Warnings: Angst, Character Death. Vamping of a main character. Please remember, guys, it's me, Suki, I always make it better!
Summary: Xander's life is completely altered in a matter of seconds. It's up to Spike to fix him and make it better.
Feedback: Yes, please!
Anyone worried about the character death content? Email me at email@example.com and I can do my best to reassure you.
This is the prequel to See Me. (which has just won Best Quickie Fic at the Sunny D Awards) Ever wondered what the events were that led up to Xander making his point? Ever wondered what happened after? You're about to find out.
I have included See Me for anyone that hasn't read it or needs a reminder. It's teeny tiny and please just ignore it if you want. You don't need to have read it to read Not Forgotten. :o)
Thank you to kitty_poker1 for the great beta!
Written for Amejisuto because she gave me repeated puppy dog eyes. This is all for you, hon.
“Xander, how can you say that? We’re your friends. We love you.”
“Of course! What makes you think that we don’t?”
Buffy took a step towards her friend. Xander took a giant step back.
“You don’t love me. You use me.”
“Xander, please, we’ve never used you.”
“Really? I help you. I fight for you. I’d die for you,” Xander scanned the faces of all his friends “I’d die for all of you. But what about me? None of you even see me.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means that I’m invisible to you. You barely even speak to me.”
“Sometimes you just make it too difficult.”
“And how’s that?”
“This whole thing with Spike…”
“This has nothing to do with Spike.”
Xander felt the vampire squeeze his hand a little bit tighter.
“Xander, you’re always with him. How can we talk to you when he’s with you.”
“We’re talking now. Not that difficult, Buffy. I’m here, every night, fighting by your side. So is Spike. Yet you ignore the both of us. We’re open to you, Buffy. We always have been.”
“It’s not that easy, Xander. You know what Spike did to me.”
“Yes. I know. I also know that you drove him to it.”
“You heard. C’mon, Buff, get with it. Spike? Vampire? No soul? Did you really expect to be able to push him as far as you did without consequences?”
“He. Nearly. Raped me. Are you trying to justify that?”
“I am trying to make you see. You use and humiliate a master vampire and expect him not to react? And you use and ignore me and expect me not to be hurt?”
Buffy clenched her fists at her side, infuriated by Xander’s cold and calm manner.
“Xander, why are you being like this? What bought this on? Why do you think we use you? Why do you think we ignore you? Why are you still living and sleeping with the monster that tried to rape me?”
“Which question would you like me to answer first?”
“Xander! Stop this!”
“Ok, I’ll choose. Why do I think that you ignore me? Where shall I start? Hmm.”
Buffy had tears in her eyes. She just couldn’t understand why her friend had turned on her so suddenly. What had she done? Was Xander jealous of her past relationship with Spike?
“I’ve never ignored you. None of us have. Right, guys? Guys?”
The others kept their eyes to the floor, knowing that they were guilty as charged.
“You have all ignored me.”
“I haven’t! I mean, we haven’t!”
“You have. And I can prove it.”
Buffy started to pace furiously about the room. She was pretty sure that she didn’t want to hear whatever was coming.
Xander glanced sadly at the calendar hanging on the wall next to him. He read out the date. Today’s date.
“November thirtieth, last year, I took my last breath.”
“What? What are you saying? Xander?”
Xander lent further into his lover, silently asking for support.
“Tell her, pet.”
“I’m a vampire. I was turned exactly one year ago today. Now do you see me?”
The silence was deafening.
He’d never thought about doing it before and he had no idea why he did it now. Childer were not to be taken lightly. Maybe it was easier because the job was already half done.
Spike had heard the screams from a block away, his keen senses picking up the distress of a not-quite friend.
He’d run all the way, pushing people from his path, jumping over dogs and instigating a five car pile-up. Why did he care? Caring didn’t come into it, not at that moment. He was running on pure instinct.
He’d crashed down into the dank basement, his once enforced home, and ripped apart the demon that held the boy so viciously.
When the demon joined the particles in the air, Spike had stared down at the damage. Blood? Not much. Why would there be? Xander’s blood had been taken, by a fledge, no less. A stupid, idiotic fledge that had tried its hand at making a Childe.
Spike had interrupted just as the fledgling had been feeding a near-dead Xander its blood. He had no idea how much the idiot had given him, but he knew that it could never have been enough.
Xander was as good as dead. No doctors or fancy science would have been able to save him. And with the fledgling’s blood pulsing through him, he would turn; there was no doubt about that. But what he would turn into, that was another question.
Vampire rules: Fledges cannot make Childer. They can’t even make other fledges. Any attempts that had been made had only resulted in mutations, creatures that were not quite human and not quite vampire, weak shadows with no soul, no heart, no lust and no thoughts. They were vampire abominations. And the kindest thing was to put them out of their misery.
A part of Spike had told him that was what he should do, end Xander’s suffering before it began. Xander was caught between life and death. Mortality and eternal night. His heart hadn’t even stopped beating yet.
Spike had the power to end things before they started. But he didn’t. He couldn’t. He’d stared into frightened, unseeing eyes and just couldn’t.
Spike gathered Xander into his arms and pulled a blade from his boot. He made a small incision on his own neck and held Xander’s head so that his lips were pressed against the cut.
The sound of Xander’s slowly beating heart was all that Spike could hear. Long minutes passed and the heartbeat slowed to an almost stop. Spike rocked the dying human and ran shaking hands through his hair, willing him to drink. If Xander wouldn’t take his blood, then he would have no choice but to finish him. He found that it was last thing he wanted to do.
When at last Xander started to lap at the blood and drink it down, Spike couldn’t help but smile with relief. He held Xander’s body tighter and whispered soothing words of encouragement. It would be okay. It had to be okay.
Xander’s heart thumped weakly one last time and his eyes slipped shut as his soul ebbed away.
He was dead.
Spike placed Xander’s lifeless body on the bed and pulled the covers around him. He would be cold when he woke up. Spike sat on the end of the bed and lit up a cigarette. This was big. So big. Too big. Spike had never made a Childe before. He had never felt the need. He was his own man and he didn’t need all the responsibilities that came with a Childe. Teaching, training, loving; it just wasn’t his thing. He could just call up the Watcher, tell him what had happened and leave the Scoobies to clear up the mess that was now Xander’s unlife. It would be that easy. But that wasn’t Spike, either. He may not like the responsibilities, but that didn’t mean that he would shirk them. And besides, he would probably end up on the receiving end of a stake.
Spike crushed the butt of his cigarette under his foot and lit up another one. He would stay. He’d taken the decision to turn Xander. It had been his decision alone. Xander hadn’t gotten a say. Therefore, it was his job to stay and help the human… That was weird, since Xander was no longer a human. Vampire now. Creature of darkness. Minion of eternal…oh, hell, forget that. Xander Harris, evil, un-dead creature of the night? No fucking way. No. Fucking. Way. Spike chuckled to himself. It wasn’t funny, not in the slightest, but he felt a little hysterical. Spike, Master Vampire, had made a Childe out of doughnut-boy Harris. What were the odds? The chuckle abruptly ended and it was replaced with a frown. Technically, Xander had two Sires. How the hell was that going to work out? When a Childe wakes he has an immediate bond with the one that made him. Was Xander going to feel that bond? Did he feel that bond? Spike glanced over at his Childe to check. Nope, nothing happening. Shit.
Spike started to pace. No bond? He was sure there was supposed to be a bond. Why was there no bond? How was he going to take care of a Childe with no bond? Spike remembered the feelings he’d had when he first awoke to death. He was frightened, confused and so very cold, but there had been one thing he had been sure of. Dru. He had woken in her arms, knowing that this was his Sire, his maker. He’d trusted her fully and she’d taught him everything and more. Without her, he would have been empty. He shuddered at the thought and looked back at Xander. He didn’t want him to feel that awful void. He deserved more. He deserved to wake feeling safe and loved.
Spike decided that he would try. He couldn’t feel the bond, didn’t feel connected to Xander at all. He just knew that he had to help him, had to keep him safe.
The sun was about to rise and Spike felt weak. He had given Xander a great deal of his blood, determined to make him as strong a Childe as possible, and now he was feeling the effects. After a small amount of debate, he climbed under the covers and wrapped himself around his Childe.
“Sleep tight, little pet.”
Forty eight hours came and went and Spike never noticed the rise and fall of the sun. He stayed coiled around his Childe, his body healing from the loss of blood. He would have slept for another forty eighty hours if it hadn’t been for a soft brush of hair over his neck and jaw. He opened bleary eyes and tried to register his surroundings.
He looked down to find a dark head nudging and calling for attention.
Spike reached out and tilted the whimpering head towards him.
Large brown eyes watered and begged Spike for help.
“Xander, it's okay, pet.”
The eyes just stared, pleading for understanding.
“What is it? What do you need?”
“Cold, eh? I’ll get another blanket.”
Spike tried to leave the bed, but Xander reached for his arm and hung on tightly.
“Hey, not going anywhere, little pet. Just getting a blanket. Be right back.”
Xander pulled at Spike’s arm, refusing to let go and Spike found himself following back into the bed. He wrapped his arms back around his Childe and spoke softly into his hair.
“C’mon. What’s the matter? What can I do?”
Xander burrowed closer and sobbed into Spike’s t-shirt.
Spike rocked him and ran what he hoped were comforting hands over his body. He guessed that at least Xander felt some kind of bond. As the thought passed through his brain, he felt resistance. Xander was pulling away.
“S’okay, little pet. I’m here.”
Xander continued to resist him, his struggles becoming more frantic, his breath hitching between desperate sobs.
Spike let go, allowing his Childe to scrabble away.
Xander more or less fell off the side of the bed and clawed himself along the ground. He ran his hands over the floor and examined his palms. Dust.
Spike cursed himself for not having thought to clear up the remains of Xander’s killer.
More tears coursed down Xander’s face, something inside him registering the death of someone he needed. His Sire? He looked angrily at the blond on the bed. He’d killed his Sire. The man that he’d just begged not to leave his side had killed what was his.
“Pet? It’s not what you think. I didn’t…”
Xander’s face turned from angry to hurt to confused to frightened. He couldn’t understand what was going on. What was this place? What was happening? Who was this man? Why did he somehow feel that he belonged to him? And gods, why did he also feel that he belonged to a pile of dust on the floor?
Spike’s heart melted. Xander looked so confused, so fragile, so alone. It was nothing like he had felt when he woke in Dru’s arms. He’d known instantly that he was hers and he had trusted her from the first second. Yes, he had been scared, but also excited. It had been like a wonderful door opening, a door to a land of plenty. Spike was pretty quick to catch on that Xander didn’t feel the same way. He got off the bed and cautiously approached.
“Xander, I know you’re confused, luv. Xander?”
Spike was concerned. Xander hadn’t once responded to his name. Spike hoped that it was just because Xander’s fear had overtaken and fogged his brain. He prayed that Xander knew who he was.
Xander clawed desperately at the hard floor, as if digging to find an answer, digging to find the one that he belonged to.
Spike could not watch anymore. His Childe’s sobs overflowed both the room and his head and it filled him with the desire to hold him and take his pain. He was Xander’s Sire, not this pile-of-dust fledgling. He needed to do something. He shot forward and snatched Xander up, ignoring his Childe’s struggles.
“Don’t do that, Xander. You’re hurting yourself,” he said, showing Xander his own bloody fingernails.
Xander tried to pull away, wanting and needing to return to his digging.
“NO! STOP IT, CHILDE!”
Xander froze, his befuddled brain acknowledging that a command had been given. He looked into yellow eyes and took in the ridges that now ran across Spike’s forehead. He ran a shaking, questioning finger over the ripples of skin and prodded the sharp edges of Spike’s cheeks. Xander’s lips trembled as he finally spoke.
This time Xander came willingly when Spike pulled him in.
Spike paced. What was wrong with Xander? Why was he practically mute?
They needed help. But who could they turn to? The Scoobies? Not a chance. They’d probably stake both of them. He could just hear Giles now. ‘He’s an abomination. He cannot be allowed to live.’ Pah. Xander wasn’t an abomination. He was, um, special? He glanced over at his Childe and felt sadness wash over him. This wasn’t how things were supposed to be. Xander should be snarling, growling, itching to make his first kill. As things were, he hadn’t even shown his gameface. He looked exactly the same as when he’d died. A frightened teenager.
Spike tried to think. Who else could help them? Dru? No idea where she was. Angel? Spike would rather sit on a twelve inch stake and swivel. So where did that leave them? Spike cursed and kicked the wastepaper bin across the floor.
With a sharp intake of breath, Xander flinched and bolted from the bed. What was going on? Why was this man angry with him?
“Whoa, little pet. Take it easy.”
Xander backed up until his back hit the work bench.
“Xander. Ain’t gonna hurt you, luv.”
Not understanding, Xander grabbed the first object that came to hand and threw it across the room.
“Argh! Fuck!” Spike shouted as the heavy book connected solidly with his nose.
Xander jumped at Spike’s outburst and grabbed another object, a hammer.
Xander jumped again and got ready to throw his weapon.
“No,” Spike tried again, a little quieter this time. “Don’t throw that, pet. C’mon, ain’t gonna hurt you. Put the hammer down and…what?”
Xander dropped the hammer and carefully approached his Sire. He scented the air and narrowed his eyes at the blood streaming from Spike’s nose. Very slowly, he ran two fingers across Spike’s bloody lips and brought the fingers to his own mouth for a taste. He tentatively stuck out the tip of his tongue and sampled the ruby fluid. Deciding that, for whatever reason, this was what he wanted, what he needed, he sucked both fingers into his mouth.
“Hungry, eh, pet? Should have guessed. Sorry.”
Spike bit into his own wrist and offered it to his Childe. Xander didn’t hesitate. He clamped his mouth over the wound, closed his eyes and suckled.
Spike repressed a moan. The pull and scent of his own blood was making him hard. This was different to the first time Xander had drunk from him. He had been giving him life, un-life, saving him from mortal death. It had been serious business. This was him providing for his Childe, sharing his blood and feeding him. And it felt seriously arousing. He had to stop this. He was still weak and couldn’t afford to spare any more of his blood. And besides, getting hard over Xander Harris was not somewhere that he wanted to go right now.
He pulled his wrist away from Xander’s lips and chuckled at the tiny growl from his Childe.
“Auww, little pet. Cute. Not bad for your first.”
Spike bent down and snatched up the book that Xander had thrown. “Vampires and Sex,” he read aloud.
Two eyebrows rose as far as they could. “Vampires and Sex?” he repeated. “Now what’s a nice boy like you doing with a dirty book like this?”
Spike flicked through some of the pages. “Very dirty. Nice. My, my, little Xander. Got a kink you haven’t told us about? Always pegged you for a safe sex kinda guy.”
Xander licked the blood from his lips and stared. Something registered that his Sire was asking him something, teasing him, but he couldn’t understand. There wasn’t much he could understand.
Spike chuckled again at the look of confusion on Xander’s face. “Never mind, little pet. We’ll discuss it another time.” He looked down at the book and suddenly had one of his inspired ideas.
“Get your coat on, luv. We might not be able to get the Watcher's help, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t *borrow* his books, right?”
Xander smiled at the mischievous grin that was plastered over Spike’s face.
“That’s it, luv. You and me are gonna have an evening out.”
Breaking into Giles’ apartment had been remarkably easy. Spike was almost worried at the lack of security. Almost. Worrying about humans wasn’t something you did when you were evil.
Xander hadn’t been a problem. He’d loyally followed Spike to the apartment, gluing himself to his Sire’s side and not uttering a word. Spike sat him on the couch and put a finger to his Childe’s lips.
“I know you’re not the talkative type anymore, but keep quiet in here. Watcher’s just upstairs. Don’t want to wake him, yeah?”
Xander sat back in the couch and folded his legs under him. Spike took that as a sign that Xander at least half understood. He kept one eye on him and started to rummage through the bookcases.
“Bloody hell. There are some gems here,” he whispered, holding up a couple of volumes.
Xander glanced over, slightly curious. Nope, boring. He sighed and turned his attention back to a painting on the wall.
Spike came across a set of books on vampire culture, history and anatomy. They looked a little familiar. As he noticed that one volume was missing, he realised where Xander’s sex book had come from.
“So, you’re a tea-leaf to boot, eh? Unexpected depths, Xander. Very unexpected.”
Xander sighed louder and pulled at a loose thread on the couch. Spike ‘Eeeped.’ “Crikey, don’t pull at that. You’ll have us shot!”
Spike lightly slapped his hands away and shoved a random book in his hands. “There, have a look at that instead, yeah? Pretty pictures and whatever.”
Xander grinned and flipped open the book.
“Right, then. Now, where was I…oh yeah. Book.”
Spike went on with his search and came up empty. He was about to give up and leave when he noticed a large trunk in the corner of the room. He’d seen it a hundred times before when he’d been cooped up with the Watcher, but Giles had always been uptight about what was inside, saying that it was only books. Spike wondered what sort of books would be under lock and key.
Spike squatted down and pulled a long pin out of his pocket. You never knew when a lock might need picking. “Let's see what old Rupert’s got stashed,” he whispered to himself. Xander came and knelt beside him, watching intently as Spike picked the lock.
“Watch and learn, luv. You have no idea how handy it is to know how to pick a lock…there, done. Shall we see what’s inside, eh?”
Xander grinned back at him and once again Spike wondered whether Xander really understood him or was just doing his best to keep up.
“Blinkin’ flip,” he muttered, picking up centuries old tomes and marvelling. “Can’t believe that bastard has all these. Frinwold’s Book of Dark. Fuck. Better not let Red get her magical paws on that one. Hang on, what’s this? Guide to Making and Raising a Childe. Author, J. R. Hartely. Hm, always thought he was something to do with fishing…or the yellow pages.”
Xander frowned and cocked his head.
“Never mind, pet. Just talking to myself. I think this is what we’re looking for,” Spike said as he carefully put the other books back in the trunk and snapped shut the lock.
The night was still relatively young and Spike could tell by Xander’s very pale colour that he must be hungry. He could show him how to make his first kill, but Spike decided that it wouldn’t be very sensible. If Xander made a mistake and let a human get the better of him, Spike would be unable to help him. The chip made gnawing on humans impossible. The best course of action was definitely to pick up some pig's blood from the late night butchers and head back to the basement for a spot of light reading.
Spike ran a bath for Xander. The boy was dirty and reeked of blood.
He pointed to the bath. “Go on, little pet. Clothes off. In you pop.”
Xander sniffed at the water and shook his head. Spike smiled.
“Ah, so you do understand me a little, then, eh? Look, you’re dirty. You really need a wash.” Spike tugged at the bottom of Xander’s shirt. “Get ‘em off and get in the bath.”
Xander cocked his head.
“Oh, bloody hell, do I have to do everything?” Spike huffed and started to unbutton Xander’s shirt.
“That’s right, pet. Catching on quick, eh?”
Xander smiled and allowed Spike to tug the rest of his clothes off.
“Right, in you go,” Spike said, scooping Xander up and moving him over the bath tub.
Xander wiggled and whimpered, desperately clinging to Spike’s arms.
“Alright, pet. It’s only water. Nothing to be afraid of.”
Spike carefully lowered Xander into the water, mindful to give him time to get used to the temperature before he dropped him in further.
“There you go. Not so bad, is it?”
Spike put the toilet lid down and sat on it, reaching for the book and starting at the beginning.
“Bloody hell, this really is like an instruction book. No wonder ol’ Ripper keeps it hidden away. Hm, says here that a Childe should feed from his Sire for at least two weeks before making a kill and drinking a victim’s blood. But that only applies if trying to raise an equal.”
Spike put down the book.
“Hm, I guess that’s what we want, yeah?”
Xander placed his hands on the side of the bath and turned. “Sire.”
“Yeah, that’s right, luv. I’m your Sire. You’re gonna forget all about that other idiot vampire. You’re mine, got it? Gonna make you strong, like me. Gonna fix you good.”
Spike touched his hand to Xander’s cheek, smiling as his Childe leant into the touch. “C’mon, little pet. Let’s get you cleaned up.”
Spike grabbed a wash cloth and washed every inch of his Childe’s body. He hadn’t asked for this. Neither of them had. But they were both stuck with it. It could have been worse. He could have Giles as a Childe. Spike shuddered and massaged shampoo into Xander’s hair. He was going to make sure that Xander grew to be the strongest Childe possible. He’d do him proud.
“There, little pet. All done. Cat-nap time, I think. Time all us bad vamps were in bed.”
Xander wrapped his wet arms around Spike’s shoulders as he was pulled up and out of the bath. “Sire.”
“Yep. And you know what else?”
“Gonna teach you some more words.”
Spike watched his Childe sleep while he chained through at least ten cigarettes. He’d skimmed all the way through the ancient instruction manual, plucking out the most relevant pieces of information for now. There had even been a chapter on cross-siring. It seemed that the Sire to Childe bond would grow the more that they exchanged blood. As long as Xander drank from him often and plenty, the bond would strengthen and so would Xander. Xander’s condition seemed to be very similar to that of an underdeveloped fledge, a fledge that had only been fed a drop of blood at his or her turning. The cure? Sire blood, Sire blood and more Sire blood. Xander had the potential to be as strong as he, just so long as he fed plenty.
The only real difference to an underdeveloped fledge was that Xander had none of the aggressive tendencies. Spike wondered if that would come later.
Biggest problem? Xander’s soul. Okay, so Spike didn’t have one, but he wasn’t exactly the nicest puppy in the litter. Xander was different. He needed his soul. Spike had never met a person so full of life and sunshine. There were some dark corners to Xander’s personality, but essentially he was a bundle of light and Spike couldn’t allow him to lose that.
Spike hadn’t felt the expected bond when he’d turned Xander and now he understood why. He hadn’t drunk from Xander. Normally, when turning, a Sire would drink from his ‘victim’ before he gave his blood back. That hadn’t happened. It had been that fuckwit of a fledge that had drunk from Xander. But the bond would come as long as Spike took Xander’s blood.
Spike was surprised to realise that he did feel something, anyway. Not a bond, but something. A longing to help and comfort, a longing to make things right. It wouldn’t be long before the entire Scooby gang came crawling to find their missing whitehat and Spike was determined to sort the boy out before that happened. Xander deserved a chance to get his soul and plead to the Slayer for his un-life.
He snuggled down beside his Childe and wrapped his arms around him.
“Don’t worry, little pet. Make things right, I will. Promise.”
A week passed and Xander was no better. He had yet to show his gameface, only uttering the smallest of growls when Spike forced him to put clothes on. His speech had also not improved. He only spoke the tiniest and simplest of words and that was only when repeatedly prompted by Spike.
Spike was still having trouble working out what Xander could understand. It was like talking to your pet dog. You could natter on about the state of the government or how bad the last potato season had been and your dog would give you a face that said he understood. When you are sad, your dog puts his head on your lap and gives you his best ‘I still love you’ expression. Xander was exactly the same. He seemed to understand so much, when in reality all he was doing was picking up on emotions and learning routine. At least, that was today’s theory.
According to the book, Xander should have been gaining strength and confidence every day while he fed from Spike. Nope. Not happening. Spike had been wondering why for several days before he realised something. How was Xander supposed to become strong from feeding from his Sire when his Sire was living on a diet of pig's and cow's blood? Spike was weak, Xander was feeding from him, therefore Xander was weak, so weak in fact that Spike was unwilling to take any blood back. It was probably for that reason that the turning hadn’t quite worked as expected. He was keen to form a Child-Sire bond, but not at the cost of Xander losing more of himself.
Spike made the decision. Tonight they would go out and score some human blood. It was the only way forward. He needed to get Xander at least halfway normal before his friends came knocking. Spike was very surprised that they hadn’t already come nosing about. He was pretty sure that Xander had already missed at least one Scooby meeting, plus he had been due to meet his friends at The Bronze on the night that he had been turned. Spike was less surprised that Xander’s parents hadn’t noticed. The incredible swaying woman seemed to have left for her holidays and the incredible swaying man swayed home every night, crashed about, drank some more, broke the furniture, then passed out. Spike wondered if Xander’s mother had left for good. He couldn’t blame her.
Spike had never met Xander’s parents. He was glad. It saddened him that Xander had to grow up around those pigs.
“Right, c’mon then, little pet. Time to go.”
Xander sat on the bed and stared confusedly.
Spike waved him over and held up his jacket. “Outing,” he said.
Xander smiled, sprang up from the bed and bounded over.
“Pleased about that, eh? Yeah, me too. Gets boring, cooped up in ‘ere.”
Xander held tightly to Spike’s hand and impatiently bounced on the balls of his feet.
“Alright, alright,” Spike chuckled. “We’re going. Wanna know where we’re going?” he asked, knowing that he would get no reply. He carried on talking, regardless. “We are going to steal a van, a big van, a big van filled with blood.”
Spike had been watching the blood delivery for weeks, learning the different drivers, their shift patterns and their habits.
Every evening, at eight o’clock, a big white and blue van pulled into the back of the service entrance of Sunnydale hospital and dropped off between three and five large containers full of blood. Normally the drivers would turn up, exactly at the stroke of eight, and were met outside by two security guards who would be waiting from about seven fifty five. However, after careful observation, Spike had discovered that one of the drivers always turned up ten minutes early on a Thursday. The driver would exit the van, leaving the goodies inside and waiting over by the entrance while he had a quick smoke before the guards came out.
It should be more than easy.
“Ready, little pet?” Spike asked as the delivery driver sparked up his cigarette. “Now, we run to the van. I open the door and you pop inside, got it?”
Xander rubbed his face over Spike’s shoulder.
“I’ll take that as a no. Give me your paw, then,” he said, taking Xander’s hand. “Just make sure you keep up. Ready? ….Go!”
Spike pulled his Childe across the tarmac and towards the van. Flinging the door open, he pushed Xander inside.
“Oi! What do you think you’re doing?!”
“Great,” Spike said. “That’s fucked it.”
A security guard appeared from the shadows and yanked Spike away from the van.
“I said, what the fuck do you think you’re doing? You in the van, get the fuck out.”
Spike cursed under his breath. With the chip in his head, he was almost defenceless. Yes, he could clock the guy good and hard but the resulting zap from the chip would probably render him unconscious. Not a good thing. When reinforcements arrived, they would call the police and take him and Xander away. He had no idea how Xander was going to react to strangers pushing him around and separating him from his Sire.
“Hold up, mate. You mean this isn’t my van? Sorry ‘bout that. Now, have you seen a similar van lying about? I was sure this was where I left it.”
“Shut it, you Australian bastard.”
“Oi! I ain’t Australian. I’m English!”
“Whatever. You foreigners all sound the same to me.”
“Right, that’s it!”
Spike lunged at the guard and landed a powerful punch to his jaw. The guard fell backwards and so did Spike.
“AARRGHHH!” Spike screamed as he rolled on the ground and clutched at his head.
Xander gasped and hopped out of the van. “Sire!” He ran to Spike’s side and helped him to sit up. “Sire,” he said again, running his hands over Spike’s head.
“S’alright, little pet. Just gimme a minute.”
“HEY! What’s going on out here?!”
Spike glanced up to see two more guards exit the building and start running towards them.
“Fuck. Get away, little pet. Run. Leave me. I’ll find you. Promise. Go on, go. I said, go!”
Xander kissed Spike’s cheek and stood up. He took several paces towards the guards and stopped.
“What you doing, little pet?” Spike asked as he tried to get to his feet.
“Good question,” one of the guards replied.
Xander changed into his gameface and snarled. “My Sire,” he growled.
The guards stopped and began to step backwards.
“Fuck. What is it?!”
“No idea. And I’m not sticking around to find out.”
The guards ran and Xander turned back to his Sire with a smirk.
“Very clever, little pet. I could have bloody done that.”
Xander gave him a look that said ‘why didn’t you?’
“C’mon, smart-arse. Get back in the van before someone decides to be brave.”
Spike pushed Xander back in the van for the second time and got in after him.
“Should have done what I said, though. You were lucky they were a bunch of cowards. Could have hurt you real bad, little pet.”
Xander chewed on a nail, his best puppy dog impression firmly in place.
“Don’t look at me like that…come on…You did a stupid thing…oh, alright. You looked great. Never thought you’d make a good vampire. Guess I was wrong. I reckon once we’ve got you all fixed up, you’re gonna make a bloody great vampire.”
Spike squashed the last pack of blood in the fridge and turned to the microwave just as it beeped.
“Ahhh, lovely type O neg. Food of the gods, little pet,” he said before he gulped the whole mug down in one. “Beautiful.”
Spike could feel the effects straight away, his muscles hardening and his brain ticking faster. Both ears popped and he realised how much his senses had dulled. He could hear everything. Laboured snoring from upstairs, cars in the distance and babies crying for milk and attention from streets over. Good stuff.
“Hungry, little pet?”
Xander sat on his knees in the middle of the bed and blinked questioning eyes. Spike approached carefully, having learned days ago that it was all too easy to spook his Childe. He climbed onto the bed and pulled off his shirt. Xander snuggled into his side immediately, rubbing his face over hard, pale shoulders.
“Go on, luv. Feed. It’s okay.”
Xander whimpered and nudged at Spike’s neck. The blood was right there, right beneath that wonderful skin, but somehow Xander couldn’t work out how to reach it.
Spike tugged Xander away and changed into his demon face. “Like this,” he said, running his fingers across Xander’s human brow.
Xander repeated the action on Spike’s face, confused as to what he was supposed to be doing.
Spike sighed and pulled his blade out of his boot. “You’ll learn,” he said, drawing the knife across his flesh, just below his own collar bone.
Xander scented the blood just once, pulling in the aroma like a starving man faced with a full roast dinner. He didn’t hesitate, springing forward and latching onto the cut. Xander moaned the second the precious liquid hit his tongue, swallowing it quickly and instantly drawing more into his mouth.
“That’s it, luv. It’s better, yeah?”
Xander answered by touching his hands to Spike’s chest and exploring thoroughly while he drank.
Spike’s instinct was to pull away, to push Xander away and end his feeding. But he couldn’t. Xander needed this. Needed his blood and needed this intimate contact with his Sire.
Xander found a pert nipple and gently squeezed, smiling as he felt Spike tense and pull in a quick breath.
Spike closed his eyes. Just one more minute, he thought. Let Xander take what he wants. Let Xander grow strong. Let him…
Xander pushed Spike back onto the bed and pressed their bodies firmly together. Spike gasped again as he felt Xander’s erection pressing against his own. He had to stop this. He didn’t want it. Not like this.
“Stop, luv,” he said, frowning at the regret in his voice.
Seeming to understand, Xander released Spike’s body and crawled off, settling himself between his pillows and licking his lips.
“Better?” Spike asked, again frowning at the breathlessness of his question.
Xander nodded and curled up to sleep like a dog in a basket.
Xander had understood.
Another week passed and Spike continued to drink from the blood in the fridge and then let Xander feed from him. It was driving him absolutely crackers. His Childe gave him a raging hard-on every single time and it was all Spike could do to finally push him away and finish each feeding session. If he didn’t know any better, he could have sworn that Xander was doing it on purpose.
Each day Xander grew stronger and more demanding. He’d worked out how to change into his gameface, how to feed without the need for a knife and his speech had improved threefold. Xander’s grasp of the word ‘bugger’ had been particularly astounding. Forty eight hours had passed with the constant chant of “Bugger, bugger, bugger, bugger…” And Spike had certainly regretted his reaction of, “Fuck this for a game of marbles,” but at least Xander had only picked up on the word ‘marbles’.
Spike cranked open one eye at a strange low rumbling. “Little pet? That you?” he asked, propping himself onto his elbow and staring down at his Childe.
Xander was staring up at the door to the main house. He was in full gameface and his top lip was curled up to expose gleaming white fangs.
He was beautiful. Spike drew in a long, slow breath and caressed Xander’s arm. So beautiful.
Xander snarled and rolled away onto his stomach. He got up onto all fours and crawled across the bed, his eyes fixed on the door and his chest rumbling with a constant growl.
Spike cocked his head and listened to the noises upstairs. Xander’s father.
Spike caught hold of Xander’s ankle just as he sprang from the bed. “No, you don’t.”
Xander snarled and tried to kick Spike away.
“Oi, no kicking!” Spike cried, letting go of Xander’s ankle with a start.
Xander scrambled away, stopping to crouch at the bottom of the stairs. He lifted his face into the air and scented.
Want him dead.
With a low growl that would have terrified most sensible people, Xander slowly crept up the stairs.
Spike stood at the bottom of the stairs and debated.
To kill or not to kill.
The sight of Xander stalking his prey was a beautiful one. The muscles in his Childe’s body had tightened and his face had become the picture of a pure predator. It was amazing. Spike had not taught Xander how to hunt or how to kill. He hadn’t considered it necessary. As soon as possible he planned to find a way to restore Xander’s soul and his Childe did not need the unbearable memory of taking a life.
Spike felt himself hardening at the sound of the constant growling from his Childe.
Can’t let him. Want to. Can’t.
“Come back here, little pet.”
Xander turned around and snarled nastily at Spike. The gesture was a clear, ‘fuck off,’ from Childe to Sire.
“Not very nice, was it? Get your arse back here, now.”
A sudden noise of glass breaking just above them and Xander pounced, his readied body pushing him the rest of the way up the stairs and towards the door.
Spike was ready. Changing into his gameface, he propelled himself up the stairs and tore Xander away from the door. Moving back down, Spike had to fight to keep from overbalancing as held on to his struggling Childe.
“Xan, come on, pet. Kill ‘im later, yeah? When you’ve had a think about it.”
What Spike thought was going to be a scream came out as a long whine. Xander slumped against his Sire, letting him support his full weight. A smattering of memories spotted his brain and Xander fought to put them in place.
Spike half dragged, half lifted Xander over to the bed. Settling him back beneath the covers, he began petting and calming his Childe.
“Hurts,” Xander said finally.
“What hurts, little pet?” Spike asked.
“He does. He does. I remember.”
“Wanna tell me about it?”
Xander shook his head, no. “Wanna kill him.”
“I know you do, pet. So do I. But then again, I wanna kill just about everyone.” Spike’s tone held an edge of humour and he flashed Xander an amused grin.
Xander smiled back only briefly before a confused frown replaced it. “Why can’t I kill? I want to.”
Spike grinned again at the tiny pout. “Because I’m your Sire and I say so.”
Spike rolled his eyes. “Bloody hell. I told you this already. I’m gonna get your soul stitched back on.”
“So…you’ll regret it.”
“I won’t! I promise! Please! I won’t make a mess, honest!”
“I ain’t worried about the mess, little pet. Look, just hold on a while longer. I got a meeting with a bloke in a couple of days, you know that. I bet he can fix up your soul, good and proper. And if you still want to kill your father or anyone else after you’ve got your soul back, then you can.”
“Really? And you won’t get mad?”
“Hand on my un-beating heart, luv.”
“Okay, then. Sleep now?”
Spike stretched himself out on the bed and opened his arms to his Childe. Xander snuggled against him, resting his head on a hard chest and wrapping his arms around a slim waist.
Spike placed a chaste kiss to Xander’s head before he commenced a purr that was code for, ‘Sleep, brat, or I’ll drop you in a cold bath.’
Spike had somewhat gotten used to this new Xander. He was affectionate, usually respectful and absolutely hell-bent on snacking on his friends. He was everything a vampire could want from a growing Childe. His speech had pretty much returned now and he seemed to understand anything that Spike said. His aggressive tendencies were definitely on the rise and he was becoming restless, just like he should be.
In short, everything was going as it should. Spike should have been happy. He had a Childe to train, use and fuck. With the chip in his head, Spike should have been happy that he had Xander. His Childe was growing strong and, with a little bit of training and a few pointers, he would easily be able to hunt and bring home prey for his Sire.
But it wasn’t right. Where Spike should have been thinking evil, selfish thoughts, he couldn’t help but think sappy, poncy ones.
This Xander was all wrong. He wanted the old Xander back. The one that got right on his last nerve and threatened to send him loopy. He wanted back the Xander that got in his face and gave as good as he got. He wanted the Xander that always smiled even if his heart was breaking. He wanted the Xander that had nearly become his friend.
Spike's thoughts turned to those on Xander’s snack list. His friends. What the fuck was going on there? It had been three weeks since Xander had been turned and not one of them had made an appearance. Okay, so Spike had gone to massive lengths to make sure that no Scooby came within staking distance of his Childe, but that still didn’t take away the feeling that they should have come and checked on their friend.
Spike was well known for his evil ways and, even though he had tried and tried again to prove himself since he’d… since the thing with Buffy, he still wasn’t trusted by any of the gang. Xander had come close to it, but there had still been doubt.
Spike had used every trick in the book to steer the gang away from the truth. Notes written in Xander’s handwriting, Spike ‘passing on’ messages, Xander’s voice on their answer machine announcing a week long trip. It had all been fake and they had swallowed it all without question. Yes, Spike was very clever when he put his mind to it and yes, there was some apocalypse going down at the moment, but did that make it okay? How was Xander going to feel when he was back to his old self?
Spike tried to push the thoughts aside. It would soon be sundown and he had things to do. He glanced down at his sleeping Childe’s face and growled.
How could they?
He had a mind to storm over to the Slayer’s house and inform her of what a crap friend she was. But that would be stupid. Xander wasn’t ready to face what would come.
They were staring down the barrel of a gun. They both had to be ready.
Spike froze. This was it. This was the moment he had been dreading.
Xander blinked and searched his memories for a bouncing red-head. “Willow.”
“It feels like ages since…”
Willow’s cell phone rang and she held up a finger as she pulled it out and answered it.
Xander glanced over at Spike as Willow turned around to giggle into the phone. He licked his lips and motioned towards Willow with his head.
Spike shook his head and mouthed a firm, ‘No’ just as Willow turned back towards them.
“Sorry about that. I’ve got to go. Will you be at The Bronze tonight?”
“Will you all be there?” Xander asked, thinking more about his stomach than socialising with his friends.
“I think so. Buffy has been real busy lately, you know, what with the world nearly ending, again. So anyway, she may or may not be there. I can’t say for sure. I’ll be there, though. So, you’ll come? It’s been so long since we’ve danced together. Oh…Spike, erm, you’re invited too…I guess.”
“I’m honoured,” Spike said in his most sarcastic voice, every part of his being just willing Willow to get lost.
“Right. Anyway, I’ve got to go…”
“You already said that, yet you’re still here,” Xander answered, irritated that he wasn’t allowed to make a meal out of something that smelled so delicious.
Willow completely missed the tone and started to walk away, waving a hand in the air. “See you later then. Bye!”
Spike released a breath and turned to receive an armful of Xander.
“Can we? Purrrlease?”
“Go to The Bronze. I remember it there. Lots of…food.”
“I said no. Too risky, little pet. Not yet.”
“Yet? So we can, one day?”
“One day, yeah. When you’re all fixed.”
“When you’re back to your old self.”
Xander frowned. He was puzzled as to what his old self was like.
“Come on, time's a'wasting and that was a close call. Buffy ain’t as naive as Red is. She’ll spot you a mile off.”
“So we’re going to go get my soul back?”
Spike took Xander’s hand and pulled him down the street. “Yep.”
Spike rolled his eyes. They had been over and over this, a thousand times and then more. He opted for the simple answer. “Because someone took it without asking.”
The demon adjusted its spectacles and studied Xander closely. “Hm,” he said.
“Hm, what?!” Spike demanded. “Can you do him, or what?”
Xander giggled. “Do me.”
Spike ignored him and continued. “You can do it, right?”
The demon wrapped a tentacle around Xander’s waist and pulled him closer, running another tentacle over his chest. “Hm, it should be easy enough. He is recently turned, yes?” he asked, turning briefly to look at Spike.
“I see. It can be done. It will, however, be costly.”
“Twelve kittens, all tonkinese. Aaaaand…I’d say a full-grown, adult Norwegian Forest cat should do it.”
Spike was aghast. “A Norwegian Forest cat! You’ve having me on. Maine Coon and consider yourself lucky.”
“Maine Coon?! Two a penny! Four German Rex’s.”
“On your bike, mate! Three Havana Browns and that’s my final offer.”
The demon thought about it. It really was a fine offer. Much more than he would have expected from a vampire. “Done. Have them all here next week. Same time, same place.”
“A week! I think my offer was too bloody generous!”
“Master Spike. Please be reasonable. It takes time to gather all the necessary ingredients.”
“You ain’t baking a cake!”
“I realise that, but I will be using very powerful magics. It takes time, preparation and all the correct equipment, herbs and crystals. I’m sure that you want the spell to run smoothly. Even the slightest mistake could prove…fatal.”
Spike pushed down the sick feeling thrown up by the demon’s warning. “Alright. But get this, anything does go wrong, I’ll pull off every single one of your testicles.”
Spike gripped Xander’s arm and dragged him towards the door. “See you in a week, Mastiva.”
“Sire?” Xander enquired. “Didn’t you mean tentacles?”
Spike sat back against the pillows and watched his Childe. Xander was sprawled out on his stomach at the end of the bed, his feet in the air, watching some god-awful science fiction movie.
It had only been two days since their meeting with Mastiva, but Spike could already feel the excitement building in his belly. Five days. Five days and Xander would be his old self. Well, as close to his old self as he could be, all things considered.
“What?” Xander asked, straining to crane his head around to look at his Sire.
“You were, I could see you.”
“You had your back to me, little pet. How’d you manage to see me?”
“Because you always stare at me when I’m watching the TV.”
“Or maybe I have super powers that allow me to see you with just the soles of my feet.” Xander pointed a bare foot in Spike’s direction. “Look deep within my sole,” he giggled.
Spike couldn’t help but laugh. The humour that was inherent to Xander was slowly returning. Even without a soul, Xander could still sometimes be ‘Xander.’
And there we are again, another change. This was the first time that Xander had dropped the ‘Sire’ and replaced it with the old and more familiar ‘Spike.’
“When I get my soul back…will you still…be here?”
“You might not want me here, pet. Not once you’ve got all your senses back.”
“I will! I love you, Sire.”
Spike was tempted to smile at Xander’s words. What it would be for someone to love him, really love him. But Xander didn’t, not in the true sense. He loved him like a Childe should love his Sire.
Spike held out his arms and beckoned Xander to join him at the head of the bed. He closed his eyes and felt the cool body of his Childe draping over his chest. Spike lowered his arms and locked them tightly around Xander’s body.
“Mm?” Spike responded as he rubbed his face into Xander’s hair.
“Why haven’t you fed from me? Have I done something wrong?”
Spike held tighter and kissed the top of Xander’s head. “No, little pet. You haven’t done anything wrong. You never could.”
“You were so weak, luv. I didn’t want to hurt you.”
Xander shifted in Spike’s arms until he had his head rested on a hard shoulder, his eyes gazing up to meet Spike’s.
“I’m not weak now. I’m stronger. Please feed from me.”
Spike trailed his fingers over Xander’s face, tracing the outline of every feature, every dip and curve from his nose to his jaw and back up to his hair-line. It would be so easy to love this beautiful creature. Even now Xander was in darkness, something bright still shone out like the brightest star in the sky. And when he got his soul back, he would shine even brighter. Spike smiled sadly. Would Xander reject him, then?
“Sire? …Spike? Please. I would never reject you. Never.”
Spike looked down at his Childe in amazement. Perceptive little bastard.
“Sire, feed from me. Feed from me, Spike. I love you. Feed from me.”
Spike growled and flipped Xander onto his back. He licked a long trail up Xander’s neck and paused to scent the blood that teased him from beneath. He gripped Xander’s wrists and quickly drew them above his Childe’s head.
“Ssspike, please.” Xander begged, tilting his head to expose his neck further.
Spike licked Xander’s neck one last time, stopping again to appreciate what he was about receive. “So beautiful. Want…”
“Take it, Sire. It’s all yours. Take me.”
Spike slowly sank his fangs deep into Xander’s skin, his cock hardening as soon as his Childe’s blood hit his tongue. The taste was like nothing else on earth. Even slayer blood didn’t come close to this. It was intoxicating and Spike felt like he was falling into a chasm of dazzling light. Something changed inside him and he realised that the last part of the bond was falling into place. He could feel Xander’s emotions; his fear, his joy and his arousal. As the bond thrummed and grew stronger with each swallow of blood, Spike realised something else. Even with the bond now in place, he felt exactly the same about Xander as he had five minutes before.
He was falling. Love was a jagged rock at the bottom of a cliff. And he was plummeting freely towards it.
Xander ground his hips up to press his erection against Spike’s. His Sire groaned and, with an almost pitiful moan, Spike pulled himself up.
“Sire? Did I…?”
Spike lay back down beside Xander and pulled him into his arms. “Sssh, little pet. You haven’t done anything wrong. I want you too much, that’s all.”
“You know, that so didn’t make the slightest bit of sense. I know penguins that make more sense than you.”
Spike laughed at the, again, familiar sound of Xander’s odd humour. “Once you’ve got your soul, sweet. Then, if you still want me…”
“We’ll just see.”
“I will want you,” Xander affirmed, kissing Spike’s jaw to make his point.
“Hush, little pet. Sleep.”
“If I can’t kill people and I can’t bump uglies with you, can I at least go back to watching Star Trek?”
One hour. One fucking hour.
Spike ripped apart everything he could lay his hands on. Just one more hour and it could have been so different. Maybe the outcome would have been the same but the feelings would have been different. Defence and necessity instead of revenge and bloodlust.
“You’re mad at me.”
“Yes, you are.”
“I am mad. But not with you. Never with you.”
Spike crouched down and pulled Xander out of the corner. “Sort of?”
“Yeah. I’m sorry that I disobeyed you. I know you said that I wasn’t supposed to, not until I got my soul back. But…”
Xander glanced towards the body briefly before Spike tapped his chin and brought his attention back. “But what?”
“He hurt you.”
“I would have been fine.”
“No! I couldn’t let that happen. You couldn’t fight him back. Not properly. He was hurting you. No-one hurts you. I’ll make them pay. I’ll always make them pay.”
Xander glanced again at the body of his father. “Fucker. Do you think I killed him too quickly?” he asked Spike in tone that was so casual it chilled Spike to the bone to hear it.
“Tell you what, luv. We’d better get going. We’re late as it is. Time to tack your soul on. We’ll talk about it all after, if you still want to.”
“Okay. So you’re really not mad?”
“No, little pet. Not mad. Now come on, shift your arse before Mastiva starts upping the price to include a litter of Turkish Vans.”
“What about the body?”
“I’ll make a call.”
“Can I drink…?”
“Oh. Is that because it’s dead blood?”
“No, you pillock. You’ve been watching Interview with the Vampire again, haven’t you?”
“Idiot. The blood will be cold and that git must taste of stale booze.” Spike said firmly.
It was true, Xander’s father would be tough on the palate, but that wasn’t the reason that he didn’t want Xander to feed from him. His Childe was going to freak out enough when the soul returned and he realised what he’d done. He didn’t need another memory to torture himself with.
“He did taste a little…odd. But then again, I only really know what your blood tastes like and I’m guessing that it’s going to be different to anyone else’s. I can’t wait to find out!”
“Mm,” Spike said quickly. “Grab the kittens, luv. Let’s be on our way, yeah?”
Xander nodded brightly. He was in good spirits. His father was dead, his Sire wasn’t mad at him and he was going to get himself a shiny new soul that would apparently put him right. Xander wasn’t exactly sure how it was going to put him right. He felt right already. But he trusted his Sire, his Spike. And perhaps when this was all done, Spike would realise exactly how much Xander adored him.
Xander stepped over the body and picked up the basket of kittens. He stepped back over the still form of his father and spat on the dead face. “Picked on the wrong person, huh? Bastard.”
“Pet.” Spike stood at the door, anxious to get going and let someone else take care of the body. He’d pay someone to clean up the blood, too.
Perhaps they wouldn’t even come back here tonight. It might be all too much.
“Ooh, this is kinky!”
“Pet, just keep still.”
“Yes, Master,” Xander whispered in his most sexy voice, his body completely contradicting his words.
“Xan. Would you rather tentacle guy tied you down?”
“Euuuwww! No way! Want you.”
“Well, you got me. So shut your cake-hole and keep still.”
“Not that I’m not enjoying this, Sire, but…why am I being strapped to what looks like a sacrificial alter?”
“I’m going to sacrifice you.”
“Really? Will there be knives and chanting and a large sacrificial cock?”
“Have you been watching Race with the Devil again?”
“Bloody hell. I gotta get you some decent films to watch.”
“That is a decent film!”
“No, it bloody ain't! It’s a pile of shit, is what it is. You wanna watch Wicker Man. Now if you want a film with a good sacrifice, that’s the one to see. Can’t beat a good burning if you ask me.”
“Hmm, I’ll give it a go. Sire?”
“Could you tighten that one? I reckon I could get out of it.”
Spike tightened the strap and checked over the others.
“Why am I really being strapped down. You’re not going to hurt me, are you?”
“I would never hurt you, little pet. Not for all the tea in China. But…this spell, to get your soul back. Mastiva says it’s going to sting a bit.”
“Like a bitch.”
“Oh. But you’ll be here, right? You won’t leave me like this?”
“’Course I’ll be here. I ain’t gonna leave my Childe. What sort of Sire would that make me?”
Xander nodded his acceptance. “Let’s get it over with, then. We could rent Wicker Man on the way home!”
“Sure. Yeah. Mastiva!”
“I take it you two are ready?” The demon asked.
“As we’ll ever be. C’mon, then. Do your thing.”
Spike laced his fingers through Xander’s and locked eyes with his Childe. “Stay still, little pet. It’ll be over before you know it. Just remember, I’m here, yeah? Always here.”
Xander nodded and closed his eyes. A strange language began drifting into his ears and Xander became aware of something inside his chest becoming warm. It was nice, like swallowing steaming hot soup on a very cold day. He felt Spike’s other hand carding through his hair and he couldn’t stop the purr that escaped.
Something cold brushed across his chest. Blood? Xander couldn’t quite work it out. The warmth inside him turned to burning and he opened his eyes and stared down at the source. A cross, painted with blood, was drawn upon his chest. The holy symbol sizzled and smoked and Xander turned pleading eyes to his Sire.
Spike could feel Xander’s eyes on him. He could feel them pleading for understanding and reassurance. But Spike couldn’t look at him. He couldn’t look at the pain that was creeping into those eyes. If he did, then he would have to stop the ritual. He could not watch his Childe suffer this way.
Spike kept his gaze firmly on the wall opposite, his hands constantly petting, comforting and reassuring through touch. Xander’s purr, his first ever purr, had long disappeared and in its place were whines and whimpers, desperate sobs that soon turned to howling as the pain of a returning soul filled his very being.
Xander closed his eyes against the hurt. White light lifted from the bloody cross and hovered over his body and, with a brilliant flare and a woosh of energy, the light sank deep into his chest.
Spike stared down at the still form of his Childe. He’d undone the straps as soon as the ritual was over and Xander had immediately curled up into a foetal position. Tiny whimpers had trailed off and Xander had shaken violently for only a short time before he abruptly became very still and very quiet.
“You awake, little pet?”
Spike waited in the relative darkness of the room for an answer. Time stretched on and on and Spike started to wonder if Xander had completely passed out. He reached forward to touch, to rouse and reassure his beloved Childe.
“Don’t call me that.”
Spike quickly withdrew his hand. “So you are awake.”
“So it seems.” Xander uncoiled himself and sat up. “Why?”
“Why what, litt…Why what?”
“Why did you turn me?”
“You don’t remember?”
Xander shook his head and tears filled his eyes. “You must really hate me. What was I? A nice, convenient way to get back at Buffy?”
“No! It wasn’t like that. Don’t you remember anything?”
Xander shook his head again.
“But you know what you are now?”
“I can feel it. I can feel you. Please, just tell me what happened.”
“Found you half dead, little pet.” Xander glared at the name, but Spike carried on regardless. “Some fledge had gotten in the house, fuck knows how, and I found it trying to feed you. It was trying to turn you.”
“What was the point of dusting it if you were just going to turn me yourself?”
“I didn’t want to turn you. I didn’t have a choice.”
“You could have just let me die.”
“I…just because, alright? Be satisfied with that. I didn’t want to see you dead.”
“I am dead.”
“Christ, Xander!” Spike rubbed his hands over his face and forced himself to calm down. Mastiva had told him that Xander’s memory of recent events would be sparse, at best. It would return, usually within a day or two, but until then Spike guessed that he’d have a fight on his hands. “Look. Let’s just get out of here. I’ll tell you everything you need to know, but not here, yeah?”
“Can I go home?”
“I don’t know if that is such a good idea…”
“I want to go home.”
“Okay, okay. I’ll take you home.”
Xander slid himself to the side of the alter and placed unsteady feet on the ground.
“Let me help…”
“I don’t need help. I picked up the ability to walk some time ago, thank you very much.” Xander put his full weight onto his legs and he had to grip the side of the alter as he felt them give way beneath him.
“Don’t call me that. I’m not your pet!”
“Xander. I know you can’t remember anything, but you have to trust me. Just let me help you. That’s all I want. Come on. Let me do this?”
Xander felt weak, like he’d been hit by a truck then run over backwards by a grey-haired sugar daddy in a shiny red Porsche. He looked one more time into Spike’s face, a last attempt at trying to gauge his mood and work out his ulterior motive for wanting to help Xander ‘doughnut-boy’ Harris.
Spike’s expression was devoid of any mocking or malice. The usual smirk was not in place.
Reluctantly, Xander nodded, his skin tingling at the touch of Spike’s supporting arm slipping around his waist. The tingle grew stronger as he leant into Spike’s hold and let him take his weight.
The bond. It was thrumming. A thrumming that screamed that Spike was his. Screamed that he belonged to Spike. Screamed that Spike would lay his un-life down to help him.
The bond pulsed through his body, banging and rattling like an express train on a bumpy track. A flash of memory flooded his mind. A vampire, holding him, draining him, killing him, Siring him. Then…Spike. It was all Spike.
Xander felt his legs give way. The room swayed and spun, more scattered memories flashing at him like white lightning. “Sire.”
“I’ve got you, little pet. I’ve got you.”
Xander slumped in Spike’s arms. His last drop of energy siphoned away. “Please…help me.”
“Ssh.” Spike held Xander against his chest. “I’m here, remember? Always here. Promise.”
Xander wondered for a weird moment if the Initiative had captured him and inserted a stupidity chip. Because no matter what his human side was telling him, that Spike was trouble, that Spike was up to something, that Spike was going to pick them all off one by one until everyone was dead or turned, his demon side was shouting louder. And the things his demon was shouting? They were thunderous things and much more believable. This is your Sire now. Your Sire loves you. Your Sire will protect you. Your Sire will always be there for you. Always.
Xander closed his eyes. And believed.
The vampire held him by his throat, crushing him, suffocating him. Xander couldn’t breathe. He panicked and tried to scream. Nothing came out.
He fought against the vampire’s hold. He punched, kicked and clawed. The vampire held him closer, ignoring his furious struggles.
Xander landed a lucky kick into the vampire’s stomach. He desperately scrabbled across the basement floor, his breath flowing harshly now, panting, wheezing, and hyperventilating.
The creature approached again, stalking him, cornering him. It licked its ruby red lips and crouched down to Xander’s eye-level. Crawling on all fours, the vampire closed the last few feet between them.
“Join me, Alexander. Join your mother.”
“Xan! Wake up! Wake up, luv!”
Xander woke abruptly and he shoved Spike away from him. “NO! No, no, no…”
“Xander, it’s me. It’s Spike. Ain’t gonna hurt you, luv. Never hurt you. Calm down now.”
Xander pushed himself against the wall and tried to clear his mind, to separate the dream from reality.
Tears slipped from Xander’s eyes at the realisation that there was no dream to separate. It was real. It was all real. “Did…did you know?” he asked Spike.
“The…v-vampire. The vampire that… Did you know who it was?”
“Didn’t you wonder how it got in?”
Spike opened his mouth to speak but Xander cut in. “Or did you think I was stupid enough to let it in?”
“I didn’t think that. You ain’t as stupid as you look, little pet. You would never have let it in.”
Xander nodded in agreement. “I didn’t have to.”
“She was already here. She was waiting. My…my mother was waiting to kill me.”
Spike wavered between crushing his Childe to his chest and kissing his torment away and needing to get to a bottle of whisky, fast.
“Dad has whisky in the cabinet upstairs. Hurry up. I need a drink too.”
Spike nodded once and bolted up the stairs.
His mother? That was his mother? Jesus, fuck me, Christ. How do you even start dealing with a thing like that?
You’re a vampire. Your mother, a newly turned fledge, tried to turn you. Your mother was killed by your Sire. Enough for you, Xan? Oh, and I don’t suppose you’ve remembered yet that you killed your father? No? Let me remind you.
Now, there was a point. Spike was tempted to tell Xander about his father now. Might as well get all the pain out of the way while we’re dishing out bad news. But what was this going to do to Xander? Was he going to be able to cope with the fact that he killed his own father?
One thing at a time.
Spike took two bottles of whisky from the cabinet and quickly returned to the basement. Xander was exactly where he’d left him. Sitting on the bed, staring at the spot where his mother had turned to ashes.
“I’m sorry, Xan.”
Spike passed over one of the bottles and watched while Xander gulped down a sizable amount. “What do you remember?”
“You. Her. She was trying to turn me. I could hear her. She was pleading with me to drink from her. But I couldn’t, not more than a drop. It just tasted so bad. Like milk that’s been sitting out in the sun for days. I couldn’t do it. Then…you were there. She was dust and you were there. You tasted good. You tasted like… life.”
Xander swigged another large mouthful from the bottle. “I remember waking up with you. I remember you holding me. It felt nice. I was so scared. I couldn’t remember what happened. I couldn’t understand why I was so cold. Then…I remembered…something. Her. I thought… I didn’t realise who she was. I thought she was my Sire. But…so were you.”
“I’m sorry, Xan. I didn’t know.”
“You killed her.”
Spike hung his head, too ashamed to even look at his Childe. He’d done what he had to, what was called for. He couldn’t have let a fledge turn Xander. It would have killed him, somehow. Spike thought about what he would have done if he’d known who the fledgling was.
“Are you sorry?”
Xander looked up, startled by the bluntness of Spike’s response. “What?”
“I did what I had to. She tried to turn you. She would have failed. She was trying to sentence you, whether she knew it or not, to something worse than death, worse than being what you are now. I couldn’t allow it, no matter who she was. My priority was you, Xander.”
“Why?” Xander asked softly.
Spike shrugged. “Don’t know. Care about you, I guess.”
Xander nodded slowly. “Spike? Could you leave me alone? Just for a while.”
“Yeah, if that’s what you need. I’ll go out.”
“No! I mean, you don’t have to go out. You could just go upstairs. I think my dad’s out. I just…”
“I know, Xan. You need some time. I get it. I’ll be upstairs, then. You call me if you need me, though, yeah?”
Spike closed the door to the basement behind him. He barely made it two steps before the air was filled with howls from his grieving Childe.
Spike drained the last few drops from the bottle of whisky. A shadow appeared to his left and he turned to face it. “How you doing, little pet?”
“Not so good. Spike? Can I…?”
“What? What do you need?”
“Oh! Yeah, should have thought. Bound to be. Did you want…? Do you want…?”
Xander got down on his knees in front of his Sire. “I need you. Will you feed me? Please?”
“Of course. You don’t need to be on your knees to ask, luv. I ain’t into that Master and pet shit.”
Xander’s eyes widened just a little. That was…surprising.
Spike pulled his Childe to sit next to him on the couch. “Take it,” he said, tilting his head and guiding Xander in to drink.
Xander ghosted his lips over the cool, pale flesh, breathing in the scent that was intoxicatingly Spike. Leather, power and a slight hint of sherbet. Xander had always wondered why Spike smelled of sherbet. Maybe now he would be able to ask him.
A tongue that had only recently been human ran steadily over its Sire’s throat. There was something in the anticipation of receiving Spike’s blood. It was something that he did remember, if little else. Xander felt Spike’s arms sliding round him, holding him and waiting for the feed. Xander’s face changed to show his demon and with a slowness that was almost painful, he sank his teeth deep into Spike’s neck.
As the blood spurted and hit the back of Xander’s throat, he moaned. It was incredible. A taste that was better than any chocolate dessert, any jelly-filled doughnut, better than any champagne, pink or not and better than the world's most rare and sweet fruit. Like thick, deep, burgundy wine, it slipped down Xander’s throat and filled his entire body with a need that was greater than living. The need for his Sire.
More memories flooded back and he remembered the countless times he had drunk from Spike. The countless times he had grown hard and wanting next to his maker. He’d wanted him, every single time. And he wanted him now. Wanted Spike’s blood and cock to fill his body and complete him.
Xander pushed his Sire back into the couch, his lips and teeth still firmly embedded in the silky throat. He adjusted his position and ground his hips. Separated by two layers of denim, two cocks, hardened until they were almost painful, touched and pushed against each other.
Spike drew in long breath, barely holding on to the moan that tried to escape his lips. He’d been pretty good at pulling Xander away so far. It was easy to do when you knew that the other person didn’t have all his senses about him. He’d never wanted to take advantage. Never. Not after what had happened with Buffy. Something had taken over. Rage, humiliation. Fear? Spike didn’t know what it had been.
And now Xander. Xander was drinking from him. Vampire Xander fully complete with a demon heart and a human soul (other accessories sold separately) was begging him with thrusting hips, a hard cock and a strangled cry for help.
Spike pondered, thrusting up his hips to meet every push of Xander’s. Was this taking advantage? Or was this helping to take away someone’s pain, giving them what they wanted?
Xander released the bite on the Spike’s throat, lovingly lapping at it to help the wound to close. Just as he had been taught. He brought his face up to meet Spike’s and he placed a gentle kiss onto his lips. “Need this. Please, Sire. Need to feel your touch. Please help me?”
And what was it that Xander was asking for? A Sire’s touch? Family? Someone to make him feel?
Xander un-popped the fastenings at Spike’s jeans. It was a bold move and not one that he’d tried before. But the need to touch, feel and see his Sire’s cock in his hands was just too strong. Xander felt like something was missing, like he’d been in a relationship that was somewhat lacking. This closeness, this intimacy was something they both needed and Xander knew that Spike had been holding back. He couldn’t remember much about his time as a vampire, but he was absolutely certain they had not been intimate with each other. Xander had a funny feeling that this was something Spike had insisted on…to protect him? A warm feeling washed through him and heated his cold body. Spike had held off, for him? The bond thrummed powerfully and Xander knew that it went both ways. It must have been hell for Spike.
Well, not anymore. His Sire needed this too.
Xander dived in and caught Spike's mouth in a kiss that was loaded with passion, want and need. His fingers finally popped open the last button on Spike’s jeans and he eagerly took the long, pale erection in his hand.
Spike kissed back. This was what Xander wanted. This was what Xander needed. And this was what he needed too. So much.
Spike ripped at Xander’s pants, almost shredding them to get to the prize beneath. His hand wrapped around the hard cock and he began pumping it with long, firm strokes.
Xander mirrored the action and stroked Spike hard and fast. Spike pulled his head down for another long kiss, his tongue searching, exploring and remembering. Xander pulled away and straddled him, knocking his hands away and positioning himself so that their cocks were now touching flesh to flesh. He began a quick rocking motion, sliding his erect shaft against Spike’s. His fingertips found their way underneath a tight black t-shirt and he caressed and pinched at Spike’s hardened nipples.
Spike gasped at the new contact, his hips rising suddenly and sharply. He needed to come now. This was not about lovemaking that went on into the night. Perhaps that would come later. This was about pure need.
Obviously Xander was on the same wavelength. As Spike gripped his hips, Xander took both cocks in his hands and fisted them.
Spike watched, mesmerised by the beautiful face above him. He watched as lips glistening with his blood, parted and breathed out a whispered and desperate moan. Large eyes that had turned from yellow back to deep brown fixed and locked with his. The world seemed to spin and Spike couldn’t see or hear any further than his Childe. Xander was his world now.
And yes, he loved him.
As release rippled through them both, Xander felt the bond strengthen and reinforce itself. He felt safe.
His Sire was here.
As they walked together, side by side, Spike had the urge to reach out and take Xander’s hand. He wouldn’t. Apart from it being a poncy thing to do, it was likely that Xander would push him away. His Childe had been oddly quiet since the incident on the couch. And now, one week later, Spike wanted to know why.
“Is it your mum?”
“Is what my mom?”
“The reason why you’re not speaking to me.”
“My mother is among other contributing factors that add to my general unease and quietness, yes.”
“Spike, you know what the problem is. I’m a vampire. I’ve become the very thing I hated. My mother is dead, oh, and you killed her. And here I am wondering why I haven’t staked myself. So that is the reason why I’m not all sweetness and light.”
“I just want you to talk to me. It might help.”
“Will it? Will it bring my mother back? Will it make me human again?”
“Well, there you go, then.”
Spike pulled Xander to a halt. “I’m here for you.”
Xander wanted to scratch his own eyes out. He wanted to run and kill everything in sight. He’d never felt as helpless as he did now. His control was gone and he was having to rely on Spike. The part of him that was still human, the soul, was crying out for him to be normal, to be human, to be Xander. Yet this demon inside him, it wanted to submit to his Sire. It wanted his Sire to hold him.
It wanted to rule his body and mind.
That was the problem. That’s what was eating him up inside. He didn’t want to be a demon. He wanted to be Xander.
“Then help me, please. I can’t be like this, Spike. One minute I’m feeling like I’m myself and the next I'm wanting to bare my neck to you. I don’t feel like me! I can’t deal with things unless I can feel like myself.”
“What? What’s so damn funny!”
“We are. I thought I was the only one.”
“Angelus, he took to his vampire ways real easy. Born to it, you might say. Me? My demon couldn’t wait to take over. I loved the killing and I loved the taking. But there was this pesky human part, bloody William, that kept getting in my way. Fucking confusing, it was. One part of me wanted to drain the population and the other wanted to write a poem about ‘em. I guess you can see who won. And you? Well, you got the soul, so killing ain’t quite so easy. But your demon, he’s still in there and he makes you want things that your human side would think wicked. Question is, which one is stronger?”
Xander thought about it. There had been a lot of sense in that little speech. “You used to write poetry?!”
Spike laughed again and slung his arm around Xander’s shoulders. “Well, I reckon I know the answer to my question, even if you haven’t worked it out yet. C’mon, little pet, let's go get this over with.”
Spike stepped over the threshold of The Magic Box. He guided a nervous Xander in after him with a quiet whisper of, “Public place. Don’t need an invite.”
“Ah, Spike, Xander. I was starting to wonder where you two had got to. We missed you throughout the latest threat to the world. Spike, we could have done with your help.”
“What a pity. If I’d have known, I would have come a'running.”
“Quite. So, what brings you here this night…together?” Giles noted over the top of his spectacles.
“Just wondering if there’s any demon arse you want kicking. Suddenly feeling in the mood. The boy here is obviously thinking the same thing.”
“Oh, well, thank you for your more than generous offer, but all seems to be quiet at the moment. Buffy, it seems, has it all under control.”
“Right. Fair enough. We’ll be on our way, then.”
“Just a minute. Xander, is everything alright? You look a little…peaky. Are you quite well?”
“He’s alright. He’s got his old pal, Spike.”
“Is that so? Xander?”
“Um, yeah. I’m good.”
“And you are hanging around with Spike now?”
“Yeah. He…needed a place. The crypt got a bit hot for him. You know, what with all the other vampires out for his blood. He’s staying with me and…we’ve been hanging out.”
“I see. Well, please be careful, Xander. Spike is not to be trusted, as you well know.”
“I’m not stupid.”
“I didn’t say you were stupid, I was simply stating a…”
“…fact. Yeah. Whatever. Look, if there is nothing you need us for, we’ll just go shoot some pool. I’ll try not to get eaten by the big bad, chipped Spike.”
“Put a sock in it, Watcher. We ain’t interested. C’mon, pet. The night’s waiting.”
Spike ushered Xander back out the door and Giles was left standing with a worried expression on his face. Xander was hanging around with Spike? That couldn’t be good, no matter which way you looked at it.
Giles made his way to the phone. Someone needed to look into this.
“Um, Spike? I’m thinking that wasn’t the best of plans.”
“Yeah,” Spike breathed back. “Should've perhaps thought that through a bit. Just thought it would be a good idea for you to show your face. Reckon I probably shouldn’t have shown mine, though.”
“Maybe. I kinda…wanted you there.”
“Everything you’ve done for me.”
“Yes, it is. I don’t know what I would have done without you. Well, I’d probably be dead. Okay, so I am technically dead, but you know what I mean. So what I’m saying is, thanks for putting up with me. From what you’ve said about…how I was, it couldn’t have been easy. And what I’m also saying, or trying to say is…um, well, what I want to say is, you’re free now.”
“Err, not that I didn’t enjoy hearing the good old Xander-babble, but what the fuck are you going on about?”
“I’m fine now, Spike. I’m all fixed. Soul firmly in place. Me but a little deader. I know I’ve got issues and I’ll sort them. I’ll find my way, my balance between the demon and the soul. I know I can do it. So…if you don’t want to, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why you’d want to, you can…” Xander took a deep breath. “…leave me.”
Spike nodded. “You want me to go.” It wasn’t a question.
“No! I mean, no, in much less needy tone, I don’t want you to go. I know there’s this weird Sire-Childe bond between us, but I wouldn’t want that to be the only reason that you stay with me.”
“It ain’t the only reason.”
“Spike, you don’t have to try and make me feel better. I’m a big boy…”
“That you certainly are,” Spike said with a smutty smirk.
“Okaaay. Feels weird not to be able to blush.”
“Yeah. I miss that on you. It was a good look.”
“Tomato red was a good look?”
“Uh-huh. Blended in nicely with the rest of your wardrobe. Kept the whole clashing theme going.”
“Oh, says he of the eternal black shirts and tight eighties style jeans.”
“Oi! I’ve got bloody good taste, you know. And besides, black and red works for me. Why change a winning ensemble?”
“Ensemble? Okay, we’ve gone so far past weird that weird is a tiny forgotten dot waaay back on the horizon.”
Spike laughed. “It is all pretty weird.”
“Mm. So anyway, as I was saying before you started to make smutty comments…”
“Xan. Stop right there. I ain’t gonna go leaving you. No way. And yes, before you say anything, and I know you will, it does have a lot to do with the bond. You’re my Childe and that means I gotta look after you. Teach you, train you, show you. You got a lot to learn and I want to make sure that when you face the world as a vampire, you’ve got your wits about you. But there is more.”
“There is. Do you remember the time just before all this happened?”
“Oh yeah. It’s just the stuff afterward that I have trouble with.”
“Right. Then you’ll remember that we were just starting to warm to one another.”
“I guess I kinda remember that. We definitely hit a point when we stopped hating each other.”
“Yeah, well, I gave you a lot to hate me for.”
“Maybe. The thing with…Buffy. That was pretty shocking. And I don’t for a minute condone it. But…I guess I kinda understand what happened there, you know, considering how you feel about her and how she used you the way she did.”
“Considering how I felt about her. Don’t feel that no more.”
“Really?” Xander asked, his voice annoyingly hopeful.
“Really. Anyway, I lost my point…oh, yeah. Well, we were getting on okay, you and me. There was something there. Something bordering on friendship, perhaps. You remember that or was that just all in my head?”
“No. I remember. We played cards and you didn’t cheat.”
“Much,” Spike added with a grin.
“So, are you going somewhere with this?”
“Hang on, hang on, I’m just getting to the good bit. What I’m now trying to say, and shit, your babble is infectious, is that I care about you. A lot. We’ve shared so much this past month or so. I know you don’t remember much…”
“I remember enough. I remember you trying to get me into my bathtub. I remember the first time I drank from you. I remember listening to your talk when we broke into Giles’ place to get that book. I remember…I remember you taking care of me. It felt nice. It felt right. You took care of me when I needed it most. I’ll never forget that. I’m sorry that I’ve been such a pain. None of this is your fault. I’m sorry that I keep blaming you.”
“'S okay. No need to be sorry. Who else you gonna blame?”
“I dunno. My mother? No. I guess it wasn’t her fault either. Maybe I could blame the vamp that turned her? No, I guess it wasn’t his fault either. Okay, so I could blame the first vamp that there ever was. I wonder if there was a first vamp. That is a question. It’s a bit like what came first, the chicken or the egg. Personally, I think it was the chicken. The egg had to come from somewhere. But then again…”
“Sorry. I digressed. I guess I can’t blame anyone. Do you believe in fate?”
“Me too, sometimes. So maybe it was fate that I was turned. Maybe it was fate that it was you that…”
Xander stopped and stared. Spike looked beautiful under the moonlight. Had he always looked that attractive? Xander shrugged internally and went with it. He ran his hand down Spike’s face, pausing to stroke and map out his cheek bone and jaw. “You’ve always looked this way,” he said out loud.
Spike looked puzzled for a moment before Xander leant in and brushed their lips together. “You are beautiful,” Xander added. “My Spike.”
Spike felt his cock harden at the declaration. He pulled Xander closer and kissed him until they were both panting for unneeded breath.
“Yeah,” Spike breathed. “That was…something.”
“Mmmm.” Xander pressed closer into Spike’s continued embrace. “Can I ask you something?”
“Is this…what we’re doing, what we were just doing, is it…? Is…?”
“Is it the bond?” Spike guessed.
“Yeah. Is it?”
“No. Well, not for me. I’m hoping it isn’t for you either.”
“I don’t think it’s the bond. I can feel it when the bond wants something. Like when I need to feed. Or like sometimes when I’m scared, I need you to hold me. That’s the bond. But sometimes, when I get scared, I need you to hold me.”
“I’m not making a lot of sense out of that, little pet. Care to enlighten?”
“I mean that I can feel a difference. Sometime I need my Sire. But sometimes, I need Spike. Just Spike. The whole Sire thingy doesn’t come into it. It feels different. Does that make sense?”
“It does. Perfect sense. Feel the same, Xan.”
“That doesn’t mean that I want to marry you, or anything. It just means that…I care about you. A lot,” Xander said, mirroring Spike’s earlier words in a terrible English accent.
“Oh, pet. That was just disgraceful. Sounded more like a Welsh Sheape Demon. C’mon, back to the bat-cave. We’ll watch some English movies and I’ll give you your first Sire to Childe lesson. How to do a correct English accent. If you do good, we’ll move onto the Scottish accent tomorrow. You’ll just love Trainspotting.”
“Do you think she suspected anything?”
“Why would she, little pet?”
“Well…because…it’s Willow, she suspects anyone of anything. She’s like Sherlock Holmes but without the pipe and the deerstalker hat…although, she would look kinda sweet with one of those…”
“Oh, yeah, digressing again. So, do you think?”
“Think of what?”
“That Willow knows.”
“No. I don’t think. Want to know what I actually think?”
“I guess, as long it doesn’t involve entrails and things that go squelch in the night.”
“You really are the world’s softest vampire,” Spike observed.
“And proud of it. So, go on. What does my Sire think?”
“Your Sire thinks that Willow thinks that me and you are doing the nasty.”
“Nasty? As in naughty touching?”
“Oh. Well, we kind of are. Although we’re not…we don’t…because of…and there’s the…Shit. I’m really not sure what we’re doing.”
Spike stepped in, gently pulling Xander against his body. “Not sure either, Xan,” Spike whispered, ghosting his hand over Xander’s face and through his hair. “Let’s just call it, going with the flow.”
“I can live with that…um, un-live with that.”
Lips touched only briefly before the intensity of the moment pulled them apart.
“So Willow thinks…I mean, knows that there is something between us.”
“I reckon so, luv.”
“Shit. She’ll tell.”
“I know. If Willow just thought I’d made a bad choice in boyfriend, she’d definitely talk to me about it. But…it’s you. We’re talking about…me and you. She’ll tell Buffy. Or maybe Giles.”
“Why are you being so calm?”
“Well, what can they do? So we’re together. So what? It’s our business. Nothing to do with the Slayer or her bloody watcher.”
“It will be their business if they find out about me being all grr.”
Spike considered this for a moment. “Actually, been meaning to talk to you about that.”
“That sounds ominous. I don’t think I like the serious tone, there.”
“Pet…When are you going to tell them?”
“Tell them what?”
“You know bloody well what. You will need to tell them, one day. Either that or we leave Sunnydale, for good.”
“I don’t want to leave. Not yet. I don’t think I’m ready for that.”
“Then we risk them finding out. Probably better to tell them first.”
“No. I can’t. I don’t think I have the words.”
“No! I can’t let you do that. Can’t we just leave it? Just for now?”
“’Course. If that’s what you want.”
“Just said, didn’t I? You want it that way, you got it that way.”
“And you don’t mind?”
“Pet, why would I mind? It’s your thing. This has happened to you.”
“No, Spike. It happened to you too.”
“Well, regardless, I want you to make the decision. I’ll just be the one that sticks close by.”
“Stuck right fucking next to you, little pet. With industrial strength super glue. Always said I’d be here for you, remember?”
Xander nodded and folded Spike into his arms. “My Spike. I think we should do something manly,” he said suddenly.
“Yeah, like watch an action flick starring Bruce Willis.”
“Why’s that, then?”
“Because I’m feeling…sappy.”
“You mean poncy.”
“Exactly. So, Die Hard?”
Spike laughed and started digging through the video tapes. “How about a Die Hard Marathon? We’ll get drunk enough by the third one that we have to keep rewinding it at the part where he shoots out of that pipe with all that water.”
“Hey, I never could work that out!”
“See? Bet you were too off your skull at that point.”
“You know, I can’t remember.”
“I rest my case.”
“Xan? What you doing up here?”
Spike crossed the living room and knelt at his Childe’s side. “That your mum?” Spike asked, pointing to an old black and white photo in Xander’s hands.
“Yeah, that’s her. She was nineteen when this was taken.”
“Can you see me in the picture?”
Spike took the photograph and looked carefully. “Can’t see no nipper.”
“That’s right. I was in there.” Xander pointed to his mother’s stomach. “This was taken on the day that she found out that she was pregnant with me.”
“She looks happy.”
“Yeah. She was. She loved me. Once.”
“She loved me until I became an inconvenience, a costly nuisance.”
“I’m sure that isn’t…”
“It is true. If she hadn’t had me, then she probably wouldn’t have stayed with my dad. She wouldn’t have started drinking. She would have had her own career, her own life. I got in her way. I was a dead weight.”
“That what she told you?”
Xander sniffed and nodded.
“She did love you, pet.”
“How would you know that?!” Xander snapped. “The first time you met her was the night that you killed her!”
Spike bit his tongue and stayed quiet. Xander was upset and he was lashing out.
“Sorry, Spike. I didn’t mean…I don’t know what I’m saying.”
“It’s okay. I understand. You gotta do the grieving thing.”
“Do you really think she did? Love me?”
“Yeah. I really do.”
“Because she tried to turn you. She was a fledge and she tried to Sire you. Most fledges can only think about their stomachs when they wake. Her first thought? She wanted you to be with her. She could have just drained you and left you. But she didn’t do that, pet, did she?”
“I guess not.”
“Carry that thought with you, Xan. No matter what happened between you, she still loved you enough to…”
“To try and keep you for eternity.”
“But, the things she used to say to me…”
“Drink makes you say lots of things. You were an easy target for her whisky-induced frustrations. Try and think, luv. Did she ever do anything nice for you? Anything at all?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Sometimes her and dad would row. They would shout at each other and sometimes I would hear them say stuff about me. And it would make me cry. My mom, after the argument when dad was either passed out or he’d stormed out the house, she’d come into my room and give me cookies. My favourite cookies.”
“There you go. That was a nice thing. Bet she wasn’t drinking when she did that.”
Xander shook his head. “No. She wasn’t. That came later.”
“Anything else nice? What was the last nice thing she did for you?”
Xander had to think hard about that one. There was a lot of badness and heartache to claw through to reach the answer to that question. “Actually,” he said finally. “When I split up with Cordy, she said that she was glad. She was fall-down-drunk, of course, but she gave me this funny look and she patted my hand and she said, ‘That girl wasn’t good enough for you.’ I’m being stupid, right? It was just…the look on her face. It was like she really meant it.”
“Probably because she did mean it, pet.”
“Is it wrong that I’m glad she’s gone? Maybe now she can find some sort of peace.”
“No, little pet. It ain’t wrong. Some people, as good a person as they are on the inside, they won’t ever be able to find peace in this lifetime. You can’t do nothing for them. Too far gone. All the shrinks and all the therapy and comforting words, it don’t help them. It’s over for her now. She can be free. She can rest.”
Xander gathered up the scattered photos and placed them back in the box. Crossing to the other side of the living room, he neatly put the box of photos back in the drawer.
Spike got up from his knees and sat on the couch. He stared up at his Childe and knew that Xander was going to ask.
“Spike? Where’s my dad?”
Spike had known this was coming. He’d known it for a long time.
After the spell to restore Xander’s soul, his Childe’s memories of being a vampire had been completely wiped out. However, it was only a temporary effect of the spell. And, sure enough, one by one each memory had slowly returned. Some quicker than others, but they all returned. Except one.
Spike had wondered for a while if it was due more to a human thing. Xander’s mind blanking out a terrible trauma. Or perhaps it was the demon, protecting and shielding its still fragile host.
Whatever the reason for the memory blank, Spike had made a decision. He wouldn’t go out of his way to tell Xander about his father. He would let his Childe remember it on his own, in his own time. Spike had also come to another decision. If Xander asked, then he would tell him the truth. Just because Spike was unwilling to push the memory on his Childe, it didn’t mean that he would hide the truth from him.
“He’s dead, isn’t he?”
Spike was startled by Xander’s voice. “Yes. Yes, he is.”
Xander sat on the couch and looked sadly into Spike’s eyes. “I knew it. I could feel it.”
“Do you remember what happened?”
Xander slowly shook his head. “I can’t remember anything. Do you think I will, one day?”
“Probably. Do you want me to tell you what happened, luv?”
“Sure? We can wait until you remember, talk about it then?”
“No. I need to know now. Please tell me. Which one of us killed him?”
“He came down. Into the basement. You…you were sleeping in my arms. He caught us, started yelling. Spooked you good and proper, little pet. I tried to get you back. Wanted to get you away from him. That was when he went for me. Told me to get my filthy faggot hands off you.”
“He hurt you.”
“Yeah, landed me some right good blows. The man certainly knew how to hit.”
“I know. Then what happened?”
“Well, he got the better of me, didn’t he? Wasn’t like I had much of a chance to fight back, was it? Fucking chip.”
Xander suddenly covered his eyes with the heels of his palms as the memories flashed back at him
Hurting my Sire.
And Xander remembered.
He remembered pulling his father away from his Sire.
He remembered pounding until his father was spitting blood.
He remembered tearing his father’s throat open and sampling his first taste of human blood.
Hm, a little salty. Hey, this would taste better with a dash of ketchup and a dollop of mayo.
He remembered laughing and callously throwing his father's dead body to the floor.
He remembered sinking his hand back into the open wound at his father’s throat, fascinated by the man’s silky warm blood.
He remembered holding his blood-coated hand up to the light. So shiny.
He remembered bringing that hand to his mouth for a second taste.
“Oh gods, it was me. I-I remember. Oh god, Spike, I killed my own father.”
“You defended me, little pet. That’s all it was. You stepped in when he got the better of me. You protected me, your Sire. It was instinct.”
“Really? So I gave him few hard punches and told him to leave you alone or else? No. I ripped his fucking throat out. And you know what? I enjoyed it. Every moment of it.”
“Course you did.”
“You’re a vampire. You kill. That’s what you do. That’s what I did for over a century. It was your…”
“Yeah, I know, my demon. You know, I’m getting real sick of my demon. Where is he?”
“The demon. Where is he? What part of me? I’ll cut it out!”
Xander bolted to the kitchen and snatched up a knife from the counter top. “Tell me where it is, Spike. I can’t have it in me anymore. I can’t stand it! Even now, when I look at the people around me, all I want to do is destroy them. Kill them. Fucking drink them down!”
Spike lunged forward, catching Xander’s wrist and trying to wrench the knife from his hands. “No! Don’t… Give me…”
“Get off me, Spike. Just get off. Let me cut it out…”
“You can’t cut it out. There is no physical demon inside you…”
“There must be, otherwise…where does all this come from? Why am I like this? Why are you like this? It must be in us somewhere! Please, Spike, please let me try. I’ve got to get it out!”
“What are you afraid of, Spike? It’s not like this can kill me. No, death is for other people!!”
Spike pushed Xander back against the wall, trapping him firmly in the corner. He kept a tight grip of the wrist in his hand and smashed it against the wall, desperately trying to get his Childe to drop the knife before he could hurt himself. “Drop it! Just drop the bloody knife! DROP IT!”
Xander gathered enough strength to push Spike away from him. He kicked out and landed a lucky blow that sent Spike flying across the room and into a crumpled pile on the floor.
“Have to get it out. Makes me…makes me do things…”
Spike got to his feet and propelled himself across the room. He wasn’t quick enough. He felt his heart breaking and he screamed with despair as he helplessly watched his beloved Childe plunge the knife deep into his own stomach.
Spike dropped to his knees and pulled his Childe into his arms. “Fuck, Xan. What did you just do?”
Xander clutched at the knife in his stomach. “I-I just want it out. I’ve got to get the demon out,” he sobbed.
“No, little pet. Not like this. Let go of the knife, baby. Please.”
Spike placed his hands over the knife and over Xander’s hands. “Right. This knife is coming out, like it or not.”
“Spike…Sire, it hurts. Please…”
Spike brushed Xander’s hair out of his eyes with one hand. “Shh, little pet. Be still, yeah? Let me get it out.”
“Please help me. I can’t stand this. Please just help me.”
“'Course I’m gonna help you. I’m gonna get this knife out, then I’m gonna fix you all up.”
“Can’t…fix everything, Spike.”
“Yeah, I can. You just watch me. Fix you all up, demon and all. Just hold tight for a sec, yeah? Trust me?”
Xander held as tightly as he could to Spike’s body. He closed his eyes and nodded. “’Kay, Spike. Trust you.”
Spike gripped the knife and slid it from Xander’s stomach in one clean and swift movement. His Childe’s blood pumped from the open wound, and Spike quickly sealed his hand over it. “All done, luv.”
Xander groaned and opened his eyes. “Still hurts.”
“Well, it bloody would! Fuck, Xan. Don’t you ever do anything like this again. You talk to me, yeah? Whatever happens, we can always get through it, together.”
“Don’t be, luv. Just, next time…do what I do.”
Xander closed his eyes against the pain. He curled into Spike’s body and felt himself being lifted. “What you do?”
“Yeah. When I get pissed off or whatever, I go kick some demon arse, go annoy the Slayer, or I might take a trip to Willy’s. Get nice and plastered.”
“Mm, ‘kay. Spike…?”
“Shh, relax, little pet. Let me take care of you. You just close your eyes and drift off. Spike’s here. Spike’ll make it better.”
“Please. Please…make it better.” Darkness drifted in and Xander trusted his Sire to help him, fix him and care for him. He trusted Spike more than any other now. Spike would never let him down. It was the only thing that he was sure of.
“Better, little pet?”
“Yeah, a bit, thanks.”
Spike lapped at his own wrist and sealed the puncture marks. He got under the covers and stretched out alongside his groggy Childe.
“Sssh. You should rest.”
“I know, but…”
“What is it, luv?” Spike asked as he ran a soothing hand up and down Xander’s arm.
“You ain’t got nothing to be sorry for.”
“I have. My father. I did a terrible thing.”
“And you’re apologising to the Big Bad for that?”
Xander smiled weakly at the humour. “I guess that is pretty stupid.”
“No. But what was really stupid was sticking that knife in yourself.”
“I’m sorry. I-I couldn’t stop myself. It was like something was taking over. Damn demon again.”
Spike couldn’t help but chuckle at the irony of that.
“Hey, no laughing at the injured!”
“Sorry, luv. Couldn’t help myself. You okay now?”
“I’m alright. Apart from a gaping whole in my lower torso.”
Spike gently smoothed his hand over Xander’s bandaged stomach. “It will heal. Give it a few days, pet, maybe a bit more. You went in deep.”
“I’m not surprised. Don’t do it again, little pet, hm? Promise me?”
“Promise. Hurt far too much. Next time I’ll just brood like Angel does. I bet that really pisses the demon off.”
“I bet it does, luv. Listen…erm, while you were out for the count, Buffy called. She’s left a message on the machine.”
“Did you listen to it?”
“Couldn’t help but.”
“What did she say? She knows, I’m guessing, about us. Willow must have told her.”
“Yeah, reckon so. She wants to see you. She didn’t sound happy, pet. Reckon we’re in for some trouble.”
“I’m sorry, luv. I shouldn’t have said anything, not ‘til you were feeling up to it.”
“No, it’s okay. This I can deal with. Normal stuff. You know, it’s like, I’m dating…”
“Well, I didn’t mean…although, while we’re on the subject, it wouldn’t kill you to take me out on a date…or I could take you…or we could even take each other.” Xander tried to avoid Spike’s amused grin. “Anyway, what I’m trying to say is, Buffy doesn’t like the guy I’m with and I’m apparently supposed to justify myself to her. It’s real life stuff, not Hellmouth stuff. I can deal with it. Easy as pie.”
“Good. Glad to hear it, pet.”
“I’ll phone Buffy tomorrow, when I’m feeling a bit less like I’ve been in a car wreck.”
“Sounds like a good plan. Xan?”
“It’s okay, Spike. I’m dealing.”
“I just want to know what’s rattling around that brain of yours. Don’t want you to dwell. Not when you’ve got me here to talk things through with.”
“Thanks. I will need you. This isn’t sitting well, as you probably noticed when I attempted to skewer myself.”
“It did occur to me, yeah.”
“I killed my father, Spike. I’m not sure I can ever forgive myself.”
“Pet, he was a cunt. I’m sorry, I know he was your dad, but he was evil. Took his fists to you more times than you can remember, eh?”
“And he did that to you when you were a kiddie, too. That’s evil, luv. Pure fucking evil. Far worse than any vampire. See, vamps don’t have souls and they don’t have consciences. Him? He had both and he still went and abused a child, his own child. No fucking excuse for it.”
“I hear what you’re saying, Spike, and I do agree with you. But does that give me any right to dish out justice? Was I right to take away his life?”
“Maybe not. But it weren’t you, was it? Not in the true sense. The real Xander Harris didn’t have a say. But Xander the Vampire, beloved Childe of William the Bloody, he had a say and he took his revenge in the way he saw fit. He was protecting me and he was protecting you, too, in the only way he knew how. Take comfort in that, Xan. Your demon may be irritating the shit out of you right now, but he loves us both.”
“In a making sense sort of way, that so didn’t make sense. Did that make sense?”
“Surprisingly, yes. It did.”
“Go to sleep now, little pet. We’ll see if we can get you up on your feet tomorrow.”
“You’re the best Sire ever. You know that, right?”
“I wonder where I learned that from, then.”
“Dru, I assume.”
“Yeah. She may have been nuttier than a fruit ‘n nut bar, but she took care of me good. I’ll give her that.”
“I guess the question is, then, where the hell did Dru learn it from?”
“Fucking good question. Christ knows.”
“Here you are again, pet. Should I be scared? Maybe go hide all the sharp objects?”
“No. I’m okay. I’m just sorting through some stuff.”
“What stuff, luv?”
“Um, my stuff, mostly. A few sentimental bits. It’s surprising how little there is.”
Spike cautiously approached his Childe, wrapping his arms around him from behind. “You don’t have to do this now, you know. It can wait.”
“No. It can’t. I need to do this. It’s like a cleansing thing. I just want to wipe everything clean. It feels wrong to leave the house like this, just as they left it. It feels weird, like they’re going to come back in any second.”
“Giving you nightmares?”
“You know it is. Why else would I have repeatedly kicked you this afternoon? Look, it’s not that I want to wipe them out. I just want to get on with my life, or whatever, and I don’t want to see them everywhere I look. And also, it really is time that I pulled myself together. I don’t have a job anymore and it’s not like I can get a similar one. They just don’t do night construction. So, I don’t have any money. You don’t have any money. On the surface we’re broke. So I figure that we could sell some stuff. Raid my parents' bank accounts. My dad was really tight in the wallet department, but I know he’s got buckets of money stashed away.”
“You shouldn’t worry about things like that. Said I’d take of you, didn’t I?”
“Yeah, but who’s going to take care of you?”
“Luv, you need to be resting. Shouldn’t be thinking about this stuff, at least not until you’re well again.”
“I need to do something. I’m going out of my mind in that basement. So, I’ve been thinking…”
“Shut it, blondie. I was thinking that we should live in the main house. That’s why I’m clearing away all the personal stuff. Just want to keep a few bits and some of the furniture. I want to get rid of the rest. Just throw away what we can’t sell.”
“Fair enough. But you sit down and let me do the clearing. You point, I’ll graft.”
Spike deposited Xander on the couch and turned around to make a start.
“Um, Spike? Could you bring me food, first?”
“No. If I was hungry, I would have bitten you by now. If I’m gonna sit here and watch, then I’m going to require snack products.”
Spike disappeared into the basement and came back up with a dozen bags of chips and a bar of chocolate. “Don’t eat too much. You don’t need gut ache to go with your…”
“Gut ache? Spike, this stuff isn’t going fall through the hole in my stomach, is it?”
“Nah. The hole is mostly healed. Just don’t eat too much or you’ll stretch it or something. “
“Then why did you bring twelve bags of chips up?”
“So you can choose, idiot!”
“Oh. Okay, I’ll let you off.”
“Very gracious. So, what first?”
“The cabinet, it needs completely clearing out.”
“Sure? You don’t want to keep anything?”
“I’ve already been through it.”
“And what? There was nothing I wanted.”
Spike opened a drawer and took out the box of photographs. “What about these, luv? Don’t you want to keep them?”
“No. I can’t look at them. It’s just too much.”
Spike nodded and brought the box over with him to the couch. He sat next to Xander and took his hand. “Then let me keep them, yeah? I’ll hide ‘em away for you. You won’t have to look at them.”
“Go on, little pet. For me. Let me keep ‘em. You don’t ever have to look at them. But, if you do ever change your mind, I’ll have them here for you.”
“Yeah, okay,” Xander reluctantly agreed. “But make sure they’re well hidden.”
“Not a problem. I’m a master at hiding.”
“So I noticed. Spike? Where are my Hawaiian shirts?”
Xander turned in his Sire’s arms. He buried his face into the pale column of Spike’s neck and scented.
This was a ritual that Xander indulged in every evening. It wasn’t a conscious thing, not really. It was definitely a vamp thing, his demon’s way of seeking reassurance that it wasn’t alone.
When his demon had done its thing, the soul took over and Xander found himself feeling a little bit more like himself. This was a daily battle, and Spike had been teaching him how to take control and when to let the control go. Xander was getting pretty good at it. So long as the demon got its morning and nightly sniff and its quota of blood, it was relatively happy and quiet. Xander had learnt that letting go was sometimes the easiest option. The demon and the soul were at odds with each other, but Spike had been right when he’d said that Xander’s soul was stronger. It was. A lot stronger.
Xander accepted the demon now. It was a part of him and there was nothing that he could do about that. The sight of a fit, young, healthy human still caused the demon to writhe, claw to get out and kill, kill, kill. It had frightened Xander at first, frightened him that he might so easily lose control. But Spike had taught him how to rein the demon back and let his soul shine through. It was easy when you knew how.
It had taken a while, maybe six months, but Xander had learned not to take what his demon wanted too much to heart. He was a vampire now and that wasn’t his fault. It wasn’t anybody’s fault. It was just the way it was. But Xander was also still human, sort of. He had his soul, he had the same personality and he had most of the same likes and dislikes. He was basically still Xander. And he had Spike to thank for that.
Xander skimmed his hands over his Sire’s chest. Spike had been there, all this time. Spike had supported him, trained him and comforted him. He’d been everything Xander had needed and more. He couldn’t have asked for a better Sire, friend and lover.
Xander glanced over at the mug that he had bought for Spike at last month's fair. He’d stood and watched while the stall owner had carved the writing into the side of it, knowing that it was true, that Spike had done above and beyond what Xander could ever have expected. ‘World’s Best Sire.’ Xander grinned at the memory. The stall owner had been very puzzled. Spike had been speechless.
Xander snuggled into Spike’s body and he sighed contentedly as he felt Spike’s arms unconsciously wrapping around him. He felt complete. He was lying in the arms of the person that he felt closest to in the world. And he was in love.
Of course, it hadn’t always been that way. Oh, he had known that his feelings for Spike were way beyond friendship, way beyond any Sire-Chile bond, but it took him a while to fully admit it. Admitting it to Spike had been strangely easy; it had been admitting it to himself that had been difficult.
It wasn’t really the love thing that had wigged him out. Xander had always worn his heart on his sleeve and as a vampire he was no different. The problem had been separating his true feelings from the Sire-Childe bond. That had been difficult at times. But he’d taken the time to learn the difference and Spike had not begrudged him that time.
It had been worth it.
Xander thought back to the first time that they’d made love, properly made love, with no feeding and no Sire-Childe bond.
The circumstances had been awful. Xander had been invited over to Buffy’s for an evening of ‘light entertainment’. It couldn’t have been further from the truth. Spike had been invited too and the both of them were near enough lynched upon arrival.
‘What the hell is going on?’
‘Spike, if you’re hurting Xander, I’ll…’
‘Xander, why are you hanging around with this monster?’
‘Are you stupid?’
‘What did I ever do to you, Xander?’
‘Is this about me?’
It had taken forty five minutes for Xander to blow. For a young vampire, he had shown astonishing control. Xander had blurted out everything. Almost. He’d told of how he’d gotten into trouble with a fledge and how Spike had saved him. He’d told of how his mother and father had left and Spike had been the one to comfort him. He’d confessed that yes, they were living together and yes, there was something between them and no, it wasn’t anybody else’s business. Throughout the speech Xander could feel pride drifting from his Sire, his friend, his Spike.
When there was nothing more to say, they had left. Hand in hand. They had walked home in silence, hands still linked together, pondering the past, the present and the future. When they had reached home, they had kissed. Nothing was said and nothing needed to be said, not at that moment. That moment was about them being together, just the two of them, an admission that they worshipped, adored and loved each other.
They touched, they explored and they searched. It was as though everything was new, everything needed to be seen and caressed as if for the first time.
Before this, sex had been about contact, intimacy, keeping the bond humming happily along and it had never gone beyond hurried hand jobs, spontaneous frottage and frantic blowjobs.
This had been different. This was slow, careful love, the worship of a cock through cool, venerating lips, the reverence of a body with tender hands and the filling of a being with a body that trembled with desire to love and to be loved.
It had been their true beginning.
Xander gave a hard tug and snapped the demon’s neck. He took a step back and really looked at his surroundings.
His friends. Some dusting themselves off. Some still battling with their opponents.
Buffy finished off the last demon and helped Willow to her feet. “Are you okay? Those guys were tough…”
“I’m okay, Buffy, really. Wow, more than we expected, huh?”
“A lot more. Is everyone else okay? Xander?”
Xander stared and nodded. He was fine. The demons had been strong but nothing that he, Spike and Buffy couldn’t handle. Xander had dispatched a total of five demons with the ease of a Slayer. He was strong now, a powerful Childe. Spike had trained him well, taught him how to fight, how to defend and how to run. The fight had been an easy one; he hadn’t been in any real danger. It was a far cry from the fights of nearly a year ago. Clumsy Xander no longer existed.
How could they not have noticed?
Xander watched his friends file away. He looked down at his feet and felt tears threatening to fall.
“They don’t see me, do they?”
“What do you mean?” Spike asked.
“I’m right here, right in front of them, but…they just don’t notice me. It hurts.”
“Well, you’ve not told them about…”
“I shouldn’t need to tell them! It isn’t like I really hide it any more. Buffy watched me. She always does. She watches to make sure that I don’t get eaten by a nasty and she watches to make sure that you don’t hurt me, rape me or whatever it is that she’s thinks you’re gonna do. She watches me, but she still doesn’t see me.”
“She doesn’t see what you are,” Spike guessed.
“Exactly. I’m still the Zeppo. She doesn’t see how powerful I am now. She doesn’t see that I can hold my own in a fight. She doesn’t see that I can fight well enough to even take her down. All she sees is what I was, what she expects me to always be.”
“Well, the Slayer’s always been bloody minded.”
“True. But I was her best friend. When was the last time that she really talked to me or spent any time with me? It seems like forever.”
“Xan, it ain’t you. It’s because of me. It’s because of what I did.”
“No! Don’t say that! I don’t want to hear you say that anymore. It isn’t you. It’s never been about you. It’s about her. She just can’t accept who you are now. She can’t accept that she was partly to blame for what happened. And she’s punishing me because of it.”
“And the rest of them, they’re just as bad. Maybe they’re worse, even. They follow her like a herd of sheep. Completely mindless. They focus on what she’s saying and they don’t give a fuck about me.”
“That ain’t true, luv.”
“It ain’t! They do care. They do. They’ve just…forgotten.”
“Forgotten about me?”
“Yeah. They don’t see you anymore. They see the two of us, like we’re one entity. They focus so hard on our relationship, they’ve forgotten about the rest of us.”
“I’m your lover. I’m not Xander anymore. That’s what they think.”
Spike nodded and pulled Xander closer, brushing his hands up and down his Childe’s arms. “You’ve had enough. Am I right?”
“Yeah. Dead right. I need to tell them. And I need to move on.”
“Move away. I think I need to leave Sunnydale. All the time I’m here I can’t move on. The story’s over, Spike. It’s time to close the book.”
Spike nodded silently.
“Spike? Do you want to leave? What are you thinking?”
“What am I thinking? I’m thinking, where the fuck did we store the suitcases! 'Course I want to bloody leave! Where do you want to go?”
“Gods, I have no idea. Anywhere. I just want to say goodbye and start a new life. See new places, make new friends. I just want to live.”
“Don’t throw your friends away, luv. I know it’s weird, but the reason why they don’t see you is because they care about you. They see me as the threat, they don’t need to look no further.”
“I won’t throw them away, Spike. I know what you’re saying. I just can’t live like this anymore. I want to move on. And I can’t do that here. There are just too many memories and too many barriers. They’ll never fully accept us and I’m not sure that they’ll ever accept or understand how we got to this. Do you know what I mean?”
“I do. Completely. So the question is, when?”
“Not yet. I need to think. But soon, Spike. Real soon.”
“What!?” Spike asked, jolting awake.
“Bollocks. No-one yells ‘fuck it’ at the top of their voice for nothing.”
Spike scrabbled out the bed to join his Childe by the phone. “What? What’s happened to Dawn?”
“It’s her birthday.”
“Oh. Fuck's sake, Xan. You trying to give me palpitations?”
“You don’t get palpitations.”
“Well, be bloody thankful, then. What’s up?”
“I told you, it’s Dawn’s birthday.”
“We already knew that, little pet. Got her prezzie right over there.”
Xander glanced sadly at the little box on the dresser. A locket, inscribed with Dawn's name on the front and ‘Our love eternal’ on the back. “Buffy called. I’ve been invited to join them on a celebration picnic.”
“I think ‘ah’ is an understatement. I guess you can imagine how my reluctance went down.”
“I’ve got a fair idea. What did you tell her?”
“That we’d both be 'round in the evening. That we both wanted to celebrate with Dawn, together. I left out the bit about the sun making me toasty. This is stupid, Spike. They’re hurting me. They’re hurting you and…I’m hurting them.”
“How did you work that last bit out, luv?”
“I am hurting them, with all these lies.”
Spike snorted. “'Snot like they didn’t hurt you first, luv.”
“Maybe. Maybe not. It’s time, Spike. We have to tell them. I have to tell them.”
“No! Gods, no. Not now. Not on Dawn’s birthday.”
“Yeah. You still okay with the moving thing?”
“’Course. Told you that, didn’t I?”
“Yup. Just checking. Spike…I think we should sell up.”
“Sell the house!? That’s pretty final, luv. You sure?”
“Positive. I’m not running away, you know. Just in case that’s what you’re thinking.”
“I’m not. Running away,” Xander said, more to himself. “I just need this. We both need this. There’s just too much crap here, too many bad things that have happened, too much history.”
Spike walked up behind Xander and slid his arms around his waist. “You don’t have to convince me, luv.”
“Maybe I just need to convince myself. Why does everything have to be so hard?”
“But it is, hard.”
“Don’t have to be, little pet. You’ve just got the wrong head on.”
Xander turned in Spike’s arms. “Huh?”
“You’ve got your broody, everything’s all black, head on.” Spike tapped on the said head and pretended to try and twist it off. “All we’ve got to do is unscrew it and fit your deluxe, everything is for a reason-never give up, happy head.”
Xander laughed and squirmed as Spike pulled at his head. “Hey, watch the hair!”
“Bloody hell! This is worse than I thought! You’ve got your Angel head on! Right, it’s coming off!”
Xander wrenched himself free and screeched all the way down the stairs as Spike pursued him with maniacal laughter and a look of pure evil. A playful tussle later and they were laying with tangled limbs on the couch, Xander’s weight having finally gotten the better of Spike.
“Getting strong, little pet.”
“Not so little anymore, huh?”
“I suppose. Always be my little pet, though. Even if you are a bloody great lump.”
Xander chuckled and wriggled until he was able to lay his head on Spike’s chest. “Love you. I don’t say that often enough. I should. And I will. I do, Spike. I really do.”
“'S okay, little pet. I don’t say it often enough either. I do too, though, with everything I’ve got. I love you, Xander Harris-Bloody. Or should that be Xander Bloody-Harris?”
“Um, the first one. Definitely,” Xander said with a smile.
“If you insist. So, where do you want to go?”
“Can we really go anywhere?”
“Yup. Within reason, that is. I ain’t going anywhere too cold.”
“Oh. There’s my Lapland plan out the window,” Xander joked. “Actually, I like the idea of the country. Green trees, a lake, animals, birds, somewhere peaceful. That would be nice.”
“It would be. Sounds perfect. We’ll have a think.” Spike smacked Xander's ass. “Right. Up. Go on, move it. Got phone calls to make. Let’s get this house up for sale.”
Xander nodded and moved off the couch. “You’ll make the phone calls?” At Spike’s nod, Xander continued. “I’m gonna go wrap Dawnie’s present. She’ll like it, won’t she?”
“She’ll love it.”
“Do you think she’ll be mad that I’m not going to the picnic?”
“Disappointed, maybe. Not mad. She knows us, though. She knows she’ll see us later.”
“I’ll miss her. I’ll miss all of them.”
“I know, pet. I will too. But it ain’t like we’re dropping off the face of the planet. We can visit. They can visit…”
“If they even want to.”
“They will. Might take ‘em a while, but they’ll come 'round eventually.”
“I guess we gotta just shake them up first, huh?”
“Sodding right. Give ‘em a mighty shock, that’s for bloody sure!”
“Yeah,” Xander laughed. “It would almost be fun, if it wasn’t so not fun.”
Spike shook his head at the logic. “Go on, bugger off and wrap that present. Come back and fuck me when you’re done.”
“Oh, love of my un-life, such the romantic.”
“And don’t you bloody forget it.”
“I like France. You wanna go live there?”
“France,” Spike pondered. “Sure. France is good. Know any French, pet?”
“Nope. Not a word. You?”
“Really? Teach me?”
“Go wrap that bloody present and I’ll give you a French lesson you’ll never forget.”
“This is it.”
Spike regarded his lover carefully. Xander was tense from the eyebrows down and Spike had been on edge for days, just waiting for Xander to blow. As yet, he hadn’t. Spike could tell that it took great effort on Xander’s part to stay cool and not panic or cry or just run away and never look back.
But none of those things were the answer. And Xander knew it.
This had to done. They had to be told.
Two weeks ago the sale of the house had gone through. A new home had been lined up and they were ready to go.
The new property wasn’t much, a small converted barn in the South West of France, but it was theirs. Their home. Their new life.
It was like an adventure. Xander had never even been out of the country for a holiday, never mind up and leaving for good. Spike had been giving him extensive French lessons, and not just the dirty kind, and Xander had spent countless hours on the internet researching the area they would be living in.
Their little house was completely run down. It had fallen into disrepair a good twenty years ago and now it was mostly just a shell. But that was good. Run down meant cheap. And it also meant a chance for Xander to get his hands dirty again. With Spike’s help, he fully intended to stamp their name in every nook and cranny of their home.
It was exciting. Very exciting.
But there was just one thing to do before they left.
Exactly one year ago to the night that he had died, Xander stood on the doorstep of 1630 Revello Drive and prepared to break the hearts of his friends.
“Tell her, pet.”
“I’m a vampire. I was turned exactly one year ago today. Now do you see me?”
Xander leant back against Spike, allowing his lover and Sire to take his weight. A slim arm snaked around his waist and Xander found himself gripping it tightly as the room’s silence became almost painful.
Xander glanced around the room, studying the varying reactions from each of his friends.
Willow, sitting on the couch, each silent, shuddering breath curling her further into a ball of regret and misery.
Giles, walking to the corner like some naughty school child, an aging hand rubbing wearily at his forehead.
Tara, arms folded tightly, eyes darting about the floor as if in desperate hope that another truth, a different truth, could be found in the carpet.
Buffy, walking away, her face shielded by disbelieving, shaking hands.
Dawn, drowning in tears, poised on the edge of an arm chair, waiting for an explanation.
Spike released his comforting hold and Xander took an unsure step forward.
“Xander?” Dawn spoke with barely a whisper, but the sound was like shattering glass in the stagnant air. “I…I have no idea what to say. I don’t know what to do…”
“You don’t have to do anything…”
“I do! We all have to. We have to do something!”
“There’s nothing you can do. It’s done.”
Dawn wiped at her eyes with the back of her hand. “How?” she asked.
“That isn’t important…”
“Xander! Of course it’s important. Tell us.”
“I can’t, Dawnie…”
“Xander Lavelle Harris, you will tell us now. No more hiding. No more secrets, please”
Xander looked around the room again and found that he had everyone’s attention. He sighed and looked to Spike for help.
“Don’t have to, luv.”
Buffy stepped closer until she and Xander were inches apart. “Spike’s right. You don’t have to. But we’d like you to.”
Xander instinctively scanned Buffy’s body, searching for any concealed weapon or threat to him and his Sire. He had been sure that Buffy was going to freak out and her calmness was making him nervy and suspicious. Spike obviously felt the same way and Xander let out a relieved breath when Spike gently guided him away and towards the couch.
Spike sat Xander at the opposite end to Willow and deposited himself next to him. A protective and possessive hand rested at the back of Xander’s neck and played purposefully with his hair. “Want me tell them? Or we could just…”
“No, it’s okay.” Xander turned a pleading expression onto his friends. “Just please don’t freak out, okay? It wasn’t my fault.”
Buffy approached Xander again, her step faltering to a stop at Spike’s warning growl. “Don’t growl at me, Spike. Xander is my friend. I have a right to be near him.”
“If you’re a real friend then you’ll back off and give him some space so he can tell his story.”
Buffy retreated with a single nod and joined her sister in the chair. “Please tell us.”
Xander took a deep breath and begun. “I was in my basement. I’d gotten home from work about half an hour before and I’d just had a shower and changed into my sweats. It was just an ordinary evening, you know? I was going to stretch out on the bed and catch an hour of TV before I had to leave for the meeting. And that was when…”
“Spike came in,” Willow guessed. Her tears had dried and her face was a mass of red blotches, confusion and anger. “Why did you do it, Spike? Why did you turn him? Wasn’t he compliant enough for you? Did he fight you? Let me guess, you couldn’t have Buffy so Xander was the next best bet.”
“Wills, no. That isn’t…”
Willow continued, standing up and raising her voice to drown out Xander’s. “I’ve got to know, Spike. Did you rape him before you turned him or after?”
Spike roared and changed into his gameface, leaping up from the arm of the couch and pushing Willow back against the wall. “No. I would never hurt him. Never.”
Willows eyes blackened as her anger increased, her body reverberating with barely contained magical fury. “You murdered Xander.”
“Hey, Wills, please. Time-out, okay?” Xander all but begged as he dragged Spike back towards their place on the couch. “That isn’t what happened. Spike did turn me, but it wasn’t him that killed me. He had to do it. I would be all sorts of dead if he hadn’t.”
“Willow,” Buffy prompted. “Please. Sit down and let’s all just listen to Xander. I think we owe him that at least.”
Spike’s face changed back to normal and he resisted turning and showing Buffy his surprised expression. Buffy was willing to listen?
“Thanks, Buff. Okay, so I was just watching TV and…” Xander felt Spike’s arms come around him again and he willed himself to relax into the comforting embrace. “…and my Mom came down. She doesn’t do that much, come down to the basement, I mean. So, I was surprised, but I just figured she wanted to collect the rent. So I got up and I greeted her and…” Xander paused and focused on his restless fingers.
“Oh my god. Your mother turned you.” Buffy covered her mouth with her hand, her eyes wide with shock. “You mother did all this?”
Xander shook his head and refused to meet Buffy’s questioning gaze. “No. She was just a fledge. I don’t know when she’d been turned, but I guess it hadn’t been long.”
“She attacked you, Xander? Is that what happened?” Giles asked, speaking for the first time since Xander and Spike had arrived. “And Spike? Spike saved you?”
“I wish it were that easy, G-man,” Xander said, sadly. “She drained me, yeah, but not to kill me. She was trying to turn me.”
“Ain’t impossible, Watcher,” Spike cut in. “Fucking rare, but it does happen.”
Giles nodded and sat on the couch next to Xander. “What happened, then?”
“S’okay, luv. I’ll tell the rest. She fed him her blood, not much, but it was enough to make bloody sure that he’d turn…somehow.”
“My god!” Giles exclaimed.
“Exactly. Fuck knows what he would have become. Anyway, I dusted her.”
“You killed his mother?!”
“No, Dawnie,” Xander defended. “He didn’t know it was her. He was just doing what he thought was best. I was dying. He didn’t have time to think.”
“Would still have done it, though,” Spike admitted, taking Xander’s hand and giving it a brief squeeze. “Couldn’t let you die.”
Xander smiled at his lover and shifted slightly closer. Spike continued with his story.
“So, I had three choices. I could have walked away and left him. Xander and I weren’t close at that point. It would have been easy. I could have just left him to turn into some kind of vampire vegetable. But I couldn’t. Couldn't admit it then, but I cared about him. I couldn’t have left him like that. So that left two other choices. I could kill him, end his suffering, finish it before it started.” Spike watched as the room’s occupants, aside from Xander, flinched at the possibility. “But I couldn’t do that either. I just wanted to help him. So I…”
“You cross Sired him,” Giles stated.
“Yeah. I didn’t know how it would work. I took a chance, I admit it. The fledge had already drained him, pretty much, so I couldn’t take any more blood. So I just fed him my blood and prayed. And it worked.”
Dawn sagged with relief. Of course it had worked, but she’d gotten so caught up with the story that it was almost as though she didn’t know the end.
“Why did you keep it from us?” Buffy asked. “We would have understood. I would have understood. Look at me now, understanding.”
“It weren’t as simple as that. Not by a long shot.”
“Had the fledge’s blood already affected him?” Giles wondered aloud.
“Yep. He wasn’t himself. Not at all. He wasn’t even like a fledge. His memories were gone. He couldn’t speak. He wasn’t even aggressive, not at first.”
Buffy sat forward, her forearms resting on her knees as she spoke. “You should have brought him to us…”
“No!” Spike snapped. “I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t risk it.”
“That you’d kill him.”
Buffy gaped and got up to pace the room. “How could you even think that?”
“I didn’t know what to think! You’re the Slayer. How was I supposed to know how you’d react? You’ve gotta understand. He wasn’t Xander anymore. It was so much more than just losing a soul. He’d lost everything. And it was me that had kept him going, given him that chance. I couldn’t just hand him over. He needed me. And you would have taken him away. He was too fragile. I don’t know if he could have survived it.”
“Look, Buffy. Spike did what he had to. And he did it right. He fixed me up, got me a soul. He made me strong again. And somewhere along the way, we fell in love. Properly in love. Not just the Sire-Childe thing, but proper, bone crunching, heart ripping love.”
Willow swallowed hard, her eyes long since turned back to their normal colour. “H-how long? How long were you like that, Xander?”
“I’m not sure. A while, I think. Spike kept me pretty much hidden. It was only supposed to be until I could speak and fight for myself, until I had my soul back and I could be me again. But stuff happened, Wills. Lots of stuff. Not just the love stuff. I had trouble keeping a balance with the demon inside and…”
“And?” Giles prompted, laying a supportive hand on Xander’s leg.
“Please don’t hate me?” Xander asked as he turned tear-filled eyes to Giles.
“I don’t think that could ever be possible, Xander. Please go on.”
“My Dad. He attacked us. “I-I didn’t have my soul and he was hurting Spike. He couldn’t fight back with the chip so…I…”
“Xander,” Buffy coaxed, kneeling in front of her friend.
“I killed him,” Xander whispered, the tears finally spilling down his face. He closed his eyes and suddenly felt surrounded. His lover’s lips on his face and his arm around his waist. His friends’ hands soothing circles on his back and stroking his arms. Small hands taking his and caressing and a warm body climbing behind him and hugging tightly.
Xander kept his eyes shut to the touches and comforting sounds of his friends. He just wanted to breathe in their scent, the scent of their love and acceptance. Part of him wanted to recoil in shock.
Can this really be real? Can they really accept me? Can they really accept what I’ve done?
The demon inside him roared. Why do you care? Just kill them. Just…
Xander gasped and tried to pull away, but Spike held him firmly in place, holding him even tighter and waving the others away.
“'S okay, little pet. I’m here. I’ve got you, luv.”
Xander held onto Spike just as tightly and felt himself relax as the demon retreated back behind the soul.
“I reckon that’s enough for tonight…” Spike started.
“No.” Xander turned in Spike’s embrace. “We have to tell them. I just want to get it out the way.”
“What is it?” Buffy asked, taking Xander’s hand once again. “Whatever it is, we’ll understand. We can help you.”
Xander nodded and tried to face everyone in the room as best he could. “We’re leaving.”
He certainly knew how to kill a conversation.
Buffy stood in the corner of the room and watched her sister cry. Dawn had taken it hard; not the vampire thing, although that was obviously the biggest shock she’d had in her young life. But what she had really taken hard was the announcement from Xander that they were leaving. And not just leaving town or even leaving the state, they were leaving the country.
France was a hell of a long way away.
Buffy felt her heart clench painfully and she wanted nothing more than to throw her arms around her Xander shaped friend and pour her love and regret into one hard, emotion-filled embrace.
How could she have missed it? How could she not have realised? Okay, so what with the slayage, working and what felt like single-parenthood, she barely had time to think about what grocery shopping had to be done, never mind considering whether any of her living, walking-about friends had taken a trip to vamp-land.
Buffy threaded her hand through her hair and thought about the irony of the situation. She had spent so long threatening Spike, watching Spike and just generally giving her ex-fuck buddy the evil eye. All that time she’d worried that he would hurt her friend. Yeah, she knew that he still had the chip, but since when did a small thing like that stop Spike from getting what he wanted?
Putting the actual circumstances aside, it would seem logical that Spike would one day turn her friend. If he really did love Xander, then he would want him by his side for all eternity. Spike was possessive and selfish and there was no way in hell that he’d let Xander go if he loved him like he claimed.
And if Spike didn’t love Xander? If he’d been using him to hurt and torture her, then it would stand to reason that turning his ‘lover’ would be the clincher, the one thing that would well and truly destroy her forever.
So, she asked herself again, how could she have missed it?
She hadn’t been able to see wood for the trees. Too close. Too focused on Spike to see that Xander was standing right beside him.
She’d been a bad friend.
Buffy looked up to see an amused pale face staring at her from just a few inches away.
“Thinking about your crimes?” Spike asked.
Buffy nodded and stared back over at Xander as her once-human friend dealt with an overly huggy Dawn. Buffy knew that she should be worried, knew that she should tear Dawn away and protect her from the Childe of William the Bloody.
“He does struggle,” Spike clarified. “He’s got a soul but the demon is still in there. Somewhere. But he fights it. Fights it well. He won’t hurt Dawn.”
“But he still struggles?” Buffy asked, her eyes still trained on her sister.
“Sometimes. He’s young, yet. Strong, though. He’ll be a Master soon enough, but the soul makes it a bit trickier.”
“He…he still has the urge to…?”
“Kill?” Spike guessed. “Now and again. Not often. Not anymore. He wouldn’t do it, though. Too much of a sodding whitehat.”
Buffy saw through the half-hearted snark. “He wasn’t always like that, though, was he? He didn’t always have a soul.”
“It was a month before I could get him souled-up.”
“A month! Oh my god. And he didn’t kill anyone?”
Spike frowned and stared coldly. “You really have got a short memory. He killed his own fucking father!” he hissed.
Buffy covered her mouth as she realised her mistake. “Oh, god, I’m sorry. I…I have no explanation for that. Sorry. I…”
“No,” Spike said, firmly. “What? You’ve got something to say. Spit it the fuck out.”
“I hated him. I saw the way he treated Xander and Xander’s mother. He was a worm. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer person.”
Spike wanted to laugh hysterically. Buffy noticed? “Didn’t you wonder where the cunt had disappeared to, then?”
Buffy shrugged. “I never saw that much of him anyway. It wasn’t something that would strike me as odd, none of us. I never thought about it.” Buffy turned a knowing look on Spike. “We all knew. That he hit him.”
“Well, that was bloody nice for the lot of you. Ever thought about helping him?”
Buffy shook her head. “He wouldn’t have wanted that. He would have been mortified if he’d known that we knew. We did watch out for him, though. We’d see the bruises and every time I’d think, one more, just one more bruise joins that pattern and I’m going to…stop it.”
“So what the fuck happened?”
“There was never one more bruise. They faded. And then there would be more and I would think the same thing. Then those bruises would fade, too. Then you came into his life. I kept looking. I looked for signs that you were hurting him too. But…I don’t think I ever saw another bruise.”
Spike nodded. “Damn right.”
“You love him?”
Spike rolled his eyes and sagged dramatically. “Bleedin’ hell…”
“Spike, please. I just need to hear it.”
“Yes. I love him. Satisfied?”
Buffy smirked. “More than your duster?”
“Don’t push it, Slayer.”
Buffy cocked an eyebrow and waited for the correct answer.
“For fuck's sake, alright, yes, I love him more than my duster. I’d burn the fucking thing before I’d see a scratch on his skin.”
“Good. Make sure it stays that way. If you hurt him, I’ll kill you, Spike. Don’t doubt that.”
“Wouldn’t be that stupid, would I? I do love him, Buffy. I’ll take good care.”
Buffy attempted a smile. It was small and strained. But it was real.
Spike noted the tense expression on Xander’s face and gently pulled Dawn away from him for a second time. Spike had no doubt that Xander wouldn’t hurt Dawn in a million years, but his lover wasn’t used to humans in such close proximity. The scent of Dawn’s blood would undoubtedly make Xander’s demon surge and Spike was well aware of how upset that could make his lover. Xander wouldn’t kill his friends. Ever. But that didn’t mean he wasn’t thinking about it.
“That’s enough, Nibblet. Time we was off.”
“No!” Dawn cried. “You can’t just leave! What if I never see you again?”
Spike ruffled Dawn’s hair and gave her the warmest smile he could muster. “Don’t be daft. We ain’t going nowhere for a few days yet.”
“I don’t think you should be going anywhere,” Willow cut in.
Silence descended and the room waited for an explanation.
Willow looked around her, desperately searching for a face that looked like it could agree. “How do we know this is real? How do know that Spike isn’t controlling Xander in some way? Maybe…maybe Xander is Spike’s minion and…”
“Willow…” Giles started.
“No, let me finish. What if this is all an act, to throw us off guard. Don’t you all see? Spike turned Xander and now he’s taking him away! How do we know that this happened a year ago?”
More silence met the final question and Spike and Xander watched cautiously as everybody put on thinking faces as they considered it.
“They’re telling the truth,” Buffy said, finally. “It fits. I couldn’t see it before. But I see it now.”
“How?!” Willow cried.
“Think about it. When was the last time that Xander got even the slightest bit hurt on patrol? I can’t remember the last time, Wills. And when was the last time that we saw Xander in the sunlight?”
Willow froze and tried to cast her mind back. She couldn’t remember. It felt like forever ago. “You…you keep vampire time now, Xander. For Spike. You stayed in the dark for him!”
Willow’s voice rose and fell as she struggled to control her tears. She felt hysteria bubbling up and she closed her eyes and breathed hard to push it back.
“No, Wills. I’m telling you the truth.” Xander stood and slowly walked towards his oldest friend, his hand held out in a gesture of trust and hope. “Please. I’ve lied enough. I’m not lying now. Please believe me.”
“I’m still me, Willow. I’m still your best friend. I’m still your geeky best friend that watches too much Star Trek. Shields up, red alert. See? Still me. This isn’t a ruse. It isn’t a lie. It’s truth after a year of hiding.”
The tears fell freely from Willow’s face and Xander watched sadly as each drop fell from her jaw and chin. “You’re…dead.”
“Only a bit.”
Willow knew that was the point that she should at least have smiled. The voice was Xander’s. The mannerisms were Xander’s. The unique Xander way was clear for all to see.
But the real Xander was dead.
“You’re right. You should go.”
Spike’s heart cracked at the grief stricken expression on his Childe’s face. Xander looked like the world had just come undone. Out of all his friends, Spike knew that he expected Willow to be the one batting in his corner. Spike was left a little out of sorts the moment he had realised that Willow was going to be the one to punch Xander right in his soul.
“C’mon, luv. We should go,” Spike said as he pulled Xander away from his friend and towards the door. Willow was staring at the ground now, refusing to even acknowledge their presence. “We’ll come back tomorrow, yeah?”
Buffy nodded and placed a comforting hand on Xander’s arm. “Spike’s right. Let's all give each other time to think. Come back tomorrow, Xan. You’re always welcome.”
Xander looked up at that and tried to smile. “Thanks, Buff. This is real, you know. We’re not lying or deceiving.”
“I know, sweetie, I know. Come here.” Buffy held open her arms and squeezed tight around Xander when he moved in. “I haven’t held you in over a year,” she whispered. “I didn’t realise how much I missed you.”
“Missed you too,” Xander whispered back. “So much.” He suddenly pulled away as the demon roared its disgust at being coddled by a Slayer. “I’ll go. See you tomorrow?”
Buffy watched sadly as her friend walked away. She looked back over her shoulder at Willow and made a decision. She would not let her Xander walk out of their lives minus even one of his friends.
They were a gang. They stuck together through thick and thin, pain and joy, happiness and sorrow. They always found the answer, no matter what faced them.
It was the Scooby way.
“Xander, how are you?” Giles started, awkwardly.
“Feeling a little sick, actually. Must be nerves and stuff. Who’d have thought that vampires get butterflies? So weird. We get stomach ache, too. You know, if we drink to much bl…um, you were looking for the ‘I’m fine, how are you?” response, huh?”
Giles laughed lightly and shook his head. “I may have been expecting a standard response, but I was hoping for the longer and chattier version. You really are still you.”
“Yup. I’m all me…mostly. But yeah, me.” Xander backed away from the door and let Giles enter. “I thought we were meeting at Buffy’s. Is something wrong?” he asked, trying not to look even more nervous. It was difficult when the butterflies were breeding and having baby butterflies.
“No, no. We’re still meeting. I just wanted to talk to you alone. By all accounts, this could be my last opportunity.”
Xander waved Giles over to the couch and they both sat down.
“Still asleep,” Xander confirmed.
Giles nodded and continued. “I suppose that I should start with an apology. But somehow I feel that it would be an insult. I am, though, so very sorry. I- I have been foolish and ignorant. I, of all people, should have seen what had happened to you.”
“Why you of all people?”
“Well, they do call me a Watcher. I don’t think I really deserve that title right now.”
Xander stayed silent and focused on the ground.
“Anyway,” Giles said, raising his voice slightly. “I’m not here to mope. I’m here to offer you my help.”
Xander looked up at that. “Your help?”
“Um, you wanna clarify? Are you referring to help with shifting boxes or help with…”
“I mean, help with anything. I will certainly assist you with the move and I’ll happily take care of any administration that you have in this country while you’re away.”
“Really? Thanks, G-man. That’s real generous.”
“Okay, that was the most ominous sounding ‘and’ that I’ve ever heard.”
Giles cleared his throat. “I’m your friend, Xander, and, contrary to how you must have perceived my ignorance over the last year, I do care about you. Very much. If you ever need me, for anything, just call. I’ll gladly come over to France or you could come back over here. Money? If you ever need money I can help with that. Or if you just feel like a chat, I can do that too. Xander, your parents, have you had any…do you want…”
“Come on, G-man. Choke it up.”
“Would you like some counselling?”
Xander snorted with laughter and fell back into the couch cushions. “A vampire getting a shrink because he killed someone? No. I don’t think so. Thanks for the offer, though.”
“I wish you wouldn’t dismiss it so easily. I know you, Xander. You wouldn’t have taken what happened so lightly.”
“Of course I didn’t take it lightly,” Xander said when the laughter had finally died down. “But I’ve got Spike. He helped me to deal, and he still helps me. Every day. I don’t think it’s funny that I killed my dad. I just think Spike’s reaction to a shrink would be classic. He already thinks I’m the world’s softest vampire.”
“And the cutest,” Spike said, appearing from nowhere and planting a small kiss to the top of Xander’s head. “Shrink, eh?” he asked, looking at Giles. “Might be an alright idea.”
Xander’s jaw dropped. “You’re kidding?!”
Spike shrugged and sat down.
“I’m not going to see some quack. I’m not crazy!”
“No-one said you were, luv. It’s just a thought. You might change your mind one day.”
“And if and when you do, I will happily pay for it.”
“Giles, no. I’m not going. They all speak French, over there. I won’t be able to understand them, and, besides, we don’t need you to pay…”
Spike lunged and covered Xander’s mouth with his hand. “What he meant to say was, thanks for the offer and if he ever decides to do it we’ll be more than happy for you pay. OW! No fucking biting!”
Xander glared. “Don’t need a shrink,” he mumbled.
“It was only a thought,” Giles said. “There was something else, too.”
“Uh-oh.” Xander pressed into Spike’s open arms, the small squabble immediately forgotten.
“One day, when you are both ready, I…I would very much like to document the cross Siring that you both experienced. I realise that I shouldn’t even be asking this, all things considered, but I am a Watcher and it is sort of inbuilt. But if you don’t want to, feel free to just say. I just needed to ask."
Spike and Xander looked at each other and smiled. “We don’t mind,” Xander said.
“Sure. Why not?”
“Spike? You are also agreeable to this?”
“If Xan’s alright with it, then so am I. Just make it quick, yeah? I wanna get in a couple of shags before we leave.”
Giles blushed and pulled out his notebook. “Now? Right. From the beginning?”
“Okay. Well, as you know, I was watching Star Trek…”
Xander sat. He’d talked, answered questions and listened to repeated apologies and requests to hear more details.
Things really had gone better than he and Spike could have dared hope. The fact that even Buffy accepted the truth was just astounding. Xander wondered if perhaps it was all a beautiful dream.
No. It wasn’t.
If it was all a wonderful dream, then his best friend, his girl, his Willow, would be sitting here right next to him.
But she wasn’t.
Xander felt Spike take his hand and he couldn’t help but shuffle a little closer.
“She isn’t coming,” he stated in low voice.
“Maybe not. It’s early, though, little pet. She’s still got time.”
“She hates me.”
“’Course she bloody don’t! She loves you. She’s just…having a hard time accepting, that’s all.”
“I don’t want to go without saying goodbye.”
Despite Spike’s claims that there was plenty of time, Xander knew it wasn’t really true. It was late by human standards and they were due to leave early for their flight the next day. They’d chosen a daytime flight deliberately. A local mage had agreed to cast a protection spell from the sun and by the time they landed in France it would be evening again.
“You know she can visit. Anytime. They all can.”
“I know. I just…I hate leaving things like this.”
“We could always stay, just for a bit longer? Give Red some time to come to her senses?”
“No. We’re leaving. I’m not letting anyone dictate to us when… Shit, I sound bitchy.”
“My bitch,” Spike smirked.
Xander elbowed him and turned to see Buffy open her mouth wider than a crocodile. “Tired?” he asked her with a grin.
“Me? Naaah. Just getting oxygen to my brain.”
“Listen. We’re gonna go, okay?”
“Xander, no!” Dawn cried.
“Come on, Nibblet. It’s past your bedtime, at least. The night is just starting for us. Go to bed, the lot of you. We’re gonna go kill…some time,” Spike said with the patented smirk.
Dawn slumped and Buffy rose from her seat at the same time as Spike and Xander. “We’ll see you both tomorrow.”
“Sure thing, Buffster. Don’t be late. I want to do the whole ‘airport experience' thing. You know, shopping, eating, exploring, getting lost…”
“Growling at the baggage handlers,” Spike finished.
“Exactly!” Xander agreed.
“Okay, you two do the growly thing, the rest of us will shop.”
“She’ll come around, Xand. I just know it. Don’t worry, ‘kay?”
Xander said his goodbyes and nagged Giles into agreeing to pick them up half an hour early the next day, just in case of traffic, flooding, earthquake, or any other unlikely travel-delaying disasters.
“You were quiet ,” Xander observed when they reached the car.
“Your friends, Xan. Didn’t want to butt in.”
“They’re your friends too.”
“No, they ain’t. Not yet, at least. They accept me. They have to. But they don’t trust me.”
“I think you’re wrong.”
“I think you’re wrong.”
“Well, I think…”
“Sorry. It’s just that they’ve been really nice…”
“Yeah, I know. They’ve been amazing, little pet. They’ve really come through. But let’s not expect miracles, eh?”
“I guess you’re right.”
“I’m always right.”
“You weren’t right when you said the bathroom shelf would hold up for a couple more days.”
Spike rubbed at his head in an unconscious gesture. “I choose to forget that.”
“And I choose to remind you.”
“You know, you’re not too old to go over my knee!”
“Really? And you weren’t right when…”
Xander waited while Spike finished checking in the rest of their luggage. The airport was crowded and Xander had needed to retreat to a relatively quiet corner while Spike finished charming the pants off the girl at the check-in desk.
They had left Giles, Dawn, Tara and Buffy at a Starbucks while they got rid of their suitcases and now Xander wished there had been a way to stay back with them, or maybe just near Dawn. Giles had apparently talked and explained to them all about Xander’s inner-demon issues and since they had arrived at the airport, Dawn had been on possessive, protective, ‘stay away from our Xander,’ alert. It had been funny at first, but after a while, when the sheer number of humans had begun to bother him, Xander had been grateful for her watchful eye and sharp tongue.
His Dawnie. All grown up. Nearly. It saddened both Spike and Xander that they would miss so much of her life. Still, she had an open-ended invitation to visit anytime. They all did.
But it was all for the best. Xander needed this time to adjust to his vampire status, to learn how to deal with, control and live with his demon. And he and Spike both needed this time to be together, to live and love without having to look over their shoulders, to build up their relationship without the constant pressure of the Hellmouth.
In the beginning, the Sire-Childe relationship had been strong. Once Xander had started healing from the balls-up that was his cross-Siring, he’d attached himself to his one true Sire and had never let go. Spike had found, even right at the beginning, that he didn’t even need the bond to love and care for Xander. Xander was not just a beloved Childe and Spike was not just a beloved Sire. They were everything to each other. And their relationship came first, above all else.
The Hellmouth was sealed and all was calm. Sunnydale hummed happily along and there was no need for them to be there permanently. Of course, that didn’t mean that they wouldn’t pop back for a quick apocalypse now and again, and, who knew, they might just come back for good one day. Maybe.
“Too many people, eh?”
“Definitely. I think I’m developing airport rage. If one more person elbows me…”
“I’ll smack ‘em one,” Spike finished.
“Well, I was going more for, skulking off into a corner and hiding. I hate this place, Spike. I thought it would be fun, but it isn’t. Everyone is so close and…”
Spike took Xander’s hand and began leading him away. “C’mon, little pet. We’ll go back to that coffee gaff. There weren’t no fuckers in there earlier, apart from us. Reckon they’re all in McDonalds stuffing their faces on McShite Burgers.”
“Hey! Burgers are good!”
“If you like eating cow brains, yeah.”
“I hardly think that either of us are in a position to judge, Spike.”
Spike snorted and pushed past a group of foreign speaking tourists. “Get out the bloody way!”
“Spike, please be careful. The chip, yeah?”
Spike walked them faster through the crowds and mumbled something about nothing and nobody, motherfuckers and the wrath of William the Bloody.
Xander smiled and melded into Spike’s body. It was nice to feel protected. Okay, so the chip would most probably floor Spike on the third punch, but somehow it didn’t matter. Just having Spike so close seemed to make everybody else disappear.
When the demon was at the frontline, it distorted how Xander saw and felt about the world about him. The people, ordinary humans, took on an almost demonic visage and all Xander would see was evil black eyes and stooped bodies that rotted with mortality. It made him feel sick that these people were allowed to walk around in those disgusting shells, hiding the sweet blood that pulsed beyond.
It was the most awful feeling in the world and Xander had asked Spike how he coped with it.
Spike didn’t have to. He was old enough and strong enough to ignore his demon’s attempt at trickery. Oh, the scent of blood still made his mouth water, but he no longer saw humans as lower forms, vessels that were only for taking, feeding and butchering. He saw the truth. Vampires. Humans. They were all the same. It was just that some lived longer and some had strange feeding habits. Kebabs, indeed.
The demon calmed and Xander sighed with relief as it retreated behind the soul. As he looked around, the humans lost their enemy status and Xander looked up one more time to see them all shimmer and return to normal.
“Uh-huh. Much. Spike?”
“Puurrlease could you get me a McShit Burger?”
“McShite,” Spike corrected. “What’s in it for me?”
“I’ll let you have the window seat.”
Spike deposited Xander at the coffee shop with the others and almost skipped off to invade McDonald’s. He definitely hated the ‘restaurant’ with a passion, but Spike liked to think of it as a challenge. Just how many other customers could you piss off in the twenty minutes it took to queue for one sodding burger? Spike’s other favourite game was to confuse the hapless soul at the cashdesk. Mix around the change enough and you would be sure to get back more than you started with. It was almost an art form.
Spike picked up the wrapped burger and barged back through the crowd towards the exit. He was grinning happily to himself and humming the Monty Python theme when something caught his eye.
A shock of red hair and a shy, embarrassed smile. “Where’s my Xander?”
“Where the hell is my burger?” Xander complained.
“Xander, really! There are children present!”
“No, there aren’t.”
“Well, there could have been,” Giles explained.
“Jeez, okay. Where the devil is my burger?”
Dawn sniggered at Xander’s accent. It was a pretty good take on Giles. Spike had obviously been teaching more than vampirism for the non-practicing vampire.
“You know you can’t eat it in here, don’t you?”
“I can too! …As long as they don’t see me. Spike! About time too! I was about to give up all hope!”
“Pet, I’ve been ten minutes.”
“Ten minutes is a damn long time when you’re dying of starvation. Erm, where’s my burger?” Xander looked at Spike’s empty hands and his stomach growled with disappointment.
“Is Spike not feeding you properly?” said a voice from behind Spike.
Spike stepped aside to reveal Willow and the lost burger. “I come bearing burgers,” she said.
Xander swallowed and pleaded with his brain to hold back the tears. “Burgers? That looks like just the one burger to me,” he said with a half smile.
“It’s okay. I only really wanted the one. I ate not that long ago and I gotta start thinking about my figure…”
“No, I mean, I’m sorry.”
“I freaked, Xan. It was all such a shock…and…my…best friend…and…” Willow teared up quickly and Xander wasn’t far behind.
“I…It’s okay. I understand. It was a shock to me too. Although, I obviously had a year to get over it, but still…”
“I know I’m being all selfish, but I just need you to forgive me. I’m so sorry. I love you so much and…and…”
“I love you, too, Wills. Always love you. Of course I forgive you.”
“Can I…?” Willow hesitated for a moment before continuing. “Can I hug you?”
“Sure. I promise not to get all grr and stuff.”
Willow wiped at her eyes and laughed. “Well, in that case,” she chuckled, flinging her arms around her friend.
Xander closed his eyes and squeezed her tight, his eyes popping open again at thud, a clink of ceramic and metal, and a loud curse. “Um, Spike? I think we’re gonna need another burger.”
Xander kept walking and refused to look back. If he did, then it would be all over, they would stay in Sunnydale. Or maybe, less dramatically, they would miss their flight.
Saying goodbye was always hard, even when you were the one leaving by your own choice.
This was the right decision, the right thing to do. Xander had been right when he’d said that the story was over. It was. And it was time to start a new one. A new story full of growing, learning and accepting.
Xander wasn’t stupid enough to think that things were perfect, that his life could go back to the way it was before he died. He’d moved on. His friends had moved on and so had the world. He wasn’t the same Xander Harris anymore and, although his friends were trying their absolute hardest to understand and accept him, they had so much to learn and so many hard shocks to deal with.
Xander knew that he’d hit his friends hard and part of him felt intensely guilty about it. But there also a little part that was happily smug. He’d had so much pain over the last year; perhaps now it was someone else’s turn.
Buffy’s acceptance had been quite a shock, neither Xander or Spike quite believing that she hadn’t put on her Slayer hat. They’d had visions for months that Xander would be on the receiving end of a stake.
Oh, Buffy was still suspicious and still very much alert, but she was willing to put aside her own grievance and even her Slayer instinct to finally support her friend. That’s what friends do, apparently. Support each other.
And as for the rest of the old gang, they were here. All of them.
A Slayer. A Slayer’s sister. A Watcher. And two witches. The guardians of the Hellmouth, all here to say goodbye and pledge their love to two demon hearts.
A testimonial to true friendship.
Xander could feel them behind him, their very presence like a flock of doves flittering through his soul. He smelt their salty tears, heard their hollered goodbyes and felt their palpable sorrow and joy combined. He smiled and kept walking, taking his lover’s hand in his.
They see me. Not Forgotten.
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