I stood on my porch, the open door behind me offering safety, but I remained waiting for the monster's next words. I'd begged Buffy. My soldier had yelled about spies and infiltrators and betrayal. My hyena had clamored about pack and not-pack and territory and dominance. And I had taken their anger and translated it into words that wouldn't get me locked in an insane asylum, but in the end, I'm just the Zeppo, and Buffy had made her own decision.
Now, the hyena yelped for battle, but the soldier and I knew better. The soldier ran battle simulations until I could barely see Spike standing under the light of the street lamp. God, no wonder I'm clumsy trying to pay attention to so many thoughts at once. My soldier pushed forward a plan, and the hyena growled in protest. I looked at the offering from each side before admitting its perfection.
"Come on, you don't want her," I shouted to the monster holding a squirming Willow. Her red hair shone in the artificial light, and I just knew I had to get Willow back. Willow was the smart one, the magical one, the one Giles took time to train. Willow was the loved one who Tara would cry over. Willow was the happy one with parents who would notice she had joined the ranks of Sunnydale's missing. What did I have? A crap job and an ex-demon girlfriend who would quickly start complaining about a lack of orgasms.
"Ya think I want you, droopy boy? Got me a witch, and you're gonna stand there an' watch." The insult gave me an idea.
"You're only going to get one of us 'cause Buffy, she's goin' to stake your sorry ass, and if you eat Willow, I'm inside calling the Buffster before you can lick the blood off your fingers." Okay, so not a good image to call up. I continue despite my slight nausea "So, you have to decide if you want the Scoobie who baked you cookies or the one who called you the Impotent One, the animal, Willie Wanna Bite, Captain Peroxide." I watched as Spike bared his fangs and growled. Oh yeah, good plan. Now if soldier could only come up with a more effective follow up, I'd actually be happy. "You know, Mr. Waste of Space, maybe the Initiative *let* you go because I can't see you getting out without help. You're just a brainless monster, a brutal killer who just kept getting his ass kicked by a bunch of high school kids up until the day he had to beg them for protection. You're weak."
Oh yeah, that's the sight of one pissed off vampire, pissed as in American ready to pull off someone's head as opposed to pissed as in British falling down drunk. I'd seen Spike in both moods, and this was a definite American pissed.
"Bloody wanker, I'll pull your insides out of your still breathin' body."
"No, you won't Spike. We can't stop you," I waved a hand from myself to Willow who had now quieted, "but Buffy can. You only get one chance to take out a Scoobie before she knows you have your bite back."
"And your offerin' wot, 'xactly?" Spike cocked his head to one side, and I took a deep breath before ordering the hyena to be quiet.
"You let Willow go," I started but Spike interrupted me almost immediately.
"Bloody hell no. You really are special-ed, aren't ya?"
"If you'd let me finish... You let Willow go and for every one step you let her take toward the house, I'll take one step toward Mrs. Wilson's place," I nodded toward a white house slightly down the block.
"You 'spect me ta believe you're that stupid?" Spike's eyes had narrowed, but Willow's were wide and begging. Oh Willow, I'm so sorry, but I can't let those eyes sway me now.
"At some point, you'll have to chase either Willow or me, and you'll have your choice because neither of us can outrun you," I pointed out the logic of the plan, showed Spike the perfect trap I offered to step into. To prove to him I meant it, I pulled out my stake and thumped it down on the railing of the porch.
"No, Xander," Willow begged so softly that I could barely hear her, but I didn't move my eyes from Spike. I always knew I'd die this way, and somehow it seemed right that Spike should be the one to kill me. Maybe that's why I'd flung all those insults, out of the suspicion that I needed to get in as many hits as I could before Spike finally killed me. Well, I'd gotten in my insults and barbs, and now it was time to pay.
"Deal," Spike said and release Willow. She took one running step, but I could see a hand descend on her, holding her in place. "One bloody step at a time or I'll knock you senseless and still grab the whelp," Spike ordered.
"Willow, just do it," I begged. So many times she ignored me, so sure I was wrong, and usually I was. Okay, I was wrong almost always, but this time I had the only answer, and she had to see it.
"Xander," she sobbed, and I could feel the soldier's need to protect her, the hyena's need to circle around the pack. She took one small step forward, and I stepped off the porch at a right angle to them. She stepped forward again, and I matched her steps as Spike watched. A third, fourth, fifth step. I was now far enough away from the porch for Spike to make a dash for me, but a small chance remained that Willow and I could both reach the porch.
Willow stepped a sixth, seventh, eighth step, and the game was over. I could see it in Spike's predatory gaze; I remembered when the hyena had taken control and I looked at the world through those eyes. Anything weak deserved to die, only now I was the weak one and I knew it. I kept my steps matching Willow's, giving her a chance to reach the porch before I took off running. I had no hope of getting away, but the hyena wouldn't allow me to simply wait to die.
I could hear Willow crying my name as I dashed around the corner, far enough that she didn't have to watch my death. Well, not unless Spike dragged me back which wasn't out of the question; he was a demon after all. I had nearly reached the far bushes when I felt the impact that knocked me to the ground, the breath forced out of my lungs by Spike's tackle. I lay there, waiting for the end. I considered fighting back, both the soldier and the hyena urged me to, but I still controlled the body…mostly. I told them to quiet down, and I waited. And I waited. Spike's weight lifted off me, and I rolled to make eye contact.
"Thought you said you got your bite back," I said as I watched Spike who was watching me.
"You really are an idiot," Spike offered as he pulled me up into his embrace.
"Yep, but I was finally right," I replied as I felt the fangs tear into my neck and the darkness descended.