Two Squared: 1
The two boys had begun as enemies. When Spike was chipped, they reluctantly cohabited for a time. After that they fought on the same side, and when Buffy died they even tolerated each other. He hated Spike for the aborted rape, but forgave after the vampire returned with the soul and the apocalypse approached. They had been begrudging friends then…and finally on one momentous (rather drunken) night sometime after the first came and Spike’s sleeper was put to rest, they had enjoyed each other’s bodies consensually.
The next two months before the final fight, the tables had turned. Spike was Buffy’s friend but Xander’s lover. Spike comforted Buffy but came to Xander’s bed. The last night before the final fight Xander spent with Anya. He could not regret it, not after she was so brave. But he would have given anything for a last night with Spike. He had always assumed Spike would be there afterwards.
With ‘his’ two dead and dusted in the Sunnydale victory… he simply left. There was nothing for him anymore. He was a one eyed ex Scoobie who had lost the two most important people in his recent life, and everything he had ever owned.
He occasionally checked in with Giles and accepted the pittance doled out by the emergency fund from Washington for those in the ‘earthquake disaster of Sunnydale’. His parents had died that day, he was compensated for the house only. The life insurance had been ‘imbibed’ some time ago, apparently. Nevertheless, he had enough to start again, which he did after a fashion – drifting around the state until he found a space he felt comfortable in six months later.
Xander was in L.A serving behind a bar - a demon establishment in the less savory end of town, ever the demon magnet. He was listening to a lengthy diatribe from a very drunk Pylean demon leaning heavily on the bar to his left. “Something big went down tonight.” He served the odd green guy yet another Sea Breeze and listened. When two vampires with a soul were mentioned, he asked some discreet questions and knew it was Angel, and the platinum blonde had to be Spike! It just had to be! But how?
He signed off early, claiming stomach upset, which was partially true, he felt sick and distressed. What if? What if he was dust? But what if he wasn’t?
Xander still didn’t know how he found him. But he did. The evidence of the battle was everywhere. The alley piled high with dead or dying demons and the scorch marks of a powerful blast.
Spike was broken and almost bleeding out. He still held the body of a handsome, very dead, African-American warrior in his arms.
Xander could see where tears had left a bloodied trail. Spike murmured “Ill’rya and Sire” as Xander tried to rouse him before tearing his wrist to feed him enough to buy them a little time.
Pushing the unfortunate friend onto the ground by Spike’s side, Xander then lifted the slim figure and carried him to safety. He could not carry the dead body out, and for that he would always be truly sorry.
He fed Spike and tended his injuries for a solid fortnight before the vampire came to for long enough to explain his post Sunnydale story in full. Xander stroked the still slightly scarred arms and brushed over the healing wounds from the night his Sire and Charles and Wesley had met their final fate. Physical wounds became scars and even those gradually faded, and they two friends healed together.
Twelve months on, the two had become lovers and later decided it was for all time and claimed each other as mates. For reasons of bad memories and a fresh start, they decided to leave the USA for good. Giles came through, sponsoring them to the UK where they disappeared into the population.
They based themselves in Esher, Surrey. They rented a small ‘two up, two down’ with a lovely little garden just outside London. They had been there now for four months. Xander really didn’t mind the weather because a rainy day was a day in with Spike.
Xan had returned to making furniture for a local specialist store, and Spike had found he had a talent for binding books in leather. Although for the most part they lived off the Aurelian money and Xander’s investment of the compensation he had been afforded. They kept in contact with the coven and the new Watchers’ Council (more specifically Willow and Giles) and occasionally agreed to do a job or two.
For some reason, Giles had sent them on an excursion to Whipsnade Gardens, an offshoot of the London Zoo, to investigate several odd occurrences of big cats being expertly tranquilized and their handlers disappearing. It was not the only zoo affected. Two private parks and the Paris Zoo had been hit by the ‘sandman’ as the press were calling it.
The last month had seen the disappearance of three zoo keepers tending felines who had recently reproduced. With a successful breeding program, the London Zoo often sent their cubs to other zoos, but the three cubs were still present and ready for transfer. The drugging incident coincided with a press announcement from a private holding in Spain. They had apparently purchased three cheetah cubs from the zoo. Something that a spokesman from London hotly denied – even going so far as to display the cheetah cubs for the press. The coven tested the area and magical activity was detected, but the reason for it still puzzling.
Some weeks later in the later pages of the Guardian, the disappearance of the three keepers was flagged, but with only two paragraphs or so and an announcement in missing persons by the respective families, it largely went unnoticed.
The tigers and panther at Whipsnade had just produced cubs. There was a build up of magic in the area and Giles suspected the next occurrence would be there.
Spike and Xander went in late at night dressed as keepers, hoping to catch the thieves in the act. They had been told by Giles that they would be let in by the night keeper, however the contact person appeared to be absent from their post and did not answer their phone. Spike hurdled the fence with ease. Xander managed to scramble over inelegantly, relying on Spike to catch him as he dropped awkwardly to the ground. Xander was about to say something but was silenced. “Sshhhh, Somethin’ don’t feel right pet.”
Approaching the tiger enclosure, there were no animals to be seen. They wandered around the back to the sleeping quarters. As they stepped up to push open the stiff gate together, the entire area shimmered and felt distinctly odd, then the world spun and went black as they both fell unconscious…
The licking and cleaning was all automatic and happened when he first woke. Two furry front paws… and clean and lave and then…// OMG! Where… and what??? They were his paws, and with the fuzz and … and … and…// then there was black as he passed out again.
The next time he awoke, he was lying on a soft bed of straw, someone else was massaging his ears. Appendages that seemed to be in the wrong spot… someone else was licking and gently biting behind them, it felt right… it felt like home and comfort… it calmed him and as he heard the purring, he knew that it was for their comfort also.
Spike had also awoken to panic, the body was not his own, nor was the species! But he had a heart beat and licking around his mouth realized he still had his fangs, if anything bigger and sharper than ever. That was satisfying at some level. He was still a predator. He deliberately sought to breathe and calm.
The tiny white tiger yawned and stretched languidly, and felt the strength in his new form, saw the stripes and knew what body he was in, so let himself go on instinct. He was licking his now fuzzy mate’s rounded soft ears because it felt… like the thing to do. It felt like family, Xander felt like family and smelt like family. So he licked his brother-for-now’s ears with a small hot tongue… because he was worried, licked the soft fur… because it was comfort. And so was his purring… that at least was familiar, even if the higher tone was not.
Two … they both had two legs this morning and two arms… and opposing thumbs… Now there were four legs, with furry paws and retractable claws and the legs that definitely articulated in different ways. He also felt uncoordinated and stumbled as he moved toward a larger warm body. Somewhere in his mind he was the same old Xander but … he just didn’t feel right!! He was no longer blind in one eye but had two functioning chocolate and gold eyes like his brother (and again with the weirdness… Spike was his lover, he thought… but now definitely… family.)
Apart from them there were two identical cubs and two other far larger tigers in the enclosure. Xander panicked. Tigers *were man eaters* but then realized that the larger female was nudging him affectionately, licking him with a far larger tongue than had been caressing his ears. Indeed Spike who still had a link with him and had been the original licker, was acquiescing with apparent pleasure as they both rolled onto their backs with their identical twins and gave in to the amazing caress of her enormous tongue. He wondered how old they all were for her to be so attentive.
The tigress lay down and offered her belly with six full teats at the ready. The smell was intoxicating and the two interloping young cubs had no more human or vampire thoughts, and simply accepted the wonderful gift. They latched on along with their two siblings (?) to drink with gusto, side by side, pawing her furred stomach gently, squeaking their pleasure, and suckling until their little tummies were bloated. They all then curled up against her and slept until the sun began to rise.
Xander woke to an enormous rough tongue licking him all over, the tigress cleaning him thoroughly. He squirmed a little as he woke completely surrounded by warmth and smell of … family… and took a moment or two more to register. He relaxed back on his side again, as she moved on to the next cub. As the large striped torso shifted a bit to pursue her task, he rolled onto still slightly unsteady legs and padded over to Spike who had just been ‘bathed’.
He flopped down beside his partner still hazy and started to experiment. He flicked his tail, then rolled onto his back to lift and bite one of his back feet while ‘checking out’ the extra appendage. For some reason he felt good, even relaxed… it was odd… having a tail. It was a strangely good, odd though… even if he realized that he must be a *very young* tiger. So…. not so… noble or elegant as the adults in their pen. Nevertheless he released his foot and rolled to his stomach where he chewed on the presented limb of his pale partner, evoked a squeak, and swished his new feature one more time.
He noticed Spike all but grinning at him, the tiny white tiger’s blue eyes sparkling as he swished his own tail, deliberately touching his golden companion in the process. Xander pounced on his white friend (stripes only just showing) Spike bit his ‘brother’, and they proceeded to roll awkwardly.
After many minutes of ‘tussling’ they gave in to their bodies’ needs and fed again, yawning wide and snuggling in close, the reassuring presence of the tigress and the two other little figures making them both feel oddly content. Giles or Willow would look for them, but for now this was… just [yawn again] nice.
They woke to growling and made odd tiny growls, squeaks and whimpers of their own, somehow knowing they were hearing distress. They watched confused as the uncoordinated actions of the tigress and the larger male in the enclosure were followed by the larger forms collapsing, both the adults succumbing to tranquilizer darts. Similar things were happening in the next cage where a jaguar was making a futile and almost drunken attempt to protect her three young before collapsing.
Spike bit the hand that grabbed him, and was dumped into the large Hessian bag without ceremony. Xander followed. Both had drawn blood from their captors. The two were now squashed together against the rough cloth as they listened to two men speaking and were carried to a vehicle somewhere.
“You’re sure they’re the right ones?”
“Positive, stone glowed blue when it was over them, besides the other two cubs were pretty passive… bit of a clue ain’t it?”
“What about the night watch guy? Thought he was gonna..”
“Nahh boss figured Trinidad so black panther was more ‘is ‘natural’ color like.”
“Geez… remind me not to get on the boss’s bad side!”
“Yeah well you do, ‘n ya won’t be complainin’ ‘cept for some growlin’ ‘til ya get shipped!”
Many hours later the two little ones had both soiled their space, something their human/vampire *and* tiger minds abhorred, but they had no choice. The bag was suffocating, dark and smelled like… fear. Others had been taken in it before. They heard the plaintive mewling of another little feline nearby and assumed it to be a panther cub. Spike purred loudly to try to help. The two little tigers (formerly human and vampire) were eventually tipped from the bag into a small cage. It was already a tight fit, yet they managed to create some space by cowering together into one corner as a cover was put over their confines and all went dark again.
Two cages were placed in the boot of a car. Spike’s nostrils flared and both their ears pricked up at the sound of an ancient car engine. The ride was harsh, their tiny bodies thrown around several times as the car apparently lurched through traffic.
They knew they were being loaded into the cargo section of a plane as they smelt the fuel and heard the unmistakable sound of roaring engines. The cover on their cage was lifted and a spotlight blinded them for a moment, Xander whimpered and Spike snuggled closer for comfort.
An officious voice was behind the light somewhere, “Two tiger cubs for export, one, two – check destination, Dubai [mumbles: bloody rich foreigners!] check – Vaccination papers, check – Vet Clearance, check…OK then... Right to go, Stan.”
Just before take off, ‘Stan’ poked two teats through the mesh of their transport cage. Both little bodies had been starving and cold for hours so neither hesitated, they latched on, pawing the harsh wire of the cage and finishing their respective drugged milk meals. They had hardly finished when all went black.
They woke hours later but simply lay fearful, intertwined and thirsty until the new vehicle they were traveling in suddenly stopped. They were transferred again but had no clue as to where they were truly being taken – other than to the middle east. Both woke several times in the next day or so to comfort each other until fed by human handlers again, each time falling back into slumber.
It was three days from their kidnap when they woke fully, out of the vehicle and out of the cage. They were lying on a soft bed, with a fuzzy blanket tucked around them. For a moment Xander thought he was back in Esher, but then Spike’s high pitched whimper reminded him of their current dilemma.
They had been thrown around en route and Spike’s side was bruised and sore, even Xander could tell. It was his turn to comfort. He licked behind Spike’s ears and nuzzled him. They reached for each other through the mating link. It was still there. Spike eventually responded in kind.
Neither could fail to notice, they both sported gem adorned collars. Xander observed sadly, there were two larger collars hanging on the wall big enough to accommodate a far larger ‘animal’, they were apparently intended for them as they grew.
“Look Father they’re licking each other! How lovely!” A human child in traditional Arabian dress moved to stand in front of their … cage. “May I feed them father?”
“Of course Ahmil, but you must ask the keeper when their proper feeding time is.” The boy was obedient. Spike recognized the language, Arabic.
A pretty lad with olive skin and pale green eyes, squatted beside the perspex door of their sleeping area. Spike tried to say something, but all that came out was a tiny growl. The boy grinned, Xander also tried to catch his attention but as he reached up a paw, he toppled over, still too unstable on three legs to manage the maneuver. But the act evoked a delighted snigger.
“Father! I think this one is trying to talk to me! Oh and Look! They really are lovely.” Both Xander and Spike gave up trying to say anything, and simply moved forward to the cage door their tails swishing with frustration at their inability to communicate. The act evoked a squeal of delight from the lad and resulted in the door being opened a little, and a small tentative hand reaching in to pet the soft barely stripy pelts. Both cubs did the only thing they knew might help, they each licked the fingers and rubbed soft foreheads against the tender touch, purring as loudly as their little bodies could manage.
Out of the corner of one eye Spike saw the large Sheikh smile, “They will make fine pets for you my son. See how they already respond to you. But you must always be careful Ahmil. They will grow powerful, as you will also as you grow, but theirs is the greater physical power. Be sure you mind their trainers in all things.”
“Yes father… and thank you father… it’s a *wonderful* gift… thank you.”
The older man left the room mumbling something about “… should hope so at 300,000 pounds Sterling plus transport! My wives cost me less last quarter.” The Sheikh mused that it was no wonder the London Zoo was doing well, given the rate their cats reproduced and their willingness to sell to private collectors.
The two little tigers whimpered for the first few nights. The trainers assumed it was missing their mother and oddly that was partially true, the little bodies instinctively craving the comfort of the tigress. But the real grief being expressed was for their lost human/vampire forms, the fear that they would not be found, and the distress over their lost freedom.
Two Squared: 2