The Healing Touch

Title:The Healing Touch
Author: Dea Brynhild Ensomhet
Pairing: Spike/Xander
Timeline: Bs3, "The Wish". Alternate Wishverse.
Rated: PG-13. Take the necessary precautions: practice responsible reading.
Email: BrynSpikess@hotmail.com
Archival: Just ask and ye shall recieve.
Disclaimer: Don't own any of the Buffy cast/crew/characters/plotlines/etc. Spurglie's fic "Interpretation" kinda inspired this.
Dedicated to: crazydiamondsue, for btvs_halloween.
Last updated: 11/21/05

~~~~~***~~~~~

Table of Contents:

Chapter 1: I wish Buffy Summers had never come to Sunnydale.
Chapter 2: So don't let the world bring you down, not everyone here is that fucked up and cold.
Chapter 3: Memories and recollections
Chapter 4: Three in one: Mother, Monster, and Maenad
Chapter 5: Secrets and Rumors
Chapter 6: Manipulations

~~~~~***~~~~~

Chapter 1: I wish Buffy Summers had never come to Sunnydale.

"I wish Buffy Summers had never come to Sunnydale."

Anyanka smiled as she felt her spirit whisked away to one of the research rooms in D'hoffren's realm. She would spend decades here, researching different possibilities to fulfill the wish, while less than a second passed in the mortal realm. This was where the fun really began. Some other demons had no idea how much fun being a Vengeance demon was - they called her a glorified genie. But it was her who decided how the wish was interpreted. Take this girl for example.

She could give her what she thought she wanted. Delay Buffy's trip to Sunnydale, leave the Harvest without a champion to stop it. Turn this little city into a prime bit of vampire territory, with drably dressed humans scurrying about and hiding from the dark like roaches hide from the light. Let the girl get killed by the two people who betrayed her.

But that would be too easy.

If she'd been strapped for time, she might've just changed the town's name or have Joyce give another name to Buffy, let that be the end of that. But she wanted to take her time with this wish, make it one of her better performances. The bi-century review was coming up, and she wanted to have some gems in her portfolio.

She could cause Buffy to be stillborn or have her killed right after she was called, bringing Kendra into power early. But either option was 87% likely to bring Kendra to Sunnydale to be trained by Rupert, and there was a 73% chance that Xander would betray Cordelia with the Slayer, and a 25% chance he'd still betray her with Willow. Anyanka was loathe to let events repeat like that, and so continued to ponder.

She could trace Buffy's bloodline back, making sure that nobody she was even remotely related to ever came to Sunnydale. Trace distant cousins related only by the thinnest blood ties who helped found the city, far tips of her family tree branches dipping into the gene pool of Sunnydale. Send them all somewhere else, cripple the population of the already small town. Most of the residents would be killed long before the time for the Master's rising would come about, causing a Harvest so small it would be laughable.

She could trace Buffy's spirit though its reincarnations, distracting all of her previous forms from the city limits. Previous reincarnations could be tricky though, harder to track, trace, and predict the outcomes. Anyanka liked to know how things would play out, make sure she tied up any loose ends that could affect her performance record.

With a bit more effort, she could prevent Buffy from being called, let her grow up a normal girl and make someone else into the Chosen One. She could even gift Cordelia with the powers, watch as she followed the same path from popular girl to social outcast that Buffy had, watch Xander imitate Pike's role. Hell, if she wanted to pull a few strings, she could erase the Slayer line completely, but that seemed a little too extreme for this wish, and she wasn't sure she could justify that kind of change in front of a board of higher beings.

None of the options so far contained that unique little unexpected flair that Anyanka liked to flavor her wishes with. She continued to explore the different possibilities, the options and loopholes within the wish.

A slow smile spread across her face. Yes, this was perfect. She knew exactly what she wanted to do. Back in her body, Anyanka turned to face Cordelia with a ghastly smile, face contorting to its true visage. "Done."

Cordelia choked back a scream in surprise, and Anya vanished. Cordy looked around, checking her surroundings. The campus looked the same as normal, except Xander, Buffy, and Willow weren't sitting on the fountain any more. "She was like a good fairy." she whispered to herself. "A scary, veiny... good fairy."

~*~

Drusilla opened her eyes, frowning. The stars were worried, complaining that someone had made a wish and mixed them all up, and now things were not as they were supposed to be. She saw flashes of blonde hair, black leather, red silk, cigarettes... someone she had never known, but was supposed to have. She was still ever so weak from the Prague incident, and one of her minions had botched up the healing spell involving Angel enough that she wasn't sure if she would ever return to full strength again. She needed someone to take care of her, a princepoet in tear-rusted armor, and somewhere out there her seashell was waiting for her to break it into tiny pieces and listen to its song. But her seashell was hidden by the waves, and she wouldn't be able to find it until she silenced the siren's call stirring up the waters.

"Come now, Miss Edith." Dru said, picking up her doll and smoothing out its skirt. "We're going on a little trip."

~*~

It wasn't exactly Cheers, but it was nice to know that there was somewhere he could go where someone knew his name. Even if it was an occult shop known for its love potions and voodoo dolls. "Hey, Xander. How've you been?"

"Doing good, George. How's business?" He'd been friends with George for years now, first coming into the store as a kid to look at stuff and put off going home as long as possible, and then coming by more of habit and desire to hang out with George than any real interest in crystals, candles, and spells.

George was behind the counter as usual, pulling objects out of a large box, Styrofoam peanuts and bubble wrap scattered across the floor. "Business is good. Just got a new shipment in."

"Really?" Xander said, leaning on the counter to get a better look at the stuff George was unloading. "Anything interesting?"

George shrugged. "The usual. Crystal balls, herbs, Sands of Serenity, incense." he pulled out a box of small vials. "Ah hah! This is what I was waiting for." he handed one of the vials to Xander while inspecting the others.

Xander held the glass vial, about the size of his pinkie, up to the light. Inside a translucent silvery-clear liquid swirled around. "Let me guess. Holy water, or one of those glow-stick things? Or is it essence of moonlight?"

George grinned. "Nope, it's supposed to be Mohra blood, a healing potion. It's said to be strong enough to bring the dead back to life. Go ahead, try some."

Xander pulled up his pant leg, where there was a red raw scrap on his knee from falling the other day. He opened the vial and put his index finger over the top of the vial, before turning it upside down and then rightside up. He smeared the few drops that clung to his finger on the scrape, and he and George watched for a reaction. There was a dull tingle as it touched the open wound, and they both gasped as it healed before their eyes, leaving smooth scar-less skin. "Wow. Nifty." Xander said, and put the stopper back in the vial. He tried to hand it back to George, but he wouldn't take it back.

"Keep it. You get hurt enough that it'll probably come in handy." George replied, tucking the rest of the vials safely under the counter by the first-aid kit.

"Thanks." Xander said, tucking the vial into his pocket.

~*~

It hadn't taken much effort to find the girl responsible. "You must tell me how to break this nasty, wicked spell. It has taken away my kittens and I want them back." Drusilla said, running her fingers along the girl's cheek The girl, for her credit, didn't flinch away, just stayed still and stared at her. Dru's nails sliced into the girl's cheek, but she didn't even whimper from the pain.

Dru stomped her feet, becoming impatient. The girl wasn't screaming prettily anymore, and it wasn't any fun when there was no screaming for the spiders to dance to. "Where is he, the one you took from me?" she demanded, slapping the girl.

Cordelia's corpse didn't respond.

~*~

Xander walked through the woods towards his house, the path lit by the full moon overhead. It was the night before Halloween, and he pulled his jacket closed a little more against the chill in the air. He always had the weirdest sensation of being watched whenever he took this path, and tonight it was worse than ever. Xander swore he could feel someone following him, but he didn't see anyone following him out of the corner of his eye. He took a turn in the bend, and then hid behind one of the thicker trees, holding his breath and listening to the thump of his heart.

There was definitely a rustling sound, and he could see the shadow of someone walking towards the tree he was hiding before. Just as the figure approached, Xander sprung out of his hiding place and punched the figure hard, throwing all his strength into the hit. It was a guy with short blonde hair, dressed in black and red, and the hit must've took him by surprise, because he was knocked back by the force enough to lose his balance and tumble down the hill. There was a crack as his head hit a rock at the bottom of the hill, and his body didn't move from where it was sprawled at the base of the hill.

Cursing to himself, Xander rand down the hill, skidding to a stop next to the guy's body. He was kind of cute, and was probably just an innocent bystander who got caught in the crossfire of Xander's paranoia. A stab of fear went through Xander's heart when he pressed his fingertips into the guy's neck. His skin was cool from the night air, and Xander couldn't find a pulse. Disregarding the advice not to move someone with head trauma, he lifted the guy's head, swallowing back nausea at the blood seeping from the wound in his skull.

Without a second thought, Xander pulled out the vial from his pocket and pulled off the cover with his teeth. He poured the contents onto the wound, praying that it wasn't too late. The guy began to glow, light issuing from the wound and quickly enveloping his body. Xander scrambled back, watching with wide eyes as the glow brightened until it was almost blinding, before disappearing. The guy began breathing and opened his eyes, and they were so brilliantly blue that it took Xander's breath away. One hand came up an pressed against his chest, and he stared at Xander, mouth gaping open in shock.

"What the buggering fuck did you do to me?"

Xander smiled, happy the vial had worked. "I healed you."

The guy didn't look thankful. "You bloody stupid git. You turned me human!"

~~~~~***~~~~~

Chapter 2: So don't let the world bring you down, not everyone here is that fucked up and cold.

"Excuse me? What are you talking about?" Xander asked, bewildered.

"I'm talking about you turning me human, with the pulse and the body temperature and the sodding need to breathe."

Xander quirked an eyebrow. "You say that as if you weren't human before."

The guy glared at him. "I wasn't." he said slowly, pissed off. "I'm a vampire."

Xander stared at him for a moment, then burst out laughing. "Very funny. Getting into the holiday spirit too much? Vampires don't exist."

"Yes they do, and I am one. Or at least I was until you worked some mojo on me and gave me a heartbeat. Should kill you for that, but then you wouldn't be alive to turn me back." The guy's eyes had taken on a calculating gleam, and Xander figured it was just his luck to run into one of the crazies the night before Halloween. He couldn't help but scramble back a little bit more at the coldness in the guy's gaze when he casually mentioned murder.

"Y'know, I think I'm just going to get going. Got lots of stuff to do, and since we're both all right, we can just forget about tonight, okay?" Xander said, getting to his feet and walking off.

Spike watched him go, memorizing the boy's face and direction he was headed. "Oh, I won't forget. Count on it." He smirked, head filled with plans, all of them featuring the whelp screaming in a starring role. "We'll meet again, and when we do, you'll turn me back to what I was."

~*~

Xander hurried home, parinoidly checking over his shoulder every few minutes, but no matter how long he searched the darkness, he didn't see anyone following him. He slipped into his basement apartment, stripping his clothes off and sliding under the thin blanket and thinner sheet. Xander shivered as the cold cloth covered his skin, and sneezed. That set off a chain reaction and he sneezed another five times in a row, unable to control his body as it convulsed in an effort to expell air from his lungs. When he finally stopped sneezing, he could almost taste the blood in his throat, the rawness as he swallowed. He snuggled under the sheets, hoping his body heat would warm it up soon. His thoughts drifted back to the guy he'd met in the woods, and he felt a little stab of guilt at just leaving the guy there. Even if he was creepy, he'd looked like he might've needed help. Xander tossed and turned that night, dreams consumed by blue eyes and ivory fangs.

~~~~~***~~~~~

Chapter 3: Memories and recollections

"You're a sweet kitten." she whispered, caressing the soft curly brown hair while her pet suckled at her wrist for a few moments before falling asleep. She let her fingers twist through the dark honey strands, humming to herself while she waited.

The clouds were angry that she'd gone skipping off with the wind. "Dru? Where'd you run off to now?"

"Coming, Daddy." she called, and gave the kitten one final pet before standing up and adjusting the lace on her sleeve to conceal the wound. She left the alley without a glance backward, sure that her kitten would find its way back to her someday. Cats had the ability to do that.

~*~

Spike opened his eyes, frowning. He hadn't dreamed about the night of his turning for decades, but suddenly the memories were back, sparkling crystal clear in the back of his mind. An alley, misery wrapped around him like fog. A woman, dark and mysterious, offering pain and promises. Waking up as the first rays of dawn scorched his skin, tearing the bales of hay apart and huddling beneath the pile until night fell again and he could make his way home. Mother had taken one look at his bloody clothes and mangled face, and had fainted. He'd wanted to help her, tried to reach her, but an invisible force barred him entry into the house.

It took him a month of wandering and scavenging to realize and accept what he had become. He ran into a pack of vampires, and when they found out that he did not know his sire, nor had been given any information as to the ways of Vampires, they took it upon themselves to beat him soundly and leave him for dead. He managed to survive that night, and knew he had to become strong and dangerous if he wanted a chance of surviving all the nights in his future.

Spike rolled over in bed, frowning at the rush of blood and the thump-thump of the heart in his chest. This... being human again... it was wrong. He hated the pulse that pounded in his wrists, the need for air that forced his lung to inflate and deflate, over and over again. the darkness wasn't as familiar as it had been the night before, his eyes taking longer to adjust to the shadows and shades of gray, and he felt weak and half-blind.

Damn boy-warlock. He'd been following the kid, hoping for an easy meal before he went looking for entertainment to last through the human holiday when his kind stayed inside. But after what happened, he decided to retire early rather than risk being targeted as a meal by some fresh-out-of-the-ground fledgling.

He wasn't sure what kind of spell the child had cast to make him alive again, but he was going to find a way to make him reverse it. He'd been through too much, been a vampire for too long to go back to being a human now. He had a mission, and the sooner he was back to normal, the closer he would be to his goal.

~*~

Xander woke to coughing. He instinctively reached out and grabbed a few tissues from the night stand, and quickly covered his mouth as his body shook with the force of the coughs. After a few impossibly long minutes his body began to relax, and he dropped the blood-stained tissues into the small waste can nearby, and sipped on the glass of luke-warm water that he'd put on his night stand the night before. Already feeling drained of energy for the day, he crawled slowly out of bed and got dressed.

When he got to class, he found out that the entire school body was all abuzz about Cordelia's murder. He took his seat, which just happened to be behind Harmony Kendall, and idly eavesdropped on the gossip queen.

"They say she was stabbed with a barbecue fork by some psycho freak who thinks they're a vampire!" she exclaimed in a hushed whisper, Aura and Aphrodisia leaning in their seats to listen. "And then they like sucked her blood and everything! Isn't that like the grossest thing you've ever heard?"

"Maybe Cor was secretly into that sort of thing." Aphrodisia offered , and the other two turned to stare at her. She shrank a little in her seat. "She was acting majorly weird yesterday."

"Totally!" Aura exclaimed. "She like froze when she saw Amy and Willow making out in the locker room! As if she didn't know that they're always getting it on right after P.E. like clockwork. She was the one who got them together, and then yesterday she was staring like she'd never seen 'em sucking face before."

"Weird," Harmony said, "Halloween always brings out the freaks."

Xander shivered, remembering the guy he ran into last night who'd claimed to be a vampire. Was he the one who killed Cordelia?

Xander wasn't able to concentrate on classes very well that day.

~~~~~***~~~~~

Chapter 4: Three in one: Mother, Monster, and Maenad

The sun was setting as Xander made his way home. He often stayed late at the library, as reading was his only escape from the cruelness of reality. A dark-haired woman seemed to glide down the sidewalk toward him, and he clutched his library books closer to his chest, walking along the edge of the sidewalk to give her ample room to pass. She stopped three feet in front of him, blocking his path. He was forced to stop and look at her, wondering why she was in his way.

She smiled, slow and dangerous. "Hello, kitten. I've been looking for you."

"Me?" Xander protested, talking a small step back. She followed him, a single pale hand rising to caress the air between them.

"Of course you, silly boy. You're the rhyme and the reason of everything, and all the stars wish on you." Her smile turned fond. "Such beautiful poetry I see... I wrote poetry once, but Daddy called me away and smacked my fingers and I couldn't find it again..."

"That's... nice." Xander murmured, trying to figure out how far he could run before he collapsed in a coughing fit. She reached out to touch his face and he jerked, stumbling back.

"Poor boy, all lost and alone. It wasn't supposed to be like this," she whispered confidentially, "I was supposed to have a kitten of my own, to feed and play with and love for all eternity."

"Well," Xander replied, "The pet shop is probably still open. You could go there and get a kitten." He kept taking little baby-steps backward, and she kept drifting towards him.

She chuckled. "Don't need to. I've found one, now I just need to find the other.... ah hah!" Her eyes lit up as she saw something over his shoulder, and she clapped with glee. "There you are, my seashell! Oh, I've missed you so!"

Xander risked a glance over his shoulder, and saw the guy who'd clamed to be a vampire the night before, walking up to them. Without hesitation the blonde guy punched the woman hard and she crumpled, unconsious on the sidewalk. Xander looked at the guy and then at the woman, and then back at the guy, who was grimacing and shaking his hand like it hurt.

The guy noticed Xander watching him and he grabbed his arm, pulling him along as he walked briskly away from the psycho chick. "C'mon," he muttered, "Gotta get out of here before she wakes up."

"Hey!" Xander exclaimed, trying to pry himself loose from the stranger's grasp. "Let me go!"

"No." The guy said, yanking him along.

Xander dropped his library books and used all his strength to push hard, and the guy let go, startled. The sudden release sent Xander stumbling back, and he landed on his ass. The guy growled, and Xander fought the urge to shiver.

"Look," the guy said, obviously at the limit of his patience, "That girl back there? She's a vampire too, and if we don't get inside before she wakes up, she'll most likely kill us both in a blink. Understand?"

"What do you care?" Xander retorted, picking up the books from where they were strewn around him.

The guy almost seemed to vibrate with barely-restrained anger. "I care," he ground out, "because if you die, then any chance of getting whatever spell you cast on me reversed flies right out the window. Therefore, I now have to protect you from all the vampires and demons and other assorted nasties who wouldn't hesitate to make you into a meal, until such time that either you turn me back into what I was, or I get tired of you and kill you myself." He held out his hand to help Xander off the ground. "Now, come on. We've got to get inside. The night's not a safe place for unarmed humans."

After a moment's hesitation, Xander accepted his hand and let him help him up. They continued walking, this time side by side. "What's you name?" Xander finally asked.

"Spike." was all the reply he got.

Xander let it go for two blocks, then asked, "How'd you know that woman was a vampire?"

Spike glanced back the way they had come. "I think she's my sire."

"What's a 'sire'?" Xander couldn't help his curiosity sometimes.

"Means she made me, was the one who turned me into a vampire."

Xander though this over. "So why don't you just have her turn you into a vampire again?"

Spike shot a sideways look at him. "Might have to, if you can't reverse the spell. But I'd rather not."

"Why not?" Xander had to ask, even though he knew his questions were probably ticking off the vampire.

"Because," Spike replied, "If she turns me, it'll undo a century's worth of work."

"How?" was out of Xander's mouth before he even realized he'd opened it again.

Spike thought for a moment about how to explain it. "You play video games, right?" Xander nodded. "Say you play a really complicated game for a long, long time, and beginner's luck gets you though several tough scrapes, and you manage to get though several levels before you have to save the game. Would you rather start playing again at the last save point, or would you rather go back to the beginning and start all over?"

"Save point." Xander replied.

Spike nodded. When he'd first been turned, it had taken years to get control of the blood lust, and that experience alone was one he didn't fancy repeating if he didn't have to.

Xander's voice interrupted his thoughts. "Have you ever seen a vampire turn into a human and then get revamped?"

"No." Spike admitted.

"Then how do you know that's how it works?"

Spike was not about to admit that the majority of vampire lore he found out about though reading ancient books. "Stop asking questions or else I'm going to rip your tongue out." They made the way back to Xander's house in silence.

Xander unlocked the door and led the way to his room, tiptoeing quietly past his parent's room. Neither of them said a word as Xander crawled into bed and Spike made himself comfortable in the bean-bag chair. Despite the stress of the day and the presence of a stranger in his room, Xander managed to fall asleep quickly. Spike was just about to fall asleep as well, when Xander's harsh coughing woke him up.

The boy was curled in a fetal position, coughs wracking his body. There was also a faint whimpering sound in between the coughs, and Spike realized that the kid was still asleep, suffering though the pain in the prison of his own subconscious.

With a sigh, Spike stood and crawled into bed, spooning himself behind Xander. He caressed the boy's hair, crooning gently to him. "Shush now, it's all right. I've got you. It's all right." Eventually the coughs and the whimpers died down, and the child relaxed in his arms. Spike allowed himself to relax too, resting his head on the boy's shoulder and breathing in his scent. Within moments they were both asleep.

~~~~~***~~~~~

Chapter 5: Secrets and Rumors

At some time during the night Xander shifted in bed, and his still-asleep mind registered that there was a warm male body holding him. He snuggled against them, caught in memories and dreams. "Char," he murmured with a smile, as slumber pulled him deeper into dreams.

~*~

"Hey, are you okay?" The world was shaking. Dru opened her eyes to see a boy, like her kitten but not her kitten. His hand was on her shoulder, waking her up from the deep darks that her poem had sent her too. Her seashell had grown sharp without her, shattered into pieces that prickled and poked.

"My kittens ran away." she pouted to the nice boy who had woken her before the sun could.

"I'm sorry," the boy replied, extending a hand to help her up. "Are you okay? Were you attacked?"

Drusilla accepted his hand and stood, swaying a little on her feet. "Yes, I was attacked... naughty kittens with sharp claws were mean to their mummy." She smiled at the boy. "What's your name?"

"Jesse." he replied warily, beginning to get weirded out.

Drusilla noticed a tiny scar on his neck, and touched it. "You were bitten!"

Jesse frowned. "Yeah, some blonde freak a couple years back did that."

"You were tasted by Grandmother." she murmured. "You were to be her prize, a little worm wriggling on a hook, and gift for Great Grandfather." She caressed his cheek, and fear kept him from moving away. "They're both dust now, but you can still fulfill your destiny." Jesse didn't even have time to scream before Drusilla sank her fangs in his neck.

~*~

Xander awoke feeling refreshed and content. The ghost of an embrace still lingered on his skin, and it was the first time he'd woken up happy for several months. He noticed Spike was still fast asleep in the bean-bag chair, and he quietly got dressed. He was opening his bedroom door when Spike spoke.

"Where do you think you're going?"

Xander glanced at him. "You might've been some kind of supernatural creature, but I'm a human and humans have school during the week. It's mandatory."

In a move way more graceful that Xander had ever managed to perfect out of that particular chair, Spike stood. "I'll accompany you."

"What?" Xander exclaimed, "Why?"

Spike lifted any eyebrow as if the answer was obvious. "Can't have you running off until you reverse this spell."

"Yeah, but..." Xander shifted uncomfortably. Maybe he could drop by the shop and George would have some kind of anti-healing blood. "What makes you think the teachers will let you sit in classes with me?"

Spike grinned, slinging an arm over his shoulders, and spoke in an extremely bad Texan accent. "I'm an old pal of Xander's here, just moved to the area and thought I'd check out the school."

Xander cracked up laughing. "Can your accent be any more fake?"

~*~

To Xander's shock, Spike fit right in at school. His charm was more than enough to win over the females, and he had a kind of violently dangerous vibe that made even Larry stay away from them. Although, when Spike slung his arm around Xander's shoulders in the middle of the student commons, a strange kind of surprised understanding blossomed in Larry's eyes, that was scary in and of itself. Xander really didn't need another school year where his sexuality was the main topic of the gossip mill, and quickly shrugged off Spike's arm. The teachers were impressed by his knowledge, the girls all wanted him, and the boys all respected him. And to Xander's surprise, he was bumped up a few rungs of the social ladder by association.

Xander wondered what kind of drugs the cafeteria ladies had slipped into the food this week. He was just settling on either hallucinogens or animal tranquilizers when Willow sought him out in the cafeteria. "Hey Xander?"

"Willow, hi." Xander said, surprised as she sat down next to him. They'd been close friends as children, but their relationship had kind of faded to nonexistent in the last couple years. He stirred the mashed potatoes around and around in a tiny circle on his plate, waiting for Willow to explain herself.

Willow glanced at Spike, who was sitting on Xander's other side and chowing down on his serving of Meatloaf Surprise, and then back at Xander. "I know we aren't all that close anymore, but have you seen Jesse anywhere? He hasn't shown up at all today."

He could still read her expressions as clear as ever, and could tell that she was upset and worried, but he couldn't help getting in a little dig at her. "You mean, Mr. Homophobe? Funny how he was the first one to push me into the ground when it was going around school that I was gay, but when you and Amy started sucking face, he was all supporto-guy."

She winced. "Xander, it wasn't like that--"

"Yes it was!" Xander exclaimed, his voice slightly louder than he meant it to be. Spike glanced up and looked at them, assessing the situation. Xander sighed and passed his serving of meatloaf to Spike, who quickly dug in. Xander turned back to Willow, and continued in a much calmer voice, "Yes, it was, and you know it."

"No it wasn't!" Willow shot back, "Jesse didn't like it at all when I came out either, but after a few days he got used to it. If you had just given him time to adjust instead of continuously giving him the cold shoulder--"

"Oh, I'm sorry, I guess it's hard not to give someone the cold shoulder when they smash your face into the dirt and call you a fag every time they see you." Xander retorted.

"Fine." Willow said, standing up. "I can see you're in no state of mind to have a civil conversation. If you see Jesse and you still possess the ability to speak while he's beating you to a pulp, please tell him I'm looking for him." And with that she stormed off.

"Bitch." Xander muttered after her.

~~~~~***~~~~~

Chapter 6: Manipulations

The rest of the school day passed without much fanfare. Like every day-after-Halloween, the younger grades had a stash of candy in their backpacks that they were trading with each other, and the older grades had hoards of candy in their desks to snack on whenever the teacher wasn't looking. The nurse's office was filled with kids of assorted ages that had overdosed on sugar, trashcans were full of candy wrappers, and every so often the crinkle of a wrapper being unwrapped could be heard somewhere.

Spike seemed to enjoy playing the popular new guy, and he'd already gotten two party invitations, five coffee-at-the-Bronze offers, eight handfuls of candy including several king-sized candy bars, and fourteen girls' telephone numbers before the seventh period bell rang. Xander watched out of the corner of his eye as Spike laughed and flirted with the girl next to him, and started getting irritated as she became lucky number fifteen to blush and scribble her number on a spare piece of notebook paper. Spike winked and slid the paper into his pocket, and Xander felt nauseous as the girl, Marci something-or-other, giggled and blushed again. He couldn't believe how easily Spike had waltzed in and become everybody's idol. He wouldn't be surprised if bleached-blonde spikey hair became the newest fad to sweep through the school. He wanted to scream at his fellow classmates, "What is wrong with you people? Can't you tell he's a freak? He claims to be a vampire, and he's threatened my life!" But that would be the final nail in his own unpopularity coffin, not to mention Spike actually looked kind of cute and harmless munching away on his chocolate, so he kept his mouth shut.

The final bell rang and Xander stood, collecting his books. His personal Spike-shaped shadow followed him out of the classroom and down the front steps of the school, and Xander breathed a tiny sign of relief. Part of him had been afraid that one of the girls would've captured Spike's attention enough to make him forget about this whole vampire thing, while the other part was steadfastly refusing to examine why the fact that Spike hadn't left him for some girl sent a little thrill down his spine.

Xander stopped and rewound his train of thought. "Left me"? Makes it sound as if we're going out and I'm afraid to be dumped. I'm just glad he's following me is because then he isn't alone with one of those girls and possibly killing them with a barbecue fork. Yeah. And that makes me feel so much better about my own safety. Xander snorted. They arrived at Mystic's Marvels and Xander entered with Spike on his heels, "Hey, George?"

George was, per usual, standing behind the counter and arraigning the loose crystals. He was running low on white quartz, and was marking down notes on a clipboard. "Hey, Xander. How's it going?" His gaze fell on Spike, "Who's your friend?"

Xander half-chuckled. "Funny story, that." He explained about using the vial and the mysterious light, and about Spike's claims of vampirism.

Shock and intrigue passed over George's face as he listened. "Well, huh," he murmured after Xander was finished. He turned to look at Spike, who'd begun to browse around the shop while Xander was busy talking. "I've never heard of a vampire turning human from a dose of Mohra blood, but I suppose it's theoretically possible."

"You mean, you believe him?" Xander blurted out. "Vampires exist?"

"Well, yeah," George said, tilting his head. "You didn't know?"

"No!" Xander exclaimed, "I didn't!"

"Oh." George replied, and then nodded slightly. "Xander?"

"Yeah?"

"Vampires exist."

Xander couldn't help smiling a little. "Thanks for letting me know."

George smiled back. "No problem."

"As much as I hate to break this sentimental bonding moment," Spike interrupted, looking hard at George, "the boy here said that you would know how to reverse it. So?"

George rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "I don't suppose you've considered simply being turned again by your sire? Although Heimlan's Hypothesis described the idea that a vampire's control over his own supernatural powers and bloodlust is directly proportionate to the number of years the creature has existed factored by the quality and quantity of blood the creature has ingested, with the variable of bloodline training and experience. He speculated that upon the circumstance that a vampire turned human, if he was turned again he would have to start the entire process from the beginning."

"I know Heimlan's Hypothesis. I'm quite familiar with his writings." Spike retorted, "But I'm not asking for hypothesizes and theories, I want answers. Is there a cure for this?"

"I honestly don't know." George replied. "I would have to do some research and contact a few people in the field."

Spike sighed, and opened his mouth to say something when Xander began coughing harshly, doubling over from the force of the coughs. He pulled a dark green bandanna from his pocket and held it over his mouth, and Spike could see the flecks of blood that appeared with every expulsion.

In a flash George was beside Xander, guiding him through a door that lead to the back room and fetching him a glass of water. Spike followed them and watched from the doorway as Xander was settled gently on a cot and sipped the water before laying down, George setting the glass on the floor next to the cot and pulling a blanket over Xander's shaking form. Xander kept holding the cloth to his mouth as coughs wracked his body.

George felt his forehead and pushed his hair back. "I'm going to go talk to the vampire. Will you be okay?" Xander nodded in between coughs that were gradually becoming less frequent. "All right. I'll be right in the other room if you need anything."

He left the back room, closing the door behind him. With a glance at Spike and a sigh, he picked up the clipboard and went back to doing inventory. Spike noticed, however, that George kept part of his attention on the door to the back room at all time.

"What's wrong with the kid?" Spike asked. Not that he was worried or anything, it's just that being a close friend of Xander's, George would probably know what was going on. He was just curious, that's all.

"I don't know." George admitted. "My guess would be tuberculosis, or something of that nature. It's never been diagnosed."

"Why not?" Spike said, incredulous. "Why hasn't a doctor been able to diagnose it?"

"Probably because he's never been to a doctor." George said.

"Never been to a doctor?" Spike repeated.

"Have you met his parents? As long as Xander stays under the radar, they barely acknowledge his existence. And believe me, it's better that way. When they do realize he's around..." George sighed, "...let's just say there have been times that Xander hasn't stopped by the shop for days, and at those times I pray that he isn't lying in a ditch somewhere, bleeding to death."

Spike lifted an eyebrow in a vaguely accusatory manner. "So they don't give a rat's arse about him. What's your excuse?"

"Do you think I haven't tried?" George said, steadily meeting Spike's gaze. "Xander is a proud boy, and can be stubborn as a mule when it comes to accepting help. Time and again I've offered to cover any medical bills, but Xander won't hear of it."

"Too bad you don't have any more of that healing blood tucked into a drawer somewhere." Spike remarked idly. George didn't say anything, and silence settled over them as they waited for Xander to sleep and heal.

Several minutes later, George murmured, "Mohra blood isn't a perfect healing elixir, you know." Spike turned his head and regarded him silently. "Sure, it's said to be the essence of life, but at most it's merely a momentary remedy."

"What are you talking about?" Spike demanded. "You saying this stuff wears off on its own?"

"It doesn't exactly wear off, but the healed is more likely to suffer the same ailment again." George explained, "You were a vampire before the blood healed you, correct?" At Spike's nod, he continued, "The average human has less than a three percent chance of being turned into a vampire. In Sunnydale, because of the high vampire-human ratio, the percentage is upped to around 40. You, having been a vampire turned human via the blood, probably have a 95% chance of being turned back into a vampire. You probably have not had time to notice it yet, but the longer you continue living as a human, the more often you will be attacked by vampires with the intent to turn you. They may not even realize that something is drawing them towards you."

Spike frowned, "So this stuff is, what? A vampire attracter?"

"No," George shook his head, "The world is always seeking a balance. In order for Mohra blood to heal so greatly, there has to be a counter-effect. If Xander were to be healed by the blood, he would be that much more vulnerable to being infected again. The next time he comes in contact with contaminated possessions or another person carrying the disease, he would immediately contract the sickness again and it would be worse the second time."

A pause stretched again as Spike considered the implications of this new knowledge. "So, what happens now?"

"Oh, don't worry my dear. There's to be a party soon." A new voice came from the front door, dark and feminine. Spike turned slowly, growl in his throat at the sight of Drusilla standing in the doorway. "There, there, my pet," she crooned, stepping inside the shop and drifting towards them, "Aren't you happy to see your mummy again?"

Spike made a break for the door leading to the back room but the door opened before he could reach it. Another vampire stood there holding an out-of-it Xander in his arms. "I don't think so." The second vampire chuckled.

"Jesse?" Xander murmured woozily.

"Yeah, Xan?"

"Wills was lookin' for you."

"Thanks for letting me know." Jesse said and cuffed Xander sharply, knocking him unconscious.

Spike cried out and took a step forward, but stopped as he heard Drusilla whispering, "Be in my eyes... be in me..." He turned just in time to see Dru snap George's neck. Dru stepped over the corpse and approached Spike. "Be a good kitten and find your way to me," she told him, "The party preparations are not quite ready. It will be a grand ball. But as for now, I've a present to return." Before he could move to block it, she punched him hard in the face, sending him flying back several feet to impact with a row of bookshelves filled with a large incense display. The shelves shattered on impact and Spike's unconscious body slipped to the floor surrounded by broken vials and sticks of incense.

"Come." Drusilla said and exited the room before her clothes could absorb the stink, Jesse right behind her with Xander slunk over his shoulder. "We've a party to set up before the guest of honor arrives."

~*~

Willow walked into Amy's bedroom, tears streaming down her face. After Amy's mom had committed suicide, her father came into money and got custody of her. They now lived in one of the larger homes in Sunnydale, and Amy practically had an entire wing to herself. Since her father gave her as much privacy as she desired, she and Willow usually hung out at her house.

Amy was off the bed in an instant, novel falling forgotten to the floor as she took Willow in her arms. "Baby, what's wrong?"

"It's Jesse." Willow sobbed, clinging to her girlfriend. "They found his body. He was murdered, just like Cordelia was."

"Shhh." Amy held her, swaying gently to comfort her. "It's okay." The shoulder of her shirt was rapidly becoming wet with tears, where Willow's face was pressed.

Willow continued, her voice muffled and tear-hoarse, "And then when I was asking Xander if he'd seen Jesse, he was so mean! I know he was doing it just to rile me up but I got so angry that I stormed away. I just don't know what happened to us. We used to be friends, Xander, Jesse and I, and now Xander hates me and Jesse is dead!"

Amy held her as she wept, and by the time her tears slowed she was so exhausted that Amy tucked her into her own bed and called Mrs. Rosenburg to tell her that Willow was spending the night. Willow fell into a deep sleep and Amy watched over her, stroking her hair. After she was certain Willow wouldn't wake, she slowly got off the bed and collected ingredients from their hiding places in her room.

Her bedroom was big enough to have its own fireplace, and she knelt by the hearth with matches, a white quartz crystal, and a sprig of Lethe's Bramble from the vase atop the mantle. Chanting an incantation, she lit the bramble on fire and touched the crystal to the flame, invoking the Goddess to work her will. She commanded that Willow's grief over Jesse's death be lessened, and that the memory of her conversation with Xander that afternoon vanish. The clear crystal turned a solid black as the magic confined the memories and emotions within the crystal.

Humming to herself, she tied a piece of string around the crystal, suspending it to hang against the window . The setting sunlight sparkled off of the dark crystal, as it swung gently next to several other crystals the same eerie shade of black. It faintly glowed green as it absorbed the misery Willow was feeling as she dreamt about Jesse. Amy wanted Willow to be happy, and she would do anything to make sure Willow stayed happy. She crawled into bed and Willow stirred, opening her eyes and smiling sleepily.

"C'mere honey." Willow opened her arms and Amy curled up against her, and soon both were asleep dreaming happy dreams.

~*~

To Be Continued...

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