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Summary: Following an Elemental's advice, Riddick makes a trip that should take him to the beginnings of the Necromongers. Instead, he finds something very different. First story in an upcoming series.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Movies > Pitch Black SeriesRowaineFR1815,6522183,9026 Nov 106 Nov 10Yes
Title: Finish to Start

Author: Rowaine

Summary: Following an Elemental's advice, Riddick makes a trip that should take him to the beginnings of the Necromongers. Instead, he finds something very different. First story in an upcoming series.

Fandoms: Buffy the Vampire Slayer series, The Chronicles of Riddick/Pitch Black series

Rating: Average R, bits of NC-17

Main Characters: Xander Harris, Spike, Riddick

Warnings: Alternate Universe, Adult Language, Mentions of Abuse/Neglect, Sexual (& slashy) Situations.

Timelines: BtVS - S4, Spike stays in Xander's basement even after Olivia's visit. CoR - very few changes to canon, but nothing that I'm aware of from the animated series (since I've never seen it).

Disclaimer: I do not own Buffy the Vampire Slayer or The Chronicles of Riddick. The characters borrowed from these works of fiction are used without permission from the copyright holders. No money is made, merely the enjoyment of bastardizing my most beloved characters for my own pleasure. No harm, no foul, no sue. No Mary Sue either :P

Author's Notes: Thoughts are shown in italics, emphasis in bold. All other anomalies are probably intentional, but situational. When in doubt, ask. This is the first story in a series. (Updated as the mood strikes.)

~ Finish to Start ~
~ * ~


Even after two years, I still hadn't figured out how I got stuck leading an army of Necromongers. There's more bureauocratic bullshit to deal with than fighting, and it was making my teeth itch. So when that damned Elemental suggested a 'vacation' to the Underverse, I didn't ask as many questions as I should've.

Maybe that's what she was counting on, I don't know. But something tells me that what happened wasn't quite what she 'saw'.

Worked out pretty fuckin' well for me though.

~ * ~

A small, four-person flier was fitted for the sole purpse of his pilgramige to the Underverse. The reins of control were handed over -- temporarily, at least -- to a smug Vaako. His wife's eyes gleamed with plots and manipulations. Well wishers (aka ass kissers) received a cold stare as he closed the hatch and began flipping switches to get his first legit ship ready for flight.

Only after jumping into unoccupied space did he relax.

The ship's course couldn't be set like a normal flight; its destination wasn't on standard trade routes. For coordinates, he had a few pages of rambling journal he'd found in the former Lord Marshall's private rooms. Basically it left him with a 'go straight past planet X for n days, then click your heals three times.'

If he wasn't certain he'd be bored to death, he would have stayed awake for the trip. Vague directions to a mostly fictional location, encouraged by the most infuriatingly cryptic species he'd ever had to deal with. It was enough to turn a holy man into a psychotic killer. Or a killer into... something much worse.

~ * ~

His time sense went off a bit during cryo. It seemed as if he'd only been under for a couple of weeks when the ship's controls brought him back. Silver eyes quickly took in the readings from his cryo chamber's internal control panel. Everything read perfectly normal, setting off his nerves. 'Normal' usually preceeded 'oh shit!' in his experience.

Fingers flew across the panel, releasing him from the chamber. It wasn't that he didn't trust the autopilot program (of course he didn't), but his senses were screaming. He slid less than gracefully into the pilot's seat and checked the controls manually. Still, everything read fine. Even the viewscreens to outside the ship were clear.

Instincts on high alert, he noticed almost at once when his hands and feet began to tingle. Not the pins and needles of extremities gone 'to sleep', but an odd buzzing feeling that set his nerves on end. On reflex, he grabbed his pack and weapons, only moments before a brilliant flash of light blinded him, followed by blissful darkness.

~ * ~


"... doesn't look injured, but he doesn't smell drunk either. Maybe he was mugged?"

"Don't think so, whelp. See? Still got all his goodies. Don't smell entirely human either."

"Huh, yeah, you're probably right. Hello? Demon magnet strikes again."

"Didn't say he's a demon, Droopy Boy. Jus'... not human. 'S odd one, can't put my finger on it."

"Figure it out later, Bleachy. We should get him inside before he becomes a snack cake for your less polite cousins."

"Oi! I'll have you know that there's a world o' difference 'tween me an' the dumbarse fledges runnin' 'round."

"Yeah, yeah. Ditch the righteous indignation, Fangless. I can't carry him by myself."

Between grunts and shuffling feet (and many British complaints) the two men eventually staggered down into a moldy basement. Their unconscious guest remained silently limp during the journey, but his strong pulse was reassurance that at least they weren't wasting effort on a corpse.

After settling the body into an uncomfortable recliner, they stilled in surprise. A muttering from their visitor, starting as nothing more than lips moving then working into what was probably curses. Neither man could tell -- it was not a language either were familiar with.

~ * ~

He knew he was no longer on his ship, or any mode of transport. The scents alone told him that much : rotting garbage, fumes from too many combustion engines, and assorted primitive chemicals used haphazardly. What he couldn't figure was how he'd gone from mid-jump to planetside without knowing he'd been moved.

Then there were his two 'rescuers'. A mental snort accompanied the term -- he had little need for rescuing, even on unfamiliar terrain. Very unfamiliar, if their banter was typical lingo for this planet. But he hadn't lived so long without learning a few tricks to picking up new languages fast. He played dead, listening carefully to the two as they assessed and bickered, all the while soaking up word patterns.

Almost sounds like a pidgin version of Common... from one of the farthest outposts. No lingual shifts, small population, low tech level. Shit, where am I stuck this time?

Finally, all movement stopped. Mildew overwhelmed his senses at first, followed by the ever-appealing odors of stale alcohol and dirty socks. He wasn't being manhandled, frisked, or otherwise mistreated, and risked acting like he was only just regaining consciousness.

More shuffling, the sound of water running, a door opening and closing, more quiet words exchanged. Something damp wiped across his face and over his scalp, followed by a calm voice and a container with something sweet and tangy being brought to his lips. He accepted the liquid and drank as much as was offered, then slowly opened his eyes for the first time.

Fuck, did I land in some backwater slam? This place is a dump!

Cracked concrete walls and floor, musty furniture (what there was of it), and bare wires and pipes overhead -- he couldn't remember the last time he'd seen such substandard housing. His two watchers were little better. The one nearest -- a young brunet, barely into adulthood -- wore clashing colors that would've made a blind man wince against the glare. His companion was certainly not a natural blond, nor was his cocky attitude very convincing. Strangest of all, they seemed more ill at ease with each other than with him.

He gave a moment's concentration to some of the lingo he'd picked up on one of his jaunts to a 'forgotten' colony world, then slowly moved his mouth around the syllables. "Where is this place?"

The two men exchanged a startled glance, the blond nodding his head before answering, "You're in the city of Sunnydale, California. That's in the United States, mate." At his listener's blank expression, he shrugged again. "On the planet Earth?"

"Spike, be serious!" the brunet scolded.

"What? 'S obvious he's not from around here, innit? Might as well cover all bases."

Their visitor followed the banter with amusement. So long as the two men weren't actively thinking about it, they sparred like an old married couple. Besides, the longer they talked, the better he began to understand their language. It wasn't that much different from some of the older dialects he'd learned. Just a turn of inflection, accents on every other syllable.

Eventually their argument fizzled out. The brunet took over, speaking slowly and carefully. "My name is Xander. This is Spike. What is your name? What do we call you?"

Introductions at last. He could do this. He might not be a fekkin genius, but he could bullshit himself out of trouble across any galaxy. "I am the Riddick." Simple, straight-forward.

The one called Xander blinked, then looked at Spike. "Did I miss something with the translation? Is 'the Riddick' a title I haven't heard about?" Blondie looked just as confused.

"Title and name. Long story. Just Riddick."

Again, Xander blinked. Then abruptly giggled. "Jeez, now he sounds like Buffy did, that night with the spelled beer. 'Boy smell good. Beer good? No, beer baaad! Great... Spike, tell me you understand him better than me, please?"

Enormous brown eyes fluttered in the blond's direction, sliding back toward Riddick before the boy flushed and went to toss the washcloth in a basket. His shoulders slumped as if expecting to be mocked... or worse, hit for being alive. Riddick felt a low growl form in his throat, and was only a little startled when the one called Spike answered with his own growl.

" 'Nuff of this, whelp. Better get yourself to bed so you don't lose another job, yeh? Don't fret about Mr. Tall and Bald here, I'll stay up with him."

For all his sarcasm, the blond was gentle as he turned the boy's body around and pushed him toward the couch. A few minutes of groaning springs later had Xander stripped and sinking carefully onto the lumpy mattress of his fold-out bed.

A pale finger to his lips, Spike hoped their visitor understood the implied instruction : Be quiet 'til the boy is asleep. Riddick nodded once, content that he would have time to ask questions in short order.

Soon enough, the boy's breathing slowed into sleep. Spike's eyebrow raised and he lifted a thumb toward the ceiling, silently asking if the other felt up to taking a walk. Another nod and Riddick quickly extricated himself from the hideous chair, digging a few items from his pack before joining the blond at the top of the stairs. He was only a little surprised to have found his possessions intact and sitting beside him. Surprised but relieved not to have to tear the place apart in search of them.

Once outside, he took a deep breath, clearing his lungs of the moldy atmosphere he'd endured. To his left, the blond laughed quietly.

"Yeh, takes some getting used to, don't it? Still, if ya gotta rely on a stranger's mercy, the whelp is your best bet. He's got a soft spot for strays, he does," Spike said mockingly, even as the eyes he unconsciously sent back toward the basement door told a different story.

They started walking down the street, neither breaking the silence. Naturally curious, Spike wanted to ask a million questions... but he'd long ago learned that he could pick up more information by watching people. Actions spoke louder than words, right?

Several blocks away, he stopped mid-step and held up his hand. Riddick paused as well, slipping a curved dagger out of its sheath at his back. Whether his caution or the weapon itself was the cause, he was rewarded with an approving grin before the blond melted into the shadows. On full alert, he followed suit.

Coming around the corner were five young people. More accurately -- four teenaged thugs dragging a young girl between them, her clothes were ripped and torn, her face bruised enough that she could only whimper her protests.

Riddick had no use for bullies, but normally he left them to the authorities. His companion, on the other hand, seemed almost gleeful at the situation. Spike literally bounced on his toes like a giddy toddler. He leaned close to Riddick's ear and whisper, "See those four? They're not human, not 'good guys' either. 'S our job to keep the streets safe for puppies an' apple pie, right?" With a wink, he bounced out of his hiding spot and approached the thugs. "Oi, you lot! Doncha know you're not supposed to play with your food?"

Surprise at the blond's arrival rapidly devolved into anger at having their fun interrupted. Thugs 1 and 2 released their hold on the sobbing girl, who promptly staggered away. Thugs 3 and 4 jumped toward Spike, their faces melting and morphing into ridges, deadly sharp fangs glimmering in the streetlights.

Riddick stood back for a moment, stunned at the changes in their attackers and more than a little amazed at his companion's enthusiasm. Then Spike's face changed as well, and the scenario took on a surreal quality. Whatever species the quartet of ruffians were, Spike seemed to be the same. And yet he gleefully fought them away from the injured girl. It also became apparent that the blond's fighting skills made this confrontation a game for him. Each thug was brought down, incapacitated and searched. Any item of value was quickly pocketed in Spike's leather coat.

As the last 'victim' was robbed of his valuables, the blond called Riddick over to join the merry gathering. "There's a few ways to kill a vampire, mate. The easiest is a wooden stake through the heart, see?" He pulled a stake out of his 'coat of many pockets' and demonstrated. "If you've got time, makes sense to search 'em good first. Sometimes they've got cash, sometimes a sparkly bit that sells for good money. 'S only way to make a bit of dosh helping the white hats around here."

Tossing the stake at Riddick, the blond lit a cigarette and watched as each demon became dust. He showed no surprise when the newcomer turned back to him with a contemplative expression.

"Any reason I shouldn't ghost you then?"

Spike inclined his head, acknowledging the intellegence of the question. "Not much, mate. Thing is, I can't hurt humans these days. Asked pax with the local do-gooders. It's not doing my reputation much good, but I'm still undead and kicking," he replied with a smirk.

"Undead?" In one heartbeat, Riddick had the blond on his back, the stake touching his chest with deadly intent.

"Woah there! Bloody feckin' hell! What set you off?" It took all his strength to keep the wood from piercing his skin.

"Explain 'undead'. You are Necromonger?"

Blatant confusion took over Spike's panicked expression. It was an honest enough reaction to pacify Riddick. Some. He stood up and pulled the blond off the ground, but kept possession of the stake.

" 'S what I get for trying to be a good guy, innit? Not enough that the Slayer beats up on my poor, defenseless self whenever the mood strikes. No, now I've got an alien gunning for me too. Beautiful, my soddin' unlife is. Just. Feckin'. Beautiful!"

Spike slumped back to the ground, leaning against the curb with his head in his hands. He made such a sad sight that Riddick almost felt bad for him. But not quite. Kneeling in front of the blond, his face expectant, Riddick asked again, "Explain 'undead'. Please." The last came out as an afterthought through gritted teeth.

"Types of demons, mate. Some of us don't have no heartbeat, no body heat of our own. Bloody inconvenient, it is. Soldiers look for heat signatures -- if you ain't got one, they snag ya an' send ya into their labs. 'S how come I can't hurt humans, see?" He tapped the back of his head. "Damned government experiments, stuck a computer chip in my head, an' any time I even think 'bout smackin' someone with a pulse it zaps my brains. Sadistic fucks call it a 'behavior modification' chip," he snarled the last words with sarcasm dripping from each syllable.

Several of the words failed to translate, but Riddick got the general idea. "This is permitted by your government?"

Spike snorted, an expression of pure disgust crossing his face. "Government's responsible for it, mate. Though I doubt the higher ups know too much about it. Far as the masses are concerned, demons are just stories made up to scare lil kids, yeh? Don't stop the secret agencies though."

In his various travels, Riddick had seen several types of tech-collars to inhibit behavior, or prevent the bearer from roaming too far from their designated area. This use, however, was more along the lines of the shock collars used by animal trainers. And regardless of his wariness, he knew that Spike was no animal. He felt the need to learn their language better, if only to find a way to disable the bizarre torture device.

Nodding his understanding, Riddick finally lowered the primitive weapon, handing it back to the blond. He watched Spike slip it back into his coat, then waited to see which direction their walk would take them.

Spike kept shooting glances at the taller man, obviously puzzled. As they walked out toward one of Sunnydale's many cemetaries, he decided to just ask. "Can't figure you out, Riddick. Ya take the idea of demons calmly enough, 'til I say 'undead'. And what're those Necromunchers you mentioned? Ain't never heard of them, an' I know 'bout almost every type of demon this reality's ever seen."

Movement in the shrubs lining the cemetary's border caused them to still, and Riddick wished he hadn't given up possession of the stake. Only seconds later, Spike relaxed and grinned.

"Jus' a lil V'kax. Cute critters, sorta like cats... with forked tails. No harm there."

Riddick's sense of self-preservation was his best developed trait. He soaked up all the info his tour guide offered, observing quietly. They made two circuits of the cemetary before Spike relaxed and led them into a low stone building.

"This is one of many crypts -- above ground places where humans entomb their dead. I keep a change of clothes and odds 'n ends here. Just in case. Ya never know when something might happen, right?" Another wink. Spike lit a few candles, though it seemed his new 'friend' didn't suffer from night blindness like most humans. "So... pull up a seat and ask your questions, mate. Can't see there'll be a better time."

Hopping onto a stone table (a sarcophagus, if his memory of ancient traditions was accurate), Riddick took a moment to make a mental list of his most pressing questions. In all honesty, it might be easier if he told a bit about his own world. Or worlds, as the case may be. But he wasn't quite ready to be so open to a being who, by his own admission, was 'undead'.

"What is your current level of technology?" He winced inwardly as the words came out. No matter how much he wanted to know about these so-called 'demons', he still needed some sort of time reference.

Spike's scarred eyebrow went up. That was most definitely not the first thing he'd expected to hear. "Ya askin' how good our tellies are, or whether we've managed to get off this rock yet?"

"The second."

A nod. It made sense, in a Hellmouth sort of way. Add in the weirdness magnet effect of one Xander Harris and no one should be shocked that their visitor was an alien from the future. Hell save us when the whelp finds out that there's really intellegent life out there.

"Alright then. This world is called Earth. Not terribly original, true, but it's the first world inhabited by humans. That I'm aware of..." his answer trailed off. It was something to look into. Had humans come from some other planet or dimension to settle here? If so, where was the Star Trek tech? Mentally throwing up a white flag, the blond abandoned his side trip.

"Anyway," he continued with a shake of his head, "don't know that our system of years would mean much to ya, but just in case, it's 1999. We've had a few shuttles go to the moon, and one or two to Mars, I think. No intergalactic trips, sorry. 'Sides that, the highest technology is covert shite -- computer chips in the brain, super strength stun guns, and body splicing. No real progress in genetics yet, though they're tryin'."

The newcomer just grunted then motioned for him to continue.

"Yeah. Not much for small talk, are ya? 'S ok, kinda nice not to hear more babble." Spike stopped long enough to light another cigarette, offering one to his listener. He was mildly surprised when the man accepted. "You're a bit of alright, aren't ya? Here, let's break out some of the good stuff." He chuckled to himself as he hopped down off his perch and dug a bottle of Jim Bean out of a crate against the back wall of the crypt. He gulped a deep swig then passed the whiskey over to Riddick, who took a cautious sip. An appreciative smirk followed, then two deeper pulls on the bottle.

"Not too bad, eh? Oh, there's better vintages out there, but 's not easy to find them in this lil 'burb."

For a few minutes, they simply relaxed. Smoking, taking turns with the Bean, typical male bonding that neither man had enjoyed in more years than they would care to admit. As they snuffed the remnants of their cigarettes, the mood shifted slightly. It wasn't the earlier tension, but palpable all the same.

"So, ya gonna tell me where and when you're from? Might make this lil orientation a bit easier," the blond drawled. His curiosity about 'the Riddick' was starting to gnaw at his limited patience.

Silvery eyes flashed in the dim light as Riddick looked over his companion. He breathed slowly, steadily, taking in the tang of blood and leather, whiskey and tobacco -- little signs of 'humanity' that no Necromonger would tolerate. At least not where anyone could see. 'Undead' he might be, but Spike seemed far from the dark group he had accidentally inherited. You keep what you kill -- should've had a warning label on that one.

"Not sure how to explain the time frame. Guess it's probably about 2500 years from now. Don't know if this is even the same dimension either. Does it matter?" He watched the blond's eyes widen just the tiniest bit, and knew he had Spike's full attention. Still, it wouldn't hurt to play things close to the vest for awhile yet. But first, just another morsel of bait... "Humans are the main race here then? Huh. How do they feel about those of us with special traits?"

Immediately he knew he'd said the perfect thing to keep this one's attention. He'd made it plain that, while he looked human (mostly), he certainly didn't consider himself one. If Spike had the need to breathe, he would certainly have gasped by now. Riddick felt justifiably smug at fraying the blond's devil-may-care attitude.

Bloody hell! Spike shook his head once, and felt better for it. Not that the action really cleared his mind, but it took up some time and maybe made his dropped jaw look slightly less ridiculous. He threw a real smile -- not one of his sardonic smirks -- at Riddick. "Good on you, mate! Think I might like you being here. Keep me on my toes, yeh?"

Riddick's lips twitched, then curled into a small smile. For all the blond played the 'good guy' game, he was much closer to amoral than law-abiding. Definitely more in line with the alien's way of thinking. He still wanted more intel about his new circumstances, and since Spike hadn't offered it yet...

"Tell me more about your mate, the young one -- Xander?"

A thoughtful frown formed on Spike's face. He wasn't sure how to put into words his unusual position with any of the white hats, but specifically Xander Harris. After a few minutes he decided to just start speaking -- it would sound convoluted no matter how much thought he put into the explanation.

"Harris is the original White Knight. The boy's sense of right-n-wrong, of fair play, is so strong that he wouldn't be able to kill a psychopathic mass murderer... unless he has no other choice. Hell, the kid managed to accidentally stake his best pal a few years ago and still has nightmares about it. Personally -- and don't ya dare repeat this to anyone -- I like the boy. Admire his stubborn, stupidly courageous, all too soft-hearted, goofy self. He's one of the only things that's kept me sane after the damned chip."

The admission was more personal than he'd intended, making Spike twitchy. Or moreso than normal. He went to grab another bottle and drank nearly half before passing it over to Riddick. But the character evaluation wasn't over yet.

"He's smarter than he knows, acts like a bumblin' fool, and doesn't know how to give up. And gods forbid anyone tries to hurt his friends. Boy might not be able to kill in cold blood, but he can stand up to the most blood-thirsty monster without flinching. Got a sweet tooth that just won't quit too," a soft chuckle. "Fastest way to piss him off? Hide his stash of chocolate or Twinkies."

Riddick nodded, taking everything in but not commenting. It was clear that the vampire liked Xander, perhaps even more, but pointing it out would just cause the blond to go on the defensive. Instead he slid off the sarcophagus and handed back the bottle.

"Got a place for me to sleep a couple of hours? Been a long day."

Again Spike laughed. Slapping the big man's shoulder, he gave a shove toward the doorway. "Course it has! You're takin' this better'n I'd have expected. Whelp's got a cot we can set up for ya, or you can try out the ugly recliner -- not something I'd recommend. Or," his eyes sparkled with wicked gleam, "you could always share the fold-out with'im. 'S good ta shake the boy up once in awhile. Makes him blush somethin' fierce when he wakes up half wrapped around another man. But he does give off heat like a furnace."

Silver eyes swept over the blond as a considering expression crossed Riddick's face. "He's not your mate yet?"

Spike blinked hard, then nearly doubled over laughing. In between gasps, he tried to reply, "Blood hell, no! Boy's scared ta death of shaking the foundations of his heterosexuality." As he regained his composure, he considered the idea, "Might just do that, though. Could be fun, making Droopy Boy all flustered."

Something about the blond's flippant reply made Riddick want to growl. Could Spike not see how worthy such a loyal mate would be? Taking a mate was not a subject he'd often thought about for himself, but maybe it was time...

And to have such a boy by my side would keep the blatant attentions of Vaako and his consort from becoming a dire temptation. Yeah, that'd keep me in line. From some of the Elemental's riddles, I get the hint that Furyans are faithful to death. Now what to do with this one? Dammit, I shouldn't have opened my mouth. He's thinking about the boy now; my fault, but I had to ask. Only way to do it is to elimiate the competition... or make him part of it. What the fuck? Where did that idea come from?!

Snapping back to the present, he was relieved to find Spike's attention on some random sound down a side street. He would bide his time, collect more info, and try to determine if he had indeed landed in the right place. Coincidence wasn't something he really believed in, after all. And the amount of blustering the blond had done over the boy told a tale different from his words. It might not be a conscious effort yet, but Spike was interested in more than mocking the young man.

With a small smirk, Riddick loped a few feet ahead of Spike. The blond grinned in challenge, and the pair raced back to the teen's basement.

~ * ~


Xander woke feeling more relaxed than he could remember. He blinked up at the ceiling, allowing his brain to wake up at its own pace. When anything felt this good, he'd learned to check for spells, curses, or other Hellmouthy hijinx.

Alright, so... Last night -- pool and snacks with Spike at the Bronze. And how weird is it that the closest thing I've got to a guy-type friend is a mass murdering centurian vampire with delusions of Billy Idol? Found a strange not-human passed out in an alley, brought him home, found out he's from not-hear, not-now. Sent to bed with a pat on my head (hah, I rhymed!) by Spike. They snuck out shortly after, probably to let Spike show off or something. All of which is fine -- or at least not any weirder than normal for me -- but does not explain why I slept so well...

After years of Slayerette duty, he was capable of waking up quickly. Not that he made it a practice, of course, but he could if necessary. This morning, however, he felt too entirely comfortable to be bothered with it. Which was making his subconscious twinge with warning blips.

Right, time to take inventory. Well rested -- odd, but probably a good thing. Warm and comfortable -- don't know how that happened on this lumpy spring-bare mattress, so some worry there. Safe -- when was the last time I felt that? So... something definitely wiggy going on.

Xander finally allowed his eyes to flicker from side to side. What he saw sent his heartrate into orbit : on his right was the fangless wonder, on his left the alien they had rescued the previous night. Much later, he would feel quite proud of the fact that he did not scream like a girl. Instead, he hyperventilated, and promptly passed out.

~ * ~

The second time Xander came to consciousness, he was reward with two sets of baritone laughter. Wow, I've never heard Spike really laugh before. Mock, sneer, snicker, and even a short bark of explosiveness... but not this. Hard to be hacked off at someone who sounds like he's having his first real belly buster in a long, long time. Sorta sounds the same for Riddick too, like his laugh muscles are rusty. Heck, even if it is at my expense, let'em laugh it up, y'know? They probably need this.

"Oi, whelp! Ya back with us?"

Xander took a moment to decipher Spike's giggle-mangled question. Deciding not to appear out-of-character, he sniped, "Yeah, yuk it up, bleach for brains. Not like I haven't heard you singing Sinatra in the shower."

His quip only produced more chuckles, and Xander allowed himself to join the noise. It felt good -- too damned good -- to have this easy male comraderie. How many years since he'd last enjoyed being around guy friends? Not that either of his companions were close buddies, but ever since Jesse... well, he wasn't going to turn down this chance at a reprieve from the estrogen brigade.

A room-temperature hand passed him a can of soda, and Xander forced himself upright. Taking a few deep swallows of caffeine-laden goodness, he visually inspected the two older men. Spike was slouched against the couch arm, looking at first glance as if he hadn't a care in the world. It was an illusion, of course, but one the vamp pulled off with aplomb. The same could be said for Riddick's deceptively comfortable sprawl across the ugly green recliner -- if you looked close enough, the signs of battle-readiness were easy to read.

Great, another tortured soul type. Should make up t-shirts, hand out party hats, maybe create a secret handshake. Not that Spike has a soul anymore, but he had about as many emotional scars as the rest of us. Huh.

The soda was finished in just a few more gulps, but that little time was enough for Xander to work out one important fact : these two were no immediate threat to him. They both oozed 'predator' vibes, but... not toward him. How refreshing, not to be the target prey for once.

"So," he began as he shoved aside his blankets to stand, "how much trouble did the two of you get into last night? And are there any bodies that I'm going to have to explain later?"

Neither immediately answered. Xander took this in stride; after all, Spike would talk his ear off if it needed to be said, and Riddick didn't seem much for words. Sure enough, his patience paid off after several minutes' silence.

"Four minions, not more'n a month outa their graves. Were terrorizin' some young slip o' girl. Showed Baldy here how ta deal with'em, dinnit I?" the blond said in an offhanded manner. He almost sounded... unsure about Xander's reaction.

Nodding, the teen absorbed both words and undercurrents. "Good, he'll need to know how to kill the nastier elements." Turning to Riddick, he felt the need to restate his prior warning : "Things that go grrr in the night? Very real, very deadly. And there are things worse than death, my friend. If you're gonna be here for awhile, we'll need to show-n-tell more of the common demons."

Spike sat up a little straighter. "Jus remember that not all demons are bad, yeh? Some're jus tryin' ta get by, like the rest of the world. An' some have been... tampered with where they're no longer a threat to humans." The last was said with a growl, eyes yellowing in anger.

If ever there was a time to feel sorry for the chipped vamp... Xander felt himself reaching out a hand to offer silent sympathy. Not that he wanted a vicious killer on the loose, not really, but to be unable to fight back for the first time in his unlife must be unbearably frightening. To his surprise, the gesture was received well.

Spike patted the hand that had fallen onto his shoulder. " S'ok, pet. Best of a bad situation, yeh? S'not like I'm out ta open the Hellmouth or summat."

Riddick's eyebrow arched briefly. "Hellmouth?"

A short burst of laughter came out before he caught himself. Xander stiffled it quickly, then shoved playfully at the blond. "You spent how long last night, showing off, and didn't mention the Hellmouth? Oh Blondie, that's just priceless."

"Watch it, whelp. S'not sommat ta jus come up in polite convo, isit? 'Sides, had other things ta talk over."

Xander snorted at the pair of them, muttering just loud enough for his companions to hear, "Yeah. Me!

The End

You have reached the end of "Finish to Start". This story is complete.

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