Previous parts can be found here. All usual disclaimers apply. Not mine, never will be, yadda yadda yadda. Now, on to the good stuff.
Fingers clamp down tighter. Fragile flesh of cheek and lip is mashed against resilient teeth and bone. The demon knows its vice-like grip could crush this jaw quite easily. It hungers for the so familiar feel and sound and rush. Spike controls the urge and eases up, but stops to watch, to hear, to smell the sweet hot blood come pumping in. His demon-sharpened vision lets him see the ink stain bruises that will probably be glorious tomorrow, and he smiles.
Xander doesn't move or blink, he doesn't say a word. He's been here in this space a hundred times or more and though he knows he's never going to win, he hopes and prays this time it's different, just this once, and then... it is.
No punches, slaps or kicks, no castigation follows on from that tight grip. Instead, those fingers, punishingly tight just breaths before, are ghosting, light as feathers, over lips and cheek and hair.
"My pretty pet." The words are steeped in pride, and Xander falters for a moment and then understands, the pride is meant for him. This preternatural creature's proud of him, and that's enough to finally ignite a tiny spark of dignity in Xander that he's never felt before.
"My pretty pet. I'll have you standing tall before you know it."
While Spike settles up the bill and offers extra for the broken door, Xander stands in shadows in the corner, gently petting his new coat. His fingers curled in soft lapels, he holds the collar closed, mouth and nose eagerly inhaling, tasting, rich new scents. The leather has a comforting dark odour, tinged with smoke and oak and something vaguely coppery he steadfastly ignores. And layered over that there is a hint of real cologne, the kind he's only ever dared to sniff at in the mall. The owner, previous owner, of the coat has worn it recently, and he shivers at the thought that they might someday want it back. And then again, because, instinctively, he knows they won't.
He watches Spike remove a folded wallet from his jeans, the monogram 'J.P.' picked out in faded gold design. He tries hard not to wonder if the 'J' once stood for Jesse. Or for Jason, or for James, or maybe Joe. Too late he recognises his mistake, and Jesse's there, right there in front of him, a look of accusation on his face, the disbelief as he is knocked onto the stake held tight in Xander's shaking hand. And Xander tastes that dust again, feels it clog his chest. He starts to cough, to retch, to try and shift that ghostly blockage from his throat.
Spike is there in seconds, wallet swiftly stowed away, and they hurry out into the evening air. A battered flask is pushed into his hand and Xander takes a sip, choking once again, this time on heady liquor fumes.
"Right. Maybe not the best idea, but... Hey!"
Xander takes another, larger, slug and swallows fast. The alcohol burns harshly but it cleanses as it flows, sluicing out the lingering remainders of that taste. He lifts the flask again but Spike steps in and grabs it back.
"Oh no, Pet. I'm not carrying you home."
The flask is disappeared into a pocket with a flourish and then they're walking back the way they came, their hands entwined. The people on the sidewalk flow around them, quite oblivious to the pretty, undead monster in their midst. And Xander realises that he's never seen a crowd like this at home, not after sunset, and that's sad. The sounds of laughter, jumbled conversations in the moonlight, make him sigh and wonder just when Sunnydale became so dark, so quiet and fearful.
His pretty boy is seeing and reacting and that's good, Spike thinks. At last he's showing real signs of life. He hopes that tiny spark won't sputter out before he's had a chance to taste, to play, to feed it some more fuel.
He's making plans to feed the flame when he sees them closing in, a pack of feral teens out on the prowl. Five of them, all dressed in 'tough kid' gear, out for a fight, and Spike decides a fight's exactly what they'll get.
Xander is oblivious to their hunters, and he follows as Spike leads him from the sidewalk, down an alley that's not fit for man or beast. He falters when he hears the sounds behind them; snickering voices, snicks of blades and shuffling feet. Spike's hand gives his a squeeze and then lets go, and Xander is alone in shadows, watching as the demon takes the stage.
"Oh look, guys, sissy queer here wants to fight. I'll take him on. You go on and grab his little boyfriend, have some fun, this won't take long and then I'll join you for a... Unh!"
Even though he knows he should be frightened, Xander watches as the vampire takes them on, all armed with knives and chains and steel toe-capped boots. The sounds and smells of violence and garbage make him glad his stomach's empty from it's earlier upset, although, for once, the usual urge to puke in fear is strangely absent from his life.
Until, that is, a knife is at his throat and there's a chuckle in his ear.
"Your boyfriend's good, he's really quite a fighter, for a gay boy. I didn't think he'd last this long at all, but never mind. Those guys are only playing with him, working off some stress. While they have fun, let's have ourselves a party."
And even though he's scared, because, well, knife!, he's somehow not, because his captor doesn't seem to understand. The stress that's being worked off isn't theirs it's Spike's; already three of them are on the ground. A final-sounding crunch and that makes four down, one to go, and still the idiot behind him doesn't see.
A blur, a yelp, a sudden drag of blade on skin, and once again he's free to turn and watch the fight go down. He barely even notices the sluggish flow of blood that trickles from the nick beneath his chin.
The vampire tastes the air and sees the reddened glistening steel and is enraged. A blink and now the knife is in his hand, the upstart pup is at his mercy, and his pet is open-mouthed. Spike decides a lesson could be taught here, if he handles it just right and takes a chance.
"He hurt you, Pet. He wanted to hurt me. They saw us, out there on the street, just holding hands, and figured we were prey, too weak to fight, protect ourselves. They knew what they were doing, came prepared, tooled up and hunting for a thrill. Which one of us looks like the monster now, eh, him or me? At least I kill for food. He kills for sport, for fun, to party with his mates."
Xander looked and listened. He knew that everything Spike said was true, that they'd been thinned out from the herd and hunted down for holding hands while being male, and that was wrong. But, somewhere, deep within the darkest corner of his mind, he knew that other things were happening here, that something here was off somehow, but then Spike spoke again and it was gone.
"You ever have a chance to get your own back on the bastards of the world who beat you down and keep you down and make you sorry you were born? This is it, pet. Here's your chance to shine, to make them pay, to make them bleed, to make them scream and beg for mercy. Here's your chance."
And Spike lets loose his grasp upon the youth intent on murder, and knows it never passes through his mind to run for freedom when his friends are lying there, brought down by 'queers'.
Sure enough, the fool heads straight for Xander, slams him hard into the wall and they go down, all fists and fury, out for blood and for revenge. Xander's disbelief is burned away by his desire to stay alive, something he hasn't really felt for far too long.
The first punch leaves him breathless, the second makes him mad, and before the third has landed he is fighting back with everything he has. The face of his opponent swiftly changes: father, uncle, high school bully, vampire, mantis-lady. Everyone who's ever made him feel so small and worthless gets a turn beneath his fists and he is glad. His fury won't be beaten and the thug who thought he'd found an easy mark is soon a huddled ball of pain curled on the concrete at his feet.
The demon wants to see his pretty toy make its first kill, but eventually the smarter side of Spike begins to show. He knows his pet is fragile still; a murder on that conscience would destroy him without doubt, so Spike steps in and lifts him off the beaten form.
He edges in between them, making sure his boy can't clearly see the damage he has done. Spike doubts the shape behind him will be moving much tonight, or much at all unless some help arrives quite soon. The pulse is weak and thready; he can hear the whistling sound of damaged lungs and feels the need to get his pretty far away before the gurgling begins.
"You beat him, pet. You won, now let's be off, eh, 'fore the cavalry arrives."
Xander's on his knees in muck, shaking as he falls from his adrenaline-fuelled high back to the world he knows, the world that's filled with shadows and with pain, and oh, he hurts. His knuckles throb, his lip is split, the socket of one eye has its own pulse that's pounding back against his brain and trying to shake loose all his teeth. Ribs and innards, skin and bone and muscle, all are aching now and Xander's trying hard to find a focus, something solid to latch onto, and then suddenly it's there.
A hand extends in silent invitation. Bone white fingers, nails as black as pitch, just hover there, inviting trust, demanding acquiescence. Xander doesn't even stop to think of other choices...