"Bloody hell, I can't believe I'm soddin' doin' this." Spike grumbled as he cut through another set of vines.
** Like the beat beat beat of the tom-tom **
** When the jungle shadows fall **
** Like the tick tick tock of the stately clock **
** As it stands against the wall **
“Enough with the singing. Now I’m going to have that stuck in my head all night,” Xander complained even as he involuntarily hummed along. His words only spurred Spike to even greater volume.
** Night and day, you are the one **
** Only you beneath the moon or under the sun **
** Whether near to me, or far **
** It's no matter darling where you are **
** I think of you **
Spike bellowed the words out and Xander was glad that the vampire was walking ahead of him. It was getting harder and harder to ignore the fact that his heart kept getting tangled up when Spike clearly was in this relationship for his libido. The sound of Spike singing such romantic words left Xander aching to have the vampire actually mean them. Yeah, the feeling of Spike pounding into his body and driving fangs into his neck was…well, breathtakingly hot, which is why Angel had exiled them in the first place, but he really did want more. Want, not need, so he reminded himself to appreciate what he did get. Instead of objecting again, Xander did indulge in a bit of fantasy as they continued their march into the early morning hours when Spike found a spot and started pitching their vampire safe tent courtesy of Angel.
“Bloody hell, drive that stake in harder or we’re goin’ ta have the thing fall on us before nightfall,” Spike complained.
“I’ve put up entire buildings, Spike. I can make a tent stay up for one night.” Xander tried to ignore his frustration since he knew it was a combination of exhaustion and the aggravation of dealing with his real lover instead of the dream lover who really did feel strongly enough about him to sing those words and mean them.
“Oi, cranky today,” Spike pointed out as he drove the stakes in on his side of the tent before pulling out sealed bags of food: Ready to heat blood for him, ready to heat slop for Xander. Xander looked at the silver package and tried to decide if he was hungry enough to eat it. From the rumble in his stomach, the answer was yes. “So, what’s got your knickers all twisted?” Spike demanded.
“What? Other than being in the middle of a jungle chasing some blip on some magical artifact that may or may not actually be picking up on Lindsey? Other than getting essentially kicked out of my home because my lover keeps getting in pissing matches with his grandsire?”
“Just asked, pet, no need ta go Cordelia there,” Spike held up his hands in surrender, and Xander closed his eyes in despair. Great. At this rate Spike would stop even wanting him for a roll in the sack.
“I’m sorry,” he started, but Spike held up a hand.
“No worries, pet. Not in the best mood myself.” Spike got on his hands and knees and crawled into the sun proof tent to eat his dinner/breakfast. Xander sighed and looked up at the slowly pinking sky before crawling in after Spike, their two bodies filling the tent, and Xander found himself grateful that Spike tended to suck heat away from him instead of generating body heat of his own.
They ate in silence and then Xander tossed the containers outside where they could pick them up in the morning. He lay down, but no matter what he did, he couldn’t get comfortable enough to sleep.
“When we get back, I say we shove Mr. Broody Pants in this thing for a week,” Xander complained as Spike’s fidgeting drove an elbow into his hip. That hurt.
“Oi, your not the one who’s goin’ ta get turned to a bloody heap of ash if he goes out there.”
“Vampire ash is usually more dry than bloody.” Spike didn’t respond, but Xander’s side took another hit from a sharp elbow. In retaliation, Xander flipped over, hitting the tent flap just hard enough to allow a ray of sunshine to reflect off the inside wall of the tent well above Spike’s head.
“You daft git. Already been dust once and I don’t aim ta do it again. So keep your soddin’ arse inside the tent.” Spike snapped.
“I could always take my sodding arse outside the tent,” Xander offered without a trace of the snark he was feeling.
“Bloody hell no. You get yourself in trouble walkin’ across the street, so ya aren’t goin’ to sit in the middle of a jungle without a babysitter.”
“Hey, I don’t need a babysitter,” Xander sat half way up and glared at his lover who so was not getting a blowjob for a good … three or four hours after a crack like that.
“Maybe not, but someone’s got ta look after all the demons ya attract.”
“That is just a story…a myth…a fantasy the girls invented to make me feel even less helpful.
“Yeah, Peaches thought that too until ya came ta LA.”
“Peaches is a moron.”
“Exactly,” Xander agreed, grateful to have won one.
“Ya still attract demons like flies ta horseshit, mate,” Spike said after several minutes of silence. Xander couldn’t really come up with a response so he pretended he was asleep and let Spike pull him into an embrace.
Spike hummed softly, and Xander let the vampire pull him so close that he could feel every curve in Spike’s body. Honestly the closeness was almost painful. Emotionally because it just always made him realize what he wouldn’t ever have. Spike never held him like this unless the vampire thought he was asleep. Physically, they had gone for three days without sex, and Xander had never been so horny. Okay, he had, but it hadn’t been since high school. When the sun was up, the tent was too small for anything to happen, and he knew full well Angel had done that on purpose. When the sun was down, Spike rushed them in the direction of the stone toy Lorne had sent. Spike sang softly.
** Day and night, night and day, why is it so **
** That this longing for you follows wherever I go **
** In the roaring traffic's boom **
** In the silence of my lonely room **
** I think of you **
Xander considered the irony of the fact that the vampire was singing the words, but it was Xander who felt that way.
Sundown and they were on the move again, Spike carrying the heavy tent and water while Xander lugged the food. Xander was about ready to complain that Angel didn’t pay them enough to follow a blinking light on an artifact all the way around the world. Of course he’d made that complain several dozen times now, but he was still about to make it again when he practically bounced off of Spike’s pack.
“Watch it ya half blind lummox,” Spike complained.
“I’m going to get you brake lights one of these days, Spike.”
“Yeah, well if ya have eye enough ta see brake lights, ya have eye enough ta see me stop,” Spike replied, emphasizing the singular nature of Xander’s eye, but in a distracted tone of voice.
“What is it?” Xander asked, suddenly much quieter and more serious. He felt inside his pant pocket for the hidden flap that gave him access to his sidearm.
“That shouldn’t be here…wrong kind of stone.” Xander looked and he could see a large square granite boulder. At least he assumed it was granite although his knowledge of stones tended to focus more on the concrete, slate floor tile end of the spectrum.
Spike moved forward again, and Xander followed close behind, his sidearm now out. When something left Spike walking carefully and quietly enough to be called cautious, Xander tended to skip worried and go straight to totally freaked.
The two of them stepped closer and Xander could see the lines of carvings along the face of the stone. He was no expert, but Spike certainly was when it came to demonic languages, and Xander recognized one or two symbols as definitely demonic.
“What’s it say?” Xander asked.
“Talks about the imprisoned mage,” Spike muttered while he continued to read the faded carvings.
“Mage as in some big bad wizard?” Xander asked as he looked around at the dark jungle. Far from home in a deep forest with a wizard. Wait, hadn’t he heard this one? Maybe he was just thinking of the Blair Witch Project…he hoped. Somehow he had the feeling this wasn’t going turn out well.
“Relax, pet. You’re heart’s goin’ ta burst at that rate. Story here is that he’s imprisoned in a temple, condemned ta watch his mistakes as punishment for somehow betrayin’ his people.”
“But this is a really old ruin, so can we assume that he’s dead?” Xander asked hopefully. Spike just turned and gave him a patented ‘I’m shagging a moron’ expression.
“When it comes ta magic, don’t take bets. ‘Course the story here is that the mage is sealed inside the main temple unable to do anythin’ other than advice the people.” Spike said as he turned the corner and kept reading the inscriptions on that side. “Bloody borin’.”
“So, where’s the temple?” Xander asked, suddenly uncomfortable that mystical device Lorne had gotten them had led to an imprisoned mage.
“That way.” Spike started pushing and cutting through the vegetation again, and Xander walked behind. The full moon shone as they came into a clearing, and Xander could see the remains of a once proud building with stone columns chipped with age and encased with vines held up a stone roof. Wide steps suggested that once crowds gathered here, but now only the lack of trees revealed the presence of something man-made. Xander used the toe of his boot to rub away a layer of soil and weeds and sure enough, cobblestones lay underneath, keeping the jungle at bay. Xander thought there were probably a lot of ruins nearby, but then he cut his little investigation short to hurry after Spike who strode confidently up those wide stairs.
“Thought you were supposed to be dead, mate, what with you gettin’ your throat cut and all,” Spike said when he reached the top of the stairs, and Xander hurried up to Spike’s side to see Lindsey leaning against a carved wall. In fact, the entire top of the stunted temple-like base was one room with pillars creating an open front and the other three walls done in carved stone. A single huge stone bench dominated the center and the only object was Lindsey’s guitar leaning against the bench. Xander thought the inscriptions on the floor looked suspiciously like the entrapment runes that Angel and Spike had used to capture that Gnarl demon last month. Lindsey looked shocked to see them, but Xander figured no less shocked than they looked at having found him.
“Tried being dead; didn’t like it.” Lindsey finally offered, pushing off from the wall and approaching a couple of steps before stopping in the middle of the room.
“Maybe you should get a second opinion. I’d be glad ta send ya back again.”
“Actually, you can’t.” Now the look of contempt and amusement that Xander had expected appeared. Yep, this expression matched the various stories he’d heard.
“If ya think my soul’s goin’ ta protect someone like you, don’t bet on it.”
“Oh, at this point I might welcome death because at least that would be new and interesting. But that’s not going to happen,” Lindsey snapped right back.
“Okay, now I’m confused,” Xander complained. Lindsey just shrugged. Spike took the opportunity to charge at the lawyer and grab at his neck. When Spike’s attack ended with the vampire flying off in the opposite direction only to hit a wall and slide down, Xander pulled his gun and aimed.
“Right, the vampire attack didn’t work, so you think your bullet will. There’s no logic in that.”
“There’s also no logic in you being alive after having your throat cut.”
“Actually, there is,” Lindsey replied, and Xander kept the gun pointed at him even as he noticed with relief that Spike was picking himself up off the floor. “Before I went up against the senior partners, I slipped an ace up my sleeve.”
“Just one?” Spike asked dryly as he brushed off invisible dust.
“Okay, maybe more than one,” Lindsey said with a smile and he walked over to a low bench where his guitar sat. “But the important one turned out to be a spell that I thought offered immortality.” Xander almost laughed as Spike’s head snapped around in a near comic book fashion.
“Or what? You’ll kill me?”
“Listen mate, protection spells always have catches, so if ya don’t talk, I’ll find this little spell’s weak spot and I’ll paint the room with your blood.” Spike’s expression became increasingly satisfied as Lindsey started to squirm.
“The spell’s weak spot seems to be in what type of immortality the spell offered. I’m stuck here as the temple’s oracle,” Lindsey gestured at the half ruined temple and the encroaching jungle. When I died, the spell pulled me into this temple and freed the soul of the last seer. So, I’m here until someone else finds that spell and sets my soul free by casting it and taking my place.
“Well that shouldn’t take all *that* long,” Xander pointed out. He found himself annoyed by the man’s willingness to die so soon after, well, dying.
“Considering I destroyed the last known text with the spell, I imagine that it’s going to be a while.”
“Better than where ya should’ve ended up,” Spike said, obviously not giving a shit about Lindsey’s trapped soul. Xander had a least a little sympathy as he imagined the mind numbing boredom.
“Oh yes, because being stuck in the middle of nowhere with the images from a thousand realities slipping through my head is an improvement over that hell dimension where the senior partners sent me. I don’t mind telling you that I’d rather be cut up on a daily basis.” Lindsey fingered the guitar and Xander could almost see the waves of pain. He wondered if the man got Cordelia-sized headaches.
“The things I see, he whispered. “I know how every case I ever worked for Wolfram and Hart affected the people whose lives I ruined. I feel the pain of every child I accidentally or intentionally harmed. I feel the knife piercing the heart of the woman who I offered as a human sacrifice. I see the suffering, and I see the chances I had to do something better. I see so much.” Lindsey looked up and Xander felt almost pinned to the wall by a gaze he couldn’t escape. He heard Spike growl protectively.
"Wot? If ya see somethin' ya better well spit it out," Spike insisted with his eyes narrowed in an expression Xander associated with imminent death.
"Yeah. I see something, but I'm not sure you want to know, big hero."
"Listen *Doyle*," Spike snarled in a tone that promised pain, "Ya have somethin' ta say, and ya better say it before I start breakin' ya in little pieces."
"No problem, hero. From here, I can see all sorts of things. I can see you," Lindsey poked his finger toward Xander who struggled not to step back from the evil lawyer, "and you're carrying a near comatose Spike to his sire after the initiative has broken him totally." Lindsey turned toward Spike. "And I can see you following him through the cemetery protecting him when his father had beaten him bloody."
"Whoa, my father did plenty of the ripping down of the old ego, but he never actually beat me," Xander protested.
"Not in this reality," Lindsey said with a knowing look, and Xander could almost see the oracle within the renegade’s eyes.
Lindsey continued. "I can see you with your hyena seeking a strong master and turning to kneel at Spike's feet," Xander shot Spike a meaningful glare when Spike made a sound that resembled an amused snort. "And I can see demon's blood releasing the hyena and the soldier and you forcing Spike to submit and kneel at your feet." Xander turned and made a face at Spike who now looked absolutely horrified.
Lindsey turned to Spike. "I can see you taking Xander as your consort, and I can see Xander thrown back in time and appearing before you as a three-hundred year old vampire who takes you as his consort. I can see you turn Xander and the two of you bathe in the blood of Sunnydale or leave Sunnydale and make a sport out of wiping out your enemy’s entire bloodline." Xander watched Spike flinch and he silently cursed Lindsey for reminding Spike of his unsouled capacity for violence. His lover never brooded the way Angel did, but he could still do some nice self-castigation when pushed hard enough. "And I can see Xander choosing you and fighting by your side, risking his own soul until he drives you to seek the return of your soul."
"Mate, whatever you're seein' seems ta be the result of funny mushrooms more than any truth." Spike said with a dismissive wave of his hand.
"Not so quick there, hero." Lindsey stepped forward and Spike slid into game face without warning. "I may not be seeing your past here, but this is what being the oracle means, it means seeing all the other realities that flow around this one. I can't actually see the future, what I can see are all the possibilities, and if an event happens in enough of those realities, I can pretty well guess that it will happen here."
Xander looked at Spike, and the vampire had regained his human face, a face that now appeared calculating and thoughtful. "So all these things you're sayin', you're seein' other Xanders and other Spikes?" he asked.
"Pretty much. The worst part is seeing how many chances I had to make a better fate and yet here I am, and here I'll stay until someone else finds that spell and frees me for whatever comes after this." Lindsey shrugged and plucked a few notes on his guitar.
"Not feelin' sorry for ya," Spike said coldly. "So what do ya see thirty years into the future?" Spike asked, suddenly tense, and Xander had to wonder what bug had crawled up his butt and died.
"Ah," Lindsey said knowingly. It was very annoying considering that everyone seemed to understand the conversation except for him. "In most universes you solve your little problem." Xander's eyes snapped to Spike, worried about whatever problem Lindsey knew about and he didn't.
If Spike had some problem, why hadn't he trusted Xander with it? Xander felt his insecurities rise up and he struggled to press them back down. He fully understood that Spike used him for sex that the vampire couldn't get anywhere else, and he tried to remind himself of that when his possessive and needy feelings started creeping in.
At the beginning, he had tried to talk about their future and feelings and all those impossibly sappy things. Spike had always distracted him with sex...hot sweaty passionate sex that made the future seem unimportant. Soon enough he decided that they didn't have a future and he accepted that what Spike wanted was a partner in bed, in fighting, and in tossing insults. He knew the limits of their relationship and the fact that Lindsey understood something that Spike had obviously kept from him just reinforced that distance.
“You still don’t have the soul thing figured out yet, do you?” Lindsey asked as he suddenly put the guitar to one side.
“Oi, got more figured out than you do, sittin’ in this prison in the middle of nowhere.”
“Yeah, but you don’t have him figured out. You two provide more amusement than anyone else I ever tune in, but I’ve had all the misunderstood hurt feelings out of you two that I can handle.”
Xander looked at Spike who had an expression of alarm, and Xander looked back at Lindsey who just seemed amused.
“Stay outta my business with Xander unless ya plan to do your seein’ from the floor in little bloody pieces.”
“He loves you, vampire. Stupid and blind and forever kind of love; the kind you didn’t have with Drusilla, and he doesn’t say it because you’ve never offered to build a future with him. He thinks he’s the ‘also ran’ you’re using to keep your bed warm until Buffy or Drusilla or Harmony comes back for you.”
Xander froze, his feelings laid out like some pathetic, flopping fish and he rushed to cover. Spike had done the obsessed lover thing, and he never failed to point out how much he didn’t want a clinging, needy lover in his life. Harmony had cured him of that.
“Right,” Xander drawled. “You know exactly zero about me, so I’m thinking you’re not the most reliable source,” he said as he took distraction tactic number seven: sarcastic attack.
“Oh, he loves you just as much back, but the thought of losing you to a mortal death rips at his soul more than all the killing he ever did combined. That’s why he jokes about your eye, to try and make that injury seem less important so that he doesn’t have to think about how close he came to losing you.”
Xander looked over at Spike, and he knew the vampire well enough to know that expression as sheepish. He briefly considered that it might be truth, but he also considered that Lindsey was just turning his hopes and dreams against him.
Xander snorted before answering. “Not stupid, despite Spike’s varied and colorful ways of calling me stupid. So, what do you want and what are you trying to manipulate us into?”
“Lord above, no wonder you two have so much trouble getting together. It’s like watching the emotionally impaired lead the empathically handicapped.” Lindsey rolled his eyes.
“Bloody enough. Ya say I solve the problem in most universes, so start spitting out some answers before I start pulling out your guts.” Xander could tell from the tone that Spike wasn’t kidding, and whether Lindsey was immortal or not, he suspected that Spike could make the man bleed, so he stepped back to avoid any arterial spray, and boy he really needed to stop hanging out with demons because when you know how far to step back in order to avoid arterial spray, you really knew entirely too much.
“That’s the interesting thing,” Lindsey started with a purse of his lips and a nodding motion with his head. “If a thing’s meant to be, it usually happens in roughly the same way over and over. I’ve seen Doyle stabbed and kissing Cordelia, shot and kissing Cordelia, his guts ripped open and kissing Cordelia, about to jump to his death and kissing Cordelia…well, you see the pattern.”
“And I’m about to see a pattern with your blood and that floor if your next sentence doesn’t include the words ‘solution’ and ‘problem’,” Spike growled.
“Well the *solution* to your *problem* isn’t that easy,” Lindsey mocked. “I’ve seen you use a Frisian bonding ring and a mystical ceremony of five rings and the legendary ring of Tyrsis. I’ve seen you turn him and take him as Consort and buy the damn Fountain of Youth. I’ve seen you claim him and make a mutual claiming vow.”
“Claiming vow?” Xander interrupted.
“Never heard of it. Claims themselves are more myth than reality, but a mutual claimin’ is right out of lawyer boy’s imagination,” Spike insisted.
“Oh, it’s less myth than you think. I’ve seen it, and I’ve seen him accidentally changed into a demon by his own friends and turned by a vampire clan that keeps its souls. There’s no pattern, buddy. I don’t even know if you two are a fated thing, but I do know that in most universes you manage to find a solution fate or no fate. Angel’s right when he calls you stubborn because you just keep going until you get what you want. Most amusing thing I have going in here is watching you two.”
Xander watched as Lindsey picked up his guitar and started strumming the instrument. He looked over and found Spike with a similarly thoughtful expression. In that moment, he knew that he couldn’t live with only having half of Spike, especially not if he had any change of having a real relationship with Spike with both the snarking and the getting held without pretending to be asleep.
“He’s right about me,” Xander offered, ignoring Lindsey.
“Wot?” Spike turned to him and cocked his head to one side.
“I love you like the forever kind of love, he’s right about that, and I know we’ve always been more about the sex part than the actual love part, and if that’s all you want, that’s okay with me too,” Xander said even though it wasn’t okay. Now that he’d said it out loud he couldn’t survive finding out that this was Lindsey’s little game and watching Spike walk away. For one second he feared that as Spike’s expression remained unchanged, and Xander braced himself for the rejection part.
“Can’t bloody lose you,” Spike suddenly said as he looked away. “First lover I ever had who wasn’t always lookin’ at me and seein’ someone else, and if I have ta watch ya die, I’ll bloody walk in the sun.” Xander stopped breathing, not even sure what to say. “But the wanker gave us a bunch of options, and I figure I can torture Peaches into helping us if I have to.” Spike looked back, obviously more comfortable with discussion of torture than feelings.
“I can live with torturing Deadboy,” Xander agreed.
“Right, so that’s one universe where you two pulled your heads out of your asses and only about three million where you to dance around each other without ever talking.”
“Sod off,” Spike suggested as he started back toward the exit, and Xander smiled when the vampire’s arm slipped around his waist in a comfortable gesture of affection and hurried him down the steps.
“Oh, and don’t assume that Angel is going to play bad guy here, you’d be surprised at how many universes have him offering a proper sire’s welcome,” Lindsey yelled after them. Xander turned to look at the lawyer in confusion, but the expression of shock on Spike’s face made him stumble, and only Spike’s arm held him up. “Boy even won over Angelus once or twice.” Lindsey’s voice was fading as Spike practically pushed him across the uneven ground and back into the jungle path they had cleared hiking in.
“Geez, Blondie, slow down. Where are we going in such a hurry?”
“Ta see my sire, and then track down a ring or two,” Spike said with a laugh.
“But Lindsey… finding out what he’s doing… kill him if necessary… any of this ringing any bells?” Xander demanded, but Spike just started singing and dragging him through the darkness back towards home again.
**There's an oh such a hungry yearning burning inside of me **
**And this torment won't be through **
**Until you let me spend my life making love to you **