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Chapter Three: The ascent from madness
"How can I thank you, you mysterious, black-clad hunk of a night thing?"-Spike
"We’re here to make you feel right at home. Unless you have a scary home."-Jesse
I was turning into a poofter, just like Angelus, I know. But I couldn't argue with my demon when it wanted to get all-nostalgic about brushing Dru's hair and when the brushing was done I was finally ready to propose my new scheme to the twit.
It amazed me, the speed that the whelp's heart started pounding at when his Father started down the steps. I could already smell the alcohol on the man and the anger coming off him in choking waves. The desperation on the whelp was just as strong, and annoying. Did the brat have no spine?
I watched in fascination as the whelp's body language changed drastically. One moment he was relaxed, if a little tense from the confusion my little brushing session brought him, the next he caved in on himself, taking on the look of a kicked puppy that knew another blow was coming. He looked down, refusing to raise his eyes and his arms went around his body. It pissed me off.
He was far too submissive to the drunken lout. Not one hint of backbone in the git. I'd seen the kid charge far scarier things then the shit on the stairs but you wouldn't have seen it in the cowering lump beside me. He looked like one of our minions would look when it knew it'd displeased Darla in the olden days. I really hated that bint and I doubted that I'd like Harris Senior any better.
Sometimes I really hate my chip. Some people really needed a good maiming.
The man looked from me to Xander, working himself into an angry lather. "Where the hell is he?" He demanded, his beady little eyes assessing first me and then the girl before him.
"H-he's at w-work." Xander stammered. I resisted the urge to step between the man and his disguised son. Me acting like a ponce wouldn't teach the git to have a little pride.
"What're you doing here?!" The man demanded to know. I looked to Xander to see what he'd say but he looked lost. I stepped in, the wanker that I am.
"Xander asked us to pick something up for him while he was at work." I lied. The old man bristled at me, his eyes flicking to the clothing on the floor then back to Xander, making a connection that made me wonder just how drunk he really was.
"And, you, girl. Are you my boy's slut of a girlfriend?" Xander just stared at the floor. I rolled my eyes and stepped close to him, whispering in his ear while putting possessive arms around him.
"You aren't Xander anymore, pet. He can't do anything to you without big legal consequences. Have a li'l backbone." I watched as he made the connection in his brain. His posture was loosening up a little when I turned back to the evil human and answered. "Shut it, we'll just be getting out of here now. After we've gathered what we came for." The old man glowered at us a bit longer then left in a huff of disgust muttering something about the rent and whores.
As soon as he left, Xander relaxed to his normal state of insecurity but made no move to leave the circle of my arms. He leaned against me for a minute while I watched him, curious. It was curious, this trust we were giving each other. We both'd acted like right poofters since his demon bint left him but we seemed to have an unspoken agreement that whatever happened in private would never be used as blackmail.
I finally decided to break the comfortable silence with my proposal. "Right then, whelp, I've got an apartment lined up not too far from the Watcher's place." I told him. "Lets say that we stay roommates and you protect me from humans and I protect you from demons. Sound right?" He turned in my arms and looked up at me with those big "kick me" eyes.
"Sounds good. When? You have the money?" He asked curiously. <Did you kill anyone to get it?> Was the unspoken question in his suddenly suspicious eyes. I smirked.
"I've got my sources." He raised a cute little eyebrow and I kicked myself mentally for seeing it as cute. "We can move in tonight and we can never see that sack of shit up there again so I won't be forced to get a migraine beating his ass into the floor." I growled, feeling a rant coming on. "I don't see why you Scoobies make such a big deal about killing demons when there're are humans just as evil living in your own soddin houses!" I released him so I could pace. "Humans can be just as fucked up as any bloody demon and you goodies ignore it!"
While I continued my tirade he began to gather his new clothes into the box, keeping an eye on me. I kept one on him as well as I paced and didn't exactly pay as much attention to the soddin' speech as I would have. He was smiling, the git. He was packing up his things and smiling while I called his father and humans in general all matter of unpleasant names and the bloody git was smiling. I needed a smoke.
"Buffy has super strength. Why don't we just load her up like one of those little horses?"-Anya
Normally after a run-in with dad I spend the rest of the day or night alternating between outrage and resignation. Somehow this time I was gathering my things and trying not to laugh at the blood-sucking fiend that paced across the floor ranting about how evil humans are and Buffy should be the Abusive Parent Slayer. I think this is far better than the anger thing. <Can I keep him, Mom? Please? He can't bite.>
I felt the rising internal pressure that heralded another giggle-fit and bit my cheek to stop it. Once he'd subsided to simple growling and pacing with his game face on, I called up Giles. He was concerned about me in his snooty British kind of way but I joked it off as always. I told him that I'd found a new place to live and that I was moving now even if it took all day and night. He said that Willow and Buffy were going to drop by at lunch time to check in since Buff and Riley ran into more of the suited vamps after I left last night. He agreed to send over the team to help move things when he saw them and I thanked him and hung up.
I dug a box of garbage bags out of my closet and put it on the bed. "All right, vamp man, grab a bag and fill it." I started following my own instructions. He just raised his scarred eyebrow. "If you help we can finish by midnight. And I want to be out of here when he comes back tomorrow." That had him moving. He grumbled under his breath until I turned on his favorite Ramones CD, then I couldn't hear him any more.
I was so engrossed in filling a bag of my unwearable man-clothes for the goodwill that I didn't notice the others arriving. I nearly exited my new skin when Willow asked if I wanted a sandwich. Turning around, falling onto my rear, I grinned at her. "Holy heart conditions, Wills, you scared the man out of me!" She grinned and offered the peanut butter and jelly again, waving it tantalizingly in front of my face.
"Mmmmm yummy pb&j……the food of kings!" She waved it until I finished wiping the sweat and crud off my hands. I snatched it from her and started shoveling it into my mouth. "You're going to have to be careful, Xan, you might get fat." She teased. I managed to razz her around a mouthful.
Looking around I saw Buffy and Spike glowering at each other silently, seemingly at a standoff. As I watched, Spike made his move, grabbing the screwdriver that sat on the toolbox between them. "Hah! 'm faster 'n you, Slayer and now you hafta deal with the Master's evil chair!" He cackled evilly as he started to disassemble my bed, oblivious to the looks that we all gave him. Buffy, Will and I all looked at each other and shrugged, Buffy twirling her finger around her head in the universal loony sign. Wills and I nodded sagely.
I stood up and got another wonderfully squishy hug from Wills and then Buffy. "Thanks guys, I really appreciate it." They smiled and nodded and I made a point to ignore the looks of pity they gave me. I didn't want their pity, just understanding and maybe some more squishy hugs. I was now the perfect height for hugging my girls.
"Oi! No one ever hugs me!" Spike called as he stabbed my bed-frame with the screwdriver. Buffy snickered.
"Evil people don't get hugs." She informed him then turned her attention to Riley who had just entered holding up a key. Spike caught my eye and smirked at Buffy's words. I blushed and covered it by scampering over to where Riley and Buffy were smooching their hellos.
"Graham lent me his truck." He told us cheerfully. "We should be able to get all this in one trip if we pack it in military style." He smiled at me. I smiled back. At least one of us was still a big tall manly man. That thought thoroughly depressed me so I covered with a comic swoon.
"My hero!" Buffy swatted at me, grinning.
"Get your own!" She teased, hugging Riley with a look of bliss. All was right in Buffy's world. Just keep joking around and she won't ever know that good ol' Xander is about to snap, crackle, and pop. <I'm such a good actor.> Looking at Wills, I saw that even she was fooled by it. She knew that I joked as a defense mechanism but rarely bothered finding out what was bothering me. I glanced at Spike and saw that he was staring at me, a puzzled look on his face. I shrugged it off.
"Alright, lets start loading up and when the sun goes bye-bye, Spike can show us the way." Riley rubbed his hands together, anxious to get to work. I went back to the closet space and finished tying off the now useless clothing. After a struggle of doubt and hope and all that in between, I decided to keep the clothes for if I was ever fixed. Hope was a good thing, right?
"We'll walk down this hall, and we'll say, "La la, I'm on my way to Xander's." -Willow
It was actually kind of fun, moving the whelp. I kept a steady flow of insults going between the Slayer and I. It was entertaining to see Captain Cardboard bristling as he listened. It was also great being able to pick through all Xander's belongings. The boy had a truly legendary collection of comic books. His sci-fi memorabilia bugged me a little. I spent the time when I wasn't trying to needle the Slayer, trying to figure how much I could pawn it for.
Another bloody good show was the boy himself. I could smell the pain and desperation pouring off him in waves. It only seemed to lighten when he managed to crack a joke. I figured that the git just wanted everyone to act normal and that was understandable. Pity was the last thing I wanted when I became Spike the kept Vamp instead of Spike the Big Bad. Xander's humor was how he got the Scoobies to forget his problem and that made him feel better. From what I saw, I was the only one in the whole bloody crew that saw any of this.
We had finished loading the truck and Xander's car by the time the sun got the hell out of the sky and were sitting around on the concrete floor playing with the cards Xander had found while packing. Well they were all playing. I was leaning against the wall smoking and watching the git bluff his way through poker like a pro.
I could see his hands from where I stood so I knew that the pathetic git had the luck of week old road kill. Despite that, his ability to bluff through any hand won him a decent amount of the M&M's that Red provided. Maybe it was the promise of chocolate that made him so talented, but I had a feeling it had something to do with a lifetime of bluffing his way past concerned teachers and friends.
"Sun's down." I told them the moment I sensed that it was safely out of sight and opened the door, striding out into the night. I got into Xander's car and started the engine, waiting with my black nails tapping impatiently at the steering wheel. A minute later Xander slid into the passenger's seat and buckled his seatbelt. He was holding a bag of his winnings and actually offered some to me.
I took a few of the M&M's and ate them as I peeled out of the driveway. I considered trying to lose the truck that carried Captain Cardboard, Red and the Slayer, but I didn't want Harris to throw another hissy fit. "What's the apartment like?" He asked suddenly. I shrugged. I'd wondered when he's realize that he'd trusted an evil creature of darkness with his future living accommodations. <'e's lucky his Druish new looks appeal to my demon or 'e'd be headed for the sewers.>
"Studio with a loft and bedroom. Pretty big, no windows." I answered tersely. It was the description my Incubus buddy had given me but I trusted him not to piss me off. I pulled into the underground parking structure and climbed out of the car. Going down a long tiled corridor, I found the right door on the left and knocked like Gilly told me too. The Incubus flung open the door.
"William!" He exclaimed and hugged me, smooching me enthusiastically on the cheek. I grinned at him and pushed Xander into his enthusiastic grip. "This isn't Drusilla!" He studied Xander. "She's just as pretty though!" Gilly pinched the bewildered human's ass and winked. I smirked at the boy's squirming and protestations.
"Xander, this is our landlord, Gilly. Gilly, this is Xander." I slipped between them to forestall Gilly's next grope attack and whispered to the demon. "The moving crew includes the Slayer so hide the horns, luv." I warned. He blinked and a moment later he looked perfectly human.
"Right. There comes a point where you either have to move on, or just buy yourself a Klingon costume and ... go with it."-Xander
Okay, I can handle moving into a place I've never seen. That's not that bad, anything would be better than the damn basement. I can deal with the no-windows thing too. I mean, that's important when your roomie's undead. I can even deal with being pinched and groped and called a girl by a demon landlord. Really, I can. I'm only hyperventilating because my lungs were bored...What really got me was the mural.
As a whole, the apartment was wonderful. A decent sized living space with a nice, new-looking kitchenette. To the left of the entrance was a staircase that led up to the loft that hung midway up the vaulted ceiling from which you could seen the entire studio including the really big big- screen TV and huge black leather sofa in the far right corner of the rectangle room. Between the kitchenette and the TV were two doors. The one closest to the TV was the only bathroom complete with claw-footed tub and shower with an alcove for the washer and dryer combo. The other door led to the plain empty bedroom.
All this was impressive and I was suitably awe-inspired by it all, once I'd gotten over the shock of seeing a 20ft by 15ft mural of my undead roommate. I stared at the painting of Spike leaning against a wall smoking and wearing nothing but tight black jeans and his game face. Being first inside the apartment, as Spike was arguing loudly with the recently arrived Buffy in the hall, I had a chance to get over my shock. Therefore, when Buffy, Spike, Gilly, Riley and Wills all shoved each other inside, I was already leaning against the stairs by the door giggling hysterically.
"What the bloody hell is that?!" I heard Spike demand, followed by the laughter of everyone else in the room.
"I wonder the same thing whenever I see you." Buffy managed to quip around her giggle. Gilly was busy stammering out an explanation to the livid, game-faced vampire that held him against the wall by the throat.
"I-I told you that Drusilla was the last person to stay here." He managed. "I haven't had any tenants here for months so I haven't had to paint it!" Spike loosened his grip and let the demon slide back to his feet. I watched Spike curiously as he turned to glower at the mural.
"Don't worry Xan, it can be painted," Willow said, patting my arm. I glanced at her and grinned.
"I dunno. I kinda like it." I said, getting up and walking into my new home. "It'll be useful if I ever forget who else lives here." I said, studying the very accurate picture. It felt like the eyes were following me as I moved. I realized that the real Spike's eyes were following me and shivered. "Maybe we should just paint me on the other wall and call it even." Spike smirked at that and prowled over to the TV and couch, inspecting them.
"Are they acceptable, William?" Gilly asked him timidly. Spike snarled at him and went to inspect the shiny new fridge. Riley and Buffy ran up into the loft to check it out and probably make out. Wills went to look in the bathroom and bedroom. I just stood in the center of the main room, trying to get a feel for the place. I expected a nasty demony vibe from the place when I saw Gilly with the horns and such, but now I felt a total comfort vibe. I liked it, despite the mural. Just thinking about it made me giggle again. Spike just gave me a weird look as he came over to me, waving off Gilly need for reassurance.
"What d'you think, whelp? Better than the basement?" He asked with a smirk. I smiled at him.
"I dunno, I'm still waiting to hear blood-curdling screams and other tortures from upstairs." His smirk was replaced with a grim line.
"You're safer here than your basement and if the new landlord ever raises a hand to you, he'll find that hand missing." He growled, his eyes flashing yellow. Gilly seemed to be regaining his courage.
"You're all promises William, but never follow through." He said with a suggestive wink. I shuddered.
"Bad thoughts! Bad thoughts! Brain losing coherency!" I clutched my head in mock agony. The others joined us then, ready to get to work again.
"What bad thoughts?" Willow asked me, concerned. I gave her my most pitiful face.
"The landlord is hitting on Spike." I wailed. They all gagged while Gilly looked indignant and Spike rolled his eyes muttering "Bloody hell".
"Alright, who's staying in the room and who gets the loft?" Riley asked, trying to get us on task. I looked at Spike and he shrugged.
"I'll take the room then." I decided and led the charge to the truck. The sooner I got settled the sooner I could not be working anymore and not working was definately a good thing.
"Okay that was the last of it!" Buffy announced, dropping the last huge box of comics on the floor in the middle of the apartment. We all stood around panting except for Gilly who had left and Spike who wasn't breathing. "Who's up for a post-move celebration at the good ol' Bronze?" She straightened up and smiled at us all, but scowled at Spike.
"Sounds good, Buff, lets assault the innocent populace! But first I have to shower because I'm sweating like some sort of gross sweaty man-pig-thing." I answered with a grin. Wills and Riley agreed heartily.
"You aren't sweating, Xander, you're glowing." Buffy joked and whoops, I dropped my good spirits somewhere, have you seen them? They got smooshed by the oh so humorous reminder that I'm a girl. I forced my smile to stay on my face like some horrible mask.
"Sorry, Buffs, guess I don't have all the femme lingo down yet." I answered. I stood kind of numb after that while Riley explained that he had to return the truck to Graham and the girls all declared their need for showers. We decided to reconvene at the Bronze in an hour. They left in a whoosh, leaving me leaning against the door, trying not to shake.
"What color?" Spike's voice cut through my hazy mind. I looked up, confused. "What color do we wanna paint the bloody handsome devil on the wall?" He asked with a smirk. His blue eyes held no humor, though, only speculation. I thought a moment.
"Leave him." I said, trying to copy one of his evil grins. "Buffy won't want to visit that often if there's a giant Spike looming over her." His pretty blue eyes finally showed humor.
"You're evil, pet." He laughed and waved his hand in front of his nose. "And you stink. Get outta here." I smirked as I found the bathroom supplies and clothes and went into the bathroom. I had thought about asking if he was going to come along, but I didn't think he would. The Big Bad was too arrogant to want to hang with a bunch of Slayerettes. When I came out of the bathroom again, he was gone.
"Who's the puffed up manly man, all splotchy and possessive?"-Spike
It took about four shots of tequila, three dusted fledges, two extended fights with a Cralchen and his friend and a verbal battle with the Slayer upon arrival at the Bronze before I felt enough like the Big Bad to relax. All this touchy-feely helping shit was pissing my demon off, which just made me twitchy. I was actually starting to like the whelp. Especially that bit about the mural. <That soddin' mural.>
It didn't help my mood much that the whole bleeding place still held traces of Dru's scent. I wanted to wipe out the scent with my own, or Xander's as soon as possible. The whelp again. He kept invading my mind. During the move there were moments when the boy, oblivious of his new appeal, would move a certain way, bed over to pick something up, that had me and even the Soldier boy adjusting our pants. He was luscious in that tight little body. That was why I was so eager to get to the Bronze to see the impression he made on the predator population of the club.
So I showed up at the Bronze earlier than he, after my fighting and drinking and was quickly confronted by a lone Buffy. The bitch backed me into a corner and went on and on about how much she would make me suffer if anything happened to Xander while "she" was in my home. "She"! The stupid bint was already calling him "she"! Apparently my growling at her reassured her dense little mind somehow and she stormed off to meet up with Willow and then Riley and a vaguely familiar blond girl on a sofa they'd claimed.
I was about to go after her and berate her for being a cruel self- involved bitch-whore when I caught the fresh, clean, innocent scent that was Xander. I turned to the door and saw him standing, looking lost, vulnerable, and completely edible in a red tank top that revealed far too much golden skin and the most amazing pair of black leather pants. I stared at him as he made his way to the other Slayerettes. After a moment I noticed the four vamps that turned their eyes to the beautiful "girl" that was being made comfortable on the couch with the Slayer. I snarled to myself and stalked over to the group.
"What do you want, Spike?" Buffy snapped. She must've noticed the now six vamps homing in on the tasty bit of vamp-nip that was Xander Harris then because she was suddenly ignoring me. I pulled Xan to his pretty feet and pulled him really, pleasantly close.
"Spike! What're you-" I hissed for him to be quiet and made sure I was in plain sight to all looking. Then I ran my tongue from the boy's collarbone to his ear. There, teach stupid fledges to move in on my bloody property. I released him and took the Slayer's place on the couch next to the other blond who squeaked like a mouse and clung to Red.
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