It was early autumn and a full moon. All he had done wrong was to lean against the liquid amber at the edge of the cemetery to wait for Spike. One minute Xander was standing by the tree, and the next he… was engulfed by it.
He desperately tried to call out, but a frond slid into his mouth, effectively gagging him. The next few minutes were spent in a fruitless struggle to free himself as more and more fibres bound him tight. He was slowly raised from the ground and his unwilling form stripped of its clothing. Finally he felt the sharp pain in his side and he registered a cold chill spreading through his being, he remained conscious for just long enough to watch in horror as the veins in his arms and legs stood up and slowly turned green.
When he next woke he felt… different not in pain exactly, but aware that his life force was being subsumed. He felt his toes and fingers stretching and joining with the bark of the tree and in the haze, he fancied he heard the leaves whispering, before the root gagging him began to extend. He swallowed frantically as the living frond pressed down his throat and into his stomach. He registered that he was being filled with something and felt an odd chill as the cool fluids forced their way through his system changing and replacing warm for cool.
A strange tingle starting in his chest became excruciating pain as his body began to alter at a cellular level. Finally he passed out.
Spike worried. He was supposed to meet Xander before the Scoobie meeting. Xander might have been many things, but unreliable was not one of them. The others thought he must simply have gone away for the weekend, but when his apartment remained empty and job unattended the following week, his friends began to worry. Willow performed a locating spell but there was nothing, simply a series of green sparkles somewhere near the cemetery. They searched the cemetery thoroughly for two nights. Spike knew he could smell Xander, but the scent was too old to track and seemed to finish at a gnarled old tree near the perimeter.
Spike asked demon acquaintances, even venturing to Willie’s – despite the risk to himself. There was no body and no new fledges; there was no extra demon activity and Willie had heard nothing.
Eventually Spike even rang his Grandsire though sadly Angel’s team had little to offer. Angel was at least sympathetic, knowing that despite both Spike and Xander’s protestations to the contrary, the two were allies, fighting together and that Xander had taken Spike in (albeit initially reluctantly) after he was chipped. Angel knew his Childe enough to be aware that he was loyal to a fault, and would not ask for assistance from his ensouled relative before exhausting every other avenue to find a friend. Sadly they too found nothing.
After a month of searching, Giles filed a missing person’s report. After four months Anya moved away, Xander's apartment was ‘let go’, and his friends began to believe that he might truly be dead.
It had been late autumn when the tree claimed him and he remembered waking after the initial change, but was oddly comforted by the enveloping layer of bark and the feeding frond holding him inert. He felt increasingly sleepy and though drifting in and out of consciousness for several days, he eventually gave in to his tree’s winter hibernation habits.
The first full moon of spring marked his partial waking. Vague memories mixed with sleepy observations from his new circumstance as he reveled in yet another torrential downpour and felt his body begin to swell as his cells absorbed the precious fluid. He felt the tree responding to the warmer earth and rejoiced with it. He reveled in the heat as the spring sunshine warmed the trunk of his prison.
He sometimes considered his position and pondered the bizarre fact that he was still sentient. He was completely aware of his own existence while feeling utterly connected to the tree who had taken him for her own. He felt her joy as buds burst open and new leaves emerged, and fancied he could feel the breeze on his own face, though knew it to be transferred sensations from the tree. He was constantly nourished by his captor, moved with her when she swayed, and felt ever more connected to the earth.
With no choice, he resigned himself to his inert role and his sense of time shifted with his reassigned status. But on the summer solstice, something remarkable occurred.
There had been chanting – Willow and four of the visiting English Coven sat in at the points of a salt pentagram in the clearing at the base of his tree to call on the Goddess to bless the season.
Xander panicked as the chanting began and his tree stirred. He was not sure how much later it was but the wind picked up and he felt a distinct prickle and shift in the bark surrounding him.
For the first time in months he was relieved to find himself able to open his eyes, but closed them again in terror as he felt the feeding root begin to withdraw. With no root he knew he would starve. Like a newborn creature, he began to breathe actively for the first time in months, though was instinctively aware that it was no longer oxygen he sought... and he yearned for the sun.
He tried to hold on to his tree, embedding his now iron hard nails into the wood of his protector, his mother, but it was too late. He (like so many before him who were chosen and made the change) had been loved and protected and was now being freed to return the favor. The witches left the clearing mere minutes before the wood nymph slipped from his tree, landing inelegantly at its roots and paused for a time to hug the bark covered safety of his relative, now his charge. For the first time he was able to take in his changed form fully.
His skin was smooth and pale like that of a ghost gum – native eucalypt of Australia, though soft to the touch. His unclad body was leaner than he had been when first taken, with the only adornment being a large piece of amber around his neck and circles of leaves growing from his ankles and wrists giving the impression that he was wearing some form of jewelry.
A soft flap of bark grew from his pubic hair line obscuring the direct view of his nether regions, though all traces of hair had disappeared, just as the hair on his head had been replaced by feather soft tresses of new leaves.
He found a puddle and sat wondering at the image of himself in the moonlight. He was just about to stand and explore his surrounds when an enormous hairy beast fell in front of him, its throat torn out. Too frightened to run, he curled up against his tree, wishing again for her to envelop and protect him as a figure in a long leather coat – obviously the hunter – approached.
“Bloody Hell… Harris?”
Frightened brown eyes framed by other-worldly long dark green lashes lifted to meet Spike’s crystal blue orbs, as the terrified, newly freed nymph pushed himself harder against the tree.
“It *is* you… Harris… !! Where the bloody hell have you…? And what the… you’re…?” Spike stood back, cocked his head slightly, pushing the leather folds of his duster aside by placing his hands on his hips in his typical stance, as he stared hard at the pretty pale figure and felt… magic.
The newly emerged creature, Xander, was not sure what to do. The other being looked familiar, yet caused Xander to shiver as its demon ‘signature’ registered. His old life had faded until but a distant and rather confused memory to his new form, and he was still grieving and confused by the impromptu release from his tree. He recalled that greetings were expected with other beings and attempted to say something, opening and closing his mouth twice as the other spoke, but finally accepted that his throat was incapable of producing sound after so many months of accommodating the feeding root.
The blonde haired being seemed to be agitated, so Xander did as any other wild creature might and prepared for fight or flight. Even as he blinked, he saw the twitch of preternatural muscle moments before Spike made his move. And though vampiric speed was gifted to the hunter he faced, Xander’s reaction was instinctive and far quicker.
The nymph had disappeared high into the tree before the vampire had even had a chance to initiate a grab for him. Instead, Spike’s attempt at catching hold of what he thought to be his transformed former ‘flat mate’ resulted in a rather unexpected collision with a broad tree trunk, and him promptly landing hard on his backside.
From his sprawled position he yelled up into the greenery, “Bloody Hell! You little…”, before regrouping and launching himself up into the canopy after the nymph. Several frustrated minutes later, the vampire landed grumbling on the ground, almost certain that it had been the missing ‘Scoobie’. He wondered how the boy had been taken by an ‘other’, and though sensing the shift to magical being, Spike was not yet willing to share the distressing information with others, at least not until he could be sure.
He stomped back to his current crypt-abode to spend an uncomfortably cold night worrying (again) about the friend the others were so prepared to declare dead and gone.
Xander’s terrified flight into the tree was so sudden and so effective that it took some seconds to register that he had come to rest fifty feet up with his arms firmly wrapped around the thinning trunk of his tree. His coloring was such that he was virtually invisible from the ground but still trembled as he realized that he had no idea how to get down.
One pointed ear rested against the bark of his beloved tree and he closed his eyes to take comfort in the almost imperceptible swoosh of life fluid through the tree’s central system as he slowed his own body to match the calm, familiar pulse.
As the moon set, Xander found himself sliding easily, naturally, down his beautiful protector’s trunk, stopping here and there to free a balloon tangled in the foliage or tend to an injury done by a stray baseball. In the latter case the urge to lean down, bite off the small branch cleanly, then lick the limb, came so naturally that it shocked the newborn nymph. Then he felt his tree sigh and knew he had done well.
As dawn approached he wrapped his arms around the base of his wonderful tree and hugged her.
The panic of earlier had all but disappeared and he leaned in against the robust roots. As dawn broke he felt himself fall forward and relaxed as he recognized the feel her bark enveloping him and the sun beginning to warm the beloved covering. Though aware he was still hungry, he was safe again – at least for a day.
Spike normally slept easily – at least for the first five or six hours. Granted he had issues after that, but this… ‘issue’ would not be quiet.
He had seen him. Xander Harris… Alexander Lavelle Harris…
The boy was no more dead than he was… granted he suspected that neither of them needed oxygen to survive, but surmised that his former ‘flat mate’ still required *some* sort of sustenance – and judging by the emerald hue of the boy, it was of the carbon dioxide, water and sunlight variety.
What puzzled Spike was the reason for the change. Wood nymphs were usually taken from intrinsically magical families, marked from birth and pledged to their tree or thicket. It was unheard of that a fully grown human with no connection be randomly taken… unless…
He knew he should tell the Watcher – the fellow had been the father figure for Xander forever, but the sod had gone to England, finally returning home to grieve and regroup.
It was no good telling the Slayer. Spike knew enough of her to work out that she had little time for her ‘side kicks’, and would just as likely try to stake the boy. Admittedly shoving a wooden stake into a Wood nymph would simply annoy the creature not kill it… nevertheless.
Willow was caught up in the whole Coven ‘womyn’ thing and he was not sure that she could do anything to reverse any spell or transmutation. The change was permanent, and the old trees claimed their own as a Sire took a Childe – for all time, until the tree was dead.
Angel was caught up saving the world, though Spike resolved to keep that avenue open if it was still needed – the team in LA might yet prove useful.
That left Dawn, whom he had pledged to protect beyond his own unlife… Ergo he would not risk the Bit by involving her with possibly mythically transformed (though allegedly deceased) friends.
Thankfully the sun set fully just after six pm. He was positioned for surveillance in a thicket of bushes some thirty yards from the base of the tree by six fifteen.
Xander stirred as the prickle of sunset marked the change in processes for his wonderful keeper.
As the bark that had surrounded and protected him for the day withdrew, he registered a feeding
root had again pushed its way into his semiconscious mouth to drip in water and sustain him.
He pressed against the strong trunk, slid to the ground again and stood for a moment gaining his bearings and sniffing the night air.
The moon was in full view and the young nymph aware of heartbeats and movements – and even other ancient trees in the area, but oblivious to his blonde observer.
He sat in a small clearing that gave uninterrupted moonlight and Spike watched as the boy examined his own form properly for the first time.
Xander could have sworn that the wrist and ankle adornments, the circles of leaves, were thicker and darker than the previous night. He ran the now inch long curved silver nails through his green tresses, tugging at the leaves in amazement – it hurt to pull one out!
The exploration went on. He ran a sharp nail over the almost imperceptible belly button, then the puncture scar in side – the latter causing a shiver. Then he lifted the bark flap that covered his manhood and gasped at what he found.
His skin had a natural sapling pale hue, with nipples that appeared like knot holes, but his nether regions were definitely a healthy green. Xander looked around and seeing no one sat at the base of his tree to further examine his most intimate of parts. He was apparently unchanged in structure – though the dual sac was now covered in a green feather like moss and seemed so much more sensitive than when he was human.
He scratched lightly along the green shaft with his elongated fingernails and felt a more than definite twitch. He knew that feeling from the ‘before’ but could not quite place the tingle, so stood and looked at his legs and toes. The extremities, like his arms and torso, were essentially unchanged, though his inner thigh bark seemed extraordinarily sensitive and toenails long.
Spike let out an involuntary, almost inaudible moan as the nymph made the self-exploratory strokes and caresses. He assumed he was quiet enough, but the other creature had heard the sounds, and froze.
Spike was sure it was Xander now, so threw caution to the wind and stood away from his hiding place, arms out and palms down – trying to indicate his peaceful intentions. At the last moment he bit his wrist and let the blood drip onto the ground as he stood motionless, allowing the other creature to draw its own conclusions.
On instinct Xander dropped to all fours and pressed his nose close to the ground scenting the rich fluid. He looked puzzled then soundlessly mouthed, “Friend?”
Spike didn’t move, but night sight allowed him to catch the nymph’s gaze and silent word via the moonlight, “Yeah mate. Friend.”
Spike then let out the unnecessary breath he realized he was holding. Xander knew him as a friend… it was a start.
“Steady on… Harris… You’re Xander Harris aren’t you?? C’mon pet… steady… ‘s ol’ Spike here… you remember… basement… savin’ the world… Slayer’s friend … Vampire?”
The Wood Nymph stood transfixed. Residual memories mixed with new thoughts as he tried to decide why he felt he should understand who the other creature was.
The blood on the ground did not smell of a threat, indeed it smelt familiar. And he recognized the demon race as one that did not hurt his kind, nor do ill to the trees. He opened and closed his mouth again, trying desperately to form words before he noted the other beginning to approaching achingly slowly.
Spike continued to hold out his hands, speaking in low soothing tones as he edged toward the nymph. A sudden gust of wind caught the leaves of the old tree, creating just enough distraction for Spike to be able to strike.
His arm shot out, grabbed the startled nymph and drew him into a close hug before the creature could react further. The ensuing struggle was fierce though only resulted in the two floundering on the ground.
Eventually the Spike’s ‘street smarts’ paid dividends and he managed to pin the former Scoobie face down on the ground, though only after binding scrabbling hands and failing arms behind the green back with his belt, catching wriggling legs firmly with his own, and seating himself firmly on the soft brown bark that now covered Xander’s rather taut behind.
Spike had had enough. Apart from anything else, the Wood nymph was exactly that – wood - and he had at least three rather large splinters embedded in various parts of his anatomy, plus had leaf parts stuck between his fangs like some bizarre parody of a post spinach luncheon and lack of dental hygiene!
He spat the latter out dramatically and resumed his litany of swear words in various human and demon languages before calming enough to growl. “You f’ing sod! *Bloody well stay still* or I’ll find a decent pair of garden snips and trim some of yer pretty dangly bits!”
The green being below him seemed to submit, but Spike knew better and simply waited for the being to buck again, before binding the thrashing legs with his own (now shredded) shirt.
The nymph knew he had no chance of defending his tree in his current position, and wondered at his captor’s constant reference to a name he remembered vaguely from before. Coupled with the familiarity of the scent and apparent lack of real malice beyond the other magical creature’s desire to subdue him, Xander relaxed a little and tried to convey his peaceful intentions in the only way now available to him and ceased his resistance.
Spike carefully turned the nymph onto his back with no further protest then watched with fascination as the being processed how he might communicate with his captor.
Xander’s lack of working larynx did not prevent him whispering his message and despite the sound resembling the faintest rustle of leaves, the message was clearly mouthed and in English. Preternatural hearing had no trouble discerning the message.
“Please… I need to protect her… Please?!”
Spike suspected the answer to his next question but asked anyway, “Who’s her, pet?”
“My dearest, my maker, my Mother tree… I…I am pledged to her. She needs me! *Please* let me go… I will do you no harm… Please…!”
Spike eyes narrowed for a moment and he leaned forward to taste the pale brown fluid that oozed from a small cut on Xander’s upper arm. The wood nymph expected to die but the vampire on top of him simply licked the wound clean. Then to the puzzlement of his captive, sat back looking genuinely sad before brushing some of Xander’s stray leafy tresses from his eyes.
“Oh pet… Wouldn’t hurt you for the world… Not then and not bloody now… You really are lost to us aren’t you… One of the fae now… one of the ‘other’ for all time… Soddin’ universe ‘as screwed you over good an’ proper… good an’ proper.”
Xander blinked slowly and found himself leaning in to what could only be called a gentle caress but unsure of what he should do or say. Spike seemed lost in thought for the moment and continued the soft touches with one hand while absently releasing Xander’s arms and legs with the other.
Even after being freed Xander remained, lulled by the calm hand, enjoying the unfamiliar touch and taking in the creature above him fully. Fine featured, in fact ethereally beautiful, with a body capable of great savagery, a hunter with preternatural speed and strength. Xander scented the air properly as the hand brushed his forehead again and it suddenly struck him. He knew this creature from his before.
His memories were all jumbled but he thought he could vaguely recall that this was a friend – a good friend, a brother in arms, someone of value. He knew the leather and tobacco smell so well, intimately even and his eyes went wide as the continued caress combined with the line of thought caused an unfamiliar tingle in his groin and his features under his bark flap to stir a little.
As Spike ceased his caress, the rather confused wood nymph acted on impulse and with preternatural speed sliding from under the vampire, kissing him on the lips, then disappearing up his tree in a flash of green.
An astonished Spike stood staring up for a moment before stomping off “Typical bloody Wood Nymph! All enigmatic whispers and soddin’ camouflage!”
A rather confused Xander finally slithered down his tree to settle for the coming day. He had much to contemplate, but knew without a doubt that he hoped to see the vampire again. He felt joy and hope at the thought that he truly did have a friend from the before!
It was four nights before Xander saw his friend again, four very painful nights for both other worldly creatures.
Spike, for his part, had a fractured wrist, fang missing, a gaping hole in his right buttock and bruises in every place imaginable.
He had literally crawled home after their altercation with the Initiative’s obviously domesticated and trained Groxlar beasts. Their collars gave away the identity of their ‘owners’, though the motivation for the attack still one of conjecture amongst the remaining Scoobies. If it had not been for Willow and her wiccan groupies, Spike would have been dust and Buffy Groxlar pie.
The stale animal blood he kept in the cooler at the rear of the crypt only lasted for a day, and he had wondered then if he would starve to death or simply wait until another ‘beastie’ decided to use the crypt and finally dust his injured self.
Then Dawn arrived on the third day. His lovely ‘Bit’ brought seventeen bags of just expired human blood with her, along with nearly ten kilos of ice and promised to deliver more in a couple of days. His lips and mouth were so swollen and sore that he could not even express his gratitude, but she understood as unbidden tears fell from near closed eyes. She squeezed the only part of his right arm that was uninjured before silently feeding him three bags of blood, then departed.
The Wood Nymph spent two nights watching for his friend and tending his tree, but was unworried. Time moved differently when directly connected to such an old being and the ancient living rock that was Earth.
On the second night he had seen a pretty female with a large box moving in the direction that his friend had gone the previous couple of evening and idly wondered if they were known to each other.
He sat high in his tree late that night and watched as satellites move by, grinning as a shooting star flared and wishing… his friend well. The third night came and went in much the same fashion.
On the fourth day he woke to excruciating pain. They were carving her! His beautiful tree and they were scarring her bark with an ugly knife. He was happy that his being would take most of the marking, but as the next slice occurred, the tree shuddered with her protector’s agony and all magical creatures in the area felt the trace of one of their own in pain.
As evening fell, Spike limped to the tree where he had last seen the now nymph, Harris, aware that he had failed to visit for nearly five days.
He saw a pale figure curled up and tucked into a crevice at the base of the enormous root system and approached with caution. As he approached the figure pulled in tighter on itself and Spike gasped as he saw the damage.
The formerly flawless pale back now sported a raw and oozing large love heart complete with arrow and “WB 4 AL” at its centre. The scoring was so deep that Spike fancied he could see bone.
He shrugged off his duster and flung himself onto the ground beside the injured nymph before easing the surprisingly light body into the soft leather, careful not to aggravate the horrendous injury.
With no real idea how to assist a creature of the woods, he cut his wrist on his fangs and dripped the magical blood onto the worst of the wounds.
Completely intent on his task, Spike missed the sparkle of magic as blood met bark, and also failed to hear the sigh of the old tree as one of her own was cared for by a most unlikely savior.
Spike held his friend protectively until dawn, but as the sun began her rise in the sky, the creature of the night attempted to shuffle sideways, even though his own injured behind meant the exercise was both awkward and painful. He wasn’t even sure the shade would be enough for the day, but figured he had bought himself a few hours at least before sunlight caused problems. More worrying was the possible discovery by humans as they were now in a south facing wedge created by two enormous roots and fully visible to anyone visiting the cemetery.
Spike wondered if the nymph’s recuperative abilities were as speedy as his own, and contemplated the prospect of literally digging in for cover, then remembered that it was almost twenty four hours since he had eaten, that he had been lending his energies to his savagely scored friend for almost six, and that he was utterly exhausted physically *and* emotionally. So he simply tucked the old duster more securely around his friend, rested his head back on the gnarled old bark of Xander’s beloved tree and drifted off to sleep as morning broke.
But the dear tree did not forget her own so easily. Some time during the day Spike had vaguely remembered reclining further as the surface under him become softer. He relaxed as the body he held pushed around a little to blanket him. The vampire slept and the nymph healed.
Spike woke in a slight state of panic, he knew instinctively that it was late afternoon.
Logic told him that he should be on fire, but instead, struggled to comprehend where he was or why.
It was almost black but Spike felt safe. It was quiet and smelt of… earth. Not the sour earth of burial but the living sweet earth that sustains all its creatures in some way. Preternatural eyes made out that they were in some sort of cave – but one that had sawdust cushioning the floor. He shifted a little and the move disturbed his charge. Sleepy brown eyes framed by long green fronds blinked up at him as the nymph whispered a loving, “Thank you… Mother thanks you… safe now… all safe…”
Spike knew it was true. The tree had enveloped them both protecting them from prying humans and the deadly sun. He dripped a little more of his own blood onto the slowly knitting wounds of his friend, then relaxed back to sleep away the afternoon and try to heal himself.
Spike woke warm and covered by a strong male form, as his internal demon clock registered the coming sunset. He took in his surroundings a little – the vaulted cave structure, the smooth walls and the lovely male in his arms. He ran feather light touches over the raised scars on his lovely friend’s back, relieved to feel that they were no longer oozing sap. It was sadly obvious that there would be some sort of permanent scar on the previously unmarked back.
Xander shifted a little, lifting the soft bark flap covering his nether regions. The semi-hard member of the nymph now rested slightly to the side of the denim clad member of the vampire’s and Spike stilled as the figure over him undulated a little and ground down in the midst of an obviously lovely dream. Spike smiled as an odd thought occurred, perhaps ‘Morning wood’ was not a term invented by humans after all.
As his own arousal began to rise, the vampire swiftly adjusted their position easing his charge to the side and shaking him gently. “Harris…. Harris?? C’mon… wakey, wakey?! Need you to help us out of here pet… C’mon luv… Open those pretty eyes…”
Xander woke to concerned blue eyes and lifted a leaf encircled hand to stroke his dear savior. His back still smarted, but he felt the presence of his tree surrounding them and relaxed.
“C’mon Pet – need to move from here and figure you’re the only one who can do that… Not that I don’t appreciated your dear lady givin’ us a hand and all. Right neighborly of her I figure.”
Xander sat up slowly, wincing as the act tugged at newly knitted and still tender tissue. The nymph leaned over to a section of wall with a single line of moss running down the wall of their enclosure and stroked the greenery gently. The result was a shudder that had Spike scanning the room with worry, before a near perfect triangular opening simply… appeared.
Xander stepped out first – lending his hand to Spike and tugging the vampire from their temporary home before ignoring the vampire for a moment and hugging the base of the tree and turning to his rescuer.
In a move that was both preternaturally fast and surprising, Xander kissed his rescuer hard and passionately on the lips, whispered “Thank you” then launched himself up his tree.
Spike was still reeling from the act as he tried to track the path of his changed friend. He finally spotted the perfectly camouflaged figure, and then only by his green ankle adornments shivering as he stood on one of the highest branches and hugged the central trunk before gradually making his way down as he meticulously checked every branch and attended to the needs of his charge.
Spike grinned as two rather cheeky squirrels chattered enthusiastically to the nymph as he descended past their abode, but sobered as he observed his friend arriving at the place of his torture.
The tree bore identical scars to that of her nymph. Hers were still raw and the boy flinched as he touched the damaged bark. Spike watched as Xander began to lovingly lave the heart shaped cut, flinching with the tug on his own scars as he bent to lick the point of the heart and made his way up the ugly wound.
Despite his own injuries and lack of feeding, Spike was almost instantly at the side of his lovely changed friend with open wrist dripping precious Master Vampire blood into the deep cuts in the tree.
Xander looked up in wonder after three potent drips of coppery flavored crimson fluid ran over his tongue as he applied his own healing saliva to the injury.
Unlike the same act when the vampire had assisted his dear friend, both Spike and Xander saw the sparkle of magic as nymph saliva and vampire blood combined and the tree’s bark knitted almost immediately. Xander spun to kiss his vampire friend again in joy as his mistress healed. As miraculous as the restoration of the tree was, neither expected the rumbled message that seemed to speak through their feet where they connected to the soil, as the earth herself woke to acknowledge the act.
“We thank you dark one. Your unselfish act in saving two of our own – two who are so linked – is noted. Your generosity and noble nature is noted as unique, as is your friendship with our dear child of the forest. You are welcome in the realm of the protectors, the fae, vampire. You will always be welcome.”
Spike’s wrist was still dripping blood slowly onto the tree as Xander tugged it gently and pulled the bleeding limb to his cool mouth, licked it closed then apparently effortlessly lifted his friend with him as he ascended high into his tree.
Before he registered exactly what was going on, Spike found himself straddling the thickest part of the third top most branch of the ancient living entity, his fae friend spooning him from behind.
Spike’s eyes went wide as he spied creatures that were rarely if ever seen by either human or demon community members. Even when spotted, the faeries and nymphs were generally written off as a trick of the light, mistaken for a strange reflection in a droplet of water, or viewed as some late night antics of a moth or night flyer.
Xander hugged his friend close as the vampire gasped unneeded breaths as he spied three mischievous faeries playing hide and go seek with a family of young field mice; watched three glowing green figures tuck a rather adventurous fledgling owl back into his nest high in the old oak opposite; and observed a very pretty blue water nymph raise herself onto the a large granite rock in the middle of the cemetery’s water feature and begin preening her hair using the glassy surface of the pond as mirror and her own fingers as a comb.
Spike turned to Xander with a wicked grin, despite the twinge of pain in his still wounded buttock, “She’s a bit of alright mate… Should get yourself a decent lily pad and make a …”
The vampire was not allowed to finish the sentence as the wood nymph shook his head in protest then took his friend’s mouth possessively.
Spike felt himself overbalance and began to fall. He panicked slightly but strong arms surrounded him and the kiss continued as the tree arrested the descent of her beloved nymph and his chosen. As she eased them onto one of her lower broad branches, Spike broke the kiss.
He caressed the smooth pale green skin in wonder. “Don’t wanna start somethin’ you don’t want pet… You sure? Cause gotta say… you ‘n me… never really a thing before… but that…”
Xander’s finger staid his diatribe and he simply whispered, “This isn’t before.”
“No it’s not luv… no it’s not… so…”
Before the rest of the thought could be completed, Dawn’s voice penetrated the night and they both spotted the former Key moving swiftly toward Spike’s crypt.
“Spike?? Spike!! Come on Spike… *please* be there!!... Where are you Spike?... Oh Please…”
Xander untangled their hug and squeezed Spike’s hand affectionately, while mouthing, “Tomorrow?”
“Too right, Luv… splinters or none I’m here.” Then the vampire was off in the direction of the girl.
Dawn was pacing around his unoccupied crypt, torch in hand, by the time Spike caught up with her. He had been surprised by the spiraling level of fatigue and pain he felt the instant he left Xander and Mother Tree. By the time he reached the crypt he was very near collapse.
He leaned heavily on the metal door, took a moment to wince in pain before calling to the girl inside with the hope of avoiding a stake in the chest (if his training of her had been effective!).
“Oi… Bit… Lookin’ for me?”
Dawn was the epitome of annoyance when she heard the familiar voice. She dropped the box of bagged, out of date human blood she had purchased from the hospital on the ground, in order to place hands on her hips and round on the person she saw more as ‘big brother’ than friend.
“*You*!!! You *meanie*!! Where the Hecketty have you…?” She was about to move forward to give him an affectionate slap but stopped in her tracks as Spike inhaled an unnecessary breath and tried to answer. “Oh G#$... *Spike*!!!”
Her own irritation was forgotten as the vampire’s legs gave out and he dropped in a dead faint, hitting his head with an unhealthy crunch against the corner of a concrete sarcophagus as he fell.
Mere seconds later Dawn had the gravely ill vampire in her lap, gently squeezing blood into his mouth, stroking his neck to encourage him to swallow and examining him for the cause of collapse. When she had left blood for him a couple of evenings ago, he had been on the improve, now he looked… drained.
He had not eaten the previous supply she had brought for him – that was obvious, but the near translucent skin, sunken cheeks and dark rings around his eyes suggested that he had given away much of his internal supply to someone.
All she could find was a deeply wounded wrist with a bite mark that reflected Spike’s own current dental pattern (one fang missing an unmistakable feature!) But none of it made sense.
If he had turned someone, he would be flush with new blood; if he had been in another fight, there would be more evidence of new injuries; and if he’d been helping demons, there would be no need to donate blood. It was also unlikely that he would give blood to any but ‘his own’ (the Scoobies) even in a crisis! So Dawn worried. Feeding had brought on his game face and it was clear that the missing fang had not even begun to regenerate.
The figure in her arms moaned a little and she ventured a concerned hand down his side to where she knew the worst of the injuries from the fight nearly a week ago had occurred. She was horrified to feel his jeans looser than normal and that she could still feel a large indentation where flesh should have been. She pulled away her fingers as his body silently arched away from the pain of her touch even in his unconscious state.
Dawn ceased the exploration in preference to adjusting his position so his injured buttock was off the floor and head was in her lap. She then tugged the box of blood toward her and began to feed him bag after bag of the healing elixir.
Somewhere around bag seven, her charge sighed a little and rolled further so his face was against her torso and pale hand gently rested on the lower part of her left arm. She distinctly heard a mumbled “Sorry Pet”, before her vampire was again unconscious.
Dawn eventually dragged Spike to the old mattress he had tucked on a corner of his crypt, safe from the sun. She fed him one more bag of blood then tucked as many blankets and old clothes around the vampire as she could find, adding her own sweater to the pile as an after thought. She thought for a moment before crawling in to spoon Spike with her fully clothed form – it was far too late to go wandering home through a cemetery of the Hellmouth anyway. She left a brief text message for Buffy to indicate she was “Zzing at Ss Fone on”
She knew Spike did not have body heat, but even after she departed as the morning sun peeped over the horizon, she hoped that the nest of covers might hold the warmth for a time while he healed.
Xander snuggled into his position under the bark and communed with his tree for the day, still buzzing with the earth’s energy. His marked tissue and that of his dear tree healed together and they both silently thanked the wonderful creature who had given his blood so willingly that they might be well.
Xander had hoped to see his lovely rescuer the following night, as Spike had promised, however had emerged from his daytime resting place and tended his tree for several hours with no sign of his friend.
He sat high in the tree in the early hours grinning at the antics of the three rather naughty faeries who resided in the huge camellia bush nearest his tree. Their giggles were infectious as they taunted each other and their fellow creatures with endless harmless games and practical jokes, but by the end of the night, even their good spirits could not cheer Xander. He watched and waited, and waited and watched.
By the time his mother tree enveloped him again for the day, he was more than ready to be comforted. His friend had not come.
Mid morning she felt his still conscious form sigh sadly when he should have been sleeping, and worried for her nymph. Her bark pulled him a little closer than normal, and the feeding frond returned to comfort rather than nourish as she squeezed a little of her own sap deep into his system. He suckled and finally slept.
The following night was the same, though even the light fall of rain so sorely needed at this time of year failed to lift Xander’s mood. His green tresses hung limp despite the infusion of life giving fluid and he huddled chin on his knees in the softest spot he could find amongst his mother’s roots. She allowed a slight wind that came with the rain to push the leaves of her lower branches and caressed her sad boy. He was so young and caring, but with her age came immense patience, a virtue she knew he too would learn in time.
The tree felt the dark being’s energy still present in the cemetery, though worried a little that it was very weak. She would have conveyed the knowledge but Xander was too busy contemplating all the things that might have gone wrong to prevent his new friend from visiting yet again. Xander meanwhile, worried that his had been too forward and caused the vampire to have second thoughts regards their friendship; or that the mostly human female who called for him, had meant him no good; or that some other demon had taken exception to the vampire’s acceptance into the fae family and hurt him.
As a second tear dripped and slowed as it turned to sticky amber as Xander’s thoughts turned even darker. As he did so, his tree welcomed a rather damp and bedraggled little male faerie as the lad sought refuge from the rain under the shelter of her canopy. The pretty boy fluttered awkwardly around the fork of the first large branch for a time, pleased to note there were many dry patches where he might rest and preen his rather soggy wings. As he wrapped his sodden appendages around his tiny form and shivered a little, contemplating a day with the tree, a soft keening below him drew his attention.
He recognized the sobbing nymph as the tree’s newly chosen (and rather pretty) protector and worried. He like, all the fae in the area, had felt unusual energies flowing two nights previous, and heard Mother Earth accepting a dark one into their realm, and (due to a rather silly game of hide and seek with faerie Lily and a rather enraged ghost moth) had spied the now upset nymph below and the strange dark one kissing a few nights previous! They looked so lovely together… so happy! What could possibly be wrong?
Harry took matters into his own hands, and standing on the broad branch, much as a pint sized Peter Pan might with hands on his hips and a look of resolve, he shook his wings as hard as his little form could manage. A mist of tiny droplets marked his wings ready for flight and he launched his pretty silver blue form from the mother tree, alighting on his large fae cousin’s shoulder mere seconds later.
Xander registered the light touch on his shoulder and waft of cinnamon scent before a tiny voice began to whisper in his ear… “Is this about your pretty dark friend?”
Xander uncurled a little and looked at the pretty blue figure mere inches from his nose and gave a rather weak nod. Harry folded his arms in a rather flimsy attempt at further bravado in the presence of his much larger fae cousin. His tough attitude diminished however as wings began to beat gently, obviously ready for flight should he be literally ‘brushed off’. But no such thing occurred as Xander lifted a leaf encircled hand and brushed the little creature’s torso with gentle fingers and breathed a “Thanks”.
The act was soothing and the nymph smiled as the little faerie relaxed obviously enjoying the loving touch of his cousin of the wood. A sparkle of green and blue intertwined as the two made contact, and then it was gone. The moment past, Harry was back to the task at hand.
“Right … well since I’ve got the wings and you’re stuck here… how about I go look… can’t take long if he’s around can it!”
With no more adieu, the swift silvery blue figure departed only to return a matter of minutes later.
The little faerie looked rather distressed, and Xander felt as though cold rocks had suddenly taken up residence in his stomach. “He is in pain Cousin… I think he needs our help.”
This one is dedicated to petxnd with thanks for her lovely manip <a href="http://community.livejournal.com/bloodclaim/1594921.html#cutid1">Xander and Harry
Xander turned away from his helpful friend, falling against his lovely maker. He hugged her broad moss covered base in preference, first for reassurance then simply for comfort. The lovely one who had helped them both when they were carved so savagely was in trouble. He seemed so strong so… why was he hurting so desperately that he could not move to visit?!
Harry took exception to being ‘blanked’, and moved to hover right beside one of Xander’s pointed ears. He used a closed tiny fist and smacked the tip with all his might.
When Xander turned in surprise, his little silver-blue friend was waiting at eye level, “Oi!!! I just flew half way across this cemetery for you! *Least* you can do is a ‘thanks’ and ‘*gee* what do you think we should do brave Harry!!!’”
Over his days since his first emerging from his tree, Xander had come to terms with the idea that he would never have more voice than the sound of a breeze rustling through leaves, but also knew that this was not a problem for his brothers and sisters of the fae. Harry’s voice was youthfully strong and resonant to those of the realm, but would have sounded like the twitter of a small robin were a human or ‘unwelcome other’ to hear it. A fine example was now, as Xander’s sensitive hearing clearly heard Harry’s reprimand as that of a very annoyed, older cousin.
Harry was getting more and more agitated with the inaction of the nymph, but held his temper (just) and tried to remind himself that wood nymphs were always a bit inclined to do their ‘tree thing’ if really upset. But faeries…?! Harry really did enjoy his faerie status… when it came to action or a bit of a fight (on a skirmish level of course), faeries were *always* in the thick of it.
Finally Xander turned around completely and leaned against the mother tree, taking strength from her moss covered bark. He held up a rather shaky, leaf encircled hand and Harry landed elegantly to wait while the nymph found his rarely used voice. “Thank you… cousin. But… How can I help if it’s so far away ?! I can’t leave her! I…”
Harry suddenly realized the problem. This one was *so* young, not even two weeks from emerging. The boy would never have ventured from his tree yet, probably didn’t even know he could! The faerie’s annoyance dissipated immediately and he signaled for Xander to take a seat at the foot of his tree. He then found himself a perch on the nymph’s pale knee. He folded his own wings and wriggled a little to get comfortable before beginning a patient lecture.
“You may belong to her for all time, dear cousin, but she freed you from her folds for a reason. Even so very young, you have already bravely borne her pain and found her a truly unique ally – the dark one from your before who straddles human, demon and now fae realms with ease, and is a champion in all. But then, I don’t doubt that she knew you would prove your worth. She had waited *so* long to embrace you, her rightful one.
“You came here often before accepting your new form, cousin. I saw you… a warrior at the side of the Slayer… Then *finally* you came alone with the amber pendant around your neck…!” Harry went rather starry eyed at that point then added, “All creatures of our realm rejoiced as she took you as her Hamadryad… but when your champion proved himself too *then* was accepted by the Earth mother too?! Well… it has been *so* long… But it’s no wonder...” Harry sighed, “You are both so pretty.”
Xander’s eyes flew wide as several flashes from his vague memories of ‘the before’ strung together: Dark beings and magic; sad family, happy friends and… fighting; duster, Docs and Spike; the former dark one… Anyanka…; and the six month anniversary present - a smooth chunk of amber on plain narrow strip of black leather; then it all blurred and … tree… tree… [sigh] … tree.
“Oi, you big oaf!” Harry’s wings caught the air mid tilt as Xander moved his legs with the memory and he regained his composure.
Harry had tipped off Xander’s knee and resumed his hover as his young friend attempted to integrate the information with his own thoughts now and a little of his memories of ‘before’ with other more pressing matters. “So it was the amber? That’s the only reason… I was…? But I thought… she didn’t want me?!” Xander’s slow blink allowed the tears he was trying so hard to hold back, spread across the long green lashes to lie like morning dew, before dissipating in a mist as he tried to blink them away.
Harry caught up with his young friend’s vulnerable thinking, “No wood for brains!!! It was *her* amber, the amber of your line! Her Hamadryad, *Her* wood nymph… It’s made of the same sap as now runs through you. And that she chose *you* (and she did choose you) meant that she had to get it to you, and then for you to accept it – and sometimes the how and when, with that sort of thing is incredibly tricky. And even after that… you still had to accept her. But finally, you must have answered her call. She would have known, but also known that she needed still to be patient.”
“What call? All I remember is putting the stone on. It did this sort of glowy thing for a second but…”
“… you thought it was a trick of the light or some little happiness spell for the occasion. And I’ll bet you said, ‘Thanks, I love it’, then you would have said ‘I love you’. Don’t you see??!! That’s when she, your maker would have known! After that, she had to wait for you, her chosen, you had to come to her. And she has been waiting for *so* long. Her last chosen was taken by a vampire before even had the chance to be embraced by her… but now she has you.”
Xander thought hard to try to access his memories of ‘the before’. Harry was right, he had said those things, though at the time he seemed to recall saying them to someone else, but that couldn’t be, since his next clear memories were of being in her loving embrace.
Xander gave the little faerie a rather teary nod before he stood, turned, and hugged his tree again, conveying his gratitude and adoration. It may not have been his choice to be a nymph, rather, it seemed it must have been his destiny, and one he was now truly thankful for.
Integrating all the old memories with new fae information, Xander finally he turned back to Harry looking (once again) very distressed as his train of thought returned to the original reason for the conversation, “But… our lovely savior, what of him? I still can’t help if I am fixed within her confines.”
“I was getting to that! And just for the record – you are *years off* the planting thing and yeah… you’ll learn about that in time, this time is yours to use!” Harry rolled his eyes, “Listen, when you’re new, you need the Mother Tree. You’ll mature and she will need you more and more - you know? For the things she can’t do - like move swiftly to get help, or stop someone doing her harm.
“She needs you to tend some of the little creatures she feeds and protects, and to care for and heal her wounds. And for sure, you can go wherever you like, for as long as you like, once you’re weaned completely – and that usually only takes a few years… See you bed down for a full on suckle all night, every night so far, am I right?!”
The last statement was said with such a cheeky grin that Xander’s pale skin flushed a pretty green for a moment, and Harry saw the nymph’s hand reach out to caress the moss covered trunk once more as he whispered, “Yes, but I…”
“Oh, don’t get your twigs in a twist!! Everyone needs feeding, most of your lot never give it away completely, and you? Dear boy you are *so* young! C’mon! Of *course* you need her every night!! But eventually you’ll be able to fend for yourself – even bask in the sun once you sort your magic properly.”
Xander’s eyes went wide as he imagined the warmth he felt each day through the bark of his protector, actually including the life giving light as it directly shone onto his own soft pale coverings, and on his leaves… He let out a sigh of anticipation.
“Anyways, having said all that, you can *never* leave her. You do know that, right? You will be prepared for ‘the turn’ over time… most *love* it! But seriously, that’s decades away.”
Xander didn’t understand the last ‘turn’ reference but nodded vigorously, “Wouldn’t ever… Couldn’t!! Love her… Love her *so* much!”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. So for now…” Harry took flew down, took a fist full of Xander’s wrist leaves and tugged as he flew skyward and vaguely in the direction of Spike’s crypt. Xander had no choice but to follow, “That’s it… *finally*! Now keep walking and listen. I’ll keep you safe and lead you to your dark friend, you fix him, and we can be back to your tree by sunup. It’s all good.”
Harry’s broad grin and obvious confidence in the plan had the young nymph rather mindlessly following the faerie until they were both well away from the Mother Tree.
It was only when Harry insisted they scramble through a number of quite dark thickets and skirt the small lake Xander had spied from his tree that he realized just how far they had come.
He was about to panic as he looked back and realised he could only just see her upper canopy, when literally bumped into Harry. He would have complained, but a tiny hand signaled him to be utterly silent and simply look.
A line of five crypts stood opposite them, separated by only a small expanse of lawn.
“He’s in the first on our right… Well? Go on!” But it really was too late, Xander entered panic mode at the prospect of going across more open lawn, taking him even further from his tree, and seemed to be rooted to the spot. She wasn't there and he was facing something and somewhere unknown, something from his 'before' realm and he couldn’t help it. He began to shake then became totally still. By the time Harry realized what was happening and looked down, the nymph’s feet had begun to dig themselves in, the long nails and toes literally trying to anchor Xander to the Earth.
“Ho *no* you don’t! Spoiled my fun enough for one night! Here we go…”
With that Harry flew in, grabbed on of the nymph’s long green tresses pulling two lines of leaves out painfully. The young Xander finally broke from his attempt to make roots as the fronds of leaves Harry currently held were beginning to hurt too. Harry’s harsh words, the stress of the evening and his own buried feet predicament found him struggling to move and do as instructed. Eventually Harry literally tugged the terrified nymph toward the crypt.
His feet were still heavy and covered in sodden soil but he tried to speed across the open area and toward their destination, the consequence being a rather inelegant stumble just before the pushing aside the hefty door.
It would have been embarrassing but the being inside (Xander and the Mother Tree’s rescuer) was incapable of noticing.
Spike was facing away from the entrance, curled in a ball on a tattered old sofa, rocking himself and keening quietly. Xander immediately forgot all his fear and raced to his friend’s side. He gently lifted the stricken figure’s head and shoulders and eased himself onto the couch so the blonde dark one’s head was in his bark covered lap.
Harry flew to the cool box on the ground next to the sofa, managed to leaver the lid up but only managed to frustrate himself trying to lift a bag until Xander looked down to see what all the swearing was about. Xander smiled gratefully at the scowling blue figure
Harry took the opportunity to depart for a few minutes – he knew better than to leave such a young one alone for long but really did need to catch up with one of the water nymphs he’d seen playing as they scooted around the tiny lake. Five minutes couldn’t hurt!
Spike woke to a cool hand stroking his hair and his head on a surprisingly soft but muscular lap.
His head still hurt terribly but the pain wasn’t just there – it seemed to radiate outward from some central point. Instinctively he knew, he had been injured many times before, but something about saving the tree and her nymph had pushed his system to the limit. It was as though he had some sort of serious virus. Were it not for Dawn’s caring efforts he would have dusted. The odd part was that even the human blood she brought didn’t quite seem enough to cure the malaise.
Xander’s soft mane of green tresses fell lightly against the alabaster skin of the vampire as he took one of the bags Harry had revealed, punctured it with his nail then continued to stroke the blonde hair and smile down at the vampire, now in game face as he fed. Three bags on and the nymph sensed something more was needed. Without thinking he firmed his mud covered feet against the dirt floor and appealed to Gaia herself to provide his treasured friend with energy.
Still operating totally on instinct Xander pulled Spike up to his chest – mouth level with his knot hole like nipple. The nymph then watched amazed as a feeding frond literally burst from the bud on his chest and pushed into the vampire’s mouth. He relaxed as he felt the vampire latch on and allow the sweet sap to pulse in and mix with the blood in the other's system, gradually restoring Spike's balance.
For one so young, the nymph’s act was extraordinary… and resulted in both giver and receiver falling into a deep, exhausted sleep, Xander reclining and Spike draped over him. The vampire was in human face again with his tongue still licking ever so occasionally over the now retracted nipple that had so recently fed him.
And that was how Harry found them nearly an hour later. “Oh dear... What have you done now?!!”
Harry hovered for a minute and noted the slightly green tinge to the vampire’s alabaster skin. It was all the confirmation he needed.
Xander jolted to awareness as his tiny blue friend bit him hard on the tip of his pointed ear.
“You Dolt! What in the name of Mother Earth do you think you’re doing!! He was already taken by your Tree *and* our Mother Earth… They had accepted his blood …. And now… by feeding him outside what is his…” Harry finally simply gave up as it was obvious Xander was more worried about his friend than listening to a small faerie.
Harry knew from the smell that only sap and blood had been exchanges but if the two completed the exchange and were truly bound in the fae sense (spirit and body) then there would be other consequences, irreversible consequences, particularly when it came to the planting. For the vast majority of wood nymphs there would never be an issue – most were solo individuals, happy with their tree and occasional interactions with others of their species, but this Xander was obviously the exception.
Harry decided (perhaps for the first time in his charmed life), that nobles oblige dictated that he say nothing and allow the two the opportunity for happiness and to discover the stages for themselves . When his very sensitive gossamer wings felt a warm breath of wind inside the chilly crypt, he knew his decision had been the right one. Even Mother Earth knew that the two unique beings would adjust to and enjoy their changes gradually.
Harry was still contemplating just a little ‘hint’ when a noise at the door of the crypt saw him disappearing behind the tattered crimson couch in a matter of seconds.
Xander was still reeling with Harry’s reprimand, and worrying about his pale and still recovering friend when the human barged into the crypt unannounced. He panicked but could not move without dislodging Spike so staid completely still… absolutely still and unbeknownst to the young nymph, in the process, shifted his visible form to appear like a large pile of bark and leaves.
“Oh my… Spike!... What the…??”
All Dawn could see in the dim light of the crypt, was Spike lying prone on some sort of… well there were definitely leaves but she really wasn’t sure.
What she *could* see was that he clearly had not consumed all the blood she had provided – and had even left the lid of the cooler open! As she walked toward the vampire she could also see that he was obviously sleeping rather than unconscious. She did a quick scan, there were no empty bottles nor was there unmistakable smell of stale alcohol that sometimes permeated his crypt, and his wounds were definitely healing. But Dawn herself was not really of the human world, and felt the shimmer of magic in the room.
Harry only knew the large human female to be a friend of the vampire – one who had brought the much needed blood and worried about her friend… and she was very pretty in a human sort of a way (though no girl would ever compare to his cousin Lily). But he could see her bright green aura – and felt the trace of ‘other’ about her. He dared not reveal himself just yet, so folded his wings and edged around the base of the couch keeping the girl in sight as she walked toward Spike.
Harry realized that if she actually made contact with Xander (who he had to admit, for a young one, had done a mighty fine job of camouflaging himself), the poor young nymph would return to his proper state and be left totally exposed. The faerie was still contemplating his method of distracting the female when Spike’s muffled groan preceded shifting a little and snuggling further against his friend. Dawn rushed forward at the sound and it was all too late.
Harry was close to tears himself as he flopped down to observe what was sure to be a terrible scene. Adult humans were always so troubled when coming in contact with any of the fae, always trying to capture them or test them or… it was all too awful to contemplate. They were a pair like no other and now it would be his fault that the new nymph would be captured! He had encouraged him away from the tree … but he had *meant well* but the tree would never see it like that… and her nymph had been *so* young and *so* special.
As Dawn’s toes made contact with some leaves and Spike’s feet, and the vampire moved again Harry could no longer bear to watch and hid his face in his hands, knowing that Xander would not be able to hold his change if Spike moved now. He would lose his wings for sure! Perhaps, if he appealed to Mother Earth directly – on the grounds he was just trying to help, he would be allowed to fly after a year or two ‘on probation’. He didn’t hold out much hope. And it was made so much worse now the two had exchanged fluids and moved toward the pairing.
Spike groaned and rolled off his lovely companion. With the combination of the touch by the intruder and Spike moving, Xander felt his so carefully constructed form shift back and could not help rolling into a fetal ball covering his leaf covered head with his arms. He tried desperately to think of a plan of escape or conceal himself again, but only managed to upset himself so much that he began to shake and do a nymph version of a whimper.
Spike woke fully as Dawn let out a scream when a curled figure that looked near human simply appeared where a pile of leaf litter had been. Dawn automatically produced a stake and container of mace - the former courtesy of Spike’s training, and ironically the latter a gift from Xander the previous year – to protect her from ‘human *and* demon nasties’.
Spike immediately saw Xander’s distress and moved to protect his lovely friend, springing to his feet with an ease that had not been possible even twelve hours before. He threw himself between the girl and the now shivering greenish figure. “Wait! Bit… Wait!! It’s a friend… a *friend* Dawn… Luv… Please!”
Dawn lowered her weapons but stood defensively as Spike pulled the pretty (and judging by the muscular back and legs) male form into his lap, wrapping his arms around the still tightly balled figure. “Spike!! Who or *what* is…” Her voice was far too loud for the young nymph, and Spike felt him flinch yet again. “Shhh, Bit…. Shhh!!! Lad here’s a might skittish. Give ‘im a chance ‘t get used to you again.”
Spike began to slowly stroke the mane of soft green leaves and gently eased the arms down, encouraging Xander to roll further into his protector’s chest.
Dawn gasped as the man sighed and gradually unfolded. The long pale legs relaxed and extended until the muscular, leaf adorned limbs were clearly visible. As Xander’s arms slowly found their way to quietly embrace the pale vampire, Dawn could see the leafy wrist cuffs and wondered as the long tresses of leaves fell loose to cascaded across strong shoulders.
Spike spoke in such a low rumbling tone that Xander lost himself in the lovely deep sound and was able to focus on the comfort provided as Spike stroked him slowly. He ached for his tree, but for now his friend was here and felt… cool and calm and smelt vaguely of the Mother. He lifted a leafy hand reached up and fingers tangling in short hair, so different to his own fronds and leaves, yet soft and wonderful. Despite his upset he smiled with Spike purred just a little as Xander’s iron hard sharp nails scratched lightly over the vampire’s scalp.
“What do you mean.. ‘Again??’”
Spike realized his slip but also knew that Dawn had adored Xander, and cried for days when he was finally declared missing, believed dead. He owed it to her, and also knew that the young woman was the safest ‘first contact’ with humans as the changed Xander – the extraordinarily brave, newly emerged nymph, tried hard to assimilate the ‘before’ with his current existence.
Spike was all but whispering as he addressed the former Key, “Need you to be calm now Pet. Gotta tell you somethin’ that just between you ‘n me… You’re not to say a word to *anyone* else… Got it – not big Sis or Red… *No one* Yeah??!”
Dawn nodded profusely then mimed zipping her lips.
“’preciated Pet… Now… Just need you to be calm and quiet. Reckon you can do that?”
Dawn remained motionless for a moment then silently lowered herself to the crypt floor a little distance from the pair, and sat without uttering a sound as the young nymph unfolded bit by bit.
Spike turned away a little opened his wrist and as the nymph took a little of his blood, accepted the offered suckling root from Xander’s chest. After but two long slow drafts, both males released and Xander was calm once more, reassured that he had fed and helped his friend, and almost forgetting his recent terror.
Spike almost forgot they had an observer but turned as Dawn’s very pointed “Psst! Spike *please*… What’s going on?!”
Spike saw Dawn’s eyes go wide as two innocent and frightened green framed, chocolate orbs turned to face hers and the girl recognized the face. He quickly filled in the missing information, “Yes Pet… It’s Xander… It’s the boy… the Scoobie… your sister’s old friend… the original white hat… the one we lost…. But he’s been changed, Luv… found ‘im only a few nights ago.”
Spike reassured his lovely friend with a tightened hug as he continued to calm the young woman in his midst. “He’s one of the fae now, Pet. A Hamadryad… And before you ask.. yes it’s a ‘done deal’… But please Bit … He’s so young… you’ve gotta give him a bit o’ leeway for bein’ flighty, plus we’ve been through a bit of a scare. Lad’s never changed… left ‘is Mother Tree to help me, and now look. Poor Luv” Spike whispered with such adoration that Dawn was sure it was ‘good’ but still utterly confused.
Spike reached out to Dawn with a free hand, “Pop down, Pet. Lad’s all confused and out of ‘is tree… literally.”
Dawn’s eyes went wide as she lowered herself to a non threatening crouch. Her hand met with Xander’s free, leaf encircled hand. It was cool, and felt like… smooth soft… wood.
Xander was still trembling but felt strangely reassured by the girl’s gentle touch. Spike’s tight embrace and Harry’s emergence from his hiding place (though not yet visible to the girl) was even more reassuring.
Dawn could not help herself and had reached out to stroke the soft leaves that sprouted from Xander’s scalp “How??”
“Don’t rightly know Pet… But the boy here’s new, need ta treat ‘im gentle-like.”
Dawn kept stroking her sister’s former friend’s leaves… her ‘other big brother’; their missing – assumed dead – Scoobie… and tried to take in the changes. She whispered, “No problem…” then addressed Spike`”Hey Xan… remember me? Buffy’s sister… the Key… you know… the ‘kid’?? ” She trailed off as the fearful eyes simply stared at her. Finally a little recognition seemed to enter his eyes and a slight smile graced his lips.
Xander was still desperately trying to place the female from his ‘before’, and couldn’t quite work out the full link, but was relieved to identify her as ‘friend’, her touch was soft as she stroked him, and he took comfort from the cool arms of his vampire. He knew instinctively that she would not hear him even if he chose to say something, so simply stared at the pretty face.
“A wood nymph Pet. Not to be messed with when it comes to ‘is tree.”
“And… he’s… He is still very handsome!”
“Reckon you’re right there Pet.”
“But surely Willow could… you know reverse…”
Harry could restrain himself no longer. The dark one was obviously recovered and although it was nice that this mostly human girl was friendly… he just *had* to get the nymph back to his tree or the boy would suffer for weeks and his own wings would be clipped for his trouble. He was not exactly sure of his plan but figured it would work itself out somehow.
Unfortunately the little blue fairy miscalculated the span of his wings and the length of the couch in his panic to secure a rescue, and he collided embarrassingly with the wall, before getting his bearings and hovering in front of the larger trio.
For Dawn, the discovery of Xander, even changed as he was, was the source of great joy. The emergence of Harry was confirmation of childhood fantasies and Xander’s change all rolled into one. Harry could not stand being *giggled* at, so appealed to Spike.
“He came to help you! Now you have to do the same for him you big dolt!!! He *has* to get back! Come on… He *has* to or you’re gonna have one sick young nymph on your hands.”
Spike suddenly realized that there was very little time to lose and hoisted the nymph up to carry him as one might a new bride. Dawn followed the couple whilst Harry let out a loud sigh of relief and brought up the rear. Explanations would be required later – particularly from Harry.
The rather mismatched group of four made it back to the Mother Tree shortly after two in the morning.
Spike and Xander walked back with strong cool arms around each other. Dawn had her hand in Spike’s, whilst giving furtive looks across to Xander. Their blue friend Harry was seated happily on Xander’s shoulder and was simply relieved that the events of the night had resulted in all the members of their little group being safe.
The Mother tree audibly sighed as her new nymph approached, and the earth around Xander’s leaf encircled feet seemed to vibrate with joy as she called to him through their unbreakable link.
Harry flew off in a rather annoyed flurry of wings, and Dawn could not believe her eyes as the former Scoobie rushed forward to throw himself against the tree with relief, then promptly disappeared into the bark of her strong trunk.
“Oh Spike! What the… ?!” She ran to the tree, running her hands over the bark at the place where Xander had literally melted away.
“’S OK Pet… ‘S OK. It’s what he does… He needs ‘er… Every night, has to have a feed same as every babe in arms…” Spike tugged at Dawn’s arm and encouraged her away from the tree.
“C’mon Luv… Let me walk you home before Big Sis notices you gone ehhh?? You head on back in a day or two and have another chat, see if the lad remembers you, yeah? Sure the boy would like that. Reckon ‘e needs a beautiful lady ta worry ‘bout ‘im now and again.” Spike kissed Dawn on the hand then pulled the girl into a reassuring hug, before he spied Harry sitting on a low branch looking rather dejected after being apparently left out of all the excitement.
Spike pulled back from Dawn a little and winked – indicating his line of sight to his lovely Bit, before adding, “But just so’s you know… watch out for that Harry character if you’re in the vicinity… Seems to ‘ave taken a bit of a shine to ya, but I’ve heard he’s all love ‘em and leave ‘em.” Dawn grinned and replied in her most melodramatic tone, “Oh yes, I will be careful Spike… thank you for the warning.”
They were both rewarded with an indignant “Hey!!!” then a grumbled “Very funny” as the little faerie realized he was being played. Before he flew away, however, Spike caught his eye. The look of deepest gratitude was unmistakable, and Harry’s annoyance evaporated instantly. He ducked his head in a gentleman’s gesture of silent acknowledgement, then took off for home. It hadn’t been such a bad night after all.
The instant Xander felt her again everything else slid into oblivion: the vampire, the accepted one, whom he had just saved and partnered with; his naughty yet noble fae cousin Harry; and the new one, the apparently human Dawn; they all disappeared as she embraced him again.
Xander relinquished all sensibility as he relaxed into the Mother Tree. He took her frond with a sense of intense relief and love then suckled for the better part of the next twenty four hours. The tree rejoiced. Her boy was back, and despite Harry’s trepidation, the tree understood the connection between dark one and her own. She called to the dark one as the night returned… then waited.
Xander felt the day come and go, the warmth of the sun through her bark and the life giving sap pushing through his system. Yet he yearned for something more and that was new.
Spike had done as promised and delivered Dawn safely before returning to his cold crypt. The following night he attended the pre-patrol meeting at the Magic Box. Dawn caught his eye several times but said little. Her only reference to the previous evening being a simple query regards his cemetery and the residents therein.
Spike listened to the nightly report, then headed out in his usual capacity, “Just watchin’ the Slayer’s back, ‘n get in some decent violence.”
Despite their designated search and destroy plan for the evening, Spike felt an unusual inclination toward the cemetery where he knew Xander now resided. The strange part was that as the night went on, the inclination was actually better described as a compulsion, a drive, an imperative to get to the nymph again.
By midnight, Spike felt on the edge of frantic as he stood alongside the Slayer fighting three demons. Like an addict of any ilk, there seemed to be a visceral need to find Xander and the tree. It wasn’t like the urge for blood, or even the kill… those he had dealt with for years and as Master Vampire had long learned to deal with the cravings when the pickings were on the lighter side of adequate. Rather, this felt like a slow burning, like he was drying out from the inside.
Last demon dispatched, Buffy turned to her vampire compatriot-in-arms and suddenly noticed his rather atypical stillness. Usually after a fight he was all energy and cigarettes, but now he stood motionless staring wistfully into the distance.
“Is there another? Spike? Can you smell another?” Buffy was just about to yell a third time when Spike dropped to a crouch holding his stomach, “You OK Spike? Spike! What’s… Spike!! Are. You. OK??”
Spike stood slowly, arms still firmly around his own waist. “‘M fine Slayer. Just a mite sore from the other night still. Need t’ get ‘n have somethin’ to eat is all. Now how’s about you head off and I’ll take meself home for a bit of a feed yeah?”
Buffy looked vaguely suspicious at the slight brush off, but decided Spike was probably just too proud to admit his injuries hadn’t quite healed. She understood, so hefted the bag of weapons over her shoulder and took off in the direction of home.
Spike turned and made a dash for the Mother Tree and his nymph.
Around one in the morning Xander’s awareness returned fully as the feeding frond slipped from his mouth. He felt his dark one in Mother’s part of the cemetery and slid from her embrace to land silently on the ground.
Spike all but tackled the still slightly sleepy nymph to the ground in his haste to reach the tree.
Xander was pressed back onto the soil at the base of his tree, a game faced Spike straddling him, growling, and running hands all over his friend as though to reassure himself that Xander was real. Strangely the nymph felt no fear. He understood the need for his tree, now his dark friend’s as well in a way. He was further reassured as the growls turned to purrs, and the hands became gentler, caressing and stroking.
Spike leaned forward to nuzzle Xander’s neck before adjusting his position and pulling the flaps of his duster out of the way so it covered them both. The slight change brought their crotch regions together and Xander could feel his manhood straining against the bark flap to keep contact with Spike’s equally hard member.
Spike nipped and licked his way down the nymph’s chest to an already erect nipple. He salivated as his body remembered the feeding frond. He had to drink of Xander, that he knew, anything else was merely a bonus. At least that was the theory.
Apparently on instinct, he lifted up for a moment, bit his own wrist and pushed it against Xander’s cool mouth as he latched onto Xander’s already extending nipple and for the second time, felt it slide down his throat and begin to deliver precious sap direct to his stomach.
Xander acquiesced to the wonderful sensations and drank the coppery fluid from the vampire’s wrist, and though he had fed from the Mother Tree for close to twenty four hours found himself hungry for the foreign fluid.
After many minutes the feeding finally stopped and Spike raised himself to claim Xander’s mouth in a passionate kiss. The nymph’s tongue had the flavor of freshly roasted almonds. To Xander, Spike tasted like rich soil and the cool dew of the morning. Both males sighed - as did two tiny observers. Harry and his rather pretty male faerie friend Michael had perched themselves high in an adjacent tree to watch proceedings. Harry rather privately pleased with the ‘show’ as he pulled Michael close and licked the sensitive area between the other faerie’s wings.
Spike unzipped his jeans and pushed them down when both males’ arousals became all too obvious as their bodies rubbed together. As he undid his clothing with one hand Spike reached out with the other to stroke over the feather soft flap covering Xander’s manhood and heard a distinct hiss off air escaping. Spike was fascinated by the nymph’s emerald colored, erect penis literally lifting its bark covering, as Xander’s skin flushed a deep green with delight.
His hand drifted behind the flap to find the iron-hard member and the soft moss covered sac awaiting his attentions. Spike almost came as his green companion threw his arms akimbo to simply accept anything the vampire would give.
Spike moved back further, lifted the boys legs onto his shoulders and slicked the virgin hole with blood with one, two, then three fingers before entering him with his own pale shaft.
As the two coupled, Mother Earth stirred. Spike began to move as his nymph urged him on. The two tangled tongues and Spike’s hand found its way to an emerald green erection between them and added the extra friction needed.
The quake only lasted seconds, the two perpetrators oblivious as a quake of their own was enacted, Spike filling his friend and Xander shooting his virginal sap between them.
Vampire and Nymph both glowed slightly golden for some minutes and lay sated at the foot of the Mother Tree until they became aware of their surroundings when an ensuing storm caused the skies to open. It had been a dry spring so the plants and animals alike rejoiced in the unseasonal downpour.
Harry had known it was inevitable – but observing the act was an extraordinary thing! He hugged his young friend Michael close and grinned. In all his hundred and eighty years, he had never felt so pleased for another two beings. And at twenty three Michael was a baby, but even he felt the magic. He turned his handsome mauve face and kissed the mature faerie passionately before they adjourned home.
Harry felt rather inclined to reveal a few things to the new couple below… but it could wait for a day or so. He had something – or rather someone - to attend to.
Spike woke the following day mid afternoon.
He could not recall going to sleep, which was most disturbing, but instinctively knew he was safe. He recognized both the sweet smell of wood and the strong form of his nymph… his Xander… in his arms… and then he remembered.
He sat up slowly, leant against her beautiful interior and took stock. He felt different, he knew that. He could see the ever so slight green tinge to his skin of his wrist where Xander had taken sustenance. He also knew he felt thirsty, but not for blood necessarily… for… water?!
He also felt the connection… the Nymph, the Tree and the Earth… and… Angel? It had been years since he had felt it. Yet the connection with his Grandsire simply felt… calm… centered and resolved for the first time in a hundred years. It felt… peaceful and imbued with simple familial tenderness, just as he had always wished it.
He looked down at his glorious partner still sleeping peacefully, then tugged a cellphone from the pocket of his duster and hit fast dial ‘3’.
The anxious voice on the other end gave him no time to explain nor did it brook any argument, “Spike… William… I felt it! What happened? Just wait there, I’m coming… S@#$! Spike… What have you done?”
True to his word Angel arrived in Sunnydale a mere two hours later, the older vampire frantic to find his somewhat estranged Grandchilde. There were so few of the true Aurelian line left now and to his knowledge only four or five Childer in his own direct line. He had been reassured by the phonecall in a way, though the sudden surge of immense power through the ancient familial link, then the consequent quiet and distinct shift prior to Spike ringing that was entirely confusing.
The classic black convertible had a near miss with the archway entrance to the cemetery before screeching to a halt in the carpark. Not even bothering to open the door, Angel grabbed the keys and launched himself in the general direction of… Spike.
Angel could barely feel his blonde relative, but at least was able to detect the direction and took off at a run. The tenuous link with Spike now felt… profoundly changed but he could not yet say how, so surged forward. Whatever had happened to Spike was significant enough to jolt the magic balance somehow. He stopped to scent the air then pushed on toward a location at the other side of the cemetery.
Xander stirred then sat up to accept a kiss from his very awake partner. Spike was still savoring the taste of his friend as Xander brushed his hand over the Mother Tree’s soft inner wall and she opened to allow her nymph and his partner an exit to the world outside.
Utterly relaxed as Spike eased himself out of the tree, but felt *his* presence with an intensity than had occurred only a few times in over a century. And this time it was genuinely different.
Spike barely had time to push Xander behind him before Angel skidded to a halt in front of the tree.
The younger vampire instinctively slipped into game face and prepared for a confrontation, but the feelings coming through the familial link were those of concern and protectiveness, not aggression. As Angel pulled up short looking completely flabbergasted, Spike stepped forward.
They were still under her canopy, Xander was touching him, and the new part of his psyche, though still to take hold fully, gave him the distinct impression that all was well.
He reached out toward his grandsire and for the first time in over a hundred years touched Angel’s face with familial friendship as he sighed, “Hello Sire.”
The older vampire was utterly transfixed.
In the light of a half moon his Grandchilde was as ethereally beautiful as ever, but had lost his skin’s pure alabaster color in favor of a slightly green hue – and he smelt no more of blood, whiskey and cigarettes, but rather, had the fresh scent of leaves after the rain and warm, dry wood. It made no sense!
“Spike!? I… What have you done? Are you…??” Xander stepped into the moonlight just enough that Angel could see a pretty male figure wrapping his arms around his Grandchilde’s waist, but could not make out the features. Spike smiled a little, and pushed back into the offered hug.
A gust of wind was all it took for the pair to be embraced gently by a stray, leafy branch of the Mother tree. The leaves and pliable limb remained for long enough that Angel had no doubt the act was both magical in origin and deliberate in nature.
Spike closed his eyes momentarily, and as the Mother tree’s caress released, he stepped forward, stood totally still, then bared his throat for his senior relative.
Angel’s fangs were already down and the ancient vampiric gesture of a Childe was not to be denied. Yet when he moved forward to bite down on the pale neck it was with an instinctive gentleness and affection that was utterly atypical. When Angelus had bitten it had always been for domination and control, now the bite was simply a tasting for reassurance that his relative was… alright. After only a single long draft, the reciprocal exposed neck from Angel confirmed a profound shift in the relationship for the two creatures of the night.
Spike licked the muscular neck and closed the wound. After so many years, the truly renewed link only served to alert Angel to the changed status of his Childe. He pulled away to stare at the blonde in amazement – it was unheard of… in the entire Vampire history, it simply wasn’t done, yet the blood said it all.
His neck wound healing, Angel could not help caressing his Grandchilde’s cheek as he spoke in wonder, “I… I still hope for humanity… but this?! This is impossible! The fae would never take a dark one?!! But??... How??... How did you? Oh my dear William… Your not… And there will be… Geezz Spike!! It could only be you… only ever you… *Why*?”
Spike smiled rather enigmatically then tugged Xander into the light of the moon.
In human face again now, he kissed the nymph passionately then turned back to a rather stunned looking Angel, “Found the lad didn’t I… Helped ‘im then he helped me… and … well just know sommit’s a bit different.”
Angel did not immediately recognize 'the lad', but as he did, his eyes went wide with amazement. It was Xander, Buffy’s friend, the boy he had offered to Spike when they first met after almost a century as a foil to bide time. Xander who had agreed to host his Grandchilde shortly after the vampire was chipped… Xander who had gone missing… Xander… who was now standing, blinking innocently at him with leaf green lashes around dark brown eyes, and had his new bark covered fingers intertwined with Spike’s.
“Spike *no*!! How could you? I mean… And Xander? … And I tasted … Oh William!”
Xander had moved to spoon his lovely partner from behind as the changed vampire struggled to explain the events to his Grandsire. The tree too was ready to come to his defense and shuddered, causing a rain of tiny twigs and dead leaves to fall.
Xander remembered the dark visitor from his ‘before’, flashes of a dangerous vampire, and mistrust and dislike. Yet his stunning, pale partner seemed to feel differently, it was all so confusing. He wished they could enter the tree again, just merge and return to her feeding and their lovemaking.
Spike turned and kissed his young partner on the cheek whispered “Ssh pet. ‘s OK.”
Angel was desperately trying to process what might have occurred. That Spike had taken a male lover was not so surprising. That the lover was Xander a little more so, though given that the two had lived together before and considering Xander’s disastrous history with girlfriends, it was perhaps plausible. No, it was more the fact that Xander was *obviously* and profoundly changed and Angel could smell it… the former Scoobie was one of the fae folk. The shudder of the tree and associated jolt of magic left Angel in no doubt as to Xander’s wood nymph status, but he was still confused by Spike – and the apparent change there.
Angel was always pale and prone to brooding, but the look of utter confusion, genuine worry and sadness surprised even Spike. “C’mon ya ol bugger, sit down afore you fall down and let’s us have a chat, eh?”
Spike waited as Angel took the invitation and sat at the foot of the ancient tree, then pulled Xander down and arranged them both so that the nymph was leaning against one of the Mother Tree’s large buttress roots and his front was covered by Spike’s back. The young nymph relaxed completely with the safety of the position.
Angel was close enough that Spike’s old Docs and his own stylish black dress boots were touching. There was no malice really yet neither vampire apparently knew how exactly to start the discussion and the silence looking to extend indefinitely.
They were still there when Harry found them. Still flushed an unusually deep blue thanks to his recent amorous encounter with Michael (who was still sleeping it off), he flew down to land on one of the Mother Tree’s roots nearby and matters into his own tiny hands.
“Well come *on* you lot! How hard is it to talk to family?...” He had not expected the response to his intrusion as he was instantly graced with two growls from two very large, game faced vampires.
He decided to hover his ground rather than stand it and went on the offensive from mid air. “Listen you big blood for brains, you’re scaring the boy with all the snarling!”
Harry was right. Despite Xander’s safe position against his tree, the young nymph did not understand the sudden change in his friend and had started to shake. His nails were embedding themselves into the bark of his tree and by the time Spike looked down, he spotted the feet of his woody friend pushing their way down into the soil. Angel no longer mattered. Spike spun on the spot and claimed the boy’s mouth, embraced the strong torso and demanded by his actions that Xander calm and cease trying to earth himself.
Angel too could see the nymph’s actions yet could do nothing but simply observe until a tiny fist connected with his ear and Harry’s high pitched voice rang out again. “Now you listen here, Mr Growly! The boy has claimed him and he the boy - *fully*! The Mother Tree and our Ladyship Earth both approved. It’s done, and you know that already by his blood. So yes, blood of your blood – a vampire - *is* accepted fully by our realm.” Spike turned back to face the mismatched pair whilst still holding tight to Xander.
Game faces gone, Angel’s dark eyes met Spike’s azure blue, the older vampire still looking a little lost at the strange turn of events. They held their gaze as Harry continued. “Blondie here needs the sustenance of the tree now – as well as blood – it’s always blood with you lot! So he’ll be tied here – not so much as the young one over there of course, but I wouldn’t worry. They’re together for the duration, or really forever if you count the planting.”
“Oh never you mind about that! Fire’s the big worry – but then it always was, and keeping the Mother Tree safe is a huge priority. But hey wood? No longer a problem, so stake through the heart? Annoying but no dusting…” Harry looked rather conspiratorial before announcing his next point, “And he’s joined for all time to Xander, so he *will* enjoy the sun again one day.”
Spike’s eyes went wide at the last revelation. He was still confused by the reference to planting, but figured that would be explained at some point. “So I’m still immortal?”
“More or less, yes.”
Angel continued the line of thought “And he is still a vampire – an Aurelian line vampire?”
Harry huffed his frustration and decided that the sooner he could finish the conversation and return to his purple partner, the better, “Yes, yes, of course! Vampire plus... Now I have things to do – sort the rest out for yourselves – and be nice to the boy!” With that he disappeared toward the bunch of pretty shrubs he called home.
Silence returned between the two vampires but it was different. Xander began to wriggle – he needed to tend the tree but was still pinned and unable to move. Finally Spike broke the impasse, “Wanna get a drink?”
“Yeah.” Angel stood in one fluid motion as Spike turned to his lovely partner again
“You’ll be right with her now Pet, yeah?” Xander grinned with relief and nodded profusely.
“Right then.” Spike stood easily, hauled up his fae partner then disappeared toward Willie’s at a sprint, Angel hard on his heels. Xander simply moved up his tree to perform his nightly duties of checking her and monitoring the little beings in her care.
The two vampires found themselves lying on their backs on the huge old bed in Spike’s crypt, somewhere around dawn, side by side and staring at the ceiling.
Angel still could not get over the slight green hue of his Grandchilde’s skin, nor the fact that for every drink of blood or alcohol, there had also been a glass of water.
“So… does Buffy know?”
“No!!! And you’re not *bloody well* goin’ to tell ‘er!”
Angel dropped his tone defensively “It was just a question Spike! I mean does anyone else know? About Xander”
“The Bit… Dawn… she knows – but also knows to keep ‘er trap shut. Lad *is* dead Sire… They took ‘im, and you an’ I know, there’s no goin’ back from that.”
The use of the formal title was a reminder of his own shift in status from human to vampire, and also signaled the calming of the relationship between Grandchilde and Grandsire.
“Yeah… But don’t you think they *should* know? I mean wasn’t Willow… ?”
Spike turned to face Angel, “Boy’s literally a babe in the woods. Needs time to sort the old memories and the new. Reckon he’ll let ‘em know when he’s ready.”
“And you? Spike? Are you OK with all this…?”
They talked until dawn, mostly of their early history, memories of the wars and various ‘significant others’, then slept the day away side by side, Angel rolled to throw an unconscious arm over his younger relative somewhere during their slumber and waking the wrist was taken and one proffered in return. The blood exchange was relaxed and natural, and they parted just after sundown amicably for the first time in a century.
Spike returned to the tree for the evening, and rejoiced as he was greeted by leaf encircled hands caressing desperately, and lips opening to welcome him in.
Their lives fell into a pattern over the ensuing month. Early evenings emerging from the tree, Spike taking off for the usual pre patrol meeting, Xander tending his tree then ever more frequently sitting perched in the uppermost branches of her beautiful form to watch for his lover’s return. Spying the swirl of leather and platinum blonde hair he would all but fly down the tree, hand and foot holds now so well known that there was no conscious effort needed.
For her part, the tree was well pleased with her nymph. His attentions were meticulous, loving and in many instances, preventative.
It was late spring and there were youngsters everywhere. Seven nests, all of smaller birds, plus an owl’s residence in an upper ‘room’ created by an opening in her trunk. Xander monitored them all, and despite his best efforts to ensure all the nests were safe, Spike found him grieving one night after he discovered a tiny bald form on the grass. The fall from the nest in the upper canopy had proved fatal for the tiny female. The nymph dug a small grave and buried the little body, placing a fresh leaf tugged from his own wrist over the minute mound.
It would not be the only heartache. Xander met an older nymph, Chris, after hearing the sobbing from an adjacent tree. He knelt beside the extraordinarily leafy form as the other nymph cradled the dead form of a tiny squirrel, mortally wounded by a group of young humans with air guns. It was apparently the fourth death by such a means in less than a week.
Dawn cried along with Xander that evening, but it was Spike who was waiting for the young lads the following evening. Pinning the leader to a tree he ‘politely’ pointed out the error in their ways, confiscated their guns and took great delight in scenting the air as at least three of the group of five wet themselves with fear before he released the leader and all the boys sprinted for home, never to return.
Sadly, however, it was not the worst of it. The cemetery was undergoing a ‘facelift’. They all felt it as the large oak on the opposite side of the cemetery had three of her limbs severed to make way for a new toilet block.
Spike stirred around midday in the second week of summer as the rumble of heavy equipment vibrated the earth near their Mother Tree. He rolled onto the sleep-feeding Xander and laved the brown nipple until it extended. He swallowed automatically and returned to sleep soundly, feeding on the precious fluid.
They both woke abruptly at sunset. Something was terribly wrong, and they could both hear crying.
They emerged from the tree to a desperate scene. At least two dozen little faeries – male and female, all ages and every color of the rainbow were huddling in and around the tree’s roots. Many had been crying.
As the nymph and vampire emerged however, the group separated to reveal an agonizing sight. Two still forms were carried forward and placed reverently at Xander and Spike’s feet.
“Please… Please help them! They saved the little ones then were caught in the destruction.”
Spike felt the knot in his stomach tighten. He knew who might have been in the thicket.
He tugged Xander forward as he asked, “What happened?”
The pretty pale yellow female faerie who answered was still half sobbing as she related the horror of the afternoon. “They destroyed the thicket! Bull dozed it into a pile and scraped the ground clean of all growth. We’ve lost two of our number – plus all manner of creatures... lives or homes! Please… please!! Help Harry… and… [sob] … oh *please*!”
Spike gently lifted the dirt encrusted figure as Xander picked up the second broken little body.
“Best we take them inside and clean them up Pet. Can’t do a thing ‘til we can see at least see the damage.”
As the tree admitted the four, the other faeries took off into her canopy to find protection for the evening.
Title: A Wooded Future
Rating: Mature Audiences – for content and themes
Summary: The hellmouth has its way with Xander, this time it involves Chlorophyll, Spike and a bunch of other world beings that the Scoobies are not quite used to.
Spoilers: Sometime in early season five – or possibly late six BtVS.
Warnings: M/M – if you don’t like boys together, don’t play here!
Disclaimer: Don’t own the characters nor make any money from stories etc, and bow down to their original creators Joss, et al., plus all the wonderful online writers who continue to give the Buffy/Angel verse characters life.
Spike placed his charge on the soft sawdust of the tree’s internal floor, kissed his silent partner who touched the wall of the Mother and the opening returned. Spike sprinted to the tiny lake, collecting a jar of very dead flowers from a grave on the way past. Tossing the wilted and dry collection, he rinsed then filled the jar with water and returned to the tree.
Xander’s own desperate tears had slightly cleansed the tiny figure cradled in his hands, Harry’s lovely friend Michael’s broken wing and misshapen leg, a brutal reminder of the destruction that the whole tiny community had suffered earlier.
Spike’s return was marked the sound of wood meshing and the tiniest inhalation from the badly damaged Harry.
Spike tore the bottom from his shirt then split it in two. He passed one piece to Xander and dipped the other into the clean, though rather cold water. There was nothing to be done about the temperature, but thankfully both little charges were semiconscious at best and were cleaned with delicate strokes.
Once cleaned, Xander carefully set each broken limb and damaged section of wing while Spike licked over them with healing vampire saliva mixed with blood from his own tongue. As they finished settling their two tiny patients, Xander allowed his own grief ridden tears to drop onto the reset limbs, setting as a thick amber-like encasement.
A day later, the lovely pale yellow Lily was admitted to the inner sanctum by the tree. She fluttered past the two sleeping saviors, and delivered the nectar of six different flowers to her injured relatives. She sat with each of the stricken faeries, feeding them from a thimble slowly. She sat for a time stroking her older cousin Harry’s pretty gossamer wings, they were still so tattered and broken. He had always been the one to save the day…
Lily still had Harry’s silver blue head in her lap as she looked over to Michael. He was twenty years her younger and yet had been so loyal and brave in such a desperate time. He was perfect for Harry, of that, Lily had no doubt. Passionate and loyal, Michael may have been ridiculously young on a chronological level, but his heart was huge and his devotion to her dear older cousin, unwavering.
She sent a silent prayer to Mother Earth and the Higher Powers of all dimensions. Her wishes were not just for the cousin and partner, but for their whole clan, and for their two saviors.
She looked down at the sleeping nymph and his partnered vampire who had so nobly assisted them, “Oh Harry… You have to come back to us… You both have to come back! My darling Harry, what you did was wonderful… He’s wonderful… I just want you to know that…”
Xander stirred as the little faerie gave an audible sob. He turned toward her and whispered confidently, “Leave them here – it will be fine.” Then added, “Come as often as you like OK?”
Lily smiled weakly but was relieved that she was permitted to at least visit and check up.
Dawn learned of the desperate situation early the second evening after the destruction as Spike made a weak excuse for *not* doing patrol.
She collected all manner of supplies ‘just in case’. The wide medical dressings of cotton wool encased in soft absorbent covering made perfect beds for the two invalid faeries.
Harry returned to consciousness late on the third evening and immediately gave a rather rasped call for Michael. He could hear a second faerie’s breath but when he made to move, found himself utterly unable to move. His wings seemed to be stuck to something, his legs ached in the most dreadful way and refused to move, and he couldn’t see out of one eye nor breathe through his nose. When he tried to lift his hand to wipe his face and was unable to move either arm, he cried out, first with frustration then distress.
Spike moved swiftly to drip healing blood into the faerie’s mouth. It was followed by fluid from the Mother herself as a frond descended to sustain the tiny faes in her charge.
Michael was in a little better state. At least it was only one arm a collar bone and single wing that had been broken. Nevertheless he was very young and was given equal attention to his dear Harry.
It was apparent that Harry and Michael had been enjoying each other’s company when the first sounds of doom began. Neither had hesitated, their arousal instantly translating to the faerie equivalent of adrenalin. Harry had kissed his beautiful Michael passionately then the younger faerie bravely followed his heroic lover into the doomed thicket.
They had rescued eight tiny faeries, two nests of finches and a whole family of field mice before the angry talons of the front end loader scraped the last of the thicket from the ground. It crushed the healthy greenery under a mound of scoured dirt and the faeries with it.
A frantic Lily had followed the heavy machinery, desperately digging through the pile of debris to find her wonderful cousin and his young friend. The relief that they were still somewhat alive meant the call, and the help of the clan. But their recovery was still doubtful. Both had damaged wings and multiple injuries.
It was the fourth night Lily had waited for news at the base of the tree. She was rewarded by Spike emerging looking tired but happy.
“Hey Pet. Boy’s are both awake. Ol’ Harry asked if ya wouldn’t mind sorting a couple of bottles of mead from Willie’s. ‘pparently he has an account?!”
Lilly was so overjoyed she took off, did one vertical loop then without thinking landed on Spike’s pretty face in a broad hug. Her wings held her firm as she ran a line of tiny kisses over his scarred eyebrow and down over the eyelid, all the while stroking the elegant nose and cheekbone and intermittently whispering her thanks.
It was close to four weeks before the two faerie heroes were fully restored. Spike and Xander appreciating Spike’s literary bent and love of the spoken word as Harry insisted that his boredom be assuaged by the baritone and various readings of the classics in Spike’s possession to pass the time as his and Michael’s wings repaired.
Finally one evening, the now brittle bindings broke and despite Harry’s still healing legs, the two faeries coupled in flight in full view of the nymph and vampire. Harry caught Spike’s eye and winked.
“Come on! Bit of audience participation!”
With the combination of feeding, the two little faeiries were both completely healed in just under a month. Their heroism and the events thereafter, however, would become spoken legend.
Dawn visited as often as she could, and Spike kept patrolling at least three or four times a week, but summer was always going to be a hard time – shorter night hours meant less time together and the balmy evenings saw many humans out and about.
Spike was a little reluctant to follow Dawn’s instructions to ‘just scare them off – or have a nibble on a few of them!” Issues of the chip notwithstanding, drawing attention to himself – or their particular cemetery - was not really on the agenda.
As a consequence there was much love making done high in her canopy – one particular fork being the favorite spot and likely to bear the scars of Xander’s finger and toe nails as he embedded them in the tree to steady himself as Spike took him. The Mother Tree understood and simply bore the minor discomfort.
In the third month of the “…driest summer on record” (according to news reports), it was ridiculously hot for five days straight. Spike noticed his friend’s wilting locks and distress, so decided to take matters into his own hands.
Going to the tiny lake, he swiftly decided it was not an option for Xander’s therapy. The water nymphs none too happy with the humans who normally tended their lake as the ‘through’ water had been cut off due to some plumbing mishap when building a new reception rooms a fortnight previous. As a consequence their lake was fast becoming dark green and of more concern, drying out. Testimony to the sudden receding of the water was the rancid smell of dying lake weed and the departure of some of the larger water fowl. Spike made a mental note to talk to Dawn – the lake was one project her UC Sunnydale ‘wildlife concern’ group could tackle.
Spike went to the thicket and found Harry who was frantic. With many of the flowers dropping in the dry heat, there was little for the faeries to eat. They had taken to roaming farther and farther afield to try to locate sources of food and drink, but were finding that all fae in the region were struggling and very atypical territorial squabbles were beginning to become nasty.
The city council had put water restrictions into place, limiting the watering of the domestic gardens and the cemetery grounds. Sunnydale had consequently seen much of the grass turn a yellowy brown by mid summer and the annuals that formed the pretty display in most gardens, simply whither and die. The heat wave was a serious threat to life.
Spike urged Harry to gather his group and ensconce themselves at the base of the Mother tree, rather than spend time higher. He then spent an entire evening (and a considerable amount of Dawn’s money) purchasing some key items to provide his favorite fae with much needed ‘water on tap’.
He filled a large garden pump pack (normally used to spray weeds) with water from a resident’s tap just on the outskirts of the cemetery. He pumped it hard then hooked it up on a branch like an old fashioned camp shower high in the Mother Tree and flicked in to ‘spray’.
The ensuing mist received an ecstatic applause and a chorus of giggles and squeals of delight as the little faeries romped in the shower. Xander grinning broadly as he observed their dear Harry trying to convince Michael that licking the purple faerie's wings clean was 'tradition'. Michael, to his credit, acquiesced to the requirement though Xander did note that the reciprocations slipped rather lower than the space between two wings.
When Michael winked at Xander, the two younger partners exchanged a conspiratorial grin and Michael made Harry groan first with pain, then with want.
Michael knew that since their serious injuries, his marvelous Harry had a couple of sore spots on his wings, and at least one near his left knee. The deep scar across the faerie's torso was also testimony to the blue fae's heroism. But their recuperation had also allowed Michael to explore just what pleased his wonderful friend and he applied the knowledge liberally.
Harry gave in to the joyous attentions and finally admitted that faeries could sweat!
Spike made four more trips for refills that night (and many more in the following weeks) – the final one for Xander’s benefit.
‘Water boy’ Spike found himself hard and wanting as his lover’s body glistened with the moisture and an adoring smile of thanks promised a physical reward later. He was not disappointed.
Dawn arrived the following day with her three of her university friends to ‘tend the lake’, along with a team of reporters who would go on to have great fun with ‘Dying lake in a place of the dead’ type buy lines. The very pretty young women in white overalls (supplied by the local hardware store) began the rather smelly task of scraping up the dead weed and collect two putrid duck carcasses.
Dawn acquitted herself extraordinarily well in the interview and looked stunning on camera as she spoke passionately of the impact the drought was having on local flora and fauna; emphasized the heritage value of many of the large old trees; and pointed out the resting places for a couple of the significant (very dead) residents.
A tanker of water was forthcoming the following day, and a local plumbing franchise jumped at the chance for some cheap publicity – fixing the water feature pump (used to circulate and filter the water) in hours.
A week later, Dawn received a call from the local television station offering her an internship immediately – even though her studies of journalism had been restricted to critiquing styles and editorial writing in literature classes.
The heat waves came and went for the next six weeks – all the way into the first month of Autumn, then the weather broke. A sudden drop of temperature and repeated deluges signaled the change of season.
By week four of Autumn, Xander remembered the feeling… but in the previous year he was still attached to her completely. Now it was odd.
He still suckled daily but knew her feeding frond contained a different mix, the more he took, the less he seemed to need, and the more tired he became. Initially he put it down to the shortening days, but now the reason was clear. His mistress was changing, her bright green hues giving way to rich yellows. He noticed his own changes as the fatigue kicked in with a vengeance.
Xander was increasingly melancholy and lethargic. Even Harry and Michael’s overt antics (for private viewings only) did not seem to raise more than a smile.
Spike noticed the change in behavior as the weeks of autumn progressed, but it was only as the Xander’s normally rich green tresses began to turn yellow that both realized what was going on. The most distress was caused by their falling off completely – it seemed that the transition from green to red to yellow to falling off was only a matter of days.
Dawn still visited almost every day and tried to be supportive, “Think of it like chemotherapy, only better! (well, sort of?!) At least you know it’s all going to grow back better than before… Ooooh! I know! Just think of it like a fashion throw out… like at the end of season… gone the old tresses, in with the new?!”
Seated on a thick root of the Xander’s tree, she looked over to Spike for support and saw only intense concern for his dear nymph. She realized for the first time just how utterly besotted the two really were. “Oh geez I’m sorry! I was just trying to be… you know… funny. OK hey… introducing ‘Foot in Mouth’ Dawn… I’m sorry Spike. The Mother Tree is doing this too right? It must be about Autumn… Why don’t you ask Harry – he’ll know. Where is Harry these days?”
“Think he’s off tryin’ to find another venue for ‘is lot this winter.”
“Couldn’t they stay at Casa del Summers? I mean… Buffy wouldn’t even know since she’s all Ms ‘I’ve got a life and work and school’ blah, blah!”
“Don’t reckon the little uns do so well inside Pet. But it’s a right sweet thought. Reckon if Harry’s still pushin’ it in a week or two it might be time for you to ask again.”
As the weather closed in, Xander also did some seasonal shedding of bark (no worse than Buffy after a weekend in Hawaii as Spike pointed out… to no avail) but it was the loss of his last leaf – one from his wrist - that had him sobbing quite inconsolably. Spike realized that it wasn’t just the shedding, it was a whole system changing for the young nymph. He asked around and finally Lily filled in the gaps for the new fae vampire. All the trees and wood nymphs had apparently done the same, shutting down and storing water and nutrients for the winter ready for full hibernation. It still didn’t seem to console the upset new one.
Xander was in his usual spot at the base of the tree, ready for his nightly embrace – though the goodbyes were getting harder as the day for ‘no wake up call ‘til spring’ came closer and closer.
In reflection, Xander’s tantrum should have been expected on the last day before ‘the big sleep’.
There was no reasoning with him. He sat knees under his chin, with tummy and extremities a little swollen with vital water for the winter, wasting some of his precious fluids in tears as they dripped onto an increasingly cold earth. He drew mindless patterns in the dirt and didn’t look up as Spike made another attempt to talk.
“C’mon Pet… can’t be bad enough for tears can it?” Spike could clearly see the probable cause for distress but had hoped Xander would accept his changing state. The confused nymph accepted his partner’s bleeding wrist easily, but abruptly pulled away for apparently no reason.
“Look at me – I’m so ugly! I’m going bald… everywhere… and I’m swollen… and I’m so… tired and can’t do… You won’t want me in Spring if you remember me like this! Oh please!! Just *look* at me!” And Spike did… There was a slight paunch and a marginally chubbier face… and if he were honest, limbs that were a little softer and thicker than he was used to, but they both knew the reason.
Spike wrapped his arms around the distressed nymph, “You daft bugger! I’m not goin’ anywhere – you know that! You’re it for me now Luv. ‘M tied to you – willingly mind – as much as you are to her! So stop all this rot, and give us a kiss, cause we’ve got a door to make!”
In the winter months, the Mother Tree would lie dormant unable to perform the nightly ritual of giving Spike a protected place to sleep, and Xander would be in hibernation, permanently attached to her and only sentient for a few minutes a day. Spike could go to the crypt but coupled with the need to be near his partner, he really dreaded that option. He could, and would, take refuge in the warmth of the centrally heated Summer’s house occasionally, or visit Willow at the coven headquarters at the rear of the local library to get out of a chill wind before heading out on patrol, just like in the past. But now he needed, and wanted, more.
His preference was the tree, and even if Angel had quietly worried about it as an option, in truth he had made his choice months before and was increasingly drawn to his nymph partner, and (if he were completely honest) weary and happy to sleep through nights spooned at the back of his beautiful friend on the floor of their soft living abode.
It was the most vulnerable period for all the fae. The trees vulnerable as their nymphs slept, though most of the oldest trees were left alone by humans these days, the creatures that lived in their loving embrace often suffered.
The water nymphs still enjoyed their lake, though the fountain was often off and the lowered water temperature tended to leave them more inclined to sleep too.
The faeries had it hardest, particularly those who had lost their homes. The removal of Harry’s family thicket was the loss of protection from the worst of the winter winds and rain if there were no small evergreen plants around. The whole ‘hide under a mushroom’ merely a child’s tale! And sleeping outside on the Mother Tree’s branches not an option.
As a vampire, Spike adored the darker months yet *really* despised the cold when not in ‘good circumstances’ (i.e. Unable to find a human abode with suitable heating). He would now have the best of both worlds. Now Xander’s Mother Tree invited one of hers to find comfort in her warm soft interior, yet gave the dark one the freedom to exit and feed. The agreement was that he would also protect her and Xander as they slept in exchange for his lodging. Yet he gambled and won… Spike added one caveat to the agreement as he accepted the terms. Harry and his family would also be given sanctuary from the cold. Their thicket had been flattened at the end of summer to make way for another ‘memorial patch’, and it was rumored to be a particularly cold winter. The little ones would not survive without help.
Unlike other tree nymphs, however, he was always semi aware and able to protect tree and partner were it needed.
The tree welcomed the Spike’s decision to share some of the big sleep with his nymph partner.
Xander’s ‘before’ carpentry skills came to the fore and Jack (Harry’s older brother) praised the young nymph as the two fitted the beautiful, ‘A’ shaped door. It appeared for all the world like part of ‘Her’ at her base and had it blessed by the tree herself.
There was no handle on either side of the door rather it warmed to the touch on a particular spot and opened just enough to let a resident slip inside. The door led to two small openings within the Mother tree. The first one seemed like a strangled mish mash of roots, but on second examination made a series of beautiful individual beds and sitting areas for Harry’s kind. The second was a vaulted space padded by old sawdust and the softest of mosses, and had a strange configuration at its rear. An odd shaft, its only function was to allow Spike to ease himself into the space, then embrace his dear lover as he slept the winter away with the Mother Tree.
Xander rallied a little on the last evening of autumn, he would try hard to be a good companion to his lovely vampire and would have headed out to meet him but he was just so tired.
Spike found him sitting at the base of the Mother Tree. What were once thick tresses of new leaves on his head, were now barren stalks, even his green eyelashes were missing as were his eyebrows giving him the unhealthy look of a cancer patient from the human world. Spike didn’t care – he knew it was time, indeed felt it himself, though not as strongly and thankfully his hair had remained. They had talked about it and had decided to put the nymph to sleep for the winter in the loveliest possible way.
Spike stripped and made passionate love to him – their face to face passion audible in the already quiet trees of the cemetery should one know what to listen for. Spike rode with tears in his eyes as his beloved fell into semi-consciousness in the afterglow knowing that once fully asleep, Xander would not rouse again for close to thirteen weeks! Spike kissed him tenderly then lifted him gently and placed him close to her inner walls on the soft sawdust. He watched with morbid fascination as the Mother Tree bound him to her with a series of roots, finally inserting the feeding frond that would only provide sap as the weather warmed, before falling still herself.
His lovely nymph was asleep, as was the tree. The faeries ensconced next door had also fallen quiet. Spike lay down beside Xander and threw an arm over the nymph’s strong inert figure. Even this close he felt strangely alone. He rolled over his sleeping friend until his mouth found the boy’s right nipple and on cue the frond extended from its nub. Spike latched on for comfort not food and finally as one with his companion, he too slept.
Spike slipped in and out of consciousness but remained connected to Xander for five days straight before rousing fully for the first time. Gently releasing Xander, he moved to kiss the pale cheek and let himself out of the tree.
It would be the first night of many lonely ones that the vampire ventured to the Magic Box for the nightly briefing, before heading out with Buffy to patrol.
Willow noticed the odd magical feel around Spike but couldn’t quite place the signature. When she cornered Spike about it mid January, the answer made sense in a ‘not’ sort of way.
“Spike, can you come out the back for a minute?”
Spike felt a little suspicious but Buffy was still on the phone to Dawn about some homework task so he followed the witch in to Giles’ old office.
“Have you… been seeing someone… you know… romantically or anything lately?”
Spike had a feeling for where this was going, so wiggled an eyebrow and went on the offensive, “Why Pet? You offerin’? ‘Cause gotta say, bit o’ witch action is something I’ve missed for at least ooooh a century or so.”
The effect of the comment brought the expected response as Willow slapped him hard with an accompanied “*Hey mister!!* That’s *not* what I meant and you know it!” She turned on Spike and frowned.
“You feel… different… so??”
Spike was not ready to divulge the Xander factor, nor his own changed status quite yet so simply dropped his tone and like a teenager admitting to an illicit kiss said, “Angel ‘n me. Kind of made up Pet. ‘E came, I asked – family issues… you know… But we didn’t wanna tell the Slayer… She bein’ all settled and such. ‘M sorry if that wasn’t the right thing t’ do.” Spike’s azure blue eyes raised to meet Willow’s with such a look of concern that there was no doubt in her mind that he was sincere.
“Oh Spike! Well… um… that’s good right? So you guys are?”
“Friends again … yeah Luv, he agreed to that at least. ‘S not like old times, but there’s an understanding between us again.”
Willow dove forward and hugged the blonde. “Oh Spike that’s wonderful!”
“Yeah Pet. Unlife’s funny like that.”
Willow let him go, but in consequent weeks the magical signature seemed to change more and more – there was definitely something going on.
Her suspicions were further raised as Spike dealt rather violently with a group of young college students who had simply set a fire under the canopy of a large tree in the cemetery closest to his Xander’s own. In full game face he had kicked over the home made brasserie (garbage can) and doused the entire group with cold water, before rushing forward, grabbing one of the biggest boys and growling into his neck then scaring them all home.
Buffy was rather stunned though accepted the excuse that the group were in danger, after four fledges attacked them on the way out of the cemetery.
Somewhere around week ten of winter Spike pushed his way out of the tree once more. Xander’s excess water and reserves had obviously been spent, the boy as slim as ever and his no longer green, but alabaster white form, was still lying inert against his mother tree.
The frosts seemed to be over and some decent rain had cleared the air.
A rather dejected Harry was sitting on a low branch. He didn’t even look up as the vampire emerged.
Spike had woken to find himself in the mood for a good fight for the first time in weeks but paused a moment at the sight of the silver blue figure with wings collapsed. “OK Pet… What’s got you in such a mood?”
“The cold… the dark… Michael…”
“Lovers’ tiff then…”
“No! Michael’s just… *asleep*!! I know he’s young but… why does he…? We’ve hardly even… well you know… for nearly two weeks!”
“P’raps ya should just bed down beside the boy and enjoy those pretty wings coverin’ ya.” Spike’s tone was a little irreverent initially – but as he saw and understood Harry’s distress and discomfort regards partner struggles with the seasonal slumber, he offered his shoulder for Harry to perch on and stroked Harry’s outer wing with a familiar tenderness that surprised the little blue form.
“Listen Pet… Wanna come to me crypt for a drink and a game o’ cards.”
“Long as you’ve got mead… but there’s no way I’m trading kittens! Anyway, it’s not your crypt any more is it… You gave it to that Clem fellow.”
Spike rounded on the small faerie, noting the far more familiar smirk on the little faerie’s face and wings that were notably perky and upright, so decided to challenge the cheeky hero, “You’ve been *spying* on me?!!”
Harry tried to look innocent but failed dismally. “Weeellllll, OK.. *yes*… But what else was I to do over autumn?!”
They continued an easy banter as they headed through the cemetery to (now) Clem’s crypt.
The demon was absent, so the pair made for Willie’s Bar.
“Those right manky bastards! Bloke tries to get a drink and a decent game of kitty poker an’ next minute ‘es out on ‘is ear without even a by your leave! Can understand you but ‘e called *me* a bloody dryad. How would he know – ‘aven’t told anyone but Clem ‘bout the boy, and he don’t go blabbing to anyone!”
“Spike everything is… you are changed. Spike it’s coming up for spring, you are shifting and you know it.”
“Not asleep like the lad there.”
“But you feed from him every day now.”
“’S comfort innit.”
“Yes but he’s feeding from her now that spring is on its way. You’re pale but you’ll green up in no time. Have you checked for budding?” Harry was all but bouncing with the sudden thought.
“Budding… you know… buds… where flowers and leaves come from.”
“I know what a sodding bud is! And no I bloody well haven’t. Would’ve noticed if I sprouted sommit wouldn’t I.”
“You tell me Spike, you’re the one with the new points on your ears.”
“What?!!!!” Spike’s hands flew up to his head and sure enough the peak of each ear was now slightly pointed. “Oh Bloody Hell!”
Harry giggled, “I think they’re very (as you would put it) fetching – except I guess with them and the bit of a green tinge it did kind of give your secret away to your demon buddies.”
Spike growled his frustration and flicked his half smoked cigarette away. He really didn’t enjoy smoking much anymore anyway, and had began comprehend now just why. He turned to go – but not back in the direction of the tree, and when Harry made to accompany him, Spike’s yellow eyes and fangs flashed as a threat.
“Oi, what’s that for?” Harry pouted his hurt feelings.
Spike shrugged on his duster properly before sniffing hard and pursing his lips with resolve, but the reply was a little more conciliatorily, “You’re not comin’ ‘cause ‘m a vampire Pet – just gotta … go kill sommit… remind meself is all.”
Harry stopped all pretense of teasing. He suddenly understood so hovered and watched as the swirl of black leather disappeared into the night.
A week later, Dawn went away for a pre spring break leaving Spike with some issues regards purchasing blood for the next two weeks. He worried a little until he fed exclusively from Xander who was attached and feeding from his tree, for three days straight. There were no cravings or hunger for blood and Spike began to understand that the red ambrosia would now only form part of his diet.
He sat on the floor of their abode and picked at the sleeves of his duster quietly contemplating everything that had changed in the last year when he felt the first of them. The vampire tore off his coat and examined his wrists. He had never had a blemish there before yet now there were definitely five lumps… no *buds* on one wrist, and six on the other.
He panicked more and tore off all his clothes then spent the next hour examining every inch of his body. As far as he could tell, he only had the wrist circles and a few bumps just over his tail bone and in the nape of his hair and one or two on his ankle. He thoroughly checked his nether regions for moss – but thankfully, all looked and felt normal in that department. His celebratory hand job was cut short, however, as amorous noises from a nearby dent in her inner walls gave away two mischievous faeries who *had* been watching but were now gleefully engaging in their own private ‘relations’.
Michael was lying on the ground, wings spread like some silk bed in a harem, hands tucked under his knees pulling them back while Harry kissed and filled him. Harry’s wings had deepened in color to a dark blue and were undulating gently in time with their lovemaking.
Spike leaned against the opposite wall of her inner sanctum and recommenced his private activity whilst watching the two pretty forms climax together joyfully, then fall quiet in the afterglow. Spike came just after they did, catching the spendings in his Tshirt so as not to soil the sleeping area. He realized then, it was the first time he had given in to those urges since Xander fell asleep.
Harry rolled over and grinned at their fae vampire then whispered a sated. “Inspiring… same time next week?”
“Cheeky bugger” was his only reply, before Spike too gave in to a post coital nap.
Spike had often embraced or petted his lover as Xander slept on attached to his tree but had never expected a response. On one beautiful morning, right on the cusp of Spring, he watched bulging dark green buds, soon to be lashes, flutter open for a moment as a pale hand squeezed his ever so gently. He knew it would happen but allowed himself a few tears of relief anyway. It seemed so long!
The feeding frond was still present so it was not until a day later that she withdrew and the fae Vampire was tearfully delighted to hear the soft swish of Xander’s nymph voice. The simple “Hey” was all it took to earn a passionate kiss that lasted many more minutes than a human would have survived. Xander was only awake for a few hours, but it was enough time for them to pleasure each other and for a very weak nymph to venture outside into the moonlight. The two sat on a lower branch of the mother tree Xander leaning back on Spike’s chest head on the vampire’s shoulder as they talked about the events of the winter.
When it came to the part where Spike and Harry were refused entry into Willie’s, Xander almost fell from the tree he was laughing so hard, but sobered as he examined his partner’s changed form in awe. He stroked over the sensitive buds of his own wrist then Spike’s and spent the rest of their night together alternately touching then licking the pointed ears. Spike’s hair was a mass of curls and far longer than Xander had ever seen before, but realized that it was a deliberate act to hide the ears and buds from prying eyes.
They shared leisurely kisses as they watched the fae family who had shared their abode all winter emerge to play in the moonlit balmy evening. Delighted giggles and whoops of joy made locating them easy as they romped around the area, first playing tag, then hide and seek, and finally joining with another little band of faeries to show off all manner of acrobatics and simply enjoy the warmth and freedom.
“I can’t see Harry and Michael any more.”
“They’re just over there Luv, bottom branch of that smaller oak.” The two little faeries were involved in some very heavy petting, Michael obviously rubbing his manhood against Harry’s as they kissed.
Xander was wide eyed and very aroused by the display, “Don’t they know we can see them?!”
Harry broke off the kiss looked directly over to Spike and his nymph and winked, “Oh I’m sure they do, Luv, in fact I’m positive…” Spike grinned back at Harry and made a point of sliding his hand under Xander’s groin flap to stroke the fast growing erection. Xander threw his head back groaned then whispered, “You in me now… Please Spike! Now.”
Spike sat Xander forward for a moment as he freed himself of his pants but left everything else on, the soft folds of his duster saving him getting bark burn on his backside. He then pulled a little tube of lube from his pocket and swiftly prepared Xander to accompanying soft groans of pleasure and finally lifted the nymph and lowered him onto the vampire’s pale shaft.
He let Xander control the pace, stroking the nymph’s shaft and caressing the soft sac in time with the undulations. Spike fell into game face and roared his completion seconds after Xander spilt his cool pale green seed on the branches and ground below.
Applause came from direction of the oak.
By the fifth day of Xander’s waking both and Spike’s buds were all at bursting point and it was becoming unbearable. They alternately itched and ached, but even feeding from each other didn’t seem to be accelerating the process of them opening. For Xander it was so much worse – his eyes were almost swollen shut where lashes and eyebrows were trying to break forth, and there were just so many more buds than on Spike. His head hurt and he couldn’t bear touching his also about to sprout tresses. Spike cradled the quietly sobbing nymph to his chest while the Mother Tree (her own pale green canopy already adorning every one of her branches) extended a frond to both her protectors. They both suckled, but to no avail.
The following morning Xander could not open his eyes and the tight rings of buds around his wrists and ankles looked capable of killing off all sap to those regions – effectively killing hands and feet.
Spike was frantic. The bulges on his tailbone were excruciatingly painful as he shifted to feed his semiconscious partner vampire blood, at least it seemed to ease the pain a little. He tried to lie on one hip a little and was just about to reach up to touch the aching patch at the base of his skull (knowing all the while that it would just make the whole thing worse) when Harry burst into their sleeping quarters.
Spike scrambled into the shadows, leaving his dear partner whimpering in pain mid floor.
“You F@#$ing *Prat*!! What the *hell* do you think you’re doin’?!!! Bloody near dusted me an’ then who’s goin’ ta look after the boy?! Not you! Too busy shagging some pretty purple arse and keepin’ the neighbors amused… you bloody...” But Spike didn’t get to finish.
Harry said nothing but was holding a tiny mirror from some girl’s compact and reflected the sunlight further into the space, hitting one of Xander’s ankles. The buds immediately burst open to reveal a pretty blossom.
Spike fell silent immediately and the little faerie got his say. “You couple of idiotic *babies*!!! He has to have sunlight… *You* have to have sunlight or you’re both gonna… well *die*… you know fizzle out, dust to dust and all that?! Always thought vampire’s were dumb asses but this is ridiculous!”
Spike was staring at the faerie with a combination of gratefulness, incredulity, anger… and sadness. Finally he answered as Harry directed another beam of sunlight toward the stricken nymph. “Best be about your business then Luv. Boy’s not that heavy, get a few of your mates and you can pull ‘im into the afternoon in no time. I’ll give it a few more days yeah? Pain’s not s’ bad… just like a chance t’ say cheerio to a few people, boy included…”
Harry did a full aerial loop in frustration, “You *really* are stupid aren’t you!... Look!”
Before Spike could move, Harry had directed the beam of sunlight directly at him. His duster was on the floor and boots at the door as was his habit when in her so his feet and ankles were totally exposed. Three buds burst open before he had a chance to move further back into the tree, but when he did, Spike sat simply staring at the ring of blossom in stunned wonder.
“It… but it…” Tear filled blue eyes lifted to meet Harry’s own pretty azure.
“Told you ya big old baby! Sunlight… *He* needs it. *You* need it.”
“Sun’s yours now – comes with the territory – so come on… help me with this one… he needs it more than you!”
A very shaky, still (in honesty) terrified Spike stripped under instruction then lifted his partner gently, waited for Harry to give the all clear, and stepped into the late afternoon sun. If he was to be dust then it was with his lover in his arms.
The tree shuddered her approval as her two protectors finally found relief. Xander almost instantly sprouted enough blossom to appear like a hand made display at some flower show, while Spike gently lowered his partner to the ground before stretching out face down beside him on the soft earth near the Mother Tree and cried as the warmth of the so missed sun warmed his back for the first time in over a hundred years.
Dawn returned almost a week later. She was excited beyond measure by Spike’s newest development regards the sun and giggled at his leaves, but was even more amused by the appearance of the nymph.
“Xander…You’ve got flowers in your hair!”
Dawn’s gleeful observation was followed by a round of giggles as Dawn plucked one of the tiny offerings with an accompanying “Ouch” from Xander. Spike who had, only the night before, noticed some pretty little white florets on Xander’s moss covered scrotum was just about to reveal the information regards the hidden offering to Dawn, when his nymph caught his eye and conveyed an unspoken message regards Spike’s plans for a woody filled evening if he did!!
The vampire simply grinned and shrugged, staying silent for once. He and Xander had both rejoiced as they inspected Xander’s body all over for remaining blossoms that morning. They had quickly discovered after some initial exploration that each one of their florets was insanely sensitive to the touch. Licking and blowing over them had caused Spike to fall into gameface and beg for more, but even better, for Xander to writhe out of control then throw his blonde vampire to the ground and make passionate love to him.
Thankfully Dawn kept her hands to herself.
After a quick chat to Harry and Michael, Dawn headed for home. It was only late afternoon when she had been visiting her favorite fae vampire and friend, so she could see no problem, but Buffy was on the warpath having had a very bad day.
The Slayer was standing at the foot of the stairs, arms folded as she entered the front door.
“Where the *hell* have you been?!”
“Ummm… Magic Box.”
“And that would be a *not*! I *rang* Willow…. Oh and by the way your friend Janice *and* a couple of other friends you don’t think I know about! They said you haven’t been hanging out with them for weeks – even before you went to Dad’s for break!!? And Janice *saw* you hugging some boy two afternoons ago near the Lakeview Cemetery… so? Who is he? ‘Cause if you’re doing all this lying there has to be something to it!”
Dawn successfully defused the situation, but after being caught buying blood, an only intermittent ‘show’ by Spike for patrol, and the discovery that Spike’s crypt was ‘otherwise occupied’, she begged them to come clean.
Two nights later, with the boys’ permission, Dawn led Buffy and Willow to the tree.
The time since the discovery of Spike’s immunity – or rather *need* for the sun, had been a blissful for the two lovers. Their lovemaking had involved sunshine four times in the last week alone and Spike’s color was definitely changing as sunlight and the infusion of chlorophyll into his changed system took effect (courtesy of his leaves and the fluid exchange with the Mother Tree and Xander).
Spike had rarely turned up for the ‘Scoobie’ meetings since Winter began – but they were very much a low key affair these days anyway. Xander’s disappearance, Giles’ then Anya’s departure and Willow’s interests leaning more toward the coven saw Buffy becoming used to simply meeting the vampire near his (now Clem’s) crypt.
Once Spring came, his changes were fortunately covered somewhat by the lateness of the night patrols with Buffy. Xander knew that though Spike’s further shifts were not immediately obvious to the eye at night, in the right light, every curve and sharp feature was now defined by a pretty shade of pale green, his extraordinary cheek bones and toned physique more beautiful than ever.
Ears were still being successfully covered by the “need shearing soon Spike… what’s with the sixties look anyway?” hair, and leaves were concealed - though irritated – by discretely applied bandages. But the compensation was worth every moment of effort it took to cover his alterations and protect their secret for just a little longer.
It was Tuesday afternoon, the day of the ‘revelation’ and happily the cemetery had only two visitors all day, so high up in her branches on their one month anniversary of their day in the sun together, Xander and Spike had gave in to the joy of taking and being taken, but this time it was for comfort and reassurance as much as lovemaking. Willow and Buffy were due shortly just after sunset.
They climbed down in silence, touching all the way and ending at the Mother Tree’s base in yet another passionate kiss. It was going to be a hard night, even Harry had wished them luck as he ensconced himself in the nearby bushes.
Willow were to meet Buffy and Dawn at the cemetery around seven o’clock. Spike posed himself, deliberately leaning against a gravestone some distance from the Mother Tree. If things all went to Hell, he did not want the Slayer or the Witch knowing where she, or his nymph, was.
Xander had agreed to wait until the all clear from Harry before revealing himself – and even then, it would be from behind a group of shrubs rather than emerging from his tree. The nymph knew the reason.
Xander was such a young nymph and in the eyes of many of his aging peers, *very* bold and capable. The other solitary fae folk put his bravery it down to a combination of his unusual emergence (being called out by a group of wiccans when still but a new one) and his unexpected then joyous joining with a dark one. Nevertheless, he was still a baby in any of their terms, still weaning from his constant feeding from the Mother Tree.
Xander needed protecting and Harry gathered his forces to do just that. He was no match for the Slayer or the High Wiccan, but faeries could carry their own when it came to distraction and extraction amidst the melee. Though Spike had spoken of a Xander only rescue… Harry had his own designs – there would be no leaving of the fae vampire either… Apart from anything else he and Michael enjoyed the free viewing (in a bold variety of ways!).
With the assistance of two older nymphs resident in Xander’s end of the cemetery, he had honed his blending skills and these days really was invisible to the human eye, particularly in the late afternoon or early evening. Nevertheless he was terrified. He couldn’t stand the thought that these two humans might hurt his lovely friend. He had felt it. Spike had been tense and worried for days. He kept trying to access his memories from the before and could only come up with some vague images, many of them violent or painful.
He knew the two had been friends from his before, but coupled with the violence he had seen the blonde woman meter out on the local demon community since he emerged, he was terrified for his wonderful changeling Spike.
The closer they got to the agreed location, the more Dawn worried, and as she spotted Spike in his duster, leaning against a gravestone, without Xander, she all but panicked.
Spike flicked his semi-smoked cigarette away from any foliage then pushed up to face the women.
“Slayer, Red… Bit…”
Buffy was initially rather taken aback, but swiftly chose annoyed as her raison d’etre.
“What is it this time Spike? Can’t You can’t pay your gambling debts and Willy’s finally cut you off? Go find someone else to bug Spike. We’re here to see someone not patrol...”
Before she could say any more, Dawn blurted out, “Spike needs to be here! He’s… umm…” then suddenly lost her nerve.
Buffy rounded on the vampire again, this time with stake in hand, “Spike?? What’s this about? What have you done? Because I swear Mister! If you’ve got Dawn in trouble, Mr Pointy here has an appointment in your chest!”
Spike shoved his hands deep in his duster pockets, initially pulling the garment tight around him, swallowing his annoyance then opening the coat wide exposing his T-shirt clad chest.
“Have at it, Slayer, cause then you’ll never get to see him, will ya?!”
“See him? See who?” Buffy moved threateningly close, “Spike?… For the retarded vampire in the room… See. Who.?”
Spike did a slow blink then looked directly at Willow, “The boy, I found the boy, but…”
The next three seconds were a blur as Buffy rounded on Spike and threw him to the ground ready to threaten.
Harry let out a yelp as Xander sprang from his hiding place and with a nymph’s speed, had thrown off the unsuspecting Slayer, grabbed his partner from the ground, and disappeared high into the canopy of the closest cypress tree.
Buffy was still sitting on the ground where she had unceremoniously landed. While Willow was standing beside Dawn wide eyed.
“I’ll kill it! Whatever that was… We need to do some research – that thing…”
Willow cut her off with an almost whispered and very emotional, “…Was Xander… Oh G$% Buffy it was Xander!!!”
“Willow, *let it go* that thing had to be a vampire… a demon! You saw the speed, and there is *so* no way that Xander could *ever* throw me down like that! Not when I…”
As Buffy bounced to standing ready for the chase (and inevitable fight), Dawn stepped in front of her, arms folded over her chest and a ‘resolve face’ that would have put Willow to shame.
“You’re not going to hurt him… or them… Buffy… you’re just not…”
Buffy’s fist tightened around the stake as she faced off with Dawn. “Wait a second… So you… you knew? You *knew* Xander had been turned and you didn’t think to… you know *mention* anything? What is this … love the undead day or what?? Dawn he could have…”
“Taceitum!” Willow’s eyes flashed black and Buffy was unable to utter another sound. “I’m sorry Buffy but sometimes… that was Xander… and if you move a muscle, I *swear*…!” Willow’s eye’s flashed black again and the still silent Buffy slumped against the headstone so recently vacated by Spike.
Willow turned her attentions to Dawn who was panicked and now close to tears, “Sweetie… Dawn?... It was Xander right? You and Spike found Xander.”
“Yes but Willow… he’s changed… he’s… Oh Willow he is so beautiful!”
“Dawnie… How? How is he changed? Goddess Dawn please?! He’s my oldest friend… We thought he was dead! I need to help him!! Dawn! Look at me! What do you know?!”
This was *not* how Dawn had hope the evening would progress and was struggling to think of plausible scenarios that would take the pressure off her two fae friends. Buffy was still looking daggers at Willow and the witch was obviously agitated and angry.
Dawn swallowed hard then almost whispered, “He was taken… taken by a tree. He’s a wood nymph Willow – a hamadryad! And he’s… he’s happy – especially now he and Spike are…”
“Oh Goddess… I knew there was something different...” Willow struck her own forehead with an open hand, “So Sp… and Xan…”
Dawn grinned a little and nodded, “They’re… I wanted to tell you but I really didn’t know how… and now…? They love each other Willow… they really do.”
Buffy snorted with frustration and attempted to add her contempt for the whole idea but was cautioned by a single look from her dangerous wiccan friend.
Xander had taken his friend high into the cypress, Spike not even having time to register the beginning of the act. By the time they were at the top Xander had divested Spike of most of his clothes and had him plastered against the trunk with his entire body, his panic translating to a limpet like hold on the fae vampire and instant camouflage. In truth, parts of Spike’s pale body were still visible – provided one knew where to look – but for the stunned group below the pair had simply disappeared.
Fifteen minutes passed without a sign of Spike and his “drier thingy… and oh by the way… *so* not Xander!” before Buffy departed in a huff, vowing to get to the bottom of the whole debacle, blaming Spike then Dawn in turn.
The Slayer’s exit marked Harry’s venture down to the two women. He knew witches weren’t so bad – as long as they were white ones but everyone in the fae knew Mistress Willow had a very definite connection with the dark as well as with Mother Earth, so he was cautious.
Willow grabbed Dawn’s arm in surprise as the small blue form that at first sight could have been mistaken for a very large butterfly, alighted on Dawn’s shoulder and began to speak to the girl.
“Typical of the thing… the *Slayer*! Just as well you got her DNA and not her attitude! So… stay there… and, to quote Spike, *don’t bloody well move*!! And they might just come back!!”
Harry then flew high into the canopy and found the terrified, and mutually over protective pair.
Xander was panicked about Spike, and the vampire (despite his bravado) was rather more frightened for his nymph than he was ready to admit. To the point that it was only Harry’s intervention that allowed him to struggle from beneath his lover’s protective embrace.
But Harry wasn’t finished, and watched as the pair shifted a little, trying to determine their mood. “The witch and that sweet girl are still here – the other one has gone. The witch is crying… and it’s about the boy – just thought you should know.”
Spike shoved sideways a little, pushing gently against his partner’s over protective grasp.
“’S OK Pet… ‘S OK…I’m fine… thanks… and… um… Let’s just go see Dawnie and Red ehh?? C’mon Luv… ol’ Harry here’s a mite worried… let’s us just sort the witch out… She’s your ol’ mate after all. Remember Red?? Willow??… ” Spike was still trying to establish just how much of Xander’s former life memories were available to the young nymph.
Spike watched as his bewildered partner struggled to match names with images, then took matters into his own hands… along with Harry, who was *not* going to be left out(!), the faerie flying to sit on the shoulder of his fae cousin.
The two women were standing arm in arm when Dawn saw the fae couple descend the tree. Spike heard Dawn’s heartbeat increase and smelt Willow’s tears the instant Xander stepped from the shadows.
Willow all but fell into Xander’s arms, “Ohh Goddess… Xander!!!”
Spike stepped back and let the witch meet her old friend.
The instant they touched Xander remembered… all of the before that had been so fleeting and had to do with this ‘Willow’ character was suddenly in sharp relief. She was his childhood friend, a troubled soul after her partner’s death, and his compatriot in arms at so many levels.
Willow was holding a hand that was now the temperature of the earth and encircled by leaves, it was still soft to the touch. Xander gave an automatic shiver as a speechless Willow stroked over the pretty leaves and long fingers with their amazingly nails.
She finally lifted her tear filled green eyes to meet the chocolate brown she had always known, but now they were framed by tiny green fronds, and the hair that had been brunette was now long and composed of long leaf covered fronds.
As their eyes met, Xander simply whispered “Thanks Wills.”
She let more tears fall before answering, “For what? Oh Xander I could have fixed this… I really could! But… Oh Xan! Are you happy… I mean… Oh Goddess… Xander?!!!”
The nymph looked over to his partner, who simply nodded and stood to take Dawn’s hand and left the two old friends by themselves. As he looked back he saw the nymph lifting Willow to her feet and leading her to the Mother Tree.
The nymph and the witch talked of the past, and the present and everything in between – including the coincidence of Xander’s emergence and Willow’s presence on the night.
When Dawn and Spike returned shortly after midnight, Willow was seated against the trunk of the Mother Tree, her changed old friend’s head in her lap. Xander had one hand in hers but also noted the other hand gently stroking the buttress root of his Mother tree. It was healing for the youngster – he could remember his past as well as feeling reassured by her presence.
After Spike leaned down to kiss the boy, Willow stopped his rise and kissed the fae vampire on the cheek.
“He told me Spike. Thank you… He is a lucky m… nymph.”
“So’m I Luv… so am I.”
Willow left promising to speak to Buffy but was not all that hopeful to garner the Slayer’s support of the ‘Xander is happy now so leave him alone’ theory.
She was right, but for the moment Buffy was busy with school work and Slayer duties. The respite was welcome.
Giles arrived from England within a week of being told by a tearful Willow, that they had found Xander, and also of his changes. But had not mentioned much about Spike, other than he was looking after the new nymph.
Giles arrived in the cemetery with Dawn, somewhere around the same time Willow and Buffy had eight days before, but the meeting went very differently.
This time Spike had made no attempt to conceal his changes and Dawn wandered off to the mother tree, hopeful that Harry and Michael would be around. The previous evening she had been in fits of giggles with their antics and witty repartee while she waited for Xander and Spike to come down from the tree. She was now sure that the boy kissing in flight was specifically for her benefit after Harry couldn’t help himself and winked at her mid spiral of passion.
The early summer’s evening was warm as the Watcher approached Spike stepped from the shadows. His wrist leaves were showing and now (like all the others) a deep green, matching Xander’s. In all areas – particularly his torso, they had begun to creep across like some form of exquisite ivy. Spike knew that Xander and he were both still warm from a long afternoon lying in the sun, and though he would have refused the meeting with the individual who had so adamantly insisted on the vampire’s evil nature in the past, knew his lover needed this.
Even in the dark Giles noticed the alteration in Spike’s color immediately and spotted a few leaves poking out from inside the sleeves of the vampire’s duster. It seemed impossible! The fae did not accept demons?! He immediately drew his own conclusions. Spike must not only have protected Xander – but at some point Xander’s tree also… and then been claimed by them both. Unheard of in any account he had ever read of the fae!
He greeted the fae-vampire politely,
After a courteous greeting and a look of surprise that promised further questions at some point, Giles could no longer hold over fifteen months of worry and grief. “Please Spike… Please!!!! I need to see him… I… heard about Buffy but I won’t hurt… You know I … well I… ” Giles was noticeably shaking as Spike took a step forward and removed his duster baring his entire torso, leaves and all, then tucked his hair behind his pointed ears.
“Just warnin’ you, boy’s changed much more ‘n me, so you’ll need t’ be a bit patient…”
Giles’ breath hitched and his arms folded around himself protectively. “Oh God… it’s… in a strange sort of way I still hoped… Spike… is he?...”
“’S alright Watcher… Boy is well looked after you’ll see. ‘E’s just a bit shy these days is all – an’ what with her Ladyship the Slayer gettin’ all antsy, reckon ‘e’s just bidin’ ‘is time – trying to work out how you fit in ‘is memories of the before, seems as that part is still comin’ back, him being such a young one.”
Giles looked hopeful then rather sad as he steadied himself against a tombstone, “Oh… I see… Well is it possible to reassure him in some way because…”
Before the sentence was finished a stunning green nymph wearing Xander’s youthful body, naturally adorned with leaves and a bark, stood before him and whispered as loudly as he was able, “Hey.”
Despite his support via the headstone Giles’ legs gave out and he sank to his knees with his face covered by one hand, “Oh God… Oh…” Finally he looked up at the boy he had seen grow up from awkward teenager to confident adult and his other hand stretched toward the nymph in a begging gesture.
Spike moved toward Xander and held the very young and now bewildered nymph in a reassuring embrace before leading him forward. Like with Willow, as soon as Xander’s hand touched the outstretched hand of Giles, the nymph remembered significant things from his before, and rushed forward, kneeling and taking the older man in his arms. Giles gave in to the hug completely and gave in to his grief
“We lost you… I am *so* sorry… [hitched breath] we thought you were dead, but now… Oh my dear boy… Xander… My dear boy…”
They held for many minutes until Giles’ knees became too stiff to bear and he moved to sit down heavily. Xander sat beside the distraught man and Spike flanked Xander. Xander’s fae voice was too quiet for the older man’s hearing to pick up, and though Giles could almost make out the words simply by reading the young nymph’s lips, he relied on Spike to pass on Xander’s thoughts to the man who through high school at least, had acted almost as a father.
“I’m happy Giles… I belong here and I have the Mother to look after and she after me. And now I have a partner too – and Mother Earth herself has approved.”
Giles looked over at Spike in amazement as Xander’s message was conveyed, “Gaia claimed you? Good God Spike… I thought it was just… so no wonder… that’s extraordinary!...”
Spike shrugged, “Yeah well… Focus is the boy though innit…”
“Of courses, of course!”
Xander and Giles talked through Spike for almost an hour, in the end it was not even necessary for Spike to interpret the older man and the nymph so close together that Xander was all but whispering in Giles’ ear.
Much of what was said was simply to reassure the ex-Watcher that Xander was ‘OK’, though Xander was still a little confused as to why the human kept asking that question.
Relief came when Dawn arrived back to drive Giles home to the Summers’ residence.
Giles hugged Xander soundly, then did the same to a rather surprised Spike, before following Dawn back to the car.
Harry and Michael were sitting on a low branch of the Mother tree swinging their legs in time as the nymph and his vampire (“Not anymore!” to quote Harry) arrived home.
Harry piped up just as the two made to climb her, “So all’s good then?”
“’Course… why’dya ask?”
“Oh… just… well apparently the Slayer’s out to *fix* your friendly nymph… Now I’ve seen a local cat get ‘fixed’, and not that he didn’t deserve it, but still… your friend deserves better!!”
“Too right!, but figure you’ve been in the camellia nectar again if ya think that might be an option?! Not that sort of fixin’, ya daft bugger… Slayer just don’t like the ‘other’. She’ll try to reverse the deal – load of rubbish really… even Red knows that… but thanks for the heads up. She starts playin’ with majicks and we’re all in trouble.”
Harry simply nodded then kissed Michael and flew off.
That night Willow had a tiny blue visitor, and consequently a ward was put around the tree.
It was Willow who was finally able to piece the reason for Xander’s selection by the tree together. Two weeks after the rather disastrous night with Willow and Buffy, the witch sat with her dear friend, Spike but seconds away but giving the two their space as Willow explained.
Jesse, Xander’s best male friend at school, had been the tree’s chosen, marked from birth, but was turned by a vampire before being able to find his tree. Xander had dusted the nominated nymph with the best of intentions, and mourned his passing for years.
In the process of innocently trying to save his friend Jesse from a vampire future, he had also inadvertently identified himself to the fae, the tree had judged him and he had signed his own fate – to take the place of his friend.
As the nymph was told, he smiled sadly at Willow and mouthed that he felt extraordinarily lucky… he had carried Jesse’s fate forward in the spirit of friendship. His role now was not just right – it was also a tribute to a lost friend.
He hugged the mother tree all the tighter that night. And when Spike fed from him, Xander cried for the past and was comforted. In the arms of his beautiful partner, he felt so lucky… Much later he sent a prayer of thanks for Jesse to the Mother Earth who now contained the ashes of his old friend. She replied with a warm breath of wind and small shudder, barely two on the Richter Scale… but enough for her fae to notice. And Xander slept peacefully.
A fortnight later Buffy still had not backed down from her original premise. Despite Dawn’s repeated pleas and Willow’s quiet and logical arguments, there was no swaying her.
It was Friday evening, Buffy had already argued with Dawn over the phone bill and it had been a hard week.
Giles was staying at Willow’s parent’s house and had chosen to amuse himself for the evening rather than face the girls again.
The ageing Watcher had visited Xander each night since their initial meeting and was gradually coming to terms with the nymph status of the boy he once knew. Even garnering permission from Spike to “Query you at some stage regards *your* changes… Of course… personal research only.” The nodded yes was followed by a swift departure by the vampire toward the local faerie’s summer thicket.
Spike knew that Xander’s old memories were being prompted by Giles’ presence – and also that it was important for his nymph. The trouble was… his own fae nature seemed to be asserting itself more and more, to the point that even his need for the hunt was fast being replaced by an inclination to spend time with Harry and Michael rather than patrol with Buffy. It was yet another irritation for the Slayer.
Harry led him to the Summer’s house one afternoon, insisting that there was some urgency involved. The little faerie huffed with frustration as the fae vampire tried hard to stick to the shadows whenever possible, though thoroughly aware that he was sun immune these days… indeed needed the light for his leaves! But the habits of one and a half centuries were apparently still hard to break.
Spike had rid himself of his signature duster for their daytime venture, in favor of a silky pale brown, collarless ‘pirate’ style shirt, and dark brown suede jeans that were stylishly severed in just the right places so his leaves were not irritated. Feet were bare, and though Spike had argued that his Docs had *never* caused a problem in the past regards either stealth or speed, Harry had insisted. Given the level of panic the little creature seemed to engender, Spike simply complied.
As they sped around the back of the Summers’ home an almighty argument was breaking out between an in control Willow and near hysterical Buffy. The two ensconced themselves in a nearby substantial thicket kindly provided by the rather unfriendly neighbor. Fine fae and vampire hearing missed nothing despite the barely open back door.
“It’s rubbish – the whole thing!!! You’ve been fixated on this for months, Dawn’s a teenager, Giles was all but his surrogate father and is now grieving and desperate… and you’re… well you’re grasping at straws! Why can’t you just accept it?!”
“Buffy you *saw*…”
“What I *saw* was a demon, with demon speed – now maybe it was skin colored which I thought – or maybe green as you all keep insisting – I don’t *care*! That *thing* attacked me with vampire strength and speed and lifted Spike up a tree like it was *nothing*! That is *not* Xander! And hello Slayer?!! He was not of the humany vibe! Comprenday”
“Buffy you know yourself – just because something isn’t human doesn’t mean just kill it at random?!
“Oh believe me Willow… randomness not my thing… I’m killing bound whatever that thing is … Willow it’s a demon in Xander’s body! And I *swear* if he is a vampire then Spike is dust too!”
“But Buffy! Giles!?! He’s talked to him too and…”
Buffy’s voice took on the definite edge of patronizing – with a side serve of sarcasm, “ I am *sure* Giles has seen him – and pleased to make nice with anything that *looks like him*! … because he’s *so* Mr Objective when it comes to losing Xander! Honestly Will – haven’t you noticed – he’s not even all there these days! He actually asked me why I hadn’t mentioned Angel and Spike had settled their differences Pffft! Yeah well that day’ll come *not*! … Apparently *Xander* told him! Sheeeesh! And don’t tell me Dawn has spoken to him because me and her and trust with the whole truth scenario lately – not really up there.”
“But Angel could have…”
“Talk to the hand – as if Angel would come to Sunnydale and not at least say Hi!”
“But Buffy Spike’s different too… Surely you s…”
Buffy was already at the front door, coat in hand, “Let it go Willow – whatever that *thing* is wearing Xander’s body? It has it coming. And like I said turned? And Mr Spike-the-all-repenty-and-helpful gets the pointy end of my stick as well.”
Before the upset wiccan had a chance to argue the point the door was slammed closed and Dawn was making her way downstairs.
“Think we should say something to Giles?”
“Oh Dawnie… I’ve made it worse!”
“Believe me… not even up there – figure the argument I had with her last night should have woken half the dead in Sunnydale (the ones that aren’t dust of course)” Dawn smiled weakly then hugged the wiccan and took her hand.
“We can’t do anything today – and I’m sure Buffy doesn’t know where the tree is … so… is it too early for hot chocolate?”
“Never too early for that, Pet.” A leaf adorned, barefooted, beautiful Spike, with Harry perched on his shoulder, was leaning against the door-jam *in the sunshine*. Dawn was never happier that she had forgotten to close something!
Willow was close to speechless – still reeling from the argument with her friend, she could hardly take in the stunning figure in front of her.
Spike was all pale browns and greens, his shirt and pants hitched up so as not to irritate his leaves, and the effect, along with his longer hair (now tied back – ‘see above irritation’) and ear adorned with gold ring – at Harry’s insistence, he looked like the quintessential hero come pirate! “Goddess Spike! Harry!... What are you? Where’s? Oh Spike… and in the sun! You’re so… pretty!”
“Yeah well … and you’re s’posed to be gay! So knock off with the pretty thing, OK?! Get that enough from them lot.” The last part was mumbled as Spike gave a fleeting glance back at Harry before stomping into the house past the two now bemused looking women.
“Xan’s at home… for what it’s worth. Harry here figured there was a bit of a ruckus and we should just find out what’s what. And I’m still wonderin’? Why’s she so hell bent on hurtin’ Xan?!”
Harry had fluttered over to the condiment shelf. While the others were occupied with the worries that were Xander, he alighted and casually knocked over the squeeze bottle of maple syrup. He was genuinely worried about the turn of events that was Xander and the Slayer, but reasoned it was all the more important for him to straddle the bottle and squeeze down until it gave up some ‘comfort food’. After all – a faerie needed to keep up his strength! To his credit, he did continue to listen.
Whilst the small group worried, Buffy did her own reconnaissance, breaking into numerous crypts and possible lairs – dusting sixteen vampires in the process, and surprising numerous members of the local rat population. She then wandered the cemetery they had so recently found the ‘demon Xander’ in.
After shocking Clem as he was happily watching a lifestyle program and taking notes (the place really did need a bit of ‘doing over’), the Slayer departed to eye each large tree in the vicinity suspiciously, even climbing the cypress – but to no avail.
Finally around sundown, she headed for Willie’s.
Pinned face up to his own bar, and staring at a very angry slayer, Willie was more than happy to come forth with information.
“How can I put it more clearly?… Where. Is. Spike.?? I know he comes here!”
“That’s just the thing… He doesn’t!!! He can’t!!!”
Buffy released Willie momentarily as she processed the statement before pinning him back down and bringing a stake dangerously close to Willie’s neck.
“What do you mean *can’t*!? Have you seen Xander?” Buffy adjusted her position a little trapping Willie’s legs between hers in a faux provocative act and deliberately lowered her tone to deliver a threat, “C’mon Willie… you know me… won’t kill ya if you just…” She undid his top button with the stake, “tell me…”; his left ear was stroked by the very sharp point, “what…” second button went; “I”, the third, “need”: and fourth, “to know”. The fifth and sixth button disappeared and the point was now at an angle that would pierce Willie’s heart or his internal organs – and he *really* didn’t care what her issues were!!!
“He’s a fae – they both are – so they…they’re not welcome and as far as the blood thing goes he’s probably… oh Gahhh… I don’t know… *Slayer*… the fae aren’t allowed in here – Spike’s not allowed… or his bloody nymph… Xander… or that trouble maker Harry… Anyway… I’ve got standards… and rights!!” Buffy let him up in shock so Willie continued, “Yeah that’s right! Bloody faeries – always wanting a *thimble of this* and arguing about the bill – but the bloody nymphs! And now Spike! Who would have thought!”
Buffy, had let Willie up, but rounded on him at the last statement, rounded on him again, causing the bar owner to hold his hands up in supplication. “What ?! He’s been one of them for… well… months that boy that sometimes came in here with you apparently longer!”
“One of who?!” The stake moved dangerously close again but this time Willie simply rolled his eyes.
“One of the wood people! You know Mother Earth!! He and the boy… blahh blahh… Come *on*!! Even you can’t have missed the ears!”
Buffy released him… “What ears?!!”
“The ears… the pointy ears… ?! Look Slayer there’s nothing you can do – short of the tree dying Xander stays like that…” The stake was back.
“The tree? Which tree? It’s a demon thing right… So we kill it and Xander is free? Is that what you’re saying?” The stake was back slitting his shirt and broke skin.
“Yes… well *no*!! Umm it doesn’t really work…”
But the Slayer was gone.
A day later, the city council was petitioned to fell a large cypress in the cemetery. Dawn heard about it on campus and knew the probable cause.
Rather than reveal the real location of the tree, she had one of Willow’s wiccan’s (also a resident with voting rights and good connections) to propose an objection to the mayor.
Harry was frantic, even revealing himself to a rather astonished Giles in an attempt to have the murder of one of their own arrested.
The tree was Michael’s family tree and not only his boyfriend, but numerous faerie friends and acquaintances made their home there… not to mention the lovely Celone – an older, very solitary nymph, who said little but never failed to provide sanctuary, tend or rescue as needed – and had been like the taciturn older cousin to the youngster Xander. Celone would pass on with his tree, if Buffy was successful.
Willow rang Angel, desperate to contact someone who had law connections – or at least might be able to talk some sense into Buffy.
The vampire left Wesley to investigate the engagement of an LA lawyer specializing in this type of civil case (no expense spared) and arrived that evening, but did not go to see Buffy. Instead he headed for Willow’s, then to Spike and Xander’s tree.
It was merely two hours after sunset and the internal tree was still warm. As Willow called them, the two fae emerged. Xander was without coverings, though Spike was wearing what looked like very low slung, old jeans cut off roughly at the knees. The longer hair, ears, dark green leafy adornments and contrasting pale skin were highlighted in the light of the early evening moon.
Angel stopped in his tracks as Spike came into the clearing… “God Spike… You’re… you’re…” He moved forward with vampiric speed to grab Spike, sniffing at his neck then pulling back to admire his now lost Grandchilde. Spike was rather surprised to see tears in the older vampire’s eyes, “You’re more beautiful than ever.”
Spike tilted his head and gave sniff and as he pulled away to snag Xander around the waist, shot a rather wicked grin back at his vampire relative… “Oh C’mon Sire… flattery?… Not your thing really is it… Anyhow… always knew you were a big faerie at heart… ‘sides, greens an’ browns are the new black this season apparently ::wink:;… Should set you up with a nice tree ‘n all – never know… might just get on…”
Angel suddenly felt very alone and pulled his long coat around himself protectively, self consciously frowning at the ground.
“Oh c’mon ya ol’ ponce… just kiddin!”
“You have the sun now I’ve heard.” Angel said rather wistfully.
“Well yeah one of the fringe benefits innit – don’t really make up for a stunning a load of bald patches in winter though. C’mon Sire Me ‘n the boy here… happy! Just help us with the bloody Slayer can ya?”
Spike reached out and touched the arm of the now worried looking vampire. It was a typical fae touch, like liquid fire, conveying all emotions all at once - and in this case, surprisingly, the overall emotion was familial affection. Angel had no control over the tear of regret that fell as he smiled at his so changed relative.
Xander broke the moment with a whispered, “Hey we should get going.” before the four took off in the direction of Spike’s crypt, Harry, Michael and several other fae in tow.
In the end Angel only remained for a couple of hours, deciding against seeing Buffy after Willow and Dawn both explained in no uncertain terms the Slayer’s opinions regards the changelings. Angel distinctly remembered her rejection of his demon, and knew he would not help the situation by directly intervening.
Willow was able to provide all the literature that Dawn, Giles, the coven and Willow combined could find regarding protecting/defending the larger trees in the cemeteries of Sunnydale via magic *and* the courts of law. A quick phonecall to Wesley confirmed the availability of a barrister, and Willow warded the cypress ‘just in case’.
Now they simply had to wait.
Buffy was frustrated beyond belief.
Her plans to have the trees leveled had apparently been vetoed by a ruling that protected ‘heritage trees’ in Sunnydale. The exception was if the trees were already dying or in danger of threatening human life (ie ill and likely to split or drop a branch).
She decided to take matters into her own hands. She rang several arborists from out of town enquiring how she might poison some ‘self sewn trees my property’.
It didn’t require much – a hand held drill, some poison and tiny plug to keep it all in. The trouble was she really did need to know where the demon tree was.
Willie was pinned, face against to the door of his own bar just as he finished with the last of the screws in the new sign.
“What’s with the sign *Willie*? ‘This Friday’s Fairy night – two for one prices before eleven’?” Buffy snorted, “You looking for the *gay* demon community now… didn’t realize demons needed to come out of the closet?!… Does the Hellmouth even have a closet?... [she shoved him as he made to move] What’s next Willie – Stripping slime demons… cause gotta say business’ll boom!”
She sniggered at her own jokes but as Willie went to correct her assumption he was slammed face first into the door even harder and held, his cheek and nose painfully squashed and breathing difficult.
“Anyway… Just need a little information Mister. Which.” Slam. “Tree.” Slam. “Is the” Slam. “Demon tree!?”
The muffled reply came immediately, “Oh Gahh Slayer!? S’not… anyway… Why would I knahh... I don’t know … I don’t know!!… Please?! ‘S just a tree and I think my nose is brrrrphhh…” Buffy slammed his face against the door again, this time hard enough to hear a very real crack and to see blood begin to flow in rivulets down centre of the new sign from the very definitely broken nose.
“Is now.” She felt the man slump and finally spun him to face her, this time pressing his back painfully against one of the still protruding screws.
“Do I need to ask again? Or would you like that nose pushed back into place the other way.” She raised her fist ready, but Willie had his eyes tight shut and was coughing as blood ran down the back of his throat.
“Ghhhhaaa Slayyyy…” splutter, cough “I…” coughs again and tears of pain tracked down from already swelling eyes.
Buffy released him enough that he could lean forward a little and at least let the blood flow from his nose onto the ground so he could speak as best he was now able, whilst spitting coppery flavoured blood and saliva onto the ground.
“Don... Doe. Pleee Slayew… I… Don… Doe. Pleeee?!”
Buffy seemed satisfied, released the bar owner to slump onto the ground, “Well, I guess I’ll just go find out some other way…” She spun on her heels, quipping over her shoulder as she departed, “Hope you’ve ordered enough disco balls and cocktail umbrellas for Friday.”
Willie struggled inside, his apron now awash with blood in an effort not to soil the freshly washed floor. He put his head over the sink and reached for the ice bin/specially designed freezer, below the bar. A cool hand stopped his and another pushed a towel already obviously containing ice, very gently against his abused nose.
Spike heard the man’s heart begin to race again as he looked up expecting some new form of abuse. Instead he saw one blue faerie and one fae vampire – the latter close to emerald green in the dimly lit and empty bar. Neither was threatening – in fact Spike had a definite look of concern.
“You’re a right piece o’ work aren’t ya!? Make out you’re all a neat pushover when it suits but really hard as a bloody coffin nail.”
Willie looked utterly confused, “Why…?”
“Came ta thank you for lettin’ us have the shindig this Friday… and promise the business as it were… Some idea of numbers an’ all that – boy only turns one once, an it’s right nice of ya. An’ her ladyship… Well she’s quite the piece… always has been…”
Willie snorted as best he was able then began to cough violently again and finally threw up most of the blood he had inadvertently swallowed over since the Slayer rearranged his face. Unfortunately half went over the stand of fortunately sealed beef jerky’s and the spluttered around and into the sink.
As soon as the convulsion finished, Spike caught him on the way down and sat him on the floor between the fae vampire’s own green legs, while Harry snagged another hand towel from the side rail and flew it down.
“Lemme have a look at this Pet.” Spike gingerly touched the abused nose, determined the problem, then gave only a moment’s warning before snapping the cartilage back into the right position. Willie cried out, then passed out in quick succession.
He came to some time later, his nose taped hard and quite professionally, and a cold pack being gently applied. He recognized the galley way of his own bar, felt the stool cushion from his own chair near the phone, and wondered at the leaf covered wrist attached to the hand with the compress.
“OK now, Pet? Gonna sit you up real slow like…” The words matched the deed and though Willie still felt rather light headed, it did feel better. He’d been through worse, but never would have expected a vampire … especially Spike! … to be one to help.
His rather swollen eyes fixed on the fae vamp, “Why??...”
“Protected her… and everyone with our trees is what you did… Reckon we owe ya…”
“But I could have… And you??... You’re…”
“Yeah… One o’ them mate more so now as ever… And you coulda told her a whole lot o’ bits ‘n pieces, and she would have been down there with chain saw and mulching truck cuttin’ everything! Did a good thing… and Friday too… Never figured you to bloody advertise though! You ready for the rush??... Anyway… reckon you can stand?”
They helped him up to sit on one of his own bar stools, tidied up a little (something neither Spike nor Harry would *ever* talk about again) then left the bar owner to begin his night.
Willie was still hurt and reeling as his patrons entered, and expected a backlash regards the fairy night, but surprisingly received none. Late in the night he approached a table of particularly violent Kreptath and another of young local vampires, in order to simply “find out true patron opinion” regards the change in “Willie’s” policy. Neither groups even batted an eyelid (which in the Kreptath’s case included three!
As Willie approached the vampire table to clean off glasses and refresh drinks one of the five fledges leaned over, and through fang filled mouth over too loud Dixie Chicks yelled “Fantastic – the fairy theme… is there a prize?”
When Willie pulled back looking a little puzzled, the fledge added, “You know for the best costume? Free drinks… c’mon they always did it in the frat house!!”
Willie simply wiped the table, refilled the blood then grinned at the fledge and spoke through as still limited sound range. “Yeah Brizes, vree dricks… all good.” The fledge grinned and Willie was toasted for the ‘half prices before eleven’ with promises of ‘pre dinner drinks with friends’. Perhaps not his real purpose for the promotion but he was not about to pass up increased trade. For once, the bar owner contemplated, maybe the night was worth the pain and really would prove a profitable one after all.
The Friday evening with the Fae at Willie’s was a triumph – the dear (rather damaged) bar owner never realizing that two fae kissing atop a disco ball would have so much appeal to his regular customers. Harry had simply grinned and mouthed “Any time mate” before all but pole dancing the fixture’s wire stay and the stunning purple Michael again.
The man of the moment, one year emerged Hamadryad, Xander, gave a near silent tribute to those in attendance, and acknowledged his claimed partner Spike for the first time in public. It was unlike Harry to be emotional, but buried his face in Michael’s (whom he was spooning from the back) magnificent purple wings and let tears of joy fall for his *two*.
Spike was amazed to find that Clem had ‘worded up’ a lot of the demons present, and all were more than happy to associate with the fae community now that one of their worst demons had been willingly claimed.
Spike would have stayed on, but Xander was still a youngster and really needed to sleep and feed, so they left the revelers to their own devices and an open bar. (The Gem of Amara not the only valuable gem found in the crypt that night!)
As the night wore on, and many drinks and several dances later, there was unasked for support being leveled toward the fae from all directions. It was an unexpected result of a night of unfettered frivolity for the faerie community – and even included the usually private nymphs who had to be specifically coaxed! Willie could not have been happier.
Spike put them both to sleep in the time honored way, though did not bother to withdraw after easing his charge to a leisurely climax. Xander awoke to his second year of free nymph status with the feeling his adored partner inside him.
Two days later Buffy had done her homework. It might take longer but she knew that there were at least nine large trees in the south east area of the cemetery where she had first encountered demon Xander in Sunnydale. She decided that if one was a demon tree, probably all of them were…
At the instruction of the ‘expert’ from the hardware store, she purchased some poison and engaged two students from her psychology class to do the deed. Knowing the wards on the trees would detect anyone intending ill for the trees, she told the lads that she had joined her sister in the local nature preservation society and the current task was to rid the trees of borer – the treatment was to inject the medicine in a series of holes around the trunk. They were given a hand held, battery powered, hammer drill, ironically one of Xander’s, to make the holes in the base of each of nine ‘stricken’ trees, a large bottle of poison and a funnel with which to apply it.
According to her understanding, by killing a demon tree, it would also kill the demons within. What she had not anticipated was the response that Xander and his dear tree and the others engendered.
Dawn had been cajoled into spending a sisterly evening… with Buffy watching some schmaltzy remake of ‘Guess Who’s coming to dinner?’… as though that was ever going to surpass the original!
Xander felt it immediately his body burning.
He had been snoozing arms wrapped around her, her bark covering him, and he suckling on an off while the sun warmed his back. Spike was inside her asleep, still not quite comfortable with the bark enveloping him or the early morning sun, but they had been out the previous afternoon together, and most of the night.
He felt the agony of a drill entering his leg but knew to stay still until the assailants departed, as they moved to the next tree he slid from his place. The wards were still up, but it was human poison, both he and the mother were now in agony as the white fire spread.
He saw them assaulting the cypress, their faces were burnt into his memory, but, like the other nymphs in his area, he knew his role was to help her.
Spike felt the sickening shudder as his partner fell from her grasp and knew there was something terribly wrong. Emerging, the increasingly fae vampire saw Xander slumped against the tree desperately trying to remove one of the cork plugs that had been inserted into the mother to hold in the poison, not even aware that his own calf muscle carried the same. The nymph was ill, that was obvious, and yet Spike knew that the matter of the tree was also urgent.
He recognized the problem immediately. In his days as a young human, his Uncle Charles had cleared unwanted willows from his estate in just such a manner - poisoning them at the base with the aim to kill and thereby preventing regrowth, before cutting them down.
Spike swiftly removed all the corks, including the one from Xander’s leg, quickly squeezing out the offending liquid from his dear friend then sucking the hole as cleanly as he could. He slit his wrist and made to drip his blood into the gaping hole but Xander’s whispered plea stopped him.
“Leave me! She *must* be cleaned… Spike… please… we have to save her! *Mother*!!!” The last was a scream of agony that was felt through the entire fae community in the cemetery – and even beyond, and was matched by the desperate calls from eight other hamadryads whose trees were now similarly attacked.
Michael was frantic, the tiny faerie powerless to suck out the injected poison as size was against him, as it was with all his siblings and cousins.
Harry was torn between trying to help Xander and Spike at his own (now) family tree and attending his lover.
It was daytime, he might be seen, but in the end there was no question and he traversed the open space to envelop a sobbing Michael in his arms before deciding on a course of action that would require far more risk than a mere hundred meters of obviousness.
A quick ‘war meeting’ later saw five teams dispatched to various locations – even though many were young and had not ventured far from their corner of the cemetery, ‘General Harry’ was confident they would do as asked.
Lily, who had zoomed in with three of her cousins when she saw what was going on, headed out with her team to find Dawn – it was a perilous mission and involved searching a campus. At least Dawn had her own unique magical signature.
Michael was charged with locating and convincing Giles to come. He left willingly but only after a tearful hug with a very resolute General Harry. The younger faerie stared at the exquisite form of his older blue lover and felt very, very humble. Charismatic, immense strength seemed to flow from the tiny blue faerie as he deployed the teams. Their kiss was fleeting, the “See you in an hour or three” was everything as Michael flew out into the sunshine on his mission.
The younger faeries were directed to fly to all other trees in the near vicinity, and three to the pond, to garner assistance from their tree and water nymph friends – regardless of the hour! And anyone spare was instructed to carry as much water as the could manage to assist the desperate wood nymphs who were all now suffering the effects of the poison.
Harry himself took a hand picked team and headed for Willie’s then to find Willow at the coven. The latter being the most dangerous as the fae were generally not welcome in the witches’ inner sanctum – indeed often specific wards were invoked to prevent their intrusion.
Spike for his part, had tried to rest his injured and poisoned friend, but in the end knew that Xander was driven – even to death – to assist the mother tree. They knelt side by side, found each hole in succession and sucked out the poison, spitting it on the ground with disgust, then Spike would squirt his own now changed blood into the hole via mouth, followed by Xander with his frond that was always previously reserved for Spike.
As the process concluded both fae vampire and nymph collapsed at the base of the Mother tree. Spike was violently ill and continued to be sick until dry retching, finally crawling back to his semi conscious, shivering and obviously seriously poisoned partner.
He did something he had not done for the previous century, something that he was not even sure would work… he opened the ancient vampire familial link with Angel and all but screamed for help.
Less than ten minute’s later a desperate Angel was heading for Sunnydale…
“Hello! It’s going to be *uncomfortable* and really! *So* not needing a Sunnydale moment right now.”
“Cordy… just drive!”
“OoooK but if this is about Miss I-can-slay-but-can’t-seem-to-dress-with-flair you *so* owe me a shopping trip!”
Cordelia turned to add to the diatribe but stopped instantly as she saw the genuine desperation on Angel’s face as he peered from his curled up position under a heavy pile of blankets on the back seat of his own car. “Cordy!!… Please!!!! … Just drive.”
She knew in that instant, that it was nothing to do with Buffy and hoped that there were not too many police with speed detectors between LA and Sunnydale.
Giles, Willow and Dawn all arrived together, and surprisingly, a black eyed Willie along with Clem and two of Clem’s cousins minutes later, all shocked at a scene reminiscent of a natural disaster.
Sobbing water nymphs comforted faeries who were sure their tree had been killed, and wood nymphs from nearby were desperately trying to feed their fallen cousins at the base of damaged trees, crying openly as their efforts seemed to have little effect.
Willow called the entire coven. Noone was sure the damage was reversible, certainly none was magical.
One of the witch’s was a keen gardener and identified the poison as a systemic one. The humans and wiccans (along with Clem and friends) consequently used squeeze bottles and whatever else it took to flush out the deadly concoction from the horrid holes. All the hamadryads were similarly fed copious amounts of pure water, and sap from their brothers and sisters from other trees. All would be suffer the effects for many days, but with proper care would recover.
But Xander was a different matter.
The former Scoobie lay slumped and a nasty pale grey color at the base of the tree, several leaves already fallen and the rest yellowing. Spike was now close to comatose himself and curled into an agonized ball at the feet of his beloved, so much poison flowing through his changed system that neither his vampire nor fae systems had the means to counter it. That was how Dawn and Giles found them.
Cordy ran over the cemetery sign and violated as many county laws as she knew to drive the car almost to the base of the tree. Dawn and Giles were holding the pair trying everything they could think of by the time Angel arrived.
The older vampire sprinted to the tree. From under a thick blanket, and not waiting for permission, shoved two open wrists dripping with healing vampire blood into the stricken two’s mouths.
After many minutes, Spike roused enough to whisper “Sire”, then bit his own wrist and pushed Angel’s from Xander’s inert mouth to replaced it with his own.
As the rather stunned older vampire’s still dripping blood fell on the hole in Xander’s leg, Dawn saw the healing begin and hoped. Angel saw too and opened his wrist wound further to apply more to the angry grey area. Spike continued to suckle and was comforted as Xander too finally began to drink.
The unsung hero of the day was undoubtedly Harry, closely followed by Michael and Lily who had braved daylight to find humans, and Clem and company who kept a constant flow of fresh water and ice to the trees - and Willie who proved remarkably adept at being able to fend off humans wishing to visit the corner of the 'cemetery come warzone' with a variety of excuses and fast talking.
In late afternoon, Angel was holding his changed Childe, comforted that his blood still had some effect. But then felt a distinct shudder from the tree and both Xander and Spike moaning in tandem.
As many of the fae as could be spared in the attending group returned at Angel’s shout, suddenly realizing that Xander’s Mother tree was the only one that remained untreated, other than by her own nymph and partner – an oversight due to the confusion and… the numbers stricken.
Angel felt Spike’s distress through a still very open familial link. “No!!!... Cordy!!! Your drink bottle… Now!”
“Oh hello… Magic word Mister!” The fact that Cordelia was really only jesting was lost on a desperate Angel.
“Please!... Please Cordy just…” She knew and was already pushing the (very recently emptied) sports bottle under the blanket.
Angel again opened the fast healing wound, and drained nearly a pint of his own blood into the bottle.
He pushed it back out to the waiting seer. “Squeeze that into the tree – it might help.”
Before she did so, however, Dawn was there, flushing the holes with fresh water and flicking as much as possible back out with a thin, stick before Angel’s precious gift was squeezed in.
By the time the two were on their second hole, Angel had returned his attention to the gravely ill pair under his blanket, and swapped the wrist Spike was suckling for the one newly opened.
It proved a slightly better angle and allowed him to sit up a little, and adjust all their positions so at least he was leaning back against the tree, with his fae Childe and the nymph now both resting more easily, with heads on his strong thigh. But the two were still in trouble.
A half hour later, Angel knew he too was weakening and dizzy with the loss of almost a quarter of his own blood. But worse, Spike was shivering too much to suckle properly, and Xander seemed to be alternating between comatose and convulsing as his body’s systems fought the foul chemicals.
Willie delivered four bags of fresh human blood to the older vampire pushing it unasked under the blanket. It was still warm and very much a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ deal, but Angel was too distressed to argue, so fell into game face and consumed the lot in quick succession, only to refill the drink bottle so Cordy could continue her task.
Spike was now alternating between shaking uncontrollably, trying to suppress his own cries of pain, and keening in distress over his comatose partner. He continued to lick half heartedly at Angel’s offered crimson fluid but left the limb and he pulled his dear lover close as Xander’s latest convulsion saw splits emerging around the newly healed leg and pale bubbles of liquid begin to ooze from ears and from under the nymph’s nails.
The still shaking fae vampire finally relinquished all attempts to suckle Angel’s wrist in favor of hugging his ever worsening friend tightly to him, knowing that if Xander passed, he would too.
Minutes later as he too began to succumb to the poison, he turned and whispered a plea to his Grandsire, “Burn us after hey Sire… mix our dust… please.” Angel was beyond words and simply nodded as Spike too began to leak sickly bubbles from his nose, and Angel gave in to the horrifying realization that there was a very good possibility the two really might not survive.
Spike and Xander were in particular trouble, but eight other nymphs – and all the mother trees were also struggling. It was not just the nymphs and their trees in distress – the fae and human helpers too were waning, and the bottles of water diligently provided by Clem and crew just did not seem to be having the required effective.
Their last hope was the coven. The members were all finally gathered and had joined Willow in the cemetery late afternoon.
Under normal circumstance there would be no way they would invoke a healing spell of such magnitude in broad daylight – but this was no ordinary circumstance.
Willie’s efforts to dissuade folks from attending the “contaminated section of the cemetery – but don’t worry it will be clean in no time” area meant they had the place to themselves. (Possibly the rather disheveled look, still taped nose and black eyes of the badge wearing ‘Manager - My Name is Willie’ also helping to convince patrons to return another day).
Unlike usual spell circles, the group deliberately positioned themselves in an enormous area and would rely on personal connection with the earth and each other to provide the healing and encompass all the trees afflicted.
Dawn was thrilled when she asked to be part of the circle, and Cordelia and Giles also surprised to be included. And Harry charged with convincing the fae to participate in an almost unheard of move, placing themselves at various points in a wiccan circle.
But Willow was still worried the circle had a large gap near Spike’s old crypt. Finally it was Clem and crew, and Willie who stepped in unasked to see the life energy complete and focused.
Angel pulled the two invalids in his care into a tight hug as Willow’s eyes turned black and Mother Earth replied in no uncertain terms.
The ground shook for a full minute. Only seven point one on the Rictor scale but the university bell tower, fascia of the town hall, several statues, plus numerous other buildings succumbing to her fury with cracks, misalignments, and collapse.
The entire circle of individuals collapsed at the conclusion of the minute, the fae recovering first
and flying (literally) to check on their ill cousins and the trees.
When Harry (who had been ‘checking the troops) found Michael sobbing over the older nymph Celone, his heart sank, but the tearful face of his handsome lover turned to face him and he realized the emotion was one of sheer relief and joy, not grief. Harry kissed his partner, promised his return then moved on to check on the others.
Despite Willow’s commanding presence, even she realized that there was no doubt who was the rightful master and commander of the whole rescue.
He instructed all the humans to give the nymphs mouth to mouth – the added carbon dioxide at least giving a boost to the usual three percent, then pushed the already exhausted water nymphs to again deliver their precious fluids – just a few more times… for Harry. As he flew by a third time several of the very young water nymphs swooned a little and sighed, only to be slapped as a reminder to attend their duties by older cousins.
The sun was setting but for now, it was the best they could do.
Dawn and Willow raced to Xander and Spike’s tree and dove under the blankets as instructed and began to breath additional nutrient into the struggling bodies. Angel still dripped blood into mouths whenever either woman took a break. And finally they began to see a little improvement, the frothing and convulsions ceased and the two bodies appeared to rest.
Eventually all the humans and wiccans withdrew – including Cordelia who was invited to a latte at Giles’ expense and offered a bed for the night at Willow’s. The seer was touched.
Clem came by as though on command and delivered yet another package of blood from Willie – the man himself now utterly exhausted and resting in the passenger seat of Clem’s pride and joy – a new yellow ‘VW Beetle’.
Apparently Willie’s bar would open without Willie that night but with the assistance of Clem’s younger cousin, Gary and ‘friend’ both of whom had seen Harry and Michael’s little show and were quite keen to be behind the bar where there was a better view (apparently), in future. Not to mention the distraction meant more tips for the barman!
With both his charges settling more comfortably in his lap and beginning to suckle again, along with the sun setting, Angel threw off the blanket. There was still some way to go for his two ‘lost boys’… He was relieved and exhausted, but still reflected rather sadly that they would never be his boys, Xander never was… but both still held a connection, and a responsibility.
Harry came past to check on the most direly affected… his two friends, ironically their Mother Tree the original target, and therefore the attack ironically brutal in its effectiveness… But Xander wasn’t dead, nor was Spike dust (or dead … Angel not sure what would happen now).
They still did not know who had ‘done the deed’ but Dawn had been adding up the evidence in her head ever since arriving at the cemetery. She reported to Harry once home.
Harry flew down to the lowest branch and sat exhausted and rather dejected for a moment, before apparently rallying himself. There were two last things to be done – and Angel had to do one of them.
Angel turned to the little blue figure and recognized not a mischievous young faerie Harry, but an immensely capable, aged and wise leader, and an extraordinarily caring being who had led the charge to save all their friends. Angel felt rightfully humbled in the presence of the individual, Harry’s presence seemingly now reflective of his charisma and ability to organize rather than his stature.
Harry didn’t mince words, simply hovered and stated, “Given the evidence… Do you believe she could do it?”
The only answer Angel could add to the investigation was “Yes.”
Even without the proof of Buffy’s notes on Dawn’s own minutes from the Preservation Society and the two names circled. Her scribbles regards poisons (with phone numbers) on the back of an old envelope and open telephone book on the kitchen bench, led irrefutably to the perpetrator of the near tragedy.
The doorbell rang twice before Buffy was able to attend it – and even then had her hair trussed up in a towel.
“Oh My Gahhh! *Angel*?! Why…” Buffy slowed for a moment seeing the quintessential ‘everything is dire’ look on her former lover’s face.
“Noooo… no, no, no, no, *no*! You can’t just always come here all apolcalypty!!... Oh God it was the earthquake wasn’t it… Is that it?... Angel????
“Come On!!! Give me something here! Three times dead not really my aim! I know Giles is in town but he’s hardly Mr In the loop! These days.. Which is a *whole other story!”
Angel bided his time but still stood outside the house. He knew he was not allowed in the house courtesy of an old ‘un-invite’ spell some years ago. But knew, this time, the awkward pause suited him.
Buffy frowned again and nervously released her wet locks before realizing, “What? Ohh… Oh!! I invite you in! Gahhh come in!”
“I’d rather not…
“You don’t want to come in?
“I just…. I need you to come with me Buffy… You need to see something.”
“Um Oh sure… but, um sorry… need to get… um… I’ll be with you in a minute...” She left the door open and took off upstairs to dress and barely minutes later yelled out Weapons? Do we need weapons?”
She was out in less than four minutes, makeup impeccable and weapons in place. Slayer speed sometimes a plus.
As they wandered through Sunnydale, at speed as it happened, Buffy tried for several minutes to engage Angel in conversation, finding him not merely taciturn, but positively distant.
“So… you came here because…?”
“Got word there was trouble.”
“OMG!! And you didn’t think to call me?!! What *is* it with people these days?! Hello! Superhero in residence!”
“Yay finally!!! Please tell me he is damage bound, because…” The rest of the walk to the cemetery was spent ‘filling Angel in’ with the terrible, now demon, Xander, and the apparently irresponsible Spike. Angel said nothing.
As they rounded the warded corner Buffy smelt a rat, but before she was able to react, had an infinitely stronger grip hold her as she was shackled tight – both wrists and ankles – with strong steel and also magically enhanced restraints.
She was unceremoniously (and very uncomfortably) strung up, pinned on an odd diagonal angle to the mother tree’s lowest broken branches.
In front of her, under a thick blanket and under a pretty angora throw (provided by Dawn) that she recognized from her own mother’s bed, poked two very ill looking individuals that she knew.
Both faces were thin and drawn, but still she had no doubt as to who they were.
“OK… Angelus! Love it with the puppy eyes, but gotta tell ya… The act’s lame and I don’t know *how* you got happy but regardless… you’re boy there’s been neutered and his little friend is a demon of the first order and needs his butt kicked severely!!””
Buffy’s monologue fell short when Xander coughed violently then threw up (again). The act swiftly met by the emergence of four sets of hands of various colors and species to assist both the afflicted nymph and his partner who was also in the throws of dry retching.
“Seems you managed that already *Buff*…”
She swiftly realized that this was more than something Angelus would have done – indeed he did still feel like Angel.
The Slayer was utterly confused, so went on the offensive. “So what is this? Hmmm?? An intervention? Giles *you’re* the one who taught me … remember? Instinct… good/evil… demon/human… yadda yadda??”
A gag of wet pond weed tied by a piece of garden twine was applied, guaranteeing her silence, though the water nymphs unable to string anyone up before pointed out that the weed was quite nutritious if she chose to swallow.
Angel said nothing, but simply watched whilst one of the medically trained wiccans inserted a catheter and began to drain her blood into the now well used sports bottle, finally collecting the remainder into a plastic cup as her wound healed. She was still angry and tried to swear through the week but what Buffy could never have anticipated was the mother tree’s response. Her ‘odd angle’ was fixed in place by a network of fronds and roots still recovering from poison, but no less determined.
The mother tree was not heartless, however, and removed the gag and replacing it with her own frond leaving Buffy gagged far more effectively than with the pond weed. She could still swallow and for the next four days would feel the squirt of water and nutrients down her throat from the frond every hour or so.
Buffy was utterly… enveloped, forced to watch as the fruits of her murderous intent dealt with by desperate fae, frantic fauna, worried wiccans, birds and insects of all varieties trying to make sense of their tree’s sudden illness, and all manner of humans and demons racing against time to save the trees she had so callously condemned. She watched as creatures she never even knew existed, struggled with water bottles, applied healing salves and poultices, hefted water from the pond for stricken trees, and carried nectar to nymphs.
And all she had wanted to do was free Xander!!!
It was not like Angel to lecture – and though he was there each day he didn’t - but the anger rolled off him nightly as he silently forced her to keep her eye’s open to observe the carnage she had caused from her bark prison.
Finally, on the fourth and last day as he stood, the mother tree released her.
Xander and Spike were now resting safely inside her, unbeknownst to Buffy, when the older vampire addressed her directly.
“If you touch any of them… Xander… Spike… whoever… again? I *will* kill you. This is not an idle threat… And I will have the full approval of three realms to do so. Xander is one of the protectors now – to attack him is to violate the earth herself and Spike, his partner, and my beloved Childe, straddles all three realms. You shall Not. Touch. Them. Again. Clear?!”
Angel turned away displaying his anger and disgust regards her actions with deed not word, and left Dawn to unlock Buffy’s shackles.
Rather than addressing Buffy, the older vampire immediately checked on his lost grandchilde and partner, both were in a healing sleep when he was admitted into her inner sanctum by a combination of tree good will and Harry’s touch.
The tree recognized Angel’s scent as one who had helped and apparently related to her dear new nymph (The near death incident, and something about his unique vampire heritage, accelerating Spike’s change toward fully mated nymph without the traditional period interned in her bark).
Spike roused as a few drops of vampire blood fell across his lips and eased their way past the feeding frond from Xander’s nipple and into his stomach.
Spike slowly pulled off his partner, Angel never really getting used to the sight of the retracting frond, or the obviously deep throat extension the mother tree used to feed her true nymph Xander.
Spike gave a very rough and sleep filled, “Hey” and blinked lazily.
“I… I’ll have to go home soon Spike… I um… I just didn’t want to go before…
“Stay tonight Sire … Please? Just tonight…” Spike’s pleading look combined with arms that reached up for a hug like some small child left Angel with no option.
He hugged his fae grandchilde and agreed to stay.
No one spoke to Buffy as she departed and there was complete silence in the cemetery as she made her way out, her hand on Mr Pointy but not really sure she was ready to use it, though she still had to walk home.
It would be many months before their cemetery had the ‘protection’ of the Slayer – though eventually there was a quiet truce. Buffy never felt comfortable around the huge trees of Sunnydale again – always feeling like they looked at her with disfavor. And never again did she frequent a hardware store for poison.
A week after Buffy was captured, two amber amulets arrived in the post for the boys involved with the ‘Preservation Society” and their tree venture.
Less than two months later, each was drawn to the park at the rear of City Hall.
Both disappeared… and two ten year old oaks shivered their joy as each was gifted with their own nymph. The new fae would be held, cherished and coddled for two to four years at least before being released. The fae knew from the wards, the boys’ intentions had never been to harm, so rather than retribution they gifted them with a life that had a sole purpose – protecting their respective mother trees.
It was Harry’s idea… the others really did need to know, he had been sitting stroking Michael’s thick purple tresses, and contemplating the best course of action for hours.
Few of the others saw it, but the trauma had moved Spike toward the final change before the next spring season, he too would spend the next winter asleep. And it would be up to Dawn and her preservation team to assist the trees at that time.
The Nymph and his, for now, fae vampire partner had only just begun to move about and take sustenance on their own. Harry knew their friends thrilled, but at the very least, Angel and Dawn deserved to know… It was a secret many millennia old… but he knew the mother would understand.
On the evening of Angel’s departure, Xander and Spike were still lying at the mother tree’s base covered in warm blankets surrounded by friends, and being coddled more than a little, by Willow and Dawn.
Harry had finally spoken to Cordelia and she agreed. She pulled Willow aside and finally it was all arranged.
Angel arrived just after dark and Cordelia said nothing, simply pulled him down to be included in the group. They all sat in a circle, around the still prone and comfortable pair, hands touching gently.
Cordelia finally reached forward and added her hand to the clasped pair of the recovering fae then experienced a vision like no other. There was no pain, just clarity; it was not a vision of desperation nor a cry for help, but rather, a reassurance. As she grasped hands with the rest of the group they all saw. Harry simply smiled and whispered knowingly “the planting”.
Cordelia’s vision was vivid and accurate and they all experienced the mind picture with horrified fascination.
It was somewhere in the future. The tree was ill with a systemic virus that nothing – neither human nor magic means could stop. Xander and Spike were both grieving at her base but as the old tree’s essence rejoined the earth, Xander and Spike were driven to couple.
A now naked Spike stood and took his beautiful partner standing at her base and would have been under her canopy had she still possessed leaves. Xander leaned forward and hugged the all but dead stump for the last time as Spike entered him and after several minutes completed.
As they felt her final demise a series of extraordinary events unfolded...
Xander led his partner a few meters from the stump of his once beautiful mother tree. He paused still within reach of one of her large roots and hugged Spike close then kissed him hard. Foot pressed against the mother tree Xander released his partner just a little, broadened his stance and bent his own knees to brace slightly. He lifted Spike, who promptly wrapped his legs around the nymph’s waist and impaled himself on his willing partner.
Spike rocked back, he locked his hands behind Xander’s neck and in turn felt the strong arms of his partner fix themselves just below his hips as he became fully embedded. They both sighed a little when Xander began to move and Spike levered himself just enough to create a wonderful sensation.
The position should have been impossible to hold but Xander’s toes had extended to bury themselves firmly in the ground, anchoring them temporarily then permanently. The appendages continued down and Spike’s slowly extended to join them, the planting was now irreversible. They were fixed together for all time.
The bark that had covered his manhood rapidly spread to cover their torsos and legs entirely, binding them as one. As they completed and continued to kiss passionately for the last time, their arms were compelled to stretch skyward with the change, every limb sprouting numerous shoots and soon engulfed in a tangle of new leaves and small branches.
Mouths still attached to each other, noses and ears melted and were covered as the new bark spread across the two, though pretty eyes, continued to blink at each other for another minute or two. Finally a stream of tears was released as sad brown and blue eyes closed and they bade farewell to all the trappings of an ambulatory existence and were bound for all time. The final tears would form the amber so needed for the next part of the cycle as their own nymph was found.
Xander begged that his old friends understand. When his... their tree died, his future was pre-determined and more uniquely so was Spike’s, and they were both accepting of that fate, welcomed it even.
To commune with the earth fully and for all time was his destiny, carrying his ancient legacy forward through many more decades possibly centuries, to share that completely with his lover, his partner in everything was an extraordinary privilege.
Xander came to awareness again as Dawn leaned over and brushed away two of his own tears then rocked back to wipe away stream of hers as she sniffled loudly before croaking a rather broken… “When…?”
Harry answered, “Oh hundred years… depends, could be longer, or could be only a few decades away…”
Dawn stood and slapped first Spike then the full nymph as hard as she could. “You’re both as bad as Harry! Here I was ready to… aarrrgghh!!!”
She hit the rather stunned nymph again, then calmed, leaned forward and kissed him then let more tears fall, before adding, “ Sorry… It’s just… I love you both so much and I thought… Ohh Xan… it’s beautiful… you really will be together... forever! *Wow*!”
Xander simply smiled and felt all kinds of stirrings under his flap that he hoped Dawn could not detect.
He hugged Willow and Giles in turn and reassured them also.
Spike looked over at Angel who had released hands with everyone immediately, and walked away from the group to stand alone and stare at the new moon. Spike squeezed his lover’s hand and stood to join the vampire.
Angel felt the presence – not like family any more exactly, but calm, quiet, and comfortable nevertheless. Arms pulling his own duster tight, he didn’t turn but knew his whisper was clearly audible to fae and vampire.
“We both know… The others will be long gone… but I’ll be… Oh Spike! How can I?!... I know you’re already… but this is… saying goodbye!...”
Before Spike had time to react, Angel spun and was kneeling at his beautiful Grandchilde’s feet arms wrapped around the fae’s pale legs and cheek resting against a torso now adorned by an exquisite line of leaves. The additions were soft and almost warm, and moved a little as Angel’s tears began to drop in a steady stream.
Spike was rather overcome by the move but after a few seconds, slid down slowly, gently to comfort, since the truth, he knew, was always going to be painful.
“C’mon y’ol bugger… not gonna happen for a long while is it! Near on as immortal as us, these here trees – you saw her with the poisonin’ and so on. Reckon we’ve got…”
“Oh Gahhh Spike *please*… I am happy for you but just can’t… just can’t bear the thought that you’re going to be… I’ve just really found you…”
“Still here ya silly ol’ ponce!” The words were harsh but the tone extremely soft and affectionate. “And we’ll send our friend Harry there after you if you don’t come visit our tree on Christmas an’ bank holidays – or whatever the hell they do here. An’ you better stick to it too ‘cause that boy’s a right tough on an’ gonna outlive the lot of us, what with ‘is new young plaything ‘n all!”
Angel snorted a little laugh then hugged Spike all the tighter. “ I… I um… I’m happy you will find completeness. You’ve earned it.”
“Not about earnin’ anythin’ Luv… we both know that…”
Both fell into game face, harder these days for Spike as his features barely shifted though he still managed small fangs to slide through. Nevertheless, the fangs on both vampires were sharp and necks offered and shared.
Spike pulled away, blood lining his green tinged lips and grinned. He decided to try to lighten the mood a little after the exchange, “Still time for you anyway!… I mean you fed her and us… Still reckon she could fix you up with one of ‘er sisters for sure.”
Angel smiled weakly then registered the words and slapped the fae vampire in his arms lightly before pulling him into an even tighter hug, kissing the claim mark and whispering with complete sincerity, “Anything you need… You’re family… that will never change… but oh… Gho…” Angel allowed a tear to fall. “It does not matter Spike?!... you call me OK?… Family… always… [hitched and unnecessary breath] And when they’re all gone. And you and Xander are… Spike just promise you’ll listen if I come and sit at your feet to read to you in the Autumn… Please?? When an old irish bugger comes to read Joyce or Yeats or …. Oh God… Spike… Please… Just Remember? You used to do that…when…”
Angel seemed to lose his train of thought as he was swept up by memories of years prior to his ensoulment and allowed a flood of tears to flow and gave a very audible sob.
Spike contemplated another ‘cheerup’ effort but realized the seriousness of the request and the very real distress of someone he had so recently come to know again, so he answered with heartfelt reverence, “Yeah Sire… that would be nice… Be honored if you’d do that… thanks. Visit us too – before like? Harry not needin’ t’ chase?”
Angel turned and stroked the exquisite right cheekbone with the back of his hand and whispered, “You couldn’t keep me away.” Angel then pulled him into a tight hug.
They held for some minutes more. Finally both stood and returned to the group, Angel’s hand gently touching the leaf surrounded one repeatedly as they walked, as though to reassure himself that Spike was indeed still with him… at least for now.
Just before they rejoined the rest of the Scoobies, Spike used the light touch to snag the hand and pull Angel to a halt.
This time it was dark brown fronds, which had replaced lashes, now surrounding crystal blue eyes that were dripping with tears. Angel knew intuitively to stay still even before his Grandchilde began, “Don’t interrupt or this is gonna come out all wonky…
“Right… You’ll always be m’ Grandsire, regardless of the leaves or roots thingy, family an’ the like… and I thank you for… well you know with the long life an’ all that, but what you’ve done… given… of late as a friend… for the boy n’ me… just…” Spike squeezed the hand and pursed his lips before he resolved to keep going. “Oh F@#$ alright… I bloody love ya, ya ol’ bugger, an’ worse still, so does the boy, so no getting’ yourself dusted afore ya get to keep the readin’ promise OK?!!! “
Angel had his usual unreadable expression fixed firmly in place as they rejoined the group, but Xander knew the sign of recently wet fronds and smiled knowingly, meeting his partner with a hug… They were part of the fae, protectors of her and eventually would be joined forever… but they were so much more… Angel accepted, his… their… old friends accepted, and their new ones rejoiced… and there would be many more challenges before the planting no doubt, but even so… it was… just right.
Spike pulled Xander up and the two kissed passionately – Dawn could have sworn she saw their leaves reach toward each other also as their lips combined.
Mother Earth shivered her own pleasure just enough for the fae to know as the two rejoiced, and Harry kissed Michael triumphantly before he broke out thimbles of mead for all in attendance and they toasted the happy couple and to Angel and Cordy’s safe trip… and … and…. And….