Xander nodded weakly, his weight still mostly on Spike who had a grimace on his face. Xander didn’t need to be a vampire to know that there was blood coming out of the wound on his head.
The fight had lasted for what seemed like hours. Tons of vampires had been in the factory, all hell bent on showing their skills. None had been a match for the Slayer and two Master vampires, but what the didn’t have in strength they made up for in sheer number.
Xander had never seen so many vampires in his life and he had a sick feeling that not all of them had been under the Anointed One’s rule. It looked like some sort of odd vampire convention to talk about strategy or something.
In the end though, they were the ones left standing, a little bruised and bleeding, but none the worse for wear.
“I think it’s safe to say that we’re alive. Of course how badly damaged is anyone’s guess.” Giles said.
He’d surprised Xander out there, his determination and actually strength. Something about the librarian image just didn’t scream demon killer, but there he’d been, staking and punching with the rest of them.
“I think I can’t feel my chest.” Jesse said dramatically.
“I’m sure it’s nothing. We’re all… fine.” Willow said.
She had a wide-eyed look on her face and Xander believed that maybe she hadn’t seen so many vampires in her life either. Even with hanging out with the Slayer.
“Well we got the Anointed One. That’s all that matters.” Angel said.
“Yeah, but for how long?” Spike muttered.
Xander patted him reassuringly, trying to transfer strength of some sort and Spiked smiled at him for it.
“Hopefully awhile.” Angel said.
“It’ll stop the Florentina vampires, but who knows who else are on the bottom of the food chain. You saw all those minions. They were gathering. Big ass factions too. We’re not talking puny sized.” Spike said.
“Yeah, but the Hellmouth, guarded by a Slayer and run by a Master vamp… don’t see anyone being stupid enough to try.”
“Obviously you haven’t met the new generation of minions.” Spike said, his tone sarcastic and biting.
“Angel… is he right? Are we headed for war inevitably?” Buffy asked.
Angel looked around, everyone waiting for his answer.
“It’s hard to know for sure.” Angel said.
“Gee, can you vague that up a bit more for us in the studio audience.” Xander muttered.
Spike looked up at him. Smiled and made sure he was sitting comfortably in his chair before walking over to Angel.
“This could get ugly.”
“It’s already ugly. You’re gonna have to stay.” Angel said.
“Yeah, and the White Hats don’t mind?” Spike asked.
“Hell yeah we mind.” Jesse said.
Spike opened his mouth to say something to that, but Buffy raised her hand.
“You’re not doing anything I’d have to kill you for… are you?”
“Now that depends, doesn’t it.”
“Buffy, you can’t be seriously thinking about letting this guy live. I mean… he’s…”
Jesse didn’t finish his sentence. Whether it was because he didn’t have right words or because both Buffy and Spike had been glaring at him, Xander couldn’t tell. He guessed it was a combination of both.
“I don’t like it. He’s a killer, but… if he keeps these Florentina guys out…”
“We can keep them out.”
“How? I’m one Slayer and these are badass dudes, Jesse. Better to not get in the middle of their vampire wars.” Buffy said.
“Giles, you can’t think this is a good idea.” Jesse said, looking over to Giles for reassurance.
Giles stood there. Pulled off his glasses and cleaned them a bit before placing them back on his face. He took a deep breath and bit his lip.
“Buffy’s right. We should avoid confrontation with the Florentina clan for as long as possible. If that means forming unsavory alliances then we will just have to live with that.” Giles said.
Xander watched Spike’s face as the conversations played out. Most would think he was remaining impassive, but Xander could see it. See the subtle way he shifted, the slight twitch in his jaw.
He didn’t want to be here anymore than they wanted him to be here.
He was doing it for Xander, so that Xander could be safe and that didn’t escape Xander one bit. He wondered what Spike would say if Xander suggested they run. That they leave everything and everyone behind and just run, never staying in one place long enough to be caught and Xander liked the idea, but he was positive Spike wouldn’t go for it.
Spike wanted him to have a normal life, but there wasn’t anything normal about living on a Hellmouth and spending most of his teenage years as a prostitute to vampires. He didn’t think that he was worthy of Xander’s love, yet he did everything in his power to make sure Xander was safe and protected.
It baffled Xander just a little bit.
“Maybe one of you could house Xander for a little while.” Spike whispered.
“What?” Xander said.
“It’s dangerous. The vampire community knows about you. They’d do anything to harm me now and you’re it. You’re the only weakness I’ve got. Around me you’re not safe.”
Xander glared at him, jaw tightening and his fist clenched.
“You were planning this. All along you were playing this. Are you going to take off?”
He could careless that they’re doing this in front of a bunch of people that are a little more than strangers because could see Spike looking down at his hands, solemn faced like he’d been caught.
“No, I’m not going to take off. You’re safer with one of your human friends though.”
“I don’t have to listen to you. You’re not my keeper. If I wanted to go off and do something stupid, you couldn’t stop me.” Xander said standing up.
He stared Spike down who was a few feet away from him, grim look on his face.
“But you’re not stupid, so you’re gonna listen to me. You’re better off with them. Vampires can’t get into their places. The same can’t be said for wherever I’m going to go.”
“Wherever. That you’re clever way of saying you leaving the country.”
“I’m not leaving the country.” Spike said.
“He’s gonna stay with me.” Angel said.
“Oh well that’s comforting… in a not sort of way.” Xander said.
Angel looked puzzled for half a second before he gave Spike a questioning look. Spike didn’t look back or offer any explanation, eyes staring straight at Xander.
“It’s safer.” Spike said, his voice a bit pleading.
“I’ll take him in.” Giles said.
Spike looked over at him, grateful look on his face like he thought that was going to end the argument. Xander knew it was a slim shot that anybody’s parents would allow them to stay at their house. He almost thought Spike would demand Buffy take him in, what with the way he kept talking about safety.
“Good. So, that settled… I’ll take Xander to the hotel to get his stuff. Joe’s waiting for it.” Spike said.
“Hmm… yes, I suppose he needs clothes and things. I shall be waiting for him. That being said… I think everyone’s had a long night. Perhaps we should all go home.” Giles said.
They look like they’re about to argue, Jesse in particular, but they also look tired and Xander felt relief when they all started to shuffle out. He watched as Spike and Giles talked to each other for a few seconds before Spike grabbed his arm and shuffled him out of the library.
“I can’t believe you did that.” Xander said petulantly as they drove to Joe’s.
“It’s for the best.”
“You’re doing it so it doesn’t hurt so much when you leave me.”
“You don’t think it’s going to hurt? It bloody well is going to hurt. But we’re not at that point at.”
“I think you’re going to leave me even if this all does get sorted out and Sunnydale’s safe from the Florentina gang.” Xander said.
Spike took a deep breath. The thought had crossed his mind. He loved Xander. He knew that. Felt it deep within his bones and that was saying something for someone that was dead.
He’s played out how it would happen though, seen the look on Xander’s face in his mind’s eye. It wasn’t a pretty picture by any means, but he couldn’t help thinking that it would be for the best. That Xander would finally be truly free, even if it wasn’t what he wanted at that very moment.
“I said I’d stay until it was too dangerous. I meant that.”
Xander didn’t say anything back. Just sat there with his arms folded across his chest and Spike sighed. Focused on the road ahead of them until the hotel came within view. Parked the car in the usually spot and got out.
Xander got out too, pout on his face and he walked with Spike to the door.
It was then that Spike smelled it. The smell of blood think and heavy and coming from the hotel. All kinds of blood, like a blood bath and Spike had been to enough of them to know what the smelled like.
He put his hand in front of Xander to stop him. Xander gave him an annoyed look, but when the understanding hit he looked frightened.
“What is it?”
“Nothing… let’s… let’s go.”
“My stuff.” Xander protested.
“I’ll by you new stuff.”
“My clothes, Spike. I need clothes.”
“I’ll buy you new clothes.”
“Tell me what the hell is wrong right now or I swear to god, Spike.”
Spike hesitated. Xander was a strong kid, but something like this could really devastate him. Xander liked Joe, Spike would go as far as to say love and he didn’t hear any hearts beating in the hotel.
It was dead silent.
“Spike.” Xander said, his voice a little sad.
“Inside… no one’s alive in there. I… I can smell the blood.” Spike said.
Xander’s eyes widened and he went to touch the door, but Spike stopped him.
“Don’t. You don’t want to go in there. And besides if the cops come they’ll be able to find you.”
“They’ll be able to find me anyway. My stuff is in there. And what do you mean they’re all dead.”
“They’re dead Xander.” Spike said.
Spike didn’t answer, but he didn’t think he had to. Xander was a bright kid, he could figure it out on his own. He knew that Xander needed his stuff though. Needed clothes for tomorrow, but he didn’t want him stepping anywhere inside the hotel.
He couldn’t leave him outside either. He didn’t know what kind of evils could be lurking in the shadows just waiting. He couldn’t sense anything, but that didn’t mean they weren’t out there. And it didn’t look like Xander was going to accept not being able to go in there.
So Spike opened the door and pulled Xander behind him. Noticed the dust on the floor in noticeable chunks, but he also noticed the blood, smeared on the walls and everywhere and saw Joe.
Crossbow in hand like he had tried to fight them off, but there were too many of them, all hell bent and determined to get what they came for. He was deathly pale, various puncture wounds on his neck like they tossed him around and took their turns off of him.
“Oh god.” Xander said.
Spike held him back. He had know doubt Xander would have ran to Joe, threw himself on him and started crying. They couldn’t have that though. They needed to hurry. Needed to get the stuff they needed and get out of there.
“Come on. Let’s get your stuff.” Spike said as he pulled Xander up the stairs.
The hotel was abnormally quiet, not a sound coming from within the rooms and Spike knew why. Didn’t let Xander stop until they were at his room and gathering up his stuff. As much as he could carry and as fast as he could grab it until he had everything and Spike ushered him down the stairs and out of the hotel.
Watched as Xander got dizzy and started swaying before he bent down and threw up in the gutter. Spike threw his things into the car and went over to him, rubbed his back soothingly.
“They’re dead… they’re all… dead.”
“They’re dead because of me.”
“You don’t know that.”
“Yes I do. I… it’s my fault. I got them killed and now…”
“The vamps did what they did to get to me Xander. They wanted to get you to get to me. You can’t let…”
He didn’t have the words though. Not the ones that would make Xander feel better about this whole ordeal and Spike knew that he shouldn’t. He should feel sad. He should mourn. He should be able to do all those things and be angry and Spike wasn’t about to take that away from him.
So he just sat there and waited until Xander was ready to leave.
Xander couldn’t feel much of anything as he and Spike walked to the front door of Giles’ house. Everything had taken on a surreal quality. He didn’t even notice when they stopped by the motel room they had rented so that Xander could get his stuff there and Spike could pack up to go to Angel’s place.
It still didn’t make sense to him, but he kept seeing it. Seeing Joe’s lifeless body staring at him and it made him want to throw up all over again. He was only aware of Spike’s arm around his waist, grounding him and he knew Spike would have to leave him.
“Come in.” Giles said and Spike pushed him inside.
“You could come in too, if you like.” Giles said.
“No, probably not a good idea. I’ll just leave him with you.” Spike said.
Xander saw him look over at Xander, worry and concern in his eyes and it looked like he didn’t want to leave.
“Do you think… would it be okay with you, Giles, if he stayed here. Just for tonight. I… something really bad happened.” Xander said.
“Of course… that is if he wants too.”
He was being entirely trusting and Xander had to wonder why. If there had been something he saw that made him decide that it was okay to have a vampire in his home without thinking twice about it.
Xander wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth though. He turned to Spike, eyes pleading and Spike sighed.
“Tonight only. The reason you’re staying here is to keep you safe and that isn’t going to happen if I’m hanging around.” Spike said as he crossed the threshold.
“Let me show you to your room.” Giles said.
He ushered them to the back, showed them where everything was before leaving them alone. They got undressed quietly, Xander stealing slight glances in Spike’s direction every so often before the got into bed, limbs heavy and Xander felt so tired.
“This is never going to be over, is it.” Xander asked, back pressed against Spike’s chest, Spike’s arms wrapped tightly around him.
“I don’t know.”
“Please don’t leave me.”
Xander turned in Spike’s arms. Pulled his face close, hands cupped on either side and he pulled Spike in for a kiss. Hard and needy and desperate and Xander was shuddering a bit, sobs wrecking through his body.
“I don’t think I could loose you too.” Xander said, head down and Spike held him close.
He didn’t say anything, but Xander was sure he’d made a dent.