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Okay here is one of the killer plot bunnies I couldn't not work on. I don't want to, but I had to, you know?
I'm also posting it on my dead journal in case something ever happens to lj again.
Thank you kind [info] kyrieane for the code. Also thanks to [info] kitty_poker1 for the beta.
I don't own the bois, sorry to say.
Also thank you to [info] averillovessev for the great cover graphic! Also find the art she made for this series! Picture One. Picture Two.





Hold Me. Thrill Me. Kiss Me. Kill Me


by
Amejisuto



         
         
         




Part One

Xander walked through the streets of Sunnydale in the early hours of the morning, jumping at nearly every shadow and sound. His beloved Father had tossed him out of the house for the night for some slight he’d imagined. Xander knew it was just an excuse for his Dad to get rid of him so he could screw his latest groupie while his Mom was out of town.

Normally he didn’t care, he was glad to get away from his so-called home. But this time he cared. Spending the night outside in beautiful Sunnyhell was a…a really bad thing waiting to happen.

Buffy was off in L.A., visiting her Dad for the Summer and, while Willow’s parents may not give her a lot of affection, they didn’t leave her at home for the family’s month long tour of educational vacation spots. Giles was off in Watcher-land, filing reports on how Buffy had killed the Master. He wondered if he’d end up as part of an entry or a footnote. “Ordinary boy saved The Chosen One thanks to Red Cross CPR lessons.”

Even Deadboy had followed Buffy to L.A., or at least that’s what Xander assumed. The vampire’s apartment was closed up when he’d gone by out of sheer boredom. He had hoped he could drop by and bother the older man, make his non-existent blood pressure rise till you could tell that Angel was gritting his teeth.

It was something to do, at the very least.

So the Xan-man was alone. On the Hellmouth. At night.

He really needed to do something with his life or else he’d end up stuck here for the rest of his life, walking in Daddy Dearest’s footsteps. Problem was, he sucked at school, he got bored way too easily and then his mind would drift off and end up in la-la land.

And if Buffy couldn’t get extra cash from the Slayer gig there was no way he’d get any from the sidekick gig. No wonder Robin was the coolest sidekick. Bruce Wayne had lots of money and neither Tim, Jason nor Dick had to worry about working to pay for their own school clothes. Or had craptacular parents that didn’t give a damn if you lived or died, much less if you had three square meals and brushed your teeth before bed. The Batman might have given Angel a run for his money in the brooding department but he kept his wards in Kevlar and new jeans.

Xander figured he’d walk the streets of Sunnydale till dawn, and then try to sneak home and get inside without his Mom catching him. His Mom was okay, at times, but would do anything her husband told her to. Anything.

So far he was doing pretty good. Adrenalin and fear were keeping him from getting sleepy. The main problem was, it left him with too much time to think and his brain was so not his friend. It kept on coming up with nasty comments about his life that he really didn’t need to think about.

So he was trying to concentrate on a way to make money this summer. Mowing lawns was a possibility, and yard work. He liked fixing things; maybe he could hire on as an apprentice handy man or something, bring the actual man his tools and hold his measuring tape. As long as it wasn’t the Doublemeat Palace, he’d be fine.

Considering that he’d walked just about every street in Sunnydale tonight and was making his way to the outskirts of town, he probably could deliver papers or pizza. Dayshift, please; he’d gotten his fill of the nightlife for the entire summer all in one night, thanks very much.

He walked a few more miles, trying not to notice how his legs hurt or how tired he was. He was also trying not to think about stuff, and Xander figured if he made it through this night he could get a high score in any game that called for repressing. He was a top-notch repressor now. Able to distract his brain with a single thought.

Maybe if he acted like he believed it, then it would work. And that snarky voice in his head would shut the hell up. The one that said he was worthless and deserved to be alone.

He really hated that voice. It usually only showed up when he was alone but since Buffy had rejected him it was showing up more and more. Of course, it didn’t help that the one person who did really love him, lovedhim. And while he loved Willow it was like he loved a sister, or Buffy’s Mom. The thought of kissage with Willow made his stomach flop in a bad way.

But he didn’t want to hurt her, and he knew that, while ignoring it wasn’t really working, rejecting her would be way worse. He’d get those sad puppy eyes and the trembling lip and he’d cave and it would be awful.

Xander tried to shake himself of his thoughts. Repress. That meant not thinking about it at all. Not thinking about it over and over.

He realized he was getting near the edge of Sunnydale and wondered what would happen if he just kept walking. Would anyone miss him before Willow got home next month? He could slowly walk to L.A. or Oxnard or somewhere that didn’t have a Hellmouth.

Knowing his luck, he’d get caught by the county cops and brought back home and end up worse off than he was now.

He realized he was near one of the many city parks. This one was just as you passed the Welcome to Sunnydale sign. There were so many parks in Sunnydale that if Xander didn’t know better he’d think the town’s founding fathers had made sure there were plenty of places for people of the undead persuasion to stop for snacks.

He thought about turning around. All he had for a weapon was a stake and a small cross. Not the best things to use. But there was something going on; he could hear music and yelling. He’d have to turn in his sidekick license if he backed away.

It was a vampire, sitting on top of an old DeSoto, smoking like a dragon with several empties at his feet and scattered around on the ground. Evidently it took a lot to get a vamp drunk. Weird, discordant music was blaring from the car stereo and the vampire sometimes sang along and sometimes yelled obscenities to the sky.

Xander tried to stand still, not breathe and just watch. This vampire was different than any he’d seen before. He was very obviously upset, grieving even. In the few minutes Xander had watched he had shaken his fist at the sky, blaming everyone for taking “Her” away from him. While he was in his game face, he was obviously heartbroken and blood red tears were flowing down his face.

He knew that feeling, when you were so sad, so angry at life that you couldn’t help but cry. It wasn’t that you were being a crybaby, despite what his Dad might say, it was that there were just so many emotions inside of you that the dam burst and everything came out at once.

Part of him was embarrassed. This was something private, something he shouldn’t be seeing. But part of him felt sorry for the demon, despite the fact that he knew the other man would kill him without thinking. It was obvious that whatever had happened had shaken the vamp to the core and no one should feel like that.

No one should be alone when they felt that freaking crappy, he knew that from experience.

But what to do for a vamp that was upset? He sure as hell wasn’t going to slit his wrist and offer it to him; he was sympathetic, not suicidal. The answer came to him as the vampire dropped his last bottle of booze and it rolled away from him. He was too drunk to get up and get it.

Xander stepped forward and very carefully picked up the bottle and handed it to the distraught man in front of him. “Here, you dropped this.”





Part Two



The vampire snarled, and grabbed the bottle. “Not nice sneaking up on people, boy.”

“I wasn’t sneaking, you were just…occupied. I don’t think I could sneak if I wanted to. There was this time, when I was trying to get out of the house and…”

“Fucking hell, you’re right. You babble too much to be quiet. Go away, child, it’s your lucky night. Don't really feel like eating right now.”

Xander backed away, never turning his back, and sat in one of the swings. The car was parked right in the middle of the playground and had knocked the slide off-kilter. “That’s good…the not eating thing. Bad because I’ve never heard of a vamp pass on a meal. Ummm, this is going to sound weird, and I’m sure I’ll regret it as soon as I’ve had some sleep, but is there anything I can do for you? You sound upset.”

“What are you, the fucking camp counselor?”

“No, it’s just…you’re the first vamp I’ve really seen that wasn’t some idiot ruled by their stomach, well, except for Deadboy but he doesn’t count. And you’re obviously missing someone and I’m curious, all right? Everyone keeps on telling me vamps are mindless killing machines that don’t give a shit for anything beyond their own needs.”

“Fuck that. I wish it were true, and then it wouldn’t hurt so much to not have her here. With her for over a century, loved her for over a century and they took her from me. All I can taste is ashes. Her ashes. Want to meet the sun but first I have a fucking score to settle but I fucking well can’t because the sodding Irish bastard hasn’t been home!”

This last part was screamed into the night and Spike finished off the liquor and threw the bottle against the ground while Xander tried not to flinch, not to show fear. He watched as this so-called soulless monster yelled and cried and finally passed out. Xander knew he couldn’t just leave the man there; he might have a death wish but…he just couldn’t.

False dawn was approaching as Xander cautiously double-checked and made sure the vampire was out for the rest of the night. He only could hope that the car was an automatic.

*****

Spike woke up slowly. His head felt like it was stuffed with bricks and he had the worst taste in his mouth. He could feel that the sun was up and was confused. The last thing he could remember was drinking to Dru in the park, out in the open.

Wherever he was, he was only-semi comfortable. The bed wasn’t the best he’d been but sure as hell beat the trunk of the Desoto. The room he was in smelled of mildew and cleaning products but oddly enough it was the scent of a human close by that made him wonder. He groaned. He’d been saved from the sun by some do-gooder. Bastard. He didn’t want to live without his Dark Princess. It hurt too much.

“Umm, there’s coffee on the bedside table. Sorry, but I don’t think I have anything else you might like to drink… and doesn’t that sound weird coming out of my mouth?”

Spike groaned again and flipped himself over onto his back. The voice was male and rich but broke in odd places. A boy-child then. He rubbed his hands on his face and sat up, looking at his so-called rescuer.

For just a moment he thought that he was facing Dru in male form. Dark messy hair, dark eyes, gangly body. Then he took in the California tan and heard the heartbeat pounding away and knew that he was a human. A frightened human.

“Why?”

“Umm, why did I help you? Well, you were pretty well smashed and hurt and I just…couldn’t let you kill yourself while drunk, okay? If you want to die, I'll help you, by all means. I have a nice piece of wood right here and some holy water, but you need to know you won’t regret it when you get to wherever it is dusted vamps go.”

Spike fought off dropping his jaw, mainly because he didn't want to jar his fragile head but also so he didn't show his amazement to this child who had dragged him to what looked like his basement. The boy knew what he was and had still helped him.

How long had it been since someone besides Drusilla had helped him? Gave him a hand up instead of a slap to the head?

“God, it is too fucking early for this.” He just wanted to burrow back into the covers and seek the oblivion that had held him till just a few minutes ago but he couldn't, couldn't sleep without getting drunk because all he saw was his Drusilla, captured by the mob, being ripped to pieces in front of his eyes, over and over.

“I can, uh, leave. If you want. Or the sun will be down in, like, two hours. Just don’t make much noise. My parents don’t even like me living in the house, they’ll freak if they see you! And if you eat them you’ll probably just get drunk before you’re even halfway finished draining dear old Dad and you’ll be right back where you started. Drinking won’t help, anyway. It never does.”

“What do you know about it, little boy?!” Spike snarled and snapped at his rescuer and the boy jumped. When he saw that Spike wasn’t going to tear out his lungs, he answered.

“About what you’re going through, nothing. About drinking to get over yourself? I’ve got fifteen years of experience watching my family do it and all it does is make them worse. Like I said, you really want to die I’ll help you out, card-carrying slayerette here. Just…wait until the hangover is gone and you’re all clear headed.”

The words falling out of the man-child’s mouth were a mix of wisdom far beyond his years and something just south of strange. “Slayerette?”

“Yeah, one of my friends is the current vampire slayer. No, I will not be saying her name or giving you her address.”

Spike snorted. “Like I couldn’t find it out for myself.”

“Probably, but that doesn’t mean I’ve got to help you. That also means that me hauling your drunken ass into my home won’t be mentioned with my friends. They already think I’m useless, no need to make them doubt my sanity too. Let’s just call this a lost weekend sort of thing and after the sun sets you can leave and we’ll just forget we ever met, okay?”

Fuck. He was getting help and sympathy from a mortal. A human child not old enough to fucking shave yet. “God, my unlife sucks.”

“Yeah, well, life with a heartbeat ain’t fun all the time either.”

They sat in silence for a while, the man-child’s heartbeat loud and strong. Spike could tell he was afraid, hell, he was surprised the kid wasn’t pissing in his pants, but the mortal didn’t show it. He also didn’t turn his back on Spike, not even for a moment. Smart of him, not showing fear or a weak point to a predator. He might just let this kid live when the sun went down; he had bigger stones than some vamps Spike knew.

“So what’s your name, boy?”





Part Three



“Xander.”

“Xander? What kind of a name is Xander?”

“It’s short for Alexander, okay? But my friends call me Xander. Only my dear parents call me Alexander or Alex.” Xander’s voice was bitter when he mentioned his parents. Spike thought of Darla and could actually sympathize.

“Name’s Spike. That way I don’t have to keep calling you the boy in my head and you don’t have to keep calling me the vampire.”

“Does this mean you’re not gonna try to eat me once the sun goes down? Like naming the prize pig means you can’t eat him? Because I'm all for avoiding the whole vamp/lunchable showdown. I can tell you’re not some guy who just crawled out of the grave, so you can’t be a minion. Those creeps get dusty fast.”

On the other side of the bed lay his duster and Spike dragged it over and searched the pockets. This conversation called for a smoke. It called for several smokes, in fact. This human named Xander was odd. He lit up and even surprised himself by blowing the smoke away from Xander, instead of at him. “Nah, not gonna eat you. At least for now. All bets are off later, though.”

“Yeah, I figured.”

They sat in silence once again, and Spike was surprised that he wasn’t salivating over the warm blood rushing through his companion’s veins. He was hungry, but his demon didn’t see Xander as food for some reason. He didn’t mind it, though, he did owe the child. He couldn’t go to his final death without making sure his sodding family that abandoned him went first.

“Are you gonna ask what I was doing so drunk? Try to get me to share my feelings?”

Xander jumped, as if he’d forgotten that Spike was there. “Umm, no. If you want to tell me you will. If you need help you’ll ask. I’m not gonna risk, well, whatever it is we’re doing here by pissing you off. I kinda doubt you got the name Spike off the Tom and Jerry cartoon dog.”

Spike took a long drag off the cigarette and thought about what Xander had said. “You know what, kid? You’re pretty fucking smart. A hell of a lot smarter than some people three times your age. Don’t let anyone tell you any different.”

*****

Xander just let his jaw drop. Here he was, talking to a killer, having a reasonably civil conversation, and he’d just gotten the best compliment of his life. From a demon. Not from his friends or teachers or even his parents. But someone soulless who would as soon kill him as look at him. “Okay…too late for that. But, umm, thanks.”

The vampire, Spike, just snorted and smoked some more. Xander had thought about trying to ask him not to, but he figured either his parents weren’t home or wouldn’t notice. Already he was thinking he might survive his half-baked idea of taking a vampire home and he wasn’t going to push his buttons.

But it was interesting, getting to know another vampire besides Angel. Spike seemed a lot more interesting and even with whatever it was bothering him he was a much better conversationalist.

“Listen, Xander, I’m looking for a vamp. Two, actually. Darla, little blond but deadly. A real bitch. And a guy, tall, dark and brooding, goes by the name of Angelus.”

Xander felt his heart trying to climb into his throat. “They’re your friends? I mean, they’re who you were talking about finding last night?”

Spike’s eyes narrowed and he felt as if he were looking into the eyes of a crocodile or some other big predator. Which was accurate, he guessed. He’d bet on this small man against a croc any day.

“Didn’t say they were friends. Just looking for 'em. I take it you’ve heard of them?”

Okay, what to say. The truth was always of the good, especially since he hadn’t dusted Darla, Deadboy did. “Umm, yeah. Darla was here with The Master. Buffy kind of killed him but not before Darla tried to kill her. Deadboy killed Darla.”

“Deadboy?”

“Yeah, Angel. He used to be Angelus but he got a soul. Now he’s the slayer’s boyfriend, sort of. It’s a tortured love affair sort of thing, but he killed Darla for the Slayer. Although if you ask me he’s a bastard, soul or not.”

Suddenly Spike started laughing, a deep laugh and he felt something flop in his middle that didn’t feel quite like fear.

“I knew there was a reason I liked you, kid. Deadboy. I take it you don’t like dear Angelus that well.”

“You could say that. If it weren’t for him one of my best friends would still be alive. Plus he comes in all dark and brooding and the female population of school fawns all over him, despite the fact that he looks twice their age. And then he’s what, 250 or more? And he’s dating a sixteen year old? That’s just icky.”

“You think you might be up to helping me make his unlife miserable?”

Oooh, temptation. He’d learned repression and mortal fear overnight, now let’s play with temptation. On one hand, he hated Angel with a passion. Brooding bastard. But on the other hand, it would make Buffy cry and he couldn’t deal with that.

“It depends on what you mean by help. I don’t care if you set the cowardly bastard on fire, but it would hurt my friend and she’d cry and I don’t want that to happen. I’d have to learn more about what you wanted and why before I said yes or no.”

Spike was silent again and Xander fought off the need to fidget. If he did live through this weird day and night he was going to explode from repressed thoughts and emotions. There’d be little Xander bits all over the room. Like that time when he was eight and he and Jesse put an egg in his microwave and it splattered all over.

“It’s like this. How much do you know about Sires and Childer?”

Xander jumped. Damn it, his nerves were shot and here Spike was just talking without making any warning noise before. “Just what the Watcher journals say. Some I can’t get to; G… the Watcher assigned here keeps most of that stuff locked up and I can’t pick the locks. Mostly that when you make a vamp you’re the sire and the vamp you made is your minion or childe.”

“Close. A Childe is much more precious than a minion. A Sire is a teacher, parent, and lover, everything to their childer. Their entire world is their Sire and the Sire is supposed to take care of the Childe, even after they get old enough to take care of themselves. It’s a blood connection that is as old as time. Can you understand that, human?”

He didn’t answer right away. This was something different, this idea made him think that Giles was wrong and vamps had deep emotions. Spike himself was proof of that. But he couldn't understand the intensity in Spike’s voice.

“Sort of, but I doubt if I get the full…meaning of it. I get that your Sire would be the center of your world, is that it?”

Spike snorted. “That’s just the beginning. Well, Angelus was my Sire. Drusilla turned me but couldn’t take care of me. Angelus did that. Taught me everything he knew, broke me into a million pieces and remade me into what I am. Darla was his Sire and he worshipped at her feet. We were a fucking family!!” Spike’s voice had risen and the pain in his tone was obvious.

“Then Darla, the bitch, had to screw everything up. I killed a slayer for them. The youngest of the group, still mostly a fledge. All to get their approval. Dru, of course, loved it. She loved anything I did. She was quite mad but I loved her all the same. They were my world. Then Angelus left that very same night, haven’t seen him since. Darla kicked Dru and me out on our ears not long after. Abandoned us. Dru…she’d want to go play with the sunlight, or dance off a roof. Get to talking to the stars and just get lost in her head. It was hard to take care of her and me after that, but I wasn’t going to let her go. Dru was all I had left.”

By the end of the speech Spike had gone from angry to quiet. But not a good kind of quiet. No, it was the kind of quiet that hurt so bad you couldn’t talk about it. He didn’t say anything, didn’t want to interrupt him.

“The people in Prague, they noticed how different she was. Figured her for a witch, not a vampire, but the end was still the same. A mob of people tearing my Dark Goddess limb from limb, taking pleasure from her screams. And I…I was trapped. Couldn’t get to her. Had to watch my reason for existing die.”

Damn. That just…sucked. But he really doubted anything he could say would make Spike feel better. He doubted anything could. Spike’s head was in his hands and he looked…broken.

Xander knew that Angel'd had the soul for nearly 100 years. That meant Spike had been in love with his Drusilla for longer than that. He couldn’t even begin to imagine that.

Very carefully, he stood up and walked to where Spike was sitting on the bed. Spike didn’t give any sign he noticed the movement, though. Then he did something he never thought in a million years he’d ever do.

He held a vampire close as the other man sobbed.





Part Four



Spike lit his cigarette and stepped out of the abandoned house he’d been staying in. He’d spent a week in Sunnydale looking for Angelus, but the bastard still wasn’t home.

Surprisingly enough, he hadn’t gotten stinking drunk since that first night. Xander was right on that account; while at first drinking made him numb, after a while he got even more maudlin and depressed to the point of breaking down and crying in the child’s arms. Plus he’d need his wits about him when he did find the poof. Angelus had more than a century of experience and power over him, even if he was living on sodding cow's and pig's blood like the boy said.

He hadn’t seen Xander since that first day, but when he’d left he hadn’t harmed the lad. Part of him had thought about killing him because the human had seen him break down but Xander had totally ignored it afterwards. The human had done what few being on the earth twice and three times his age had done.

He'd earned Spike’s respect.

Xander had talked about the current situation in the power structure of Sunnydale, how the Master was dead and so were two of his childer. While waiting for the sun to go down Spike had even heard of some of the boy’s adventures, and had laughed at the thought of a preying mantis trying to get it on with the young man. Yet in all that time he didn’t give away the identities of his friends. He had a loyalty that Spike envied. The only person in the past century that had been loyal to him was his Dark Princess.

Now here was this man-child that had her dark looks promising he wouldn’t tell the slayer about him. He didn’t ask for Spike to spare his friends, or even to give up plans for his revenge on Angelus. Spike respected that; he just found it funny as hell that he had found probably the last truly noble human on the earth and he lived on the fucking Hellmouth.

It was ironic.

He shook his head and stopped brooding. It was time to go hunting.

He made his way through the town. The abandoned house he’d appropriated was on the far edge of the city limits. He had decided not to challenge the so-called Master of the Hellmouth just yet; he could oust the little pipsqueak at any time but it would lose him the element of surprise. Just why anyone, even minions, would follow a child vampire that hadn’t even been undead for a year yet and was still a fledge himself, he didn’t know.

It suited him, though. Except for the Anointed One, all of the other vamps in this town were minions, exceedingly stupid minions at that. It was an embarrassment to demonkind, and he was more than willing to ignore them and let the local white hats kill them off. It would keep them all occupied until he was ready to either take over or sit and wait for the dawn, either way.

This was what was confusing him so much. In the past week his view had changed. Yes, he still wanted to find Angelus and torture him for leaving them. See how long it would take the great souled hero to scream when faced with having every inch of his skin painted with holy water. In fact Spike was rather disappointed that Darla was dead; he’d have gone after the blonde bitch as well and made her scream.

He’d been having dreams, though, dreams of Dru and her saying she’d sent him a pressie to take care of and to make sure to feed the kitten and it would be his puppy forever. Just like the real Drusilla, they made a strange sort of sense. He just had to puzzle it out. He had truly loved his Wicked Plum but sometimes figuring out her dreams and visions was more trouble than it was worth, but there was just the off chance that it was a message from Dru.

Because if there was any vampire that could talk from wherever it was vamps went when they were dust it would be his Drusilla. She’d probably had a personal calling card to speak to the bloody stars or dolls or what have you.

Still, thoughts of Dru and her mysterious pressie had him curious. He could never leave a mystery unsolved; he just had to pick at it till it unraveled. He’d always been the sort to try to figure things out before Holmes or Dupin did. So now he not only had to stick around long enough to torture and mutilate Angelus-lite, he had to figure out what his Princess had sent him and figure out if it was worth unliving for.

There were worse reasons. Plus there was always Manchester United.

*****

An hour later and he was well fed and more than a little buzzed on the adrenalin and drugs that had been in his prey's blood. He’d found four young men, not much older than Xander really. These were drunk, though, and were in the middle of terrorizing two little girls that looked twelve and whose waists were narrow and arms were stick like.

He’d dismissed the two girls, not so much because he was playing the good guy or what have you but because they looked like they wouldn’t have enough blood put together to fill a shot glass. He’d have to roll them up starting at the bottom like a bloody toothpaste tube to get a decent drink.

The four jocks, however, were muscle bound and plump. They’d had lovely chemicals running through their blood, some natural, some not, and they actually were stupid enough to fight back rather than just piss themselves and scream. He hated it when his food soiled itself, made it taste nasty.

The problem was, without Drusilla Spike had no idea what to do with himself. If Dru were here they’d go dancing and play at seducing their partners and see how many they could catch and let go before finally having a bit of dessert. Or find some elite society party and try to get invited into some rich politicians' homes. There were lots of opportunities for someone with Spike’s charm, when he wanted to exercise it, and with Drusilla’s powers it was all too easy sometimes. Still, it had been fun.

At a loss, he found himself wandering the streets. He circled Angelus’s apartments and that local dive where all the kiddies hung out, hoping that the gelled one had returned. All he got from it was a headache from the scent of too many perfumes the local girls were using to make themselves feel more adult and a Britney Spears song stuck in his head.

If he ever got the chance to go to one of her concerts he would, just to rip a few vital organs out. The chit may look a treat but her voice was enough to peel paint.

He finally found himself near Xander’s house, and maybe that wasn’t so surprising. After all, the lad was one of the few people he could have a conversation with, and he had been amusing.

When he turned the corner to the street next to Xander’s he heard the sounds of a fight. Rolling his eyes, he hurried over to the side yard from where the noise was coming. Just as he thought, the human had gotten himself into trouble. Three other human boys, all of them bigger than Xander and with no necks, surrounded his human as he was crouched on the ground.

The smell of blood hit him and he growled. The parts of him that had originally been William hated bullies and the like, people who poked fun at others just because they could. He made it a regular habit to snack on the type, as well as snooty girls who thought they were better than everyone else. It was always fun to bring them crashing to their knees, begging for their life right before he ripped their too-small hearts out of their chests.

The three attacking Xander fell into this category. He could hear them calling the boy faggot, geek, idiot and a variety of other names. He quickly ran up to them, catching the smallish one standing lookout and picked him up and threw him across the street, only to hear him scream like a girl before crashing into a tree and falling silent.

Xander’s breathing was harsh, his heartbeat rapid. The other two were so intent on kicking the boy while he was down they hadn’t even noticed their friend getting his flying lesson. Spike didn’t waste any time, he just came up behind the two and slammed their heads together, not even taking the time to savor the sound of their thick skulls cracking together.

Xander was on his side, curled into a fetal position in an attempt to protect his ribs and stomach. Spike carefully turned him over and checked him out. Bruised stomach, a few cracked ribs and a concussion along with a hell of a lot of bruises in other places. The lad was going to hurt for a while.

One of Xander’s eyes opened. “Larry?”

Spike snorted. It was oddly funny that one of the three idiots was named Larry. He bet the other two were Curly and Moe. “No, pet, it’s your old buddy, Spike.”

Xander’s heartbeat and breathing picked up and the scent of fear almost overwhelmed him to the point he lost his human face. He had to chuckle, though; despite being kicked in the head at least once, the human knew who was more dangerous. “Relax, kid, not gonna hurt you.”

The other brown eye tried to open, even though it was rapidly swelling. “Really?”

Spike fought off the urge to laugh. Here the lad was in pain and he sounded as if Spike had asked him to clap if he believed in fairies. But he knew if he laughed Xander would take it the wrong way; this might be a man-child in front of him but he knew how things worked in the world. “Really. You have the word of William the Bloody, and I might be a bastard and evil but I do keep my word when I give it.”

The brown eyes closed. “Thanks…William.” Xander sounded like he actually tried to snicker but his chest hurt too much and he ended up coughing instead.

“None of that, else I’ll have to start calling you Alexander.”

“It gets worse, my middle name is Lavelle.”

Spike moved the boy around so he could pick him up and carry him. It was going to hurt like hell because despite Spike’s strength the boy was taller and he’d have to carry him over his shoulder. “Bloody hell, your parents really hated you, didn’t they?”

The pain and head wound made the boy fall unconscious, but not before Spike heard a weak, “Yeah, they do.”





Part Five



Xander woke slowly, clinging to the last dregs of unconsciousness almost desperately. He remembered Larry and his gang having yet another fun night of beating him silly, as if he didn’t get enough of that at home.

He also remembered Spike rescuing him, even though it seemed like a weird dream. Spike, a vampire, helping him, a meal.

He knew he was alive, if he had woken up undead he doubt if he would hurt this much. Added to that was the pounding of his pulse in his head. He was alive, even if he wished it was otherwise.

He opened his eyes slowly, finding a dim room with an unfamiliar ceiling. He had vague memories of Spike shaking him awake at different points during the night and hoped he hadn’t said something stupid.

“Oh god, my head.”

“There’s pain pills on the table there beside the bed.”

Xander jumped at hearing Spike’s voice so close in the room. Things still weren’t focusing too well so he hadn’t noticed the man in the corner. He didn’t even bother with swearing about getting the shit scared out of him. He knew it wouldn’t mean a thing.

Two small blue pills and a glass of water were laid out, just where Spike had said they would be. He didn’t hesitate, he gulped them down quickly. If Spike wanted to kill him the vampire had better ways than poison. He could have killed him in his sleep, for instance.

“Thanks.” Xander fought the urge to squirm under Spike’s gaze. He looked down and realized he was only wearing his boxers and blushed. Then he blushed again after realizing that Spike could probably smell his embarrassment. A cycle of panic started in the back of his brain.

“Calm down, will you? S’not like you've got anything I haven’t seen before. In fact, you have a nice bit of tackle for a kid. Should be all proud in the locker room.” Spike was sitting in an armchair on the other side of the bed, an ashtray with two cigarettes going beside him.

Xander took a few deep breaths and winced when his ribs gave off sharp pains. They were wrapped and he could feel traces of some sort of ointment on the cuts and bruises. “Thanks. For the helping me, and fixing me up. And, well, for the, umm, tackle comment. Not that I’ve ever noticed, you know, if my bait is bigger than any one else’s. And…I think I’d better stop now before I embarrass myself with any bad trout comparisons.”

Spike chuckled at the comment and Xander couldn’t help but smile. The vampire had a great laugh.

“That might be best. So…how often do the town bullies take you to task for breathing?” Spike was wearing only his jeans and his hair was all fluffy. It was hard to remember that this man was a killer. Especially since he looked so…human sitting there, half awake.

Xander wasn’t even going to wonder where Spike had slept.

“Larry and his goon squad? Whenever they feel like it. During school maybe once or twice a month unless I manage to piss them off or embarrass them by proving that their IQ’s are lower than their shoe sizes.”

“Somehow, lad, I don’t think that would be hard to do.” Spike ran his hand through his hair as if trying to wake up and Xander averted his eyes from the sight of his muscled chest. “They the ones that gave you that nice set of scars on your legs?”

“Scars? Oh, those. They’re in the back so I forget. No, that was my Dad’s idea of discipline when I disobeyed him and ran in a store one day when I was little.”

“Switch?”

“Wire hangers. Joan Crawford has nothing on my Dad.” Why he was telling this to Spike of all people when he couldn’t tell Willow he didn’t know. Maybe it was because Spike didn’t act all shocked and horrified. He acted like he had seen it all before. Hell, he probably had.

“Got in trouble once outside of Paris, seems the locals didn’t like to be called jumped-up froggies. Angelus didn’t like it, used holy water in a fountain pen to write ‘Don’t play with your food’ on my back a hundred times.”

Xander winced in sympathy. “Okay, you win the My Father Figure is the Biggest Bastard Award.”

Spike snorted. “Nah. He’s a vampire; by nature we’re supposed to be sadistic bastards, even to our own kin to a certain degree. Humans aren’t supposed to be like that.”

Xander just shrugged and looked at his hands in his lap. Oh, look, hangnails. He should take care of that.

*****

Spike looked at the human that shared his room. Xander was staring at his hands as if they held the answers to all the questions of the universe. He could smell shame and embarrassment.

He wondered just how much he should tell Xander. In the end he decided he’d tell only if Xander asked. He didn’t need to know how Spike went through his pockets to find his address and drop him off at home.

How his Da didn’t even care that he’d been hurt, how no one offered to help him. They were just going to dump him down in that basement till he came to and could do for himself.

In the end he’d brought the boy home with him, bathed him and made sure he wasn’t slipping into a coma and patched him up. Let Xander sleep in his bed even. He wished he could say it was a simple case of paying back the good deed done for him, but it was more than that.

He actually sympathized with the lad. Xander had many qualities Spike had while he was human, right down to the bullies kicking the shite out of him for their own fun and amusement.

Then there were the damned dreams. He had managed to fall asleep about an hour after dawn when he was sure Xander was going to be able to wake up. Dru had come to him in his dreams, telling him to feed the kitten plenty of cream and how to put butter on the pads of his feet so he wouldn’t run off.

“Little kitten has the heart of a lion, he does, but the others don’t like that and try to stick him in burlap and drown his courage in the bottle. You can’t let that happen, my Spike, for the kitten will keep you warm on those cool winter days. Must tame him, make him want you before you take him home to cuddle. You can’t follow where I’ve gone, my lovely boy, so you must stay and warm the milk.”

So it looked like his Princess wanted him to keep Xander for his own. He’d never thought about having a childe, he’d had all he wanted in Drusilla. But if she wanted him to keep living and to take the boy...well, he’d think about it. Not that he was going to do it, but if he was to make a childe Xander was a good choice.

He shook his head. Either way, he decided nothing would be happening now. If he did keep the boy he’d want him to get his full growth before turning him. Let the muscles fill in a bit more and grow into his gangly body. For now he could wait, didn’t like it but he could do it.

“So there’s no telly and I think your head is hurting too much for listening to punk right now. Ever play poker?”

Xander jumped and Spike hid a smirk. It was fun watching him, Spike had to admit that. “Poker? Nope, I can’t lie so I’ve never tried it.”

Xander sounded amazed that Spike had changed the topic of discussion but happy for it. No wonder; he bet things like abuse were talked about nowadays as much as they had been when he was a boy.

He also sounded amazed that anyone would offer to teach him anything. Spike stubbed out the last of his smoke and reached for a deck of cards in the drawer on the end table. “It’s not too hard, just distractions. Once you learn what your tells are, well, you can fake them and throw people off.”

He looked at Xander as he shuffled the cards. The human was focused entirely on him, listening to his every word and trying to learn.

Spike could get used to that.





Part Six



Xander had ended up staying with Spike for three nights before going back home. It had been a very strange feeling, as if he was living with a large cat that at any moment could attack you but you know it wouldn’t because for some reason it likes you. He was reminded of those storybooks Willow would read to him and Jesse about the lion that could be good but was never tame.

Spike had gone out and hunted each night and, while Xander was bothered by it, he wasn’t bothered enough. Which in itself was something to freak out about. On one hand, he really didn’t want anyone innocent to die. On the other hand, he knew Spike was a predator and had to eat too. The cows probably didn’t like the guys leading them to the slaughterhouse, either.

Then his brain sent him images of one heifer being called in every generation to protect the herd and Xander decided everything was better if he did that military kind of thing. Don’t ask, don’t tell. Because the image of a human-slaying cow was just too weird for words. Bessie the human slayer. Weird.

He actually missed Spike. Which Xander really tried not to because he wasn’t supposed to be friends with the bad guy, and Spike had never said that he wasn’t the bad guy. The only reason Xander figured Spike helped him at all was because he was lonely without Drusilla.

What Xander still didn’t understand was why he’d told Spike things about his life and what he was feeling when he hadn’t even talked to Willow about it. The second night he’d confided in the vampire about Jesse, about the feelings of guilt that still would threaten to overwhelm him.

In return, Spike told him all about Drusilla. Not just the maiming and killing part, but about the woman who had talked to the stars and saw beauty in her world of darkness despite the fact that she had been driven insane. Tea parties and dancing in the moonlight.

The only thing he could think of was that they were acting like some sort of grief counselors for each other. All he could say was that he didn’t think he could ever stake Spike, and he didn’t think the vampire would ever try to kill him. Other than that, he pretty much decided not to think about it anymore; it made his head hurt.

Today, though, he was going to get some answers. Giles was back and he was hoping he could talk to the man about…well, just about things. Things that really had to do with Spike. Like dreams. He really didn’t want to tell about Spike, not yet, at least. Still, he wanted to learn more about the vampire, and hoped that he could at least figure out where Giles’ books were so he could sneak a peek in the future.

It was evening but the sky was still bright and Xander couldn’t help but wonder how vampires dealt with months of long days and short nights. It must suck, having half of your day taken away for part of the year. Then again, they’d get it back in the winter so maybe it evened out.

Xander walked into the courtyard of Giles’ apartment and it felt strange. For one thing, neither Buffy nor Willow was with him. Willow would be back in a week but until then he was still flying solo.

Well, except for Spike. But he wasn’t going to go there right now.

Another oddity was the fact that they rarely met at the Watcher’s apartment; instead they met at the library. Which seemed odd to Xander in a way because the school was closed; what if someone tried to mess with the Hellmouth in August? Would Giles offer them tea and cookies or something and politely ask them to wait till Snyder opened up the school?

Once again his imagination proved not to be his friend as he saw Giles sitting down to tea with something big, scaly and gross. Or worse yet, Spike. They would try to kill each other within five minutes of seeing each other, if that. Not just because of the watcher/vampire thing, either, but because if he could make Giles annoyed with his jokes and nicknames, Spike would make the other man livid.

Xander knocked on the door before pushing both of his hands into his pockets to keep from fidgeting. He couldn’t help but wonder if Giles would ask something about Spike, or if he’d say something wrong.

He was so busy worrying he didn’t notice the door opening. “Xander? What on earth are you doing here? I just got home today.”

Xander looked up and grinned. “Hey, G-man! Saw the lights and I figured I’d help you put up the case of books you brought home from the Motherland. Figured that I’m going to be looking up icky stuff in them sooner or later, might as well get a sneak peek.”

Giles sighed and stepped aside so Xander could walk in. “I supposed it would be fruitless of me to ask that you not call me that?”

“That would be you, the no fruit guy. And why is it fruitless, anyway, why isn’t it vegetableless? Because I can eat fruit, that’s pretty good, but some veggies like those greens the cafeteria serves are just plain scary.”

“I am hoping that is another one of your questions designed to keep me asking important questions, like why you have a four day old shiner and move like you’ve been kicked.”

Xander winced. He’d forgotten how Giles actually noticed things about him. “Yeah, well, Larry and his friends from school decided they couldn’t wait till September to play with me, they had to get in a summer session. Just because Larry had to go to summer school and even with all the slaying I didn’t.”

Giles sat down on the sofa and waved him to a seat. “I suppose you had to mention this fact to Larry? Xander, one of these days you’re not going to be able to talk yourself out of a situation.”

He shrugged. “I know, but it’s not like I’m good at the fighting thing. My amazing ability to talk fast has gotten me out of a lot of situations.”

“Yes, well, you can’t always count on that. I’m afraid I can’t offer you anything but tea right now; I haven’t had the time to go to the grocer's.” Giles picked up a teacup that had been sitting on a table.

“That’s okay. I just wanted to see how you enjoyed your trip.”

“I visited the Watcher’s Council, Xander, it wasn’t for fun. And, really, if you children think that I am hidebound and ancient you really ought to see how lucky you are. Travers and the senior Wyndam-Pryce make me look like a rebel. I’m afraid I was taken to task for not training Buffy according to proper Watcher guidelines.”

Xander grinned. “God, I could just see it now, trying to get Buffy to actually sit at a desk and write “I will not slay vampires in a miniskirt” a hundred times. It would be funny to see them try it; Buffy is a law of her own, and she’d never listen to them.”

“Yes, well, I’m sure you didn’t come here to talk about my worries. What can I help you with, Xander?”

He squirmed on the couch. “Nothing! Really! It’s just I thought there would be books, nice musty old books and you know how much I love them and…” Giles was giving him a rather pointed stare. Xander wondered if there was such a thing as spontaneous human combustion and figured he’d find out in a few moments. “Okay G—Giles it’s like this. I can’t really talk to my parents about it and I don’t think Wills would understand and Buffy so wouldn’t. And you’re not my last choice, don’t get me wrong, but the only other person I could talk about it to…well, it wouldn’t be good. See, I’ve been having these dreams…”

He stopped and blushed a bright red. He was sure he’d be bursting into flames any moment now.

“Oh!” It helped that Giles sounded just as embarrassed as he was. Maybe more. “Well…Xander, I’m sure you’re aware that it is not unusual to be dreaming of…of girls or friends or-or anything like that.”

Xander tried really hard to disappear into himself. “It…it wasn’t one of the girls. It wasn’t any girl

“Oh my.” Giles set down his teacup and looked serious and it made Xander want to just get up and run out the door.

“I see your “Oh my” and raise you a “GAH!” And if my parents ever found out? Badness would happen.”

“And is this a…a someone I’d know…someone from school, perhaps?” Giles looked white as a sheet and Xander realized the older man was afraid it was him.

“Okay, first off, it’s not you so don’t ... what’s the term? Get your knickers in a bunch. He’s this guy that I, umm, helped. He was drunk at night in a park. Then he kinda helped me deal with the aftermath of Larry pounding on me. It’s kind of hard to tape your own ribs. And it’s just been hanging out, kind of… but then I started having these dreams like the third night I ever talked to him and it’s really starting to freak me out. Check that, I left freaked behind a couple of exits ago and have moved to identity crisis land.”

He got up and moved to the bookshelves on one side of the room. He just couldn’t sit still, his nerves felt like they’d been stomped on. It had been bad enough to learn that he’d fallen asleep next to a vampire, but to dream about the way he looked shirtless? Or the way he’d taken care of him? That had been…odd. And crazy making.

Giles didn’t say anything and Xander finally looked at him. That seemed to be what the other man was waiting for because he smiled. “Xander, contrary to what you may have learned from…your parents, it is quite all right to desire a person of the same sex, or even both sexes. There are cases of homosexual tendencies in animals, including primates.”

Xander sighed just a bit and Giles shook his head slightly. “What I’m trying to say is that you’ll figure it out in time. Worry about the person and not the…equipment, so to speak. The rest will sort itself out.”

Xander looked down at his shoes for a few moments before looking at the man who was better to him than his Father ever would be. “Thanks, Giles. I mean that.”

“Thankful enough to stop you from calling me any of your insipid nicknames?”

Xander let his grin break out. “Nope. Cheer up, G-Man, that just makes you one of us. Now, where're all the books you bought, and I’ll help you put them up.”

Giles looked slightly embarrassed. “I’m afraid I had to ship them separately. I bought more than I was allowed to pack in my luggage.”

“Only you, Giles, only you.”

*****

It was full dark by the time he left Giles's apartment. They had caught up some about Hellmouth activities during summers, none this year, and when Willow was getting back into town.

Xander felt better after talking to Giles, it just let him know that he wasn’t weird or something. Well, any weirder than he normally was. And he managed to talk about it without giving away Spike was there. He wasn’t an idiot, he knew at some point in time Buffy and Spike would meet and fight. He just tried not to think about it.

“So that’s the Watcher, eh?”

“GAH!” Xander jumped three feet in the air as Spike came out of one of the side streets near Giles’s house. “Damn it, you just love watching me jump, don’t you?”

“Course I do, pet, love the scent of fear, even yours. You know that. What’s up with the long chat? Telling any secrets?” Spike didn’t sound pissed, more like he was teasing and Xander just grinned.

“Nope, other than the fact that he twigged onto my ass whupping the other day. Your name never even came up.” Which was 100% true; he'd talked about a friend he’d met and was having dreams about…he never named Spike or, snicker, William. Then he sighed.

“What’s up, mate?”

Xander laughed at the comparison of Spike to Bugs Bunny and shook his head. “Actually, I was hoping he’d have some new books so he’d give me his keys to the library at school and I could sneak around and read the Watcher Diaries with information on you. Purely for research, of course. Well, that and I’m curious. But he bought so many books he’s having them shipped. It’s kind of funny, actually.”

Spike looked at him, eyes staring into his own, and Xander tried to ignore the little voice in the back of his head that commented on the beautiful blue color. “Come on then, let’s go.”

He turned and started walking in the general direction of the school. Xander stood there in shock for a moment before running to catch up. “Wait! I didn’t get the keys or anything.”

“Don’t need keys, pet, I can pick the locks.”

“But that’s…”

“Wrong? Evil? Remember who you’re with, lad.”

Xander thought about it, and figured there would be no harm. Besides… “Only if you teach me how to do it, pick the lock, that is. I’ve always wanted to learn how.”

Spike laughed. It wasn’t exactly a nice laugh but it did cause that belly flop that Xander was beginning to get used to. Like he was going down in an elevator too fast and everything settled in his groin.

“Come on then, Xander, and we’ll get you corrupted good and proper.”





Part Seven



Spike watched the boy walk home from the shadows. It wouldn’t do to let the lad actually think he was looking out for him, even if he was. Xander had been doing some odd jobs for people around town and many times he ended up working after the sun went down.

While it was obvious the lad took care to protect himself, Xander had the sort of luck that only the very fortunate had, or the very cursed. He’d walk past an alley and some vamp would make a move for him, but he’d drop his keys or bump into a passer by and end up talking to the git. Once he’d seen Xander almost become demon doggie chow, but the lad crossed the street unexpectedly and a car had hit the thing following him. All the while Xander went on his way; blissfully unaware that he’d just about met his maker.

So if Spike found himself bored and ended up following the lad, it was all right. Because Xander might need help and even if he didn’t it was fun watching his reactions to the world around him.

Tonight had been a good example. Xander was doing yard work for someone who Willy said was the Slayer’s Mum. It was well past nine-thirty but he kept working, weeding the borders and the like. Spike thought the lad was being more than daft, the Slayer’s house was a magnet for trouble, but when he’d got close enough he could detect the scent of several protection herbs, garlic included. Not that garlic affected vamps like it showed in the bloody movies, but anything with a halfway decent sense of smell would stay far away.

Then the lad had gone in and spent a half-hour sipping lemonade and the like before going home, as if he hadn’t a care in the world. But if you watched carefully you could see that he was being as careful as he could be, given the fact that he lived on the Hellmouth.

Xander was different than the others happy-meals that walked around the town; he actually thought about things first. Not that you’d notice, given the lad’s tendency to babble about anything and everything on his mind. It was a sort of camouflage, as far as Spike could tell.

After all, the same tactics that creatures used in the wild to survive being attacked by predators worked in the human world, the gits just didn’t realize it. Using bright colors and loud noises to divert a predator worked just as well for vamps as it did for bullies.

And certain Fathers that needed their heads ripped off and shoved up their arse.

Spike couldn’t help but have a sad sort of fascination for the way Xander changed the closer he got to his home. His long-legged gait would turn into shuffling and his shoulders would droop as if he was just waiting to be hit. He probably was.

Spike watched as Xander carefully went inside, he even took a chance and got close enough to listen as the lad made his way downstairs. Satisfied that Xander was as safe as he could ever be, Spike made his way to the more populated areas of town to hunt.

He wasn’t quite sure what made the boy so interesting. The only reason he gave was the fact that Xander didn’t hide himself away from the more gruesome facts of life. He actively went looking to read about Spike’s history, even asked if Spike had taken pleasure in ramming the railroad spikes into someone. Yet the next night when Spike showed up the lad didn’t hid behind crosses or holy water, he just asked what Spike was doing later on.

He was odd for a boy that followed the Slayer and was a do-gooder. And he soaked up information like a sponge. It was obvious Xander was dying for attention, and would turn to whoever took time out to teach him. Why the Watcher didn’t do it Spike couldn’t figure it out, but Spike was determined to make up for that.

Spike made his way through the crowds around the Bronze, finally settling on two annoying twins that thought it would be funny to dress alike for dinner. As he flirted with both girls, who turned out to be visiting for the summer, he made his plans.

After all, if Xander wanted to learn about the world and no one else would teach him, Spike would have to.

*****

Xander lay in bed, staring up at the ceiling. It was morning but he didn’t have to move. His parents were actually both out of the house and he could just lie there and enjoy the quiet.

Of course, when it was quiet that damned voice in his head started up talking to him again, but Xander was getting better and better at telling it to shut up. Luckily Willow would be home soon and between his repression techniques and her babble there wouldn’t be any room for worrying in his head. Well, except for worrying about when Spike and Buffy finally had their showdown.

The night before Spike had walked him home, again. Just talking about his day and whatever it was Spike was doing besides hunting for his fellow classmates to eat. Angel was back in town and Xander got the feeling that Spike spent a lot of time stalking the other vampire. How Angel didn’t realize Spike was in town, Xander couldn’t figure out. After all, they were related in a vampire way; Angel should be able to feel him or smell him or use some sort of vampire version of the Force.

Spike wasn’t sure either so he talked of getting some sort of spell that would hide both his scent and his presence from Angel, or Peaches as Spike called him half the time.

What had been really weird, though, was the fact that four fledges attacked them. He would have thought that Spike’s presence alone would have warned them off, but no. The idiot things attacked and Xander found himself fighting one while Spike took care of the other three. He dusted his right off but Spike…played with them. Breaking their necks and their spines so they couldn’t fight but would eventually heal unless they staked them.

Then Spike started going through their pockets, pulling out wallets and rolls of cash and rings and the like. Their gleanings from their killings. Xander stood there open-mouthed, not knowing what to do.

“Don’t just stand there, you git, go through their pockets. They can’t hurt you now.”

“But…but that’s someone else’s stuff!”

Spike had looked at him, his eyes drilling what felt like holes in his head. “Xander, the humans this stuff belonged to are dead, or vamped. They don’t need it anymore. Don’t worry, we’ll dust ‘em but why should we let good dosh go poof as well? It won’t go any good to anyone like that. I’ll even split it with ya’, and that way you’ll be able to buy a shirt or two that doesn’t make my eyes bleed.”

So there he was, on a Wednesday morning, well, mid-morning, and Xander had $100 saved up from doing yard work and fix-it type things, and over $300 taken from dead people. And it was a weird feeling, knowing that that money had belonged to victims.

But Spike was right, he didn’t know who it came from, couldn’t return it to someone’s family. Why not use it, or just use a little and give the rest away? There were plenty of charities in the Sunnydale area, a few for families of missing persons. He could give it to them or something.

He rolled over in bed and turned his CD player on. Anything would be better than listening to all the pros and cons of using money that was ill gotten. Heh, he could actually use that term. He'd always thought it was something that people like Giles used. His ill-gotten gains.

He turned up the music and buried his head under the pillows. He so didn’t want to think about it. Maybe he’d just mail it to UNICEF or something, weren’t there starving children in Africa somewhere? They probably didn’t care that it came off vamps that killed the people that earned it. As long as they got some rice and clean water, they’d be okay with it.

That was because they couldn’t afford to be picky. Considering that his wardrobe was shrinking thanks to demon hunting and the fact that he’d grown half an inch in the past month, he couldn’t really afford to be picky either.

That was his problem.

He was so intent on drowning out his conscience that he barely heard the knocking on the upstairs door. He finally crawled out of bed and pulled on a tee shirt and sweatpants while trying to climb the basement steps.

He didn’t even look out the peephole when he opened the door; after all, it was daylight. That was why he was so surprised.

“Willow! What are you doing home, I thought you got back in tomorrow?” He just knew he had a silly grin on his face. He had missed his Wills; it was like being peanut butter without the jelly.

“Silly Xander, I told you we’d get back in on Wednesday night and it’s Thursday. Where else would I be?”

“Ummm, ooops. I think I missed a day somewhere or other. Never mind, I’m just glad you’re here.” He turned and led the way back down to his room, but stopped when Willow called out his name.

“Xander? Why are you going to the basement, that place is stinky.” Her nose was squinched up in that adorable way, but Xander felt only the love of a sister for her.

“Sorry, Wills, you missed the day where I got moved into the basement to make room for Uncle Rory to stay when his wife kicked him out. It’s icky but it’s home.” And he really tried to sound like a brave little camper and not let the depression at that thought show in his voice.

“Oh! Oh, I’m sorry Xander, I’m sure with some…cleaning and straightening and air fresheners we can make it…”

“Smell like bad perfume over mold? Nah. Don’t bother, I haven’t even been in here all that much this summer.”

He flopped down on the bed and tried to straighten the covers for Willow to sit. She looked around and he had the distinct feeling she was waiting for something to move in the shadows. He couldn’t blame her. “So, what have you been doing since you’ve not been…here.”

Xander tried not to get flustered, really. He’d been prepared for that question, but he so hated to lie to his best friend. “Oh, you know, odd jobs, wandering around, hanging out. I planted some of those weeds you gave me to put in Buffy’s yard; I guess they’ve helped. I haven’t seen a vamp around the house.”

“That’s good. Did you go to the funeral?”

“Umm, funeral? What funeral?”

“Xander! Don’t tell me that you stopped reading the obituary pages!” Willow had her resolve face on and was scolding him. He ducked his head and didn’t meet her eyes.

“Okay, I won’t tell you.”

“This is serious, Xander! They found Larry’s remains along with two of his cronies in one of the storm drains about a half-mile away from here. It didn’t look like a vampire attack but something nibbled on them post mortem. It was in all the newspapers! It’s so horrible!”

Xander felt all the blood rush out to his feet or maybe even out of his body totally. He wasn’t sure. All he knew was that he felt really dizzy, as if the floor had moved underneath him, and not in a good way.

Because he pretty much knew what happened to Larry.





Part Eight



Spike woke to the sound of a human heartbeat and the stench of fear, guilt and sorrow. He knew it was Xander; the lad was the only living person who knew where Spike’s lair was. Spike just wondered what had the human’s knackers in a bunch this time.

He pulled on his jeans and a tee shirt and made his way out of the bedroom he’d fixed up for himself and into the living room where Xander was pacing. “What bug crawled up your arse and died, pet?”

Xander jumped, his eyes wide. “Shit! I’m sorry, I…I didn’t mean to wake you up or anything. I can leave if you want, it’s just…”

Spike threw himself on the couch and picked up his cigarettes and lighter from the end table. As he lit up he looked at Xander from behind his eyelashes. The lad was pale and obviously nervous. He was shifting from foot to foot as if he was about to run.

“Well, out with it! Whatever has you in an uproar won’t get any better with you nancying about.”

“Umm, okay. Larry’s dead.”

Spike cocked his head to the side and thought a minute. “Who?”

“Larry!! The guy who was beating the crap out of me that night you helped me. Him and his two goons. They found their bodies in the storm drains, and something had eaten them!”

Spike just shrugged and put his feet up on the couch. “No skin off my nose, fuckers like that are always food for somethin’ or other. Not enough brains between the three of them to go around.”

Xander came over and stood right in front of him, crowding his space. “Don’t you get it? It’s my fault! If I hadn’t shot my mouth off, they wouldn’t have been using me for a punching bag, and you wouldn’t have done…whatever it was you did. It’s all my fault!”

Spike rolled his eyes at the human’s dramatics, moved his feet and pulled the boy down onto the couch with him.

“First of all, s’not your fault. They made their own choices, and it was their idea to pummel you but good. I’m sure if you'd been given the choice you would have said “No thanks” to having your ribs broken and your head near smashed in.”

“Secondly,” and here he gave Xander a shake to make sure he was listening. “Secondly, Xander, you didn’t ask me to do a bloody thing. That was my choice. And I don’t really give a shit if I left them for dead or unconscious. Didn’t pay attention. They could have been knocked out, came around and got dragged off by some other baddie. Something could have come around and found them unconscious and decided to have a treat. Don’t know, don’t care.”

“You really don’t, do you?”

Spike sighed and thought for a moment, trying to find the best way to explain things to this human child who was just waiting to be hurt. “I can care, vamps who are childer of Masters have all the emotions we were capable of when we were turned. Love, fear, anger, happiness. It’s all there. But we’re totally self-involved. Those humans meant nothing to me, so they could be sitting there being killed in front of me and the most I’d do was enjoy the show. I care about people who have something to do with me.”

“Now you, you with your goodness and helping people, did what most of the two-legged blood bags on this earth wouldn’t do. You helped me. Not because I meant anything to you, but because in your view it was the “right” thing to do. That’s how you are, and why I gave a shit when those blokes were walloping you. But I can’t care about everyone; for one, I’d fucking starve to death if I worried about my next meal’s feelings. For another, that’s how I was made. Understand?”

“Yes. No. Maybe.” Xander was still uneasy, Spike could tell. But he could almost see the wheels in his brain turning that information around, looking at it from every angle, and at least he was trying to understand. If he could it would make things in the long run much easier.

“Well, as long as you pick one of those three you’ll do alright. Now enough with the touchy feely crap, you’d think we were bints or something.”

Xander gave a halfhearted laugh and Spike was surprised to find he missed hearing the boy’s full on enjoyment of life. He grinned to himself. He knew what would cheer the mortal up.

“C’mon. Let’s go pay the poof a visit. We can watch from the building across from his apartment and make fun of his hair.”

Xander smiled but it was halfhearted. “That’s such a teenager thing to do. You’re supposed to be all mature and all that.”

Spike snorted. “Maturity is for wankers. You gotta have fun in life or you might as well lie down in your grave. Lookit Angel. Brooding, lurking in the shadows, digging around dumpsters for rats and other vermin to snack on. Didn’t even try to fight for his lady love until you forced him.” Xander had told that story, and Spike had loved the mental image of this human child being braver than the Poofter Formerly Known as Angelus.

“Fucker might as well go out and wait for the dawn. He’d not enjoying his life, he wasn’t even helping anyone until he popped a boner for a slip of a girl. He’s a waste of space.”

*****

“Then why is he interested in Buffy if he’s that far over her head? For that matter, why do you let me hang out with you? Surely there’s someone more interesting than some teenage kid for you to talk to. I’m, what, a hundred years younger than you? Why do you even waste your time with me?”

And Xander really wanted to know. He was just so damned confused, it was like there was a million things running through his head and each one wanting attention. He still felt guilty for Larry’s death. Willow had found the coroner’s report online and he’d seen the damage that had been done. No vampire had snacked on them, but Larry and Kevin’s skulls had been crushed and Mike’s stomach had been ripped open.

Not exactly an easy death.

He had heard Spike’s reasoning, but he couldn’t help but feel guilty. He knew better than to mouth off to the local goons, it was just sometimes his mouth went faster than his brain did. And Spike had helped him by knocking them out. Even if he wasn’t guilty, he was at least a contributing factor.

And there went the big words again. He really needed to stop watching reruns of Law & Order. As if there was anything else on.

Spike’s voice pulled him out of his internal monologue. “Xan, for us vamps, if we just talked to people our age, well, we’d end up talking to no one. Besides, pet, ever heard of the saying you’re only as young as you feel? When you’re immortal that’s pretty much the truth. You act like a middle aged stick in the mud, that’s how you feel. Now, I listen to rock music, not that easy listening crap. Punk and hard rock. I actually keep up with the current trends; I may not follow them, but I know enough to be able to fit in just about any club. It’s handy for hunting but it’s just plain fun. I even know how to get on the Internet. Makes things less boring during the day when I can’t go out.”

“Oh.” That made good sense to Xander. It would get awfully boring being stuck inside all day. That damned voice in the back of his head said that it was smart to learn things about your prey. “So that’s why Angel’s so…boring. He does boring things. See, I’ve always thought it was kind of gross, this guy who’s like 250 plus years old dating a girl who’s 16. And I didn’t know what they found to talk about. I mean, besides ‘Angel’s deep brown eyes’ or ‘Angel’s big strong arms’.”

“I hope like hell you’re quoting there, pet.” Spike growled just a bit and Xander grinned. It almost sounded like Spike was jealous.

“I am. I’ve sat through many a lunchtime discussion listening to all of Angel’s many good qualities. If I didn’t like my food so much I probably would have tossed it.” Xander couldn’t help but keep grinning. It had been odd trying to rationalize to himself why he had a sort of crush on someone so much older than he was, especially when he thought it was gross when it came to Buffy and Angel. But what Spike said made sense.

Now he had to get over the whole being the cause of Larry’s death part.

Before he could get into another round of guilt, Xander jumped up from the couch. “Come on, if you’re going to be juvenile you can watch from across the street and I’ll go knock on Angel’s door four or five times and run off. We can see how long it takes for him to realize it’s me pulling his chain.”

He really shouldn’t, he knew. Willow was back and had fussed at him for not doing his summer reading. As if anyone but her and a few of the other nerds had actually cracked a book all summer. Besides, it was so much more fun to annoy Angel.

Doing it with Spike should be even more entertaining.





Part Nine



The day after spending the night on the town with Spike, Xander found himself back in the high school library helping Giles and Willow take the protective tarps off the shelves, put up the new books and generally get ready for the next school year.

In a way it was fun, getting to talk to Giles and Willow in the library without the threat of something about to unleash the Hellmouth on them. But it wasn’t the same sort of fun he’d had with Spike. When he suggested playing a practical joke on Giles just to loosen him up, Willow had given him one of her many looks. It was the “don’t be so juvenile” look that she used to give him and Jesse.

Then, of course, they’d wait until they could give her the slip and go make prank calls from Jesse’s house.

It had been fun, running around town with Spike. They’d bothered Angel for a couple of hours before moving on to just walking around town finding something interesting to do. The Bronze had been kind of boring, and they finally ended up going back to Spike’s place and watching videos.

“Where does this box go, Giles?” Xander was carrying in the heavy boxes of book and putting them in the general area they would eventually be in. Giles would come around and give them a number to go in the Dewey Decimal system, and Willow would put them up.

Xander had only asked once about the Huey and Louie Decimal system, because a joke wasn’t funny if you had to explain it and then get one of those Giles-glares.

“What? Oh yes, those are the books that classify the different demons that dwell below ground. Put them over there next to the books on gnomes and brownies. They should fall under the same basic categories…”

Giles went off mumbling to himself and Xander had to roll his eyes. The older man was distracted, and seemingly very much into his absentminded professor routine. There were times, though, that Giles showed a bit of steel in his demeanor and Xander couldn’t help but wonder what caused it.

After all, if Xander could have a secret life with a friend who just happened to be a master vampire, what kind of secret life could Giles have?

He set the books down on the floor beside Willow in front of one of the newer shelves that they were rapidly filling. Willow looked up and smiled at him. “Isn’t this neat? We’ll know where all the books are! No more searching around for the right book; it’ll save so much time during research sessions.”

Xander smiled back at his oldest friend. “Only you, Willow, would get excited about research. Well, you and G-man. I’m just here for your lovely company. That and the chance to annoy Giles.”

“I heard that.” Giles’ voice came from the other room but he sounded more amused then angry. Xander was just glad that he hadn’t asked any weird questions, considering the last time he’d really talked to Giles he’d all but admitted being bi-sexual, at the very least.

He didn’t have the dreams quite as much, but Xander figured it was because he had admitted the attraction to himself. His subconscious wasn’t trying so hard to get the message through. After looking around, he could admit to himself that he found certain guys just as attractive as girls.

None of them held a candle to Spike, though.

Xander just shook his head and went to grab the last box of books. Giles had lucked into an estate sale. One of his fellow Watchers had died of old age and there had been a whole truckload of books. Which again made Xander wonder about Giles.

“Hey, G-man! What did you do to pay for all these books anyway? Rob a bank? Or are you secretly a millionaire and just hide the fact so Buffy won’t make you take her shopping?”

“Yes…well, I...” The sound of Giles sputtering in the office could be heard from the stacks and Xander grinned at Willow and pulled her up so they could both sneak over and watch their mentor babble. “I supposed you could say that I am well off. There are certain advantages to our line of business…means of making money that while aren’t quite unethical, but aren’t quite on the up and up, either. Besides, it is essential to have the proper tools for dealing with the entities that can be found on a Hellmouth, and I’m afraid that the school barely budgets enough money to replace all the copies of Twain that get defaced each year, much less demonology texts.”

Xander was fighting hard to hide a grin. He felt like bouncing and running around all at once. He’d bet dollars to doughnuts that Giles had taken money from demons that he’d killed. He knew that Giles sometimes went on patrol, “just to keep his hand in”. And considering how much money could be stolen off of one or two fledges…

“No need to get all panicked, Giles, I was just wondering. Although if you actually robbed a bank I’d ask for a piece of the action, just for keeping my mouth shut. Which I don’t do very well, so let me know now.”

And what was good for Giles was good for Xander. He was so going shopping with his cash. Xander was unable to stand still any longer and he went to lean by one of the stacks and Willow and Giles went into the office. It was nice, just being there with his friends, so what if he had to deal with dusty old books that smelled like mold?

He was so intent on the warm fuzzy feelings he was having that he didn’t even notice that someone was behind him until a hand picked him up by the collar and he found himself dangling from Angel’s meaty fist.

He knew he should be scared, but when he caught sight of Angel from the corner of his eye he started giggling. Well, giggling as much as he could when all the air was leaving his lungs.

Willow and Giles must have heard his odd wheezing laughter and turned around. Both had looks of shock and Xander could see Giles’s lips upturn just a little. That set off Xander even more and he fought to laugh through the lack of air and ended up making gasping noise. He started to see spots and everything seemed far away by the time he heard Willow trying to get Angel to let him go.

Finally he was given a full body shake and collapsed to the floor. Tears were running down his face and he held his aching side and stomach and as he tried to catch his breath. Xander refused to look up at the source of the growling he was hearing. He just knew he’d lose it again if he did.

Unfortunately, Giles had to go and ask. “May I take it Xander is the reason why your hair is bright blue?”

Through his renewed laughter Xander could hear Angel whine. “It won’t come out, you little brat!”

Through gasps of laughter, Xander managed to choke an answer out. “Don’t worry…it’ll wear out by the time Buffy gets back…Broody Smurf!”

The looks on Giles and Willow’s face were priceless. Willow was really trying not to laugh and definitely didn’t approve but the sight of Angel with bright blue hair was too funny for her. Giles, however, had an open smirk on his face, and Xander was sure he’d be laughing out loud too if he had understood what a Smurf was.

Xander’s laughter finally tapered off for the most part, an occasional chuckle escaping his lips. “Aww! Come on, Deadboy! Cheer up, that water balloon could have been filled with holy water instead of blue dye. And do you know what kind of effort I put into finding just the right shade of blue?”

Angel growled, proving that he wasn’t human, and both Willow and Giles jumped, just a little. Xander just grinned to hear it. He probably knew more about Angel and Angelus than even Giles did. He knew that if Angel picked him up and beat the crap out of him it would only go to prove what Xander had always said, that the other man was a monster.

After all, ringing someone’s doorbell on and off for a half hour and then running wasn’t the end of the world. Annoying, yes, but not worth beating someone up over. The water balloon filled with hair dye, maybe, but if he did it in front of Giles and Willow it would be stepping over the line.

And even if he did get beat up it would be worth the amount of fun he and Spike had. Spike had used his vamp senses to know when Angel was standing there at the door, waiting to grab him. Finally they had left for an hour looking for balloons and hair dye before coming back to deliver the final touch.

They’d run off laughing, and Xander had realized that was the most fun he’d really had since Jesse died.

Angel finally turned around and stalked out of the library in frustration. Xander could see how his hands kept clenching as if he were wishing he had Xander’s neck in his grasp. “Don’t ever do it again, Harris, or you’ll find out exactly what kind of a sense of humor I have.”

“I think I know what kind of humor you have, Broody, I just know that with the soul you don’t have the balls for it.”

After Angel left Xander picked himself up off the floor and faced Willow and Giles. It could be worse; Buffy would have had three kinds of a fit for bugging her boytoy.

“Dare I ask why you choose to bother Angel last night?” Giles was trying to sound like he was being all stern but the slight smirk he still wore gave him away. Willow, however, had her arms crossed and looked like she was about to give a lecture.

Xander looked down at the floor and scuffed his shoe. He turned big eyes onto his friends, trying to look innocent. “Umm, I was bored?”

“And is that a good enough reason to paint Angel’s hair…blue?””

“If I say yes, how much trouble will I get into?”

Willow’s voice ran in his ears. “Xander!!”





Part Ten



Spike was again watching from the shadows and he wondered if Xander really knew how much the older man had come to trust him. Realized exactly what it meant. The other night the lad had come to his house, the night after they’d pissed off Angelus, and he was moping. Evidently his parents didn’t give a piss about what he did but the Watcher and the little red headed girl did, and they held some influence over Xander.

For his crime of turning Peaches into as big a poof on the outside as he was inside, Xander had been sentenced to a book report. The human came to his house with heavy steps and a long face, bitching and moaning about having to read. Evidently he was supposed to read a classic, and you’d think the lad was dying the way he carried on.

And Spike had done something that he hadn’t done in over a hundred years. Shared his love of reading. He’d dragged the boy to his trunk full of books and dug out one of his old favorites, a copy of Beowulf. He figured if anything would appeal to Xander, reading about a bloke with a big sword that killed demons would be it.

Spike had left the lad there once the sun went down, reading in the living room. Between hunting, keeping an eye on Angelus and the Annoying One’s minions scurrying around town making right nuisances of themselves, Spike didn’t get back to his lair until it was almost dawn.

He had found Xander asleep on the couch, book clutched tight in his hand.

The part of Spike that allowed him to care about more than death and blood found it almost overwhelmingly endearing. Only his Dark Plum had affected him this way before, made him feel protective and all soft. But Dru had been a special circumstance; she had been his Sire, his Maker, and had been broken almost beyond belief at both her Sire and her Grandsire’s abandonment. Spike had been all she had left and she'd clung to him as much as he had cherished her.

Xander was human and young, a do-gooder at that. But somehow they had become friends in the past two months and Spike knew that given the chance he could feel more. And given the occasional burst of pheromones from the lad and a few of the looks, he might just get that chance. He just had to wait a bit, till the lad figured out what it was that he wanted.

It was bloody hard, waiting. He hated doing it, most of the time he just took what he wanted when he wanted it. But Spike knew that if he waited it would be well worth it. Then Xander would be his of his own free will.

And Spike would never let go.

He was watching the boy tonight, keeping an eye on him as he wandered around town with Red. They were eating ice cream and chattering on, the girl the only human he knew that could rival Xander’s talk rate. There was a minion lurking about, but nothing that Xander couldn’t handle. He’d taken to showing the lad a move or two and he was becoming quite a fighter.

Suddenly Spike felt a tingle on the back of his neck, a feeling as if someone had scraped nails down a blackboard. He shifted to his true face and growled. The Slayer was back in town and looking for her little friends.

Now things would get really interesting.

*****

“So, have you heard from Buffy? I mean, she has to come back, school starts tomorrow.” Xander licked at his vanilla cone and tried to ignore the way Willow was flirting with him. Or trying to get him to flirt with her.

“Nope, haven’t heard from her. I got a couple of cards right before we left on vacation but nothing since. You think she’s okay?”

Xander shrugged. “She’s probably catching up with what friends she has left in LA and spending time with her Dad. He doesn’t send for her every weekend he has visitation, you know, and she misses him a lot.” He couldn’t understand it himself. Given the chance, he’d be ecstatic never to see his father again.

Willow gave him a half-hearted smile. “Still crushing on her?”

Xander was able to give a real grin to that question, and knew that if he wasn’t in the dark Willow would have picked up the blush that was spreading across his face. “I can truthfully say that I have moved on from my Buffy-crush. I’ve moved into an entirely different state, even.”

Okay, so Spike had blonde hair too, but Xander knew there was a soft brown underneath; he’d seen the roots where it had been growing out last week before Spike had bleached again. But other than that, Spike was nothing like Buffy. Vampire/Slayer, male/female aside, Spike was just so much more real. He made Xander feel like a person, and not some stupid kid bumbling around.

“Oh.” Willow’s voice was small but she had an odd smile on her face and Xander knew he’d messed up. During his little trip to Spikeland Willow had added up two and two and come up with ten. She thought he liked her now.

And he was going to have to let her down, because he didn’t think he could survive another year of Willow-looks. It had been bad enough when Jesse was around but now with Buffy encouraging her it had been getting worse.

“Listen, Wills…”

Willow looked over her shoulder and screamed. He winced at how the sound made his ears ring, even while he was pulling her behind him and grabbing the stake in his back pocket. His ice cream fell to the ground, forgotten.

“Willow, run! Go!”

Of course, Willow didn’t listen to him. Xander was beginning to understand how Buffy felt, trying to fight and protect someone at the same time. He punched the vampire in the face twice and managed to trip him. He brought up his stake and was just about to ram it through the minion’s chest when it was pulled away from him.

Buffy was back.

She did her usual thing, punching and kicking before making him dust. If he had played around like that, Spike would have given him a good shot to the head. The other man always told him it was stupid to fool around unless you knew you had the upper hand. Being human, Xander would never get that so he was to stake first and make comments later.

“Hi, guys! Miss me?”

“Hey!” He jumped for his hug, happy to see his friend home. As Xander stood back to let Willow have her turn, he took a good look at Buffy. Different hair, different clothes. Buffy really did look good.

And oh, look, no signs of attraction whatsoever. Zip, zero, nada.

Huh. He looked down at the ground where his cone was melting and tried to remember just what it was that made him so desperate for her last spring.

“When did you get home?” Willow’s voice broke Xander out of his thoughts but he knew he’d have to go there sooner or later. Later would be much, much better.

“Dad just brought me home a little while ago; he’s back at the house talking to Mom so I thought I’d come out and see what you two were doing.” Buffy made a clucking sound with her tongue. “Does either of you have a cross? Sloppy guys.”

Actually, Xander did have a cross, but he’d wanted to kill the fledge, not scare him away. Willow, though, looked down ashamedly before bouncing back up again.

“Well, it’s been kind of slow! That’s the first vampire I’ve seen all summer. Right, Xander?”

Xander bit his lip and nodded, and hoped that his best friend was so excited over Buffy’s return that she wouldn’t catch the lie.





Part Eleven



Two days later and Xander was less worried about his friends finding out about Spike and just plain worried about Buffy.

“What’s up with her?” Cordelia was angry, and for once Xander couldn’t blame her. Ever since Buffy had come back from LA she was spacey. Well, spacey when she wasn’t being a total bitch. If that was how she was going to act after hanging out with her big city friends she could go right back, as far as Xander was concerned.

He didn’t like the fact that he wanted to defend Cordelia. Then again, she had given him a sort of backhanded compliment on his new clothes. If you counted “Get someone who wasn’t colorblind to buy your clothes for you this year, Xander?” Which, he did.

He looked at Willow and Cordelia and shook his head. “Well, someone pissed in her Cheerios today.”

“Xander!!” Willow’s voice was outraged and raised an octave but Cordy’s eyebrow rose and, if he wasn’t mistaken, she had had to fight off a snicker.

“Well, it’s true! I mean, I’m all for the Cordy-snarkage. Just like she’s always ready for a game of Xander-bashing, but that took it too far. Maybe we need to get her out of school and talk to her, you know?”

Cordy looked at him as if he’d just said something weird. “Xander Harris is defending me. I think you little weirdoes need to go check with Giles, we may have another apocalypse coming.”

She turned around and flounced off. Xander looked at Willow and they ended up laughing. They turned and started to class. Buffy had a study hall in the library that period, something Giles had maneuvered to have time to train his Slayer. Willow had geometry and Xander--he had talked to the guidance counselor and changed geometry to creative writing.

Willow had been upset and pointed out how Xander would never get into college without one or two higher maths. He’d just shrugged. He really didn’t see himself going to college, money issues aside. But thanks to Spike he did find that he liked to read, and had figured between that and his wild imagination he’d be good at writing and it would be fun. Plus, the homework wouldn’t be quite as mind bending.

He hoped.

“Xander…what is this with the new look and new…Xander, anyway?”

He looked at himself and figured it was a big change. He actually had new clothes, ones that fit and he had gotten to choose. His favorite colors were blacks and grays, not the weird oranges and reds that he had worn before. He even had new tennis shoes, and at Spike’s there was a pair of motorcycle boots in black with big silver buckles.

“I just finally had my own money and went shopping by myself, all new stuff. Neat, huh?”

He had a lot of his new stuff at Spike’s, not all of it, but the stuff he didn’t want his Dad to find. The man would either steal some of it or throw it out. Some of the stuff at Spike’s were things there was no way in hell he was going to let his Dad in the same neighborhood as. Especially since he’d gone to the bookstore looking for a newer copy of Beowulf to take to school with him and had ended up spending a good bit of the money he had left over from buying clothes.

It had been right after school so he was still dressed nicely and the kid at the register hadn’t even looked twice at some of his purchases. Which was good, considering that mixed in with the Robert B. Parker and Dragonrider novels were a few books about being gay, and one erotic fiction.

All male erotic fiction.

“It—it looks good on you, Xander. You look, I don’t know, different.” Willow peered at him, her hair swinging forward to cover her face. “You’re not doing drugs or something, are you?”

Xander laughed. “No, Wills, no drugs.” Unless you counted the adrenalin high he got from just being near Spike. He shrugged at his friend. “Guess I’m just…growing up.”

The warning bell rang and before Willow could interrogate him anymore he started sprinting down the hall. “Gotta get to class, Wills, we’re doing haikus! Talk to you later!”

“See you at the Bronze tonight, Xander! And you’d better be normal!”

Xander rolled his eyes at that. One of his best friends was the Slayer and another was a vampire. Add in a Watcher and the fact that he hung out over the mouth to Hell? There was no way he’d ever be normal.

*****

Spike was sitting in the living room, smoking and basically trying to fill time waiting for the sun to set. It'd been harder to move around town and not be seen by anyone the past few days, what with minions scurrying all over the place gathering some sort of spell ingredients and Angelus lurking around, following his ladylove.

It was frustrating, to say the least, and Spike knew he was going to have to step up his timetable. He’d wanted to let his presence in town to be known after All Hallows, but patience was never his strong suit.

If asked he’d deny it, but privately he would admit that he missed Xander. Not that he hadn’t seen the lad since the Slayer had come back, in fact he’d been by that afternoon. But between school and friends and slaying…well, it just wasn’t the same as it was when Xander had time and would come over and just be there for most of the day. He’d gotten used to the sound of a human in the house.

That was all. He just missed the sound of a heartbeat.

When Xander had come by for his boots earlier, he’d been oddly quiet. Spike knew it had something to do with the Slayer; after all, the mood had started the day after she came back. He thought about asking what was bothering him, but he knew Xander wouldn’t say. The lad knew very well that, even if Spike didn’t mean to, any information about Buffy might be used against her at some future point in time.

He stood up and paced the length of the room. The only thing to do, then, was follow Xander and find out what the Slayer was doing to get him all knotted up. The lad had a head start but he’d come by the house for the good clubbing clothes that he’d bought. As soon as the sun set, he’d head straight for the Bronze.

He could pick up someone to eat on the way.

*****

Spike had to fight to keep from showing his true face as he watched from a corner of the balcony. No wonder Xander had been quiet. Spike had watched as Red had flirted with Xander and the boy tried to keep from hurting her feelings or encourage her. Then he witnessed the small blond powerhouse come in and trample all over Angelus as if he were nothing.

Normally Spike would enjoy that, but the Slayer had gone directly up to Xander and pulled him onto the dance floor. It was obvious, to Spike at least, that the boy wasn’t comfortable and yet the girl just rubbed all over him like a cat in heat.

Spike watched as she whispered something in Xander’s ear and he shoved her away from him. He’d never seen that look on the boy’s face before, a mixture of shame and embarrassment and anger. He could almost hear his heartbeat, even over the band.

The Slayer left, followed out by a dark haired girl. Xander went back to Red but she looked both embarrassed and jealous and wasn’t talking. Angelus was still lurking about, probably brooding about his girl making time with someone else or maybe the ugly shirt he was wearing.

If this was the way the infamous Slayer acted, Spike was surprised she even had any friends, much less someone as loyal as Xander. That had been behavior the likes of Darla had played with, not the Chosen One and leading white hat.

He shook his head and noticed Xander was leaving. He followed as quietly as he could, and when he saw that Xander was headed back to the house he took a detour that would let him get back faster. He wouldn’t let the boy know that he’d been watching, but it was obvious Xander needed a friend.

If only to keep him from overdosing on chocolate.





Part Twelve



Xander felt a little bit guilty as he asked for a pass to the library. Another bonus to taking creative writing: he could get a pass to the library to look for a book and go talk to Giles. He was supposed to meet Buffy and Willow this morning as they looked for Chris and Eric but he was still…bothered by Buffy and needed to talk to Giles.

The Librarian was still flustered after talking to Ms. Calendar earlier. It had been fun watching Giles get all anxious about asking her out, and made him feel better. If Giles got nervous, it was okay for him to get nervous around Spike. Still, it was odd to see Giles get flustered; the man acted like he’d never been on a date before in his life.

“Hey, Giles. Can I drag you down off cloud nine with Ms. Calendar for a second and talk to you?”

“What? Oh…of course. Yes, aren’t you supposed to be in math class right now?”

“Nope, dropped that and switched to Creative Writing. Much more my speed and, hey, I get to sneak and visit my favorite Librarian for a talk. That is, if you don’t mind, and did I mention I was sorry for teasing you about your asking the chair out on a date?”

He bounced on the balls of his feet and shoved his hands in his pockets. It had been fun picking on Giles but now that he needed to talk to him Xander felt guilty.

Giles smiled and shut the book he was looking through. “No, you hadn’t mentioned it. Don’t worry, I’ve learned that you only…bother the people you like. You only really annoy the people you dislike.”

Xander grinned. That was true, he had a tendency to push everyone he knew. He just pushed at people he couldn’t stand, like Angel and the dearly departed Larry, a little bit more.

The smile very quickly left his face. “What I was wondering is, how…well, I saw you practicing your pick up line and, despite my bothering, well, they weren’t that bad. I was wondering if you had any advice on let down lines.”

“Let down lines, Xander? I’m not sure I know what you’re talking about.”

He took a deep breath and leaned on the counter across from where Giles was standing. “You know, let down lines. You’re a really sweet person but I don’t think we’d make a good couple type of thing.”

“Oh, those. Thank god! I thought you were being particularly hard of hearing to miss all those sighs from Willow when she's around you. I would put it just like that, actually. Better to tell the truth than hedge around.” Giles took off his glasses and checked them for smudges before putting them back on. “I take it you’ve answered your…plumbing question, then?”

Xander blushed. “Umm, yeah. Thanks to Buffy, in a way. I mean, I was already checking out…stuff. I even bought a book of my own free will! And then Buffy did that…dancing with me. The one even Willow’s been teasing her about?”

Giles nodded and Xander fought off the urge to hide under one of the tables. “Let’s just say…my—my plumbing wasn’t interested in her plumbing in the least bit. Not even a rise. Add in the fact that I know I kinda like other boys' plumbing, and their…pipes…”

“For the love of all that you hold dear, stop! I’m afraid I get the rather graphic picture you just painted and will be forced to move if ever my drains clog rather than call a plumber.”

Xander shuddered. “That was really bad, wasn’t it? I don’t even want to think about plumber’s crack now.”

Giles held up a hand. “Stop! No more…vernacular. Unless it’s something not quite as…”

“Disgusting? Is Friend of Dorothy okay, then? I know the English version is poof.” Xander sighed and gave into the urge to hit his head on the hard surface. “I am gay. There, I said it. It’s so not going to be pretty when the girls find out. I don’t know about Buffy so much but Willow? Yeah, she’s not going to like it just because she doesn’t like things to change. I’m not even thinking about what will happen if my parents ever find out.”

“I’m sure they will eventually come around, Xander. After all, they are your parents.” Giles sounded so positive and supportive, he couldn't admit to his friend that there was no way in hell his Father would ever come around. He’d be lucky if he just got the crap beat out of him.

“We’ll see. Right now, if you don’t mind, can you kinda keep it under your tweed? I mean, I still haven’t got my brain used to thinking of myself as gay and I am so not ready to admit it to anyone else.”

Giles smiled. “Closeted, eh? It will be difficult to stay that way, especially if you wish to pursue a relationship with the object of your crush. He is still around, isn’t he?”

In his mind Xander was panicking, and lights were flashing behind his eyes like on Star Trek when the Enterprise was being attacked. “Yeah, he’s around. I see him now and again…I don’t know if he likes me or not. He’s…older and sort of been around more.”

“Dear lord, it’s not Angel, is it? That isn’t the reason you’ve been bothering him?”

Xander popped up from where he had still been hiding his head on the desk. “Ewwww! No, not Angel. A whole big galaxy of no!” He couldn’t help the shudder that came over him. “Okay he is rather handsome and he’s got nice arms. But his personality just…well, his personality just ruins the package it’s wrapped up in.”

Giles nodded. “Yes, I could see where your personalities might clash. What’s his name, then?”

Somewhere in Xander’s brain a miniature version of Scotty was running around screaming about a red alert and how his brain couldn’t take the pressure anymore. Thank god the Spock part of his brain took over, because he found himself answering.

“Will. William actually, but he doesn’t really like it. He’s looking for family in town and will be here for a while, but then he might leave again. So I don’t know if he’s up for a relationship or what, and his girlfriend died in an odd…accident. You know what I mean. He’s still kinda broken up about that.”

“Take your time, Xander, apocalypses aside you have time to figure things out. I detest sounding like a headline on one of those terrible teen magazines but if he really cares about you, he’ll wait for you to be ready. Don’t rush into…sex or anything you may not be prepared for. I am assuming those books you mention covered the…protection area of things or do I need to give you that lecture.”

“No! No…I got that figured out, for the most part. Well, for the whole part. I know about condoms and lube and…all that.” Xander didn’t want to admit that before he did anything groiny with Spike he wanted to check on the possibilities of demonic STD’s and pregnancy. Not that he was a girl but it was the Hellmouth and he knew he had the worst luck. He didn’t need to end up on some demon version of an After School Special about being a pregnant guy at seventeen.

Giles slumped in relief. “Oh, thank god!”

*****

Xander watched as Giles and Ms. Calendar walked off, happy on their date despite the detour to stop the shuffling undead. Buffy and Angel walked off hand in hand. "Well, I guess that makes it official. Nearly everyone is paired off.”

He was trying to open it up for Willow to let out a sigh so he could let her down, easy. That wasn’t what happened, though, because Cordy all but pushed Willow out of the way so she could talk to him.

“Xander? I just wanted to thank you for saving my life. What you did in there was really brave and heroic, and I just wanted to tell you if there was anything that I could ever do to...”

Xander sighed. He'd admitted to himself that he was gay and now he had two females ready to fawn all over him; it was too much. His life really was weird.

“Don’t mention it, please. We have our reputations to think about, remember? What would the other geeks think of me if I admitted to rescuing you?”

Cordelia tilted her head, but it wasn’t as sexy as when Spike did it. “Oh, right.”

Willow was frowning and looking like she was going to start counter flirting or whatever. He caught a glimpse of platinum blonde out of the corner of his eye and breathed a sigh of relief. “Listen, ladies, I’m afraid I’m going to have to say goodnight. I’ve actually got to meet someone, so have a good night. I’ll call you tomorrow, Willow!”

He broke away from his place between the clash of the females and ducked around a few cars that were still in the parking lot. Spike was leaning against the side of the DeSoto and when he saw Xander coming he climbed in the car. Xander shrugged and got in the passenger side, wondering what was going on.

“Hi, Spike. What’s up.”

Spike had an unlit cigarette in his mouth and had peeled out of the parking lot as soon as the door to the car had closed. “Gotta go out of town for a bit and didn’t want you to think I’d just run off on ya. Thought I’d give you a ride home from the whatever the hell that was. Sure as fuck isn’t football or rugby, and nothing I know of ends with a building on fire.”

“Oh.” Xander couldn’t keep the disappointment out of his voice and didn’t even try. “I guess when you come back it will be…different, won’t it?”

Spike looked at him long enough to make Xander fear for his life since the other man wasn’t looking at the road. Finally Spike faced forward, swerving around a car that was going too slow for his taste.

“Yeah, it will. Don’t worry, though, we’ll still be friendly like. It'll just be a bit more difficult, what with me trying to kill Angel actively and all that.”

Xander took a deep breath; it was now or never. “Hey, when you get back do you think we could, I dunno, do something? I mean, I like you, really like you and you act like you might like me. We could…go out of town and find a good Mexican restaurant.”

He was ready to hurl himself out of the car. That had sounded even more stupid than when Buffy had suggested it to Giles. He looked out the side window. He was young, he could live through being crushed.

Spike didn’t say anything but the car slowed down and finally stopped in an alley a half a block away from his house. Spike’s hand was on his arm, turning Xander to face him. He had a slight smile on his face, not one of his smirks, and Xander just hoped he wasn’t about to have his heart stomped on by size thirteen Doc Martens.

“Kinda like you too, Xander; haven’t killed you, have I? We’ll see what happens with my first clash with Angelus and the Slayer and then, well, maybe I’ll even take you on a date, okay?”

Xander grinned, pushing the part about Buffy and Angel out of his mind for the moment. “That sounds great! I can’t wait.” He reached for the door handle but Spike stopped him.

“I think it’s a requirement to give your boyfriend a kiss when he drops you off at home, Xander. Don’t want to break tradition, do we?”

Before Xander could say anything, Spike was there, kissing him on his mouth. Xander moaned and kissed him right back. He was sure he was doing it wrong, but Spike didn’t seem to mind so he wasn’t going to worry about it. It was just nice feeling his lips against Spike’s, and when Spike licked and nibbled at his bottom lip his brain went somewhere south of the border.

Finally they pulled apart and Xander grasped for something, anything to say. “Wow. Nice tradition.”





Part Thirteen



Xander ran from Angel’s apartment to the school as fast as he could, his lungs burning as he gasped for air.

He’d been in a state of quiet panic ever since seeing Spike the night before at the Bronze. He hadn’t even been gone a week but Xander had missed him, had even stayed at the house one night to keep away from his father.

But seeing Spike at the Bronze had been a shock. He had gotten used to Spike’s attitude around him, being the Big Bad as the vampire called it. But last night he had seemed almost a different person. The smirk had been on his face but his eyes had been cold. Steel.

His Spike would laugh with him at some stupid sitcom, or make comments about how silly Buffy looked trying to fight in high heels. His Spike played video games and taught him how to fight and didn’t make him feel like a stupid kid.

The Spike last night had been a killer. He’d always known that, had even found the books and read how he’d killed two other slayers. He’d even listened to a few stories about Drusilla and how she’d get into people’s minds and make them as mad as she was before feeding off them.

But until he’d seen Spike confronting Buffy he hadn’t known.

It had been frightening, and just a little bit sexy, which freaked him out to no end.

Added to that confusion was Angel being an ass. Of course, the rest of the gang didn’t know that Deadboy was being extra idiotic. Angel gave a warning about how nothing would stop Spike from reaching his goal and then did his disappearing act. Giles looked for hours through the different Watcher’s Diaries for information on Spike when Angel had it all along. He could have just said, "William the Bloody", and that would have been more than enough.

Of course, he was just as bad. He didn’t tell Giles either so, along with the confusion and fright, he was doing the guilt thing too. He tried to make up for it by not arguing too much with Giles and went to get Angel when the older man had asked him to.

Plus, he kinda knew this was leading to a big show down with Angelus so he figured Spike would want the other vampire to be there. So in a way he was helping everyone, Buffy and Spike included.

Maybe if he told himself that enough, he’d believe it.

Angel had been his usual self when Xander had knocked on his door, barely waiting for Xander to catch his breath before dragging him back into the night. If Angel was so worried, why didn’t he just run on ahead? He knew the vampire could run faster.

Or maybe Angel didn’t know that Xander knew and wanted to keep him from knowing.

They made it back to the school while Xander was still trying to figure out his latest mental puzzle. He guessed worrying about Angel’s motives kept him from worrying about Buffy and Spike.

Near the entrance to the school there was a man lying dead. He was older, not one of the students and Xander figured it was one of the parents. His parents hadn’t even bothered with coming, and he wasn’t sure if he was glad or not. He didn’t want to see his Dad dead, really, but maimed might be nice.

He took a deep breath and tried to focus on other matters. Like how his boyfriend and one of his best friends were about to do a High Noon in the school, only it was just past nine.

While part of his brain babbled to itself about calling Spike his boyfriend, Xander turned to Angel. “You know a lot about Spike, so, umm…have you got a plan?”

Angel didn’t say anything, just grabbed Xander by the throat and started to drag him to the building.

*****

Spike contented himself with poking holes in the drop-down ceiling. He knew that if he made enough noise either the Slayer or Angelus would finally come. In the meantime, he had his hands full. The Anointed One’s minions were so stupid it wasn’t even funny. He’d had to kill one or two already for trying to snack on the kiddies in the closet.

It wasn’t that Spike disliked playing with his food but the two humans hiding in there carried Xander’s scent, therefore they were out of bounds. As was Xander. He'd stolen one of the boy’s shirts before he left and all of the minions knew Spike had plans for the lad. Okay, so they didn’t know those plans weren’t torture and feeding but they knew enough not to touch the human.

He could feel his Sire getting closer. Disturbingly enough, Spike could also scent Xander. He stopped his destruction of the panels in the ceiling and looked around. Angelus came into view, a protesting Xander under his arm. He could tell the boy wasn’t trying a ruse, he was actively fighting the larger man and swearing a blue streak.

Spike bit back a growl and fought off the urge to take the metal pole he’d been using and ram it straight up Angel’s ass. The poof was putting the boy in danger and didn’t even seem to care. He twisted his face into the semblance of a smile.

“Angelus!”

“Spike.”

“I’ll be damned!” He tossed the pole away. Spike knew he had to play this just right; if Angel got even half an idea that Spike was interested in the boy he’d be dust. He swallowed his hatred for a moment and gave Angel the type of hug William would have given him.

It would have been so easy just to tear out his neck then and there, but Xander might have gotten hurt. Spike couldn’t let that happen.

When Angel pulled back he had what Spike knew to be a fake look of amused affection on his face. “I taught you to always guard your perimeter. You should have someone out there.”

Spike let out a real growl this time. He did have people out there, the fucking idiots must have gotten distracted and wandered off. Worse than Dru in one of her fits, they were. He tried to completely ignore the squirming bundle under Angel’s arms but it was difficult. Xander in a snit just smelled so good. “I did. I’m surrounded by idiots. What’s new with you?”

“Everything.”

“Yeah.” Spike couldn’t help but laugh at that. They were so different from the demons they had been a hundred years ago. “Come up against this Slayer yet?”

“She’s cute. Not too bright, though. Gave the puppy dog ‘I’m all tortured’ act. Keeps her off my back as I feed.”

“People still fall for that Anne Rice routine? What a world!” They both laughed, but Spike was mainly finding Xander amusing. The boy’s swearing had gotten even more oddly creative. Hearing him call Angel an “undead liar guy” was too funny.

Evidently, Angelus didn’t think so. He squeezed the mortal’s neck and then shook Xander just a little before exposing his neck to Spike. “Want a bite before we go and kill her?”

Spike found himself wanting to tear Xander from Angel’s arms before beating the older vampire to death. He wasn’t sure if Angel was serious or not, but if he was just trying to lure Spike into a trap he was playing with things he shouldn’t. Any other vampire would have taken Angelus up on his offer. Spike knew he’d either end up staked or beaten.

“Haven’t seen you in the killing fields for an age.”

“I’m not much for company.”

Bullshit. Angelus always loved to be in the middle of a crowded room; the bastard loved attention. That was an outright lie, but Spike knew he couldn’t let on that he knew that. “No, you never were. So, why are you scared of this Slayer?”

“Scared?”

“Scared, mate. Time was, you would’ve taken her out in a heartbeat. Now look at you. I bet this tortured thing is an act, right? You’re not…housebroken?”

“I saw her kill the Master. You think you can take her alone, be my guest. I’ll just feed and run.”

Spike held up his hands. He couldn’t believe the git was actually going to go for Xander’s throat. “Don’t be silly! We’re all friends here. We’ll do it together. Let’s drink to it.”

He made a move as if to bite but at the very last second he pulled away. His clenched fist hit Angel right in the face and the other vampire staggered back. The grip he had on Xander was loosened and Spike pulled the human out of the way.

It was the best feeling he’d had all night.

“You think you can fool me?! You were my Sire, man! My Yoda!” And now Spike knew he really had been hanging around the boy too much.

“Things change.”

Spike wanted to say that he hadn’t changed but he knew that wasn’t true. “Man, I can’t believe this! You…Uncle Tom!” His minions had heard the fight and came running. “This isn’t a spectator sport, people! Get him!”

He looked at Xander and nodded towards the door. He was rewarded by a huge smile before the lad ran out. Of course that coward, Angel, followed him out. Spike didn’t care so much about him right now, though. All he cared about was that Xander was safe.

*****

It was near dawn by the time he made it back to what he had started thinking of as their house. His and Xander’s.

Xander was sitting up on the couch, a blanket wrapped around him. He was asleep, but Spike took off his Docs and made sure to drop them noisily on the floor.

“Umm…Spike?”

“Yeah, s’me. You all right, luv? The bastard didn’t hurt you too badly, did he?”

Xander shook his head. “It doesn’t hurt too bad. I guess this was his way of getting me back for the blue hair.”

Spike growled. “Offering you up to a vamp for a snack is a bit too much for just a prank, Xan. If I didn’t know you I might have killed you.”

“But you didn’t. And I’ve always know Angel has no sense of humor so I’m not too surprised.”

“Hush, pet, go back to sleep. We’ll talk more tomorrow.”

“'Kay. Night Spike.”

He watched over the lad as he slipped back into slumber. When Xander’s breathing evened out, he opened the collar of his shirt. On his neck there were faint bruises where Angelus had manhandled him.

Yet another mark against Angelus, as far as Spike was concerned. It wasn’t proper to offer up your allies as snacks, even if they did annoy you.

When Spike finally got his hands on Angelus he’d make sure to lash his back an extra twenty-five times. Five lashes for every bruise on Xander’s skin.





Part Fourteen



Xander gritted his teeth as he walked out of the school. It was daylight still, but the sun was beginning to get that orange look and the shadows were longer. It was strange how he wasn’t afraid of the dark anymore, not really.

The day after the failed Parent Teacher Conference had sucked from moment one. He’d slept on the couch and his neck had a crick, for all that Spike had apparently stuffed a pillow under his head before going to bed himself. He’d been almost late for school and forgotten homework for his science class.

Then there was the oddness of Cordelia, actually talking to him as if she…liked him. It was weird and creepy and he wondered if that was a sign of the world ending, right before it started raining frogs.

Add to that the Scooby meeting and his day down the toilet was now complete. No one seemed to care that Angel had offered him up for a snack. Well, not true. Giles had glared rather hard at the brooding wonder but he didn’t say anything. That Xander heard, at least.

Buffy thought it was funny, though. She wouldn’t have thought it was funny if Spike had ripped his throat out and left his body on her front porch. Willow just kept mooning at him, and Giles was giving him looks, as though to remind him to let her down. Like he was going to do it in front of everyone there. He was young, not stupid.

He had finally given up and left. The girls were going to ‘patrol’ the football game again, wanting to make sure that no vamps took advantage of an open-air buffet. He just figured it was a way to stalk Giles and Ms. Calendar again and watch the guys bend over in their uniforms. Not that that was a bad thing, per se, but, for one, he was mad at them.

For another, they weren’t Spike.

As he turned onto the street that was next to his, he saw a familiar DeSoto sitting in the shade of one of the trees. Xander shook his head ruefully and ran up to the car, jumping into the passenger side quickly.

“I was just thinking about you.”

“Really, pet? Good thoughts, I hope.” Spike threw the car into gear and took off down the street, punk music blaring. Xander leaned forward and turned it down before leaning as far back into the seat as he could. He hated cars with no seat belts.

“Umm, I guess. If you consider me comparing your ass to the entire football team’s and finding all the other guys lacking.”

Spike let go of the steering wheel long enough to light a cigarette and Xander kept reminding himself that as a vampire his reflexes would be fast enough to keep them from hitting the cars in the other lane. Really.

“Not sure if I like the idea of you looking at other blokes, Xan.”

He just shrugged. “It should make you feel better that you measure up to any of them.”

Spike snorted. “You don’t play these jealousy games well, do you, pet?”

“What? Okay, I am so not playing a game or trying to get you to…eat the team or anything. Just stating a fact.” Xander squirmed in his seat. He wasn’t used to talking like this, admitting out loud that he did look at the other guys. He was just glad he didn’t have to take gym anymore; if he got caught looking at other guys in there he’d be beaten black and blue.

“Didn’t mean nothing by it, luv, just not used to it. Dru was always playing me against someone -- Angelus, Darla, other demons -- to make me jealous so I’d come back to her. There were times when I couldn’t see straight, she had me so twisted around her little finger.”

“That sounds like it would suck.” Xander looked out the window and noticed they were taking the ramp onto the freeway. “Where are we going?”

Spike looked at him oddly before turning his eyes back to the road. “You said you wanted Mexican and I know of a nice restaurant in the next town over. That way your little friends won’t see us.”

Xander looked at himself in panic. He was wearing his sneakers, a pair of jeans and a gray tee shirt with a back corduroy button down on top of it as a jacket. “Oh my god, we’re going on a date and I didn't get dressed up. And that just proves how gay I am now, worrying about clothes, but I would have dressed up…or at least showered and made sure I was Sure.”

“Stop panicking, pet! You’re fine, 's not like we’re going to some nancy-boy place. It’ll be dark and look like crap but they have the best enchiladas and salsa to kill for.”

Xander squeezed his eyes closed. He could imagine Spike killing someone over something like salsa, that was just…how he was. Still, he was panicking. He was being driven down the freeway at about a hundred miles an hour on his first date. Ever. With a male, who just happened to be a vampire.

He figured he was allowed a few minutes of panic.

*****

Spike was right; the salsa was worth killing over, as was the guacamole, the tamales, and the chimichangas. The chips were home made and warm and for dessert there were churros, their sugar and cinnamon coating his fingers.

He tried to be good, though, and not embarrass Spike by acting weird in a restaurant. He actually used his napkin rather than lick his fingers like he would have done usually. He also stayed away from the refried beans and the black bean dip; he so didn’t need the added worry on a date.

Over dinner, they talked. And by the time they left the place Xander was much less panicked. It was fun, really. Being on a date was a lot like what they usually did when they were hanging out, just with added bonuses. Like holding hands.

And the making out they were currently doing against the DeSoto.

Xander found his back against the side of the car, the door handle digging into his thigh. He didn’t care, though; all he cared about was Spike’s lips. How they felt against his, how they felt against his throat. How he felt like he was on fire.

He didn’t have a lot of experience for comparison. Other than their kiss the other night, there had been just a few friendly pecks with Willow and one on the lips kiss with Cordy when they were in third grade and Jesse had double dog dared him. But the way Spike was kissing him, it felt like his brains melted and dribbled out of his ears.

At first he wasn’t sure what to do with his hands or how to respond. Finally he gave up and put his arms around Spike’s neck and just stopped thinking. After a few moments he remembered to breathe through his nose, which helped a lot since Spike didn’t need to come up for air.

Their tongues met and Spike’s seemed to sort of curl around his before he pulled back and nibbled at Xander’s lips for a moment before pulling Xander even closer to him. All of Xander’s blood seemed to be rushing to his lips and his cock and he noticed that at some point in time he’d gotten hard.

It seemed that as soon as he noticed, it was very uncomfortable. Without even thinking he moved his hips against Spike, trying for some sort of friction or relief.

Spike pulled away again, stepping away from him till he was a full arm’s length from Xander. They were both breathless and the heckler in his head cheered that he'd managed to make Spike pant. A cool hand caressed the side of his face.

“Best stop, luv, or else your first time will be on the hood of the DeSoto and I don’t think you’re quite ready for that.”

Xander just nodded and Spike opened the door so he could slide into the passenger seat. He was really glad that Spike was older at that very moment; if he hadn’t been more mature, Xander was sure he would have gone just a bit too far for a first date.

*****

Xander yawned and pretended to be interested in his science homework. He was failing that course, just about, but couldn’t find it within himself to care. He had enough science credits to graduate; he was mostly taking Biology II to stick with Willow and Buffy.

Buffy and Giles were training, or having an argument using the training equipment, he wasn’t quite sure which. His brain was a bit too muzzy. Staying up late so he could spend some time with Spike and trying to slay was playing havoc with his sleep schedule.

“Mm. Just this once I'd like to be the Overlooked One.”

“Well, I'm... afraid that is not...” Buffy gave Giles a hard kick and the older man staggered back. “You have responsibilities that other girls do not.”

Okay, he so did not want to get into the middle of this. He hated it when Buffy and Giles fought. Well, they weren’t fighting, exactly. It was more like a discussion with punches. He hated these things because he could see both sides.

Buffy was the Slayer, it was her job to go out and kill the vampires and monsters of the night. If she didn’t, innocent people died. Then again, she deserved to have a night off once in a while.

“Oh! I know this one! Slaying entails certain sacrifices, blah, blah, bity blah, I'm so stuffy, gimme a scone.”

“It's as if you know me.”

Giles’ voice was dry and at its most sarcastic. Xander frowned. Okay, that was just stereotypical. Spike was English but he wasn’t stuffy, even if he did like scones. Buffy unleashed another punch and kick combination and Giles staggered again.

He shook his head. “You know, Giles, if you want I can patrol with you and Buffy and Wills can go to the dance. That way the Hellmouth is covered and Buffy gets her night of girly fun.”

“What? You can’t patrol, Xander!”

“Hmm, that’s an excellent compromise. Fine, Buffy, you can go!”

She stopped and looked at Xander and then back at Giles. “Xander can’t patrol with you! He’s all…fragile. And he’s going to the dance with me and Willow.”

“Hey! I am so not fragile. Besides, I hadn’t planned on going to the dance, Buff, sorry. I can’t really see me dressing up. It’s bad enough Snyder is forcing us to take the kids trick or treating at the end of the month. Me and Giles can have a night of male bonding, being all guy friend like. We’ll patrol, kill a few fledges and then I’ll try to get Giles to buy me imported beer. It’ll be fun!”

“I am not buying you alcohol.” By the small smile on Giles’ face, he could tell the Watcher knew he was just playing around. Xander turned a pout on him.

“Awww, you’re no fun.”

Buffy looked from him to Giles again and Xander fought back a snicker. If this was a cartoon her eyes would have been bugging out. “You’re saying you want to hang out with Tweed Man? And miss out taking Willow to the dance?”

He just knew that with his luck Willow was standing right behind him. “I was going to try to get my Mom’s car but this works out. You and Willow can have a fun time at the party and Giles and I will go out and…um, kill things. Besides, it’s not like anything bad is happening right now.”





Part Fifteen



He shouldn’t have gotten out of bed, that’s all there was to it. Better yet, he should have gone over to Spike’s last night after the big dance and just…not come out of the house. For a year maybe. And he was really trying to ignore the fact that Spike would probably be more than happy to hurt his two best friends right now and that they’d deserve it.

Xander should have known not to tempt fate like he had, but as soon as he'd opened his big mouth Willow had come into the library saying Rodney Munson was missing. Only he wasn’t missing, he was just back at the museum looking like he’d been through one of those Ronco Food Dehydrators that was on the infomercials late at night. And a big guy with a big knife attacked them.

And the girls didn’t even notice he was able to flip someone over his shoulder. Giles had looked at him oddly but he'd just grinned.

Then there was Ampata. She had been beautiful, but still didn’t ring his bells. Or chimes or whatever. He was still steering clear of the whole plumbing thing. But just because he was nice to her and tried to distract her so Buffy and Willow could figure out how and why the mummy did the shuffle out of the museum didn’t mean that he liked her. Liked her, liked her.

Then there was this whole…thing with Willow. Every time he tried to talk to her she changed the subject, or asked about what he was wearing to the dance and then fussed at him for not wanting to go to it. Xander used to think he was the king of babble but Willow had turned into the High Queen because she just didn’t give him a chance.

And Spike wasn’t happy with Xander patrolling with Giles, not that he thought that Giles was moving in on his territory but the vampire didn’t think he’d be safe. It was kinda cute in a rather growly sort of way.

So he ignored the fact that he had a blonde shadow when he and Giles went to talk to Buffy before the dance, and if it hadn’t been for Spike he would have had the life sucked out of him. Literally.

But now it was the next day of school, a Friday, and he had to deal with Buffy and Willow teasing him about having yet another close call with a deadly female. As far as he was concerned, it had only made him gayer. If that was possible. His meat and two veg, as Spike would call them, had had two close calls with dangerous women, therefore they didn’t want to be around any more and he was all for that.

And the vegetable thing was even worse than the plumbing.

At least the actual school day was over. Hopefully the girls would get tired of teasing him and move on. Or, more likely, a giant meteor would fall on the school, wiping out everyone left in the building.

And while he wanted to live until he at least got to third base with Spike, he was just about ready to wish it to happen.

“Tell me, Xander, was she all wrinkly when she started kissing you? Did she taste like dust?”

Buffy was being smug and Willow was moping. Yeah, that meteor could crash here at any time. The school was just starting to empty out at the end of the day, the few buses had left but there was yet another football game that night, this time away, and there were still a lot of kids hanging around. He just wanted to escape to the library, or better yet just to…leave. Go home, grab some stuff and spend some time with Spike.

“Really, Xander, you need to start looking for nice, normal girls to date. Closer to home. Not me, though, I have Angel. You need someone who understands you like Angel does me.”

He’d grown a bit over the summer, and thanks to Spike he had more muscle. Usually that was a good thing but right now it was bad, it meant that he couldn’t hide in a locker until the girls went away. Maybe this uneasy feeling was what little kids called cooties.

“Buffy, it’s not going to happen. For three reasons: first, I didn’t like Ampata like that. And secondly, Willow, I love you like you’re my sister. Sister, Wills, not girlfriend. Thirdly, there is no way in hell I’d want anyone like Angelus near me.”

Buffy got that furious look on her face that she always got when he put down her sweetie pie Angel, and Willow looked like she was going to cry. Her eyes were all big and watery and her lower lip looked trembly. He turned and walked as fast as he could for the library. He didn’t want to tell them both at once, he felt like Willow deserved to know about his sexual orientation first, but if it was going to happen now he could at least take it somewhere private.

He didn’t get the chance. Buffy grabbed his arm and turned him around. “First, don’t you ever talk about Angel like that again. He has a soul, and that means he’s good.”

There were so many things wrong with that statement it wasn’t even funny, but when he opened his mouth Buffy shook him slightly. It was probably only with a fraction of her strength but it was enough to make Xander shut his mouth. It wasn’t worth the extra hassle.

“Secondly, you could do a hell of a lot worse than Willow and how dare you hurt her like that? Throwing yourself at Ampata…”

He jerked his arm out of her hand and turned to face her. A small voice in the back of his head said to just shut up and walk away but he was too fucking angry to listen. There was no way he'd thrown himself at Ampata; he had gotten her out of the way while the gang researched that seal and talked to her, that was it. His boyfriend had been there for god’s sake; if Spike hadn’t pulled her off of him he would have been mummified too.

“Shut up, Buffy. I was looking for Ampata so you could do the slaying thing. In no way, shape or form did I want the hussy to kiss me. I really don’t think it’s funny that she almost killed me, but hey, my death isn’t funny to me. Maybe it is to you. And I love Willow; one day she’s going to find someone that appreciates her as she is and loves her as she is because she’s beautiful and special and deserves that, it’s just not going to be me.”

“You can’t keep chasing after me, Xander. I love Angel with all my heart…”

“Please, get over yourself, Buffy. In case you hadn’t noticed, I haven’t chased you since you got back from LA.”

“Then why don’t you want Willow?”

Xander felt really guilty. They were both talking like Willow wasn’t there but she was, and she was crying and he just wanted to hug her and make her feel better. But when he moved towards her she flinched and it just hurt, deep down in his chest. “Because she’s my family, she’s my sister. I love you too, Buff, you’re a good friend but Willow’s been there for me forever.”

“Well, just look at her as someone else, someone who isn’t your sister. You’d make such a great couple, Xander, if you only tried…”

“Damn it! I’m gay, Buffy, it’s not going to happen!”

*****

Spike woke slowly, the sun not yet having set. He was glad to see autumn coming, he got so bloody bored sitting inside for twelve hours a day and more during the summer. Daytime telly sucked. Well, except for Passions, and he really only liked that because it wasn’t expected of him.

Only he wasn’t so bored when Xander was around. The boy had enthusiasm to spare about anything and almost everything.

He was still getting over the shock of being with a lover that didn’t play games with him, didn’t even know how to play them. Xander didn’t try to make him jealous, or push him away. He hadn’t even made any sarcastic remarks the night before when he’d pulled that…that mummy and her lips off his boy.

And wasn’t that odd, having an actual mummy trying to drain the life force from his teenaged lover? And here he thought his life would be mundane now that Drusilla was gone.

And Xander could have reacted badly, but no. After the mummy girl, Ampata Xan said her name was, had run off he’d been pulled into a searing kiss. For all that Xander said he was new to snogging, he sure knew how to use those luscious lips of his.

And what he’d said! Spike still was laughing at it when he’d gone to bed, the sun rising in the sky. “My hero! However shall I repay you for such a noble deed?”

Xander was silly and fun and just plain a pleasure to be around. He had no idea how much Spike wanted to pin him to the couch or bed and just fuck him stupid with fangs and cock. He wanted to claim him, keep him forever and eventually turn him. He wanted Xander forever.

Spike was willing to admit he was slightly obsessed.

Still, instead of keeping a court that befitted a Master, Spike had gone through and killed all of the Anointed One’s minions, for the most part. Two or three of the smarter ones were still around to do his bidding, do his laundry and things like that. Normally, though, a Master would keep as few as twenty and as many as two hundred minions.

But Spike didn’t need them, didn’t need their brown nosing and fawning all over him. All he really needed was Xander.

Well, that and someone to pick up the house once a week.

He heard a key in the lock and knew that since the sun wasn’t quite down yet it must be Xander. The minion that picked up things for him knew a human visited, he even kept the shelves stocked with a bit of human food. They thought it was part of his plan to take down the Slayer. In reality, Spike didn’t give a damn about the blonde bimbo; she was stupid and self involved.

He rolled out of bed and pulled on a pair of jeans and a shirt before opening the door. As soon as he did he was hit with the smell of blood and pain and misery. He rushed out into the living room to find Xander huddled on the couch.

He’d been worked over pretty good. One eye was swollen and he had a split lip. He was holding himself awkwardly, one arm closer to his body than the other. Spike growled low in his chest and at the sound Xander turned wide eyes onto him.

“Xan, luv, what happened?”

Xander all but threw himself at the vampire and Spike took him in his arms and guided him back to the couch. Spike knew he’d need to take the boy to a doctor or something but right now he needed to get Xander calmed down.

“Okay, so I came out of the closet to Willow and Buffy, not about you but about being gay and that I didn’t like Ampata like they were saying and why I didn’t like Willow like a girlfriend because eww, she’s my sister. Was. Anyway, they said some things and I said things back until Giles finally got them to back down. I wasn’t lying to them, either! I mean, I said that there was this guy I really liked and, hello, you are a guy. Sort of, I mean, hello, vampire, but I was having enough of a problem telling them I was gay and getting them to believe it without going into the whole ‘I’m in love with William the Bloody’ thing.”

Xander took a few deep breaths and Spike tried not to grin at the part where he admitted he was in love with him. The boy probably didn’t even notice it himself.

“Anyway, the girls didn’t want to believe me, kept on using preying mantis woman and Buffy as examples of why I couldn’t be gay, but hey, I’m gay, I’m not dead. Just because I notice a pretty girl doesn’t mean I want her though. I pointed out that before I knew him I thought Angel was very handsome and don’t growl because I hated him as soon as he opened his mouth but you’ve got to admit he’s rather hunky.”

Spike chuckled. “Got that right, pet. Angelus is rather sexy until he opens that big gob he calls a mouth, but how did you get the bruises, luv? If the Slayer beat you I’ll…”

“No, it wasn’t the Slayer or Willow. I’m getting there. See, the girls just didn't want to believe what I was saying and refused to listen so Giles just told us all to go home and we’d deal with it later. He said for me to call later during the weekend and in the meantime he’d try to talk to the girls and that he was proud of me.”

Xander smiled at that and Spike made a note not to kill the Watcher unless he absolutely had to. He was glad his boy was getting some support, at least.

Then the smile faded. “I went home and was gonna talk to my Mom and then come over and spend some time with you. I mean, I still owe you a reward for saving me last night.” Here Xander blushed and Spike leered at him. He knew what kind of reward he’d like but he wasn’t sure Xander was up for it now. Still, it was nice that he’d been thinking that way.

“I shouldn’t have gone home, I know that now. See, I told Buffy and Willow I was gay in the hall at school. I should have known someone would say something; hell, it might even have been Buffy or Willow. I really hope not. So, my Dad was waiting for me. Said he wasn’t going to accept some queerboy for a son. He started to show his…displeasure on my face.”

Xander chuckled but it was a dark sound. “You know what’s funny? In the first moments of the beating, all I could think of was how my boyfriend could and probably would kill my father. How easy it would be for you to snap his neck, or make him bleed. What was almost worst was the fact that Mom just…sat there. Doing nothing. It was creepy; I kinda think he might have started on her first for having a gay son.”

“Anyhow, I was thinking of what you’d do to him, but I kinda realized that I didn’t want you to kill him, not now at least. I don’t want Buffy coming after you. And the next time he went to hit me I blocked it. I think it jarred my arm or broke a bone or something. I got so mad that he’d hit me hard enough to break something that I…hit him back. And it was like I saw red and didn’t stop hitting for a few minutes. He’s still alive, Mom was taking care of him. But…for once in my life I fought back. I stopped him, Spike! And it was thanks to you!”

Spike gently hugged his lover. “It was you that found the courage to do it, pet. That was all you and I’m proud of you. Don’t mean I’m not gonna kill the wanker, though. Bloody bastard hurting his own child. No better than Angelus. But you did good, luv. Can’t tell you how proud I am.”

Xander took a few deep breaths and nuzzled into Spike’s neck. His head was on his shoulder and Spike could feel the tension and hurt and everything start to fall away. Pretty soon the adrenalin would wind down out of the boy and he’d be in even more pain from his beating and tired and cranky. Spike needed to get him to a doc before that.

“Spike…Dad did kick me out, though, and I’ve got to admit that I’m scared to sleep in the same house as him right now. Can I stay here? All the time? I’ll work or do laundry or something to help with rent and…”

“Sure, Xander. For right now, don’t worry about all that. I’ll take care of you. Took care of my Dru for a hundred years, didn’t I? I’m good at taking care of someone I care about.”

“Thanks, Spike. It’s just…weird, you know? That right now I trust a soulless vampire more than anyone else I know."





Part Sixteen



Xander peered cautiously into the library. While Buffy was never one to show up a half hour before school like Willow usually did, he wanted to check with Giles about his reception before running into either girl.

His arms still itched. Spike had taken him to some demon healer Friday night, and he’d had accelerated healing done. On one hand, it was a pain in the ass because he’d had to act like Spike’s pet and it had hurt like a bitch. On the other hand, he didn’t have a black eye any more. His ribs were only tender and, while his arm still needed one of those braces that you could buy at Drug Emporium, at least he wasn’t going to be stuck in a cast for six weeks.

He listened for a few moments but didn’t hear anything but Giles moving around. If Wills was in there she’d be talking or typing or…sobbing. God, he hoped it wasn’t the last. He hadn’t even tried to talk to Giles or the girls over the weekend. He wasn’t sure of his welcome and, well…it had taken a while to convince Spike not to kill them all. As it was it was still up in the air about his Father. He didn’t want him dead, all the time, and if his Dad was found with a railroad spike through his head it would be kind of obvious.

Well, to Giles at least. He still wasn’t sure if Buffy had read up on Spike yet. He knew for a fact she hadn’t researched Angel’s history.

He carefully walked into the library but he didn’t see anyone. Giles was working in his office, a cup of what smelled like tea in one hand and papers in the other. He scuffed his feet loudly and cleared his throat. Giles looked up and actually smiled at him and waved him into his office.

“Xander! I was hoping I’d see you this morning. Actually I had hoped that you would have come by my flat at some point in time this weekend but, still, I’m glad to see you. How are you doing?”

He sat in one of Giles’s chairs that wasn’t overflowing with books waiting to be reshelved. “I’m not sure. I’ll know more about how I’m doing when you tell me what Buffy and Willow are thinking. Do they…hate me?”

Giles made a sort of stuttered sighing noise. “I feel sure that once they…calm down and think about things rationally they won’t hate you. Right now they are very upset and I believe there is a countywide shortage of ice cream from the way both of them were going at it when I talked to them yesterday.”

Xander sighed and pulled down the sleeve of his shirt nervously to cover his brace. “Great, I’ve sent my best friend and the slayer into the land of diabetic shock.”

“I know it seems difficult right now, Xander, but I do believe you did the right thing. Well, perhaps you shouldn’t have shouted it in the hallway, but I of all people know how insistent Buffy can be.”

Xander gave a half smile. “Yeah, the Buffster, she doesn’t like to listen to things she doesn’t want to hear. I was trying to get in here at the very least, get it out of the hallway but she grabbed my arm.”

Giles frowned. “I hadn’t realized she had hurt you so badly that it needed a brace.”

Xander started. He’d purposely worn one of Spike’s long sleeved shirts to hide the brace. It was a little tight across the shoulders but it would do until he and Spike had a chance to break into his house and get the few things he’d left there. “N—no. It was something else.”

Giles leaned back in his chair and gave him a look. It was at times like these when Giles wasn’t stuttering or doing the mild mannered librarian routine that Xander wondered about what he did in his free time when they weren’t around. It was like…seeing a glimpse of Superman in Clark Kent. It was weird.

“Does it have something to do with the fact that when I called your home on Saturday afternoon your Father started screaming about how you were violent and he had kicked you out?”

He had two choices: lie and have Giles call him on it or just tell the truth. Well, most of it. Telling the truth would mean he didn’t have to quickly think up a lie and make his head worse more than it was starting to.

He shifted in his seat and sighed. He’d never really talked about his parents like this before and wasn’t sure where to start. “Well, my parents found out I was gay and when I got home Friday Dad wasn’t happy. He…started hitting on me. For the first time I stopped him and left. He did kick me out and I did knock him on his ass but not before he whaled on me pretty good.”

Giles looked at him for a moment and then sighed. “I wish you had told me sooner but I can understand why you didn’t. It’s been going on for quite some time, hasn’t it? And Willow doesn’t know?”

He could only nod. He still didn’t want to go into the details. Only Spike knew those and not all of them. If he knew them all... well, it wouldn’t be pretty.

“Are you alright? Do you have a place to stay?”

He looked down and took a deep breath and tried to find his voice. It seemed to get lost for just a moment. “Y—yeah. I’m good, actually. I went over to Will’s afterward and he was there. He’s…”

Xander stopped for a moment and looked at Giles from under the cover of his hair. “He’s the guy from this summer I was telling you about, and we’ve…dated. He’s my boyfriend.” At the thought of being able to claim that William the Bloody actually liked him he straightened up in his chair and looked at Giles straight on. Giles had a worried look but was smiling a bit too, so he figured that was good.

“He…kinda knows about the real Sunnydale. Vampires and demons and witches oh my! He took me to a healer. Which was a really good thing because otherwise I’d be in a cast for like six or seven weeks. Dad fractured my arm in two places. Well, actually I did because if I hadn’t moved to block him he wouldn’t have broken it.”

“Were there…other injuries?” Giles sounded like he was ready to go beat the crap out of his dad himself which was…kinda weird and kind of nice. Now Giles and Spike had common ground to bond over, and wasn’t that a weird thought? Maybe his brains were still scrambled.

“Ummm, yeah. Ribs, black eyes, slight concussion. All good to go now. Well, my arm is still tender but the healer said I could take off the brace in a week.” Actually the lizard like demon had told Spike he could take the brace off in a week and suggested that Spike keep him cuffed to keep his pet from trying to take it off. After they’d left he’d had a giggle fit, partially from the relief of having all of the pain gone but most of it from imagining himself with one of those big cones the vets put on dogs on his head.

“And this…William took care of you? That’s…rather nice of him, isn’t it? You did say he was older than you?”

Now he was really squirming in his seat. He didn’t want to lie, not to Giles, but he was afraid if he told the truth Giles would do something…well, bad. Like stake Spike or lock Xander up for his own good.

“Yes, he’s older than me but he’s not trying to get in my pants. Well, he is, but not right now. He actually likes me, Xander. He makes fun of Star Trek but he watches it with me, and he’s been teaching me how to fight a little bit and basically been a good friend. Now we’re…friends with kissing.” Lots of kissing, but he wasn’t going to say that. “We haven’t even made it to second base yet, or second wicket. I get confused with cricket, still.”

He stopped there. Any more clues and his babble would all point to William the Bloody. An older man, named Will who was British. Yeah, if Giles really wanted to figure it out, the clues were mostly there. Hopefully, he wouldn’t want to.

“That’s…good, I suppose. I’m glad he’s supporting you through this. I don’t suppose I’ll get to meet him anytime soon, though, from your state of nervousness. Are you staying with this…Will person?”

Xander bit his lip and nodded. He was afraid to say anything else, really. Giles sighed again and he felt guilty. He really did want to tell Giles everything; he was just afraid of disappointing him. He watched as the other man opened a drawer on his desk and slid a key over to him.

“If you ever need me, Xander, for anything, call me or let yourself into my flat, do you understand me? I won’t have you…larking about the Hellmouth if you have nowhere else to go. I have to admit I’m not comfortable with the idea of you living with your…boyfriend, but I am going to trust your judgment. I realize now that you were afraid to tell your parents about your sexuality for a good reason, just…don’t do anything stupid. Don’t let him…force you into anything before you're ready.”

Xander swallowed hard as he picked up the key and held it tightly in his hand. He didn’t know what to say so he kept it simple. “Thanks, Giles.”

“You’re welcome, Xander.” Giles adjusted his glasses and sipped at his tea, making almost the same face that Spike made when he drank cold tea. It must be an English thing.

“There is one thing you can do for me, Giles. I’m going to talk to the Guidance Counselor. I’m kinda flunking chemistry and, well, I don’t see myself as the college type so I don’t need to take it. And if I ever do want to go I can take it then. It’s just…both Buffy and Willow are in that class and it would be majorly weird to have to deal with them both. I have it right after lunch, so do you mind if I ask to be switched to a study hall here in the library? I figure you can kind of teach me like you’ve been teaching Buffy, only without the slayer stuff. I’m actually interested in learning more about demons and stuff, though, and I want to learn how to fight better.”

Giles looked shocked and pleased all at once. “I must say, I cannot believe you are asking to actually do research and open these, and I quote, ‘musty old books’ on your own. And I thought this Will was teaching you to fight?”

“Actually, it was kind of his idea. That way you can teach me too, so I can sorta learn all I can. Knowledge is power and all that stuff. He figures the more I know about the Hellmouth and the things that go bump in the night, the less chance I have of getting killed.”

And it had actually been Spike’s idea; well, in a way. He’d actually bitched about why Giles hadn’t taught him more defensive skills. Which made Xander wonder too, but now he was actually asking, and maybe that had something to do with it.

“Well, I certainly don’t mind. In fact I’d be rather pleased to help you out.” There was only a half hour left before school started but for most of it they spent talking about training. Xander didn’t want to just learn how to fight, he kinda…wanted to learn all he could. If he stayed with Spike in the long term, and that’s what he’d like to do, he’d have to deal with a lot of different demons, plus, hello, vampire.

They finally left the office and Xander had a book of beginning demonology to read that had a Garfield book cover over it. Willow’s work, he was sure.

“How fast do you read, Xander? Do you think you’ll have time to finish the first five chapters by next week? If so, I’ll test you on the different ways to identify the demons listed and how to kill them.”

“I think I can have it done by then. It’ll be easy since I’ll probably avoid the Scooby meetings for a while.” It would also be easier to read because he wouldn’t have his father drinking and shouting, and if he ran into problems he could ask Spike to help. Spike liked killing things, no matter if it was demon or human. “Hey, does Buffy do this? Because I’m sure I would have heard her, umm, complain about it.”

“No, I’m afraid not. While these studies would help Buffy in her work as the slayer, well, usually the girls don’t…live long enough to finish the book. More effort goes into teaching the slayer what she needs to survive and physical training, of course.”

Giles had a sad look and those words chilled Xander. It wasn’t worth teaching a slayer because she’d end up dead anyhow. Then again, Buffy was supposed to be permanently dead already. “Cheer up, G-man, Buffy isn’t like most slayers.”

“What? Oh, yes. Of course, you’re right about that. No, these studies are the sort young children in Watcher families might do, to prepare them for training to be a Watcher.”

Xander grinned at that. “Really? Cool!”

Just then the library doors opened and Xander found his heart in his throat. He really wasn’t ready to face the girls yet.

Luckily, it was just Cordelia. And wasn’t it odd that he was glad to see her?

“Good, you’re here. I thought you’d be moping like your little friends. I need to talk to you.” She walked up to him, her heels clicking on the tile floor and started dragging Xander back to the stacks.

“And a good morning to you too, Ms. Chase. A lovely day it is, thank you for asking.”

“Whatever, Giles. I need to talk to Xander. Alone.” She had a firm grip on his good arm as she dragged him up the stairs and into the stacks. She finally stopped when they were near the back wall and as far away from Giles as she could drag him without leaving the library itself.

“What the hell?”

“Is it true?” Cordy looked him up and down as if she was looking for flaws, and for all he knew she was. He didn’t even have to ask what she was talking about.

“Umm, that whole me being gay thing? Yeah.”

“Oh, thank god!”

He did a double take. “What?”

“I have actually flirted with you three times this school year and you ignored it instead of throwing yourself at my feet and begging for my attentions. Do you know what that could do to my reputation if you weren’t gay and someone found out I couldn’t hook a loser like you?”

He sighed, but was secretly relived that at least one female he knew wasn’t going to pitch a fit. “You really want to be Blair Warner when you grow up, don’t you Cordy?”

She shrugged and smiled. “But of course, and you can be Jo, only not as butch. Listen, I have a proposition for you.”

“Umm, hello. Gay men don’t take propositions from women.”

She slapped him, but it was on his good arm so he only winced a little. What was it with women wanting to beat up on the Xan-man? “Not that kind of proposition, moron. Something that can be mutually beneficial. I may be just a Junior but you know I pretty much rule the school. I will…pave the way for you to be socially acceptable. Of course, I can do nothing about your little friends being all pissy with you, but I can keep most of the jocks from hassling you just by giving you the great pleasure of sharing my company.”

He narrowed his eyes and looked at her. It made sense in a twisted sort of Cordelia way. “But we don’t like each other.”

“Pfft. As if that matters. I have Aura and Harmony and Dawn for mindless obedience. I need someone I can be bitchy with.”

Bitchy he could do, he just needed to find a more manly way of putting it. Still...“What do you get out of it?”

Cordelia smiled but it wasn’t a nice kind of smile. “Oh, that’s the good part. You keep your undead boyfriend away from my neck.”





Part Seventeen



Xander wondered if it was possible for a teenager to have a heart attack. That’s what it felt like, at least it felt like the commercials and TV shows said a heart attack felt like. He couldn’t breathe; it was almost as if there was some huge demon sitting on his chest, trying to crush the life out of him. He felt dizzy.

“Wh—what?”

Cordelia sighed. “Look, I know you’re seeing that Pike guy…”

“Spike.”

She smiled and Xander realized he had fallen right into her trap. “Right. Spike. The guy who tried to kill Buffy on Parent Teacher Night, the guy I saw you hanging out with this summer, and the guy who I saw nearly suck your face off the other night when that Ampata girl made a pass at you. Although I don’t blame him; I wouldn’t be happy if I caught my boyfriend kissing some skanky whore. I’d make his life a living hell.”

“She was a mummy and was trying to draw out my life force.” His voice seemed far away and he watched detachedly as Cordy tilted her head.

“Oh. Whatever. Only you, Xander, Boy Blunder, would end up dating an undead serial killer.”

“Okay, I have no idea what you’re talking about and…did you just make a Batman reference? That just…destroys my whole image of you.”

Cordelia huffed and crossed her arms over her chest. Good thing he was gay now or else he would have been majorly distracted. As it was he didn’t need her…girl chest in his space, not while he was about to have a heart attack.

“Never mind that. Look, it’s okay. Whatever kinky necrophilia you’ve got going with Spike doesn’t bother me. If he was going to kill you or use you against Buffy he would have done it by now and I know a good kiss when I see it. That night at the Bronze, that was a damn good kiss. He had a chance to kill me and Willow on Parent Teacher Night, but instead he let us live. Just give me your word that he won’t try to kill me when the time comes and I’ll keep my mouth shut. Otherwise, I’m sure Giles would like to know more about your boyfriend.”

Xander sighed and winced when he tried to use his bad arm to cover his face for a moment. “You know I don’t have, like…any power over Spike at all? Right? I’ve…I’m trying to keep all of this…” he waved his hand, indicating the library and just being a Scooby in general. “All of the slayer stuff and all of the Spike stuff separate. Hell, I didn’t even ask him not to kill me. It’s not like he’s some tame circus tiger.”

“You’re stupid. You know that, right? He hasn’t killed you or used you to kill your friends and might even have kept Willow and me alive just because we know you. I would also guess that he’s the reason why you’ve had a make over, although you still need some tips and maybe a manicure. You have that vampire wrapped around your little finger. You just don’t know it.”

The warning bell rang for first period and Xander jumped. Somewhere Buffy and Willow were getting their bags and walking together down the crowded halls. Were they wondering where he was? Did they want to talk to him or were they still upset?

He looked at Cordelia. He had a feeling that dealing with her was just as dangerous as Spike. Except Spike was supposed to be evil; Cordy did it part time as a hobby. “Look, can we talk about this later? After school or something?”

“Sure. You can go shopping with me after school. I’m dating a college guy right now and I need to revamp my wardrobe. Plus, there’s Halloween to think about. Snyder is making us dress up and take some of the rug rats around trick or treating. Just what I need, a bunch of snot nosed, hyperactive, crumb catchers interfering with my social calendar.”

Xander had to grin at that. There was the shallow, vain Cordy he knew and couldn’t stand. “Cool. We can meet somewhere to look around. There’s a new costume shop downtown called Ethan’s."

She turned and gave him one of those looks that made him feel about three inches high and slower than that retarded drunk on Andy Griffith. “You’re not serious, are you? Buy something as important as a Halloween costume at some discount shop that won’t be there past November the 2nd?”

She shook her head and Xander just knew he was in big trouble. “Silly boy, you have much to learn in the ways of shopping if you’re going to be gay. The first is, always buy or rent your costume out of town so that no one will have anything remotely like yours. You don’t want any competition. We’ll skip last period and you can go…call your pet vampire or leave a post-it on his coffin or whatever and we can be in LA in an hour or two, tops. Rodeo Drive first to look around and then the Garment District and high-end places like Partytown. Bring all the cash can get out of your man.”

She turned around and quickly made her way out of the stacks and Xander stood there, stunned for a moment, before following. “Cordy, you do know that whole gay man shopping is a stereotype, right? Cordy?”

******

Spike grinned as he looked at the set up in the old warehouse. Dalton, one of the minions he had allowed to live, might be a sniveling little coward who couldn't find his arse with both hands, but he could read and follow orders. For a minion, he was Mensa smart.

The sycophant had actually followed each of Spike’s orders. It was perfect. It had a good power supply, plenty of room and a big blast furnace. In one room there was a magically reinforced gibbet hanging in front of the east facing windows.

A long, low table held a variety of items, from mundane branding irons and fireplace pokers to a cat-o-nine tails, to an iron whip and the more medieval Pear of Anguish, a Cat’s Paw and a foot press. It looked…odd next to the state of the art tazers and car battery. There was a good, old fashioned ladder rack that looked like it came right out of the Tower of London set up in the middle of the room, positioned so the person on the rack could see everything the torturer was about to do to them.

It was a vampire’s dream playground. Angelus himself would be proud, which was very ironic since it would be Angel that ended up getting…played with. He laughed under his breath. He was getting tired of waiting for revenge. He’d been patient, more so than usual. Thankfully, Xander was more than just a distraction and, while Spike still missed Drusilla, he couldn’t imagine his unlife without the boy.

He was turning into a fucking sap.

He growled to himself and Dalton jumped. Part of him hated that he was turning into such a…ponce over some human child. Then there were days when Xander just gave everything he had to him, trusted a vampire even though it went against everything he’d been taught. Everyone had either left or betrayed him, not always willingly but it was true. As much as he had loved Dru, she’d get it in her head to traipse off after Angelus or some other demon, leaving Spike for days, if not weeks.

Xander thought of him first these days, even over his friends. He’d followed the lad to school on Monday, just to make sure no one was going to give him any trouble. It was hard, going through the sewers and coming up through the boiler room and then finding that secret passage into the library that Xander had only mentioned once.

He heard the dark haired chit’s proposition quite well. In fact, part of him admired her for it. It was a prize bit of blackmail and manipulation. He’d waited to see what Xander was going to do. Anyone else would have lied and tried to screw with him.

Not Xander, though. No, the boy came straight to him and told him everything, nearly word for word. He still didn’t ask for Cordelia’s safety. Didn’t ask Spike to act against his nature. Just…told him what she’d said and left it at that.

So of course he’d said he wouldn’t kill the little chit, as long as she didn’t try to kill him. Xander had laughed and said that he’d probably end up closer to death because she was dragging him shopping.

Tonight, though, Xander was at home. His new faghag, Cordelia, had some college party to go to and, while Xander said he’d been invited by the Watcher to a Scooby meeting, Xander wasn’t going and it wasn’t as though Spike was going to encourage the lad to hang out with the Slayer.

He made a final inspection of the warehouse and, aside from maybe a giant dunk tank filled with holy water, it was ready for Angelus. Still, it needed to be…tested.

“Did you make all the arrangements?”

The minion jumped and scurried to Spike’s side from the corner he’d been cowering in. “Yes, Master Spike. It’s been arranged.”

“Tell me again.” Spike pulled out a cigarette and lit it while the minion pulled out a day planner, of all things. You couldn’t kill good help these days; no respectable vampire had a fucking day planner.

“We arranged for a call to be made for a job offer out of town. Not too good, but better than what the human has here. His wife is going out of town thanks to a “trip” she won from a contest she doesn’t remember. She’s leaving on the 30th, and he’s supposed to leave the evening of the 31st.”

Spike grinned. “Good. Make sure everyone knows he’s leaving, I don’t care if you have to get him drunk and drag him through town boasting that he’s leaving.”

“Yes, Master Spike.”

Spike had to grin. For once, everything was coming together. If he did this right, no one would ever suspect it was him and Xander wouldn’t have to answer any questions. “We’ll have a very lovely trick waiting for Mr. Harris then, won’t we?”





Part Eighteen



“I can’t believe that bitch stole my costume idea! I mean, really, Harmony knew I was going as a cat. I always go as a cat! How dare she! She’s such a vapid whore.”

Xander sighed as he tried to struggle into his costume. The past few days hanging out with Cordelia had been weird to the extreme. For one thing, she seemed to think it was okay to just walk in on him trying on clothes or changing since he was gay. When he had asked her how she would like it, she’d replied that he didn’t know what to do with a girl so why should she worry?

In the past two weeks since their deal he’d been dragged shopping twice, had to defend himself verbally from the Cordettes. Then there was the day that Spike had laughed his ass off. Apparently he had large pores or whatever the hell it was and she had insisted that he needed a facial. Spike could smell the avocado from six feet and had called him Guacamole for two days.

Still, hanging out with Cordelia wasn’t the same as with Buffy and Willow. Well, it was mainly Willow he missed. Oh, he missed Buffy, but he’d hadn’t even known her for a year yet. He was so used to being able to turn around and talk to Willow that it hurt that she wasn’t there.

He could still see her and try to talk to her but she’d get all teary and red in the face and nearly run away from him. Giles said that she was just confused and trying to work things out but Xander was really worried that he’d lost her and it kinda hurt worse than Jesse’s death. Jesse didn’t have a choice and even after he was vamped he had come back for Xander.

Buffy was upset for another reason. After the incident where she’d lied to Giles to go with Cordy to that frat party, Giles was letting up on her slayer studies and letting her have some free time. Problem was, Xander was the one helping Giles out. He’d already learned to identify about fifteen species of demon, learned which were harmless to humans and how to kill the ones that weren’t.

On Buffy’s night off he’d gone on patrol with Giles. She had found out and the next day they’d almost had a screaming fight about it, talking about how it was her duty and not Xander’s. Then she’d suggested he was trying to seduce both Angel and Giles.

He’d laughed until he choked when Giles had dryly commented that he wasn’t necessarily that much of an ogre but he had been assured long ago that Xander didn’t lust after his pipes.

Trouble was, Buffy didn’t get it, couldn’t get the joke because it was something that only he and Giles had shared. That only made her more jealous. Then, of course, Cordy had to make things worse by flirting with Angel.

Buffy was so not a happy camper right now.

“Are you going to come out of that bathroom stall or am I going to have to drag you out?” Cordy’s voice broke into his brooding. Not that he called it brooding, but Spike did. He grinned when he thought of his boyfriend. Spike had many ways of making him lighten up.

He adjusted himself one more time before stepping out of the stall. He looked at Cordelia and gave a mini-turn. “Does it meet with your approval, oh great fashion guru?”

She looked him up and down and Xander just knew what the girls who posed for Playboy must feel like. “Not bad. Who knew you had such a good ass behind all those baggy clothes?”

“Hey, I’ve gotten better and, besides, these jeans are really way too tight. I don’t think I can sit down and it feels like they’re trying to crawl up my butt crack.”

“Live with it, you big baby! Being well dressed very rarely means being comfortable. You think these boots feel good? Hell no, but they make my legs look longer, my ass look better and go with the outfit.” She gestured down at the high-heeled stiletto boots she was wearing.

At first Cordelia had planned on going in a simple cat outfit but Harmony had gotten mad that she had gone shopping with Xander and was trying to out-do her. Xander had pointed out that if Halloween ended up like the frat party, Cordelia could use some weapons and between the two of them they had exchanged the simple spotted cat for a genuine black sixties style cat suit and mask. High-heeled boots, opera gloves with claws sewn in by one of Cordy’s minions, cat's ears and mask, and Xander had to admit she looked damn good.

He grinned. “They do look great. Very Julie Newmar. Young men from across the nation still watch the old Batman series just to have jerking off material. Devon will love it.” She'd been having an on again, off again relationship with the lead singer of the Dingoes. Cordy loved dating a musician but didn’t seem to love the fact that Devon was a few cards shy of a deck.

Personally, he kinda thought the guy was living in his own version of a Cheech and Chong movie but he was sure as hell not going to comment on her choice of guys. People who have vampires for boyfriends shouldn’t make fun of stoners. Or something like that.

“Harmony is just going to die of envy!” She actually bounced just a bit, which was kinda scary since she was holding a bullwhip to complete the ensemble. He really didn’t know where she'd got it.

He looked in the mirror at his own costume. The motorcycle boots were his, as was the leather belt. He’d bought the jeans with Cordelia and they were so tight he didn’t think he could sit down without hurting himself seriously. That also meant he couldn’t think about Spike or how he’d actually gotten to at least second or maybe third base. He wasn’t sure if frottage counted as third base if all their clothes had been left on.

He tried not to think about it. Really hard.

The shirt was one of Spike’s and it was tight too. Given a stiff breeze and more thoughts about the night before and he was sure everyone would be able to see his nipples. That is, if it wasn’t for the jacket.

He’d gone out on patrol one night when Spike was doing whatever it was that he was planning. Xander could tell his boyfriend was up to something but he had a feeling he didn’t want to know. He had actually managed to kill two fledges before one almost got him from behind. It had been a difficult fight but that was only because the fledge was wearing the softest black leather bomber jacket he’d ever seen and he wanted it.

He’d almost gotten the crap kicked out of him, but he managed to stake the fledge, but not the coat.

“You do realize you’re being a great big dork, don’t you? If you’re going to dress up you shouldn’t have picked something quite so…gay. I mean, isn’t Fonzie a gay icon or something?”

Xander glared at his friend. “No!! And I don’t care what people say, he and Richie were just friends. Quit trying to desecrate my childhood!”

“Whatever. You might as well have just gotten the goofy leather cap and gone as one of the Village People.”

“GET A MOVE ON PEOPLE! WE HAVEN’T GOT ALL NIGHT!” Snyder’s voice could be heard from the hallway.

“Sheesh. Can’t the little troll give us some time? I mean, it’s bad enough that he’s forcing us to take these little brats out. Doesn’t he realize some of us have better things to do on Halloween?”

Xander just shrugged and combed his hair back one more time. He’d stolen some of Spike’s hair gel to make it slick back. “I don’t really mind taking kids trick or treating. They’re cute and if I suck up maybe I can get some candy too.” He gave his hair a final pass. “What do you think?”

“Looks good there, Fonz, but if you try to make that “Heyyyyyy” sound, I swear to god I’m going to scratch you.”

*****

“You are such a moron!”

“You’re no prize yourself, boy! You could have said something.” Angel growled at him and Xander fought the urge to hit the older man.

“Hello!! Did we not say amnesia? I’m thinking someone as ancient as you would have heard the term before. Plus the whole fainting, damsel act wasn’t a big enough tip? But noooo, you had to let Buffy-Lite see you in game face and then let her run out the door screaming. Smooth move, Deadboy.”

“Will you both shut the hell up?! It’s bad enough that we have to chase after My Pretty Princess, without you two bitching at each other. God! Men are such babies!”

Xander bit his lip and tried to keep his mouth shut. Cordelia had a point. Arguing with Angel would do nothing but piss him off more and maybe end up in a fight. With Buffy wandering around not knowing who she was and the whole night getting weirder than a cheap rip-off of horror comic, they didn’t need that.

The night had been going well. He actually had been enjoying taking the kids around town. It was like karma. His parents never gave a crap and some big kid from the High School had taken him around. His favorite had been when he was six and a half.

Xander still couldn’t remember the older boy’s name but Xander had confessed his fear of clowns and, instead of making fun of him, the older kid had assured him that not all clowns were bad but some, just some, mind you, were shape-shifting aliens who lived in the sewers so it was better to be safe than sorry.

To this day, Xander didn’t know if the kid had read IT too many times or if he’d seen something. In Sunnydale, you couldn’t be sure. Hell, maybe there was a Hellmouth in Bangor and Stephen King wasn’t that great a writer but just wrote down the weird shit he’d seen around town.

So now it was his turn and he’d even gotten a candy bar from one or two people because his group was so cute. The littlest kid was especially good at giving puppy dog eyes. He’d been taking the group back to the school so their parents could pick them up when all hell broke loose, almost literally. Over half of the kids he was taking around morphed.

One minute he had a few kids dressed as monsters and princesses and the tooth fairy and the next they were monsters and princesses and the tooth fairy. It had been a shock to see that one little kid try to fly off.

He had grabbed her and the kids that weren’t little monsters and taken them back to the school and then gone to look for more. He had figured the ones who were turned into monsters would be okay; it was the kids that didn’t change that needed the help.

He didn’t find any, but he did find Willow. When he had seen her at school she’d been dressed like a very corny looking ghost. Now, though, she looked very hot in a mini-skirt and a top that showed her bare midriff. He had been shocked; it was like getting a peek at your sister in the bathroom, for crying out loud!

It should have been funny, with Xander slightly amazed and slightly horrified by Willow’s outfit and Willow trying to explain that he wasn’t really Fonzie. Only it wasn’t...and then the night got worse.

Now he, Cordelia and Angel were chasing after Buffy because Angel had been an idiot and freaked her out. Right now, Buffy didn’t have the sense god gave a Disney Princess. Even Cordelia had complained about her clinging and simpering.

But, as much as he was mad at Buffy right now, he really hoped something hadn’t happened to her.





Part Nineteen



Spike walked through the streets of Sunnydale, looking around in amusement. He’d expected hoards of little children running around high on sugar and kids Xander’s age doing stupid things with rotten eggs and soap. There was a reason vampires and other demons avoided Halloween; most of the people running around were too stupid to know they were looking at a real threat.

Tonight, though, tonight was different. At the very moment the sun had set he’d felt the wave of Chaos magic that swept over the city. There was a confusing mix of child-size demons and weird things running around. There were even a few cars tipped over and a fire was started in front of that terrible coffee place that Xander liked to buy from.

Spike grinned. “Well! This is just... neat!”

This was going to make taking care of Xander’s father even easier. In all this mess, no one would ever know if something took down the bastard on the streets or what. Although that wasn’t going to stop his plans. He was still going to make it look like the git got drunk on the way home from a job interview and went off the side of the road. This was just extra insurance in case the Watcher got too nosey.

Before he could collect the drunken old asshat, he figured he’d best check on Xander first. The lad had that twisted sort of luck and he was either in the middle of whatever magical was happening or was about to put himself in the middle to save a kitten in a tree or something. He loved Xander and knew that to a certain point he could take care of himself but he worried.

When he found him he couldn’t help but grin. First of all, his boy was dressed in the tightest, softest looking pair of jeans he’d ever seen. Add in the leather jacket and Spike wished he didn’t have plans for maiming and torturing for the evening.

His little friend was with him, the bitchy one, and she was dressed as Catwoman. He had to admit she made a gorgeous package herself. She was also wielding a whip pretty damn well and he felt really sorry for any boyfriend that missed her birthday.

Best of all was the sight of Angelus being berated by both teens. He was in front of them, shoulders hunched. Maybe the girl had used the whip on him already. He listened for a bit and was rewarded with hearing Xander calling the Brooding One a moron.

“Will you both shut the hell up?! It’s bad enough that we have to chase after My Pretty Princess, without you two bitching at each other. God! Men are such babies!” The girl actually stomped her foot. It was too funny.

Plus there was only one reason that would have Angelus looking drearier than usual and that was the Slayer. And since the girl, Cordelia, mentioned looking for a Princess, Spike guessed that somewhere or other the Slayer was easy pickings.

It would make his life so much simpler. Find the Slayer while she was weak, take her out of the picture. Unfortunately for him, he found himself disliking the idea. For one thing, he didn’t want Xander upset.

But the big thing was he wanted to meet her as an equal. The Chinese Slayer had been good, he’d been young and it had been an even fight.

The one in New York, she was a real treat. Full of anger and fury and righteousness, she had relentlessly hunted him as much as he had stalked her. Their dance had gone back and forth for weeks, with him taunting and the Slayer fighting back.

He wanted that with this Slayer too. While Buffy, stupid name for a slayer, was in many ways undisciplined and unorthodox from what he'd seen during the few encounters he’d had with her, she was more than a fair match for him. He’d almost had her that night at the school but her Mother had shown up, swinging that bloody axe.

Still, it would have been simple to take the axe away from the older woman and kill her with it. He didn’t because in a way he admired the woman; it took a lot of courage to slam someone like that.

No, while it would have been fun to hunt the Slayer, even find her and just play a bit, he had better game tonight. He watched as Xander and his group ran down one of the side streets. While he didn’t like Angel, he knew the brooding corpse would protect Xander. If he didn’t then the girl would probably take off his hide.

He quickly made his way through a few back yards and side streets, reaching Xander’s old house. It was dark, the only light shining through the windows was the blue light flickering from the television. The yard was overgrown and he wondered if the old bastard ever got off his ass to take care of it. Probably not.

He walked up to the front door, noticing a few beer bottles scattered in the grass. He snorted. Not only was no one going to miss Anthony Harris, hell, he was doing the world a favor by taking him out.

He knocked on the door but all he got in response was a “Go the fuck away!” He quickly picked the lock before letting go of his human mask. Harris was lying down on the couch and stank of old booze and body odor. He moved quietly behind him and quickly covered the human’s mouth with his hand.

“Trick or Treat.”

The human waste struggled and Spike pinched him on the neck. He quickly stilled, unconscious. Now all he had to do was get this sack of shit to the warehouse and all would be good.

Spike grinned to himself. He was going to have so much fun.

*****

Xander couldn’t help but laugh at Cordelia. She had a group of admirers hanging on her every word. The geeks were all drooling over the costume and the fact that she actually knew who Julie Newmar and Eartha Kitt were. The jocks and band members were just drooling over her curves. Of course it helped that none of the other Cordettes were in attendance at the Halloween party at the Bronze. She had no competition and loved it.

He bought himself and Willow a coke at the bar and quickly made his way back to the table. He had to admit she looked good too; it was just disturbing to think about. He still couldn’t believe Buffy had just ditched her.

But no, after being attacked by a kid dressed as some sort of wookie thing, all Buffy wanted to do was get out of her evil princess dress and spend some time with Angel. It had taken the three of them nearly an hour to round up all the kids, who were frightened and confused, and get them home.

He’d invited Willow to come with them and he could tell she did only because she was feeling lost. She was currently sitting at a table looking all alone and self-conscious.

“Here we go, two cherry cokes, no sex jokes please.” She looked at him and blinked and he just grinned. He was getting too used to hanging out with Cordy and Spike; he was getting a dirty mind.

“Thanks, Xander.” She took the drink and started sipping. He did the same and then sighed. It would be fun to go dance but he didn’t think Willow was up to it and he didn’t want to leave her alone. It would also be fun to go and make fun of Cordelia’s groupies, but again…Willow.

“So, what do you want to do? Dance? Talk? Sit here and try not to stare at each other and be all awkward? Cause I’m telling you, these pants are too tight for me to sit down for long.”

There was silence for a while and he just sat there looking at the crowd, trying not to pressure her. It wasn’t too busy, which was surprising for Halloween. Then again, there were still a lot of people freaked out about the whole costume thing.

“You never did say what happened when you left Giles at that Ethan’s place.”

“I don’t know.”

“Huh? You were a ghost at the time, you could have hung out behind a wall or something. Although it would have been icky to get stuck in there when the spell was over.”

“Giles told me to go, so I did. He was all creepy and intense. I’ve never seen him like that.”

“Huh.” He had seen a glimpse of it. He was dying to get the full answer but he doubted Giles would just fess up. Unless he managed to get the older man drunk first; maybe Spike could buy him some scotch.

“Are you like, really happy, Xander?” Willow’s voice was quiet and he finally turned and really looked at her. Her hair was up and she was beautiful but looked so sad.

“Yes and no. I hate it that me coming out seems to have bothered you, Wills, but other than that, I’m pretty damn good. It’s like I’m finally figuring things out and, while it’s not all flowers and puppies, I’m good.”

“You know, I understand being lonely when Buffy and I needed time to deal but you didn’t have to go and hang all over Cordelia, of all people. And I thought you were gay now, so why are you all drooling anyway?”

Ouch. That hurt. Xander winced and then took a deep breath. “Okay, for one thing, Cordelia and I are just friends. We just started hanging out together because she needs someone to sharpen her claws on and I’m it. Plus it doesn’t matter to her if I’m gay and dating a serial killer as long as I don’t clash with her purse.”

He realized what he'd let slip and stuttered, “B-besides, I mean, you can’t expect me to sit in a corner all by myself just because I’m gay and you don’t like it. It’s not like Jesse is still around. So I’ve got Giles and I’ve got this warped Patsy and Edina thing going on with Cordy.”

And he had Spike, which filled up a hell of a lot of the holes in his life, some from Buffy and Willow but a lot that he hadn't even known about. Still, he didn’t want to shock her too badly. “I wanted to tell you earlier but you were always running away from me, or stuck to Buffy’s side. That day in the hall I was just so flustered and angry I opened my big mouth. I thought crap like that only happened on sitcoms. So, are you going to be okay with this?”

She looked down and then looked up and had tears in her eyes. “I don’t know. I mean, Buffy thinks you’re just experimenting or trying to just keep from being with me. It’s not, though, is it? I mean, I’ve been watching and you’ve been checking out guys, not girls.”

He blushed. It was true that he was looking at some of the other guys'…assets. That was okay, though; he could look, he just couldn’t touch. Not that he really wanted to touch anything that wasn’t attached to Spike. “Yeah, gay here. Really, really gay. Well, not the whole flaming thing with pink underwear and boas and Cher albums. But I do like my Oscar Meyer Wieners.”

Willow’s eyes opened wide and her mouth dropped. She took a deep breath and started giggling. He knew right then that they’d be okay.

Then he rewound what he'd just said in his head and listened again. Liking…wieners. His face grew hot and he just knew he was blushing. “Oh god!! That’s so much worse than the plumbing and vegetables! I really need to find a thesaurus for gay men or something.”





Part Twenty



Xander resisted the urge to chew on his nails or do one of a million other nervous gestures that would give away the fact that he was scared as hell. He tried to take comfort from the fact that Giles was somewhere in the library, putting up books and generally trying to act like he wasn’t there.

Things with Willow were getting better. His biggest problem communicating with her right now was the fact that he’d gotten used to being around Cordy and Spike. He was used to saying whatever remark popped in his head, even if it wasn’t nice or polite. He’d been on the receiving end of one too many Willow-glares in the past three days, and had been scolded twice for not being “nice”.

He wasn’t sure if he was out of step from hanging around with the evil dead, or if Willow was too naive. He had a feeling it was somewhere in between and after the latest round of scolding had promised himself that he’d watch his mouth, around Wills, at least.

That promise was going to be tested now. It was after school and he had finally agreed to meet with Buffy to figure out just what bug had crawled up her ass and died. He didn’t really want to but was at loose ends and had given in to Willow’s pout. Cordelia had a date and Spike was off doing some sort of business deal.

He really didn’t think he wanted to know what kind of business, either.

He could hear the heels of Buffy’s shoes clack in the hall and come to a stop for a moment before she opened the door. This was so not going to be fun. Buffy was wearing pants and a tank top with a heavy, long sleeved shirt over the top. He figured she wanted extra security; gods knew he could use a security blanket.

“Hey, Buff.”

“Hi.”

They just stood there, looking at each other. He wondered what she saw. It was true that he’d changed in the past few months, but wouldn’t he have done that anyway? He was already as tall as Spike, and at the beginning of the summer he’d been slightly shorter. And he’d filled out a bit, from training and fighting.

But when he looked at Buffy she was still mostly the same. Oh, her hair was different, but she still seemed to be operating on the same brain wave. It was weird because in a lot of ways Willow was the same; it was like he was in the fast lane and they were going too slow.

He sighed and figured he’d probably better say something before they started collecting dust. “So, slayed anything interesting lately?”

He couldn’t help but wince at that. God, that was lame.

Buffy, however, jumped at the chance. “Yeah, someone vamped Mr. Rupe, the guy who ran the movie house. It was weird because he’s obviously watched one too many Hammer Films. When I was dusting him he was wearing a tuxedo and an opera cape. How boneheaded is that?”

The laugh Xander gave was genuine. “Please tell me he didn’t give the “I vant to suck your blood!” line. That's too terrible! God, fledges are retarded.” He’d have to make sure Spike heard about that; he’d find it too funny.

“He tried, but I dusted him first. I got tired of hearing the whole virgin blood routine. You’d think he would have given up on that once he couldn’t turn into a bat or something.”

They laughed together and Buffy set her bag down on the table. “So…Willow said it’s the real deal. You doing the whole Friend of Dorothy thing.”

“Yeah, it’s real. I mean, even if I like to check out girls once in a while doesn’t take away from the fact that I like guys better. Besides, as a wise man once told me, I’m worrying more about the person and less about the package it’s wrapped up in.” He grinned as he heard Giles cough quietly in the background. He was probably doing his reserved British version of pride and embarrassment.

“I guess I just don’t get it. You’d be so good with Willow and I know you love her. And you chased me from the moment I showed up last year. What made you change your mind?”

It would be so easy to say it was a sexy, British, undead fiend of the night but he didn’t think Buffy would appreciate that. And while Giles knew about Will, not even Willow knew he was dating yet. He was going to have to break it to Buffy and Willow gently, and then hope like hell they didn’t want to meet him right away.

“I do love Wills, she’s my family. But I don’t love, love her, you know? I can barely stand to think of some other guy kissing her, much less me. God, that’s wiggy! And chasing you, well, I think part of it had to do with me missing Jesse a lot. That and I didn’t really want Angel to have you. I can’t help it; I don’t like him and don’t trust him.”

She flinched at that and her face seemed to close down. “That’s what he said it was, that you were just trying to get my attention away from him. You’re really going to have to stop being jealous of him. Angel has a soul and he loves me. He needs me.”

Xander bit his cheek before saying what he wanted. She didn’t need to know that even vampires without souls could love right now. “Listen, Angel and I are never going to see eye to eye. To me he’s a selfish bastard who looks out for himself first and foremost. For fuck’s sake, Buffy! If I hadn’t come and forced him he wouldn’t even have been there for you when the Master drowned you! But if you love him, I’ll try to shut up, for now at least. I reserve the right to bust his chops if he does any more stupid stuff from here on out.”

“You don’t understand, he thought that there was no way around that prophecy and he couldn’t stand to see me die. He loves me, really.”

Xander sighed. It was like Buffy was wearing blinders where Angel was concerned. He only hoped he wasn’t that dense about Spike but he suspected he was. He wondered why there weren't that many love songs extolling the idiocy of lovers. “If you say so, Buffy, and if he makes you happy, well, that’s good.” He held up a finger and grinned. “But! I reserve the same consideration for the first guy I bring home to you, okay?”

She gave a weak smile and nodded. “Okay, Xan.”

“So are we going to be okay?”

“Yeah, it’ll just take me a while to get used to the idea, you know? I mean, even though I lived in LA I never was around the gay groups that much. You’re, like, my first gay friend.”

“So glad I can be a pioneer!” He said it with a smile and went to give her a hug but she picked up her bag before he had the chance.

“Listen, I gotta go. I promised Angel I’d go by his apartment right after school and I don’t want to make him wait. Tell Giles I’ll come by later before I patrol, okay?”

Without waiting for his answer, she was out the door in a rush. Xander stuck his hands in his pockets and went to go find Giles from whatever stack of books he was hiding behind. He couldn’t help but worry that Buffy wasn’t okay with him still; she had been in a rush to leave. He’d talk to Giles about it and maybe he could back her up on patrol later on.

Still, he had the strange feeling he’d have to keep an eye on Buffy, that she wasn’t saying everything. Xander figured if he was patient enough he’d figure it out, though. It just sucked having to wait.

*****

Spike stepped back from the mess the lump of meat strapped down on the rack was making. He figured maybe Xander was adopted. There was no way his strong, brave boy came from this piece of shit.

Tony Harris had begged constantly for the first day. He’d promised Spike money the vampire knew he didn’t have, women the human could never get, booze and even his wife and child. He wasn’t even awake for fifteen minutes before the scent of his piss and shit filled the warehouse. On the second day the meat’s voice had grown hoarse and, since Spike couldn’t really hear the screams that well any more, he had cut the bastard’s tongue out at the root.

He hadn’t even had time to try out all of his new toys on the meat. He was weak and unable to stand long sessions. Spike admitted to himself that he was getting bored with it all; after ten of fifteen minutes of consciousness the meat would sink into himself again and he just wasn’t any fun.

He looked at the masterpiece of pain that he’d created. While he hadn’t been able to do everything as he’d planned, the meat was a total wreck. He’d started off with the tazers; shocking someone was painful but didn’t lead to blood loss. Instead he’d tried to cook the meat as if he were in a microwave.

Next had come burning. Small, second degree burns that would hurt like hell but not do a lot of damage. The meat had passed out for hours when Spike had held a cigarette to the end of his dick.

The past day and a half it had been floggings. He hadn’t started with the meat’s back but with his legs, in nearly the same places that Xander had scars from his switchings. Dalton had even found a bastinado to use on the meat’s feet and hands and they were now raw and had the consistency of hamburger.

By the time he’d worked his way up to whipping the meat’s back the man was unconscious for most of the time. Spike nodded to himself. It was time.

He walked over to the table and picked up the bucket that had been left there for him. It was a mixture of cold water, salt and rubbing alcohol. He threw it on the mess hanging from the rack and moved to stand in front of it while he waited for the meat to stop sputtering.

“Bet you’ve been wondering why you’re here, mate. Well, it only seems fair to tell you right before you die. Few months ago I met this lad, and despite the fact that he knew what I was he took care of me for a bit. We got to be friends and now, well, now he's my world, just like my Dark Princess used to be. I’d do anything for my boy. Fuck, I’ve already stopped hunting in some of my favorite spots for fear that I’ll eat one of his friends. I’d die for him.”

Spike moved closer and grinned. By this time he was in his true face and he could smell the stink of fear and piss and sweat filling the warehouse. “And I’m killing for him. Xander deserves so much more than you ever gave him, and I intend to be the one to give the world to him.”

With that he raised his arm and the straight razor he held quickly cut through the tendons and arteries in the meat’s neck. Spike jumped back to get out of the quick spray of blood. Normally he’d revel in the hot stickiness of it but the man had been so foul he wasn’t even tempted to taste.

Instead he just stood back, and enjoyed watching as the meat’s heart stopped and the blood stopped gurgling.





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