The crazy thing - okay, the latest crazy thing in Xander's life - is they're freaks on Freak Street in Kathmandu and Xander's right at home here, if home is a place with spinning prayer wheels and fluttering banners and crumbling buildings. Xander's so at home following Xander down the street he'd hang his hat here if he had a hat. Xander rolls with the punches these days.
He rolls and jitters and shakes with them and he kinda hopes this other Xander knows where to jab a needle when the time comes because he's got a twitch in his left hand that could flag a cab.
"Freak Street," the other Xander says, "all the comforts of home if you're a Freak. And if you like curry. Which you do."
Xander can't argue.
So Xander's not surprised when they duck through a curtained doorway into a mecca of Americanization and the other Xander tosses his red coat onto a chair shaped like a goat and the air smells like curry. He's not the guy in the red coat anymore and that makes him more Xander except for the one eye thing so when he says "Mi casa es su casa," Xander can't argue with that either though he's pretty sure he never bought a chair shaped like a goat.
Turns out, he's right.
The other Xander's rolling up his sleeve and he's got this side to side thing going on with his head while he maneuvers the needle into the vial. He catches Xander's fingers running over the goat's horns. "Spike."
"You named a goat chair Spike?"
The needle goes in, slip, slide and heat that melts his bones and Xander stamps a foot on the floor like a counting horse with a short attention span because shooting up just doesn't get better. One-eyed him caps the syringe and shoots it overhand at a waste basket overflowing with beer cans. "Spike bought it." He reconsiders. "Okay, Spike brought it home."
Xander gets that.
Except "Spike's in Greece."
"Yeah, that's the funny part. He's at Pashupatinath too."
Xander licks his lips.
So does Xander.
"You really want to say 'bless you' don't you?"
He really does.
Being crazy only changes some things.
"Hindu pilgrimage site. It's big. It's old. It's Hindu."
"What's it got?"
"Funny you should ask," One-eyed Xander says except he didn't move his lips and the words are coming from behind Xander who keeps on stubbornly thinking of himself as the real Xander because that way lies madness that makes his crazy look like a little attack of the giggles. Xander's about to comment on the whole ventriloquism thing then scraps it because the Xander who walks out from behind him and helps himself to a bowl of curry is way bumpier and fangier than any Xander Xander's met so far. "What's with him?" Vampire Xander points at the real, one and only, accept no imitators Xander with his spoon.
Vampire Xander kicks One-eyed Xander's coat off the goat chair with a bare foot and slouches into it, rests his bowl on a curved horn. "It's always something."
One-eyed Xander's dishing up two bowls of curry and hands one to Xander with a spoon and a flat slab of bread. "Pashupatinath's got an oracle."
Vampire Xander licks his spoon and looks discomfortingly like Spike when he grins. "It's also got another one of us."
"Another one of which?" Xander asks and the world answers him when the door opens and he walks in. Xander's getting used to his own entrances and guesses there comes a time in the crazy where a guy has to give up and strap himself in for the ride.
Xander buckles up.
"Curry's in the kitchen," Vampire Xander says and licks his spoon again.
The new Xander stands there and tilts his head to one side like he's doing calculations in his head. Turns out he is. "I like curry," he concludes and marches into the kitchen.
The great thing about having himself over for company, Xander realizes, is it pretty much guarantees he's not the only one who's crazy.
He fiddles with the zipper pull on his coat and looks up into Spike's face.
Except not the right Spike's face.
This Spike's looking at him with the kind of wary look Xander himself reserves for dinners that stare back at him. Since starting work for the council he's had a lot of those.
"This another one?" Spike asks and Xander's pretty sure the right Spike wouldn't be calling him a this.
He eats his curry.
He does like curry.
But apparently he likes Spike more.
And Xander gets to watch Spike cringe while the latest Xander abandons his curry for throwing his arms around Spike. "Fucking hell!"
"Are you sure you do not want me to service your long and majestic cock, Spike?"
Three Xanders stop eating.
Spike swivels his head around to take in all three of them and demands, "What?"
Three Xanders raise their eyebrows.
"Is it because we're in public, master? Because your god-like perfection is nothing to be ashamed of."
Three Xanders crack up laughing.
"No sodding servicing," Spike says and stalks to the kitchen, bangs around until he finds a beer. One-eyed Xander sympathetically cracks it open and clinks their bottles together. Spike takes a long drink. "Right then. That all of them?"
"Yeah - what's with him?"
Spike takes another long drink. "Bot."
Spike drains his beer and cracks open another. Points at the real one and only Xander who's having trouble getting curry to stay on his fork 'cause the shakes came back. "What's with him?"
One-eyed Xander drinks his beer. "Crazy."
Spike gives him a speaking look.
And Xander thinks that's kinda unfair because it's the Xanderbot who's trying to get vampire Xander into a conversation on the merits of Spike's cock - not him. He works on his curry because he's crazy but he's not crazy enough to jump into this wacky conversation without finishing his curry. It's good.
He says so.
"I sold street curry in Chandigarh for a summer while hunting a pair of Bongpups," One-eyed Xander says.
"Smelled like turmeric for months," Spike grouses and opens another beer.
Xander realizes there's a lot more beer in here than he knew and Spike's gonna drink all of it if he can.
"I don't smell like turmeric, Spike!"
Xander doesn't blame him.
"Look - can't we pull out his battery until we need him?"
"You like me better with my battery in, Spike. With my battery out, you cannot access my impressive range of vibrational functions."
Three out of four Xanders agree to give Spike funny looks. Spike throws up his hands. "I didn't have him made!"
"But you are Spike. Even if you are not the Spike who asked Warren to make me, I am programmed to serve your every fantasy with a smile on my face." Xanderbot's head cocks and something whirs and pings inside him and a fat tear rolls down his cheek. "Unless you desire life-like and salty virginal tears."
"Fucking hell!" Spike says.
Both of him.
The one in the doorway and the one with a Xanderbot strapped to him.
Xander shovels curry faster into his mouth because when Spike shows up it's time to go. That's the rule but the rule doesn't include dinner and he doesn't know where he's going next but he's pretty sure there's not going to be dinner when he gets there and he's empty.
It's not a knish but it'll do.
His Spike pulls out the hypodermic case and Xander holds out an arm and eats curry with the other hand.
Spike sniffs the air.
"You all smell like turmeric."
They leave Nepal in a pink and yellow van with clattering beads hanging down the sides.
And move on to a train that's rocking and rolling down the line with worn out red velvet seats that make Xander think of a movie theater but there's no popcorn.
No popcorn and not much of a movie unless you like horror movies and steep drops into the Himalayas and Xander would kill for a yak because he's pretty sure trains don't care if they plunge to their grisly deaths.
He kneads his fingers into the seat cushion and stares longingly at a yak beside the rails.
The yak stares back.
The yak also gets bored first and goes back to ripping grass off the mountainside because the train's going about five miles an hour.
Spike's attention is a lot harder to get rid of than a yak's and Xander stuffs his hands into his armpits so they won't jitter too. The crook of his elbow is sore from the needle and the Xanderbot is staring into space and really wigging him out.
"I want to go home," Xander says in a moment of total lucidity. "But this isn't the way," and okay maybe not so total after all because he's feeling the wig on the end of that sentence and Spike's looking him over like he's looking for jitters.
Xander tucks his hands further under his armpits and fiddles with the flocking on the seat behind him.
"It's not," he says defensively and means it. "We passed the wrong yak."
"Fucking hell," the other Spike says. His Spike's still staring at him like he's calculating how much serum he's got left on him - and if it's gonna be enough to keep Xander from turning into a raving lunatic before they get back to Greece. Xander resents the implications.
He raved for a long time before he ever went insane.
But the other Spike's staggering out of the compartment, 'cause on a train like this there's two motions to choose from: rocking and staggering and maybe Xander shouldn't have had that last bowl of curry.
"Hey." Vamp Xander kicks One-eyed in the shin. "Hey!" He kicks harder and goes all bumpy and grr when One-eyed kicks back.
"Put 'em away." One-eyed's saying and stretching. "I mean - who knows what kind of wacky temporal rift you'll cause if you eat one of us?"
"Temporal rifts are so Star Trek," Vamp grumbles and slouches into the corner opposite the Xanderbot. "What's going on?"
One-eyed automatically looks out the window. "Yaks," he says.
Xander admires his succinctness.
Vamp Xander doesn't. "Bellevue over there says it's the wrong yak and Spike gets all fucking hell and - "
"Oh fuck," One-eyed says and staggers out the door after Spike.
"Okay. Anyone who'd rather be at home with a screaming victim raise your hand." Vamp Xander raises his hand.
So does Spike.
Xander kicks him.
"What? Still a vampire. You say Quarter Pounder, extra cheese, and we say screaming victim."
"I still like Quarter Pounders," Vamp Xander volunteers and slouches until he can put his feet on the opposite bench.
The Xanderbot doesn't mind - mostly because it's off by virtue of two Spikes exercising their powers of line-item veto.
Which was probably a bad idea because when the train screeches to a stop, the bot flies off the seat and crushes Vamp Xander with a crunch that makes Xander wince. He sneaks a peek at yellow eyes and lots of bumps and scoots down the seat and presses himself against the window.
A yak stares back at him with bovine interest.
The Xanderbot hits the floor. "Fuck this. I'm getting something to eat." Vamp Xander crunches and cracks his way to the window and climbs over the sill, skidding down the slope and Xander licks his lips. "Not to be all Star Wars but I've got a bad feeling about this."
And the feeling pretty much gets worse when a bright light highlights Vamp Xander and the yak and maybe Star Wars was appropriate after all.
"What?" Spike's wrestling the Xanderbot back onto the seat.
"There's a flying saucer."
"No such thing as - "
"Vampires. Witches. Ghosts. Demons. Interdimensional tears held together with scotch tape." Xander ticks off every mission they've been on in the last year. "Prophetic madness. The tooth fairy."
"Fucking know it all bint," Spike mutters. Spike concedes. "Right." He lets the bot slump onto its side while he joins Xander at the window to watch Vamp Xander ride a yak up a tractor beam right into the belly of a - "Fuck me. It is a flying saucer."
A flying saucer which flashes and zips closed and then plain zips disappearing over the horizon.
"Not to be all Star Wars," Xander says again.
Xanderbot's eyes snap open, gold, and his face goes bumpy with a series of mechanical clicks. "Intercourse this. I am getting something to eat."
They stare at it.
It stares out the window.
"I've got a bad feeling about this, Harris."
"Ow." The needles don't hurt a lot anymore but Xander's not above playing the sympathy card.
The sympathy card would be more playable if Spike had any sympathy.
"Where're we going?" he asks, tucking away the hypodermic kit and patting around for cigarettes.
"Pashupatinath," Other Spike says.
"Hell," One-eyed Xander says at the same time. Pauses. Shrugs. "Tomayto, tomahto."
The Xanderbot's still bumpy but it's off and not trying to climb out the window after a yak again and the train's chugging along fast enough this time to really get the attention of the local wildlife.
"Why?" Spike asks because he's always the guy to ask hard questions. 'When's Harris gonna be sane again?' and 'how long till we put Harris down like a rabid dog?' chief among them. Xander makes a point of not listening to the answers whenever possible.
"Aliens," Other Spike says while One-eyed Xander says:
"Interdimensional portal." One eyed shoots Spike half a glare because half's all he's got. It's an effective half. "Interdimensional portal the aliens are using to pull the mes in other worlds through so they can - "
"Build a better Xander," Xander interjects. Because demons in Levi's were coming for his DNA. Everybody's looking at him funny and he raises his hands. "Hey it's wiggy when I'm right."
"Why would anybody want to build a better Xander?" Spike holds up a forestalling hand. "Why would anybody want to build a Xander?"
"Anal probe," Other Spike says.
One-eyed Xander chokes on whatever he was trying to say and has to be whacked on the back until he can breathe again and sits there gasping while Other Spike goes on.
"They picked up Harris here 'bout a month ago. Took a shine to him, thought he'd make a good souvenir to take back to Alpha Centauri."
"Right." Spike's showing interest again and Xander really kinda wishes he wouldn't. "Anal probes?"
One-eyed Xander's back in the game. "You know, I'm comfortable with the whole demon magnet thing. I accept the whole demon magnet thing. But I really wasn't consulted when that little aliens too clause got tacked on and I'd like to protest."
"Noted," Other Spike says and lights up a cigarette and basically ignores One-eyed Xander trying to get in his way. "Funny thing about the anal probe. The little green blokes don't have anuses. Completely fascinated by them."
"But how do they - " Xander starts off before stomping on the rest of the sentence because he really doesn't want to know.
Sadly it's too late.
"Regurgitation," Other Spike informs him solemnly. "Point is, why take one Xander home when you can have the complete set in one Harris-shaped package? Seems to be some type of interdimensional rule against bringing home specimens. That or they all die in transit." He frowns. "Bloke I talked to wasn't very clear on that point. So they make their own. Like sketching landscapes."
"The landscape begs to differ about his similarity to landscapes."
"Landscape with an anus."
"I shouldn't've told you about the anal probe." One-eyed Xander holds up both hands like he's planning to part the Red Sea - or stop Spike from saying more - about equal difficulty in Xander's experience. "It's like this. I'm walking down the street in Kirrha, minding my own business - "
"Running away from a Slayer's mum with a kitchen knife," Spike interjects.
"Minding my own business in a Watcher kinda way," One-eyed Xander concedes. "And then wham, bam, thanks for all the fish, I'm doing the medical experiment number five gig for a bunch of short green guys and I do not mind telling you that the brain probe was way worse than the anal probe."
"Pervert." Other Spike snickers.
"Hey buddy, at least I got an orgasm out of the anal probe. The brain probe didn't even buy me a drink."
The conductor makes an announcement. In Indian. Or Hindu. Nepalese or Pashupatinathese because Xander's really not up on the local lingos. One-eyed Xander and Other Spike just cock their heads and listen.
"Pashupatinath Temple," Other Spike says and hauls the Xanderbot over his shoulder like a piece of luggage and the train's slowing down and they're filing out of the compartment and onto the platform. Xander can smell the river.
He can also smell the curry.
He'd kill for a coffee.
He'll settle for a coke and a smile and takes the bottle with thanks when One-eyed Xander offers it to him.
Because all the world loves a Coke.
"Okay - where was I?" One-eyed Xander's got a coke and his shit together and they're heading toward what's gotta be the temple.
"Probes." Because Other Spike's a helpful guy.
"Yeah, probes. So they probe me all over - drinkless - and then its into the big vat of alien goo."
"How was it?" Spike asks like he doesn't care much either way about the answer.
"Gooey," One-eyed Xander says. "Fruity. It was like being given birth to by a jellied pineapple. Altogether not the worst part of the experience."
"Why?" Xander asks because it looks like nobody else is gonna - and it's a sorry day when the crazy guy has to ask the sane questions.
"To make a totally accurate copy." One-eyed Xander points at the bot who's dangling and swaying over Spike's shoulder. "Him. It. Whatever. Personally I think their idea of total accuracy needs work if they were gonna include the bot in the mix."
"Right." Other Spike's the soul of agreement. "Course, I do recall you saying a few worshipful things about my cock, time to time."
"Jesus! Fuck, baby! Give it to me more?" One-eyed Xander asks.
Other Spike's eyes glaze over. "Yeah."
"But not in the middle of Kathmandu's main street."
Other Spike shudders all over and gives the bot a wary look. "Right," he agrees again.
"Anyway, apparently Xanders are like Lay's potato chips."
Two Spikes look at One-eyed Xander funny.
"Betcha you can't eat just one," Xander says helpfully. "What? You watch TV too."
Two out of two Spikes ignore him. One out of two Spikes picks up the tattered thread of what's left of the conversation. "So what'll happen to the bumpier Harris?"
"They'll be probing vamp me and adding the data to his - whatever he's got." One-eyed Xander reconsiders. "Or have vamp me in the vat of goo. I'm not too clear on the mechanics of the whole probe and goo engineering thing but there's probes and goo going on."
"What happens to the Xanders after they get 'em?"
Other Spike drops the bot in a heap and rubs his shoulders. "Drop 'em in the nearest field covered in alien goo." Toes the bot with a boot and squints up at the temple's gold roofs. "Wait here."
"We're not going in?"
"Can't," Other Spike says in the way that always means 'well, you can't but I'd like to see anybody try to stop me from going where I bloody well want to go'. Spike can cram a lot of meaning into a single syllable. He stalks off across the bridge over the river with purpose.
"Only Hindus are allowed in," One-eyed Xander explains.
One-eyed Xander shrugs. "Spike's Spike."
Which is pretty much inarguable so Xander settles for, "Why?"
And the why turns out to be the big reveal. The aliens are using oracular vents to tap Xanders from alternate universes and collect the full set and while it's wiggy knowing the Willow and Giles on the other end of the phone haven't been his Willow and Giles in weeks, it's something kinda like relief to know the crazy's not all in his head.
Okay - mostly.
But not all.
"Spike broke Delphi when he came with you," One-eyed Xander adds. "Good job."
"I did? I mean - course I did. Wasn't about to let Harris here go haring off through the dimensions willy nilly by his lonesome." And the wiggiest thing in the whole universe of wiggy things is Spike seems to mean it. "Mind you, there's less goo in our version of the story."
For which Xander experiences profound thanks and the urge to protect himself from probes of the alien kind. "I'm defective," he says.
"Wouldn't go that far," Spike says with something like fondness which seems to wig him as much as it wigs Xander and he's all about business again, cigarette lit, boots apart. "What's our plan?"
"Catch the Xanders before the aliens do, and attack when they come to stop us," One-eyed Xander says.
There's a flash overhead.
And a gooey plop.
Xander flicks fruity goo out of his eye and stares at gooey, naked, Vamp Xander.
Gooey, naked, Vamp Xander stares back with a really pointy grin and licks his lips. "Aliens. Crunchy on the outside, creamy on the inside."
The light flashes again and disappears into the stratosphere faster than Xander's eyes can track.
One-eyed Xander shades his eye and watches the ship wink out like a star. "Or wait for them to do the really stupid thing and probe the extra unstable and violence-prone vampire," he amends.
As climaxes go it's been anti.
Xander's still crazy.
Still has the shakes and the quakes and the shivers and an arm like a heroin addict.
And is still partnered up in the demon-chasing game with Spike who's taking wiggy watchfulness to whole new and wiggy levels and oracular visits are off the menu.
But they're not in Nepal anymore and it turns out inter-reality travel through Mumbai is better than the helicopter in Vietnam and worse than the two-seater turboprop in Kenya - and as far as anybody can tell, there's only two of him in this universe.
It's a start.
"You're out of Cheezee Chips." Vamp Xander shakes the box upside down and gets crumbs all over the floor.
"Okay - and he came back with us, why?"
"Saved the world," Spike says, thumbs blurring on the controller, not looking away from the TV screen where a little girl in totally impractical clothing is beating the shit out of a guy who looks kinda like the Hulk only less green. It brings Xander a sense of familiarity and comfort.
"Nothing better to do," Vamp Xander says and brushes past him.
"But why our reality?"
Vamp Xander's tearing into the last bag of Bugles. "You've got Bugles and cheezee chips and humans to eat." He tosses one and catches it in his mouth. "And nobody's trying to dust me."
"Yet," Xander says - ominously.
Vamp Xander holds up a hand of forestallment. "Saved the world."
The TV makes a loud noise and Spike tosses the controller. Gives Xander the eye. He also takes the Bugles. "Yeah - well - who hasn't?"
He's got a point and Vamp Xander's got lots of points and grr and bumps up until Spike grabs the back of his hair and slams his head into a wall a few times. "Down, boy."
And Xander edges after Spike to the TV. "But why's he staying with us?"
Spike shrugs. "Got a weakness for puppy eyes and a pretty face."
"You think I'm pretty?" Xander's manly vestiges take offense. The really gay part of him shakes its groove thang.
"Think you talk too much," Spike says and topples Xander into his lap where Xander stays while Spike restarts his game and gets back to beating up big craggy brutes with little girls in totally impractical outfits.
Xander lies there like wigged opossum.
Somewhere, a body drags itself across the floor.
A bag of Bugles rustles.
The couch smells like Cheezee Chips and Spike smells like Marlboros and when the game goes into a freaky movie sequence and Spike starts petting his hair, Xander rates the wig higher than gay now Dawn and Faith and lower than anal probes and goes with the flow.
He wakes up with an arm off the couch and his face mashed into the couch cushions - which're smelling less like Cheezee Chips this close and more like it's time for a new couch - and it's Spike doing the mashing. Also the sleeping. And the drooling which they're gonna have words about when Spike wakes up.
The television's smashed in and a deflated bag of Bugles lies like carrion in the middle of the room.
"It's the cat."
Xander runs the answer through his head a few times and comes up with: "Spike, wake up."
"Needs new boots," Spike mumbles and lifts his head off Xander's neck.
There's a beat of silence and the drool's cold on Xander's neck - also kinda gross. But Spike's arm around him's kinda nice and vampire drool's not as bad as alien goo so he sticks with the plan.
"Wasn't asleep." Spike's the most unconvincing liar since five-year-old Willow so Xander pretty much ignores his answer and plows on.
"Vampire me is gone."
"Got bored. Buggered off. Said he'd send a postcard." Spike's still a bad liar.
They look at the smashed TV and absence of vampire Xanders.
"We need a new TV."
"Need a new vacuum cleaner."
"Do you ever shut your gob?"
"I don't know what that means but your hand's on my crotch."
Less wiggy than Xanderbots and goat brain curry. "Just saying," Xander says and goes with it.