Chapter Title: 4. Good as Silver
Warnings: a little language, a little angst, a little m/m, a little violence
Notes: I'll be posting the chapters all day. Lovely banner by zoesmith
Summary: Based on this prompt from reremouse: Post-Chosen Xander needs a place to live. It's Spike's turn to take Xander in. Why is he homeless? What happened? And why did he have to turn to Spike? (Extra challenge: The reason is something other than torture, captivity, slavery, abuse, or a falling out with the scoobies)
Previous chapters here.
Chapter Four—Good as Silver
He couldn’t have been unconscious for long. When he came to he was lying on the sidewalk. A few feet away was a Fyarl demon, unmoving. Xander moaned and crawled over for a closer look. The demon had a big gash in its chest and it was good and dead.
There was no sign of Spike or the other demons.
Xander had been clocked on the skull before. Many times. He was sort of a connoisseur of head injuries. This was a Category Three: enough to knock him out for a few minutes and give him a nasty headache, not enough to require an ER visit or to endanger his already less-than-stellar mental faculties. Great. Where the fuck was Spike?
He shouted Spike’s name. His voice bounced off the buildings and resonated down the empty street. There was no answer.
He was pretty certain Spike wouldn’t just mosey on home and leave him passed out on the sidewalk, but their place was less than a block away, so he decided to try there first. Staggering slightly, he made his way down the street and up the stairs to their apartment. Not surprisingly, it was empty.
Xander scribbled a quick note to Spike, on the off-chance that he showed up later:
Gone looking for you. Please call me ASAP if you get this.
He added his phone number and fervently wished Spike had a cell phone of his own. He’d asked Spike about it once, and the vampire had shrugged. “Who’s going to be ringing me anyway?” Which was a pretty good point, actually, but right now a phone would be handy. Xander was sure that if Spike did come home, he’d find some way to borrow someone else’s phone.
Xander peeked in the bathroom to make sure he didn’t look too frightening to be seen in public, but the only sign of his injury was a bruise near his left temple. He swallowed a couple extra pills and then left.
Back outside, the sky was just beginning to lighten. If Spike was still out here somewhere, he’d better get indoors quick. A police car was pulled alongside the demon’s corpse, and two officers were standing over it, staring, as if they had no idea what to do about it. Xander walked by as casually as possible, but the police barely glanced his way.
He went back to the bar, but the door was locked and there was no sign of Spike or Vinko or anybody else. So he leaned against the wall and wondered what the hell he was supposed to do.
Right. No other choice, was there?
He pulled out his phone and punched a few buttons. There were a few rings and then a message: “Hi. This is Willow. I may not be in this astral plane right now, so leave me a message and I’ll get back to you.”
He disconnected and realized how early the hour was. Most people not keeping vampire time were still asleep, and it was an hour earlier in England than here. Who might he be able to get hold of?
Again he punched buttons, and this time a sleepy, irritated voice answered.
“Xander! Do you have any idea what time—You’re not ill, are you?”
“No. I’m fine. It’s Spike.”
Xander gave Giles a brief rundown on what had happened. “Can you help me find him?”
“He’s a vampire, Xander, and rather resourceful. I’m sure he’ll be fine. Perhaps he ran off to avoid these demons.”
“He wouldn’t have just left me there on the sidewalk. Something’s wrong.”
“He can hold his own in a fight.”
“But these were Fyarls! Three of them. You remember—“
“Yes. Quite.” Giles didn’t like to talk about that episode. “But I don’t understand why you’re so concerned—Oh. Dear lord. The curse. How many bites have you left?”
Xander hadn’t even thought about that.
“There’s a bunch left, Giles, but that’s not the point. Just…please? Can you help?” He knew he sounded desperate, but then he was desperate. Where else could he turn? He couldn’t very well call the police and file a missing vampire report, could he?
Giles promised to do what he could. He said he’d call back soon, and hung up. Xander was left alone in the dawn.
Xander spent the day pacing restlessly around the city, searching hopelessly for anything, any clue of Spike’s whereabouts. He scanned every car that went by, every one parked on the street, looking for the green Opel the demons had driven. Of course, there was no sign of it. He went by the apartment several times, finding it empty, the note still there in the middle of the futon where he’d left it. He spoke with Giles several times, but Giles had nothing helpful to tell him, just that he was working on the problem.
Then Xander had another idea.
This time he had to dig around a little before finding the number he was looking for. He finally found it, though, scrawled on a scrap of paper that was stuck in his wallet. He tried for a moment to figure the time difference and then shrugged. He was going to call now anyway.
A woman with a sort of breathy voice answered. “Yes?”
“I need to speak to Angel, please.”
“Just a sec.”
There was a rustling noise, and then a male voice, “What?”
“This is Xander. Uh, Xander Harris.”
A slight pause. “What’s he done now?”
“Is he refusing to bite you? Or asking for payment or something? Let me talk to him.”
Jesus. He always did assume the worst of Spike, didn’t he? Even now.
“His biting me is so not the problem.” And then he told the former vampire about Spike’s disappearance.
When he finished, there was a long silence.
“Angel? Are you still there?”
Angel sighed loudly. “About six months ago, I heard there were some Sacati in Ljubljana. I asked Spike to deal with them. You know Sacati?”
“Nasty little shits. Always scheming, you know? This group was trying to set up a slaving ring in central Europe. They’re not too dangerous themselves, but they tend to have the money for hired guns. Spike went in there and sent them all running. I’m thinking they may have hired those Fyarls to get some payback. That’s the kind of thing they’d do.”
Xander felt shaky. “So you think…they came to kill him?”
“If they wanted to just kill him they would’ve just staked him where they found him.”
There hadn’t been any Spikish piles of dust when Xander regained consciousness. Xander felt a little of the fear dissipate. But then Angel went on. “Sacati’d probably want him roughed up pretty good before they dusted him. Like I said, nasty little shits.” And there came the fear back in full force.
“Do you know where they’ve taken him?”
“Xander, you’re not thinking of trying to rescue him? These are Fyarls. They’ve got this mucous—“
“I know. But I can’t just do fucking nothing.”
Angel was silent again. Finally, he said, “Okay. Let me make some calls.”
So there was Xander, waiting again.
It occurred to him that if he ever did find these monsters, he was going to need some weapons. So he went back to the apartment and pulled his entire stash of kuna out of his dresser drawer. He hoped it was enough.
He walked a few blocks to Nama, the big department store. He headed straight for the kitchenware department, pulled out his Croatian-English dictionary, and said to the frowning salesclerk, “Nož srebro, molim.”
He followed her to a display, and she waved at several knives. He picked one up and squinted at the imprint. Good. Sterling silver.
“Koliko je ovo?”
She named a price, but he wasn’t good with numbers yet. So when he told her he didn’t understand, she pulled out a scrap of paper and wrote a figure on it. Okay. He could afford several.
“Šest, molim,” he said. She grabbed half a dozen and rang them up for him.
He jogged home and stuffed them in his inside jacket pocket.
It was nearly 3pm, and he’d been up for 24 hours straight. He wasn’t at full strength still and he was exhausted. So he slumped on the futon, his phone next to him so he’d wake if it rang. He fell into a deep sleep almost immediately.
He dreamt of a demon band playing screeching versions of Eagles songs. It was terrible. And then he realized that there really was music, but it was the Hawaii Five-Oh theme, and it was his phone. He reached for the phone knocked it onto the floor, and then managed to pick it up and get it to his ear.
“Spike?” he asked, not really expecting to get a yes.
“I was right. The Fyarls are working for those Sacati.”
Xander sat up and rubbed the heel of his free hand against his eye.
“Shit,” he said.
“They’re supposed to dust him. But they’re gonna want to play with him first.”
“Fuck. Where are they, Angel?”
“I don’t know.”
“Look, if you need to find a vampire to bite you, I can find you one and you can start over, and—“
“It’s not about that!” Xander struggled to remain calm. “Nobody else is going to come to his rescue, Angel.”
“So? Why do you care?”
“I’m so not going to have this conversation right now.” He glanced at his watch. Fuck. It was nearly eight o’clock. “I’m gonna go look for him.”
“Christ, Xander. Okay. Fyarls like water. Running water. There’s a river in Zagreb, isn’t there?”
“They’ll be somewhere near it.”
That didn’t narrow it down much, but it was something. “If you find out more—“
“I’ll call. Xander?”
“Could you get Buffy to come help?”
Xander gritted his teeth. “No. She wouldn’t—There isn’t enough time.”
Xander hung up, and the full reality of the situation hit him. Spike’s life—unlife—depended on him. Jesus Christ.
It was Sunday and the bar was closed. Xander swore softly to himself. He had no way to get hold of Vinko, who could have been a help. Xander didn’t have a car. Didn’t even have a valid drivers license. He hadn’t needed to drive since he left Cleveland.
With no other options, he jogged down to the river and stood near the banks, looking up and down. It was a long river. Spike could be anywhere. Assuming the Fyarls hadn’t taken him out of the area altogether.
For lack of anything better to do, Xander started to the left, keeping his eye open for any sign of vampire or Fyarl or even the green Opel. He’d gone nearly a mile when his phone rang. He glanced at the number before answering.
“Will! Please tell me you have good news!”
“Giles told me what happened. No sign of him yet?”
“Angel says they’re going to kill him. Jesus, Will, help me!”
“Are you all right, Xander? ‘Cause you sound—“
“Willow! Please!” If he could have reached through the phone lines and strangled her, he probably would have.
“Okay. There’s a spell. It’ll find all the demons within about a one mile radius.”
“What if he’s more than a mile away?”
“You have to keep moving. It’ll last a couple hours.”
“Fine. Say it now, please.”
“No, Xander. Then it’d just find all the demons within a mile of me, and I don’t really think there are any, ‘cause we’re kinda out in the woods, and anyway, Spike’s certainly not here, and—“
“I get it. I have to say it.”
Shit. And he had such a great track record with magic. There was the time with Sweet. And then the curse. What would he manage to fuck up this time?
“Okay. Lay it on me.”
“It’s pretty simple.”
He snorted. Simple for her, maybe. The girl who nearly destroyed the world with her magic. He took a deep breath.
“Nartneucne es sionomed…”
He repeated, after her, trying desperately to twist his tongue around the syllables properly.
“Sol ednod dutitla…”
“Erbos noc ojoim etnemaregil…”
“Ereui rartsom oleic…”
“Ledy arreit al.”
He took a deep breath. Good. No cataclysm yet.
“You have to say it twice more, Xan.”
So twice more he repeated, and then he felt the hair on the back of his neck lift as if he were standing in a strong electrical field. He looked around and…there. On the opposite bank of the river, several hundred yards farther along in the direction he’d been travelling, an odd greenish light hovered over the ground.
“I see something. I’ll call you back later. Thanks, Will.”
Jesus. Everybody was telling him that.
He shoved the phone in his pocket and ran back to the nearest bridge. The clock was ticking. That could be another demon he’d spied. Spike could already be dust. He might not be able to save him if he wasn’t. He ran faster.
The light was thirty feet in the air, directly over an abandoned-looking building. It looked like it might have been a small factory of some kind at one point. Now it looked like the type of place demons liked to hang. The front doors were iron and padlocked tightly. He went around the side, and—
There was a smaller door here, and it was propped open slightly with a chunk of cement. Xander pulled one of the knives out of his jacket and crept closer. He was almost to the door when he hear noises. Growling and grunting. Fyarls speaking.
He paused, thought about waiting until help could arrive. But Vinko wouldn’t be around until Tuesday evening. He didn’t know whether Angel or Buffy or Willow would be willing to come, and even if they were, none of them would be able to get here until tomorrow afternoon at the soonest. That might be far too late for Spike.
He was going to screw this up. He was going to get himself killed, too.
He closed his eye briefly, muttered a prayer to whatever gods would listen, and slipped through the door.
It wasn’t much brighter inside than out. The large room was mostly empty. Three Fyarls were sitting around a rickety table, playing cards. In the center of the room was—fuck. Fuck. He needed to concentrate on the Fyarls right now. One of them had its back to him and the others were looking at the cards in their hands.
As hard as he could, hoping that his poor depth perception didn’t screw things up, Xander threw the knife. It landed square in the middle of the closest demon’s back. It howled and leaped to its feet, knocking its chair over. It made horrible noises as it tried vainly to pull the blade out.
But he had no time to celebrate his victory, because the other two were roaring and heading straight at him. He grabbed a second knife and threw, but it clattered uselessly to the side. The third, though, hit one of the demons in the upper arm. It screamed and yanked it out, but Xander already had another knife in his hand, and this one went true, imbedding itself in the Fyarl’s chest. The demon bellowed and fell backward.
And Xander reached for the fifth knife, but already the last demon was there, and it snorted at him. He jerked to the side, and the wad of slime hit the left side of his neck and slid under his jacket, down his shoulder. Almost immediately, it hardened, and suddenly his left arm was useless.
The demon was nearly on top of him, its claws extended, and it took a wild swipe, gashing shallowly across his chest. That was gonna hurt later, if he survived. It lunged again.
But Xander had the knife in hand, and, as the demon descended on him, he plunged the blade deeply into its throat. It made a horrible gargling sound, clutching at its neck. Then it fell to the ground with a crash.
Xander looked around. Three motionless demons littered the floor.
Make that four. Because that was Spike over there, or what was left of him anyway.