Title: Three Within, 2/2
Words: 1105 (3004 in total)
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. (Link to part one inside.)
"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?"
'How' turned out to be stripped to the waist, jeans and briefs pushed down to hang precariously off narrow hips as he was lowered into position on a cantilevered table set at forty five degrees or so. Xander was just happy to keep his feet below his head - you never could be sure with demons, especially Spike.
The straps unnerved him a little, but Spike talked long, slow fingerfucks and never-ending blowjobs until he gave in with a sigh. Five minutes later, he was almost totally immobilized, caught at ankles, knees and thighs, elbows, wrists and shoulders.
Then Spike stepped back and up to the head of the table so the Raseki could move forward and lay hands on Xander's tanned bare torso.
Xander's breath jerked in sharply as six hot, leathery hands pushed hard into defenceless flesh. Whatever words he'd been about to speak dissolved under a waterfall cascade of sounds, sensations, thoughts, feelings, images and emotions.
His whole life, each discrete experience, whirled in kaleidoscopic glory, good and bad. Everything from his birth up to the present was examined and discarded or brought closer for dissection.
The hours he'd spent as hyena meat puppet - scarlet strips of raw, ragged hunger - were delighted over, viewed from every angle and then set aside so that they could seize upon the next jewel in his memory.
The ghostly overlay of basic training, years of army service - mottled khaki streaked with gun oil grey - were untangled from the years he knew he hadn't been in uniform. They pointed out to one another similarities, disparities, and where to set the knots to keep it all in place. Then they moved back to read the rest.
Willow's unbreakable thread was traced throughout his life, from broken crayons to world-breaking bleakness and beyond. It shimmered, enticed, but they never looked closer, shying away from copper streaks so close they almost broke the surface.
Other moments of his life were paused on, rumble-chirp-clicked over. The Rakesi really didn't seem to like Faith at all, but Giles rated happy whistles and Buffy earned a three-toned hum. Angel's appearance rated something very similar to a burp.
Memories he'd forgotten he had ever made were drawn up through the murk of twenty years and more to shine anew. His first steps, his first bike, his first kiss that wasn't Willow - right through to things he wished he hadn't needed to forget.
But with every shard of memory came feelings and emotions - joy and sorrow, love and hatred, fear and bravery. An agony of asphyxia under Faith, the impotent rage inside the hyena's cage, the joy of knowing he was loved, is loved, will always be loved.
And then it was over.
Xander's eyes flew open as he tried to gasp for air though the rippling remnants of a thousand half-forgotten happenings. Spike's hands on his head calmed the urge to fight for freedom.
"Is that it? Fifteen minutes in his head enough to put you off for life, eh? Can't say I blame you. It must be like a funhouse in there, all wonky mirrors and doors that lead to nowhere and a mini full of-"
"No clowns." It was barely a croak but Xander was definite that he wasn't being accused for having clowns in his head. He shuddered as Spike petted his scalp.
"No clowns," he agreed softly. "Want a few minutes break before we move on to the body art portion of the evening, love?"
Spike was loosening the straps as he asked so Xander simply lay back and let his smile express his gratitude. And then-
"Fifteen minutes? It felt - more like fifteen hours, maybe days." He blinked. "Really, just fifteen minutes?"
"Time cannot be accurately measured within the confines of your memories, blessed one. You gave us many gifts this day. In return, we shall share a gift with you, a sacred seal from when the One became Three for the first time, back before memory."
Hot, black-nailed hands tugged him up and across to stand beneath a circlet of grass green lights. The three Raseki pressed close, arms linked to hold him still as they began to click-chirp-hum in triple harmony. He felt his feet leave the floor as they began to lift him into the light, spinning faster and faster until the world, inside and outside, became a blur.
The sound enveloped Xander, resonating deep inside his bones, setting each cell to vibrate against its nearest neighbors.
The skin across his stomach and his ribs, between his nipples, crawled and rippled, shifted, realigned, renewed. It burned and froze and ached; it made him want to scream in agony and then to laugh with joy. It hurt like fire.
When he opened his eyes again, Xander was on his back, staring up at moss green ceiling as he lay on moss green floor. He drew a slow, deep, unbelievably painful breath.
The single syllable felt like ragged nails being dragged across his chest, so he said it again.
He considered trying to stand but then rejected the idea. If breathing hurt and speaking burned then getting vertical would probably make him scream like a girl. He lay still for a while longer.
"The salve will draw out the pain in mere moments, gifted one, if you are still and breathe the rhythm of your heart."
Xander concentrated carefully on his pulse and slowed his shaky respiration to match it. The pain obligingly lessened with every double beat.
Voices mumbled in the background, too faint to pick out against the thumping of his own internal organs, but Xander knew that Spike would fill him in on anything he'd missed but really had to know.
He wasn't entirely sure just when he fell asleep but he woke to Spike's hand in his hair, scratching lightly at his nape.
When Xander's voice cracked, Spike produced a bottle of water from the unexplored depths of his coat. Xander chugged it down in one and sighed a thank you.
"Ready to make a move, Xan, or do you want another nap?"
This time, when Xander opened his eyes, he saw nothing of the moss green cave he'd gone to sleep in. Instead, all around them was blackness, with a single thread of familiar tiny spots of golden light leading off into the gloom towards the door, or so he hoped.
Looking down at his chest all he could see was murky shadows swirling sluggishly between his peaked nipples.
"Nah, let's go home, Spike. I want to see what my soul looks like."