conflict."
"That sounds almost reasonable," Dorsey said, thoughtfully, "but more importantly, you said you had information for us."
Xander poked Spike in the back. Spike turned and gave Xander a dirty look. However, before Spike could start talking, Dorsey jumped in.
"For example, what sort of monster are you and are there more of you?"
Because Spike was looking at him, Xander watched his eyes yellow, and then Spike turned toward the others. Willow gasped and took a fast step backward and Dorsey moved to a spot right in front of her. They moved together so smoothly that Xander definitely got the idea that they had worked together for a while.
"We haven't seen any more of Spike's type of not-human," Xander said quickly before Spike could go and call himself a vampire. He wasn't a vampire--not their kind of vampire--and Xander really didn't want them to know that.
"How long have you been here?" Willow asked. "Have you seen a lot of monsters from this dimension?"
"Um, one," Xander admitted. "But we read those books about the Winchesters."
"Books?" Willow asked. “Research books?”
Xander blushed. “Um, sort of,” he hedged. “The guy who wrote them made them into these cheesy paperbacks, but Giles' father said that the books about Sam and Dean Winchesters are real, so that means that all the monsters they fought are actually real."
Dorsey nodded. "Okay, let’s go over to the table and sit down so we can talk about all this."
"Let's just make it fast," Spike complained as he started moving toward the empty picnic tables. Since he was on a leash, Xander didn’t have a whole lot of choice about following. A dark van pulled up and Spike stopped and tugged on the leash to keep Xander close. Xander was really starting to hate the whole being leashed thing.
"What the bloody hell is he doing here?"
"Xander said he would be an ally," Dorsey said, and that was the point when Xander recognized the van. Giles. Psuedo-father figure Giles. Weird Quantum-mirror Giles. Giles who he had escaped from. Shit shit shit.
"He might be your ally. I doubt if he's interested in making friends with us.” Spike started backing away.
"More like making enemies with us," Xander agreed. He didn’t even try to slow Spike’s retreat.
Dorsey moved closer to the SUV. "We already agreed with him that there would not be any violence. This is about sharing resources and getting to know each other.”
“You share with each other, then,” Spike said. He whirled around, and Xander scrambled out of the way. However, two strides into a stylish retreat, Spike stopped. Xander ran right into his back, and with his hands resting on Spike’s shoulder blades, he could feel the vibrations of Spike’s growl.
“We just want to talk,” Dorsey said in a calming voice. However, it didn’t do much to calm Spike.
“Move ‘em, mate.” Spike’s warning made the hair on Xander’s arms stand up. He slowed his breathing and watched ghosts appear. Dozens and dozens, all hiding in the shadows at the far side of the park under the trees. Shadows waited in the parking lot and along the road. Soldier shadows, and a few decapitated bodies that were definitely less than real. Real decapitations came with a lot more screaming and flailing.
“Spike,” Xander said softly.
“I see ‘em.” Spike turned to face off against Dorsey and Willow and now Giles and Giles’ stepfather. Xander frowned. Had he ever known the guy’s name or was he just blanking out due to the blind panic?
“I see you got them here,” Giles said with a very not friendly look in Xander’s direction. “How did you get out of the warehouse?”
“Mostly by following Spike,” Xander said, and Giles’ unhappy look turned in that direction. That was fine. Spike handled unhappy better than he did.
“Rupert, let’s hear them out,” his father advised.
“Yes, let’s listen to the monsters.”
Dorsey cleared his throat. “I understand your concern.”
“No, I really doubt you do,” Giles said, cutting the guy off with the sort of cold disdain Xander knew all too well. Giles was the best pseudo-father in the world, but when he didn’t like you, he was a little scary. “The government is rather incompetent Johnny-come-lately to this affair, and you are far more likely to bollocks it all up than provide any sort of useful support.”
“Arrogant in any universe, aren’t you?” Spike asked, and Xander held his breath as the cranky levels rose.
“Hey, let’s all just listen to each other,” Willow interjected. “When people listen to each other, they can make healthy compromises.”
“With a demon,” Giles said, and his own father didn’t seem to be disagreeing. “They are dangerous.”
“So am I,” Dorsey pointed out. “But right now, I have as much reason to believe them as I do you. More, in fact. They took on a leviathan. I haven’t seen anything from you but attitude.”
Giles’ father stepped forward. “I can assure you that we have handled far more for far longer, and I’ve gotten attitude from men tougher than you and all your men put together. The only reason for a demon to try and negotiate with the government is to cause some sort of trouble.”
Willow jumped in. “This is not listening. We are all talking about our own assumptions without listening to each other. That is not a helpful strategy here.”
“I’m negotiating with them because you lot can’t keep your own apocalypse in line,” Spike said with a nasty smile, and this whole thing was circling the drain fast. Worse, Xander didn’t know how to stop it. “But if you lot don’t want our help, we’ll be perfectly happy to bugger off and let you get on with sending your world to hell.”
“Um, not so happy about that, Spike. I like the world unhellish.”
“Not our world, not our soddin’ problem.” With a snarl in the general direction of Dorsey and Giles, Spike headed for the street. There were the fewest ghosts waiting there, but it meant that they had to move dangerously close to Giles and his father. Both men retreated, hands reaching for weapons, but Spike moved so fast he was past them before they reacted. And that left his back to two enemies. Actually, it left Xander’s back to the enemy since the leash forced him to trail behind.
For a few seconds, Xander thought the bluff might work. He really did. But then two men stepped out from behind the van and brought weapons up. Xander didn’t have any time to react before he was flying sideways, thrown free of the line of fire by Spike. Unfortunately, Spike didn’t get out of the way of the spray of bullets.
Someone shouted, and soldiers tumbled out of the trees, but Spike was already up and snapping the neck of one of the machine gun guys. That seemed to make him a target as soldiers fired at him, blue energy dancing in the air. Xander watched while Spike’s whole body seized up, and then he crumpled to the ground.
“Spike!” Xander leapt up from the ground and charged toward Spike, panic clawing at his guts. The blue energy fired again, and Xander didn’t have time to duck. It hit him like running into an electric fence, and for a second, he was surrounded by blue, but then the energy faded and Xander reached Spike. He was still in one piece and unbreathing, and Xander had to assume he was okay. The blue energy hit him again, and Xander twitched and flailed as it coursed through him. Worse, he could see some of the energy transfer into Spike, making his body dance in uncoordinated jerks.
Xander didn’t actually make many choices after that. He felt the rage, the hot fury, claw his way out of his chest. He didn’t remember moving, but then he had both hands around the neck of the soldier who’d fired. Energy flowed into him, sour and bitter, but Xander didn’t care about the taste. He only cared about his anger. Spike was hurt.
Blue energy slammed into him again, and he dropped the soldier and jumped toward the two new men. His muscles shook from the force of the energy, but he grabbed the two and threw them as hard as he could before jumping into the air to avoid another energy discharge. He landed right behind Dorsey, and the soldier seemed to turn in slow motion, his weapon slowly swinging around in an arc.
Xander grabbed Dorsey by the neck and felt the energy begin to flow. He didn’t have the same bitter to him as the other soldier, but there was a strong sour in with the sweet, and Xander’s hungry rose up to feast as it hadn’t with the other man. Dorsey dropped his gun, his head falling back as though it was too heavy for his neck to hold it up. Xander could feel that fire of life grow dim until it was little more than a glowing ember as Dorsey’s knees buckled. With his hand still around Dorsey’s neck, Xander sank to the ground with him, that sweet-sour energy filling his every sense. But something nagged at him, tugging him back to the world.
“Xander. Xander, please don’t!”
He blinked and Willow was there, clinging to his arm as soldiers pointed weapons and screamed orders and didn’t fire because Dorsey and Willow were in danger.
“Xander, don’t do this,” she begged, her green eyes wide with fear and hope and that same Willow-determination that had sent her into every demon fight in town since she’d been fifteen years old. “Please.”
The last ember start to fade as Dorsey stopped breathing and his heart stuttered. Horror wrapped around Xander’s soul as he realized he was killing a man who truly was trying to save his world. And yeah, he’d been stupid, but if stupidity were a capital crime, Xander would have died years ago. Guilt pressed up against the base of his throat, and it tasted like bile. Xander didn’t want Dorsey dead. He didn’t.
His palm started to tingle, and Xander could feel the ember of life pulse to life for a second. Focusing, Xander pushed. He pushed against the guilt and the hunger and the sheer horror of having nearly murdered someone, and he could feel Dorsey’s body start to warm, the fire weak but growing.
“Major? Oh please be okay,” Willow sobbed as Dorsey started to cough. Xander let go of the man’s neck, and blue energy seemed to hit him from every side. Xander’s body jerked, but he couldn’t push through the pain now. His body stiffened and then the darkness hit him like a brick wall, and Xander should know. He’d been hit by more than one brick wall in his life.