There was a Scooby gang meeting later that night. Cordelia and Wesley were nursing scrapes and bruises from their adventures clearing out a vamp nest, and Spike and Gunn were arguing over who had somehow miraculously managed to anger a Fyarl demon and send it on a rampage that destroyed half the newly built school gymnasium.
‘So that’s it, right?’ Dawn said.
At the table next to her, Xander shrugged and winced at the pain in his neck.
‘Why do they bite?’ she asked.
‘Rage,’ Angel said. ‘Pain and anger. Utter frustration, desperation. And it’s not infectious.’ He glanced at Xander who murmured something about antibiotics and smart asses.
‘Where does the pain come from?’ Dawn asked. ‘Does it hurt to be dead?’ She glanced at Spike, then back to Angel. ‘Do you guys hurt?’
‘No, it doesn’t hurt to be dead, not for a vampire. Our bodies continue to function as they’ve always done. More or less.’
Xander nodded. ‘It’s like someone flicked the pause button on a cosmic remote and a vampire’s body just ... stands still. Right?’
Angel looked vaguely impressed, and Xander silently thanked Spike for his hours of explaining what it felt like to be in a body that wasn’t quite human anymore, a body that had stopped, didn’t age, didn’t line or sag or scar. A body that would never rot.
‘I would imagine the pain comes from the creature’s own decomposing flesh,’ Wesley said overly brightly to mask the pain from the cut on his arm.
‘All right, cheerful,’ Spike said. ‘Don’t overdo it.’
‘That can’t be pleasant,’ Dawn said.
Cordelia shuddered. ‘And think of all that bodily fluid everywhere. That’s gotta smell. How embarrassing.’
‘I think your body odour would be the least of your worries should you ever be resurrected,’ Wesley said.
‘Then I’ll just have to hope it never happens. And if any of you lot even think about resurrecting me, I’ll resurrect you right back. Then you’ll be sorry when you’re all zombified and I’m ... Uh, Angel, help me out.’
‘As far as we know,’ Wesley continued. ‘we’ve recovered all victims, and there haven’t been any other suspicious deaths.’
‘That doesn’t mean a lot in these parts, apparently,’ Gunn said. He perched on the table next to Wesley. ‘And who’s to say our zombie mojo guy is still alive anyway?’
Xander wrinkled his nose. ‘We could be looking for a partially masticated corpse, or at the very least someone a little chewed around the edges.’
‘Right then,’ Wesley said. ‘Assignment for tomorrow, look for someone with teeth marks. Should be easy enough.’
Xander hooked his thumb in Wesley’s direction. ‘Is he being sarcastic?’
There was a bit of an argument after that, bickering over what should have been done, what needed to be done now and what could be done if only they had Willow’s powers. That started another argument and, after Dawn and Cordelia had a slight altercation involving a pencil, Xander and Spike decided it was time to call the meeting to an end.
The drive home was quiet, but not awkwardly so. The car stereo was on low and Dawn hummed quietly from the backseat. Spike drove -- not too fast – and Xander stared out the window and decided something was bothering him, something other than the usual OMG, we’re all gonna die! thoughts.
‘We need more shampoo,’ Spike said later when he padded into the bedroom with damp hair and only a pair of black cotton pj bottoms clinging to him.
Xander turned onto his back and pushed the covers down to his hips. ‘No, you and Dawn need more shampoo. I still have my jumbo, economy, fifty cents for a bucket, sweet apple shampoo that also doubles as a body foam and oven cleaner.’
‘I repeat, we need more shampoo.’
The bed dipped slowly when Spike climbed on and Xander felt the nice chill of Spike’s body draping along his side.
‘How’s the neck?’ Spike asked.
‘Fine. Only hurts when I laugh, swallow, cough, choke or breathe.’
‘Just stick to the breathing, then. Give the rest a break.’ Spike leaned over him and placed a kiss on his collar bone, just below the bandage. He frowned and laid his head on Xander’s chest. He was still and Xander could tell Spike was dwelling, worrying.
‘Stop it,’ Xander said.
‘You stop it.’
‘I said stop it first.’
Spike sighed in reply and lifted his head. He traced around the bandage with his index finger and Xander waited for him to speak. A siren from a police car sounded in the distance and Xander listened to a gang of dogs barking at it. He waited several more minutes and endured much staring, touching and kissing before he realised Spike wasn’t prepared to go first.
Spike nodded. ‘Takes me back a few months, when those fuckers nearly tore you apart.’ His hand brushed over the bandage and although Xander could barely feel it, he still tensed up.
‘This is nothing like that. Yeah, it hurt like hell, but only in a blunt sort of way. Think of it like being bitten by a rampant toddler, a really big rampant toddler.’
‘You trying to give me nightmares?!’
Xander laughed and pulled Spike closer. ‘Sorry, just trying to make you feel better.’
Spike looked vaguely annoyed. ‘I’m supposed to make you feel better. You’re stealing my thunder.’
‘So give me some thunder back, baby.’
They both groaned and laughed and pressed their foreheads together.
‘Worst line I’ve ever heard,’ Spike said.
It was quite possibly the worst line he’d ever uttered, and despite the urge to continue talking, to ask what would happen when he started to age, line and decompose, he wanted something else, something else Spike would willingly provide and would make them both feel better.
Xander tilted his head, raising and offering his mouth for Spike to meet him part way. Their lips touched and Xander thought back to their first kiss and their second and third and fourth, and then Spike was gripping him tighter and pressing him down and Xander didn’t want to think about anything other than this moment, the feel of Spike, firm and hard on top of him, Spike’s careful hands smoothing over his sides and chest, sliding up into his hair.
The only noise in the room was their breathing and the steady tick of the clock on the nightstand. The clock ticked and tocked and counted the time they spent touching, pushing away covers and pyjama bottoms and boxers. It grew loud to Xander’s ears and he wondered how it sounded to Spike, whether every clock was a taunt, a constant reminder that everything in the world ticked and moved and grew and aged -- everything except Spike.
Spike broke their kiss and looked down at him. ‘What are you thinking about?’
Xander thought about telling him, but he was hard and aching for Spike to touch him, so he said, ‘We’re going digital,’ and pulled Spike back to kiss him and rolled them both over so he could slide between Spike’s legs, press down and relieve the pressure.
The pain in his neck stung, but each push and twist of his hips made it feel better, numbed everything from the waist up. Spike’s legs wrapped around his hips and Xander knew this wasn’t going to last long. This wasn’t about careful lovemaking. This was about touch and connection and reassurance.
And it was about getting off, but that wasn’t quite such a romantic thought.
‘Going to fuck you through the mattress later, love.’
Oh good, Spike was definitely on the same page, or in the same bed, mattress, bedroom, whatever.
The pressure was building around his groin and he was thrusting faster, panting into Spike’s neck and nipping at his skin. He suddenly felt like being dirty so he said a string of things that made Spike chuckle and growl until Xander kissed him again, deep and filthy and a little bit desperate.
He felt Spike’s legs tighten around him, the tension in Spike’s body curling him into Xander’s arms, making him clutch and thrust and swear.
Spike was the strongest person he knew, and Xander knew he sometimes relied on that strength to get him through things that had happened and things that might happen. Most of all he needed that strength to get him through the things that absolutely would happen. But having Spike like this just for a few seconds, falling apart, mindless, completely undone, was the biggest turn-on in the known universe. It was about knowing that he’d done this to Spike, that as Spike opened himself, he was doing the same and they were both falling and falling, but falling where? Xander didn’t know because his brains had all gone to goo and were at that exact moment leaking down into his balls and shooting out through his cock, and, boy, that was an oogy and disgusting thought he would never share with anyone except maybe with Spike.
Xander gasped and felt the two pinpricks of Spike’s teeth at his shoulder. It was definitely a day for being bitten. He was glad they didn’t own a dog.
Spike shuddered against him and sucked at the small wound. He lapped at it and kissed it better, and before he could apologise for it, Xander kissed him and tasted his own blood.
Spike had things on his mind. The sun had only just set and he needed some time to himself, a little space to get his thoughts in order. Normally, he would have gone to the grungiest demon bar in town and thrown back something that stung the back of his throat and sizzled down into his stomach. There was still great appeal in that, but Dawn would whinge that he stank of cigarettes and slime – even more so than normal. And besides, the Espresso Pump was doing a limited edition triple hit that had quite a kick and made his eyeballs feel like they were throbbing.
Spike lined up four of them and downed the first.
He was annoyed. Four zombies and no zombie maker. He doubted very much whoever was messing with resurrection spells was likely to stop anytime soon. The girls so far were friends, sisters, connected, but their deaths were separate and the last was definitely deliberate even if the others could be written off as accidents. Maybe someone was trying to perfect their technique. Which meant more deaths and more zombies and more opportunity for Dawn to think about what could have happened to her sister and more opportunity for Xander to think about his mortality.
Or more to the point, it was making Spike think about Xander’s mortality and when and if the time was right to pop the ultimate question. It wasn’t as easy as asking someone to move in, or get a cat together or a mortgage or get married. This was asking to take someone’s neck in unlawfully wedded death. This was asking Die for me, live forever and watch everyone else rot around us.
Spike hesitated before he downed the next espresso. Was he being selfish? He downed the third and picked at the chipped plastic of the table. Yes, completely. Did he care? Yeah, probably much more than an unsouled demon should.
‘You done with those?’ a silky voice said.
Spike looked up to find a large pair of breasts pointing right at him. Perky. Pointy. And distracting. There was nothing like a nice pair of tits to take your mind off things.
‘I said, are you done?’
‘Where?’ Spike said to a nipple buried deep beneath cashmere and underwired cotton. He shook his head. Apparently, tits cleared his mind of absolutely everything. He finally met the waitress’s amused gaze.
‘Want another?’ she said. Her lips were red and full, wet and smiling. ‘On me?’
She was hot, even with the rubber gloves and mop, but Spike was a taken man now and Xander would kill him deader than dead and then slightly deader. He looked into her eyes to tell her so and stopped, his mouth half open. Her eyes were just like Xander’s, big and brown, puppyish and ...
Fuck, being in love was so girly.
‘Sorry, love. Don’t think the boyfriend would be too happy with that.’
There was a flash of surprise on her face and then she went back to smiling. ‘Is he hot and bi? I can entertain two.’
He bet she could. ‘Haven’t seen you before.’
‘Yeah? What happened to the old bloke with the broken mop?’
‘Fired. He never turned up on time and he didn’t wash.’
Spike nodded. ‘That’ll do it.’
‘I feel totally guilty, though. I know it’s not my fault and someone else would have got the job if I hadn’t applied, but it’s so sad. He was such a nice man. Lost his only daughter last year and was never the same after that. He was still nice to all us girls, but he wasn’t himself. They only kept him on here because he was Katie’s dad. Everyone loved Katie.’
Spike stared at her, open mouthed. It was weird. After all that stalking and waiting and hanging out in cold, damp cemeteries, all it took was three espressos and a jumbo pair of breasts and he had the answer. Probably. Spike had the best instincts in the world and he was never wrong about anything. Usually. Some of the time.
‘Where does this bloke live?’
The girl shrugged. ‘He moved last year. The house was too big for just him. He lost his wife in the same car accident. He was such a lovely—’
Spike stood and looked around him. The usual bloke was behind the counter and Spike headed straight for him.
The clerk appeared to be quite alarmed and this turned to fear and panic when Spike reached out and grabbed him by the apron and pulled him halfway across the counter.
‘The old bloke with the permanent stoop and the broken mop? I want his name and address. Now.’
‘I-I’m afraid I can’t divulge any private information about any member of staff—’ He stopped to gulp and take a huge breath, ‘—past or present, without the express permission of that staff member or-or-or authorisation from head office.’
Spike pulled him closer. ‘If you don’t give me that address right now, I’ll pull out your tongue and tie a bow around your dick with it.’
‘Rufus McLair. 1113 Turbury Avenue. Little white house. Scraggy lawn and a crooked bird house shaped like a ship. Can’t miss it.’
Spike released him and the clerk fell back down behind the counter like an unwanted puppet.
This was almost too good to be true.
Whatever. It didn’t matter. He had a lead. A major one. A grieving man with a dead daughter. Spike pulled out his cell phone and called Xander.
‘Where are the others?’ Spike called as he ran to the porch.
Xander shut the car door, pushed his keys into his pocket and met Spike on the driveway. ‘Dawn and Angel are patrolling. Cordy is looking after the shop. And Wes, Fred and Gunn are ... Uh, we suspect nookie.’
‘Right,’ Spike said, and kicked open the door.
‘Is that a British way of knocking?’ Xander said. ‘Because over here we generally rap our knuckles or ring this little thing called a doorbell.’
‘No time. He’s inside.’
‘Can you hear his heartbeat? Smell his aftershave? Sense his fear?’
Actually, he had been chanting really loudly, but Spike wasn’t about to spoil the mystique with that little factoid. The truth was, he could hear his heartbeat and it was faster now the front door had crashed open. Spike’s hearing picked up the chanting again, whispered and rushed this time. He took the stairs two at a time and crashed through the bedroom door.
The room was devoid of all furniture except an altar in the centre covered with a crimson-coloured cloth and adorned with candles, a bowl, a goblet, a long curved knife and billowing incense.
Xander pointed. ‘Witchy stuff! Hey, hocus pocus guy, stop that!’
The old man looked up. He seemed tired, his eyes puffy and his face lined with exhaustion. ‘I’ve done it,’ he said. ‘This time. This time for sure.’
‘Oh god, no. Do you have any idea what you’re messing with?’
Spike suspected Rufus knew exactly what he was doing. He’d had enough practice, after all. But Spike didn’t care about that, couldn’t care about that, not while Rufus’s calloused hand was resting so close to that knife and while Xander was far too near him.
‘You can’t do this,’ Xander said. ‘They don’t come back right.’
‘I know that!’ Rufus insisted, banging his fist down on the altar. ‘I didn’t mean them to turn out like that, and-and-and I did what I could for them.’ His face crumpled and as he closed his eyes, Spike crept closer.
‘Such nice girls, just like my Katie. None of them deserved to die. Terrible accidents, murder; they should never have died, none of them. I only wanted to make it right.’ His eyes popped open again and Spike stopped short. ‘I didn’t know about all this when I lost Katie, but I found this book, you see.’ He lifted it from the altar and put it back down again. Spike stepped closer.
‘It’s all in here, how to bring them back. I know I messed it up the first time, but I made improvements. The fourth didn’t rise, but I know if she had, she’d have been right.’
Xander shook his head. ‘No. She did rise and she was all kinds of wrong.’
‘We had to—’
‘Xand, leave it.’ Spike took another step. He was within lunging distance now. ‘You need to pack this lark in, mate. Seriously, I’m not asking, I’m telling. No more magic.’
Rufus looked down at his altar and ran a fingertip around the rim of the bowl, down the side of the goblet, across the altar cloth, towards the knife—
Spike’s grabbed Rufus’s wrist. ‘Touch that knife and I’ll kill you.’
Rufus’s eyes were wide and startled, and it took Spike a moment to realise that he’d vamped out.
‘You’re a vampire?’
‘Tooth fairy,’ Spike said, and reached for the knife. It would be much safer in his pocket. Well, much safer for him and Xander.
‘We don’t want to hurt you,’ Xander said. ‘We just want you to stop this. And are you saying you didn’t murder Elise Western?’
Rufus looked appalled. ‘Katie’s best friend? Murder her? I would sooner die.’
Xander shook his head. ‘So who did it?’
‘Try reading the newspaper, sonny. They arrested him last night. Roger Parkman.’
Spike and Xander looked at each other. Roger? Espresso Pump stalker Roger? Ah, whoops. But still, it didn’t change the fact that this guy was causing the dead and the living immense pain.
He was causing their family pain. Spike growled and advanced on Rufus.
‘You will stop this magic!’ Spike shouted, and Xander caught his arm to hold him back.
Rufus looked between them, back, forth, back, forth, back, forth. If he dropped dead from a stroke, Spike wouldn’t be surprised.
‘Yes. Yes, I will stop. I will.’
‘We’ll need more than a promise,’ Spike said, and he squeezed Rufus’s wrist tighter. ‘We’ll be taking all this mojo stuff and we’ll be keeping a close eye on you, and if you step out of line even once, if you conjure so much as a rabbit from a top hat, I’ll be back. I’ll come for you. Me, not him with his sympathetic nature, me. I’ll tear you up.’
‘Hey, good cop, bad cop,’ Xander said, ‘and we didn’t even plan it!’
Spike glared at him.
‘Oh, I should have pointed that out much later, like, when we were alone, or in front of other people. Whoops?’
‘Look, it’s okay. You can take everything. Please. It doesn’t matter now, anyway. It’s done.’
Rufus shrugged and smiled and tears slipped down his face. Perhaps Spike would have felt sympathy at that moment, but he would never know because there was a different feeling burrowing under his skin. He turned to look at Xander whose expression said he was experiencing the same sensation.
Xander lifted a finger into the air. ‘Um, and pardon me if I’m wrong, but we did we just step into the Land of the Ominous?’
Rufus smiled. It was sad, regretful. ‘I don’t understand death,’ he said. ‘I don’t understand why it has to be. Why there’s an end. What’s the point? Oh, I don’t care about me - I’ve lived a good life - but all those young people. All those cut down before they’ve even begun. Teenagers, children. My god, little tiny babies! What did they do to deserve endless nothing?!’
‘Okay, so we took the express train through the Land of Ominous and alighted somewhere in the Time to Freak Out region.
‘What have you done?’ Spike said.
‘I’ve brought them back.’
‘Brought who back?’
Rufus laughed. ‘Haven’t you been paying attention?’
‘I do have a problem with that, actually,’ Xander interrupted.
‘Who have you brought back?’ Spike said, louder.
‘All of them! Every single one.’ A smile started to spread across his face. He wiped the moisture – sweat and tears – from his face and chuckled. ‘They’re rising. As we speak. The dead are rising all over Sunnydale. A new start.’
For a moment, everything was still. Rufus’s smile shone. Xander’s jaw dropped and his dark eyes almost seemed to bulge. There was a single scream in the distance.
Spike was frozen in place. His legs didn’t want to move, his fists didn’t want to clench. There was a heartbeat thumping hard and he thought for a split second it was his, jolted enough to start after two hundred years of nothing. There was terror crashing and burning inside him.
A town full of angry, pained, desperate zombies. How many was that. A thousand? Two thousand? Three? More? How many for the Slayer to kill? How many for his family to fight?
Bad odds. So, so bad.
He locked eyes with Xander and it was teetering on the tip of his tongue to demand Xander get out of town. But then he would have to tell Dawn, too. But she was the Slayer ...
‘Don’t you dare. I know what you’re about to say and it’s a no go. No way.’ Xander’s expression was set. He was going nowhere.
Spike reached for his phone and dialled Dawn’s number.
‘Look sharp, Niblet. Time for another apocalypse.’
Beta'd by kitty_poker1. Thanks also to literati and amejisuto for their help and encouragement.