Title: Three Within, 1/2
Feedback/Concrit: darkhavens @ slashverse.com
Disclaimer: Not mine, never will be. No harm, no foul, no money made.
Summary: Spike finds a way to keep Xander's soul (and assorted stragglers) whole and in situ, even past death.
Notes: Written for fall_for_sx 2006.
This story can be read alone or as part of the Protected 'verse.
Xander joked his way through several games of pool and more of foosball while Spike methodically won and lost and re-won a small fortune in kittens, cold hard cash and precious stones.
Spike's main opponent waited patiently while the cards were cleared away and the winnings were stashed in various packs and pockets. When he finally spoke, the wide expanse of skin displayed between his collar and his waistband rippled rhythmically, a rainbow sheen of colour swirling faster after every word.
"Your human intrigues us, Spike. He is like unto the Raseki, an honoured state. We would wish to read his light, with your permissions, and we would make reparation for any discomfort he might suffer."
Spike paused, cigarette to his lips, flaming Zippo just a hair's breadth too far from the tip for ignition.
"Well then. And what might this 'reparation' consist of? My Xander can be a shy one around people he doesn't know, and as I recall, you Raseki are a handsy bunch. If he's gonna lie there without moving while you touch him up-"
"Spike! What the-"
"-then you need to make it worth his while and mine. I don't let just anybody touch him."
There was a clatter and a furious-sounding squawk as Xander tossed his cue away and crossed the twenty feet of barroom floor to his lover's side, trying with every step not to let his panic show.
"Spike, sweetheart, tell the big, colourful demon that I'm not for sale, okay?" He paused, thought for a moment and then added, "Or for rent. We've already had this talk, remember? I know you don't mean it, that it's just one of your jokes, but - remember why we had to have that talk? That little green guy with the walking pet mountain for a bodyguard? The one who didn't want to take no for an answer, who claimed you'd sealed the deal by blinking twice while his middle nostril was open? It took three weeks to get the smell out of your boots for good, so, please, just tell him you were joking and we can get back on the road and amscray. I hear Detroit is very beautiful this time of year."
With a snort and a roll of his eyes, Spike dismissed Xander's worry, then lit his cigarette and took a long, slow drag.
"Don't get your knickers in a twist, love. Raseki aren't the least bit interested in what you've got tucked away inside them. They want to read you - your soul, your aura, your colours, whatever - want to see what your spirit's made of, don't they."
The maelstrom of colour between the Raseki demon's four black-tipped nipples swirled faster - swathes of greens and blues and greys pulling apart and merging into one another, with a single streak of violent yellow twisting through in constant roiling motion, serpentine and sinuous and never still.
"This one here"-- ash fell from his cigarette as Spike waved his hand with careless elegance--"has already noticed the hitchhikers you picked up a while ago. 'Like unto the Raseki' he said you were. Means he knows just enough to make him curious; can see you've had a spirit or two inside you besides your own."
Xander looked from Spike to the Raseki and back again, face blank.
"And being possessed once or twice makes me like him how exactly? Or am I missing something and there's another demon inside him and… Hey, is that what that spin cycle thing's about?" Xander's circling, pointing finger left no doubt about what he meant.
Spike snickered even as the Raseki nodded, one black-nailed hand resting lightly on his multi-hued chest. Xander was pretty sure the thick, curved nails didn't need a coat of NYX Black 27 to get them looking like that.
"We are three within and three without," the Raseki intoned. "Three spirits reside within this body and have learned to live as one when it is required. And as within, we join together as three without. My others will be honoured to meet a human who is likewise."
A hand with nails painted with NYX Black 27 made itself at home on Xander's left hip as the rest of Spike nudged up tight against his right.
"There's no 'three without' here, it's just me and Xan. But you got the 'three within' right. There's a bit more of the hyena left in him than he'll admit, and I know the soldier still shows his face every now and then."
Spike's hand slid round to Xander's belly, slipping up under his shirt, and began to drum a silent tattoo of nervous energy around his navel.
"If your mates are as honoured as you think they'll be, we should be able to come to some kind of arrangement. I'm trying to find a way to keep his soul tied on no matter what, and someone mentioned you might be the blokes to see."
Xander twitched at that unexpected bit of news.
"Hush, love. I didn't want to get your hopes up if it all came to nothing, now did I? We've had a few too many knock backs already this year. But I figured if a Raseki got a peek at you, with the soldier boy and the green-eyed little bitch in tow, he might just want to take a closer look and we’d be in with a chance."
The Raseki pushed himself to his feet and wrapped the skin of something large, grey and hairy around his shoulders.
"Another hand you have played perfectly, Spike. Now come, both, my others await. And on the walk you must tell me why you do not seek a third to make the triangle complete. Two is such an unbalanced number, while three is sublime, unshakeable. Humans are so very strange; most incomprehensible to us."
On the short walk through the docks to the Raseki's home, Spike delighted in explaining the one on one nature of 'the human condition' - hitting on biology, physiognomy, religion, politics and gender issues, amongst others, along the way.
By the time they'd arrived at the charred, deserted warehouse that the demons called home, Xander had gone from slightly pink to fire engine red to vampire white and then cycled through the rainbow two or three times more. But he didn't once ask Spike to shut up; he knew that Spike had to work his gleefulness out of his system before the serious bargaining could begin. For the spell Spike was asking for, the Raseki would want much more than a surface skim of Xander's spirit, his psyche, his self.
Xander didn't know quite what the Raseki would want, but he felt certain that the goal was worth the price. He trusted Spike.
The door, when they reached it, was soot black and crooked, hanging heavy on one rusted out hinge. Xander was prepared to see it drop when it was touched, not to see it swing away in silence at a barely there flick of one natural black nail.
It swung closed by itself once they were all across the threshold, and then the lights came on- a hundred or more tiny spots of golden light leading out into the blackness of the empty warehouse. Spike kept a firm grip on Xander's hand.
The further away they moved from the outer walls, the less their footsteps echoed, until there was barely a muffled sound at each footfall, and the floor began to feel soft and springy.
After many more minutes than it should have taken to cross the building and come to the wall at the far end, the Raseki blocked their path and turned to face them.
"Welcome, friends, three and one within and two without. May no harm come to any of yours here."
The words seemed to act as a catalyst, turning up the lights until suddenly they could actually see the space around them.
The warehouse - wasn't there any more. Instead they were in a cave-like structure, the ceiling barely a foot above their heads and covered, like the floor and walls, in what looked and felt, to Xander's curious poking, like warm green moss.
At a gesture from the demon at their side, two others approached from the far end of the cave. They were equally colourful and made inquisitive noises at the first close-up look they got of Xander.
Heads together, the three of them rumbled, chirped and clicked their way to some sort of agreement, and then they straightened and turned as one to Spike.
"We will perform the Ba'har Dai once we have seen all that lies within the blessed human, with your agreement." They turned in unison and bowed to Xander. "And with yours, gifted one."
With a weak smile in their general direction, Xander tugged Spike back a step or two and leaned in to whisper.
"Spike? A little info might be useful just about now, like maybe telling me what the hell is going on and what the terrifying triplets are going to do to me now they've got us here? I don’t want the hyena back the way she was before, or to have soldier boy take over like he did on Halloween." He sighed at Spike's long-suffering expression. "I know, I know, you love me just the way I am, and you want to keep me this way. I know that's what this is all about, but you still need to tell me what I'm in for."
Xander glanced sideways at their audience and waved awkwardly to the placidly waiting demons who were obviously within earshot.
"I'm assuming you do know what this Bacardi thing is?"
"It's Ba'har Dai, love, and yes, I know what it is. Once they've 'read your colours' to their satisfaction, they'll give you a soul mark like theirs. It attaches your soul to your body, and it's about as permanent as it gets. I could turn you tomorrow and you'd still be you, but you'd still have a demon and I know you don’t want that." He grinned delightedly. "And the Ba'har Dai will fix those extra bits into place, too, so you can use them when you need them instead of having them pop up at odd moments."
Xander blinked innocently, and Spike sniffed derisively.
"What, you don't think I noticed you wolfing down those strips of raw steak while you were cooking up that stir-fry a month ago? I know she doesn't come out to play that often, but wouldn't you like to have her under your control, not fighting to break out and snatch a mug of my blood before you pin her down? You'll be able to use her sense of smell, her eyes, the soldier's knowledge, his training, his instincts, as easily as you use your own."
"They'd…" Xander swallowed noisily. "Really? I mean it's not like I can't cope, 'cause I can, and I have, and... and I could. But… It would be so much easier if we were all on the same side, all the time, instead of fighting for control we can never really keep."
Decision made, Xander leaned in for a quick, sloppy kiss and then turned to face the waiting trio of demons with their own form of technicolor spin cycle.
"Okay, let's do this!" He clapped. "How do you want me?"
The second half of the story will be posted on December 19th