No Sweets for the Wicked
Disclaimer: I am making no money from this, unfortunately. I don't own any characters and I certainly don't own the world that Joss created. Boo. *passes around the tissues and dabs tears*
Stepping outside the darkness was a blanket fanning the fire of his fear and Xander had a moment of heart failure when he realized the person quickly receding into the distance was Strife. Obviously he’s not a native of the Hellmouth or he wouldn’t be running off alone. Xander’s legs pumped steadily and his feet tapped a scared staccato to catch up with the long strides of the leggy Mischief god. Anger and presumably growing irritation was driving him to move faster than Xander was comfortable with, but he was too out of breath to beg him to slow down. He slowed as he caught up with the tall, extremely brassed off God. His chest heaved, but the necessity to run from things that go bump in the night fairly often meant that he was regaining his breath quickly. The Xan man was definitely in shape, maybe not Olympic team worthy, but still. He grinned to himself.
Abruptly, Strife spun around like a demented ballerina pinning Xander with a thoughtful look. One hand resting on his hip and the other lightly tapping the flat of the axe head against his thigh. Xander skidded to a stop barely managing to not bowl over the manic god. He didn’t want to add any more black marks to the unfortunately growing list of things that this deity might take offense to and decide to punish him for later, even if he seemed nice enough now.
“There ain’t any hairy Minotaurs or hydras or fire breathin’ dragons or anything big enough to eat me in one toothy gulp here are there? If so I shoulda maybe grabbed somethin’ a bit biggah.” Strife looked like he wanted to say more, but after catching the expression on his companion’s face he didn’t. He took a step back and twirled the axe around in a circular motion, testing it for balance. To Xander’s relief he looked every bit the scary, effective, killing machine he had claimed to be. He had more confidence than Buffy did with that particular weapon. As a loyal Slayerette he had come to realize through observation and Spike’s constant snarking that she relied on her Slayer strength to get the job done most of the time. In Strife’s hands the axe cut through the air with natural finesse as he moved around getting a better feel for it. The street lights caught the sheen of sweat forming on his face as he continued to run through what seemed to be a detailed weapons drill. The heat from earlier was back swirling around in Xander’s stomach. It was making his body tingle. Strife sliced the axe through the air warding off imaginary attackers and Xander’s breathing picked up a notch. The pale god stopped his impromptu practice to shoot a look his way from those crystalline blue eyes. Oh, question. He had asked a question. Caught staring. Strife was grinning. Shit.
“Um…I can’t give you a no to that and be sure it’s true. We have all kinds of oogidy boogidies and creepy crawlies in Sunnydale. I’ve learned to never say never. Once you say never it’s pretty much a given that Sunnyhell is going to give you a big fuck you. The multiple graveyards are chock full of vamps on a good night and other demons too on a bad night. Anything could live in the sewers. Trust me. They are creeptastic. And smelly. I smell when I come out of the smelly sewers.” Xander mentally slapped himself. Smelly sewers? Maybe he could impale himself on that axe. It would be tricky, but surely he could manage.
Strife was smiling at him, but not making fun of him, which was a nice change from the status quo. Xander noticed that in spite of his shenanigans Strife remained vigilant. His pale eyes searched through the inky blackness outside the happy glow of streetlights.
“Perfect. Eveh get the feelin’ you’ve let your mouth dig a big hole yah can’t get out of?” He moved closer to Xander. They were now walking at an easy pace, side by side.
“Only every other five minutes or so,” Xander shrugged with a warm grin. “It’s a way of life.”
“Buffy and Spike have already been out a killing tonight, so there’s a decent chance anything that would want to eat us might be holed up for now. How are you feeling? You won’t do me any good if you pass out before we get to my house. The Xan man has a strict one black out per night policy.”
“Splittin’ headache, but otherwise I’m fuckin’ fantastic. Sucked into a portal and stripped of my powahs, what could be bettah? Buffy, she’s the girl warriah that tossed us out of the bathroom to get rid a the entrails?”
“The one and only, only one. I’m still sorry by the way.”
“Ya only have one female warriah?” Strife asked in a confused voice glancing at Xander. He looked around with interest as they were walking through a quaint neighborhood with small houses and nice plots of land. There were lots of flowers lining sidewalks and everything looked clean and …well, he guessed normal. Reminded him of the nicer parts of Athens, though all of the plants tended to be in pots and grass was fairly unheard of in the Grecian cities.
“Well, technically no, but she’s the only one here right now. There was this whole thing where she died and,” Xander was interrupted by a snarl as a male vampire dressed in baggy pants and a Nirvana t-shirt leaped from behind a large tree and onto the sidewalk. He leaned forward in an attempt to be menacing.
“Who wants to die first?” A gravelly voice emerged from the mouth full of sharp fangs. Xander yawned and Strife looked unimpressed as well. Sure, the vampire’s face was strange looking, but he’d seen some things
in his time as a gopher for Ares.
“Really? That’s the best we’re going to get in the way of witty villain banter?” Xander pulled a stake out of his back pocket and elbowed Strife.
“You won’t be able to show your face around here again if you don’t come up with something a little more fearsome than that. How about, prepare to die!” Strife said in a falsetto and batted his eyelashes.
“That’s a little too Princess Bride for someone as tough as this guy,” Xander quipped waiting for the moment the vampire would snap. There was always a moment when the brain disengaged and appetite won in the younger, less powerful vampires. Xander had seen Buffy and Spike both use the method countless times.
“What’s The Princess Bride? An epic poem? Sounds sappy and borin’ to me. Can you tell it?” Strife was genuinely interested. Xander was keenly aware of his prey.
“It’s a film.”
“What’s a-“Xander stepped into the vampire as it growled low in its throat and lunged toward Strife. The stake easily slid home into the heart and he exploded into a fine dust.
“Sorry man. Hope I didn’t go to school with you,” he muttered as he returned the stake to his back pocket. Strife’s mouth was hanging open. Everything had happened so quickly and he hadn’t been needed to protect the healer after all. He felt the tiniest pout on his lips as he shoved Xander’s shoulder.
“You hold out. You can fight. So, who trained yeh and what’s his name?” Xander started to walk again and Strife followed.
“Spike? Well, Spike’s grandsire, Angelus trained him, I think-“
“What’s a grandsire?”
“A sire is the vampire that makes another vampire. It’s a whole, incestuous, paternal, hate, love, fuck relationship between the older vampire and the newbie vamp. Spike’s sire actually just loved him a lot and probably wouldn’t have done the torture thing, but she was crazy and not very reliable, so Angelus stepped in to fill the other slots. From what Spike’s told me he’s lucky he still has his unlife.” Strife didn’t seem upset by the babble, which seemed to overwhelm people at times. Xander relaxed as much as he could while walking around after sunset.
“My Mom’s pretty nutso. I know about that. Thankfully she didn’t want to sleep with me. I don’t think I could recoveh from the shock. I’ve heard she’s into some kinky stuff. She likes to tie guys down and carve them up before she has sex with them. Zeus help anyone who can’t get their junk to work after her blood party because then there is just slow death and a one way trip to visit Uncle Hades. I have no idea how she managed to conceive me.” He fumbled a step and a full body shiver took him and before he shook it off.
“Ewww. How did you find that out?” Asked Xander as his eyes grew round and horrified.
“My relatives like to gossip. After the first 100 years or so go by they assume you are ready to hear some of that stuff, but I would have been ecstatic not knowing.”
“Ugh. I know what you mean. I’ve walked in on things that made me want to bleach my mind’s eye, or maybe poke it out.”
“Spike brought a fledge home one night. That’s a newly turned vampire. I walked in on him screwing him on the couch, which also happens to fold out into my bed. He didn’t stop when I walked in, just kept going. I don’t know why I stood there and watched. I was so shocked my feet were stuck to the floor. When he was finished he staked the poor guy. He didn’t even pull out first. The fledgling vamp never saw it coming and it was just a whole new level of wrong for me to deal with. There he was, naked on my bed, dust drifting in the air with this horrible smirk on his face. I mean, Spike is my friend, sort of, and I would like to think that he’s a decent guy at heart. Even though he probably isn’t. That was a long time ago. I freaked out pretty badly, so if he ever did that kind of thing again he didn’t let me know about it.” Xander was watching his feet and started skipping cracks in the sidewalk before he kicked himself in the mental ass and started looking around again for predators. Strife didn’t seem disturbed by the story at all
which in and of itself was a bit disturbing.
“So, did Spike train you to fight?” Strife perused the other man’s body liking what he saw. Fairly obvious he spent a lot of time training or fighting.
“Um, big with the no.” Xander said a bit sadly his shoulders slumping a little.
“So, Buffy did?” Strife nodded. That makes sense. He’d come across plenty of women who could kick ass and take names.
“No, not so much.” Xander’s voice was softer now and the slump more apparent.
“Oh, right, you were with the witch earlier. So you’re a sorcerer of somethin’?”
“No. I have a tendency to cause spells to go wonky with my mere presence. I wouldn’t be surprised if Giles told me it was my fault that you got sucked through the portal and stuck here tonight.” Xander sounded positively morose as his dark eyes searched the darkness on the quiet street.
“Right, healeh then.” Feeling useful again Strife felt his step lighten. So Xander could throw a punch, but he wasn’t much for killin’. That’s cool. Strife didn’t mind killing things. Obviously Xander had the vampires covered though.
“You said that before, but I’m not really-“
“Don’t worry. All those things I said were true. I’m not feeling my greatest right now, but I really do know my way around a weapons room.” He winked at Xander who was confused.
“I’ve been doing this for a while. I’m not exactly helpless. I’ve learned a lot on my own.”
“A self-starter. I like that in a person. Mischief takes a lot of self-motivation.” He gave Xander a one armed hug as they walked. He liked it so much he considered leaving his arm there, but withdrew it in case they were attacked. Better to have both arms handy.
“I’m sorry, by the way.”
“Everything…dragging you here, getting you stuck here, messing with your powers. I mean, you ARE a god. I should be worried about you blasting my ass with a lightning bolt or something.”
“I wouldn’t worry about that. Your ass is way too nice to blast. With a lightning bolt.” Strife snickered to himself and twirled the axe with his left hand while reaching over to poke his butt with one finger pointedly.
“Hey! I’m going to pretend you didn’t just say that.” Xander dodged away and felt a furious heat crawl up his throat and take over his face.
Strife chuckled and continued to smirk.
“Ya. Some of the folks on Olympus are all hoity toity and think they’re miles above everyone, but there isn’t one of them, with the exception of the virgins and maybe Hera, who hasn’t bedded a human. They keep them like dirty little secrets, but we all know it happens. The Gods like to pretend they are betteh than everyone else, but they all gotta piss when they wake up in the morning, catch me? There are bad people who just happen to be gods. You know, people who would be jerks just because they have more poweh than everyone else. Most people don’t like me, even Gods, so I’ve never been that way. Didn’t seem smart to take sides with people who would rather blast me ta Hades than help me out of a sticky spot. Or into one, for that matter.” His face took on an angry frown.
Xander blushed and like a light switching on Strife laughed again, a high pitched long lasting laugh that would have grated on his nerves if he weren’t already starting to get used to it.
“Sorry, I just love the way you turn pretty colors any time I…”
“Laugh it up, God guy. See if I help you get home again.” Xander humphed picking up pace. They were halfway to his place.
“That’s okay. Things don’t seem so bad here. Not too different than what I’m used to actually. Fewer poweh plays going on, but other than that …”
“Oh, they’re going on, we just aren’t a part of them. The Scooby gang is the last ditch effort to put a stop to them.”
A low moan, deep, almost subsonic came from behind them and Xander and Strife both whirled. There was a group of about 15 vampires trailing a half block behind them.
“What is that smell?” A short female vamp gushed. She took a step forward. If Xander had known her before her unlife he couldn’t tell with the vamp face, but that never exactly made it easier to stake anyone, so he was sort of glad. Strife stiffened at his side. In preparation to fight or flee Xander couldn’t tell.
“It smells like the caramel sauce my Grandmother used to make,” a young vamped male drifted forward a few steps. Xander was having a very horrifying trip down memory lane as a few more vamps drifted out of the neatly trimmed lawns to join the group.
“No”, a hulking vampire in a cowboy hat and worn jeans rocking the “old west” look corrected her, “it smells like sugared walnuts and…honey.”
“Cotton candy,” came a voice from the crowd behind them. The vampires had dreamy looks on their faces, and how strange was it that Xander had seen enough vampires in their demon form to be able to distinguish the faces
they were making.
“Strife?” A note of terror had crept into his voice.
“How, exactly, do you kill ‘em?” Strife was unperturbed. He’d seen battles where hordes of men threw themselves at other hordes of men where the fighting was so thick you ended up killing your own men as well as the enemy if you survived at all. He’d visited the halls of Hades a few times in the beginning of his career before he learned to fight like a god from the House of War. These odds weren’t bad, all things considered.
“Beheading, take out the heart with a wooden stake or do enough damage that they lose too much blood and they go blooey.” Xander realized he was dripping horrible smelling, stress sweat and briefly pulled at the shirt sticking to his chest.
Nodding Strife reached over to steal the stake from his hand. Xander squeaked and watched in disbelief as Strife ran full tilt toward the pack of vampires a crazed laugh trailing behind him.
“Well, someone feels better. And is a psycho,” he muttered to himself. He looked around and frantically pulled out a pointed white board from a small, decorative, honest to god white picket fence.
The brazen tactic seemed to work as some of the less powerful vampires scattered as Strife charged running back to who knows where. He staked the first vamp he came to, it appeared to have been too shocked to run, while simultaneously embedding the axe blade in the neck of the female vamp that had been so star struck a few moments earlier. He kicked a vampire in the stomach and he? She? It? Xander couldn’t tell, doubled over with a grunt and fell to the ground. Strife seemed to be elbowing and kicking and staking his way to the center of the much smaller gathering of vampires. One was pounding pavement in a beeline for Xander. He seemed to be more running away from the Mischief God than running to try to injure Xander, but it was over quickly anyway. Stake and move on. That’s what you do in those sorts of situations. Xander was sneezing from the vamp dust and entering the fray before he had time to take note of his moving feet. The smarter vampires scattered and the dumber ones, or the ones too ensnared by Strife’s scent to flee, were quickly dealt with.
Xander and Strife were both grinning as they stood in a circle of drifting dust.
“I can’t believe you did that,” Xander wide eyed riding his adrenaline rush punched Strife’s arm.
“Ouch. Can’t believe I did what?” He looked genuinely confused.
“You just…that was insane?”
“You have no idea the unplumbed depths of insanity there are right here. Are we almost ta your home? I’m startin' ta feel bad again.” He seemed droopy to Xander. Like he wanted to drop.
They both turned at the sound of squealing tires as a large, black car screeched to a halt beside them. The window rolled down and a bleached blond head poked out as Spike leaned across and opened the passenger door from the inside.
“Sorry it took so long, but I didn’t realize you guys would be going this way.”
“We weren’t expecting you at all. What are you doing here?” Xander smiled, relieved.
“Well, I don’t want you to get killed on behalf of this idiot. I’ve grown fond of you, haven’t I?” Spike seemed baffled by his own actions.
“You’re making a real habit of this. Going for the Vamp of the Year award? I think you’ve officially edged out Angel at this point.” Xander grinned and the tight coil of tension unwound from his guts. The affronted vampire seemed speechless for once and so instead of making an ass of himself looked for his cigarettes.
“No way I’m getting in that thing.” Strife took a step back. “What makes it move?”
“Get in. I’ll explain.” Xander gently pushed Strife toward the open door.
“No.” He shook his head and thought his brains might rattle out. He must have looked serious because Xander started to look panicked.
“Fine. Sit in back with me. I’ll sit right beside you and Spike will drive slow.”
“No he won’t.” One look at Spike’s innocent expression and he sensed the impending mischief even if he couldn’t feel the building energy the act would release.
“Oi! I know how to drive. Been doing it for 80 years now. Nothin’ to it!” His fingers drummed the steering wheel.
“Then why are you so bad at it Fierce and Fangless?”
“You want help or not?” He sounded all Grrrr. Xander filed that away as something that actually pissed the vampire off even as he tried to jostle Strife closer to the vehicle. He was having none of it. Xander turned his best puppy dog eyes on Strife. The ones he had learned from Willow. Strife’s breath hitched and he felt himself caving, wanting to do whatever the young mortal wanted.
“Sit in the back seat with me. I promise I’ll explain the whole concept of engines to you on the drive to my place. Er…well, maybe Spike will help fill in some blanks.” Xander ruefully acknowledged. “If those Vamps come back and bring their friends I don’t know that I will be able to keep our insides on our insides if you aren’t up to the fight again.”
“Havin’ yer intestines ripped out stings somethin’ horrible,” Spike mused. Strife nodded.
“Almost as bad as havin’ an arm ripped off.” He bantered back. Xander shuddered and didn’t ask any questions. He tipped the front seat up and climbed in back patting the seat beside him. Strife had a little trouble folding his long frame in, but soon they were both mostly comfortable and squished next to each other and the door was closed.
Less than a minute into the drive and Strife’s stomach felt like it was going to erp all over the place like he had earlier and like he sometimes felt he might after he flashed somewhere in a hurry. Spike was giving an amazingly detailed treatise on steam engines and combustion engines that he couldn’t focus on at all with his head aching and his stomach heaving. Even Xander pressed so nicely against his side couldn’t distract him as Spike drove quickly and erratically toward Xander’s apartment. Glumly he looked up into the rear view mirror.
“Xandah? What are those red and blue flashing lights?”
Spike swore profusely as Xander groaned.
“This is gonna be a long fuckin’ night, lads,” Spike put the gas pedal level to the floor.